Remarks by Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos
The High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
at the 7th Assembly of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies
“Human Values after Corona: Reviving Virtue in Times of Crisis
7 December 2020
Your Eminence Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, Chairman of the UAE Fatwa Council and President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies,
It’s my pleasure to be addressing your esteemed annual forum for the first time.
I thank His Eminence Sheikh bin Bayyah for providing the opportunity.
The overarching theme of this year’s forum and the panel discussions are very apt considering the socio-economic, political and psychological ramifications of the COVID19 pandemic.
As 2020 comes to an end, this is an opportunity to take stock of our shortcomings before our achievements.
The pandemic has been and still is a litmus test for political leaders as well as individuals’ empathy and resilience.
It’s a test of our commitment to common human values and the overall concept of “we are all in this together”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the world’s vulnerabilities, divisions, falsehoods, and brutal inequalities which surely existed prior to the pandemic. Those fissures were put under a magnifying glass for those with myopic vision.
At the United Nations, we marked a few months ago the 75th anniversary of the creation of that organization. There were ample reflections on the global context back then and now. One thing for sure distinguishes both eras: The spirit of solidarity, unity and collective action that was a driving force behind the establishment of the United Nations is absent today.
Only events of such global consequence could and should generate the solidarity, resolve and vision necessary to create those governing structures.
The pandemic was used by some politicians to strengthen their push-back on multilateralism, cultural diversity, religious pluralism, and human rights.
Societies were divided across cultural, ethnic, and religious lines.
The hate virus became a pandemic as well.
We saw it in the appalling resurgence of Neo-Nazis and white supremacist discourse. Hate speech, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, Christianophobia as well as all forms of discrimination against vulnerable communities further exacerbated.
Youth and women were further marginalized despite their indispensable potential and valuable contribution to peace and development. Even old people and those with disabilities were not spared the stigma and toxic hate.
The central notion here is that this global crisis is a human crisis with the human being at the epicenter of it. Crises as such demand coordinated, inclusive, and results-oriented responses based on unity and solidarity and most importantly compassion.
Such global context is reminiscent of the historical context that was the springboard for launching the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations 15 years ago.
Those who are not familiar with the work that the Alliance has been doing, would rightly ask how are current global challenges relevant to the work of the Alliance? Can intercultural and interreligious dialogue play a constructive role in cementing our societies again? How can pluralistic and increasingly complex societies live together peacefully and respectfully? Is it enough to save the planet, which is utterly crucial, if we do not know how to share it and live together peacefully respecting the equal rights of individuals and communities around the world to participate in their societies?
These are some of the fundamental questions that the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) has been addressing since its inception in 2005. The complex, demanding dialogue of civilizations, cultures, and religions is necessary, possible, and fruitful. Intercultural and interreligious dialogue is a critical tool against isolation, mistrust, and confrontation. It is also the most powerful vector for conflict prevention and conflict resolution. I must say, a viable tool that has been often overlooked.
History has shown that dialogue is not a simple process, but that if we fail to teach and cultivate it, the situation can give way to a monologue or to mutism, which is conducive to conflict and violent extremism.
As we prepare to rebuild a better world, I firmly believe that cultural diversity and the invocation of spirituality are crucial components that should be included in our future diplomatic toolbox to complement the political dimension in conflict resolution.
UNAOC was created to serve as a coalition against extremist forces, an initiative of collective will to advance mutual respect for cultures, traditions, and religious beliefs, and a platform to bridge divides and overcome prejudice, stigmatization, misperceptions, and polarization.
The Alliance advocates collective action in society as a means of addressing the threats that emerge from the prejudiced perceptions that incite violence, overcoming cultural and social barriers, reducing tensions and improving relations between societies and communities with diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, and combatting violent extremism.
Today’s human crisis has proven beyond doubt that an All-Of-Society approach is imperative to overcome the challenges posed by COVID19. Civil Society, grassroots, women and youth-led organizations as well as community-based organization play a vital role. In assisting the most vulnerable populations, these networks are active in bringing economic and livelihood opportunities and adapting responses to the community context.
We have long recognized the value-added of active engagement with religious leaders and faith-based organizations. So we strengthened and expanded our network faith actors across the faith spectrum, women leaders and civil society organizations.
I seize this opportunity to thank His Eminence Shayyakh Bin Bayyah for his participation and valuable input in the consultative meeting on 28 May 2020 “Global Pledge of Action by Religious Leaders” which I co-convened with the UN the High Commissioner for Human Rights Mme Michele Bachelet and USG Adama Dieng the former Special Advisor for Genocide Prevention. In fact, as we speak the operationalization of this meeting is taking place right now. The 3 entities are organizing a series of peer-to-peer learning webinars with representatives from religious and faith-based organizations, civil society and human rights mechanisms in order to address and counter hate speech and discrimination related to COVID-19 and beyond. The webinars will also focus on exchanging information on ongoing actions, which might stimulate new result-oriented activities and specific actions to respond to the current and future challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The changing nature of the global challenges we face today requires global responses. One that is anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and rule of law. At the same time, we need to develop and strengthen new forms of cooperation with other international and regional organizations – a networked multilateralism – as well as closer contacts with businesses, civil society and other stakeholders – an inclusive multilateralism.
Let us always remember that the first words of the United Nations Charter are “We the peoples”, and it is we the peoples of today’s world who are called upon to find ways to address our differences peacefully and respectfully and to find opportunities to live and thrive on the planet that we are rightly striving to save.
Racism and all forms of discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, color or gender are an afront to the Universal Human Rights.
Optimists like myself, always see a light even in the darkest tunnels. This crisis provides an opportunity to renew our commitment to fulfilling Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to “Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies”.
Showing compassion and kindness to the most vulnerable nations and people is what makes us all human belonging to “One Humanity” despite our many cultures and identities. It is the raison d’être of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.
We still have an opportunity, the ship has not sailed yet.
I thank you and I look forward to the discussions.