UNOCT Second 2021 Ambassadorial-level Quarterly Briefing to Member States
Remarks by the High Representative of the UN Alliance of Civilizations
Wednesday, 19 May 2021
Your Excellency, Mr. Raffi Gregorian, Deputy to the Under-Secretary-General, Director, United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism,
Distinguished United Nations colleagues,
Thank you very much for this opportunity to provide an update on the progress of our activities since we last met in January 2021.
At the outset, I wish to commend the hard and consistent efforts of H.E. Amb, Mohamed Al-Hassan, the Permanent Representative of the Sultante of Oman and H.E. Amb Agustin Santos, the Permanent Representative of Spain in the on-going consultations of the Seventh Review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
- UNAOC continues to work on the implementation of the UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites launched by the Secretary-General in 2019. As we broaden the scope of our collaboration with member states, which have the primary responsibility to protect religious sites, we are also seeing their growing support for the plan especially in the context of promoting the sanctity of places of worship and ensuring the right of individuals to access religious sites and to practice their rituals freely and safely.
- In this regard, UNAOC capitalized on its network of religious leaders and faith actors across the faith spectrum providing a platform for interfaith dialogue to mobilize their moral voices in the promotion of mutual respect and tolerance and voice their rejection of violent and radical ideologies and the toxic hate rhetoric disseminated by extremist and terrorist groups. This is in line with the action points recommended by the UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites. Our work in this area also contributes to combating terrorism and in countering violent extremism as and when conducive to terrorism as per the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Such actions are needed today more than ever before considering the exacerbation of pre-existing challenges during the pandemic including acts of violence and related intolerance against vulnerable populations and faith communities on the account of their religion, belief or ethnicity.
- We continue to promote the Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites on social media platforms through the campaign #forsafeworship. The campaign aims to mobilize young people to share multimedia stories about their connection with religious sites.
- As the leading entity in the implementation of the plan we are coordinating with member states and UN relevant entities to roll out the pilot phase of the mapping of religious sites as per the recommendation of the plan.
- We also look forward to working closely with UNOCT, UNCTED, UNICRI and INTERPOL in the implementation of the Global Programme on Countering Terrorist Threats against Vulnerable Targets, which was launched by UNOCT in January 2021.
- In the spirit of coordination and coherence with members of the UN Counter-Terrorism Global Compact, UNAOC led the first Online Youth Consultation on Preventing Violent Extremism through Sport on 20-21 January, within the framework of the UN Global Programme on Security of Major Sporting Events, and Promotion of Sport and its Values as a Tool to Prevent Violent Extremism. The outcome of the online consultations with more than 50 youth leaders informs the living document the“Compendium of Existing Policies, Projects and Initiatives aimed at making use of sport and its values as a tool to prevent violent extremism”.
- UNAOC and UNOCT/UNCCT launched the seed-funded project entitled “Peer-to-Peer capacity-building training between Young Religious Leaders and Young Media Makers” (YRL-YMM). A group of 22 young media makers, young religious leaders, and faith actors representing the 3 Abrahamic faiths received training in a series of practical workshops covering the topics on interreligious and intercultural dialogue, preventing violent extremism through strategic communications, countering hate speech, and demystifying digital violence, promote social cohesion, tolerance, and mutual respect. The project benefits from the UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites developed by UNAOC and the UN Strategy on Hate Speech developed by the Office of the Special Advisor on Genocide Prevention as well as the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.
- After many delays due to the pandemic, I’m very pleased to announce that UNAOC, UNESCO, and UNOCT have launched this week the call for applications for the group’s seed-funded project on “Intercultural Dialogue and Socio-Emotional Competencies for Peacebuilding”, in collaboration with the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development in New Delhi, India. The initiative aims to support young people in co-designing and co-creating games that will serve as pedagogical tools for transferring, enhancing, and developing skills and competencies for intercultural dialogue and social and emotional learning to prevent violent extremism.
- Last but not least, within the context of the rise in racism, new-Nazism, far-right extremism, discrimination, and xenophobia including antisemitism and as the UN Focal Point to monitor antisemitism and enhance a system-wide response, I have been engaged in a series of consultations with major Jewish organizations, envoys on combatting antisemitism, the European Commission and relevant UN entities and treaty bodies to explore a holistic approach to combating antisemitism that would inform a results-oriented document that can provide guidance towards a coordinated and enhanced response to antisemitism anchored in human rights.
I look forward to continuing our fruitful partnership with UNOCT and other entities of the UN Counter-Terrorism Global Compact.
Thank you very much.