2022 Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-based Organizations in International Affairs
High Representative’s Opening Remarks
25 January 2022
Dear friends and colleagues,
It is a pleasure for the UN Alliance of Civilizations to co-sponsor the 8th edition of this annual Symposium and I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this opening session.
In view of the very busy agenda in front of us in the coming hours, let me offer you some reflections to help frame our discussions today:
1. Addressing and combatting racism in its different manifestations requires a whole of society approach involving all major actors involved. This is why seeing today representatives from the UN, governments, academia, faith-based organizations, and activists, among others, is so encouraging and actually the only way to make meaningful progress in this urgent and pervasive scourge of racism.
2. As important as it is to reflect upon and analyze the historical and ideological underpinnings of racism- and our first panel will focus on that dimension- in my opinion, the main value-added of this Symposium is to identify together which are the main drivers of the current situation in the world and how can we collectively identify actions to overcome the current challenges, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated pre-existing fragilities in our communities and resulted in increasing attacks on the basis of ethnicity and aggravation of inequalities and further marginalization of communities all over the world.
3. As with every big crisis that humanity has confronted, the COVID-19 pandemic also presents all of us with a unique opportunity to come together as one humanity to take decisive action to fight against racism and discrimination. Action starts in our own decisions and initiatives within our respective mandates, be it in the intergovernmental sphere, as UN entities, faith-based organizations, activists and, more fundamentally, as human beings determined to build a better world.
4. From the United Nations side, there is a rich and relevant normative framework that we included in the concept note framing this Symposium and that I invite you to read carefully. For the purposes of these remarks, I will refine that voluminous framework in three concepts, that if realized, would go a long way to combat racism: the dignity and worth of the human person, contained in the Preamble of the UN Charter; equality and peaceful and inclusive societies, if SDGs 10 and 16 would come to fruition.
5. As everyone here participating in this Symposium, I also have a responsibility to make progress in combatting racism and discrimination in my capacity as High Representative of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, the leading UN platform for intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation, created in 2005 under a very pertinent motto for today’s discussion: ‘Many Cultures. One Humanity’. In the whole spectrum of our programmatic activities working with young people, religious leaders and actors, media, women mediators, and grass root organizations, our goal is always to find ways to bridge divides and overcome prejudice, stigmatization and polarization. It is my profound conviction that intercultural and interreligious dialogue are key instruments for conflict prevention and resolution and should be an integral part of all peace and reconciliation processes around the world.
With these reflections I would like to wish you very successful deliberations, and more importantly, I hope that this webinar will be the start of reinvigorated or new collaborations among all the participants today, so we can continue to work closely together to implement actions to build a peaceful and just world in which everyone will be treated equally.
Thank you very much.