Remarks by USG Miguel Angel Moratinos
The High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
at the High-Level Segment of the International Conference on Human Rights and Civil Society
Malaga, 9-11 May 2022
Your Excellency, Mr. Valadimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General, UN Office of Counter-Terrorism,
It gives me great pleasure to be back home to Spain but even more so in spectacular sunny Malaga.
So I thank USG Valdimir Voronkov for inviting me.
Last May 2021, I was privileged to participate in the virtual meeting around this topic in which I highlighted the work of UNAOC with civil society and the nexus of addressing the root causes of polarization and combating racism and discrimination based on human rights and the rule of law.
Since the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations was established we long recognized the valuable contribution of civil society in building resilient and inclusive societies. Local organizations understand the context, culture, language and needs. They are a vital link between Government, global and grassroots. In a disaster, they can be faster and more flexible than bigger organizations. At all times, they provide bonds of solidarity and trust. Women’s groups play a particularly valuable role in supporting the economic and social fabric. Youth-led NGOs, contribute to bridging the generational divide. Dealing with the pandemic is a case in point. When given the appropriate civic space, these groups rose to the challenge.
Over the years, we made considerable efforts to ensure the meaningful participation of civil society actors including youth-led NGOs, faith-based organizations and grassroots. In doing so, we have adopted the three Ps approach: Participation, Promotion and Partnership.
To ensure the voices of civil society actors are well-represented, we created a broad, safe space showcasing the work they do on the ground through global and regional forums that we organized or co-organized.
Through our cross-cutting project activities, we reached out, partnered and supported youth-led organizations and grassroots through seed-funding or mentoring. From South-East Asia and Africa to Europe, Latin America and the MENA region we saw first-hand how their projects contributed to promoting cultural diversity and mutual respect.
These are few examples of projects engaging civil society and their measured impact:
• In our joint innovative project with UNOCT/UNCCT we targeted 20 young religious leaders, faith actors and representatives of grassroots organizations and young media makers in a peer-to-peer capacity building training. Two main topics of choice have been: (1) encouraging interreligious and intercultural dialogue and encounters in specific national contexts and (2) deconstructing the processes of prejudice, hate speech, discrimination, abuse and radical extremism through dialogue
• Phase II of #YouthWagingPeace: The Whole Community Approach to Prevention of Violent Extremism through Education” with UNESCO and Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education, Peace and Sustainable. The project aims to empower and train South-East Asian youth leaders with skills and tools to create and implement community-wide PVE-E (prevention of violent extremism through education) activities against the backdrop of the rise in religious and ethnic related intolerance in South East Asia.
• The “Young Peacebuilders” provides educational workshops for youth-led grassroots to acquire intercultural competencies and build critical thinking skills to help foster cross-cultural dialogue and counter stigma and contribute to PCVE efforts. Since 2016, more than 80 regional youth leaders, aged 18 to 25, from 25 different countries benefited from the programme. These young people reached over 1,000 individuals by organizing step-down peace activities in their own organizations and communities.
• Understanding that civil society and youth-led organizations should be involved more sustainably and strategically throughout the entire lifecycle of Prevention and Countering of Violent Extremism (PCVE) programming and policymaking: design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. In that context, UNAOC has launched seven editions of its Youth Solidarity Fund, providing seed funding and capacity-building to 63 youth-led organizations based in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. Their projects promoting intercultural and interfaith dialogue reached 94,055 direct beneficiaries in 39 countries. In total, more than 1.7 million direct and indirect beneficiaries have been impacted over the past ten years.
Youth-led organizations from countries such as the Central African Republic, Indonesia and Sri Lanka were supported through YSF during 2018.
• IIA is a model for a successful partnership with the BMW Group in which we recognize and support the most innovative grassroots projects encouraging intercultural dialogue and cooperation around the world, hence contributing to PCVE efforts . Since 2011, the Intercultural Innovation Award, has supported more than 60 organizations coming from more than 30 countries to expand and scale up their innovative projects encouraging intercultural dialogue. The selected organizations expanded their operations to over 115 countries, impacting over 6 million beneficiaries.
• Countering stigma and hate speech is essential to the PCVE effort. With IOM, we awarded and encouraged talented and creative young women and men, many under the age of 12 who created videos that provided a counter-narrative to stereotyping, racism and hate speech against minorities. Since 2009, we selected videos from over 3,200 video entries representing 110+ countries through the PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival.
Concluding, civil society plays an increasingly influential role in setting and implementing development agendas throughout the world. Many have been at the forefront of advocating principles of equity, inclusiveness, diversity and social justice rooted in human rights. UNAOC continues to encourage and support those essential actors whose goals, values and humanistic-driven philosophies accord with its own.
The preamble of the United Nations Charter reads “We the peoples”. As the drafters of the Charter and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly recognized, development, peace and security, and respect for human rights are interdependent, and achieving them requires meaningful, inclusive and safe public and civil society participation.
Meaningful participation in turn requires open civic space: an environment that brings a diversity of responsible voices into debates, and safe channels that allow for peaceful disagreement . Along those lines comes the Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights, launched before the Human Rights Council in February 2020. Civil society actors – including human rights defenders, women advocates, children, young people, members of minorities and indigenous people, and journalists – should to be able to express themselves freely in full security and effect change peacefully and effectively.
Civil society is at the core of the development of the Sustainable Development Goals . In particular, Goal 16 seeks to promote peaceful and inclusive societies by developing effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels; ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making; and ensuring public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms. Therefore, Goal 16 is an enabler of all other SDGs. In this context, the Secretary General’s report Our Common Agenda, encourages Member States to give serious consideration to ideas to increase opportunities for engagement by civil society and other stakeholders across all the intergovernmental organs
As we emerge from the pandemic to rebuild better, our enduring challenge is to transform the promise of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into real-world change on the ground. It is to look at our contemporary challenges with a human rights lens.