KEYNOTE SPEECH OF THE UN UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL, THE HIGH-REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE UNITED NATIONS ALLIANCE OF CIVILIZATIONS MR. MIGUEL ÁNGEL MORATINOS
Your Virtue, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allah-Shukur Pashazade, Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims Board & Sec Gen of Baku International Center of Interfaith & Inter-civilizations Center (BCIC)
Your Excellency Mr. Faisal Bin Muammar, Secretary General of King Abdullah International Center for Inter-religious & Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID),
Your Excellency, Mr. Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of he Geneva Center for Human Rights Advancement & Global Dialogue,
Ladies & gentlemen,
It is great pleasure and a privilege to be here with you to address the theme of this conference which is certainly a timely one. At the outset, I would like to thank His Virtue Sheikh-ul-Islam Allah-Shukur Pashazade for bringing us together today to continue a series of conversations that started in December 2017 in Baku, Azerbaijan. It is no coincidence, that Azerbaijan took the lead in advancing multiculturalism as a building bloc to inclusive and peaceful societies. The successive initiatives of H.E. President Ilham Aliyev declaring 2016 as the year of multiculturalism and 2017 as the year of Islamic Solidarity clearly demonstrated a timely and forward-thinking approach of the leadership in Azerbaijan.
Placing the emphasis in this conference on interfaith and inter-civilizational cooperation as a pathway to living together in peace is a clear demonstration of human solidarity. At the same time it is a reminder to all of us of the vital and indispensable role religious leaders and faith-based organizations play in shaping our world. Faith is and will always be central to hope and resilience. Yet around the world, we see how religion is being hijacked by radical groups and twisted by intolerant ideologies to justify incitement to violence conducive to acts of terrorism, discrimination and xenophobia This vicious circle continues to plague our world despite our earnest global efforts.
These ideologies seek to divide humanity based on false versions and interpretations of religious, cultural and social values. No one can deny the short and long-term damaging results of these factors on international peace and security as well as development.
Driving a wedge between us as humans is an adverse to the Charter of the founding fathers of the United Nations which refers to “We the Peoples” of the United Nations who are “determined to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as neighbors”. Hence lies the notion of human solidarity and global pluralism which is a form of multilateralism. Human solidarity transcends tolerance and goes beyond acceptance and respect of the other.
Ironically, as we are witnessing a chaotic global scene transpiring before our eyes, isolationism and unilateralism seem to be gaining more ground. Whereas unity, standing together and staying together seems to be regressing.
Allow me to draw a bit on the global context of that scene.
Conflicts are multiplying and are becoming more complex. People whose identities are defined by religion, culture or ethnicity, continue to be besieged by hatred.
We see it in the ignorant vitriol directed at refugees and migrants who are being used by far-right parties and white-supremists to score political gains aided by the social media. We see this hate in rising anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and persecution of Christians . The scenes of the massacre of worshippers in mosques, churches and synagogues: the Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, the Christians in Sri Lanka and the Jewish people in Pittsburg are still fresh in our minds.
Attacks on these places of worship are some of the most blatant examples of lack of respect for each other and for our common humanity. The recurrent pattern let the UN Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres to make a global call on March 22nd in which he tasked me to develop an all-UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites in consultation with Member States, faith-actors, religious leaders and other stakeholders. The Plan as conceived as an action-oriented framework for action with suggested recommendations to support Member States and relevant stake-holders in their efforts to prevent possible attacks against religious sites and to be better prepared to safeguard religious sites and worshippers.
Another big challenge that was emphasized over and over again by the UN Secretary General as the central threat to mankind which moving faster than our own pace and is posing a tremendous threat to our survival. This is very true. I also believe that equally important is answering a central question of “how to live together peacefully in inclusive and diverse societies on this planet of ours?”
That is why we must demonstrate unity and solidarity and stand up together to build societies that are truly respectful and inclusive, where diversity is seen as a richness, not a threat. One that embraces multiculturalism and re-inforces the notion of multilateralism and collective action as the only viable approach to address and overcome these challenges. Without mastering strong political will, this goal will always be unattainable.
Let me remind you that since the founding of the United Nations, there has been the growing recognition that multiple challenges cannot be resolved by countries acting alone. With that in mind, in December 2018 the UN General Assembly endorsed a resolution A/Res/73/127 declaring the 24th of April as an international Day for Multilateralism & Diplomacy for Peace.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am a true believer in multilateralism and by default multiculturalism. I take pride of possessing many identities. From being a seasoned diplomat to a foreign minister to a lecturer then an official at the United Nations leading an organization that was my brainchild. In a way , I have come a full circle. The Iberian peninsula from where I come from has been the battleground of the three Monotheistic Faiths and that has left it with a sense of respect for cultural and religious diversity.
The truth is – today more than ever – diversity is the reality that informs human life. Diversity means embracing pluralism in nations and cities, tribes and villages, in ethnicities and identities, in beliefs, faiths and traditions.
There is a good story to tell though. The joint document of His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr. Ahmed El Tayeb on Human Fraternity is a shining light at the end of the dark tunnel, a true model of interfaith. The document is an addition to the 2016 Marrakesh Declaration which re-inforces the notion of contractual citizenship in Muslim societies as embodied in the Madina Charter. A charter that was reached without war, violence, or coercion. I hope that that spirit could be revived amongst us all. We need that spirit more than ever.
Concluding, allow me to re-iterate that words like dialogue, tolerance, diversity and respect mean little if not supported by concrete broad range of actions under an international umbrella of sincere cooperation from state and non-state actors. After all, peace, justice and human solidarity that we all aspire for, are what bind us together as we are all part of one humanity despite our many diverse cultures.
I hope that the Vienna Declaration will be endorsed by all participants at the end of this conference, wishing you successful discussions.