Today’s global challenges aggravated by intolerance – Ban Ki-moon

Today’s global challenges aggravated by intolerance – Ban Ki-moon

Alliance of Civilizations meeting
Promoting tolerance is a vital part of tackling many of today's global challenges which, though mostly political in nature, are aggravated and rendered intractable by the distrust, and even hostility, among different cultural and religious groups, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a high-level gathering on bridging the divide between Islam and the West.

“Across the world, intolerance and cross-cultural tensions are on the rise,” Mr. Ban stated in his remarks to representatives comprising the “Group of Friends” of the global campaign known as the Alliance of Civilizations.

“Every day serves up new instances of the harmful impact cultural misunderstandings and religious prejudices can have on relations between communities, both within countries and across national borders.”

Facing these challenges is the “need of the hour” and demands a collective and broad-based approach that is at the very heart of the Alliance, he said.

Created in 2005 at the initiative of Spain and Turkey and under UN auspices, the Alliance seeks to tackle fear and suspicion, bridge divides and overcome prejudices and polarizations between Islam and the West.

Mr. Ban noted that at the national level, the Alliance is well-positioned to support initiatives aimed at improving cross-cultural relations. “In areas like education, media and the youth, it can help foster partnerships among Governments, international organizations, civil society groups and foundations. By drawing on its networks and expertise, it can bolster grassroots efforts to combat prejudice and promote dialogue among diverse communities.”

At the same time, the Alliance can serve as a “catalyst for joint action” at the inter-governmental level, he said, adding that the partnership between Spain and Turkey that led to the creation of the Alliance is, in itself, “a potent symbol of what dialogue can achieve when backed by strong political will.”

The Alliance can also help reinforce the work of the UN system as a whole by making a real contribution to the Organization’s efforts to prevent war and promote peace.

Mr. Ban said he was confident that, by working together, “we can create conditions that help communities choose the path of dialogue instead of confrontation; we can learn to engage with each other rather than ignore each other; and we can embrace our diversity instead of fearing it.”

General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim told delegates he knows from personal experience how important understanding between cultures is and the need to foster that understanding through dialogue.

“I myself come from a country that lies at a crossroads of different cultures and religions,” stated Mr. Kerim, a diplomat, economist, scholar and businessman from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The President stressed that progress in the Alliance’s four major priority areas – youth, education, media and migration – is indispensable for reducing tensions and polarization between societies which differ in their religious and cultural values.

“How better to enhance the dialogue on a daily basis but through properly sensitized media? How better to promote cross-cultural dialogue in the long-run but through youth and education?”

Highlighting some of the initiatives taken by the UN towards better cross-cultural understanding, he drew attention to a high-level dialogue on interreligious and intercultural understanding and cooperation for peace to be held in October.

In April this year, Mr. Ban appointed Jorge Sampaio, a former President of Portugal, as the first UN High Representative for the Alliance, to provide the campaign with vision and leadership.

The “Group of Friends” network – a growing community of over 50 States and international organizations that support the objectives of the Alliance – was set up to foster partnerships and deepen cooperation on a range of initiatives across different regions.