On the heels of a two-day United Nations High-Level meeting on Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation, Fostering Peaceful, Inclusive Societies and Countering Violent Extremism, President of General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, has called for the defeat of obscurantism and urged faith leaders around the world to denounce those who preach intolerance in the name of religion.
“From Paris to Tunis; from Garissa to Yarmouk; from Johannesburg to Peshawar; no person, society or nation is immune from intolerance or violent extremism,” Mr. Kutesa told reporters at a press conference held today at UN Headquarters in New York. “There is no justification for such attacks. Collectively, we must condemn all manifestations of intolerance but also take action to present and stop them.”
The historic High-Level event – which concluded yesterday and which was convened by Mr Kutesa in conjunction with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser – brought together leaders representing diverse faiths, including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, as well as ministers, academics, and spiritual teachers, in an effort to address the root causes of extremism committed in the name of religion.
Aside from underlining the critical role played by faith leaders in speaking out against radicalism, Mr. Kutesa also highlighted the importance of media in the global debate on intolerance, noting that it was used both as a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations as well as a positive means for engaging and educating citizens.
“I also urged faith leaders to speak out louder against and denounce those who perpetuate acts of intolerance in the name of religion,” he added.
In his wide-ranging press conference, the General Assembly President also touched on the issue of the post-2015 development agenda, underlining the need for eradicating extreme poverty and ensuring that the upcoming UN Third Conference on Financing for Development is “successful in order to support the implementation of a transformative and sustainable development agenda.”
At the same time, he announced that he would convene a High-Level Thematic Debate on Strengthening Cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations for 4 May.
“Regional and sub-regional organizations continue to play pivotal roles in their respective regions in the areas of peace and security, human rights and development,” Mr. Kutesa continued, adding that the cooperation between the UN and these bodies formed the “cornerstone” of the Organization’s work.
He also highlighted that on 21 April, I had met with Kingsley Mamabolo, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN, and was briefed on the violent acts of xenophobia targeting foreign nationals in that country. “These acts of Xenophobia are unacceptable. I call for an immediate end to these violent attacks. I hope that actions taken by South African authorities will effectively and swiftly address the situation.”
Turning to the death of African migrants in the Mediterranean in recent days, he said this tragedy of immense proportions was entirely avoidable in this day and age. “I call on Member States, the international community and regional organizations to do everything possible to save the lives of migrants, through search and rescue,” he said, adding however, that core factors of that contribute to such tragic migrations need to be addressed.