|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Alliance of Civilizations Can Help Fortify Bedrock Values Sustaining, Promoting
Peace, Secretary-General Tells Ministerial ‘Group of Friends’ Meeting
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends of the Alliance of Civilizations, in New York on 23 September:
The work of the Alliance of Civilizations touches on many of the threats at the top of the global agenda. Two out of every three major conflicts in our world have a cultural dimension. Extremism, religious strife and bigotry fuel the fire. Even the most stable democracies suffer horrific acts of hatred and the killing of innocent civilians singled out for their identity or their beliefs.
Across the world, bridges of understanding strain under the weight of intolerance and polarization. Never before have people been able to access so much information so quickly. But more information does not equal better understanding. It takes effort to move from knowledge to kindness, from insight to empathy, from awareness to action.
That is why it is so important to spark a conversation that reaches all people affected by the changes engulfing our world, especially women, youth and those who are marginalized and manipulated by groups seeking power.
Promoting dialogue and understanding has long been considered a form of “soft power” because it brings about change slowly, without military action. But the events of this year taught us that when people unite in common cause, they can change the world more quickly than anyone could imagine, and more forcefully than any amount of military might.
The youth in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere demonstrated how firing off an e‑mail can be more powerful than firing a gun. They proved that even with no position in government, no weapons, and barely any resources, they could shape the future and the present.
The Alliance for Civilizations has a mandate to marshal this power, these peaceful means, this widening awareness, for good. The Alliance is active not only in conference rooms, but in schools and on the streets, in kitchens and cafés, the marketplace and cyberspace.
Across Europe, the Alliance is working to strengthen social cohesion. And the Alliance is gaining private-sector support. The agreement recently signed with the BMW Group to foster cross-cultural dialogue is just one example.
I look forward to the fourth Forum for the Alliance of Civilizations meeting this December in Doha, and I thank the Government of Qatar for its generous support.
Yesterday, I spoke to the Security Council about the importance of preventive diplomacy. I am not talking only about envoys conducting negotiations. I am talking about students using Facebook. I am talking about communities embracing diversity and welcoming outsiders. I am talking about young people exploring their world, sharing their cultures and respecting others.
This is all part of the work of prevention. The Alliance of Civilizations can help to empower a great cadre of civilian negotiators, diplomats and ambassadors who can fortify the bedrock values that sustain and promote peace.
Lastly, I would like to highly commend and appreciate the leadership of the High Representative President Jorge Sampaio for his vision and leadership.
I count on the Alliance of Civilizations to help us prevail in this struggle.
* *** *For information media • not an official record