Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Opening remarks at press conference following the conclusion of the high-level meeting on the Promotion of Inter-Religious and Inter-Cultural Dialogue, Understanding and Cooperation for Peace

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 13 November 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be with you again.

The high-level meeting of the General Assembly has come to an end.

I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, whose remarkable efforts have brought this interfaith initiative to the General Assembly.

I am also grateful to the President of the General Assembly, who strongly supported the convening of this meeting.

And I appreciate the enthusiastic participation of the heads of state and senior officials of more than 75 Member States who came together to support mutual tolerance, respect and understanding.

In the Declaration, the membership affirmed its rejection of the use of religion to justify the killing of innocent people and acts of terrorism, violence and coercion. The General Assembly has sent a strong message to the world.

King Abdullah’s initiative has come at a time when the need for dialogue among religions, cultures and civilizations has never been greater. It has brought together people who might not otherwise have a chance to interact. Along with other initiatives, it will contribute to building a more harmonious world.

The challenge now is to go beyond the powerful, positive words we have heard these past two days. I pledge my full support to this effort. It may take time to see results, but I am convinced that this meeting was an important step forward.

Thank you very much. Now I would like to read the Declaration.

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At the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, the General Assembly convened a plenary high level meeting during its sixty-third session on 12 and 13 November 2008 under item 45 culture of peace.

The meeting reaffirmed the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The meeting further recalled that all States have pledged themselves under the Charter to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, including freedoms of belief and expression, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.

Concerned about serious instances of intolerance, discrimination, hatred expressions, and harassment of minority religious communities of all faiths, participating states underlined the importance of promoting dialogue, understanding, and tolerance among human beings, as well as respect for all their diverse religions, cultures and beliefs.

Participating states affirmed their rejection of the use of religion to justify the killing of innocent people and actions of terrorism, violence and coercion, which directly contradict the commitment of all religions to peace, justice and equality.

Taking note of the initiative of the King of Saudi Arabia and the World Conference on Dialogue held in Madrid between 16 and 18 July 2008 under his patronage and graciously hosted by the King and Government of Spain, the General Assembly reiterated its call for promoting a culture of tolerance and mutual understanding through dialogue, and supporting the initiatives of religious leaders, civil society, and states seeking to entrench the culture of peace, understanding, tolerance, and respect for human rights among the proponents of various faiths, cultures, and civilizations.

Participating states expressed their commitment to strengthening and supporting existing mechanisms within the United Nations for promoting tolerance and human rights, preserving the institution of the family, protecting the environment, spreading education, eradicating poverty, and fighting drug abuse, crime and terrorism, noting the positive role of religions, beliefs and moral humanitarian principles in tackling these challenges.

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and I would now be happy to take your questions.