Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks to Security Council on Intercultural Dialogue for Peace and Security

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Security Council, 26 May 2010

Thank you Your Excellency Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon,
Distinguished Members of the Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mr. Prime Minister, it is a pleasure to welcome you to the United Nations.
This is your first visit to the United Nations in your capacity as Prime Minister of Lebanon. I wish you a great success and hope for peace and stability under your leadership.

I also welcome Parliamentary Under-Secretary [of State] Mr. Alistair Burt of the United Kingdom to the Security Council.

Mr. President,

I thank you for using Lebanon’s Presidency of the Security Council to have this discussion on intercultural dialogue.

This is an important topic for Lebanon and for all Member States.

It is especially relevant now, on the eve of the Third Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations, which begins Friday in Rio de Janeiro -- and to which I will travel directly from this meeting.

I once again salute the leadership of the original co-sponsors of the Alliance, Turkey and Spain.

I also thank the Government of Brazil for hosting the meeting.

Support for the Alliance keeps growing. We just welcomed the 100th member, the United States. I hope its membership and work will expand further still.

It is the right initiative at the right time.

Our world is changing rapidly. And it is changing in unpredictable ways.

We are growing more connected -- through migration, trade and technology.

Yet in some ways, we are also becoming more apart.

Not only are countries coming into more frequent contact with each other, many countries are themselves becoming more multicultural and diverse.

To many this enrichment is a matter of celebration. Yet to others, it can be confusing and intimidating.

Local challenges can easily spill over borders and regions. In the same way, local solutions can be shared and inspire change elsewhere.

This underscores the need to build space for cooperation and to strengthen mutual understanding and respect.

We do not do this as a feel-good exercise.

We do this because it is essential for achieving peace and security in the broadest sense.

Dialogue can defuse tensions, and keep situations from escalating.

It can promote reconciliation in the aftermath of conflict.

It can introduce moderate voices into polarized debates.

At a time when prejudice and hatred are all too common… when extremists seek new recruits through incitement and identity-based appeals… when politicians use divisiveness as a strategy to win elections… dialogue can be an antidote.

Dialogue is a force for conflict prevention, management and resolution.

It can contribute to peacebuilding.

It can move us toward peaceful coexistence, the fundamental human project.

But this work requires action on many levels.

There is a need to protect cultural diversity. This is a basic human right, enshrined in many legally-binding instruments.

Just five days ago, to mark the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, seven human rights rapporteurs released a joint statement calling on States to uphold their responsibility under international law to create an environment conducive to the enjoyment of cultural rights -- including the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples.

Education must also be a priority.

It has been said that knowledge is power. We need to strengthen education systems so that young people can benefit from cultural diversity, and not be victimized by those who exploit differences. Increased exposure to information and communications technology makes this more critical.

We must also cast a wide net of engagement. Solutions will take the active partnership of local governments, civil society, the media, young leaders and many others. This is our common responsibility.

Distinguished Members of the Council,

The General Assembly proclaimed 2010 to be the International Year for Rapprochement of Cultures. Many Summits and commendable efforts have likewise sought to bridge the world’s dividing lines. We all recall the General Assembly’s high-level meeting two years ago on the Culture of Peace, held at the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.

We all agree on the importance of intercultural dialogue and shared values for peace and security.

The challenge now for the Security Council in particular is to follow up on today’s discussion by incorporating intercultural dialogue more fully into your efforts to maintain international peace and security.

Many members of the Council have ample experience in the problems that can ensue from cross-cultural tensions and perceptions of injustice. But you are also well versed in the benefits of dialogue and the great strength to be found in diversity.

I urge the Members of the Council to draw more on these experiences and share the lessons you have learned. Intercultural dialogue is an important tool in the diplomat’s toolkit. I urge you to make greater use of it.

I thank Prime Minister Hariri once again for focusing our minds on strengthening this important work.

Thank you very much.