Adopting Resolution on ‘Sport as Means to Promote Development’, General Assembly Recognizes Potential of Sport to Encourage Tolerance, Social Cohesion
Adopting Resolution on ‘Sport as Means to Promote Development’, General Assembly Recognizes Potential of Sport to Encourage Tolerance, Social Cohesion
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
32nd & 33rd Meetings (AM & PM)
Adopting Resolution on ‘Sport as Means to Promote Development’, General Assembly
Recognizes Potential of Sport to Encourage Tolerance, Social Cohesion
Assembly Also Takes Up Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations,
Speakers Say Diversity Must Be Celebrated, Warn against Divisive Actions, Policies
During a day of lively and wide-ranging discussion on the significance of sport as a driving force for peace and development, and intercultural dialogue as a tool to ensure respect and the equal dignity of all cultures, the General Assembly adopted a consensus resolution recognizing the potential of sport to help attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and foster an atmosphere of tolerance.
By a new resolution on “Sports as a means to promote education, health, development and peace”, the Assembly today reaffirmed the importance of sport as a tool to foster cooperation, solidarity, and social inclusion. It also acknowledged the need to strengthen efforts, including multi-stakeholder partnerships, at all levels, to maximize sport’s potential to contribute to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals and national peacebuilding priorities.
In addition, the Assembly acknowledged opportunities for development and social cohesion provided by the 2010 International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) World Cup, held in South Africa from 11 June to 11 July. It also acknowledged the opportunities provided by the XXI Olympic Winter Games and the X Paralympic Winter Games, held in Vancouver, Canada, for education, understanding, peace, harmony and tolerance among and between peoples and civilizations.
Among other things, the Assembly, by the text, encouraged the use of sport to strengthen education for children and young people, promote health — including by preventing drug abuse — empower girls and women, foster the inclusion of persons with disabilities and facilitate conflict prevention. It also encouraged the organizers of mass sporting events to leverage those events to promote peace initiatives and raise awareness at all levels.
Throughout the day-long discussion, many of the 45 representatives of Government and civil society lauded the holding of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa — the first time the game had been played on African soil and in a developing country — as a vital opportunity for Africa and developing countries to make progress toward achieving the Millennium Goals by 2015.
South Africa’s delegate recalled that during the World Cup, her country “was the stage and Africa was the theatre” that had furthered social cohesion continent-wide. Underscoring the importance of that fact, she said sport had played a crucial role in the demise of the Apartheid system and in the creation of a new society after 1994. Echoing the words of former South Africa President and Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela, she said: “Sport has the power to change the world, the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else can.”
Despite its ability to foster global peace and cooperation, however, sport alone could not solve complex social and economic challenges, many representatives agreed. With that in mind, Brazil’s representative outlined a Government-led programme involving 12,000 inmates from State prisons who manufactured sports equipment for educational sports programmes, while Brazil’s “Second Half” programme proposed part-time sports activities to children in public schools.
Also of concern was doping, which Tunisia’s representative said loomed over the credibility of sporting events. He called on all States to take all requisite measures to combat the dangers of doping, and hailed the 2005 adoption of the International Convention against Doping in Sport at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
On that point, the United States representative said her country had ratified that Convention, while Cuba’s delegate said his country had made its Institute of Sports Medicine and Anti-doping Laboratory available to other countries for the purpose of fighting the scourge of drugs that prevented fair competition.
Turning to the culture of peace, the declaration of 2010 as the International Year for Rapprochement of Cultures was to be the cornerstone of the International Decade for the Culture of Peace, said the representative of Spain, which, along with Turkey, had founded the United Nations-Backed Alliance of Civilizations. Since its creation in 2005, that global initiative had responded to challenges to international coexistence. It favoured understanding and cooperation among different peoples and religions, and aimed to counter forces that worked against such values.
Turkey’s representative described the Alliance as a truly global peace initiative that facilitated dialogue among various stakeholders, including youth and women. Its successful Forum in Rio de Janeiro, held in May 2010, had consolidated the global scope and universal outreach of the Alliance, which would now turn its energy to the next Forum, in December 2011 in Qatar. Despite those accomplishments, misperceptions and lack of understanding continued, so the Alliance was, together with partners, working on a strategy for the Mediterranean, which would aim to foster good neighbourly relations.
The representative of Indonesia said despite the need for dialogue among peoples, cultures and religions for realizing global peace, religious hatred was on the rise and amid such polarization among peoples, Indonesia continued to believe that “what unites us is much more than what divides us.” Diversity was invaluable to a collective heritage that must be celebrated, and in that context, he called for combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination based on belief or religion. “Dialogue is not an end in itself,” he insisted. There was a collective responsibility to ensure that it lead to community development and worked for peoples’ welfare.
India’s delegate said it was imperative that nations of the world worked together to “tackle the menace of terrorism and extremism”, which was an anathema for modern societies. Compassion, mercy and tolerance were the common values and beliefs among all major faiths of the world, and, therefore, we must learn to live our faith with integrity while respecting and accepting each other.
Congo’s representative reminded the Assembly that a scorn for cultures played into the hands of extremists. While people continued to feed off of culture prejudice, he expressed hope that an interfaith, intercultural dialogue among civilizations would lead to the prosperous world that everyone sought.
Also speaking today on the topic of sport were the representatives from Kazakhstan, Oman, Australia, Papua New Guinea, India, Monaco, and Bolivia.
Also speaking was the Observers of Palestine and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Speaking today about intercultural dialogue and culture of peace was the Secretary-General of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lebanon.
Also speaking on that topic were the representatives from Kazakhstan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, China, Cuba, Philippines, Paraguay, Iran, Pakistan, Belarus, Australia, Syria, Venezuela, Malta, Sudan, United States, Tunisia, Thailand, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Nigeria, Qatar, and Libya.
Also speaking were observers from Holy See and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The General Assembly will convene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 20 October, to discuss the report of the Economic and Social Council and outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields.
The General Assembly met today to take up matters related to sport for peace and development, including a draft resolution on that topic. It was also set to consider items regarding the Global Agenda for Dialogue Among Civilizations and the culture of peace.
Delegations had before them a number of documents, including the Secretary-General’s annual report on Sport for Development and Peace: Strengthening the Partnerships (document A/65/270). It summarizes the steps undertaken during the final year of the three-year road map to formulate relevant policies, implement programmes and projects by Member States and the United Nations system, in particular those implemented within the framework of the 2010 Fédération internationale de football association (FIFA) World Cup in South Africa. That historic event, which took place from 11 June to 11 July 2010, marked the first time in history that the major global sport event took place on African soil and was hosted by a developing country.
The report also provides an update on the Olympic Truce for the XXI Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, hosted in Vancouver, Canada, and the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group, designed to provide a forum for Governments to share best practices, facilitate the implementation of policy recommendations and ensure the sustainability of global efforts.
The report also outlines a revised United Nations Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace. The three-year initiative would include four main lines of action: a global framework, policy development, resource mobilization and evidence of impact. Action in those areas would require enhanced cooperation and coordination to create a common vision of the role of sport and development and peace, to establish a knowledge network define priorities and raise awareness, the report says.
In addition, the action plan would promote the principle of “sport for all” and develop inclusive sport and physical education policies, promote innovative funding mechanisms to scale up Sport for Development and Peace initiatives for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other peacebuilding objectives, and encourage and support evidence-based research, develop and promote universal evaluation and monitoring tools, indicators and benchmarks based on commonly agreed standards. Considering the past achievements, knowledge and action gaps, lessons learned and challenges identified, the report says the Action Plan remained valid and applicable, overall. Member States were urged to work along the main lines of action to integrate Sport for Development and Peace in the development agenda at every level.
Throughout the reporting period, significant advances were made in terms of advocacy and communications, among them, the February 2010 launch of a new Web site that served as a gateway to the United Nations work on the issue of Sport and Development. In addition, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, (UNECE) and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the Turkish Basketball Federation and the Turkish National Police agreed to use the 2010 FIBA World Championship to promote road safety messages worldwide.
Further, the report summarizes the activities of the United Nations system around the 2010 FIFA World Cup. With five years remaining in the timeline of the Millennium Goals, a significant amount of focus on accomplishing the goals in Africa, the sporting event was a vital opportunity to make progress toward their achievement. In that regard, the report says, many global initiatives were undertaken around the World Cup, for example, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), launched an international campaign aimed at preventing human trafficking during the World Cup; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supported the Government of South Africa in putting children’s health and safety in the forefront of the event; and the captains of 10 national football teams signed an appeal to reduce the number of mothers dying of HIV-related causes, and babies being born infected, among other initiatives. During the reporting period, the United Nations was encouraged to continue to strengthen its cooperation with international sports organizations.
The Assembly also had before it the annual report of the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (document A/65/299), which summarizes activities carried out regarding the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (@001 to 2010), to promote and implement the Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace as requested by the General Assembly in resolution 64/80. In addition, the report assesses the progress made in implementing the objectives of the Decade and recommendations for future action. An Annex contains a summary report of the UNESCO High Panel on Peace and Dialogue among Cultures, convened by the agency’s Director-General on 18 February 2010 to coincide with the launching of the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2010).
Among its conclusions, the report notes The International Decade was successful in promoting a culture of peace at all levels of society. UNESCO’s public awareness campaign may have contributed to broadening that awareness. Apart from the relatively low level of response by Member States about their action in pursuit of a culture of peace, however, the report says the ability to measure the progress of the various stakeholders remained a challenge. As a result of globalization, the challenges and opportunities had also changed greatly since the Programme of Action was endorsed by the General Assembly in 1998, and therefore, a better understanding of those processes was needed in order to develop a more effective multilateral approach to peace building in the future. The next meeting of the UNESCO High Panel and Dialogue among Cultures, which will reconvene at the end of November or in early December 2010, will reflect on those issues.
The Secretary-General’s report on Intercultural, interreligious and inter-civilizational dialogue (document A/65/269), covers a range of topics, including the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures, the third Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, the promotion of United Nations objectives through collaboration with faith-based organizations, as well as communication, awareness-raising and educational activities in that field.
Among its conclusions, the report notes that some activities to support the dialogue among cultures, religions and civilizations were undertaken without specific connection to a General Assembly resolution adopted in those fields, making it difficult to link those activities to a given resolution or United Nations process. It suggests the Assembly consider such matters in a consolidated manner, as making activities easily understandable for non-United Nations actors. It also would contribute to increasing the visibility of United Nations activities.
The draft wide-ranging text before the Assembly, on Sport as a means to promote education, health development and peace (document A/65/L.4), recognizes the potential of sport to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and to foster peace and development and to contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding. It also recognizes the need to strengthen and further coordinate efforts, including multi-stakeholder partnerships, at all levels, to maximize the potential of sport for contributing to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals and national peacebuilding priorities.
Among other things, the draft also invites Member States, the United Nations system, including its peacekeeping missions and integrated peacebuilding missions, sport-related organizations, athletes, the media, civil society and the private sector to collaborate with the Office of Sport for Development and Peace to promote greater awareness and action to foster peace and accelerate the attainment of the Millennium Goals through sport-based initiatives and promote the integration of sport for development and peace in the development agenda, by working along the following principles, adapted from the United Nations Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace, contained in the Secretary-General to the General Assembly on the topic at its sixty-first session.
Introduction of Draft
GHAZI JOMMA ( Tunisia), introducing the draft resolution on Sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace (document A/65/L.4), said his Government had worked to ensure that sport become a driving force for peace and development. “Sport is today part and parcel of the United Nations”, he stressed, underscoring that it was an effective tool for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. In that context, he congratulated South Africa for the successful holding of the last World Cup, and Singapore for the holding of the last Youth Olympics, both of which showcased the enthusiasm sport could generate among people, irrespective of origins and beliefs.
He also called on States to take all requisite measures to combat the dangers of doping, which loomed over the credibility of sports events, and congratulated States on the 2005 adoption of the International Convention against Doping in Sport, at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Finally, he urged States to appoint focal points on sport for development and peace, expressing hope that today’s draft would enjoy support from all States.
Statements on Sport for Peace and Development
JOÃO ALBERTO DOURADO QUINTAES ( Brazil) said the practice of sport was deeply rooted in Brazilian society, with access to sport as a fundamental social right enshrined in Brazil’s Constitution. The Government firmly believed in sport’s potential to foster inclusiveness and values. Addressing sport in such a holistic way helped create conditions conducive for peace and development. However, sport alone could not solve complex social and economic challenges. Outlining Government—led initiatives, he said a programme involving 12,000 inmates from State prisons aimed at manufacturing sports equipment to be used in educational sports programmes, while the “Second Half” programme proposed part-time sports activities to children in public schools.
Brazil was open to expanding the scope of such programmes with other countries as well as United Nations agencies, he said. Likewise, pursuant to recommendations in the latest resolution on the matter, Brazil maintained sports cooperation projects with other developing nations, including Benin, Kenya and South Africa. “We feel that an exciting sport-centred decade has just begun”, he said, noting that sport would be at the top of the Brazilian social political and economic agenda. The Government was committed to fostering and adopting public policies to ensure that events, such as the FIFA World Cup, which Brazil would host in 2014, would generate more jobs and improve infrastructure.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA (Kazakhstan) noted that the 2010 FIFA World Cup was the first to take place, not only in South Africa — a developing nation — but also on the African continent, a fact that underscored the importance of adhering to the principle of “Olympic Truce”. It was “extremely urgent” she stated, to implement the Plan of Action for the Development of Sport as an essential component of all national and international policies for peace and development. In that regard, she proposed that the International Working Group for Sport play a decisive role in providing consultations and technical assistance to Member States.
Kazakhstan had undertaken numerous national measures to promote sports for peace and development. The Government had enacted legislation in 2008 stipulating country-wide State-run activities, ensuring equal access to physical training and sport. It had also set in place the program for athletes’ practice in preparation of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games and was preparing to host the 2011 Winter Asian Games. Those Games would be a first for the continent. Kazakhstan, she said, adding that her country had also ratified the International Convention against Doping in Sport and signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto. Furthermore, legislation was enacted targeting non-governmental organizations in order to unite communities through sport, “regardless of their differences” and to fulfil educational, physical and mental health objectives
RODOLFO ELISEO BENITEZ VERSON ( Cuba) said sport was significant for development at both national and international levels, strengthening solidarity and friendship among peoples as and essential element to promoting peace, development and cooperation. Since its revolution in 1959, Cuba had attained significant achievements in international competitions as it fostered a pedagogic system that integrated physical education for all its people. Cuba worked to train its children from early ages, with a view to searching for talents who might be future sportsmen and sportswomen who supported and raised the level of the country in the international arena. Cuba opposed sport activities that had money as their only reward, and denounced the “talent train” in sports from developing countries.
For years, he said, the Cuban sports movement had provided technicians, professors and trainers to countries of the global South, teaching new training methods that enhanced results and forged strong bonds of friendship. Cuba also made its Institute of Sports Medicine and Anti-doping Laboratory available to other countries, with the purpose of fighting the scourge of drugs that prevented fair competition. He noted that the countries of the South also deserved to hold the Olympic Games, which were a framework to strengthening brotherhood and solidarity in sports, and was certain the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, would be a success for the entire global South.
MOHAMMED SAID AL-MUJAINI (Oman) said youth participation was important for fostering peace around the world, enabling youth to be creative in their societies. Indeed, youth must be provided with the necessary resources to achieve their vision for a future of prosperity, which would, in turn, allow them become cooperative in society. The General Assembly, in resolutions 58/5 (2003) and 60/9 (2005), among others, had outlined sport’s contribution to peace and development. Sport and physical education could enforce a culture of peace and gender equality. With that in mind, it was necessary to create a United Nations framework that would allow for expanding the mandate of the Working Group on Sports for it to include a communications programme to raise awareness about such issues. In Oman, sports provided many avenues for tapping into youth’s potential and a ministry devoted to those and other related issues had been established.
CAROL FULP (United States) said that well-planned sporting programmes promoted solidarity, social inclusion and health. Sport was a shared cultural passion that could bring people together despite divisions of people, place and religion. The United States recognized sport’s value in that way, having created a “Sports United” Office within the State Department, which was designed to work at the grass-roots level to help foreign youth understand how success in athletics could translate to achievement in the classroom. Since 2002, the United States State Department had funded and organized programmes in more than 80 countries, which featured activities in 25 sports, including disability sports and sports management.
Discussing United States programmes, she said the “Let’s Move” campaign against childhood obesity in her country encouraged physical activity among youth and improved the quality of physical education in schools. “Sport has the power to bring us together”, she said. One way societies improved was to integrate women and girls, and sport had proven that point. Determination and drive were habits that girls must learn and use throughout their lives. The United States had ratified the International Convention against Doping, showing its commitment to anti-doping controls and applying such controls appropriately in the United States. The United States also was pleased to support today’s draft resolution. It had long made sport part of its global outreach efforts, as sport was about people-to-people exchanges. Sports taught teamwork and built discipline, values and strengths seen in the United Nations work in promoting development and peace.
PETER STONE ( Australia) said his country was pleased to co-sponsor the resolution introduced to the Assembly by Tunisia. A growing body of sport for development research provided strong empirical evidence of the direct role sport played advancing human rights, social inclusion and community development. Apart from good health, sport also contributed to confidence, self-esteem, teamwork, cooperation, social interaction, interpersonal communication, tolerance and conflict resolution. Sport offered a way to improve lives of the most excluded children, and remained an integral tool in Australia’s development cooperation.
The Australian Sports Outreach Program funded grassroots sport for development initiatives in over 40 countries, which provided services such as life saving education, youth clubs in post conflict areas, conveying messages about HIV/AIDS and promoting participation among rural women. Sport also helped build social cohesion in Australia, home to 200 nationalities and over 100 religions, he said. Australia also strongly supported the Secretary-General’s effort to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue and understanding, and supported grassroots interfaith activities its neighbours Indonesia and the Philippines, to increase understanding between Christian and Muslim communities. The United Nations could play an important role in creative and practical programmes that engage youth and harness education at the local level helped improve dialogue between cultures and promote peace and understanding.
ROBERT G AISI ( Papua New Guinea) said the culture of sports provided the platform for social cohesion, value formation and cultural ties. Sporting events such as the Olympic Games also provided a stage to promote healthy forms of nationalism, spirit and unity among countries as well as within. Such events were about more than showing of the incredible abilities of the young athletes, but also about bridging ethnic and cultural divides. He was concerned that sports and physical education programmes were increasingly being sidelined or were disappearing altogether from schools worldwide. That phenomenon could have myriad negative impacts, especially since sporting activities helped children’s physical as well as mental well-being. “Physical education programmes within schools are essential [and] are a way to reduce disease, boost physical health, and improve local development. Sports provide alternatives to harmful activities, such as drug abuse.”
Stressing that he was aware of the dangers faced by sportsmen and sportswomen, as well as young athletes that encountered violence, doping, overtraining, deprivation, and other threats, he pointed out that such dangers emphasized the need to develop more effective ways to fight doping and destructive processes around young athletes. In that regard, he emphasized the importance of the international community’s help in providing funding and resources for sport-related institutions so that those institutions effectively constructed sports programmes that would help make sport and physical education available to everyone. As such, the international community needed to work together to provide a “code of good practice” to continue to combat dangers young athletes faced, he said, adding that sport and physical education could thus be used as a tool to further international goals, including those in the Millennium Development Goals.
SHANTA KUMAR, Member of Parliament of India, said that sports, games and physical fitness were an integral part of his country’s civilization, and noted that after the country’s independence, the integration of physical education and sports with formal education was emphasized in the First Five Year Plan itself. India had aimed to broad-base sports and provision of modern sports infrastructure as a result of which a National Sports Policy was adopted by India in 2001. The country had also encouraged the autonomous functioning of National Sports Federations and today, all sections of society, including the media and the business sector, were actively involved in the promotion of sports.
“It is hard to imagine a more powerful medium than sports to inspire and bring people together for a common purpose,” he continued, adding that sports were also an effective tool to help achieve development objectives in the areas of health education, HIV/AIDS prevention, child protection and child development because sports helped generate public awareness and inspired broad, inclusive and committed action in support of developmental agenda. In that regard, he was pleased that there was good recognition of the value of sports to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals and that many sports personalities had associated with the United Nations in creating public awareness and understanding of various issues that affected the youth and society.
LULAMA RULUMENI (South Africa), recalling that the 2010 World Cup had been held in her homeland — the first that event had been held on African soil — said her country was the stage and Africa the theatre that had furthered the continent’s social cohesion. Sport had played a crucial role in the demise of the Apartheid system and in the creation of a new society after 1994. At the centre of South Africa’s sport-related reconstruction and development had been Nelson Mandela, who had said that “Sport has the power to change the world, the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else can”. Indeed, as declared in the 2005 World Summit Outcome, sports had the potential to foster peace and development, and contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance. In that context, her Government advocated for prioritizing Africa through sport and other means in collective efforts to achieve such goals.
In resolution 64/5, the Assembly acknowledged sport’s role in Africa, she continued. Though sport alone could not prevent conflict or build peace, it could contribute to comprehensive efforts in such work in various important ways. Recalling the African Union’s declaration of 2010 as the Year of Peace and Security, she said South Africa, as a stakeholder in peacebuilding efforts, encouraged the use of sport as a tool to advance the continent’s development agenda. Also, progressive legislation was in place to pursue women’s empowerment in sport, while other legislation had been enacted to empower persons with disabilities. South Africa would implement the United Nations Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace at the national level, in line with internationally agreed standards.
ISABELLE PICO ( Monaco) said sport’s relevance as vehicle for education, development and peace had been confirmed on several occasions. The Secretary-General’s participation in a roundtable on sport for development and peace, on the sidelines of the Assembly’s recent summit on the Millennium Development Goals, showed his commitment to those issues. The power of sport lay in its ability to bring societies closer and promote values such as fair play and discipline. Such reach had resulted from efforts by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on such matters and underscored the importance of partnerships.
She went on to say that sport’s impacts on overall development should be taken into account, pointing out that the International Working Group on Sport was involving children and adolescents in priority areas which Monaco fully endorsed. The historic holding of the World Cup last June, for example, paid tribute to Africa and highlighted challenges such as human trafficking, HIV/AIDS and the promotion of sustainable development. However, the organization of global events was not only way to showcase the benefits of sport. Construction of local football fields in Côte d’Ivoire, for instance, involved young people in development of that country. The benefits of sport had also been seen in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. Citing Monaco’s status as co-Chair of the Group of Friends of Sport for Development and Peace, she said Monaco planned to join collective efforts to promote such work.
PABLO SOLON-ROMERO ( Bolivia) said sport was essential for attaining the Millennium Development Goals, given its particular impacts on peace, health and crime reduction. Bolivia had invested in sport as it believed that the practice of sport helped to ensure young people were removed from crime and drug addiction, and could overcome discrimination and racism. Indeed, a country that could overcome marginalization was also one that promoted sport. Turning to an important issue, he said Bolivia wished to show that high-altitude sport in no way damaged human health. To that end, Bolivia had spoken out against discrimination in high-altitude sport. Playing sport on a football pitch that was higher than 6,000 metres in no way affected health. Sport must be played irrespective of altitude. Bolivia also advocated sport in the fight against drugs and was resolutely committed to peace. Nothing brought people together more than sport.
AMMAR HIJAZI Observer of Palestine said the culture of sport was an immensely positive force for development in a society, and fully agreed with the UNESCO description of sports as a fundamental right for all. The innate positive energy and human values of sport were a valuable asset in any nation’s efforts towards development and peaceful coexistence. Palestine had invested a lot of sincere energy and effort in sport, and in the past three years, it had changed from a luxury for the few to an aspiration within reach to all, including women teams in various fields for local and international competition. He expressed sincere appreciation for assistance in that area from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Brazil. Palestine had also proudly hosted friendly and competitive games with international teams.
But while Palestine was proud of its achievements in sports, it was deeply troubled by continuous difficulties its athletes and effort confronted from Israel, which continued to obstruct the right of Palestinian athletes to move and travel and had, on several occasions, prevented star athletes from participating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and abroad. The latest such occasion had been on 5 October 2010, when the captain of a Palestinian team who lived in Gaza was banned from getting to the West Bank for a match. Such punitive restrictions also affected the ability to bring in sporting equipment or develop proper infrastructure, and had moved FIFA and Union of European Football Associations officials to express anger and grave concerns. He commended those positions and called on all concerned to do their utmost to curb those practices.
T.A.G. SITHOLE, Deputy Observer, International Olympic Committee, said the Committee planned to strengthen its ties with the United Nations and assist States in their endeavours to promote sport as a tool for development and peace. The Committee’s commitment to place sport at the service of humanity was enshrined in its founding document, the Olympic Charter, which defined Olympism as a life philosophy that sought to place sport at the service of man’s harmonious development. The sporting movement had translated that philosophy into actions in various ways, starting with the Olympic Games, which provided a global forum for peaceful competition in an atmosphere of fair play and mutual respect.
However, much of the Committee’s development work occurred far from the media spotlight, he said, explaining that last May, a Youth Olympic Development Centre in Zambia had opened, combining sports with educational programmes, health services and community events. It also showcased an effective partnership among the Government, the Zambian National Olympic Committee and both national and international sports federations.
He said that other efforts were aligned with the Millennium Development Goals, especially in the promotion of women, environmental sustainability and education. In many such instances, sport was the catalyst for action. While the world looked to the United Nations, Governments and non-governmental organizations to take the lead in promoting development, sport had shown, time and again, it could effectively contribute. He urged that sport be considered more regularly as a factor in human development. To that end, sport programmes must be comprehensively monitored to determine what worked best. “I salute the efforts of Governments around the world to promote development, but I also urge them to further embrace sport as a partner in those efforts and to give [it] the attention, promotion and resources it needs in order to contribute to national development agendas,” he said.
Action on Draft
The Assembly then adopted by consensus the resolution on Sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace (document A/65/L.4). It then concluded its discussion of its agenda item on sport for peace and development.
Statements on the Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations
WILLIAM HABIB, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon, said his country was an example of tolerance. President Suleiman had said his country would always remain open dialogue and cultural interaction, and loyal to that message despite today’s challenges. In line with that readiness, Lebanon had joined the Group of Friends for Solidarity among Civilizations, an important forum for ensuring that civil society, women and youth participated in dialogue on matters, and promoting peaceful ties. Lebanon had called for rich and human interaction in a mutually constructive and useful way, believing that such cooperation began with recognition of others’ beliefs, creeds and cultures.
Fear, inhibition and intimidation had no place in such efforts, he explained, noting that his Government valued the United Nations work in the cultural, information and technology fields to help societies overcome ignorance, and better implement the Millennium Goals. Welcoming preventive diplomacy and regional partnerships in efforts to prevent war, he said that Lebanon, for its part, had always put forth a message of dialogue, particularly in the Security Council last May, when it held a Dialogue for Peace and Security. He expressed hope that promoting dialogue among civilizations would promote a culture of peace, as well as a culture of stability. The Middle East deserved comprehensive peace and stability, in line with various resolutions and on the basis of justice. Also, the dialogue between developed and developing nations should be aligned with today’s challenges and peoples’ aspirations.
Ms. AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) said the Secretary-General’s recommendations reflected today’s climate of strengthened multilateralism. Recalling that the President of the Assembly’s sixty-fourth session had spoken at an Economic and Social Council event that dealt with actions to promote a rapprochement of cultures, she said upon Kazakhstan’s proposal, UNESCO had developed an action plan to commemorate the Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures. The Assembly had designated UNESCO as the lead agency in that work. Over 700 activities were envisaged for the International Year, particularly for youth, which underscored the many dimensions of such issues.
Kazakhstan also had developed an action plan for implementing confidence building measures, she said, and organized international conferences on intercultural cooperation and tolerance. United Nations entities had provided valuable contributions to the Secretary-General’s report. The United Nations had undertaken a wide range of education and communication activities to achieve the objectives of the International Year and in that context, she highlighted work with faith-based organizations, which linked those groups with the Organization with a view to fulfilling development objectives. Tolerance trust and transparency characterized Kazakhstan’s 2010 chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), particularly with a forum held to foster tolerance, non-discrimination and respect for diversity. The theme of tolerance would also be highlighted with Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in 2011 of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
AHMED AL-JARMAN (United Arab Emirates) said that dialogue among civilizations and the promotion of a culture of peace were of special importance, particularly now, when humanity continued to face growing trends of inequality, occupation, oppression, conflict, violations of human rights, and other forms of hatred and discrimination. Recent public tensions of extremism and defamation towards cultures, particularly those calling for offences against Islam and Muslims, as well as foreigners in general, provided a strong motive for strengthening mechanisms of dialogue and religious and cultural tolerance. The United Arab Emirates was on the path of building bridges of confidence and partnership with the rest of the world, as was reflected in a series of national legislations and laws ensuring harmony and peaceful co-existence among ethnic groups and followers of different faiths.
At the international level, the United Arab Emirates was extending direct and indirect economic, humanitarian and relief assistance to developing countries and countries emerging from conflict and natural disasters. In order to achieve the goals of tolerance, understanding, and multilateralism, the international community needed to have a genuine global partnership which aimed to encourage dialogue among various cultures and civilizations, and instil a spirit of tolerance and respect for the sanctities of other peoples, and an understanding of sensitive aspects of other cultures. Dialogue among civilizations must take several forms, including North-South, East West, and other forms of cultural exchange. A global standardized approach should be developed to deal with acts that threatened peace, security, and stability in the world. Measures for criminalization of solicitation to violence on religious pretexts, including incitement to abuse or desecrate sanctities of other religions, should also be adopted.
MESHAL HUBAIL ( Kuwait) affirmed that the world faced a great challenge from extremism and bigoted views practiced by groups and individuals, often using violence to impose their ideologies. To support a realistic dialogue among civilizations, there should be a sincere and common effort to combat extremist views, which hampered the United Nations efforts towards Rapprochement. He paid tribute to General Assembly resolution 65/81, outlining that the right to expression carried duties and obligations. “We should prevent incitement against religion,” he said, as it carried negative consequences for human rights. Efforts must be made by the United Nations, non-government organizations and States on inter-civilizational dialogue for unified programmes to help spread peace, tolerance and respect.
That did not mean there should be a fusion of cultures and faiths — the purpose of the dialogue was to study the roots of differences and promote respect for them. Kuwait supported United Nations’ work to continue such dialogue, and had adopted a national action plan with that in mind. Kuwait’s initiatives included work to reinforce a culture of peace and tolerance; combat extremism; and cooperation with regional institutions to lay the basis for common understanding each other’s concerns. Kuwait also had supported various conferences that promoted respect and tolerance for Islam, as well as equality among people so that international security could be achieved.
LI BAODONG ( China) highlighted 3 points to be observed in carrying out dialogue and cooperation among civilizations. Firstly, “respect each other and conduct dialogue on an equal footing”. Extremism, imposition of one’s beliefs or values upon others, discrimination, bias and xenophobia should be firmly rejected, he stated. Secondly, “work on multiple fronts in order to form synergy”. In that regard, he drew attention to the United Nations initiatives Interregligious and Intercultural Cooperation for Peace and Alliance of Civilizations, stressing that the Organization should play an important role as a platform for cultural exchange. Thirdly, “involve all sectors of society and work for concrete results”. Civil Society, academia and the media, he said, should all be mobilized to disseminate the message of a “Culture of Peace”. Particularly important, he added, was the message of tolerance, understanding and respect for young people to resist religious hatred and discrimination.
China was a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, whose government adhered to “the policy of freedom of religion,” he continued. It was in favour of cultural diversity and believed that different civilizations should learn from each other, seek common ground and shelve differences to jointly contribute to the prosperity and progress of mankind. To that end, China had hosted major events, such as ASEM Interfaith Dialogue and the World Buddhist Forum. Expo 2010 Shanghai was the first such global event to be hosted by a developing country, he noted, attracting the participation of 246 countries and international organizations and providing them a platform to share their cultural achievements. The Shanghai World Expo had become a showcase of cultural diversity and harmony and an event of happiness and friendship for all.
Mr. VERSÓN ( Cuba) said peace was more than just the absence of conflict; it required education at all levels, as well as sustainable economic development and respect for human rights. A culture of peace could not be achieved without respect for religious and cultural diversity, and he expressed concern at various doctrines that promoted a “clash of civilizations”, demonizing 1,000 year-old cultures and religions. Every such doctrine must be vigorously rejected. Attempts by some to link some cultures to terrorism were equally unacceptable. Clear commitments and concrete steps were needed to promote sustainable development and environmental protection. Obstacles to the rights of peoples to self-determination must also be eliminated, he added, emphasizing that the acquisition of territories was still recognized as acceptable.
Moreover, how could a culture of peace be promoted when annual military spending had risen to a “dizzying” $5.31 trillion, he asked, while 925 million people — almost one-sixth of the global population — lived in poverty and hunger? Promotion of such a culture might include teaching the history and philosophy of civilizations. Mass media too must play a role in spreading human values. Cuba supported the Declaration and Plan of Action on a Culture of Peace, as well as UNESCO’s various programmes on that issue. “A better world is possible”, he said, as outlined in UNESCO’s Constitution. “The solution lies in our hands”. With that, he urged acting without delay to allow an alliance of civilizations to prevail over the culture of war.
HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) said dialogue among peoples, cultures and religions was essential for realizing a global culture of peace. Unfortunately, religious hatred was on the rise and amid such polarization among peoples, Indonesia continued to believe that “what unites us is much more than what divides us”. There was always room to nurture common values. Diversity was invaluable to a collective heritage that must be celebrated, and in that context, he called for combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination based on belief or religion.
In today’s connected world, actions by a small and distant group could inflict significant international damage, he continued. As had recently had been seen, radicalism by local religious minority leader could damage interfaith harmony and he wished to see efforts to focus more on minority elements. He was concerned at the absence of a multilaterally negotiated instrument that outlined normative standards to diffuse religious radicalism. That was an ideal towards which States should work.
For its part, Indonesia was firmly committed to promoting a culture of peace, he said, noting that dialogue among faiths and cultures had featured prominently in the country’s history. Dialogue was a prominent tool among various communal groups for ensuring harmony. Indonesia empowered moderates whose voices would otherwise be drowned by extremists, and was organizing interfaith and intercultural dialogues at regional, inter-regional and global levels. All such efforts, however, would not suffice if they remained in conference halls. “Dialogue is not an end in itself”, he insisted. There was a collective responsibility to ensure that it lead to community development and worked for peoples’ welfare.
LIBRAN N. CABACTULAN ( Philippines) said even in a time of great opportunity and clear expression of a spirit of charity and understanding, there were still be those who sought to sow confusion and doubt. By preying on the disenfranchised and marginalized, such elements used the faith culture and religion of others “to press for and justify their own dark agenda.” Indeed, culture and religion had been turned against themselves, used to drive people to despair and to perform acts of violence. The Philippines joined other nations condemning all forms of those acts, he said, and asserted they should not be associated in any way with any culture, fair or religion. Faith, culture and religion rightly have millions of people hope and the impetus to work with others toward a more understanding world. Civil strife in the Southern Philippines had brought to bear the importance of interfaith dialogue in the promotion of understanding, peace, cooperation and development among all stakeholders.
Dialogue and reconciliation were the key features of the Philippine Medium Term Development Plan, and there had been a series of United Nations on interfaith partnerships and cooperation in the cause for justice and peace since the Philippines engaged the world community in the endeavour with the 2004 Resolution 59/63, entitled “Promotion of Interreligious Cooperation for Peace”, developing a new paradigm of understanding and cooperation that was described as “faith-fuelled” and “love inspired”. The Philippines would continue to work closely and consult partners on the tabling of another resolution on the agenda for a culture of peace. “We seek to further expand interfaith dialogue, to include, among others, dialogue with indigenous peoples,” he said. He also welcomed the tabling of Jordan’s resolution to hold a World Interfaith Harmony Week as a reminder of continuing duties.
JOSÉ ANTONIO DOS SANTOS ( Paraguay) said only dialogue could overcome violence, and dialogue would be possible only by accepting and tolerating each others’ differences. For its part, Paraguay had proposed that 30 July be designated the International Day of Friendship with a view to fostering peace, respect, mutual understanding and tolerance at the international level. Such a Day had existed in Paraguay for over 50 years. General Assembly resolutions A/64/81 and A/64/83, adopted in the Assembly’s last session, proposed to improve mutual understanding among peoples. He asked delegations for their support for such an initiative.
MANSOUR SALSABILI ( Iran) said cultural diversity had been discussed in the Secretary-General’s reports as a real fact in today’s regional and international relations. Respect for cultural diversity at national and international levels, as well as recognition that cultural diversity was a source of unity, would indeed promote peace and security. On the other hand, persisting with cultural domination by advancing a policy of “cultural hegemony” would be a major setback to the promotion of human rights, cooperation and mutual enrichment of cultural life. Repressive measures in an increasingly globalized world could take the form of disinformation through the media and religious intolerance, including Islamophobia.
Temptations that set individual against individual or nation against nation should be resisted. Above all, ways to eliminate the defamation of religions and discrimination based on religion or belief should be deliberated, the spread of hatred and xenophobia were just a few examples of issues the world had long faced and many had condemned such behaviour, yet, the world had witnessed “poisoning” against certain religions, their sacred books and their followers. Most recently, the attempt to set the Qur’an ablaze was an example of such a crime and States must deal with such actions. One way to respond would be for States to enhance cultural policies that respected cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. Drawing attention to resolution 64/253 (2010), which addressed the International Day of Nowruz, he said it emphasized the need to achieve understanding among all civilizations.
ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON ( Pakistan) said the greatest hindrance to progress was when “we sit in this house, speaking about our ways”. If that continued, “I’m not terribly sure that peace will prevail” — much might not be said, out of respect for each others feelings. The United Nations’ Charter outlined principles for practicing tolerance and practicing peace, and promoting better living standards and larger freedoms. The Assembly had pledged in 1999 to work for peaceful coexistence, based on the principles of multilateral cooperation respect for life and dialogue and commitment to peaceful dispute settlement. As far as peaceful dispute settlement was concerned, we had not really even given a culture that would promote peace.
Each trauma following a dispute, history had proven could not be solved with a peaceful ending to it — some of the greatest achievements in history had taken place on the backs of disputes, he said. The culture of peace was not easily definable, he said. Religion kept a strong grip on hate and in various parts of the world, misunderstandings were based on faith, notably in the United States in which hate was put forward by political scientist Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations theory. Countries must stand together to decry those who, in the name of faith, extended unacceptable agendas, he said. What was needed was education and an honest and easily available approach to justice.
VASILIY KURLOVICH ( Belarus) said his country staunchly supported intensification of interfaith and intercultural dialogue for peace on the principles of mutual respect, equality and tolerance. Respect for uniqueness of states and peoples as well as their right to choose their own ways of development was indispensable for maintaining international peace and security. In Belarus, there were no conflicts based on ethnic, racial, cultural, linguistic or religious grounds — 24 ethnic and cultural communities were represented by 123 non-governmental organizations, and 41 of those had international status. More than 25 religious denominations also functioned in Belarus, and the country’s Advisory Interethnic Council offered a good example of constructive interaction and collaboration between ethnic associations and state authorities.
Belarus had become a place for regular productive dialogue between world religious leaders, and promotion of mutual understanding and cooperation between various cultural and religious organizations was one of the lines in its foreign policy. As a country that considered promotion of cultural development a source of enrichment of mankind, Belarus was one of the first to accede to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. At the 2009 Ministerial Meeting on the Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace, Belarus initiated the idea of a debate on interfaith and intercultural dialogue with participation of religious leaders at the Assembly. The idea was supported by the President and incorporated into resolution 64/81, and he looked forward to that thematic dialogue in the months to come.
Mr. STONE (Australia) lauding the training of journalists under the Alliance of Civilizations, said that initiative complemented efforts underway in the Asia Pacific, including the Parliament of World Religions held last December in Melbourne. Since 2002, the Australian-Indonesian Institute had fostered contact between Muslim leaders in both countries and sought to build links with other groups. Noting that one in four Australians was born overseas, he said that interfaith respect and cooperation had not always come easily, however, creative programmes had helped promote understanding. The State’s role was to encourage such dialogue, with the United Nations playing an important role as well.
WARIF HALABI ( Syria) said that an ideological dialogue was the basis for understanding among communities and aimed to provide elements for a needed “human renaissance” that would pave the road towards international understanding. Peoples faced misconceptions between the East and West, which impacted a world invaded by the dangers of “imbalance”, due to aggression, launch of illegitimate wars and racism. That scenario presented crises that were difficult to remedy and raising awareness through dialogue, and forging and entrenching relationships was of utmost importance. The dialogue among civilizations was being expanded to include organizations established to serve that purpose. She asked that civilizations build on what had been previously established, by maintaining a continuous dialogue that was aware of its roots. New concepts deserved respect as they aimed to entrench the human connection to knowledge, which would combat ignorance and wrongful bias.
It was important for the “enlightened” to push forth dialogue of religions and cultures, and promote the respect of the identity of the other, she said. The absence of understanding of children of “one international community” was due to misunderstandings about religions and cultures. It was not due to structural shortcomings. History had proven that understanding across cultures existed in ancient times, when ideological clashes reigned. In more recent times, there was a lack of understanding. The goal was to make communication a “cultural must” that would signal a message towards peace. She wished to see a world without injustice towards those displaced from their lands and shrines desecrated. The peoples of the world must be allowed to exercise their right to sovereignty in line with their right to human dignity.
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey) said we had so far failed to overcome polarization, lack of understanding and discrimination; all major obstacles to peace and development. It was therefore our responsibility to uphold mutual respect between religions and promote a culture of tolerance and understanding. Today’s discussion demonstrates that the nations of the world recognize the importance of their collective responsibility to promote a culture of peace. As we approach the end of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace, we note with satisfaction that there is a growing interest for the promotion of cultural diversity,” he said. Diversity and dialogue had always been the central pillars in Turkey, and for that reason, together with Spain, it had co-sponsored the Alliance of Civilizations initiative in 2005.
Promoting the Alliance required creativity to attract various stakeholders in dialogue that bridged gaps of understanding and amplified voices of moderation. It had become a truly global peace initiative and served to facilitate dialogue among various stakeholders, including youth, women, parliamentarians, media, civil society and the private sector. In May, the Alliance had completed a very successful Forum in Rio de Janeiro, which had consolidated the global scope and universal outreach of the Alliance, and we would now turn energy to the next Forum, in December 2011 in Qatar. Despite those accomplishments, misperceptions and lack of understanding continued, so the Alliance was, together with partners, working on a strategy for the Mediterranean which aimed to foster good neighbourly relations.
JUAN ANTONIO YANEZ-BARNUEVO ( Spain) said the declaration of 2010 as the International Year for Rapprochement of Cultures was to be the cornerstone of the International Decade for the Culture of Peace. Assessing progress in promoting a culture of peace, he said the Secretary-General’s report contained in document A/65/299 showed that the International Decade had disseminated the concept of a culture of peace among various levels of society. However, it also showed that discussion of cultural tolerance, mutual respect and equity in societies must be reopened.
Since its creation, the Alliance of Civilizations had worked to respond to challenges to international coexistence. It favoured understanding and cooperation among different peoples and religions, as well as countering forces that worked against such values. Recalling that at this time last year, the Assembly adopted 64/14 (2009) on the Alliance of Civilizations, he said the Alliance’s Group of Friends numbered 128 members, both States and international organizations. Focal points allowed it to concentrate on action-oriented initiatives. An upcoming meeting of those focal points in Berlin would provide an opportunity to set goals.
In an increasingly connected world marked by intercultural tensions, the Alliance could play an important role in promoting cooperation among peoples and nations, he said. The development of a regional dimension to the Alliance was of great interest. Spain was committed to the principles of the Alliance, he said, noting its hosting in Barcelona of the European Summit of Local Governments, as well as a meeting last May on the Religious Freedom in Democratic Societies, which aimed to develop article 17.3 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union. Also, a renewed Memorandum of Understanding between the Alliance and UNESCO allowed for deepening cooperation. In closing, he said the fact that the Decade was ending should not diminish the commitment to a true culture of peace around the world.
JORGE VALERO (Venezuela) noted that New York had recently been the scene of a fiery protest against the building of an Islamic cultural centre near Ground Zero site at the World Trade Centre, while in September a Protestant preacher had threatened to burn a Koran at a public ceremony and other incidents showed anti-Muslim sentiment was growing in the United States and Europe ten years after the unfortunate September 11 attacks. One of the worst consequences of those attacks was noticeable expansion of intolerance with some associating terrorism with Arabs and Muslims. “They use a false antinomy: East versus West,” he said. “We believe that these prejudices are divorced from reality.” Reductionism of that kind underestimated that dynamics and plurality of every civilization, as well as the fruitful interactions between them, he said.
Violence, racism, and xenophobia represented the absolute negation of dialogue, which opened avenues for understanding and a condition for peaceful coexistence between different political and cultural expressions, he said. Dialogue, which did not exclude debate and differences, was essential for progress in the search for peace. Inciting hatred and discrimination was a crime, under the American Convention on Human Rights. “What are we doing at the United Nations in order to prevent the continued expansion of these heinous forms of discrimination against human beings, cultures and civilizations?” he said.
SAVIOUR F. BORG ( Malta) said the two topics of today’s debate were mutually inclusive, and his Government had contributed toward enhancing dialogue among civilization in its own region — the Mediterranean. With recurring tensions that threatened peace and security in the Mediterranean region and beyond, it was important for all stakeholders to strengthen the Alliance of Civilization’s global scope. Malta would host the Alliance’s first Regional Conference for the Mediterranean on 8 and 9 November. That gathering would adopt the first strategy for the Mediterranean as well as an action plan and pave the way for innovative projects and initiatives to strengthen intercultural dialogue and cooperation locally. The conference would provide a platform for exchanges among representatives in the region, with the hope that it would add to the Alliance’s inter-cultural dialogue process.
Malta also had played an active role in inter-cultural dialogue through its role in the Union for the Mediterranean. Malta also hosted the headquarters of the Parliament Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), which brought together Parliaments of all countries bordering the Mediterranean and was created to expand cooperation, dialogue and mutual understanding among these States, he said. Malta was privileged to co-sponsor, with France, a resolution during the sixty-fourth Assembly that granted PAM Observer Status so it could participate in the Assembly’s work. The fifth Plenary Session of Parliamentary Assembly was to be held from 28 to 30 October in Rabat, Morocco. That session would give those officials an opportunity to engage in initiatives, proposals and solutions that would shape an inter-cultural parliamentary diplomacy, and help create peace and sustainable prosperity for all citizens in the Mediterranean, he said.
HASSAN ALI HASSAN ( Sudan) said recent clashes around the world made today’s discussion significant. Sudan valued efforts by the Non-Aligned Movement in holding a ministerial meeting in Manila to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Also, the Assembly’s 2008 high-level meeting on the subject had gathered world leaders in New York, under the auspices of the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdula-Aziz, to continue a process started in Mecca and continued in Madrid. Indeed, efforts in various forums had expressed peoples’ determination to embrace a dialogue among civilizations as a cornerstone of cooperation and coexistence.
“In Sudan, we believe that people instinctively know that they were created into different races, tribes, ethnicities and colours”, he said. People spoke different languages and had learned to interact with each other for the common good. As such, Sudan strongly rejected the defiling of religious symbols, venerated persons and holy books. Sudan further refused to use the freedom of expression to justify such practices. The international community should agree on a common understanding of morals to promote mutual respect. To that end, he called for supporting the Alliance, noting the need to reinforce its capacity to achieve its mandate.
In Sudan, national leaders had halted one of the longest civil wars in Africa with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, to be completed by January 2011 with a referendum in which South Sudanese would decide either to remain united or have their own State. The Government would participate unconditionally in negotiations with rebels regarding Darfur. In that regard, he urged the global community to call on Darfurian leaders who refused to join the negotiations to work for peace. He particularly urged countries hosting rebel leaders to promote the need for joining negotiations.
GREG NICKLES ( United States) commended the work UNESCO, UNICEF and other United Nations agencies had carried out in support of the International Decade for Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World. He recalled that his country was an active member of the Alliance of Civilizations and supported global efforts aimed at creating a forum for people around the world with different views to express themselves through dialogue. That was why the United States had joined the Alliance of Civilizations and why it supported Jordan’s proposal to proclaim an official week for inter-faith harmony later this year.
He said that the United States believed that peace could be achieved when peoples religions and races came together to understand and accept one another and shunned the violence and hatred borne of intolerance. The United States believed unequivocally that freedom of expression and open intercultural and interreligious dialogue was critical to combating intolerance and promoting peaceful coexistence. He noted that 2010 was the final year of the Decade for Non- Violence, and commended efforts in that regard, saying the next decade would offer more opportunities for dialogue for peace.
JANARDAN DWIVEDI ( India) said a rise in extremism, intolerance, and sectarian violence and increased use of language of hatred and violence posed a serious challenge to the foundations of our society. Despite an accelerated pace of technological and economic advancement, the same could not be said with regard to moral and cultural developments. Disparities, deprivation and exploitation that defined today’s society were not conducive to laying the foundations of sustainable peace and development. He recalled that the words of former Prime Minister Shrimati Indira Gandhi, who, as early as 1972, said that poverty and need were the “worst polluters”, sparked a global debate on the need to ensure that poverty eradication and developmental imperatives remained at the forefront with environmental challenges in the pursuit of sustainable development.
Intercultural and interreligious dialogues were a necessity and were among the central elements required to develop a better understanding of the contradictions and divergent approaches that exist in societies today. Terrorism was a manifestation of extremism, intolerance and violence and was the antithesis of all religions, he said. Therefore, it was imperative that nations of the world worked together to “tackle the menace of terrorism and extremism”, which were an anathema for modern societies. Compassion, mercy and tolerance were the common values and beliefs among all major faiths of the world, and therefore, we must learn to live our faith with integrity while respecting and accepting each other.
He went on to say that with over the 1 billion people, India was the world’s largest democracy. In addition to having the largest Hindu population, it was also home to the world’s largest Muslim population, as well as practitioners of most major religions around the world and scores of languages, races, and cultures. India’s civilization placed a high value on living in harmony with nature. Its noble principles of life and spiritualism, including non-violence had influenced success generations of people worldwide. Echoing Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible”, he noted that no culture or religion was superior to any other and had always benefited from interactions with various civilizations. In closing, he said the people of India understood the importance of building alliances among religions, cultures and ethnic groups. Global efforts toward peace could only succeed with a collective approach built on trust, dialogue and collaboration.
Mr. JOMAA ( Tunisia) said global security depended on instilling the principle of mutual tolerance among peoples. Indeed, history’s darkest pages and most atrocious crimes had drawn their source from doctrines of racial superiority. However, a man remained a man, whether he had white or black skin, or was Muslim, Jewish or Christian. The dialogue Tunisia wished to enshrine in international relations must be fostered through education, grass-roots activities and outreach programmes, above all with women and young people. Tunisia had hosted numerous international conferences focused on international solidarity. Fighting poverty, disease, unemployment and marginalization was needed to eradicate the roots of such phenomena, which handicapped countries’ ability to develop.
In 1999, the Tunisian President had appealed for the creation of a global fund to strengthen solidarity among the world’s peoples, he explained. Tunisia also had urged the establishment of friendship and cooperation among peoples. In other areas, the “Ben Ali Chair for dialogue among civilizations and religions”, created in 2001, aimed to enrich and spread relevant knowledge among all peoples. It provided material and moral support for actions advocating rapprochement among peoples. With that, he said respect for peoples’ identities was the best way to foster a balanced dialogue among civilizations, religions and cultures.
JAKKRIT SRIVALI ( Thailand) said his country supported every effort to promote greater understanding and expand dialogue among cultures, religions and civilizations. Echoing the words of his Foreign Minister, he said, “we live in a world of divides”, and to that end, the Alliance of Civilizations could prove a useful tool in overcoming divisive issues, among them, socio-economic, politico-security, and digital, and others. However, that initiative should cooperate with related United Nations agencies, regional organizations and relevant interfaith dialogue frameworks, such as the Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development and the Tripartite Forum on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace, to foster understanding and prevent confrontation.
Human rights also remained a top priority for the Thai Government and its foreign policy, he continued. While fundamental human rights were universal, dialogue among cultures, religions and civilizations could help to promote such values, bridge different interpretations and standards, and enhance the effectiveness of their implementations across cultures and boundaries. To that end, interfaith dialogues and the Alliance of Civilizations could make invaluable contributions to fostering common understanding. At the regional level, he said Thailand had been active in promoting closer interaction and greater understanding between peoples in Southeast Asia various initiatives, such as the Master Plan on Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Connectivity, the Initiative for ASEAN Integration Strategic Framework, and the Greater Mekong Sub-region projects. In addition, other bilateral initiatives and a free flow of goods, services and people would help create a greater understanding of different cultures, religions and beliefs.
RAYMOND SERGE BALÉ ( Congo), noting that post-war history was characterized with violent upheavals, said a scorn for cultures played into the hands of extremists. People continued to feed off of culture prejudice. However, he expressed hope that an interfaith, intercultural dialogue among civilizations would lead to the prosperous world that everyone sought. For its part, Congo was committed to that quest for peace and tolerance. Recalling the virtues enshrined in the African tradition of discussion, he said African discussion took place with a view to resolving disputes. Indeed, talking in Africa involved forging awareness of a shared destiny.
He explained that it was timely to encourage meetings among various faiths to develop a non-denominational dialogue geared towards peace. Through dialogue, there should be a growing awareness of each faith and more cooperation. Congo’s President had made peace based on dialogue his political credo, which had allowed the country to overcome civil war and restore stability. The holding of such non-denominational services as prayer said had helped to overcome contradictions that could still plunge the country into controversy. “We are at a symbolic turning point in the culture of peace”, he said. Dialogue among cultures and civilizations was an avenue to create more coordinated action for creating a culture of peace.
IVAN BARBALIC ( Bosnia and Herzegovina) reaffirmed his country’s commitment to actively participating in the programmes of the Alliance of the Civilizations and pledged to support its constructive approach in dealing with today’s global challenges. To that end, he lauded the Government’s adoption of the Regional Strategy on Intercultural Dialogue and Cooperation in South East Europe — the first adopted in the framework of the Alliance — as a unique demonstration of its commitment to enhance regional cooperation among countries in Eastern Europe. The high-level representatives of 14 countries in the region demonstrated their commitment to further promote good neighbourly relations, aimed at strengthening bridges between people and the communities by promoting intercultural dialogue, he added. During the same period, the Regional Strategy for the Mediterranean was prepared to improve Euro-Mediterranean dialogue in the region over the next four years. Both of the strategies would help improve cooperation and further strengthen the stability and development in the region, he said.
He went on to say that advanced intercultural and interreligious dialogue to promote tolerance and peace was of great importance in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The need to protect cultural heritage and exercise freedom of religion while respecting tradition were among the basic fundamental rights for achieving comprehensive peace. Therefore, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina had come to realize that dialogue must be conducted on a platform comprised of democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and dignity of the individual. Furthermore, they were fully aware that without and open dialogue there could be not true reconciliation. In that respect, Bosnia and Herzegovina welcomed and supported all resolutions that promote intercultural, interreligious and inter-civilizational dialogue.
AMAN HASSEN ( Ethiopia) said today’s challenges, political or otherwise, would be easier to address should dialogue among civilizations be given an opportunity to mend the fault lines in relationships among nations. In Ethiopia, long lasting tolerance among cultures and denominations was a way of life, and its experiences in that regard could be useful for others. The Ethiopian Government, in collaboration with the Spanish Government and European Union, was planning to organize a seminar on interreligious dialogue in November, promoting the Alliance of Civilizations in political circles, civil society and academia. Ethiopia was firmly committed to advancing the objectives of the Alliance of Civilizations, and was currently elaborating its national plan of action with the body.
Mr. SOLON-ROMERO ( Bolivia) said his country had changed its name to the Plurinational State of Bolivia, to reflect the fact that its 36 nations were all equal. Increasingly, nations were moving towards the status of plurinational States, reflecting the variety of civilizations, religions and cultures found in them. Bolivia was fighting strenuously against discrimination and racism, notably faced by indigenous populations. Among other things, a law against discrimination and racism had been passed, which would ensure that such behaviour was eventually eradicated.
That law also was meant to ensure that the media prevented stereotyping and countered incitement to hatred and violence, he continued. The media played an essential role in promoting peace and rejecting hatred. He expressed grave concern at a new wave of xenophobia in the global North, seen in economic conditions exacerbated by an ongoing global economic crisis. In that context, he proposed that the dialogue on cultures and civilizations take on an economic dimension with a view to assessing the impacts of the economic crisis. He envisioned a world free of racism and xenophobia.
BUKUN-OLU ONEMOLA ( Nigeria) said the International Year for Rapprochement of Cultures had successfully raised awareness through several global and regional conferences. Regional organizations were important tools to further bring about a culture of peace, he said, but the strategy had to build trust and understanding among diverse people of the world. Promoting peace and understanding through mutual dialogue, tolerance and respect for each other required a collective effort to create a harmonious atmosphere that guaranteed all people their full and fundamental human rights. Nigeria believed all religions emphasized dialogue and understanding, and that all peoples must collectively rise to counter intolerance with a clear message that Member States had the responsibility to promote equality of traditions.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) noting that his country believed in the dialogue among religions, said that the Emir had provided a forum for the Dialogue among Civilizations, which sought constructive discussion among faiths to better understand religious teachings. Qatar also had hosted annual dialogues among religions, with a view to positively impact peoples. Qatar had responded to former Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s 2005 call to create a Working Group that brought together eminent persons to forge partnerships in that regard, with a view to a rapprochement among cultures.
Qatar also had taken part in all high-level meetings of the Alliance of Civilizations. With that in mind, he discussed a $100 million initiative to address issues of interest to young people, notably vis-à-vis science and creating related opportunities. Moreover, the Youth Forum emerging from the Islamic Conference had established a Youth Entrepreneurs initiative last April. Scholarships had been set up in Doha. Finally, Qatar would host Fourth Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in December and cooperate to ensure that it provided new momentum for reaching the Alliance’s noble goals.
Mr. ASHOUR (Libya) stressing that racism threatened international peace and security, said that despite a picture painted by aggressive and racist policies, genuine political will among world leaders could create a conducive environment for eradicating extremism and racism among people. States had a duty to translate that will into concrete realities in the field. Aware of the United Nations’ important role in that regard, especially the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Libya believed that efforts deployed by the Organization were not enough to realize objectives.
By reading history, one understood that policies of discrimination and foreign occupation were among the major factors that bred intolerance, he said. Since the events of 11 September 2001, there had been particularly distorted perceptions of Islam and Muslims. In that context, he recalled attacks on Islamic leaders and attempts to distort Islamic values in various countries. Libya supported strengthened solidarity among peoples and civilizations. Dialogue contributed to friendship among nations. Cultural bias and extremism only increased hatred and it was incumbent on everyone to consecrate a dialogue for peace. That did not mean pushing people to give up their resistance to occupation.
FRANCIS CHULLIKATT, Observer of the Holy See, affirmed the importance of interreligious cooperation, mutual understanding, open-mindedness and solidarity among all peoples of different cultural and religious backgrounds. The unique contribution of religions to promoting a culture of peace lay within their missions to serve the spiritual dimension of human nature. Religions promoted reconciliation by impelling people to move forward in a spirit of mutual cooperation. In that regard, he recalled ongoing work by the Holy See to reach out to other religious traditions. Recent initiatives included regular meetings of the Joint Committee for Dialogue of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Permanent Committee of the Al-Azhar for Dialogue among the Monotheistic Religions, the most recent of which was held this year in Cairo.
That meeting concluded, among other things, that the causes of violence among believers of different religious traditions involved the manipulation of religion for political ends, discrimination based on ethnicity and ignorance. Yet, there were also important recommendations given, he said, notably to open our hearts to mutual forgiveness and reconciliation, and to recognize commonalities. With that, he said United Nations agencies must engage cultures with full regard for the role of religion. The Organization should not foster global or regional networks that advanced principles at odds with the “natural moral order”, especially with a reproductive rights agenda, which ran counter to respecting the right to life of the unborn child. The Holy See was committed to working with those of other faiths to bring about a culture of peace.
MARWAN JILANI, Observer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said his organization was seriously committed to promoting a global culture of respect for diversity, non-violence and social inclusion, through all its activities and services. The IFRC’s fundamental principles and humanitarian values inspired a Code of Conduct that had been signed by over 400 humanitarian organizations, which helped humanitarian actors bring together different cultures worldwide under one set of standards for the conduct of humanitarian relief. The IFRC had also launched a “Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change” initiative to empower youth to play a leading role transforming mindsets and behaviour in their communities, using games, role plays, drama, and art to engage social mobilization.
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