New York, 21 April 2010 - Secretary-General's remarks to special event to mark the International Year on the Rapprochement of CulturesMr. President of the General Assembly, Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang,
Excellencies, Distinguished panelists, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to join with you to mark the International Year on the Rapprochement of Cultures – and to highlight dialogue and understanding among peoples and faiths.
Let me explain why I believe this gathering is so vital.
We are living in a world that is rapidly changing and growing more connected.
This is true whether we are speaking of the implosion of financial markets on Wall Street, or the explosion of a volcano in Iceland.
It is the case whether the subject is melting icecaps in one part of the world or rising unemployment in another.
Like never before, global challenges have local impacts. Local events can have now global impacts.
This compels us to strengthen cooperation - expand the space for dialogue - and replace barriers of distrust with bridges of understanding.
We do not do this as a feel-good exercise.
We do this because it is essential for progress in the 21st century.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The fundamental reality of today's world is also the raison d'etre of the United Nations.
Quite simply, we are in this together.
And that fact is what brings us together today.
Dialogue among cultures, civilizations and religions is crucial to fulfilling the central objectives of the United Nations Charter, upholding human rights and advancing development.
In September, global leaders will gather here for the High Level Plenary summit meeting on the Millennium Development Goals.
Our objective is clear: to step up efforts to achieve the MDGs and improve the lives of millions of people around the world.
We know it is possible, but it will require more commitment, more focus, more cooperation.
Greater cultural understanding can help get us there.
Far too often, distrust and ignorance among cultures and faiths have been obstacles to peace and progress.
So in a very real sense, promoting the rapprochement of cultures will promote the reaching of the Millennium Development Goals.
This requires action on many fronts.
Most of all, education.
We need to strengthen education systems to ensure young people are enriched by cultural diversity, not victimized by those who exploit differences for narrow ends.
Increased exposure to information, particularly through the Internet and its social networks, makes this all the more important.
We must also engage local governments, civil society, and the media.
Everyone has a role in building inclusive societies.
The United Nations system is committed to doing its full part.
UNESCO - the lead agency for the International Year of Rapprochement - is a champion of the promotion of cultural diversity and knowledge.
The Alliance of Civilizations, launched in 2005, has also been instrumental in overcoming prejudice among nations, cultures and religions. Next month, we will build on this effort at a major Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that I will attend.
United Nations agencies, funds and programmes - such as UNFPA--are also working to adapt activities to the cultural context in which they operate. This has made a real difference, including on sensitive issues such as maternal health or HIV/AIDS.
I am also encouraged that Member States have continued to keep intercultural dialogue high on the agenda of the General Assembly.
Earlier this month, I visited Kazakhstan which has also helped lead the way on this challenge. I attended myself the dialogue between religions to [foster] a mutual understanding of civilization, which was held in the [Palace of Peace and Accord].
The recent Non-Aligned Movement Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue for Peace and Development, held in Manila, also testifies to this mobilization.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is our common responsibility to ensure that our efforts reinforce each other and lead to a greater understanding and support for the rapprochement of cultures.
I know your leadership will continue to play a major role.
Thank you for coming together today in this great cause.
Thank you for spreading the message that when we build a culture of understanding, we build a better world.
I am now pleased to invite Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang to chair the meeting.
Thank you very much.
Statements on 21 April 2010