– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

29 September 2020


His Excellency, Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General,

His Excellency, Miguel Angel Moratinos, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations,

His Excellency Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey,

Her Excellency, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain,

Distinguished delegates,

I am pleased to participate in the Annual High-Level Meeting of the Group of Friends of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. 

This discussion is critical as we plan to build back better in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since its creation fifteen years ago UNAOC has worked to foster tolerance within and beyond communities around the world. Now that traditional means of engagement have been disrupted by the coronavirus, we must redouble our efforts to shape a better world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the interdependent nature of the world. But, we have yet to see all the long-term impacts of this disruption.

It is well documented that an economic downturn often precedes a rise in political extremism.  

We must take urgent action to build back our economies and create decent jobs, especially for youth, to reduce the risk of future disruptions.  

We simply cannot build peaceful societies if our young people are disillusioned and vulnerable to radicalization.

Youth are perhaps the generation hardest hit by this pandemic.  More than 1 billion learners experienced a disruption in education since January.

The digital divide prevents 465 million students from accessing online learning programmes. This has amplified social and gender inequalities around the world, by reinforcing harmful norms and pushing children closer to the workforce rather than the school desk.

This fault line is not just affecting these students as individuals. It is affecting our societies. For every additional year of education, the likelihood of an individual being involved in conflict is reduced by 20%.  Moreover, those with secondary-level education display more tolerance to people of a different race, religion or background to themselves, than those without it.

We must put the needs of youth at the forefront of our response. In doing so we recognize that youth is not a homogenous grouping. Youth of different gender, cultural, and religious backgrounds require different support.

We simply cannot build peaceful societies if our young people are disillusioned and vulnerable to radicalization.

Volkan Bozkir

President of the UN General Assembly

In this Decade of Action and Delivery for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, I urge you to consider the wider societal ramifications of our actions.

We cannot allow dormant tensions to resurrect, or chasms widen. Together, we need to instill hope for a better future within those young people.

I look forward to learning more of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations’ initiatives, which I am sure will work to advance intercultural dialogue and build more peaceful and prosperous societies.

Before I conclude, I would also like to express my appreciation to the Co-Sponsors, Spain and Turkey, for their strong support to the Alliance since its inception in 2005.  


Let us work together to safeguard our future.

Thank you very much.