Delegates Say Texts Critical Considering Intensifying Violent Extremism around Globe, Jerusalem Capital Issue
The General Assembly adopted a consensus resolution today declaring 16 May as the “International Day of Living Together in Peace”, while a second text — titled “Moderation” — was adopted by a recorded vote, with several delegates expressing concerns over its contents.
The draft resolution titled, “International Day of Living Together in Peace” (document A/72/L.26) — which was adopted without a vote — was introduced at the meeting’s outset by the representative of Algeria. He said its aim was to promote peace through harmonious habitation with no distinction between nationality, gender, language or religion, and that it called on Member States to promote reconciliation and ensure peace and sustainable development. By its terms, the Assembly would also designate 16 May as the annual International Day of Living Together in Peace.
The second draft resolution, titled, “Moderation” (document A/72/L.21) was adopted by a recorded vote of 135 in favour to two against (Israel, United States) with no abstentions. By the terms of that text — also introduced by its main sponsor, the representative of Malaysia — the Assembly called upon the international community to promote moderation as a value underpinning peace, security and development. Among other things, the organ also called on the international community to support the “Global Movement of Moderates” initiative, developed by the Government of Malaysia, as a common platform to amplify the voices of moderation over those of violent extremism.
While many speakers throughout the subsequent debate voiced support for the values of peace, tolerance, inclusivity and moderation, several expressed concern that the resolution on “Moderation” contained language that might be used to suppress or curtail the right of freedom of thought or expression. Still others described both texts as critical in light of intensifying violent extremism around the globe, and against the backdrop of the United States recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In that vein, Qatar’s representative said today’s meeting was taking place concurrently with critical developments in Jerusalem, and warned all States to avoid any measures that ran counter to the noble goal of building sustainable peace in the Middle East. Rejecting any attempts to recognize Al‑Quds — the Arabic name for the city of Jerusalem — as the capital of Israel, she said potentially dangerous consequences could result from such statements. Qatar regarded peace in a comprehensive way — namely, as “not just the absence of violence” — and therefore supported efforts aimed at preventive diplomacy and mediation, especially in the Middle East.
Egypt’s delegate, outlining his country’s longstanding efforts to confront wars and armed conflicts, agreed that peace required an interactive and participatory process, and a spirit of understanding and cooperation. “Humanity needs, now more than ever, to eradicate all forms of intolerance and discrimination,” he stressed, emphasizing that current conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa must not distract from the overall goals of peace, tolerance, respect for national sovereignty, and the protection and promotion of human rights.
Echoing those sentiments, the representative of Cuba said there could be no peace without full respect for the sovereignty and self‑determination of individuals and States. Voicing concern about the deep fault line that divided human society into “the rich and the poor”, she said States’ policies must focus on removing the threat of war and committing to the peaceful settlement of disputes. It was also essential to condemn all acts and methods of terrorism, including that by States.
Following the vote on the resolution, the representative of the United States — which had cast a vote against the text — rejected its references to the Global Movement of Moderates initiative, as well as the fact that the resolution failed to distinguish between “extremism” and “violent extremism”. While the United States universally rejected the latter, he expressed concern that nations or individuals might construe the resolution’s language to curtail freedoms of expression or belief.
Canada’s representative, explaining her delegation’s vote in favour of the text, said her country was deeply committed to countering violent extremism and promoting pluralism, diversity and human rights. While interventions aimed at countering violent extremism — including those that fell under the concept of “moderation” — were context-specific, they must always respect human rights. “It is a difficult balance, but one which we are committed to working with all our partners to preserve,” she said.
Before the Assembly for that discussion were two reports of the Secretary‑General, titled “Promotion of a culture of peace and interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/72/488) and “A world against violence and violent extremism” (document A/72/621).
Also speaking were representatives of Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Libya, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, China, Morocco, Syria, Iran, Maldives, Bangladesh, and Brazil.
The representatives of Israel and Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Assembly will reconvene today at 3 p.m. to take up issues related to the “Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance” and “Assistance to the Palestinian people”, among others.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria) introduced draft resolution titled “International Day of Living Together in Peace” (document A/72/L.26), saying that deliberations on the text were carried out in a constructive and transparent manner. He also noted that Algeria was situated at the crossroads of myriad religions, traditions and languages. The draft had 13 preambular and 7 operational paragraphs. Its aim was to promote living in peace through harmonious habitation with no distinction between nationality, gender, language or religion. The resolution called on Member States to promote reconciliation to help ensure peace and sustainable development by working with community faith leaders, civil society and other relevant actors. The text was a model of cooperation among Member States. He expressed hope that the draft would be adopted by consensus.
By terms of the text, the Assembly would decide to declare 16 May the International Day of Living Together in Peace and would underline that the Day constituted a means of regularly mobilizing efforts of the international community to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity, he said. It would also invite all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and civil society, including non‑governmental organizations, to observe the International Day. It would further request the Secretary‑General to bring the present resolution to the attention of all Member States, the United Nations and civil society. It would also stress that the cost of all activities that may arise from the implementation of the present resolution should be met from voluntary contributions.
M. SHAHRUL IKRAM YAAKOB (Malaysia), introducing draft resolution titled “Moderation” (document L/72/L.21), said such restraint could mitigate or prevent war and human suffering. It was imperative therefore that moderation be seen as the bedrock of international relations in the global world where peace remained elusive. Expressing concern over the recent decision regarding Jerusalem, he underscored the importance of voices of moderation and tolerance. He recognized that moderation as an approach could contribute towards peaceful coexistence. The draft called on the international community to support a global movement of moderates as a common platform to amplify the voices of moderation over extremism.
By terms of that text, the Assembly would call upon the international community to continue to promote moderation as a value that promotes peace, security and development, he said. Furthermore, it would call upon the international community to support the Global Movement of Moderates initiative as a common platform to amplify the voices of moderation over those of violent extremism. It would also call upon States Members of the United Nations to undertake initiatives to promote moderation through activities such as outreach programmes and cross‑cultural dialogue, and to promote the value of moderation, including non‑violence, mutual respect and understanding, through education. The Assembly would also decide to proclaim 2019 the International Year of Moderation in an effort to amplify the voices of moderation through the promotion of dialogue, tolerance, understanding and cooperation.
Mr. YAAKOB, speaking in his national capacity and associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that the collective voices of moderates needed to be heard to quell extremist rhetoric that completely contradicted the culture of peace. Moderation was an age‑old principle embodied in all the great religions and personified by many leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai. Noting the Association’s endorsement of the Global Movement of Moderates, he said his country believed that moderation could complement the mission and work of the United Nations. It was for that reason that Malaysia had tabled the draft resolution to proclaim 2019 as the International Year of Moderation, he said, adding: “The obstacles that prevent a culture of peace from taking root are many, but they are not insurmountable.”
SITI ARNYFARIZA MD JAINI (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the ASEAN, said the region had over 600 million people as well as a rich diversity of ethnicities, religions, languages and cultures. Promoting a culture of peace was one of the Association’s intrinsic values, as affirmed by its “Community Vision 2025” plan and other policies. The organization was also firmly committed to doing its part to inculcate and uphold the values and norms of peace, harmony, intercultural understanding, the rule of law, good governance, tolerance, inclusiveness and moderation. Having recently adopted its “Declaration on Culture of Prevention for a Peaceful, Inclusive, Resilient, Healthy and Harmonious Society”, ASEAN also emphasized the promotion of dialogue and education to foster inter‑religious dialogue and intercultural understanding, with broad participation at all levels.
Spotlighting the special role of youth in that regard, she said the rising threat of terrorism and violent extremism across the globe was a grim reminder of the need for sustained efforts to combat those phenomena. Reiterating the Association’s strong condemnation of such threats, she declared: “We must not allow the seeds of intolerance, hatred and extremism to take root.” Emphasizing that eradicating terrorism required collective global efforts, she welcomed the United Nations work as well as enhanced cooperation under the auspices of the United Nations‑ASEAN Comprehensive Partnership. ASEAN also stood firmly behind Malaysia’s initiative — as introduced in the “Moderation” draft before the Assembly today — which contextualized the need to provide a platform for the voices of moderation against the backdrop of a prevalent preaching of violent extremism “propagated by an irresponsible few”.
SALAH M. S. SAID (Libya), recalling that the United Nations Charter began with the words “We the Peoples”, said the Organization was shared by all of human civilization. The concept of peace was also reflected in the constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as well as all its programmes and activities. Noting that such work would also require stability, security and development for all — as well as the prevention of conflicts, the protection of human rights and the creation of the “right kind of societies” — he said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had been designed to build such peaceful and prosperous societies. Urging all stakeholders to accelerate efforts to achieve the Agenda’s goals, he also called for efforts to study the “roots of difference” and peacefully resolve all conflicts and disputes. Strongly condemning the 24 November terrorist attack in the Sinai — which had claimed over 300 lives — he said that tragedy had demonstrated that terrorism could strike any culture or religion, and that its root causes must be promptly addressed.
SULAIMAN SALIM MOHAMED AL-ABDALI (Oman) said that disseminating the culture of peace around the world had spread tolerance and acceptance among all different people. That would have a rippling effect in developing a generation of peace. However, some extremist groups had emerged attempting to counter the culture of peace and tolerance. In that context, peace and dialogue were crucial, he said, adding that Oman had adopted a “way of life which rejects extremism”. Its foreign policy and international relations were based on peace, coexistence and tolerance among all people and countries. He noted several national initiatives that encouraged tolerance among Oman’s citizens and aimed to build trust between Islam and other religions. His country was committed to shouldering its responsibilities in settling disputes peacefully and to building a world where security prevailed.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said his country prospered from being located at the crossroad of different religions and cultures. The different religions were a source of strength and diversity. Bahrain was committed to preserving that diversity, he continued, adding that it was stronger because of its diversity. Religious tolerance was essential, he said, underlining the link between culture and development. Terrorism and extremism could be stopped only by a culture of peace and diversity at the national and international levels. It was therefore essential to strengthen respect for human rights and genuine dialogue among States. “We are proud of the fact that every individual is entitled to a safe and dignified life,” he said.
FARAH T. A. S. H. ALGHARABALLY (Kuwait), welcoming the resolutions before the Assembly as well as the closely related work of UNESCO, said the principles underpinning a culture of peace were under threat in today’s world. Extremism, violence, hatred and intellectual disputes persisted, as did the prevalent rejection of the views of others. A culture of dialogue and coexistence must be strengthened, she said, stressing “intolerance must not have any place in our world”. The peoples of the United Nations came from different places and had different cultures, but they shared one world and must remain committed to a culture of peace. Against the backdrop of the waves of fanaticism and extremism that currently were flowing across the planet, as well as constant attempts to create chaos and sow fear among peoples, a culture of peace could help people whose rights had been stripped away to regain control over their lives. “We must plant these seeds of peace” in accordance with Assembly resolution 71/251, she said, adding that the principles of tolerance were also enshrined in Kuwait’s Constitution, which provided for justice, fraternity and equality, encouraged moderation and sought to combat extremism in all its forms.
TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR., (Philippines) said his country was now following a new peace and development road map for the Bangsamoro Peace Process. That plan was characterized by inclusion of all, not just select Muslim groups; dialogue rather than hectoring monologue; confidence‑building initiatives for all, not just the politically connected; consolidation and convergence of prior peace agreements; and a readiness to acknowledge the self‑identity of Muslim Filipino brothers and sisters as Bangsamoro. A peace caravan was traveling across the country so officials could gather insights on creating more avenues for dialogue and better bridges of peace. The Philippines attached great importance to religious and faith‑based organizations playing a bigger role in preventing the outbreak and escalation of violence. In a conflict misidentified as religious, it was important for all faiths to clarify what was religion and what was “bloody ambition”, what was prayer and what was rapine disguised as piety. The sexual use and trade of women and children could never qualify as a religious rite. It was pure evil deserving to be punished as such — relentlessly.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar), noting that today’s meeting was taking place at the same time as critical developments in Jerusalem, warned all States to avoid any measures that ran counter to the noble goal of building sustainable peace in the Middle East. Indeed, peace in that region would remain unattainable as long as the Palestinian question remained unresolved. Rejecting any attempts to recognize Al‑Quds (Jerusalem) as the capital of Israel — and warning of potentially dangerous consequences that could result from such statements — she said that Qatar was part of the global coalition charged with reporting on progress towards implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It had also been among the founding nations of the Alliance of Civilizations, and continued to support that initiative. Qatar regarded peace in a comprehensive way — namely, as “not just the absence of violence” — and therefore actively supported efforts aimed at preventive diplomacy and mediation, especially in the Middle East.
ANAYANSI RODRIGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) said that there could be no peace without full respect for the sovereignty and self‑determination of individuals and States. Violence must be brought to an end, she continued, noting with concern the deep fault line that divided human society into “the rich and the poor”. The ever‑increasing gap between the developed and developing world also posed a major threat to global prosperity, peace and security. Policies of States must focus on removing the threat of war, and commit to the peaceful settlement of disputes. In promoting a culture of peace, it was essential to condemn all acts and methods of terrorism, including State terrorism. She expressed concern for the rise in intolerance and discrimination on ethnic, religious or racial grounds. She also stressed the need to end the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba. She further underscored that education was the pathway to contributing to the promotion of a culture of peace.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), associating himself with ASEAN, said that intolerance was still rampant in many parts of the world. To combat and eliminate violent extremism, military measures alone would not be sufficient. It was critical to cultivate peace and stability, he stressed, noting Indonesia’s various national initiatives including in sectors such as law enforcement, education and interfaith dialogue. From the earliest age, children and young people must be equipped with the universal values of peace, human rights, gender equality and respect for others. The family served as a starting point followed by society and school where children could learn to resolve disputes peacefully in a spirit of respect for human dignity. Indonesia was trying to eliminate the links between extremism and poverty through the creation of jobs and a reduction of inequality.
HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar) said that, after almost seven decades of conflict, his country’s political parties and armed forces had finally come to the negotiating table to form a democratic national union. The ambitious national peace process was based on the spirit of tolerance and equality for all ethnic groups, he said, noting that Myanmar had four major religious tribes and more than 130 distinct ethnic groups. The Government guaranteed freedom of religion to all, he said, citing Pope Francis’ recent historic visit to Myanmar as yet another testament to the country’s tolerance and respect for diversity. Describing the Government’s establishment of a national Interfaith Friendship Group — as well as various related subgroups across the country — he rejected extremism as harmful to any diverse and tolerant society. In that regard, the 25 August attack carried out by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Rakhine state had triggered a tragic humanitarian problem and claimed many innocent lives. Intolerance and extremism were also surging in many other parts of the world, he said, condemning hatred and terrorism in all its forms. “Peace is not a given gift” but a reward for the sincere efforts of all concerned parties, he concluded.
YAO SHAOJUN (China) echoed concerns raised by other speakers over today’s multiple challenges, including violent extremism, conflict hotspots and unbalanced development progress. The international community should therefore vigorously promote a culture of peace and promote dialogue across civilizations. Lasting peace must be pursued, with countries implementing the deflation and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, he said, warning against the policy of “alignment” which represented the new strategy States used to carry out wars and conflicts. Meanwhile, poverty and lack of economic opportunity continued to drive intolerance and extremism, he said, urging nations to help all their citizens enjoy prosperity. At China’s recently concluded National Congress, participants had called for respect and efforts to build a shared prosperous future for all of humankind. In the same vein, he said, traditional Chinese culture emphasized the principle that “the world is one” and that its diversity was beautiful.
TAREK AHMED MAHFOUZ AHMED MAHFOUZ (Egypt), outlining his country’s longstanding efforts to confront wars and armed conflicts, said it was currently working to enhance diplomacy in support of a global culture of dialogue among nations. It had recently hosted the World Youth Forum, providing a platform for young people from different parts of the world to shed light on their aspirations for a better future, peace and development. Peace required an interactive and participatory process, and a spirit of understanding and cooperation, he said, declaring: “Humanity needs, now more than ever, to eradicate all forms of intolerance and discrimination.” Emphasizing that the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa must not distract from the overall goals of peace, tolerance, respect for national sovereignty and the protection and promotion of human rights, he stressed that all peoples had the right to live in peace and security. In that regard, he cited the particular case of the Palestinian people, who had lived under the yoke of Israeli occupation for decades and were now faced with new challenges related to the status of Al‑Quds. Concluding, he thanked the Assembly for its recent consensus adoption of a resolution on the threats posed by terrorism against religious sites.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said that today was an opportunity to reconfirm the international community’s commitment to the culture of peace, expressing concern in the global rise in xenophobia and intolerance. The peaceful settlement of disputes was paramount as was the involvement of women and girls in those peace processes. Morocco incorporated a culture of peace into its school curriculum and was encouraging such conversations in civil society and the media. Acceptance, tolerance and mutual respect must prevail over extremism and violence, he continued, underscoring the role of religious leaders. Morocco was involved with training national and international imams that then go on to serve in other countries. He also expressed deep concern over the United States decision to recognize Al‑Quds as the capital of Israel. He pledged that Morocco would stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) said the future of Al‑Quds demanded the will and determination of all good men and women supporting the Palestinian cause. He also rejected any initiative that established countries illegally. Israel, the occupying force, was established on the basis of Zionism and “we all know Zionism is a form of racism”, he said. Zionism did not believe in a culture of peace, he continued, adding that “ISIL is the same” as it sought to establish a land with only likeminded people. He said that Israel was providing the Nusrah Front with protection and noted that Israel had also recently launched missiles at the heart of Damascus. “No one can blame us when we respond appropriately,” he added.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said that the current world situation demanded all States to be more vigilant regarding the implications and consequences of their messages, actions and decisions. Those who tried to legitimize occupation in the region by rejecting the historical realities were gravely undermining peace. The occupation of the Palestinian land lay at the root of all crises in the Middle East. He strongly condemned the recognition of city of Al‑Quds by the United States as the capital of the Israeli regime, as well as the plan to transfer its embassy to the holy city. That unilateral action was a flagrant violation of international law. It was not only illegal but also indicated a hypocritical policy of the United States. Occupation and peace had never gone hand‑in‑hand. The failed experiences of the past should not be repeated, he stressed, adding that those who preferred sanctions and coercion over diplomacy and negotiation only strengthened extremism.
ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) emphasized the role of education, saying it had an extraordinary ability “to unlearn the evil art of oppression and learn the beautiful art of compromise”. UNESCO in particular was helping Member States to tailor educational materials that would support a culture of peace. Fostering such a culture also required the media, including social media platforms, to ensure they were not used to incite hate or to carry out terrorism. Noting his country’s candidacy for a seat on the Security Council in 2019‑2020, he said that organ had an extraordinary opportunity to create conditions for peace to prevail.
TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), recalling that his delegation had facilitated negotiations on the annual culture of peace resolution since its 1999 introduction, welcomed Member States’ growing interest in the topic. The promotion of a culture of peace and interreligious and intercultural dialogue had also gained momentum following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, he said, citing a need to prioritize education as a vehicle for peace, tolerance and inclusivity. Noting that children and youth remained the key to achieve those goals and that Member States had begun to recognize the links between peacebuilding and the culture of peace, he encouraging the Secretary‑General to reflect the latter in his future reports. The concept of “moderation” added another useful dimension to those issues, including with regard to combating terrorism and violent extremism. Recalling the desperate situation of the Rohingya people in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, he urged the international community to support all efforts to help them realize their rights to self‑identification, citizenship and all other basic requirements for a dignified life.
The Assembly adopted “L.21” by a recorded vote of 135 in favour, 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.
The Assembly then adopted “L.26” by consensus.
The representative of Canada, explaining her delegation’s position on the resolution on moderation, said her country was committed to countering violent extremism and promoting pluralism, diversity and human rights. While interventions aimed at countering violent extremism, including those that fell under the concept of “moderation”, were context‑specific, they must always respect human rights. “It is a difficult balance, but one which we are committed to working with all our partners to preserve,” she said.
The representative of the United States, also voicing support for the concepts of peace and tolerance, nevertheless said his delegation could not accept language in the resolution’s operative paragraph 3 related to the Global Movement of Moderates initiative. In addition, the United States strongly supported the rights to freedom of expression, thought and belief, and as such he was unable to support language in operative paragraph 1 which did not differentiate between “extremism” and “violent extremism”, the latter of which his country universally rejected. In that vein, he expressed concern that States or individuals might construe the idea of “moderation” to curtail freedoms of expression or belief.
The representative of Brazil, welcoming the resolution’s adoption, noted that Article I of the 1999 Declaration on a Culture of Peace listed nine distinct fundamental elements, including the rights to development, sustainable development and the freedom of expression. While 2017 had seen a marked increase in the number of draft resolutions presented under that agenda item, he nevertheless hoped that, in upcoming sessions, more texts representing the pillars of sustainable development and human rights would be presented.
Right of Reply
The representative of Israel said Syria took advantage of the platform to attack her country with false accusations and lies in its heinous statement.
The representative of Syria said the continued occupation of the Syrian Golan and extremist thinking demonstrated Israel’s extremism.