UN Headquarters

24 September 2010

Remarks at Ministerial Meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations Group of Friends

Ban Ki-moon

President Sampaio, thank you for your leadership.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I was pleased to join many of you at the Rio Forum just a few months ago, and it is good to see so many of you here today.

We began this week with the Summit on the Millennium Development Goals.

And we began the Summit with a handful of videos by young people around the world.

They were winning entries in a contest that invited ordinary people to share their message with global leaders.

One of the videos stressed, above all else, our common humanity.

It noted that, genetically, every member of the human family is 99.9 percent the same.

999 times out of 1,000 we share the same characteristics, the same hopes, the same dreams.

Yet far too often, we let that tiny, tiny fraction – that one out of 1,000 – divide communities, sow fear, drive wedges.

The Alliance of Civilizations is dedicated to helping bridge these divisions.

The Group of Friends has grown larger than ever – but our work, too, is looming larger in importance.

As I said yesterday in the General Debate, these are anxious times. A time of testing.

The global economic crisis continues to hit families and communities. For many, opportunity is out of reach. And we are seeing growing tensions among faiths and cultures.

Our world is more connected, but less united.

Building trust has never been more important.

The UN Alliance of Civilizations strives to do just that.

Together, we recognize that peace may be achieved at the negotiating table, but it is sustained around community tables.

That is why the Alliance is working every day to help diverse communities work across cultural divides, address the causes of hatred and intolerance and support youth-led reconciliation and peace-building efforts.

Dialogue is not an end in itself – it is also crucial to economic, social and human development.

The Alliance strives to advance the stability, the security, the peace that is central for sustained economic growth.

Let us build on all of this work and pledge to do even more.

Let us acknowledge that we live in a world where the smallest group can inflict large damage.

But that damage can be multiplied by loose language in politics and beyond –terminology which often portrays a fringe as larger than it is, or representative of a whole.

Let us stand against those who seek to demonize “the other”.

I strongly condemn the comments made yesterday by a leader of a delegation that called into question the cause of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on US soil.

It is unacceptable for the platform of the General Assembly of the United Nations to be misused in this way.

I repeat what I said yesterday in the General Assembly. I stand against the politics of polarization.

I reject the language of hate.

And let us also reaffirm that our common interest can never be lit by the flames of burning books – it is illuminated by reason and justice, by empathy and understanding.

That is the essence of this Alliance.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

In addition to the outstanding leadership of Spain and Turkey, there is room for more countries to assume a greater role and provide increased support.

This is important, not only for the mission of the Alliance, but for all those who believe in our common humanity and our common future.

As we move forward together, let us never forget the 99.9 percent of ourselves that we share – and let us work for dignity and understanding for 100 percent of our world.

Thank you very much.