Thank you for being a part of our Alliance.
These opening days of the General Assembly are crowded and, perhaps, sometimes confusing. We are all moving from one meeting to another – one issue to the next – one challenge on top of another. It can sometimes feel like a blur.
Yet an event like this makes it distinctly clear that regardless of the immediate item on our agenda – our efforts must connect to larger and deeper questions.
How do we build societies of respect and understanding at a time of accelerating global interdependence?
How do we ensure that communities can make the most of growing diversity?
The Alliance of Civilizations both grounds us in everyday realities and lifts our sights to our shared responsibility to each other.
This is not mere sentiment. It has deep and practical consequences in how we carry and conduct ourselves in the world.
Our world faces multiple challenges: from climate change to growing unemployment to terrible bloodshed and conflict in Syria, the Sahel and beyond.
To tackle these and other challenges, we must work together. Yet, in many parts of the world, the politics of division rule the day.
The global economic crisis has only made matters worse. Too often, political and community leaders exploit unease to polarize communities and drive wedges.
The deplorable video that has caused such anguish is but the latest example.
In our humanitarian work, we practice disaster risk reduction.
We know we cannot prevent earthquakes or tsunamis, but we can limit their damage and save lives.
Let us do the same when it comes to cross-cultural understanding.
In our inter-connected information age, we may not be able to prevent every merchant of hate in every corner of the world.
But we can build bridges that are strong enough to withstand those forces. In the process, we can deny those who seek to sow division what they want most – more hatred, more upheaval, more publicity.
Shortly after the release of the video, the Alliance of Civilizations launched an initiative to ensure that the voices of moderation were not drowned out by the vocal and violent minorities on any side.
We called it “Represent Yourself” – a campaign on Twitter for mutual understanding in the face of intolerance. In just a few days, Represent Yourself engaged more than 3 million people.
This is one small example. Time and time again, the Alliance has shown how it can help open minds and seek change on the ground.
It does so by empowering youth around the world … inviting tomorrow’s leaders to take part in cross-cultural exchanges … training journalists to keep the public better informed … and much more.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The next Alliance forum will take place in Vienna in February. I am pleased that it will focus on the issue of responsible leadership.
Five years since its official launch, the Alliance is now at a critical time in its growth.
I am deeply grateful to President Sampaio for his stewardship that has helped the Alliance become what it is today.
After five years of President Sampaio’s leadership, we look ahead to the next five years.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to announce today that His Excellency Mr. Nasser Abdul Aziz Al-Nasser, President of the 66th General Assembly, will take the reins from President Sampaio as of January 1, 2013.
Please join me in welcoming H.E. Mr. Al-Nasser to this important assignment.
H.E. Amb. Al-Nasser brings with him a long and distinguished record of leadership at the United Nations, including, of course, his recent tenure as the President of the General Assembly.
To ensure a smooth transition, President Sampaio will officially step down at the conclusion of the Vienna Forum.
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
As the Alliance renews its leadership, I urge all of you to renew your commitment, engagement and support.
Let me also commend the co-sponsors – Spain and Turkey - for their support. I thank Turkey, for hosting the most recent Alliance Partners Forum in Istanbul this year.
The challenges we face are clear and connected.
It is our duty to build the alliances of understanding that can help secure progress on the many critical issues we face.
Let us make the most of this invaluable platform.
Thank you very much.