New York

13 May 2013

Secretary-General's remarks to Group of Friends of the UN Alliance of Civilizations

Good afternoon.  It is a great pleasure to see you.  Thank you for your participation and engagement.

Six years ago, the United Nations launched the Alliance of Civilizations with the support of the governments of Spain and Turkey. 

At a time of tension, mistrust, and violence between communities, we knew that we needed a forum for listening …. listening to the concerns, hopes and aspirations of people on all sides, and then, galvanizing them to work together on shared challenges.

To do this, we did not need to create another new bureaucracy or institution. 

We needed a platform, where civil society -- especially young people – along with governments and the private sector could learn from each other and stand up for tolerance and inclusivity and against extremism and polarization.

Six years later – thanks to your support – we have done more than build that platform.

We have created a globally recognized initiative that now attracts thousands to its annual meetings …  engages millions around the world through its social media campaigns …and directly benefits young people by empowering them through youth-led projects. 

Our Alliance has trained hundreds of journalists in different regions on reporting on culturally divisive issues.

It has also gained the trust and support of Member States of the United Nations— and many civil society partners.

Indeed, the Alliance has shown us how to deliver significant results with very modest resources.

Yet, this does not mean that the Alliance cannot be made better.  In fact, now is the moment to refine and enhance our efforts.

As we know, our world grows more interdependent by the hour. 

Economic integration, migration flows, and environmental concerns illustrate this basic truth.

These 21st century realities underscore how we must work across identity lines on our shared challenges—from resolving conflicts, to empowering young people, to achieving shared development goals.

In a way, the Alliance is already there -- as a multi-sectoral, global platform that, helpfully, is not politicized, nor should it be.

At the same time, the Alliance is ripe for a review of its activities. 

I am happy that High Representative, Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, has commenced his term by initiating a strategic review.

As this process moves forward, I know there are a number of questions and issues on the table for consideration particularly among you, this critical community of Alliance supporters.

For example, the Alliance has made important inroads in its engagement with global civil society, and especially young people. 

How can we best leverage this network of partners --  through the use of internet or local know-how— to more effectively shape development and conflict prevention programs?

How can the Alliance work more closely with governments to ensure that young people have a strong voice in political processes, particularly in places in transition that are struggling with the question of inclusivity?

Given its flexible and fast-moving nature, how can the Alliance best consolidate and focus its efforts and programmes, while advancing the priorities of the United Nations and the broader international community?

In short, how can we best ensure demonstrable, measurable results – and how do we strengthen the Alliance’s ability to act where others do not or cannot on their own? 

In the coming days, I know you will explore these and other questions.  For my part, I remain strongly committed to the mission and the work of the Alliance. 

Whenever I see differences in identity, religion, or ethnicity being exploited to exacerbate political conflicts—I think of the role and potential of the Alliance.

I thank you for your longstanding support.

Together, let us strengthen the Alliance and its vital efforts to bridge among communities and bring peace around the world. 

I thank you very much.