New York

27 September 2013

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

Thank you for your engagement and commitment to the Alliance of Civilizations. 

I deeply appreciate your ongoing support to build communities of understanding and inclusion in our world.

We are coming to the close of a busy week.

The agenda has been full with pressing issues of war and peace. … opportunity and empowerment … dignity and human rights. 

Our hearts are heavy with the ongoing war in Syria – as well as the violence that struck innocents from Kenya to Iraq to Pakistan and elsewhere.

This week we are addressing both immediate priorities and long-term challenges -- most notably sustainable development. 

Many of the issues that have dominated our agenda have strong links with the work of this Alliance and the fundamental questions it seeks to address.

I know this is the closing session, and you have had the opportunity to discuss a broad  range of the Alliance’s activities – partnering with young people … supporting grass roots organizations … training journalists … engaging the private sector.  

Let me emphasize why I believe so strongly in the concept of the Alliance of Civilizations. 

As I have often said, we do not need a large bureaucracy or a new agency to help bridge gaps of understanding. 

There are many organizations doing outstanding work to advance cross-cultural understanding and to promote inter-religious harmony.

What we need – and what the United Nations can uniquely provide – is a platform – a space for them to engage with governments, the UN system and to learn from each other. 

That should be the value added of the Alliance.

The good news is that the coalition of support continues to grow. 

But, of course, the need is growing as well. 

Our world faces profound challenges – a warring and warming planet … deep inequalities in wealth and income … historic levels of joblessness among young people.

Too often, we see discrimination against migrants and minorities, and political campaigns that feature bigotry and demonization.

We must confront persecution faced by many Christian communities and the intolerance that plagues us.

We must overcome anti-Semitism and the prejudice that divides us.

We must defeat Islamophobia and the fears that weaken us.

The Alliance is helping to change the narrative and, in the process, open minds and hearts.

This is essential to meet the priorities we have addressed this week – and to uphold our  shared values of the United Nations Charter. 

For development to be effective, we must include all communities. 

For conflict prevention to work, we need education and dialogue.

Supporting the Alliance is an investment in peace and harmony.

Thank you once again for your commitment to this initiative. 

Let us continue to work together for greater understanding and deeper inclusion for our world and our common future. 

Thank you.