We are living through a period of global transition. New centres of power and economic dynamism are emerging. Technology is connecting us ever more closely, and cross-cultural exchanges are deepening every day – but this does not mean there is more understanding. Societies are more diverse but intolerance is on the rise in too many places.
Across the globe, nations and communities face profound and enduring economic, social and environmental challenges. Poverty, hunger and disease remain at unacceptable levels. Every region is experiencing the rising impact of climate change. Natural disasters are a constant reminder of human vulnerability. Conflicts and inter-community tensions persist across the globe. Millions face the daily threat of violence and displacement.
There are no individual solutions to these multifaceted and inter-related challenges. We can only advance as a community of nations and cultures, drawing on human solidarity and recognizing that we share a common destiny. This is why tolerance is so important.
Tolerance is not passive. It demands an active choice to reach out on the basis of mutual understanding and respect, especially where disagreement exists. Tolerance means recognizing that our diversity is a strength – a wellspring of creativity and renewal for all societies.
Tolerance can, and must, be learned. We need to teach girls and boys not just how to live together but how to act together as global citizens. We need to nurture tolerance by promoting cultural understanding and respect – from parliaments to the playground. We need to tackle growing inequality and reject social exclusion based on gender, disabilities, sexual orientation, and ethnic or religious background.
Tolerance is the strongest foundation for peace and reconciliation. At this time of rapid and often bewildering change, it has never been so important. On this International Day, I call on national and community leaders – and all those who wield influence through traditional and social media and among their peers – to embrace tolerance as the bond that will unite us on our common journey to a peaceful, sustainable future.