New York

01 October 2015

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

Thank you for the opportunity to address this Group of Friends.

We meet one week after the adoption of a new vision for sustainable development – and one decade after the Alliance of Civilizations was founded.

The new sustainable development goals carry forward the mission of the Alliance of Civilizations to promote dignity, justice and stability for all people.

Leaders adopting the global goals envisage a world of respect for racial, ethnic and cultural diversity that is just, tolerant, equitable and open.

This is perfectly aligned with the mission statement of the Alliance, which aims to build mutual respect among peoples towards a more peaceful, more socially inclusive world.

The ideals we aim for stand in stark contrast to the realities in today’s world.

This is a time of unprecedented displacement, with more than 60 million people forced out of their homes. The worst humanitarian disaster is in Syria; the situation there should prick the conscience of people everywhere. For years, people in neighbouring countries – especially Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan – have sheltered Syrians forced to flee their homes. I applaud their solidarity.

Now that more refugees are arriving in Europe, we see some signs of compassion. I praise the examples of humanism, which often crosses sectarian lines.

At the same time, we are faced with growing xenophobia on the part of too many groups and even leaders.

Of course we need to address the root causes – but the wars will not end tomorrow, and we need to provide relief today.

Across the world, we see disturbing divisions among communities. Leaders are abandoning their responsibility– and stoking xenophobia to advance their own personal political ambitions.

In this tense atmosphere, the mission of the Alliance of Civilizations is all the more important.

I especially welcome the focus of the Alliance on young people.

I have long been calling for empowering the world’s youth. I am proud to have appointed the first-ever Youth Envoy, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi. He is my messenger to the world’s youth and their ambassador to the UN.

Many people worry about how impressionable young people are being deceived by violent extremists. They are victims and they need our help. At the same time, we should also focus on the millions of young people who are looking for a higher purpose. They want to promote understanding, not intolerance. They are against fighting wars – and only want to build peace.

The new global goals will come of age with today’s young people. It is up to us to keep our promises so that we reach our goals as youth reach adulthood.

This August, the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security in Amman brought together young people from more than a hundred countries.

They adopted a ringing Declaration on how youth can respond to the greatest security threat we face: violent extremism.

The Amman Declaration acknowledges the national and international organizations that have supported young people in building peace – and it calls for greater backing so that they can do even more in the future.

I fully support this call. I am doing everything possible to empower young people.

The UNAOC played a key role in the UN Inter-Agency Network for Youth and Development, which prepared the frameworks that led to the Amman Declaration on Youth, Peace and Security.  UNAOC staff participation has also contributed to the Guiding Principles for Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding.

The Alliance has a long and proud record of backing young peacebuilders.

It recognizes, empowers and mentors young people committed to peacebuilding. 

Through its Summer School, the Alliance of Civilizations brings together 75 young civil society leaders from as many countries to learn peace education.  I have met these participants, who become passionate and empowered from this experience.

The Alliance Youth Solidarity Fund has provided seed funding to civil society organizations, especially in the Global South.

Its Entrepreneurs for Social Change project has brought together promising young people from Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East to build their capacity to create profitable businesses that also serve the public good.

Now I ask the Alliance and all of the members of its Group of Friends to intensify this support.

Let us give young people the tools they need to create a new future for all of humanity.

I thank you for your commitment. Thank you.