New York

23 September 2016

Secretary-General's remarks at the Opening of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Group of Friends Ministerial Meeting [as delivered]

Thank you for attending this Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends of the Alliance of Civilizations. I especially appreciate Spain and Turkey for their ongoing leadership and commitment.

For nearly a decade as Secretary-General, I have tried my best to support this valuable initiative. I have attended your Forums in Madrid, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, Doha, Vienna and Bali as well as annual meetings in New York.

I am proud to support the Alliance because it has such an important mission to build bridges.

This has never been more important. Demagogues around the world are demonizing people just because of their faith, race or some other superficial difference. I deplore this irresponsible scapegoating.

In my address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, I called on all political leaders and candidates to reject the dangerous political math that says you add votes by dividing people and multiplying fear.

My statement came one day after the Summit for Refugees and Migrants adopted the New York Declaration – a potentially important outcome that will only have meaning if States honour their promises.

We also launched a new campaign to address xenophobia called, “Together – Respect, Safety and Dignity for All”. This campaign will carry forward work that the Alliance has been doing for years to promote intercultural understanding.
The Alliance recently developed a valuable Glossary on Migration to help the media tell the story in a constructive way.

And the Alliance is improving the treatment of migrants and refugees in the media through its Hate Speech Project launched by the High Representative last December. 

I take this opportunity to commend High Representative Abdulaziz Al-Nasser for his strong leadership. I especially appreciate how he has mobilized a broad range of partners. 
This Alliance has spent more than a decade working to end polarization and fight stereotypes. The Alliance has consistently supported youth, civil society groups and public campaigns that break new ground.

I strongly believe in empowering young people to shape a new future. I applaud the Alliance for mobilizing youth from around the world.

The Alliance understands that young people are not a source of instability – they are our greatest potential weapon against violent extremism.

This is a component of the Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.

The Alliance is helping to address the drivers of violent extremism. 

It also stands against authoritarians who try to pit communities against each other.

In this world where shrill voices dominate the debate, we urgently need to support the Alliance in its mission to foster understanding and inclusion.

That will create a more stable world for all.

On Monday, we welcomed civil society representatives to an event on migrants and refugees.

One young woman said, “They can call me refugee; they can call me whatever they want. I call myself human.”

Another participant said, “We’re not just vulnerable; we’re leaders with agency.”

And a Syrian teen said, “Being in this room reminds me that there is solidarity.”

These messages speak to our common humanity, equality and mission.

I count on this Group of Friends to continue supporting the Alliance in advancing our core values.

Thank you.