New York

22 September 2017

Secretary-General's remarks to Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends of the UN Alliance of Civilizations [as delivered]

I thank all of you for your support for the Alliance of Civilizations.

I thank the Alliance itself for its efforts to promote tolerance and mutual understanding.

That work is especially important as we witness, in too many places, rising sectarianism and extremism, divisive political appeals and the scapegoating of refugees and minorities.

My country, like so many others in all regions, is the product of many influences – and we are richer for it.

The Alliance came into being at a time when some historians and other commentators were predicting a so-called clash of civilizations.

I must confess I was always puzzled by such a fixed view of human identity.

When people clash, it is almost never over civilization.  Rather, other factors are at play – discrimination, competition over resources, a lack of jobs and opportunities, and other grievances.  Identity is often a proxy for these issues but is rarely at the core of the dispute. 

As we look ahead, perhaps we should be thinking of this initiative more and more as in the context as diverse people coming together to uphold the values of the UN Charter.

I welcome your focus on youth -- today and throughout the Alliance’s programming.

Young people are crucial for achieving sustainable and inclusive development.  And they are critical for building and sustaining peace.

Our challenge is to engage, equip, educate, employ and above all empower them to fulfil their aspirations while contributing to the common good.

We need to teach not only skills but also the values of peace, tolerance, pluralism and global citizenship.  Values are not inherited; they have to be taught.

In the same spirit, let us remember that today, as a result of migration, commerce and communications, all societies are becoming more multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious.  

This diversity enriches us.  But if we want diversity to be a success, we need to invest in social cohesion.

The Alliance has done just this, throughout its existence.  I encourage you to support its valuable work.  Thank you very much.