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29 Dec, 2011

Ban Urges Alliance Of Civilizations To Fight Extremism, Promote Tolerance

Dec 11 2011 (UN News) – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged members of the Alliance of Civilizations today to combat extremism and promote tolerance at a time when universal values are being tested in many parts of the world, particularly in countries undergoing political transitions.

“Again and again, we are reminded that our differences are nothing compared to our shared humanity,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks to the opening session of the fourth United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Forum in Doha, Qatar.

More than 2,000 participants, including political and corporate leaders, civil society activists and faith communities have gathered there to take part in the UN Alliance of Civilizations Forum (UNAOC) to discuss how to improve relations across cultures, combat prejudice and build lasting peace.

“Speaking out against extremism, advancing tolerance, standing for justice, dignity and mutual understanding. These values are at the core of the Alliance of Civilizations,” Mr. Ban said, noting that these principles were more important than ever during times of change. “Everywhere, these values are being tested. We see in the daily news headlines: in Syria, North Africa, across the Middle East, and beyond.”

Mr. Ban stressed the Alliance’s responsibility to prevent conflict and violence by promoting dialogue and laying the groundwork for mutual understanding.

“The Alliance has a special role in speaking out when terrorists attack and kill innocent people, when politicians stir hatred and exploit stereotypes to win votes, when moderate voices struggle to be heard amid the politics of polarization,” he said.

The Secretary-General underscored the need to help nations in transition in the Middle East and North Africa who have been part of the so-called Arab Spring movement.

In some countries these transitions have been peaceful. Others have seen bloody crackdowns. But in all, reconciliation is essential for transformations to succeed,” he said. “There is considerable scope for the Alliance to help these nations to shape their future.”

Mr. Ban told members of the Alliance that empowering women and youth, along with achieving sustainable development, should also be key areas of focus to ensure a positive future.

“I want the coming years to see an emphasis on the problems of women and children, in particular — in health, in education, in creating jobs and new opportunities on a scale never seen before,” he said.

He also warned against potential new divides that impact development, and called on the Alliance to do its utmost to engage with students, families, activists and their religious communities. “Have a dialogue — far and wide. But also ensure that it leads to action — real and concrete to make this world better for all people.”