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31 Mar, 2016

Cultural Leaders Well-Placed for Forging Greater Appreciation of Diversity: UN Secretary-General’s message to Forum d’Avignon in France

United Nations, 30 March 2016, (UN News) – Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the Forum d’Avignon, held in Bordeaux, France, on 31 March:

Thank you for the opportunity to send greetings to all participants at the Forum d’Avignon.  Culture is a powerful force for advancing the founding the United Nations goals of peace, development and human rights.

This year is especially important.  The world is now embarking on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a bold and ambitious blueprint for human progress.  This is also the inaugural year of the Paris Agreement on climate change.  Next month, the United Nations will host a historic signature ceremony where world leaders will commit to this transformative document.

The challenges of development and climate change are nowhere more acute than in situations of crisis.  In May, the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, to be held in Istanbul, will reaffirm global solidarity with people affected by crises.

All of these international commitments are underpinned by an awareness of our shared humanity.  As leaders in the field of culture, you are uniquely placed to solidify bonds among communities and help forge a greater appreciation for the richness of human diversity.

This is essential to countering the forces of division and hate, which are responsible for immense suffering today and which specifically target cultural treasures because they have the power to unite.  Threats to cultural freedoms are often early warnings of rising social tensions or dangerous authoritarianism that must be urgently addressed.

I applaud your theme, “Enterprising Culture”.  The explosion of social networks across the new media landscape is bringing more cultural products to more people than ever before.  Yet, despite its prevalence and influence, culture is generally underfunded.

The UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity Cultural Expressions aims to foster a new vision of culture as a source of innovation and creativity.  To realize this vision, we should encourage trade policies that can help balance the flow of cultural goods and services.

I count on the Forum d’Avignon to contribute to progress on these fronts, and in this spirit, wish you great success.