The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
Group of Friends Ministerial Meeting
New York, 20 November, 2018
Statement by: Pekka Metso
Ambassador-at Large for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue Processes
Mr. Secretary-General, High Representative, Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In its existence of 14 years the UNAOC has proven to be a needed soft power tool to improve the dialogue among civilizations. During its existence its priorities have remained the same: youth, media, education and immigration. Their importance has only grown during the times.
All successful dialogues have to be inclusive and co-owned. The inclusiveness makes me at the outset to stress the crucial importance of the participation of women. One should neither undervalue the importance of getting the different generations involved; youth and elderly have to be carefully listened to and engaged as well.
Cultures, religions and identities should not be seen as competing but interdependent. We are bound to complement each other.
When talking about dialogue, it has to be one of equals. Those in the margins can offer very necessary contribution and do have an important role in the overall creation of societal resilience – if only are given the chance.
Religions or cultures or identities are no monoliths but dynamic and open processes.
Religious leaders have an access to the local communities that quite often exceeds the powers of politicians or other actors. They have access to parties that in some instances are beyond the reach of other societal structures without undermining the importance of other civil society actors. In many cases the added value of the religious leaders is unquestionable in peace mediation. As the former UN Secretary-General urged in his Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism: Engage religious leaders to provide a platform for intra- and interfaith dialogue and discussions through which to promote tolerance and understanding between communities.
It was a truly positive development when The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers was established. This is a global peace mediating network focusing on the role of religious and traditional peacemakers. It is also one of the prioritized undertakings in the Finnish peace mediation efforts. The network's link to the United Nations and other international organizations is crucial.
Finland has actively supported the UNAOC Youth Solidarity Fund already for several years. Peace cannot be achieved or sustained without active participation of youth. Young women and men can have an important role to play in their communities – especially during violent conflicts and in their aftermath - but also before them. Young activists are already working in many creative ways for enhancing dialogue and preventing conflicts.
At the same time it is important to remember that we should not consider young people as neither potential victims nor as potential war criminals but as potential. And here again we have to keep in mind that young women are under presented in both formal and informal decision making especially where the most violent conflicts take place. Overall youth is still one of the significant groups that are to a large degree marginalized from political processes. To change this all our governments have to do more.
To show that we are committed to take the Youth, Peace and Security agenda concretely and pragmatically forward Finland was the first country to initiate a process to draft a National Action Plan on the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2250.
Further - we shall be organizing and co-hosting the first International Symposium on Youth Participation in Peace Processes in Helsinki next March. This symposium will be co-organized with the United Nations, Columbia and Qatar as well as with partners from the civil society.
In the background paper for today´s meeting we were to reflect upon some issues that consider the future of the UNAOC as an entity of the United Nations. This is what we would like to take up in this connection:
Hand in the hand with the widening of the financial basis of the UNAOC a strong focus needs to be on further developing the partnerships. Also within the United Nations - especially with the Office of Secretary-General´s Special Envoy on Youth.
There is a need to the entity to recognize and pronounce even clearer its strengths and additional value within the United Nations system. This is crucial because only this way it remains relevant when the reform process of the United Nations reaches different corners of the organization.
It is clear that thematically the UNOAC has to keep the youth at the heart of its activities.
Also the concept of Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) requires constant revisits because of its changing nature.
Finally. One cannot repeat certain things too many times. The worst kind of fuel leading to disturbances in our societal peace is provided when people feel that they do not count or they do not even exist. Much more needs to be done to change this.