UN: Informal briefing for Member States on the report of the High-level Group for the Alliance of Civilizations, Statement on behalf of the European Union

UN: Informal briefing for Member States on the report of the High-level Group for the Alliance of Civilizations, Statement on behalf of the European Union

UN 61st Session; Informal briefing for Member States on the report of the High-level Group for the Alliance of Civilizations

General Statement by H.E. Ms. Kirsti Lintonen, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN, on behalf of the European Union

New York, 18 December 2006


Mr. Secretary-General, Madam President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

Who could have imagined a decade ago the challenges to inter-cultural understanding and unity that the world is facing today? As extremism and terrorism may seem inexorably to rise, we must search ever harder to celebrate the values that unite us. In order to undermine those who seek to propagate division and chaos, we must strive to develop tolerant and inclusive societies. We must celebrate how diversity enriches our societies, improve understanding amongst faiths and cultures, and foster stronger appreciation between communities.

The European Union welcomes the Alliance of Civilizations report as an important contribution to the common platform of unity, recommending a practicable program of action for states, -at national, regional and local levels-, international organisations and civil society. Our collective answer to extremism must be a united effort that reinforces common values, universal principles, tolerance and understanding. The international community must develop a public momentum that rejects extremism and encourages investment in tolerance and a better future for all, in particular our youth. 

Respect, tolerance and dignity are cornerstones in creating the conditions for a safe, secure and peaceful world in which all can realise their full potential as human beings. Governments need to work with and through their home communities. We must encourage and empower mainstream voices to challenge the extremists with a more powerful message of tolerance and respect for all human rights for all. This effort must go hand in hand with work to tackle inequality, poverty and injustice.  We must do more to improve opportunity, pursue good governance and promote universal human rights. Making a practical difference to people's lives by promoting rights and ensuring their implementation will only support our pursuit of tolerance and peace. And whilst working to promote these aims, we must also defend against those who seek to undermine these values.  We must act against those that incite and promote extremism. It is our duty to do so.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The European Union very much shares the overall goal of the Alliance. We stand ready to discuss further the Alliance’s recommendations and support for recommended activities.  What we urgently need is commitment and a very active policy on all sides to increase mutual understanding. The Alliance has great potential to contribute to that objective. The recommendations by the Alliance in the four categories Media, Education, Youth and Migration are very relevant for the implementation of the Plan of Action. The implementation of these recommendations through political and other measures would be a positive contribution to overcoming the existing divides among cultures and societies in general, and particularly, as stressed in the Report of the High level Group, among Western and Muslim societies.

Some constructive contributions to the Alliance of Civilizations Initiative may come also from ongoing work in the European Union. We are already using the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the European Neighbourhood Policy to increase our channels for dialogue. Within the European Union, we have devoted much effort over the past decade working up common laws on equality and non-discrimination, and action plans to promote intercultural understanding. The European Union has designated 2008 as the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. Further examples of useful initiatives, to mention only a few, are the Helsinki Process on Management of Globalization led by Finland and the United Republic of Tanzania since 2003, and the Danish Co-Existence of Civilizations initiative. These initiatives reflect the high priority we all place on integrating people of all faiths into societies, while preserving essential universal values like tolerance, diversity and peaceful dialogue. In every case, we place a premium on involving all levels of society – public institutions, religious and cultural leaders, civil society and the media - in increasing cultural exchanges, improving understanding, and promoting tolerance.

Finally, the European Union wishes to extend its warm thanks to Spain and Turkey for this very important initiative, highlighted by the presence of the distinguished Prime Ministers with us here today, as well as the High Level Group of Experts for their valuable work. We would like to thank the Secretary-General for his thoughtful response and look forward to the Secretary General Designate continuing to pursue the aims of the Report. The European Union offers its full support to the aims of the Alliance of Civilizations Initiative and looks forward to jointly considering ways to reach them.