19 April 2017, New York – European Union Statement delivered by H.E. Ambassador Joanne Adamson, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Group of Friends Meeting “Interreligious & intercultural dialogue processes as tool for conflict prevention and post-conflict peacebuilding”
The importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue cannot be emphasised enough in a world like the one of today, characterised by ongoing conflicts and continuous migration flows leading to growing challenges in our societies such as fear, stereotyping, discrimination and violence.
The EU is a strong supporter of dialogue. Together with like-minded partners such as the AOC, and others, we have initiated and organised a series of seminars and high level fora in the past months focusing on interfaith dialogue.
The most recent, last January here at the UN HQ, focused on combating anti-Muslim discrimination and hatred. It had been preceded by a high level forum in September 2016 on combating anti-Semitism.
In June 2016, the EU launched a new strategy for “International Cultural Relations”, paving the way for inter-cultural dialogue between youth organisations in Europe and elsewhere.
Several actions and initiatives are in the planning, such as support to a programme called “Young Mediterranean Voices” which covers the whole Euro-Mediterranean region. It will deepen the dialogue between young leaders, institutions and civil society representatives.
“Young Med Voices” will also be the operational platform for the Youth Initiative that the EU’s High Representative launched just now in March, by holding a dialogue in Brussels with a group of youth from countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
The aim is to elaborate a strategy that empowers youth to face common threats and socio-economic challenges. This will be done through public policy platforms and debates, transcultural leadership programmes, creative media campaigns, debate championships and virtual/digital exchange initiatives.
The High Representative is also interested in supporting interfaith dialogue and is reflecting on another dedicated initiative for that purpose. She wants to launch a platform bringing together Imams with other religious leaders and practitioners to create a better understanding for the perceptions of minority religions in today’s societies and to foster tolerance and mutual respect.
Moreover, a specific call for proposals has just been launched by the European Commission to make funding available to organisations that have good ideas how to promote intercultural dialogue, cultural diversity and respect for equal dignity of all people in the EU’s partner countries. This objective includes aspects relating to religion or belief.
Let me take this opportunity to also flag an important initiative that the EU supported together with UNAOC, namely a joint EU-AOC symposium held in Brussels in January on hate speech against migrants and refugees in the media.
I would like to thank UNAOC for the cooperation, which led to a successful event. There was high-level participation, presentations that gave food for thought, interesting debate in the break-out sessions and a good set of concrete recommendations. The symposium was also well received on social media. A report of the symposium has been drafted by UNAOC and will be disseminated shortly.
From our side, the European Commission [DG JUST] and the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights – who participated actively in the symposium – will integrate its recommendations in their ongoing work, aimed to counter hate speech online and increase media literacy.
Cooperating more closely and building stronger alliances amongst countries and communities with different religions and cultures is crucial at all levels: starting here at the UN, down to the local levels in all our countries.
This AOC Group of Friends meeting today provides us with the excellent opportunity to exchange on our respective initiatives and programmes in this area. Thereby we can deepen our collaboration.
Providing sustainable funding for projects that promote intercultural exchange, cultural diversity and universal values is equally important.
The EU is looking forward to continuing the dialogue and collaboration with stakeholders who share these values and would like to thank the AOC for having convened this meeting and for the trust and partnership offered so far.
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