6 May 2016, New York – Statement delivered by H.E. Mr. Ioannis Vrailas, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the UN General Assembly at the High-level Conversation on Religions for Peace
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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
I thank the President of the General Assembly for convening this Conversation on “Religions for Peace” and welcome this opportunity to further reflect together on the key role of tolerance and respect in view of fostering peaceful and inclusive societies.
We all agree that religious intolerance and violent extremism are major obstacles to building peaceful societies. Let me recall the EU’s strong commitment to fighting religious intolerance and promoting freedom of religion or belief around the world. We do not align with any specific religion or belief. Freedom of religion or belief is a universal human right that needs to be protected everywhere and for everyone, regardless of who they are, where they live, and what they believe or do not believe in.
The promotion of religious tolerance, respect for diversity and mutual understanding are of utmost importance with a view to creating an environment conducive to the full enjoyment by all persons of freedom of religion or belief. In this context, the EU makes use of its various tools, including financial instruments, to promote mutual respect, tolerance and dialogue.
The UNSG’s Action Plan on the Prevention of Violent Extremism calls for a comprehensive approach encompassing not only essential security based counter terrorism measures, but also systematic preventive steps to address the underlying conditions. It highlights the importance of intra and inter-faith dialogue and discussions through which to promote tolerance and understanding between communities and voice the rejection of violent doctrines. The EU is fully committed to play its part, as illustrated by its work to promote interreligious dialogue and mediation in many conflict areas.
When devising our policies to preventing violent extremism, our starting point is that there can be no “one size fits all” approach. Diverse and multidimensional approaches are required. Criminal justice, information exchange, education and youth participation, inter-cultural as well as intra- and inter-faith dialogue, employment and initiatives for social inclusion – all can play a crucial role.
Our Radicalization Awareness Network brings together frontline or grass root practitioners from around Europe, including police and prison authorities, but also teachers, social and youth workers, civil society representatives and local authorities’ representatives. Its Centre of Excellence supports the EU and individual countries and disseminates best practices on prevention.
I already mentioned education. As stated by EU ministers for education – who met in the aftermath of last year’s terrorist attacks in Europe – “the primary purpose of education is not only to develop knowledge, but also to help young people to become active, responsible and open minded members of society. “ The importance of teaching and acceptance of the EU common fundamental values and laying the foundations for more inclusive societies through education – starting from an early age- cannot be overstated. The EU’s youth strategy aims at actively involving young people in society and promoting respect for cultural diversity and inclusion.
Addressing root causes means also eradicating the inequalities that lead to exclusion, marginalization and radicalization. Reducing poverty and ensuring sustainable development, rule of law and human rights – these are all critical elements of the overall approach. The EU remains fully committed to play its part in providing material support to developing countries.
The European Union itself has shown over the decades that it is possible for nations to come together across borders, despite of past conflicts, based on mutual respect for the diversities of our societies. Overcoming the logic of “us versus them” requires ongoing efforts and constant dialogue. The EU is fully committed to cooperate with other organizations and actors towards building just and inclusive societies.
In a few days, on 9 May, we celebrate the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, the founding document of the EU. According to the Declaration “World Peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.” Let’s all be creative when it comes to promoting tolerance, mutual respect and human rights.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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