U.N. Chief Applauds AoC For Building Bridges to Peace

By an IPS Correspondent

Speaking at the Sixth Global Forum of the U.N. Alliance of Civilization (AoC) in Bali, Indonesia last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauded the AoC for expanding its valuable work addressing the sources of conflict and planting new seeds of peace.

“I welcome its commitment to promoting inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue,” he added.

These are essential tools to preventing and resolving conflicts. “I count on your support for efforts by the Alliance and by the entire United Nations system,” Ban said.

Addressing delegates, the High Representative for AOC Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser said: “As we look around the world, it is clear that identity-based tensions are a persistent source of conflict”.

Whether it is religion, culture, ethnicity or another vector of identity, brother is being pitted against brother, he added.

“We see this clearly in the heartbreaking violence in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Myanmar, Sri Lanka among other places. Beyond these immediate crises, there are longer-term trends that present difficulties,” he said.

The AOC is in its seventh year of operations and the Bali event is the first global forum to be held under the leadership of al-Nasser.

The High Representative pointed out that conflict, deprivation, climate change, and the absence of economic opportunity are forcing millions around the world to leave their homes.

When people cross borders, he said, often little infrastructure exists to accommodate them into their new host societies.

Moreover, as migrants, they often face discrimination. Even if only at a small scale, we must face these problems and come up with viable solutions.

With a humble budget, the Alliance directly collaborates with individuals on the ground to come up with scalable models to address these problems.

In its work, the Alliance has placed special emphasis on the need to mobilize individuals across diverse communities, across fault lines. The Alliance does so with limited resources and a small staff.

Appealing to the U.N.’s 193 member states, Al-Nasser said: “The truth is that Alliance can do a lot more with its knowhow and relationships at both the grassroots and governmental levels, but it can only do so with your help and support: member States, communities, civil society, and the general public.”

“This is my main message to you, our friends in the media and the international community,” he added.

The secretary-general said: “I see many disasters in today’s world. The natural calamities are heart-breaking. What is most saddening in many ways, these man-made tragedies are even worse”.

He said too many of the world’s worst crises are driven by those who exploit fear for power. And “too many societies are fracturing along cultural, religious or ethnic lines.”

Wars begin in people’s minds, he said, and the way to peace is also through people’s hearts.”

He said the Alliance of Civilizations was created to reach the hearts and minds of people and build bridges to peace.

“I applaud High Representative Ambassador Al-Nasser for working with many grassroots groups around the world,” Ban declared.

Under his leadership, the Alliance is making a difference on the ground.

It is helping Pakistani university students take the lead in healing sectarian divisions. It is supporting theatre by Kenyan citizens to prevent young people from joining terrorist movements.

And it is encouraging Muslim-Christian volunteerism in Mindanao.

In Israel-Palestine, the Alliance works to join families from both sides who have lost loved ones in the conflict.

By having a dialogue with each other, they challenge their leaders to do the same, the secretary-general added.