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Dialogue on Faith, Peacebuilding and Development

9 February 2017
Dialogue on Faith, Peacebuilding and Development

Remarks by Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

Dialogue on Faith, Peacebuilding and Development

Thursday, 9 February 2017 at 14.00
Room XVII, Palais des Nations, Geneva

Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen:

A warm welcome to the second edition of the Dialogue on Faith, Peacebuilding and Development. On the occasion of the World Interfaith Harmony Week, today’s event is a very timely reminder that people across religious, ethnic, cultural and other backgrounds have more in common than not. I thank the principal organizers of the event, the Permanent Mission of Jordan and UNITAR, as well as the permanent missions of the Bahamas, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, the Holy See, the Sovereign Order of Malta and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that supported the event. Your initiative sends a message of solidarity that must be heard loudly and clearly.

Across the world, we can observe a trend of powerful individuals and groups misusing diversity, including religious differences, to pit people against each other. Facts, interpretations and tolerance that have been upheld for centuries are being questioned or rejected and replaced by a narrative that promotes discrimination and serves narrow interests. This widespread phenomenon goes from denying climate change to undermining long-held tolerance and mutual respect among religious and other cultural traditions. In this worrying context, the call for inter-religious dialogue, for understanding and cooperation for peace, and for the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief is crucial.

It is encouraging to see that many individuals around the world show resistance to these divisive narratives. But solidarity cannot be practiced by any one individual alone. It should be a global effort and the support of the international community is essential to overcome divisions based on religion, culture, language, colour and other characteristics. Your support is needed and that is why it is of great importance that you have gathered here today, to discuss how to leverage faith as an instrument of peace and development. And I believe there are many ways in which faith and religion can promote a better, shared future. It can help give people strength, foster trust and re-enforce moral values that bring out the best in humanity across religions and nations.

After all, we need to work together collectively to reach our shared objectives – the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, Secretary-General Guterres has made concrete action for conflict prevention a priority. Religious and other community leaders play an important role in prevention. They often have a special bond with local communities. They can listen to concerns and raise the alarm early enough to avoid conflict. Similarly, when using moral authority wisely, community leaders can mobilize people to get behind our shared Global Goals.

Our ambitious 2030 Agenda and effective prevention can only be reached together, across local, national and international levels. For a number of years now, the United Nations has been strengthening and broadening its interaction with faith-based organizations. The Alliance of Civilizations, along with the UN Population Fund, UNESCO, the Peacebuilding Commission and other UN bodies, have been partnering and playing an important part in this process. It is crucial to strengthen such partnerships across cultures and religions. And we welcome all people of faith in this affirmation of our common humanity.

International Geneva – the operational hub of the international system – is fully involved in these efforts. I therefore welcome today’s event which UNITAR conceived as part of its efforts to build capacity in all regions of the world and to foster dialogue towards peacebuilding. Today’s discussion follows last year’s first edition, when UNITAR joined forces with the Permanent Mission of Jordan to successfully launch this now annual event here in Geneva. Jordan has been an important supporter of interfaith harmony, having played a key role in bringing about Resolution A/65/5 that established World Interfaith Harmony Week in 2010.

Last but not least, I would like to also recognize the efforts of the United Nations staff members involved in this initiative including the United Nations Christian Association in Geneva. The often-cited principle of “One UN” implies not only close cooperation between UN agencies but also in-house collaboration. And this event is an example of that cooperation between UN professionals of different faiths and cultural backgrounds with a shared goal: a more peaceful and prosperous world. To reach this goal, all of us have to work together, join forces for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and mobilize our communities to act preventively for our shared future.

I thank you all for coming today and wish you fruitful discussions.

Thank you very much.