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9346th Meeting (AM)
SC/15320

Values of Compassion, Respect, Human Fraternity ‘Best Antidote to Poison of Discord, Division’, Secretary-General Tells Security Council

Speaker Stresses World ‘Must Move Away from the Logic of the Legitimacy of War’

The declaration “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” — co-authored by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb — is a model for compassion and human solidarity, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council today, as speakers warned against a groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, anti-Muslim hatred, virulent antisemitism and attacks on minority Christian communities.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that hatred of the other is a common denominator to the escalation of conflict and a conduit for atrocity crimes.  Today, “social media has equipped hatemongers with a global bullhorn for bile”, and unverified assertions or outright lies are placed on an equal footing with facts and science.  Hate-fuelled language is moving from the margins to the mainstream, triggering real-life violence, he observed, noting that in Myanmar, social media has been exploited to demonize the Rohingya minority, inciting attacks and violence.  In Iraq, the recent proliferation of hate speech targeting Yazidis in Sinjar has stoked fears among the community that it will once again be the target of atrocity crimes.

Accordingly, he outlined concrete measures to make the digital space more inclusive and safer, including through the Global Digital Compact for an open, free, inclusive and secure digital future for all.  Calling for a surge in education financing, peacebuilding and global solidarity, he said that the values of compassion, respect and human fraternity are “our best antidote to the poison of discord and division”.  He further emphasized that it is the duty of religious leaders to prevent instrumentalization of hatred amidst their followers.

Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders, rejected claims that Islam is a religion of the sword or war, insisting that war is only acceptable for self-defence.  Urging the international community to move away from pointless conflicts, he noted tragedies caused by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In Syria, Libya and Yemen, ancient civilizations have been destroyed, and these lands have become battlegrounds forcing their people to flee. Highlighting efforts made by religious leaders to promote human fraternity, he said Al-Azhar Al-Sharif aims to identify shared responsibilities in addressing climate change and the escalating wars.

“It seems […] that we are going backwards in history, with the rise of myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalisms that have kindled conflicts which are not only anachronistic and outdated, but even more violent,” said Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States for the Observer State of the Holy See, speaking on behalf of Pope Francis. Today’s globalized world is experiencing the famine of fraternity, whose worst effect is armed conflict and war, he said, adding that to make peace a reality, the international community “must move away from the logic of the legitimacy of war”.  There is still time to write a new chapter of peace in history, he said.

In the ensuing debate, speakers underscored that human fraternity can help build a better world and advance peace, recognizing the significant role of community and religious leaders in cultivating tolerance.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates said the world is facing the highest number of armed conflicts since the Second World War, with 2 billion people living in places affected by conflict, while extremism has become a tool for inciting violence.  Spotlighting the challenges experienced by the Arab region, she drew attention to a draft resolution — submitted to the Council by her country and the United Kingdom — which seeks to address the threats of hate speech, racism and other forms of extremism in conflict situations.

Echoing his support for the draft, the speaker for the United Kingdom underscored that religious minorities have time and again been targeted in conflict, including the Yazidis in Iraq, the Rohingya in Myanmar and the Baha’i in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.  Religious communities and leaders can play a unique role in conflict prevention, reconciliation and peacebuilding initiatives, including at the grassroots level, where inter-religious and intercultural dialogue can help build trust between communities, he said.

Adding to that, Mozambique’s delegate emphasized that places of worship such as churches, mosques and synagogues should not be used as incubators of religious extremists or as battlefields.  Instead, they must be used for the purpose of peace and human fraternity.  Dialogue plays a key role in reversing this dangerous trend, she observed, noting the importance of peacebuilding mechanisms in addressing intolerance, hate speech, racism and other manifestations of extremism.

The universal premise of achieving a culture of peace seems to be increasingly distant, cautioned the representative of Ecuador, pointing to the unprecedented number of displaced persons, the devastation caused by natural hazards and the resurgence of hate speech.  Focusing on the roots of conflicts and the adoption of timely prevention measures is key to sustain the peacebuilding agenda, he said, highlighting the potential of preventive diplomacy to avoid escalations in violence.

For his part, China’s delegate rejected the concept of superior or inferior civilizations and cited attempts to transform or replace other civilizations as “disastrous” when applied to practice.  Specifically, he recalled that white supremacy wreaked devastation in Asia and Africa.  Nonetheless, he pointed to encouraging developments in the Middle East, including the resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran — an outcome of the Beijing dialogue — setting off reconciliation in the region.  Also, he said that developments such as Syria’s return to the League of Arab States inject positive energy into the unity of regional countries.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:31 p.m.

Opening Remarks

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, noting that “preserving peace and preventing war is the raison d'être of [the Security] Council”, said threats to peace come in many forms — from competition for power and resources, to human rights violations and weak governance, to extreme poverty, inequalities and marginalization.  A common denominator to the onset and escalation of conflict is hatred of the other, which fuels humanity’s worst impulses and functions as a catalyst for polarization and radicalization, and a conduit for atrocity crimes.  Around the world, the international community is witnessing a groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, violent misogyny, anti-Muslim hatred, virulent anti-Semitism and attacks on minority Christian communities.  Neo-Nazi white supremacist movements today represent the top internal security threat in several countries.

Furthermore, he observed, “social media has equipped hatemongers with a global bullhorn for bile”.  Today, no conspiracy is too outrageous to find a vast audience; no falsehood too absurd to feed an online frenzy; and unverified assertions or outright lies can gain instant credibility, placed on an equal footing with facts and science.  They are often embraced — and even promoted — by political leaders.  Hate-fuelled ideas and language are moving from the margins to the mainstream, coarsening the public discourse and triggering real-life violence.  The effects are everywhere and they are deadly, he asserted, adding that the perpetrators of the heinous attacks on a mosque in Christchurch, a synagogue in Pittsburgh and a church in Charleston all were radicalized online.

He highlighted that from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Libya and beyond, hate speech is exacerbating tensions between communities and eroding trust in institutions.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, hate speech has been used to vilify minorities — and disinformation campaigns have smeared and threatened United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian workers with lies.  In Myanmar, social media has been exploited to demean and demonize the Rohingya minority, inciting attacks and violence.  In Iraq, the recent proliferation of hate speech targeting Yazidis in Sinjar has stoked fears among the community that it will once again be the target of atrocity crimes.

Outlining concrete measures to promote information integrity on digital platforms, he recalled his recent policy brief which proposes a code of conduct to make the digital space more inclusive and safer for all — while defending the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to access information.  Also, he drew attention to the Global Digital Compact for an open, free, inclusive, and secure digital future for all.  He underscored the need to invest in social cohesion and to ensure quality education for everyone, everywhere, while instilling respect for science and celebrating humanity in all its diversity.  Accordingly, he called for a surge in education financing, peacebuilding and global solidarity.  It is further fundamentally important to strengthen the values of compassion, respect and human fraternity anchored in international human rights norms and standards and secure free and safe civic spaces.  “They are our best antidote to the poison of discord and division,” he said, noting the importance of action by international organizations, Governments, civil society and the private sector.  In addition, it is the duty of religious leaders to prevent instrumentalization of hatred amidst their followers.  The declaration “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” — co-authored by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayeb — is a model for compassion and human solidarity.  It urges religious and political leaders to bring an end to wars, conflicts and environmental destruction, he added.

Briefings

AHMED AL-TAYEB, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders, commended efforts by the United Arab Emirates to promote peace, as well as the Secretary-General’s “voice of wisdom”. Describing himself as a humble Muslim man, unaffiliated with any political ideologies, he said that he is a fervent advocate for human fraternity.  He learned this from the Islamic religion and divine books including the Quran, he said, adding that all divine scriptures teach that God created differences among humans so they will learn to live with difference.  Scripture teaches that all attempts to align people behind one religion or culture are bound to fail, he said, adding that this law of differences among human beings entails a set of rights and obligations, including freedom of belief and opinion and the individual.  Noting that the Quran prohibits or undermines any attempt to force any believer to change their religion, he quoted that there is “no compulsion in religion”.

In the Quranic theory on international relations, he said, there is no place for conflict or confrontation or racial discrimination or white supremacy.  Rejecting claims that Islam is a religion of the sword or war, he said war is only acceptable for self-defence.  Urging the international community to move away from pointless wars, he noted tragedies caused by the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war.  In Syria, Libya and Yemen, ancient civilizations have been destroyed, and these lands have become battlegrounds forcing their people to flee. Highlighting the suffering of the people of Palestine under the arrogance of tyranny, he lamented the silence of the international community while noting United Nations efforts to remember the Nakba.  Calling on the Council to expedite the recognition of an independent Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital, he stressed the need to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The war on the eastern borders of Europe, he continued, is instilling fear that humanity may regress.  Urging the international community to protect innocents, he also pointed to the refugee crisis, the destruction of families, the devastation of the environment and other crises.  Many of these could have been prevented if humanity had not casually tossed aside religious teachings, he said.  He then pointed to numerous efforts made by various religious leaders including himself to promote human fraternity.  Al-Azhar Al-Sharif is gathering spiritual leaders to identify shared responsibilities in addressing climate change and the escalating wars, he said, calling for political support from the Council for such efforts.

PAUL RICHARD GALLAGHER, Secretary for Relations with States for the Holy See, speaking on behalf of Pope Francis, said conflicts are growing and the world is experiencing a third world war fought piecemeal that is becoming more widespread.  People sometimes see this Council, with a mandate to safeguard the world’s security and peace, as powerless and paralysed.  “Yet your work, much appreciated by the Holy See, is essential in order to promote peace,” he said.  He offered the Council a heartfelt invitation to face common problems, setting aside ideologies and narrow visions, partisan ideas and interests, and cultivate a single purpose:  to work for the good of all humanity.  Quoting from Pope Francis’ 25 September 2015 address to the General Assembly, he said the Council is expected to respect and apply “the Charter of the United Nations with transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions”.

While today’s globalized world has brought people closer together, it has not made people any more fraternal.  The worst effect of this famine of fraternity is armed conflict and war. With the founding of the United Nations, it seemed that the world had learned, after two terrible world wars, to move towards a more stable peace and finally become a family of nations.  “It seems, though, that we are going backwards in history, with the rise of myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalisms that have kindled conflicts which are not only anachronistic and outdated, but even more violent,” he said.  To make peace a reality, the international community must move away from the logic of the legitimacy of war.  “The time has come to say an emphatic ‘no’ to war, to state that wars are not just, but only peace is just:  a stable and lasting peace, built not on the precarious balance of deterrence, but on the fraternity that unites us,” he said.  There is still time to write a new chapter of peace in history, and Council discussions are aimed at and serve this end.  He emphasized again the word he considers decisive:  fraternity.

LATIFA IBN ZIATEN, Founder and President of Association IMAD Pour La Jeunesse et la Paix, sharing her personal story, recalled that her son was killed on 11 March 2012 as a result of terrorism.  In the aftermath of his murder, she took steps to understand who the young person who killed her son was.  He had neither love nor education or support, she said, attributing these factors to the reason why young people fall prey to terrorism. Each child is born to be happy and have a place in society.  However, if this opportunity is not given to children, the situation may become complicated. “This is what happened with the person who killed my child,” she said, adding that she witnesses the same phenomenon in detention centres and residential areas — young people who drop out of school, experiencing extreme difficulties.  Outlining solutions, she said that, by working together, peace will prevail over hatred.  However, it must be worked towards within families, schools and societies.  She stressed the need to support children, adding that oftentimes, when children enter vocational school, they do not know how to read or write correctly.  As such, they become “ticking bombs for society”.  “I do no judge parents”, she said, adding that much needs to be done in terms of education.  Many young persons she interviewed said that there is no hope and no dreams.  “I stand in front of you, not on my knees, generating hope”, she said, highlighting her fight against terrorism, including by preventing a number of people from leaving for Syria.

Statements

NOURA BINT MOHAMMED AL KAABI, Minister for State of the United Arab Emirates, noted that the world is facing the highest number of armed conflicts since the Second World War, with 2 billion people living in places affected by conflict.  Extremism has become a tool for inciting violence, deepening disputes and fuelling conflicts, she said, adding:  “We have learned tough lessons from history” about how extremism leads to the loss of lives, destruction of communities and the erasure of history.  Also highlighting how exploitation of advanced technology and the use of online platforms have facilitated the spread of hate speech, misinformation and disinformation beyond national borders, she said the Council must acknowledge that addressing and preventing hate speech, racism and all manifestations of extremism in conflict situations is an integral part of its mandate.

Governments, civil society, and the private sector have a role to play, she said, adding that their efforts must include the full and meaningful participation of women and the contributions of religious and community leaders.  Education is an essential prevention tool, she said, also drawing attention to the Secretary-General’s Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech.  Noting that her country and the United Kingdom have submitted a draft resolution to the Council which seeks to address the threats of hate speech, racism and other forms of extremism in conflict situations and promote tolerance and coexistence in a proactive and cross-cutting manner, she highlighted the challenges experienced by the Arab region, including the spread of hate speech.  Her country has welcomed more than 200 nationalities to live in peace and harmony within its borders, she said, calling for proactive and pragmatic approaches to save future generations from war.

HERMANN IMMONGAULT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Gabon, said it has been more than four years since the document “Human fraternity for world peace and living together” was signed after a meeting of Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad al-Tayyib, in Abu Dhabi in 2019. It was a solemn call to bring an end to war and it stressed the importance of engaging in dialogue in a serious way.  In 2020, the Assembly adopted resolution 75/200, which proclaimed 4 February as the International Day of Human Fraternity, to be observed each year starting in 2021.  This text promotes the efforts and initiatives aimed at encouraging interreligious and intercultural dialogue.  It also invites all Member States to advance a culture of peace, tolerance, inclusion and understanding.  Respect for diversity and all human rights is necessary.

As the world faces many crises, the international community can find peace in the transcendent value of fraternity, he said.  Fraternity can provide escape from the chronic cycles of violence.  To promote human fraternity means to promote respect and dignity for each individual. Dialogue is essential to bring individuals together and inspire tolerance and peace.  Moving away from dialogue is not good.  When security is threatened, dialogue is necessary.  Each Member State must condemn every act that threatens life.  Everyone must work together to safeguard the gift of life.

ANA COMOANA, Minister for State Administration and Public Service of Mozambique, expressed deep concern over the direction the world is taking today with regard to intolerance, hate speech and incitement to hatred, racism and extremism.  Allowing this to happen has resulted in an atmosphere of mistrust and fear that degenerates into conflicts and wars.  For instance, places of worship such as churches, mosques and synagogues should not be used as incubators of religious extremists or as battlefields.  Instead, they must be used for the purpose of peace and human fraternity.  To reverse this dangerous trend, dialogue plays a key role that must not be underestimated, she said, noting that tolerance, pluralistic tradition and diversity of religions and beliefs can promote human fraternity.  In this regard, she highlighted the meeting between Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayab, on 4 February 2019 in Abu Dhabi, which resulted in the signing of the document titled “Human fraternity for world peace and living together”.  Also, peacebuilding mechanisms have a role to play in addressing intolerance, hate speech, racism and other manifestations of extremism.  She further highlighted that to build more peaceful and tolerant societies, the participation of communities and societies at large is of paramount importance, advocating for involvement of local communities as active actors in the promotion of tolerance, pacific co-existence and human fraternity.

KWAKU AFRIYIE, Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation of Ghana, noted that the upsurge in hate speech, racism and violent extremism is posing a threat to peaceful coexistence among people of different faiths, cultures and even those of different political persuasions.  Citing former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, he said:  “Conflicts between countries have, thankfully, become less common.  But conflicts and tensions within societies and between cultures have become more prominent.”  Pointing to the role of social media, he expressed concern about the radicalizing effects of easily accessible online violent extremist content in Africa and elsewhere.  Underscoring the importance of defeating the threat posed by a toxic mix of misinformation, disinformation and fake news, he said:  “nowhere is this more potent than the Sahel, where they are being deployed by malign forces to facilitate terrorism and violent extremism, including through recruitment and radicalization.”  In his country, different ethnic groups, Christians, Muslims and adherents of African traditional religion in Ghana, have lived in peace and harmony since the nation’s founding, he said.  It is not uncommon to find a mosque within striking distance of a church or a shrine.  He highlighted the work of the National Peace Council, which develops mechanisms for conflict prevention and sustainable peacebuilding, and has put in place a robust early warning system across the country’s 16 regions.

JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) said people should speak with one another in open dialogue.  There must be a promotion of tolerance and the upholding of universal human rights as a foundation of peace.  The Council’s work is difficult.  People live in a multicultural world and the human dignity of all people must be promoted. The disregard for human rights can give way to violence.  It is a challenge for the Council to uphold human rights for all.  The international community cannot allow the abuse of human rights under the pretext of other issues, such as combating terrorism. Peace must be encouraged.  Every individual has a right to have a religion or no religion and to practice their religion.  The rights of women must be upheld and he noted that women’s full participation in peace processes help promote a lasting peace.  The rights of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex persons communities must be upheld.  To live in a more peaceful world, the work of civil society members, such as journalists and activists, must be upheld.  Human fraternity can help build a better world and advance peace.

HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) warned against the unprecedented number of displaced persons, the devastation caused by natural hazards and the resurgence of hate speech.  The universal premise of achieving a culture of peace and non-violence seems to be increasingly distant, he said.  Focusing on the roots of conflicts and the adoption of timely prevention measures is key to sustain the peacebuilding agenda.  Against this backdrop, he referred to the potential of preventive diplomacy to generate early warnings which allow States to deploy all necessary diplomatic measures to avoid escalations in violence and to restrict the impact of conflicts.  Some conflicts are magnified when hate speech and intolerance are deployed against communities.  As John Langshaw Austin, a British philosopher of language, said, “the ultimate goal of language is not merely to describe reality; a narrative constructs reality and renders us responsible for their consequences”.  Words have built prisons of terror and the use of propaganda to incite hatred provided destructive capacity in the years prior to the Second World War.  It is no coincidence that dictatorships sustain themselves by suppressing the plurality of speech.  In this context, he highlighted the need to invest in education and to raise awareness among young people against radicalization and violence.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), noting that fraternity is a value of particular importance to his country, underscored the importance of freedom and equality as well.  One cannot be achieved without the other, he said, stressing that it is not possible to discuss a tolerance in which only some people are worthy of being tolerated. The rights of women, children and minorities in all their diversity emanate from human rights law and must be fully respected, he said.  Highlighting France’s feminist diplomacy, he called on all countries to ratify all international human rights protection conventions.  Tolerance and fraternity do not suffice, he said, adding that the Rohingyas and the women of Afghanistan and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex persons are simply calling for their human rights.  The right to change religions and the right to not have religion are also critical components, he said, stressing that the exercise of freedom of religion cannot be envisaged without freedom of expression, whose only limitations are those strictly defined by international law.  According to his country’s secularism, the State does not interfere in matters of faith and all individuals can practice the faith of their choice.  Women, men, young, old, believers and non-believers all have a role to play, he said, also stressing the need for the protection of human rights defenders.  “We have heard talk of peaceful coexistence — but let’s be more ambitious,” he said, adding:  “Let’s live together.”

SHINO MITSUKO (Japan) said diversity can lead to violence if it drives a wedge in a society.  Yet, when paired with tolerance, diversity can serve as a catalyst to create an inclusive society.  Her delegation recognizes the significant role that community and religious leaders can play in cultivating tolerance.  Since 2018, Japan has been organizing the “Dialogue on Countering Violent Extremism in the Middle East” and inviting influential religious figures and Government officials from the region.  It is crucial to safeguard and empower individuals and communities to fight against violent extremism.  Using a human security approach is effective and Japan has consistently leveraged such an approach, including through the United Nation Trust Fund for Human Security.  It is imperative that the international community and Council carry out effective measures to address intolerance and promote reconciliation and peacebuilding in societies marred by conflicts.  The draft resolution on tolerance and international peace and security, put forth by the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, may serve as a catalyst to encourage and support these endeavours.  Her delegation supports the draft resolution and reaffirms its commitment to conflict prevention and the establishment of long-lasting peace.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) underscored that the principles of the Charter of the United Nations should lie at the heart of a genuine multipolar world order.  A reliable source for dialogue and partnership could be found in human values that are shared by all major religions, he said, highlighting that the Russian Federation is a multi-ethnic State.  He voiced deep alarm about growing instances of discrimination and extremism, including manifestation of intolerance, Islamophobia, antisemitism and Christianophobia, first and foremost in Europe.  In addition, digital platforms and social networks enjoy impunity, showing contempt for spiritual values.  Turning to the issue of Russophobia, he drew attention to the flagrant violations of human and constitutional rights of followers of canonical orthodoxy in Ukraine, taking place with the consent of the Kyiv “regime”.  Such measures are compounded by violence against worshippers and by growing instances of vandalism against churches.  Against this backdrop, he spotlighted initiatives of religious leaders geared towards achievement of common values, including the declaration “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”, co-authored by Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb.

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), noting that religious minorities have time and again been specifically targeted in conflict, pointed to the Yazidis in Iraq, the Rohingya in Myanmar and the more recent case of the Baha’i in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.  Religious communities and leaders can play a unique role in conflict prevention, reconciliation and peacebuilding initiatives, including at the grassroots level, where inter-religious and intercultural dialogue can help build trust and understanding between communities, he added.  Noting that 2023 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, a peace deal that Catholic and Protestant clergy helped deliver through mediation between adversaries, he also highlighted the tireless effort of some Islamic leaders in Mali.  Women leaders are crucial, he said, adding that the Council should ensure that peace efforts are making use of the leadership of women, religious leaders, youth and wider civil society.  Attempts to tackle intolerance will not be successful if they don’t prioritize inclusivity and equality while safeguarding freedom of expression and opinion, he underscored.  The resolution sponsored by his country and the United Arab Emirates reflects this, he said, expressing hope that it will be adopted later today.  The United Kingdom is a proud champion of the rights of members of marginalized groups, including women and girls, and is committed to defending them, he added.

JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) said today’s briefing is important to help combat the root causes of conflict.  The promotion of tolerance and respect is essential for common efforts in conflict prevention.  Nearly 30 years ago, hate speech was the main driver of the genocide in Rwanda as radio broadcasts stimulated violence.  Today there is an alarming increase in the use of hate speech on social media, which can exacerbate violence.  This is being seen in Mali, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Inequality, racism and feelings of not belonging can encourage individuals to engage in hate speech, whether online or offline, which can then produce conflict.  The spread of disinformation has a direct and detrimental effect on the Organization’s work and the safety of its peacekeepers.  The use of strategic communications can help reduce the spread of disinformation and reduce conflicts.  Strategic communications can also promote the Organization’s women, peace and security agenda and create a protective environment for civilians in areas of armed conflict.  The role of civil society should be strengthened in this regard.  Understanding the root causes of conflict is an important asset to create conditions that are conducive for dialogue and peace.  It is necessary to promote a culture of tolerance and inclusivity to advance peace.  Recognizing the world’s shared humanity is the only path to be taken to peace.

ZHANG JUN (China) said that the peace, development, security and governance deficit is deepening while various forms of intolerance or extremism are eroding mutual trust among nations.  Highlighting the importance of respecting civilizational diversity, he emphasized that civilizations differ only geographically and there are no such things as superior or inferior civilizations.  Transforming or replacing other civilizations is epistemologically unfortunate and disastrous when applied to practice, he said, recalling that white supremacy wreaked devastation in Asia and Africa.  Today, interference and intervention are the banner of universal values, creating new conflicts.  In this world of interdependence, it is crucial to embrace the development of other civilizations.  Mutual trust among nations must be enhanced, he said, spotlighting recent encouraging developments in the Middle East, including the resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran — an outcome of the Beijing dialogue — setting off reconciliation in the region.  Also, Syria has returned to the League of Arab States after 12 years, he said, noting that such developments inject positive energy into the unity of regional countries.  Underlining the need to focus on solving the root causes of conflict and to invest in lasting peace and common security, he said greater efforts should be invested into negotiation and mediation.

ADRIAN DOMINIK HAURI (Switzerland) noted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born out of a collective experience of total destruction and genocide, rooted in hate speech, intolerance and the denigration of minorities and religions.  Human rights are essential at every stage of the peace process, he said, adding that the entirety of human rights standards is crucial to ending conflict and establishing lasting peace.  Condemning discrimination, intolerance, incitement to hatred and violent extremism, he added that respect for human rights, in particular freedom of expression, must be guaranteed, both online and offline.  An open civic space — including women, people belonging to minorities or vulnerable groups, and young people — helps to build deeper and greater trust in institutions.  Calling on the Council to seize the opportunity offered by the New Agenda for Peace to confirm the crucial role of existing normative frameworks, such as those concerning women, peace and security, children in armed conflict and human rights, he said compassion and mutual respect are universal values.  Switzerland will continue to work to ensure that the term “fraternity”, highlighted by today’s debate, includes everyone, including women and girls, regardless of their origin or sexual orientation, he underscored.

VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) said international human rights law provides a robust, normative framework for protecting the freedoms of expression and religion or belief in the context of peace and security.  These rights, which are interdependent and mutually reinforcing, are crucial when creating pluralistic, tolerant, inclusive and democratic societies.  The right to freedom of religion or belief includes the freedom for everyone to have, or not have, a religion or belief of their choice.  It also includes the freedom to practice it, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private.  Her delegation condemned any attempts to limit the exercise of these fundamental freedoms.  She said all Member States have the responsibility to protect and uphold the full spectrum of human rights, including the human rights of diverse women, persons with disabilities, young women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex individuals, older persons and members of marginalized ethnic and religious groups.  Her delegation remains deeply concerned by the impact of discriminatory laws, the gender-biased enforcement and application of existing laws, harmful social norms and practices, structural inequalities and discriminatory views on women or gender roles in society.  She affirmed the importance of promoting gender equality by addressing the root causes of discrimination and sexual and gender-based violence against all women and girls as a part of conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peacebuilding and humanitarian action.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania) highlighted the paradox by which societies are becoming more multi-ethnic and multi-religious alongside a rise in bigotry, hate speech and discrimination based on religion, belief, race, ethnicity or gender.  He pointed to the rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia and hate-filled intolerance of diversity, including against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex persons.  Everyone wins when we see diversity as a richness, not as a threat, he underscored, condemning the weaponization of hatred.  While Da’esh has been defeated, its ideology and its appeal have not disappeared, he pointed out, also expressing concern about neo-Nazis and the singling out of people including migrants by their ethnicity.  Building a common front against hatred, xenophobia, racism and genocide is not easy and there are no quick fixes, he stressed, calling on the international community to create an enabling environment for a vibrant civil society and independent and responsible media.  “Citizens who understand this unity-diversity nexus and act accordingly do not materialize from thin air; they are educated,” he said. Noting that his country is home to various religious communities, including Muslims, Orthodox, Catholic and Jews, he said it offers a living example of how religious diversity can thrive within a society when there is a commitment to tolerance. 

For information media. Not an official record.