High Representative’s Remarks at the International Dialogue of Civilizations and Tolerance Conference in Abu Dhabi

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Your Highness,
Shiekh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan,
Minister of Tolerance & Coexistence,

Your Eminence, Shiekh Abdullah bin Bayyah,
Abu Dhabi Forum for Peace,

Excellencies, Eminencies, distinguished guests

At the outset, I wish to thank the organizers of this conference, the Emirates Scholars Research Center, Dr. Firas and Dr. Fawaz Al Habal.

It gives me great pleasure to be back in the United Arab Emirates.

It is no surprise that this is my third visit in the course of just a few months.

The United Arab Emirates has become a recognized hub for tolerance and understanding.

Over the years, it has provided a robust platform for dialogue about tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

The virtue of human coexistence is a legacy that the Late Sheikh Zayed is known to have instilled in the people and is embraced by the government of the United Arab Emirates.

From a Ministry dedicated to Tolerance and co-existence guided by His Highness, Shiekh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan to the Abrahamic Family House that stands as a beautifully designed symbol for human fraternity.

Distinguished guests,

This conference is dedicated to the dialogue of civilizations and tolerance by providing a platform to scholars, academics and faith actors to exchange views and draw lessons from history on good practices in promoting cultural diversity, religious pluralism and dialogue.

It is important to remind ourselves of the common human values embedded in diverse civilizations from East, West, North and South.

Civilizations are built around a complexity of elements. Heritage, architecture, urban centers, cultures, traditions and unique arts.

A true dialogue of civilizations, is one that integrates all these elements.

I wish to pause for a moment to talk about the arts and it nexus to civilizations.

The Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi which houses the aesthetic expressions of different civilizations and cultures, from the most ancient to the best in contemporary artworks. Designed by Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel., the museum has a unique museo-graphic approach – displaying objects and art chronologically – to explore connections between seemingly disparate civilizations and cultures around the world. This what makes the museum truly universal, going beyond geography and nationality. The museum fosters a spirit of openness between cultures. It tells stories of cultural connections through works of historical, cultural and sociological significance, from pre-history to the present day.

Museum connects minds through a remarkable story-telling.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We may agree or disagree that the current geopolitical scene is bleak and chaotic.

The global order is in disorder.

Wars and conflicts continue to rage in different corners of the world.

Polarization has reached dangerous heights.

Hate speech, xenophobia and religious intolerance is surging.

Disinformation and deepfakes add fuel to the raging fire of anger.

Vulnerable communities are being demonized and dehumanized , especially on account of their religion, belief, ethnicity or gender.

All these fuel hatred, triggers fear and drives a wedge between communities.

Dialogue is muted.

Empathy is absent.

Fraternity is unattainable.

Peace seems elusive.

People are desperate and fear for their lives and the lives of their families.

This is where dialogue comes into play.

Over the years, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations has provided a recognized global platform for interreligious and intercultural dialogue with the aim of bridging the cultural divides and building cohesive, inclusive and peaceful societies.

Distinguished guests,

The protection of human dignity and human lives is a moral obligation.

The path towards living together in peace as one humanity, is one that should be based on justice and respect for human rights.

Distinguished participants,

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations is committed to fostering intercultural and interreligious dialogue as a critical tool against isolation, mistrust, and confrontation.

Our mission is especially important in addressing the root causes of polarization and radicalization and providing a counter-narrative to racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, Islamophobia as well as other forms of hatred and religious intolerance.

I wish to emphasize that at a time when conflicts are fuelling political tension, it must be recalled that such tensions never justify expressions of identity-based hatred.

Hatred brings the worst of humanity’s impulses.

It is our collective responsibility to stand up and speak out against all forms of hatred.

Humanistic values are rooted in the Charter of the United Nations.

But too often, some countries do not fulfil the pledge they made under the Charter which reads in the preamble:

“We the peoples of the United Nations are determined to to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind.”

Sadly today, war and violent conflicts are raging relentlessly from Sahel, Sudan and Yemen, to Ukraine and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In his remarks at the Munich Security Forum, the United Nations Secretary General said:

“Nothing can justify the unconscionable terror attacks launched by Hamas on 7 October against Israel.

And nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Israel’s military response.”

The situation in Gaza is an appalling indictment of the deadlock in global relations.

The level of death and destruction is shocking in itself. The war is also spilling over borders across the region and affecting global trade.

The humanitarian aid operation is now on life support. It is barely functioning.

Humanitarians are working under unimaginable conditions – including live fire, multiple physical obstacles and Israeli restrictions as well as the breakdown of public order.

I have repeatedly called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and a humanitarian ceasefire. That is the only way to massively scale up the aid delivery in Gaza.

This must be the foundation for concrete and irreversible steps towards a two-state solution, based on international law and United Nations resolutions.

Distinguished guests,

Major faiths and religions called for peace, compassion, dialogue and solidarity.

The Torah encourages interreligious dialogue and cooperation by teaching us to accept others without prejudice or bias: “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman, but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:17-18)

In the Holy Qur’an, Surat Al Hujurat: “God created nations and tribes so that we might know one another.”

I quote, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (Qur’an, 49:13)

His Holiness Pope Francis spoke about the “globalization of indifference” in his apostolic exhortation titled “Evangelii Gaudium” or (The Joy of Gospel). He called instead for the globalization of solidarity and compassion.

We need a new narrative to address the current global context.

One that is people-centered focusing on the vulnerable.

We need to rebuild trust and restore solidarity

We need to invest in meaningful dialogue.


The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) was established in 2005, as the political initiative of Mr. Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General and co-sponsored by the Governments of Spain and Türkiye.

High-Level Group of experts was formed by Mr. Annan to explore the roots of polarization between societies and cultures today, and to recommend a practical programme of action to address this issue. The Report of the High-Level Group provided analysis and put forward practical recommendations that form the basis for the implementation plan of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.

On 7 January 2019, H.E. Mr. Miguel Ángel Moratinos assumed the position of High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, succeeding H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, who succeeded H.E. Mr. Jorge Sampaio.

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations High Representative and Secretariat are based and operating from New York. The Alliance maintains a global network of partners including states, international and regional organizations, civil society groups, foundations, and the private sector to improve cross-cultural relations between diverse nations and communities.

In its 2006 report, the High-Level Group identified five priority areas for action: Education, Youth, Migration, Media, and Women as peace mediatorsUNAOC project activities are fashioned around these four areas, which can play a critical role in helping to reduce cross-cultural tensions and to build bridges between communities.



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