Remarks by Ashok Nigam UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative on the occasion of the “13th Annual Iftar Party” of WAMY

Jun 30, 2015

Remarks by Dr. Ashok Nigam

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative

On the occasion of the 

 “13th Annual Iftar Party” of World Assembly of Muslim Youth

13 Ramadan - 30 June 2015

Riyadh – Saudi Arabia


Your Excellency, Dr. Saleh Al Wohaibi, Secretary General of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth

Excellencies, Distinguished guests,

Al Salaam Alaikum

Allow me to congratulate the Kingdom and all our Muslim brothers and sisters on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan.

I extend my warmest thanks to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and special thanks to Dr. Saleh Al Wohaibi for honoring me with the invitation to address this august gathering on intercultural dialogue. 

I would like to commend WAMY for its focus on intercultural dialogue and for the constructive work that it is leading across the Kingdom with and for Muslim youth around the world.

Excellencies and distinguished guests,

In recent years, we have witnessed the rise of ideologies that fuel intolerance, terrorism, hatred, extremism, sectarianism and violence.  Such ideologies are a threat to humanity and human rights, and to the sense of decency and peaceful co-existence that is enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The rise of intolerance is not confined to countries in the throes of internal and external conflict.

Democratic and peaceful societies have seen the expounding of hate speeches and violence by one cultural, ethnic or religious group against another.

In this inter-connected world, one person’s hate or lack of respect for other cultures and religions can have serious repercussions way beyond their communities and national borders.  We all have an imperative to protect societies that we live in from such prejudice and violence.

Recognizing the potent destabilizing effect that intercultural and interreligious tensions can have on peaceful co-existence, the late King Abdullah promoted and supported intercultural and interfaith dialogue, by setting up of The King Abdullah International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna.  At the national level we have had the King Abdulaziz Centre for National Dialogue set up in 2003.   The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz has emphasized that “The Arab and Islamic nation is in dire need today to be united and maintain solidarity.”   

Intercultural dialogue in this region has never been more important than today due to the great challenges posed by the rise of sectarianism and rebirth of terrorism. 

The voices of moderation and tolerance are being drowned out by the voices of intolerance, sectarianism and terrorism.  We must not let this happen.

UNESCO, like the entire United Nations, was created to promote mutual understanding, peace, democracy and development. Its specific mandate is to translate these goals into everyday practice by fostering intercultural sensitivity and solidarity while resisting intolerance, stereotyping, discrimination, hate speech and violence.

The United Nations also created the Alliance of Civilizations, an entity that would assist in diminishing hostility and promoting harmony among the nations. The UN Secretary-General has described it as a soft power tool for bridging divides and promoting understanding between countries or identity groups, all with a view to prevent conflict and promote social cohesion.

Intercultural and interfaith dialogue, tolerance and respect for other cultures and religions is what our community of nations is built upon.

At the 2005 UN General Assembly World Summit, member states resolved that “Acknowledging the diversity of the world, we recognize that all cultures and civilizations contribute to the enrichment of humankind.  We acknowledge the importance of respect and understanding for religious and cultural diversity throughout the world.”  The World assembly committed itself to “advancing human welfare, freedom and progress everywhere, as well as to encouraging tolerance, respect, dialogue and cooperation among different cultures, civilizations and peoples.”   The event organized today by WAMY is a reflection of and in support of that spirit.

Excellencies and distinguished guests,

Youth are the future of any nation. The youth of today and tomorrow have to take forward the mutual understanding and respect that the world community has committed itself to.

We need to move the global and regional agreements and understanding on intercultural dialogue from being an intellectual practice among experts and politicians in roundtables to implementation through youth and ordinary people.

We need to do whatever it takes to transform the calls for intercultural and interreligious harmony to reality on the ground.  The urgency of putting it into action is now.

Let me close by recalling the message of the United Nations Secretary General last year on the International Day for Tolerance when he called “on all people and governments to actively combat fear, hatred and extremism with dialogue, understanding and mutual respect.”

I wish all the people in the Kingdom peace, prosperity and happiness as they re-commit themselves to the purpose and obligations enshrined in the act of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan – something that I believe all faiths share.


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