Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the ninth Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilization, in Fez, Morocco, today:
Let me begin by thanking the Government and people of the Kingdom of Morocco for the warm welcome. Morocco has long been a champion of interfaith dialogue and a leader in our fight against extremism — and as such, you are a natural host for this Forum.
I would particularly like to thank His Majesty Mohammed VI for his personal and permanent commitment to the defence of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, tolerance and diversity as a richness for our societies and our world. I also thank High Representative [Miguel Ángel] Moratinos for his stewardship of the Alliance. And I commend the inspired choice of Fez as the place of our gathering. This rich and ancient history makes Fez the ideal place to gather and reflect on the state of our world.
Scanning the globe today, we see a world in crisis. The forces of division and hate are finding fertile ground in a landscape marred by injustices and conflicts. Divisions are widening — between rich and poor, North and South, and developed and emerging economies. Tensions — geopolitical, social, and economic — are rising.
A growing number of conflicts — including the war in Ukraine — is devastating lives and undermining economies. A cost-of-living crisis is hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest. Trust — in political leadership and in one another — is crumbling. This breakdown in trust is leading to a breakdown in values. Human rights and the rule of law are either neglected — or attacked outright. Hate speech, disinformation, and abuse are proliferating, targeting especially women and vulnerable groups. Intolerance and irrationality are running rampant.
And old evils — antisemitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, persecution of Christians, xenophobia, and racism — are receiving new leases on life. These hateful and harmful afflictions feed off each other. They foment division and block collective action. All this, while our climate hurtles towards irreversible tipping points — a clear and tragic result of our inability to work as one, for the common good of all.
We know what to do. We know that to curb the climate crisis, we need to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century and urgently reduce emissions this decade. That is why at COP27 [twenty-seventh conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] I proposed a Climate Solidarity Pact that combines the capacities of developed and emerging economies for the benefit of all.
We know that to tackle global inequalities, we need to provide developing countries with the resources and support they need to invest in their future. That is why at the G20 [Group of 20] Summit in Bali, I urged leaders to support an Sustainable Development Goals stimulus for debt relief and restructuring for the Global South, and investments across all the Sustainable Development Goals — from education and health care to eradicating poverty and realizing full equality for women and girls.
We know that we need urgent action to prevent further instability and hunger — from the Horn of Africa and the Sahel to Afghanistan to Haiti and beyond. That is why the Black Sea Grain Initiative — and efforts to ensure Russian food and fertilizers can flow to global markets — are so critical to stabilize markets and lower food prices. And we know that to halt the proliferation of conflicts, we need to strengthen prevention and build the foundations of lasting peace.
The “what” is not the challenge. The “how” is. How to secure cooperation. How to raise ambition. How to marshal resources. How to mobilize political will. How to catalyse actions at all levels — from the global to the local. And how to act in solidarity.
The Alliance of Civilizations is helping show the way. You embody the core values enshrined in the United Nations Charter — “to practise tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours”. You are giving life to vital United Nations frameworks — from the Call to Action for Human Rights and the Strategy on Hate Speech to the Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites.
You are promoting more resilient and cohesive societies by putting a spotlight on youth, education, media and migration, and the vital role of women as peacemakers. You are working to build bridges and help people move from conflict to collaboration.
I particularly welcome your efforts to place youth at the centre in communities torn apart by conflict. I am thinking of people like Magdalen Amony from Uganda who lost a family member to the Lord’s Resistance Army. Today, she is helping former child soldiers reintegrate into their communities in the face of severe human trauma and mistrust.
I am thinking of people like Elsa Marie D’Silva from India, who co-founded a platform that crowdsources and maps sexual violence and harassment. Her efforts are mobilizing thousands of young people around the world to break the silence and end gender-based violence.
And I am thinking of the work of people like Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye, who used to lead opposing militias in Nigeria. Today, they are united in friendship and partnership to defuse religious conflict. It is examples like these that fill me with hope for the future.
I am also grateful to religious leaders across the world who are joining hands to promote dialogue and interfaith harmony. The declaration “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” — co-authored by His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El Tayeb — is a model for compassion and human solidarity.
We need this spirit more than ever. Together, we can build an alliance of peace that spans the global and the local to meet the tests of our time if we recognize diversity as richness; and if we invest in inclusion; and if we make sure that all of us — regardless of race, descent, origin, background, gender, religion, or other status — can live lives of dignity and opportunity.
The Holy Qur’an teaches us that God created nations and tribes “so that we might know one another”. At this time of peril, let us take inspiration and stand together as one human family. Rich in diversity, equal in dignity and rights, united in solidarity. Let’s all do our part. And I thank all of you for your leadership and your commitment.