Statement by H.E. Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti
Permanent Representative of
Brazil to the United Nations
Debate on Inter-cultural dialogue for peace and security
New York, 26 May 2010
We are honored by your presence today in the Security Council. I thank Lebanon for holding this very important debate today. I also thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his participation.
This is a timely moment to hold a debate on "Intercultural Dialogue for Peace and Security", coming, as it does, on the eve of the Third World Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations, which is going to begin tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, as has already been mentioned.
The Forum will seek to rethink the way tensions among different cultures are dealt with and to launch projects for the promotion of trust and understanding among nations. It will address questions that include the challenge of stimulating integration in multicultural societies and of strengthening the role of women and that of religious leaders in the advancement of peace.
It is very fitting that today's debate is promoted by a country such as Lebanon, which knows and appreciates the benefits of peaceful coexistence of cultures, faiths and traditions and recognizes the value of dialogue and understanding.
The theme of our debate is also very close to the heart of Brazilians. We are a country born of a mix of cultures and ethnicities. We were enriched by the significant contribution many immigrant groups have made to our country and culture, among which an important Lebanese community. For us, therefore, intercultural dialogue is not a political preference. It is part of our own identity. We are determined, on the Council and elsewhere, to do our part in promoting and facilitating such dialogue.
As noted in the background note that your delegation has prepared for this debate, intercultural dialogue is in no way alien to the concerns of the Security Council. International peace and security cannot be sustained in the absence of adequate communication, mutual understanding and a minimum of trust.
As a universal organization, the United Nations is uniquely placed to facilitate dialogue among nations and cultures. Such a dialogue is important to defuse tensions and to avoid a conflict. It should take place during a conflict, in the form of peacemaking. It must happen afterwards, though peacekeeping, peacebuilding and mechanisms of reconciliation and transitional justice.
Discussions on preventive diplomacy in the United Nations tend to consider issues such as early warning systems, mediation and good offices. They are all necessary and potentially effective. In cases, however, where conflict arises or may arise due to profound differences - actual or perceived - in values, traditions and faiths, there is a deeper perspective of preventive diplomacy that can be explored. One that, instead of managing conflict, seeks to eliminate or mitigate the possibility of conflict by changing the way people and groups see and react to differences.
Such deeper approach seeks to promote a structured exchange at several levels among persons, groups, governments and cultural and religious organizations. The goal is to correct misconceptions, prove prejudices wrong and mitigate stereotyping and simplistic generalizations. An element to it must be what some have called "education for tolerance", a conscious and sustained effort to form the minds of individuals and influence the ethos of groups and institutions so that they accept and even welcome the difference. If we succeed in building institutions and educating people in that manner, some of the intangible but very powerful root causes of conflict in many parts of the world will have been eliminated or abated.
The United Nations itself can also contribute to the intercultural dialogue through peacekeeping and peacebuilding. The work with local communities; capacity-building; support to local media, especially radio; and projects that promote dialogue and understanding are all means that can be used to that purpose. They contribute to a culture of peace. They help cement and exemplify the notion that a strong society requires not only the absence of violence, but a foundation of mutual trust and cooperation among diverse traditions and beliefs.
My delegation remains ready to support all efforts at the United Nations aimed at dispelling cultural misconceptions that nurture resentment and contribute to conflict. This Organization, built on the notion of collaboration in the benefit of all, including with regard to peace and security, has an indispensable role to play.