22.05.2017 - UNESCO Office in Doha

Director-General speaks of ‘soft power’ to leaders at Arab Islamic American Summit

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UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, representing United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, joined more than 50 leaders from the Islamic world and U.S. President Donald Trump at the Arab Islamic American Summit, in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today.

His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and President Donald Trump, opened the summit, designed “to address ways of building more robust and effective security partnerships to counter and prevent the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism around the globe through promoting tolerance and moderation.” 

His Majesty the King opened by underlining the struggle against terrorism as one for "the security, peace and development of all humanity."

"Sustainable development is the safeguard," he said, pointing to the Saudi Vision 2030, with a focus on investing in youth, empowering women‎, in education and the economy. "Development is the strategic goal," said His Majesty.

President Trump presented countering terrorism as "history's great test" -- to counter terrorism and the ideology driving it. "Terrorism has spread across the world. The path to peace begins right here," he said.

He highlighted the importance of halting all support to terrorism, including sources of financing -- especially for the Middle East, a region of venerable history, rich cultures, and unique heritage. 

"This is not a battle between different faiths or different civilisations - this is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it," said President Trump.

‎King Abdullah II of Jordan spoke of the importance of values in the struggle to prevent and counter terrorism and violent extremism -- "mutual respect, compassion and acceptance."

Education is essential, because "intolerance and ignorance aid terrorism," he said. 

President al-Sisi of Egypt spoke of the importance of "tolerance, respect and the right to difference" as humanitarian values to confront violent extremism and terrorism.

The President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo stressed the importance of soft power in countering and preventing terrorism and violent extremism -- "History teaches that weapons are not enough. We need to balance hard power and soft power approaches."

‎The Emir of Kuwait Sabah al-Sabah was also among the speakers, followed by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, who reminded all of the importance of winning hearts and minds and developing counter-narratives to violent extremism.

In her discussions with Heads of State during the Summit, the Director-General presented the leading role of UNESCO in 'soft power' in preventing violent extremism. She stressed education, skills for jobs and values for intercultural dialogue, as well as the protection of humanity's cultural heritage and promoting diversity as strengths for all to share.

On the margins of the summit was held the opening of the Global Centre for Combatting Extremist Ideology (GCCEI), created to “counter and prevent the spread of extremist ideology through promoting moderation, compassion and supporting the dissemination of positive dialogue.”

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