Mr. Yin Minghua, President Jiefang Daily Group,
Ambassador Li Baodong, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations,
Mr. Yang Zhenwu, Member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee,
Distinguished artists, writers, cultural figures and other guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here ... and honoured to follow in the footsteps of so many prominent men and women who have taken part in this forum, including some of my UN colleagues. Thank you for this invitation.
I commend your decision to focus on the importance of culture in a globalizing world. You do so at a time of testing for the international community. We live in a world that is rapidly changing and growing more connected. This is true whether we are speaking of melting ice caps in one part of the world or rising unemployment in another. Like never before, global challenges have local impacts. Local events can have global impacts. More and more leaders understand that we must work together to solve our common challenges. So this is truly the UN moment ... the multilateral moment. It is also a multi-cultural moment.
After all, promotion and dialogue among cultures is crucial to fulfilling the central objectives of the United Nations Charter, upholding human rights and advancing development. Focusing on the importance of culture is not a feel-good exercise. It is essential for peace and progress in the 21st century. We know the challenge.
Today we are seeing growing tensions among cultures and faiths. Often, we see a politics of polarization and the targeting of migrants for stereotyping and violence. And at times, globalization can be seen as a threat to local cultures and cultural diversity. Let me point to three areas of practical action.
First, by preserving and making the most of cultural diversity. Our main cultural agency, UNESCO, is a champion of this cause. It is the custodian for a comprehensive set of international conventions that protect the world's cultural heritage – including precious sites and items here in China. Its recent report on investing in cultural diversity -- presented in its Mandarin version here in May -- contains important recommendations for the way forward.
Second, by promoting cross-cultural dialogue. This mission is at the heart of the UN Alliance of Civilizations Initiative. The Alliance works to help diverse communities address the roots of extremism and intolerance. Building peace and improving cross-cultural understanding is not only about negotiations and contacts at the top, among leaders. It is about what happens on the ground, at the grassroots. The Alliance is mobilizing everyone from heads of state to journalists and people on the street. The Alliance is also building a pool of international experts who can speak on difficult issues at times of crisis. It is tackling youth unemployment and connecting young people to decent jobs.
The third area for action is education. We need to strengthen education systems to ensure that young people are enriched by cultural diversity, not victimized by those who exploit differences for narrow ends. I am also encouraged that Member States have continued to keep intercultural dialogue high on the agenda of the General Assembly. The world faces too many grave challenges for us to allow culture to be an obstacle to progress. It is all too easy to think that cultural differences will always produce conflicts and rivalries. But cultures are in a constant state of flux. Individuals themselves can have several cultural identities at the same time. And cultures are not insular constructs; they are themselves the products of exchanges and cross-pollination ... some times over the course of centuries.
Let us not imprison ourselves in fixed notions of cultures or clashes or conflicts among them. Let us remember that whatever our backgrounds and traditions, we are all linked by something greater. We may be many cultures – but we are a single human family. That's a lesson I have carried every day of my life.
Our interconnected world has brought cultures in closer contact with each other. I see that as an opportunity – not a threat, a vast new opportunity to advance the UN's global mission of peace, development and human rights.