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D. Diene: Address to World Summit 2015

Address to World Summit 2015, Seoul, Korea, August 27 to 31, 2015

The world challenge is the main focus of our meeting this morning. What is the meaning of the tragedies we are witnessing now? What is the significance for peace and understanding regarding, on the one hand, the high increasing number of deaths occurring in the Mediterranean Sea and in Central Europe, and on the other hand, the present focus on the dimensions of the tragedies and security issues going on in Europe? Even some politicians are using the word “invasion,” a terrible word.

I would like to share with you my reflections on the deeper meaning of this tragedy in terms of challenges for Europe. I think the first challenge is a moral challenge, or ethical challenge. How is it that in the 21st century a continent which had been putting itself at the center of world civilization, and which has proclaimed the universality of its values – universality means the world – how come this continent has become a place where the notion of being foreigner, the notion or concept of immigration, is becoming a bad word in some way? And that all people coming from outside Europe are feeling rejected. What is the deeper meaning of this contradiction?

I think the first idea I would like to share with you is that the challenge of Europe is how to regain its universality. But regaining its universality means more precisely how Europe is facing diversity, how present-day Europe is able to accept diversity, meaning accepting, recognizing, receiving, giving dignity to all those people who are coming from outside Europe. I think this is one of the first challenges.

This challenge is important because it contrasts with the universal posture of Europe historically. But while this challenge in itself is very serious, the issue of diversity is creating a new, more serious challenge for Europe in the sense that extreme-right parties and political forces whose political agenda is rejection, racism, xenophobia, intolerance, are fundamentalizing diversity – diversity as a threat to identity, and somehow diversity as a threat on the security dimension.

The challenge is that the notion of rejection of diversity, which is now very prominent in the speeches and writings of scholars in Europe, is being used by political parties in the democratic process. We have to recognize that this agenda is slowly gaining power. One of the most serious threats now to Europe is the rise of extreme-right parties, intolerant parties everywhere, from France to other places, democratically, electorally. I think that this is a very important challenge. It is a challenge because European society throughout history has been slowly becoming multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious, because Europe by opening itself to the world has received the world within its territory.

How come in this continent, where now there is this multicultural diversity, we see rising intolerance being voiced and political parties adopting this viewpoint?

Before briefly discussing the Middle East, I would like to raise the following issue with you. At the heart of this contradiction is that Europe is facing an identity crisis in the sense that all the national identities which have been rightly shared by all countries throughout history, based on ethnicity, race, culture, and religion, are being challenged by a new multicultural identity. It is a painful time. We have to reflect on that because if you don't find a solution how to transform multiculturalism into inter-culturalism, you may create a climate of intolerance which may lead to war and to conflict.

Now as far as the Middle East is concerned, I will not speak too much about it because as a former member of the UN Commission of Inquiry I don't want to say anything that will divert from our report, which as you know we submitted just last month to the UN. But there are three challenges that I would like to put before you:

One challenge on which I think we, with our diverse opinions, can all agree is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is, in my view, one of the most sensitive, critical and complex challenges for the Middle East. As long as this conflict is not settled, by using the UN’s two-state solution (in which I am involved), for example, there will continue to be many problems.

The second challenge for the Middle East is for the Muslim countries of the Middle East to demonstrate through their practices the compatibility between Islam and human rights and democracy. It is my conviction – I am from Senegal where we have a very strong democracy with a long-established Sufi tradition – there is no incompatibility at all.

The failure of popular revolutions in the Arab-Muslim world in recent years, and the fact that they are now being marginalized and bombarded by military powers here and there, indicate that the issue is very important for the Middle East.

And the last issue is how the Middle East as a region can integrate this very important dimension: the issue of diversity of ethnicity but also diversity of religion. In the Middle East there is a Muslim majority but they have Christian, Jewish and other minorities. The issue is how the countries of the Middle East, using their tradition and values – spiritual values – can practice what is in the core of the Koran, accepting diversity, and especially diversity of religion and spiritual traditions.

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