Baku, Azerbaijan, May 6
It is very encouraging that people from all around the world have come together to discuss ways to advance the intercultural dialogue, Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, FAO Goodwill Ambassador Leyla Aliyeva said.
She made the remarks at the 2nd Plenary Session titled "Intercultural dialogue for food security and community resilience: Essential elements in achieving sustainable development and peace" of the 4th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue.
"Dialogue among cultures, people is only key to world peace and prosperity," she noted.
There is no acceptable alternative to such dialogue. The less dialogue and understanding we have, the more way there is for hate and ignorance, Aliyeva noted.
"For centuries, Azerbaijan has been a place for various cultures, religions and civilizations to merge. Throughout history, all people in Azerbaijan, be they Muslims, Jews or Christians have enjoyed peaceful co-existence. In fact, no one perceived or called it "intercultural dialogue". Interaction was simply a part of every day life in our country," he said.
Leyla Aliyeva went on to add that it is natural that Baku has become one of the centers for intercultural dialogue - a place, where people from all parts of the globe gather to make this world a better place.
"I am especially thrilled to address this plenary session, whose theme is of special significance to me as a FAO Goodwill Ambassador and as a passionate environmentalist," she said.
She went on to say that close link between food security, peace and sustainable development make this event a necessity nowadays.
"We all know that intercultural dialogue is an important counterforce against the global surge of racism and violence. However, its scope goes far beyond the promotion of ideas of tolerance and co-existence. Intercultural encounters also give birth to innovative ways to reach our common goals," Leyla Aliyeva said.
She noted that the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was a milestone event for the global community in its mission to ensure the well-being of both people and the planet.
"It is not a coincidence that the first two goals of the Agenda focus exactly on eradicating poverty and hunger. This reflects the common understanding that only by meeting these very goals we can build peaceful, inclusive and sustainable societies," she said.
She further said that it is heartbreaking and unnatural that, in the 21st century, 870 million people in the world still suffer from hunger and malnutrition – all at a time when more than a third of food is thrown away globally.
"Climate change is making the situation with global food security even more uncertain. At the same time, globalization has led to a loss of traditional knowledge and agricultural biodiversity. Overdependence on a few main crops is detrimental for our ecosystems, food diversity and health," she said.
"Throughout history, cultures and nations have developed countless ways of growing and cooking food. Preserving and sharing these traditions improves food security, strengthens community resilience, and contributes to sustainability and peace. Strengthening intercultural dialogue is, thus, essential for disseminating and preserving traditional agricultural knowledge. In other words, we must unite to make sure that the crops of the past become the crops of the future," Leyla Aliyeva said.
Sharing of food is in itself a form of cultural dialogue, she said.
"The culture of cuisine provides people with the opportunity to come closer together, overcome prejudices, and better understand various lifestyles," Aliyeva said.
She went on to say that it is time that the international community joins efforts in using food security and nutrition to improve cross-cultural relations and promote shared prosperity.
"In this connection, I welcome the event on Inter-Faith Celebration of Cultural Identity and Diversity through Food Security that FAO, UN Alliance of Civilizations and other partners will co-organize with the support of Azerbaijan at FAO Headquarters in October. This event has evolved from the Baku Process and will focus on the important role of food in spreading tolerance and bridging cultural differences," she said.
"Dear friends, when dealing with such universal issues as food security, environmental protection and sustainable development, no country or organization can do it alone. Dialogue is crucial in translating the global development agenda into action. With this in mind, we founded the International Dialogue for Environmental Action – IDEA in 2011," Aliyeva said further.
"Our intention was simple - to become a public platform and to ensure greener, safer and healthier future for the young generation. Our slogan speaks for itself – “One Earth, One Future”," she added.
Aliyeva went on to add that the scope of IDEA’s projects ranges from education and awareness-raising to conservation, fight against pollution and sustainable development.
"Over the past 5 years, our relatively young organization has been able to achieve remarkable results - we planted more than 5 million trees throughout the country, saved the endangered gazelle from extinction, and launched many other conservation projects. We try to approach all our projects in a creative and positive way," she said.
"Among our current initiatives are projects to save the Caucasian leopard and reintroduce the bison in the Caucasus. Also, in the context of our efforts to save the Caspian sturgeon, last year IDEA launched the multi-dimensional Kura river delta cleaning project. The aim of the project is to improve fish stocks, water quality and the overall ecology of riverside areas," Leyla Aliyeva said.
"I am also pleased to note that, several weeks ago, a joint project on establishing fruit gardens for low-income residents of Azerbaijan was launched in cooperation with FAO. This particular project will provide households in rural areas with land plots and fruit trees, the project will enable them to generate income in a sustainable way. I would like to thank the FAO Partnership and Liaison Office in Azerbaijan and its head Ms. Melek Cakmak for all their efforts and work they do," Aliyeva said.
"Regardless of our race, religion, traditions and beliefs, we all live on the same planet and have a common future. Environmental challenges know no borders. The harsh reality is that those human activities that violate the laws of nature can bring us to great global disasters. People should know the value of the treasures they hold before losing them completely," she said.
"I would like to recall a quote by a famous American director, producer and author Tom Shadyac: “Nothing in nature takes more than it needs. A redwood tree doesn’t take all of the soil’s nutrients, just what it needs to grow. A lion doesn’t kill every gazelle, just one. We have a term for something in the body when it takes more than its share. We call it cancer”," she said.
Aliyeva noted that everyone’s actions, lifestyles and habits have an impact on the environment in one way or another.
"And each human being can make a big positive change. Hence, everyone must do their part to ensure our common sustainable future," she said.
"Dear guests, I am hopeful that during your few days in Azerbaijan, you had a chance to taste our delicious cuisine, visit our cultural sights and interact with local people. I am confident that this experience will enhance your ability to appreciate the power of diversity," she added.
"Exposure to diversity and dialogue builds bridges of understanding between groups, which naturally helps to reduce conflict and tension. Such bridges are not built at official meetings or negotiations, but rather behind the scenes, during friendly and informal conversations, lunchtime meet-ups and coffee breaks. With this in mind, I encourage all of you to remain open to dialogue at all times," Leyla Aliyeva said.