The UN secretary-general’s message on the international day for tolerance
In 1995, when UNESCO proclaimed 16 November the annual International Day for Tolerance, it listed no fewer than 16 covenants, declarations, conventions and recommendations, all of them relating to the need for tolerance. All of them remain relevant today, and all of them have yet to be fully respected.
Our world today is confronted with war, terrorism, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, discrimination against minorities and migrants, and a multitude of other abuses against human beings. Globalization itself, while knitting our world together, can also lead to greater fear and turning inward. And with the terrible threats to the life of the planet growing, so does the potential for tensions leading to intolerance.
We know how to fight these threats. We know that our best tools are cultural diversity, the work for sustainable development, and education for tolerance and peace. We know that our most powerful safeguards are a vigorous civil society, attentive to human rights, and a free and responsible media.
But we also know that the fundamental agents for change are the States that sign up to international conventions and covenants. The policies that are put into place are their responsibility, even if the international community bears the heavy duty of helping them.
Today is an occasion to remind the leaders of States of their commitments and their obligations. The imperative to tolerance is very clear to all of us, but the will must be stronger. As we celebrate this International Day for Tolerance, let us remember that tomorrow our work will begin again.