In PHL difference sparks interest, never hostility

(An expanded version of a Philippine statement delivered by Ambassador Teddy Locsin Jr. on November 30, 2017 during the high-level meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement on Human Rights and Cultural Diversity at the United Nations Headquarters, New York.)

We, the Non-Aligned Movement, are gathered here today as an excellent example of a culturally diverse community able to work together; if not always in harmony, with unflagging dedication to attaining common goals.  Despite our differences – of nationality, race, religion and language – what we all share is the conviction of our shared humanity. A conviction without qualification; a commitment made without purpose of evasion. There are many ways to govern a country, Corazon Aquino said; but only one way to treat people: with decency. Never as mere means but each and everyone an end in herself, as Kant argued for all ages and places.

The conviction of our common humanity forms the basis of human rights which are universal, inalienable, indivisible, never to be compromised or sacrificed for a greater end impossible to conceive without deceiving ourselves.  Recognizing that, at the core, we are all the same, fosters solidarity and mutual respect, which leads to a culture of peace on precisely those terms of human equality, rights and dignity.

The Philippines’ strong support for cultural diversity and a culture of peace can be viewed within the context of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, which seeks to lay a stronger foundation for more inclusive growth, a high-trust, safe, diverse and resilient Filipino society, and a globally competitive knowledge economy. It springs from the Filipino belief that in diversity lies creativity; that variety is the spice and the enhancement of the flavor of living; and that uniformity leads only to stupidity and stagnation.

My country is made up of seven thousand islands with a hundred million Filipinos, comprised of 78 ethno-linguistic groups. Eighty percent are Catholic, 5 percent are Muslim, with the rest practicing indigenous and other religions.  We were colonized by the Spanish and the Americans, whose varying values which inform the culture of a majority naturally inclined to diversity. We received waves of migrants such as Chinese and Indians who have formed communities in our land; in the 20th century we readily took in those lucky to escape from half a century of European ideological and racial fury: immigrants fleeing continents of intolerance for the world’s few islands of tolerance.  We are as diverse as any country can be, indeed much more. We have no hate, no prejudices; we readily share what we have with those who carry next to nothing because they must run fast.

Under the current government, there are three priority areas in the cultural agenda: safeguarding our cultural heritage; achieving equity and inclusion in accessing cultural resources; and enhancing cultural assets from everywhere to encourage creativity and innovation for the enrichment of our nation.

The Philippines recognizes the importance of religion and faith-based organizations in creating an enabling environment for the Philippine peace process. Religious and faith-based groups in Mindanao are involved in preventing the escalation of violence in conflict areas as well as in expanding the constituency for peace. In partnership with Pakistan, for the last 13 years, the Philippines has tabled the General Assembly resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace.”

We are here as advocates for cultural diversity.  The Philippines together with other nations form a collective of societies with a worldview and the value proposition that serious dialogues across cultures can stop conflict and diffuse the tensions sometimes engendered by cultural diversity—though never in the Philippines where difference sparks interest and never hostility.

Our Movement represents an ideal, an identity and a theme that aspires for a world at peace through mutual respect, tolerance, even acceptance and therefore reconciliation.  As UN and NAM Member States, there should be no doubt in our solidarity to embrace diversity as a force for good and the generation of infinite possibilities of improvement.

Thank you.


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