I delivered this statement, as usual the shortest, at the UN Alliance of Civilizations Group of Friends Meeting (PR-Level) on the theme of “Preventing Violent Extremism and Sustaining Peace” on April 3, 2018 at the Economic and Social Council, which is the UN’s central platform for reflection, debate, and innovative thinking on sustainable development.
“Excellencies. We The Group of Friends of the UN Alliance of Civilizations share a goal and an aspiration: the goal of defeating the forces that undermine civilization in its most basic sense—decency regardless of cultural expression. And the aspiration to sustain civilization in the sense of decency by combating violent extremism, which feeds on itself and is the avowed enemy of civilization in any sense of the word. Not surprisingly, the first thing extremists do, after indulging in the most bestial acts of inhumanity, is destroy famous landmarks of civilization: the giant Buddha in Afghanistan, the ancient monuments of human achievement in Syria and Iraq.
“Our theme, “Preventing Violent Extremism and Sustaining Peace,” highlights the urgency for Member States to pursue individual and collective measures, as well as complex and diverse approaches—best suited to varied circumstances—to defeat violent extremism. It must never be accommodated. It has no place in the world.
“Since the beginning of the 21st Century, there has been more than a nine-fold increase in the number of casualties from violent extremism.1 More than 40 countries have experienced at least one attack.2 It does not temper the outrageousness of the situation that more deaths happen in bathrooms and from drunk driving as we are repeatedly told. That is comparing pineapples and grenades.
“In July 2016, the General Assembly adopted the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism which recognized that “violent extremism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.” However, it would be foolhardy to ignore that religion, nationalism, twisted history, and false notions of ethnicity—as matters of pride or contempt—are exploited as vile excuses to destroy civilization defined as the decent behavior of mankind.
“The Duterte administration’s Plan of Action rightly connects violent extremism and the most egregious criminal activities known to man: violent extremism and drug and human trafficking. These are today’s trinity of evil. The Plan treats them all holistically, which is to say with unflagging tenacity on all three fronts simultaneously to stop any one from helping the other two. We will not waste time, resources and energy trying to understand violent extremism except to discover the weaknesses whereby it can be defeated. It is the simplest thing imaginable: pure evil with no excuse or good reason.
“The Philippines and Pakistan have repeatedly urged interreligious and intercultural dialogue precisely to address, through intellectual exchanges, the vile misuse of religion and culture to destroy true civilization, which is best attained and sustained by the rich diversity of religious, political and cultural expressions. Diversity does not divide or destroy civilization but enriches it. It was Alexander the Great who put the smile on the Bactrian Buddha’s face, said Malraux on “Voix du Silence.”
“Excellencies. Allow me to present the recommendations of the Philippines:
- “We should support the development of a broader political plan for the conduct of military operations against extremist groups. Lacking such a plan will only worsen the chaos that extremism first creates and then feeds on. True, there is no one-size-fits-all approach; but it cannot be overemphasized that, once identified and clearly demarcated, there is only one rational and effective response to violent extremism. Capitulation is never an option.
- “Programs and activities to prevent violent extremism and sustain peace must NOT include what is wrongly called the root-causes of violent extremism. Wrongly because violent extremism is the human inclination to do harm and the intense satisfaction of doing it—when you can get away with it. True, there are circumstances in which extremism flourishes once it breaks out and is not suppressed immediately. These are injustice, inequality, exclusion, and the sense of helplessness. But none of these directly produce violent extremism. Indeed, when violent extremism is accepted as somehow justified by these factors, then men lose all prudential sense and patience. They turn to violence to avenge grievances, while demanding an instant redress that is impossible to achieve in the chaos they create. Civilization is about order or it does not exist.
- “We must strengthen the first-responder capacity of local governments in delivering essential public services and providing public safety. It helps if we can foster that trust—in community and institutions—without which the public patience essential to reform is lost, and revenge takes its place; not as solution but as satisfaction.
- “We should continue to push for women empowerment and youth engagement. Women are instruments of peace; and the uninstructed youth are easily enticed by men to war.
- “We must work with faith-based organizations and religious leaders to stop the misuse of faith for its diametrical opposite: the violence that compels obedience but never belief through love and wonder.”
I was the third speaker. The panel dealt at tremendous length with administrative matters; followed by statements from the floor; to wit, particular aspects of the program of activities announced by the chef de cabinet along with the announcement about some problem with holding a conference.