UN General Assembly High Level Thematic Debate Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation: Fostering Peaceful, Inclusive Societies and Countering Violent Extremism

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Statement delivered by H.E. Jim McLay, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, 22 April 2015.

High Level debates in this Assembly are used frequently, and effectively, to focus global awareness on an issue of collective concern.

However, the amplification of this podium is not needed to remind us of the tragic results of violent extremism and terrorism – issues that dominate headlines and occupy our leaders around the world.

Instead, under the stewardship of you, Mr President, over the last two days, this debate has demonstrated something else about the value of this Assembly: That, as the one truly global forum, it can be a very practical, solutions-orientated tool.
It can allow us a forum to share ideas, local experiences and concrete solutions which really do make a difference.

Today I want to do two things –

  • To emphasise the important role the Alliance can and should have in countering violent extremism; and
  • articulate some of New Zealand’s initiatives to embrace diversity and build resilience in our own communities.

New Zealand welcomes the increasing international focus on countering violent extremism, or CVE.

Arising out of last year's resolution on foreign terrorist fighters, the Security Council is engaging with CVE more than ever before.

I will be speaking tomorrow in the Jordanian-sponsored debate on youth and violent extremism.

For his part, the Secretary-General will give the UN’s work a greater focus through a Plan of Action on preventing violent extremism.

Outside of the UN, initiatives to share best practice continue, including through the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum.

In this crowded landscape, the Alliance of Civilisations has established itself as the key multilateral and multi-stakeholder platform to promote dialogue and understanding between communities.

Indeed, the Alliance should be a central pillar of the evolving international framework on CVE.

To be truly relevant to our wider CVE work, the Alliance should develop specific work programmes based on building effective and enduring partnerships with communities and civil society.

New Zealand is conscious that a commitment to social cohesion and community resilience must start nationally.

At the heart of New Zealand’s diversity is a partnership with Māori as tangata whenua – New Zealanders indigenous peoples – our people of the land.

But our wider ethnic diversity continues to grow.

Almost one quarter of our population was born overseas, and New Zealand is recognised as one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the OECD.

Our approach to CVE reflects our celebration of diversity and understanding that our multicultural society is critical to our country’s long-term prosperity.

A key tenet of our CVE work is a commitment to social inclusion and community engagement.

It’s a whole-of-government exercise, where we identify and reduce local pressures that might set vulnerable individuals on a path to radicalisation and violent extremism.

New Zealand is proud of its third update to our Plan of Action to Support the Alliance of Civilisations, which implements practical initiatives.

For example, our Office of Ethnic Affairs is in the 10th year of a partnership with the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, on a project which counters Islamophobia, increases civic participation and fosters leadership among New Zealand’s Muslim communities.

This programme has included many activities, most recently a forum to discuss economic and social issues of concern to the Muslim community, and a project to promote youth leadership.

New Zealand also supports practical CVE initiatives in our South-East Asia region.

For example, New Zealand Police, in partnership with the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation – a regional centre of excellence on counter-terrorism - has provided courses on countering violence extremism through a policing model that prioritises community engagement and promotes social cohesion.

New Zealand looks forward to continuing to use the Alliance, and opportunities such as this, to share good practices and to hear experiences from other regions.

While our situations and the challenges our communities face are varied and different, we can always learn from each other.

Mr President –

This is the last time I will address this Assembly; so, can I take this a brief opportunity to thank my colleagues for their friendship.

Above all, can I wish you well as you continue to pursue the challenges facing this United Nations; and can I do so in Te Reo Māori, the language of New Zealand's indigenous Māori: “He nui maunga e kore e taea te whakaneke, he nui ngaru moana ma te ihu o te waka e wahi”; a great mountain cannot be moved, but a giant wave can be broken by the canoe’s prow.

Mr President –

Although the challenges facing our world might seem overwhelming, they can be overcome - because the giant wave of those problems can still be broken by the prow of a well-navigated and well-crewed canoe.


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