Preventing Antibiotic Resistance: Look to the Livestock Industry

Among the major drivers of the Antimicrobial Resistance crisis is the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in livestock and feed. Credit: Germán Miranda/IPS.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 21 2019 – Antimicrobial resistance is quickly becoming a global crisis and risks reversing a century of progress in health. Some organisations have already geared up and are tackling the issue from its roots.

In a new report, the United Nations Interagency Coordination Group (IACG) on Antimicrobial Resistance estimates that antibiotic resistance could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050.

Already, drug-resistant infections cause at least 700,000 deaths annually around the world.

“Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats we face as a global community,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General and Co-Chair of the IACG Amina Mohammed.

“[The report] rightly emphasises that there is no time to wait and I urge all stakeholders to act on its recommendations and work urgently to protect our people and planet and secure a sustainable future for all,” she added.

In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that antibiotic resistance was a “global crisis that we cannot ignore” and that if ignored, “will take us back to a time where people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery.”

According to the IACG report, approximately 35 percent of common human infections are already resistant to currently available medicines in some member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), while resistance rates are as high as 80 to 90 percent in some low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

The economic impact of antimicrobial resistance would also be catastrophic as healthcare expenditures will rise and sustainable food and feed production will increasingly be at risk.

The World Bank estimates that up to 24 million people could be forced into extreme poverty particularly in low-income countries, and the economic damage could be comparable to the shocks experienced during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

“The world is already feeling the economic and health consequences as crucial medicines become ineffective. Without investment from countries in all income brackets, future generations will face the disastrous impacts of uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance,” WHO said.

Among the major drivers of the crisis is the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in livestock and feed.

Though WHO has recommended that the food industry stop using antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease, nearly three-quarters of the total use of antibiotics worldwide is still used on animals, greatly impacting the health of consumers.

According to the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics, livestock raised for food in the United States are given five times more antibiotics as farm animals in the United Kingdom. In the case of cattle, the difference in dosage rates may be as high as 16 times the rate of dosage per cow in the UK.

As a result, Europe banned the import of American hormone-treated beef.

In Bangladesh, a study found a range of antibiotics in almost 50 percent of poultry feed samples across 14 brands from four districts. The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council also noted that the levels of antibiotics were far above the levels acceptable to human health.

Among such antibiotics was Oxytetracycline, which is often used to treat chest infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Another review found a high prevalence of antimicrobial resistance in Bangladesh, partially due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, including in the livestock sector.

As Bangladesh’s livestock sector is only expected to grow, with plans to export poultry in coming years, sustainable livestock management is necessary in managing growing antibiotic resistance regionally and globally.

One organisation hopes to do just that.

After graduating from Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Salma Sultana saw a shortage of trained veterinarians and farmers resorting to untrained doctors who are most often behind the widespread misuse of antibiotics and thus the frequent death of livestock and rise in antimicrobial resistance.

In 2015, she founded the Model Livestock Advancement Foundation (MLAF) near Dhaka whose vision includes “to have a livestock sector that is sustainable, commercial, and contributing to livelihood, employment, national income, and food security.”

This includes the training and provision of modern and evidence-based animal health services as well as the prevention of antimicrobial resistance.

MLAF is the only educational, research, and animal healthcare voluntary organisation in Bangladesh and has since produced 45 veterinary service providers and 500 livestock entrepreneurs while providing health support to over 5,000 livestock herders.

The organisation has been recognised for its work as it was most recently awarded with the International Arch of Europe Award for Quality and Technology in 2018 and the Joy Bangla Youth Award in 2017 for its contribution to youth training and development.

As the Lancet Planetary Health found that interventions that restrict antibiotic use in food-producing animals reduce antibiotic-resistant bacteria in such animals by up to 39 percent, the work of organisations like MLAF is therefore crucial in the fight to keep the planet and its populations healthy and safe.

Public-Private Partnerships Fad Fails

After the failure and abuses of privatization became apparent, public-private partnerships have since been promoted ostensibly to mobilize private finance for the public purpose. In all too many cases, PPPs have socialized costs and losses while ensuring private financial gains.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, May 21 2019 – After the failure and abuses of privatization and contracting-out services from the 1980s, there has been renewed appreciation for the role of the state or government. Earlier promoters of privatization have taken a step backward, only to take two more forward to instead promote public-private partnerships (PPPs).

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

PPPs for most purposes
PPPs are essentially long-term contracts, underwritten by government guarantees, with which the private sector builds (and sometimes runs) major infrastructure projects or services traditionally provided by the state, such as hospitals, schools, roads, railways, water, sanitation and energy.

PPPs are promoted by many governments associated with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and some multilateral development banks – especially the World Bank – as the solution to the financing shortfall needed to achieve development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Since the late 1990s, many countries have embraced PPPs in many areas ranging from healthcare and education to transport and infrastructure – with mixed consequences. They were less common in developing countries, but that is changing rapidly, with many countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa now introducing enabling legislation and initiating PPP projects.

PPPs are now an increasingly popular means to finance mega-infrastructure projects, but dams, highways, large plantations, pipelines and energy or transport infrastructure can ruin habitats, displace communities and devastate natural resources. Typically, social and environmental legislation is weakened or circumscribed to attract investors for PPPs.

There are also a growing number of ‘dirty’ energy PPPs, devastating the environment, undermining progressive environmental conservation efforts and exacerbating climate change. PPPs have also led to forced displacement, repression and other abuses of local communities, indigenous peoples, displaced farmers and labourers among others.

PPP financing more public than private
Nevertheless, experiences with PPPs have been largely, although not exclusively, negative, and very few PPPs have delivered results in the public interest. There has been some supposed success with infrastructure PPPs, mainly due to financing arrangements. Generally, PPPs for hospitals and schools have much poorer records compared to infrastructure.

One can have good financing arrangements, due to preferential interest rates, for a poor PPP project. Nevertheless, private finance all over the world still accounts for a small share of infrastructure financing. However, good financing arrangements will not make a bad PPP project any better.

PPPs typically involve public financing for developing countries to attract bids from influential private companies, often from abroad. ‘Blended finance’, export financing and new supposed aid arrangements have become means for foreign governments to support powerful corporations bidding for PPP contracts abroad, especially in developing countries. Incredibly, such arrangements are increasingly counted as overseas development assistance, as North-South, South-South or triangular development cooperation.

Like privatization, PPPs often increase fees or charges for users. PPP contracts often undermine the public interest in other ways, with generous host government incentives and other privileges, often compromising and undermining the state’s obligation to regulate in the public interest. PPPs can limit government capacity to enact new legislation and other policies – such as strengthened environmental or social regulations – that might adversely affect or constrain investor interests.

PPPs – public pain, private gain?
PPP contracts are typically complex. Negotiations are subject to commercial confidentiality, making it hard for civil society and parliamentarians to provide checks and balances in the public and national interest. Such limited transparency significantly increases the likelihood of corruption and undermines democratic accountability.

It is important to establish the circumstances required to achieve efficiency gains and to recognize the longer-term fiscal implications of PPP-related contingent liabilities. Shifting public debt to government guaranteed debt does not really reduce government debt liabilities, but obscures accountability as it is taken off-budget and is no longer subject to parliamentary, let alone public scrutiny.

Hence, PPPs are more likely to be abused because they are typically ‘off balance sheet’ so that they do not show up as government debt, giving the illusion of ‘easy money’ or credit. Despite claims to the contrary, PPPs are typically riskier for governments than for the private companies involved, as the government may be required to step in to assume costs and liabilities if things go wrong.

PPPs also undermine democracy and national sovereignty as such contracts tend not to be transparent and subject to unaccountable international adjudication — due to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) commitments — rather than national or international courts. Under World Bank-proposed PPP contracts, for example, national governments can even be liable for losses due to strikes by workers.

Government procurement
One alternative, of course, is government or public procurement. In many instances, PPPs have become the most expensive financing option and much less cost-effective than transparent competitive government procurement. They cost governments significantly more in the long run than if the government procures on an open competitive basis, or if projects are directly financed by government borrowings.

Generally, PPPs are much more expensive than government procurement despite government subsidized credit. However, with a competent government doing good work, government procurement can be efficient and low cost.

With a competent government and accountable consultants, efficient government procurement has generally proved far more cost-effective than PPP alternatives. It is therefore important to establish when and why meaningful gains can be achieved through PPPs, and when these are unlikely.

Rohingya Repatriation: Many twists and turns but no solution in sight yet

Amir Ali, a Rohingya violinist who was a member of a wedding band of the northern Rakhine State of Myanmar, attends a weekly prayer event to play the violin at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, March 7, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS/MOHAMMAD PONIR HOSSAIN

By Mohammad Zaman
May 21 2019 (IPS-Partners)

There are over a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, including the latest batch of 800,000 that came after August 25, 2017 and the 250,000 that arrived since the first exodus of mid-1990s. As Myanmar nationals, the Rohingya Muslims have historically faced ethnic and religious persecutions, culminating in 2017 in a fierce, protracted genocidal campaign by the Myanmar army against its own people. The military launched a violent crackdown leading to arbitrary killings of Rohingyas, including children and the elderly, gang rapes of women, inhuman torture, and razing of village after village that forced all those people to seek shelter in Bangladesh, unleashing a humanitarian crisis unprecedented in recent history.

In the last two years, there have been many twists and turns concerning the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees to their homeland. For instance, first, the agreement signed in November 2017 for repatriation did not work due to the unwillingness of the Myanmar government to recognise the rights and citizenship of the Rohingya Muslims. Second, Myanmar imposed an unfair screening and verification process to eliminate the so-called illegal Bengali Rohingyas from the list of returnees. Third, in November 2018, a much-publicised repatriation bid for some 2,000 families was stalled after the refugees refused to return for fear of fresh persecutions and confinement in the newly-built camps across the border in Rakhine State. The repatriation bid was later abandoned and rescheduled for 2019. Fourth, the planned relocation of 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhasan Char appears to have met with scepticism as there are no voluntary takers among the refugees for such a remote home on an island char. Finally, according to an UN official, the repatriation plan is now at a “total standstill.”

With no plausible solution to the refugee crisis in sight, there are growing concerns in Dhaka and among the host communities in Cox’s Bazar, who have been severely impacted by the presence of such a large number of outsiders in their neighbourhoods. There is an equally increasing disquiet among government officials at different levels about the future of the refugee situation. The challenge is to find the right balance between the official rhetoric calling for a speedy return of the Rohingyas and any long-term plans for them in Cox’s Bazar camps, supported largely by external aid and assistance. The ongoing initiatives for more durable houses, improved roads, solar street lamps, training and employment for women, markets/shops within the camps, and finally provisions for schools for the kids are all indications of a much longer—or even permanent—stay. Given the continued military atrocities against the Rohingyas inside Myanmar, the refugees in Cox’s Bazar are not going back to Myanmar any time soon. Aid workers, diplomats and humanitarian agencies working on long-term plans for improving camp conditions would not, however, publicly state this for fear of contradicting the official position.

At this point, despite constant diplomatic efforts by the government, there seems to be no hope for an immediate repatriation. Indeed, the Myanmar government seems least interested in the resolution of the crisis. The “clearance operation” is already done; the Myanmar military is sticking to their lies and deceptions, unwilling to give in to any demands of the international community. Even the strategy to send back the refugees to so-called designated “safe zones” inside Myanmar is not getting any ground; but if it does happen, which is unlikely, it will be tantamount to sending them to concentration camps and robbing them of their future rights and citizenships—which are their primary demands. There cannot be any safe zones in Myanmar unless the perpetrators of the Rohingya crisis, including the military generals, who committed crimes against humanity and genocide, are brought to justice.

The current scenario does not provide any sense of hope or relief for any returnees in Myanmar nor those stranded in camps in Bangladesh. The refugees are not allowed to work (although many sneak out to work); they can’t leave the camp, open a bank account, and have a mobile phone (due to security reasons, although many have bought phones from local Bengalis who can have multiple phones); and children can’t attend any Bengali school, which may lead, it is believed, to social and cultural integration. The present dense living conditions, poor quality of water and inadequate vaccination have left Rohingya refugees prone to many contagious diseases. As a result, both the refugees and the host communities in Cox’s Bazar are reportedly vulnerable to serious health risks.

Meanwhile, the host communities are also becoming apprehensive of the long-term presence of the refugees and thus slowly turning hostile towards them. The concern is equally evident in Dhaka. At a recent meeting, leading economists and policy analysts have rejected the idea of providing the refugees with access to the local labour market; instead, they recommended their quick repatriation to ease pressures on Bangladesh because their presence has already posed serious threats to the local environment and population. Thus, any plan for a long-term stay or opening the door for resettlement and integration would lead to conflicts with local communities and raise a range of security issues for Bangladesh. A Rohingya diaspora in Bangladesh also means a second-class status of the Rohingyas and extinction of their cultures. Many refugees don’t want this to happen. They want to return to their homes and re-establish their life on their ancestral lands with dignity and full rights as Myanmar nationals.

The Rohingya crisis has not run its course yet. Bangladesh government should continue to pursue voluntary, safe, and dignified repatriation of the Rohingyas to Myanmar. Since the UN finds the situation to be at a “total standstill”, Bangladesh should look elsewhere and closely work with India and China for an acceptable resolution. India has not been friendly to the Rohingyas and never supported Bangladesh in any international forum to solve the protracted Rohingya crisis. Myanmar seems more important to India than Bangladesh due to India’s economic and geopolitical interests. China has a strong grip on Myanmar at various levels, including the government and the military establishments. Bangladesh must seriously engage both China and India to find a resolution for a dignified return of the refugees. Until this happens, the crisis will continue and bring miseries to the refugee population as well as the host communities.

Mohammad Zaman is an international development/resettlement specialist and advisory professor at the National Research Centre for Resettlement (NRCR), Hohai University, Nanjing, China.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

Partnerships to Promote Equality for LGBTI People

Credit: UNDP Dominican Republic

By Inka Mattila
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, May 21 2019 – As states and civil society organizations are increasingly acting to address stigma, discrimination and human rights violations targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, dialogues and alliances jointly tackle these challenges.

The United Nations Development Programme´s (UNDP) motivation to work in promotion of these types of initiatives is based on the principle of the 2030 Agenda; to listen to those unheard voices and reach those furthest left behind.

In the Dominican Republic, the UNDP in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) hosted recently a National LGBTI Dialogue with the presence of participants from government institutions, congress representatives, civil society organizations, UN agencies, religious leaders, academia, private sector, media, international organizations, embassies and LGBTI activists, who, for two days, discussed how to promote public policies and private sector initiatives that advance the social and economic inclusion of LGBTI persons within the framework of the 2030 Agenda and its fundamental commitment to leave no one behind.

Unlike other countries in the region and elsewhere, the Dominican Republic does not penalize same-sex relations between adults. The country’s Constitution guarantees the principle of non-discrimination irrespective of “any condition” and protects the right to free development of personality.

To date six laws include in the right to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and law the category of gender identity.

During the dialogue, the Dominican Government presented its efforts in reducing discrimination against LGBTI persons in response to HIV through the National Council for HIV and AIDS (CONAVIHSIDA), as well as specific actions to promote the equality of LGBTI persons in its National Human Rights Plan, the National Plan of Gender Equality, as well as initiatives of the Ministry of Labor, the Attorney General’s Office, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health.

Inka Mattila, Resident Representative UNDP Dominican Republic

Nonetheless, there are still many challenges, some of them are to ban discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity by the penal code and the labor code. Greater efforts are needed to guarantee equal opportunities in access to employment, health, higher education, justice and poverty reduction.

Globally, sexual and gender minorities are often among the most marginalized and, as such, require specific inclusion and attention in order to drive forward the vision of the SDGs.

The National Dialogue in the Dominican Republic was the result of many years of mobilization by organizations of the LGBTI civil society organization that took advantage of the dialogue to have closer contact with government institutions and other relevant actors.

The recommendations stemming from the Dialogue include an anti-discrimination law that effectively puts into place article 39 (“Right to equal treatment”) of the Dominican Constitution; including the crime of aggravated homicide and torture, due to hate crimes, in the national Criminal Code; a Gender Identity law guaranteeing trans people to right to change their name, image, sex/gender in their identity documents in accordance with their gender identity.; and working towards the elimination of stigma and discrimination on the fulfilment of health, education, security, employment and access to justice rights.

The results of this initiative are to be captured in the first “Being LGBTI in the Dominican Republic” report, a document with first-hand information on the human rights situation of LGBTI people in the country, together with the results of the first National LGBTI Survey, and a regional Intersex Report what documents the realities of this group across four Caribbean countries.

Up to now, there has been a serious gap in the data available to capture the lived realities of LGBT people, and these reports and the survey will help to reflect those realities that are often rendered invisible.

Much work remains to be done, but government institutions and congress representatives have shown the much-needed political will to defend the fundamental human rights of LGBTI persons, essential to guarantee a more just and inclusive Dominican Republic.

At the same time, a survey conducted in 2015 by the UNDP, United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA and the Ministry of Education showed that 80% of female students and 72% of male students expressed respect for people with different sexual orientations than their own, signaling that young Dominicans are in favor of respecting the rights and freedoms LGBTI people.

Now the Dominican Republic has the unique opportunity to set precedence in the advancement of LGBTI human rights and public policies, that could serve as example and lead the agenda in the region.

The LGBTI Dialogue has shown that an all of Government response is needed, we need to develop action plans; set up consultative forums that include LGBTI people and work with civil society partners to tear down the barriers that exclude LGBTI people from the benefits of the 2030 development agenda.

To attain sustainable development, the global community must guarantee everyone, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status, a safe space to learn and grow; when individuals are welcome at home, work and within their communities; when people feel safe, respected, loved and free, nations as a whole win.

Footnote: *On May 17, the United Nations commemorated the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia or Transphobia. In a joint statement, the heads of the UN departments of political affairs, peacekeeping, operational support and management said the Day “is an opportunity to reiterate our continuing commitment to build a more inclusive work environment free of harassment and discrimination, including for those who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI).”

“We need to move beyond mere tolerance and towards empathy to truly celebrate cultural diversity,” says the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre

By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, May 21 2019 (IPS-Partners)

On the occasion of the 2019 World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, commemorated annually on 21 May, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, calls for the celebration of cultural diversity which is a common heritage.

This is all the more vital as the world today is witnessing a rise of exclusionary politics and a vociferous repetition of discourses of division. “As a consequence, diversity is being rejected as an alleged source of weakness. Exclusion and marginalization of people as witnessed in several countries – Ambassador Jazairy noted – fuel xenophobia, bigotry and racism.” Proliferation of crises and conflict have the potential to divide societies and to foster hatred, intolerance and animosity between peoples on account of cultural and religious origins.

Moreover, lack of perspectives for the future, dignity deficits, governance failures, lack of democratic participation, accountability and transparency has led individuals and groups to seek shelter in tribal sub-identities, made intolerance and extremism their leitmotiv.

In such a context, tolerance must be more than indifference and the passive acceptance of others. Tolerance needs to be considered as an act of liberation, in which the differences of others are accepted as the same as our own. Although all cultures have some specificities, which is precisely part of their richness, humanity in the 21st century is bound even closer together.

In this regard, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre stressed the importance of identifying inspiring ideals to foster unity in diversity. “Tolerance is not an end in itself, it is a path that leads to empathy. And the latter is the true gateway to peace” said Ambassador Jazairy. Indeed, hospitality and empathy have something to offer, as they both have the element of moving beyond our comfort zone into the life of the other.

Global decision-makers and religious leaders have both a crucial role to play to denounce and bring an end to practices that hinder the celebration of cultural diversity. “Without tolerance and mutual understanding, no partnerships among cultures and religions is possible. Establishing such partnerships requires dialogue and concrete actions, which should be based upon respect for and knowledge about each other”, the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre stated.

In this connection, Ambassador Jazairy referred to the World Conference Outcome Declaration on “Moving Towards Greater Spiritual Convergence Worldwide in Support of Equal Citizenship Rights” adopted as an outcome to the 25 June World Conference on “Religions, Creeds and Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights” held under the Patronage of HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and which received the full support of the UN Secretary-General. “The Declaration gives concrete expression to the ideal of restoring the reality of the aspirations for a world living in peace and harmony and to harness unity through the celebration of diversity,” the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre said

Ambassador Jazairy likewise commended the “Joint Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” adopted by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyib and His Holiness Pope Francis, during the latter’s historical visit to the United Arab Emirates on 4 February this year. He said that the Joint Document shares the fundamental principles and values contained in the World Conference Outcome Declaration which celebrates diversity, a culture of fraternity and empathy towards the Other.

He also referred to the recent resolution adopted at the Fifth World Forum for Intercultural Dialogue held in Baku, Azerbaijan from 1-3 May, expressing support to the World Conference Outcome Declaration and the Joint Document on Human Fraternity. This growing consensus – he added – will find further support in the forthcoming conference to be held on 19 June in Vienna on the theme of “From Interfaith, Inter-Civilizational Cooperation to Human Solidarity” by the Baku International Centre for Interreligious and Inter-Civilizational Cooperation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the KAICIID Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue Centre and the Geneva Centre.

Executive Director of the Geneva Centre: Education constitutes an important building block to counter violent extremist narratives

By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, May 21 2019 (IPS-Partners)

Equal access to education can open vital spaces for inclusiveness, reconciliation and dialogue as well as address prevailing toxic narratives fuelling violent and extremist ideologies, said the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Ambassador Idriss Jazairy at a conference organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The conference entitled “Promoting Peace Together” was held on 21 May at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. The event focused on two historic documents related to peace-making, namely the document on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” jointly signed by HH Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar His Eminence Ahmad Al-Tayib in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on 4 February 2019, and ‘Education for Peace, in a Multi-Religious World: A Christian Perspective’ which was officially launched at the end of the present event by the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID).

The Executive Director of the Geneva Centre served as a panellist at the session on “Education for Peace in a Multi-Religious World” and delivered a statement on the role of education in countering extremist narratives. The panel was composed of the following high-level experts: (i) Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, Bureau Chief for Islam and Secretary of the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims, PCID; (ii) Dr Clare Amos, Honorary Director of Lay Discipleship in the Diocese in Europe, Anglican Communion; (iii) HE Archbishop Professor Dr Job of Telmessos, Ecumenical Patriarchate – Permanent Delegation of the WCC, and Dean of the Institute of Postgraduate Studies of Orthodox Theology in Chambésy, and; (iv) Ms Maria Lucia Uribe, Director Arigatou International Geneva.

At the opening ceremony, which was also attended by the Deputy Permanent Representative of the UAE to UN in Geneva HE Aalya Al-Shehhi, the General Secretary of the WCC Reverend Dr Olav Fykse Tveit and the Secretary of the PCID, HE Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, in addition to the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre Ambassador Jazairy, paid tribute to the UAE for hosting a meeting between HH Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.

The moderator of the conference Ms Anne Glynn-Mackoul, WCC Executive Committee member and Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (USA), felt that the document on Human Fraternity was of comparable importance with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Deputy Permanent Representative of the UAE stated that the Joint Document on Human Fraternity and WCC’s and PCID’s joint document on “Education for Peace, in a Multi-Religious World: A Christian Perspective” expressed the importance of fraternity, peaceful co-existence between peoples of different religions and cultures and the need to promote world peace. She stated that these two documents mark the era of a new chapter in Muslim-Christian dialogue and highlighted that the UAE was proud to have hosted the historical meeting of 4 February 2019.

In his statement, Ambassador Jazairy highlighted the need to address ominous threats and divisive narratives descending on modern societies in Arab and Western societies alike. The rise of violent extremism on the one hand and of militant forms of nationalism and populism on the other represent a threat to multicultural societies, human well-being as well as world peace and stability.

Of great concern is of course the exposure of frustrated or marginalised youth to terrorist and violent extremist groups. They lack religious or ideological awareness and fall easy prey to evil manipulations,” the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre underlined.

In times of community fragmentation, equal access to education – he said – provides “fertile ground to sow and grow, in the minds of the upcoming generations, the seeds of human rights and of equal citizenship rights. It instils a sense of solidarity and builds resilience among youths to address divisive and xenophobic narratives.”

Ambassador Jazairy highlighted the importance of providing supportive settings and safe learning environments fostering social inclusion, inclusiveness, empathy and equal citizenship rights. “This will help to promote the immunity of youths against the rise of extremist forces and the devastating impact of hate speech,” he highlighted.

The Executive Director of the Geneva Centre likewise stated that religious authorities and lay leaders of different faiths and cultures have a responsibility to correct the unscrupulous misrepresentations of the values and beliefs. “Religious leaders can play an important role in providing counselling to address radicalist thoughts and to promote the values of tolerance, coexistence and dialogue. Abrahamic religions have 90% theological similarities and only 10% differences. Let all people of good will become more aware of commonalities and express tolerance if not empathy for the 10% diversity margin,” he said.

In conclusion, Ambassador Jazairy paid tribute to the inspiring role of the United Arab Emirates in hosting the historic meeting of 4 February 2019 between HH Pope Francis and His Eminence Ahmad Al-Tayib.

He referred to the Joint Document on Human Fraternity signed on this occasion as well as to the Outcome Declaration on “Moving Towards Greater Spiritual Convergence Worldwide in Support of Equal Citizenship Rights” adopted as an outcome to the 25 June 2018 World Conference on religions and equal citizenship rights and the Geneva Centre’s publication on “Human Rights: Enhancing Equal Citizenship Rights in Education“ that were three important starting-points to enhance the role of education in addressing violent extremism, intolerance and social exclusion. “Through such inspiring texts, one can restore and spread a culture of tolerance and peace,” he concluded.