Religious Leaders Gather at UN on Implementation of Action Plan to Prevent Genocide

15 February 2018

[Vienna, 15 February 2018] Another important step towards preventing incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity crimes was taken on 13-15 February, when more than one hundred and fifty religious leaders and actors from around the world, Member States and United Nations officials gathered in Vienna to discuss the implementation of the Plan of Action.

The Plan of Action, which was launched by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in July last year, is the outcome of a process which began in 2015, in Fez, Morocco, when the first consultation with religious leaders was held on their role in preventing incitement to violence.

The meeting started with a warm welcome from Ambassador Christine Stix-Hackl, the Austrian Ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, and opening remarks by senior officials from the organizing bodies - the United Nations, World Council of Churches, Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and KAICIID International Dialogue Centre.

In his remarks, Under Secretary-General Adama Dieng, the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, stated: “The Plan of Action is a pioneering document. It is the first to engage with religious leaders and actors to develop context specific strategies to prevent incitement that could lead to atrocity crimes.  I believe its implementation could contribute not only to the prevention of atrocity crimes but also to other key agendas of the United Nations that seek to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies, prevent violent extremism and promote the inclusion of women and youth”. 

The meeting focused on concrete measures to implement the Plan of Action at national and local levels. There was widespread agreement among participants that engaging youth and women must be a key focus if we are to prevent violence and promote peaceful, just and inclusive societies everywhere.

Commitments were made by many actors present to implement the Plan of Action through a variety of means, individually and working in partnership, building on existing initiatives and networks.  These commitments, which were made based on discussions along both thematic and regional lines, will be included in the outcome document.

Among the main points agreed during the meeting were the need to map existing initiatives that can contribute to implementing the Plan of Action; collaborate on the development of a Covenant for faith actors for the realization of the Plan of Action; develop capacity-building activities for religious leaders and actors; disseminate and share curricula for interreligious coexistence; and include youth and women in all activities.

The meeting also resulted in the development of the terms of reference of a Steering Committee that will be responsible for overseeing the implementation process.

Commenting on the Fez Process, the Secretary-General of KAICIID underlined that “If we are to seek positive and sustainable change, I think we need to deal with individuals, leaders and religious institutions to support policy makers in this area, and religious institutions should contribute to the implementation of results on the ground in their local communities,”

Mohamed El Sanoussi, the Director of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, stated that "Religion is being increasingly pulled into conflicts to fuel division and violence. No religion will survive healthy if their leaders don't resist and act against the incitement to hatred. It is not only humanity that is at stake. This is a question of the legacy of faiths." 

The Director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, Peter Prove added to this comment, stressing that “There is certainly no room for complacency in a context in which the extremist ideologies that gave rise to extremist groups continue to be promoted”.

The outcome of the meeting includes the establishment of a steering committee to oversee implementation of the Plan of Action and an outcome document, which will be made public.

For more information please contact: Simona Cruciani ([email protected], +1-917-367-5430)