Kofi Annan warns that increasing sectarian conflict in Syria risks entrenching crisis and sparking regional spillover

Former UN Secretary-General highlights critical challenge of managing pluralism in a globalised world

OTTAWA, May 23, 2013 /CNW/ - Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will today warn that the crisis in Syria risks becoming more entrenched, and may potentially explode beyond the country's borders, as a result of its increasingly sectarian nature.

Delivering the annual lecture at the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa, Mr Annan will say that a combination of regional interests, proxy wars, and the paralysis of international decision-making in Syria has created "a truly poisonous mix" that is potentially devastating for the country and the wider region. He will call upon the international community to unite to halt the violence and suffering in Syria, and to find a solution through mediation and dialogue.

Mr Annan will say: "Syria, unlike Libya, has not imploded. If anything, it is likely to explode, and explode beyond its own borders…It is imperative that the international community unites behind a plan to create new political arrangements that will be fairer, more tolerant and more accountable. Only with such unity can we hope to bring a halt to two years of violence and suffering."

Mr Annan will emphasise how the rapid and united intervention of the international community in Kenya was instrumental in the country to pull itself back from "the brink of the abyss" after the eruption of sectarian violence in the wake of the 2007 presidential election. This intervention helped to establish the foundations for wide-ranging reforms, including a new constitution and bill of rights, and the healing of deep societal divisions.

In his lecture, Mr Annan highlights the critical role that all countries must play in managing pluralism and diversity to deliver peace, security and prosperity in the 21st century. He outlines how diversity is a key source of strength for societies in a globalised world, helping them to become healthier, more stable and more prosperous.

To manage pluralism successfully, Mr Annan outlines the need for governments to:

  • Ensure that equal weight is given to the three pillars of peace and security; development; and the rule of law and respect for human rights
  • Create the right institutions and policies to manage diversity and prevent communities from becoming marginalised and oppressed
  • Educate citizens to foster mutual respect and tolerance
  • Promote dialogue to combat fear, intolerance and extremism

Mr Annan will say: "My long experience has taught me that, whatever our background, what unites us is far greater than what divides us….We have to learn from each other, making our different traditions and cultures a source of harmony and strength, not discord and weakness."

Mr Annan warns that a failure to manage pluralism and diversity can create a real risk of increasing social tension and division. This can lead to violence and conflict and, in the most extreme cases, even genocide or ethnic cleansing.

Mr Annan welcomes the role the Global Centre for Pluralism is playing in developing policy advice for countries facing the challenge of governing pluralistic societies. He also praises His Highness the Aga Khan and the Government of Canada for their vision and generosity in creating the institution.

The lecture will be live-streamed at 6.30pm EST. Please see the website of the Global Centre for Pluralism www.pluralism.ca for further details

For a full copy of Mr Annan's lecture at the Global Centre for Pluralism, please visit www.kofiannanfoundation.org

Notes to Editors

Kofi Annan served two terms, from 1997 to 2006, as UN Secretary-General. In 2001, Annan and the United Nations were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Since leaving the United Nations, Kofi Annan has established a Foundation which aims to promote better global governance and strengthen the capacities of people and countries to achieve a fairer and more secure world.  To advance this mission, the Foundation has developed programmes and partnerships in three main focus areas: (i) Peace and Security; (ii) Sustainable Development; and (iii) Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

For more information, please go to www.kofiannanfoundation.org
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SOURCE: Kofi Annan Foundation

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