Discorso pronunciato dall’Ambasciatrice Mariangela Zappia, Rappresentante Permanente dell’Italia presso le Nazioni Unite, al Lancio da parte del Segretario Generale del Piano d’Azione sulla Salvaguardia dei Siti Religiosi —
Mr. Secretary-General, I wish to warmly welcome today’s launch of the United Nations Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the tireless work carried out by the UN Alliance of Civilizations and by the High Representative Miguel Moratinos in fostering intercultural dialogue, understanding, cooperation and a culture of tolerance;
Italy has been at the forefront of the efforts aimed at safeguarding freedom of religion or belief around the world and at supporting the role of religious leaders as promoters of peace and dialogue among nations. It is a cornerstone of our approach to the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms;
Attacks against religious sites foment hatred among communities and between generations. The recent increase in violent extremism, ethnic and religious discrimination, and attacks directed against religious sites and religious minorities around the world, is of utmost concern to Italy;
We have been strong proponents of a renewed action by the international community in defense of cultural and religious heritage – especially in conflicts or crises zones. Let me recall some recent initiatives undertaken by Italy in this regard:
– we have been at the forefront of UNESCO’s global campaign “Unite4Heritage” and in 2016 we established with UNESCO the world’s first emergency task force for culture, the “Blue Helmets” for Culture;
– our Carabinieri Corps, with a specialized Task Force for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, provide training to international and regional forces;
– finally, in 2017 we were co-promoters, together with France, of Security Council Resolution 2347, the first of its kind adopted by the Security Council to highlight the link between protection of cultural and religious heritage and international security.
Italy fully subscribes to the four pillars that constitute the Plan of Action, that Mr. Moratinos had to opportunity to discuss with Italian authorities in a recent visit last May in Rome. Prevention; education; the fight against hate speech, including online; and the involvement of civil society, faith-based and youth organisations in developing strategies to prevent violent extremism against religious sites.
Furthermore, I am proud that there is strong legislation in Italy place that covers the scope of the Plan of Action a number of the recommendations outlined today are already in place. Among them, we have established an ad-hoc Observatory on religious minorities and freedom of belief which – with the expertise of civil society and faith-based organizations – monitors the respect of the freedom of religion or belief and can formulate recommendations to Government and Parliament;
Rest assured, Mr Sectretary General, that you can count on Italy’s strong support to implement and promote the present Plan of Action.