13 Nov : UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the International Day for Tolerance, to be observed on 16 November:
Tolerance provides the basis for mutual understanding and respect. It is an approach to life that allows for the rich diversity of the world’s cultures to flourish. It is also a cornerstone of our efforts to promote global harmony. As stated in the 1995 UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, tolerance is “the virtue that makes peace possible [and] contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace”.
The promotion of tolerance is particularly important in today’s era of rapidly increasing globalization, mobility and interdependence. While diversity is an invaluable asset, it can also be a source of tension. Tolerance can defuse potential conflicts. It can help prevent theories of racial or cultural superiority from emerging, and help societies to gradually overcome long-held prejudices and negative stereotypes.
Tolerance should not be mistaken for concession or condescension. Genuine tolerance is about openness, curiosity and communication. It goes hand in hand with knowledge and understanding. Education is one of the best ways to prevent intolerance, by revealing similarities between people and spreading a healthy respect for differences.
Nor should tolerance be confused with indifference. Being tolerant does not mean being passive in the face of racism, xenophobia and exclusion, or silent when minorities, refugees, migrant workers and other vulnerable groups face abuse. Tolerance is an injunction to all of us to stand up and speak out in defence of all who are deprived of their fundamental rights and freedoms.
On the International Day for Tolerance, and in this year in which we commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I call on all people to renew our commitment to tolerance. And let us redouble our efforts to achieve, through tolerance, our long-sought goal of a global culture of harmony and peace.