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Belt and Road can play cultural role: UN official

By AMY HE and WANG LINYAN in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-05-01 12:48

The Belt and Road Initiative's impact on economies across the old Silk and Maritime roads also will be one of social and cultural exchange, leading to peace and stability, said the high representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC).

"The initiative of the Belt and Road is not just economic, but also builds and promotes intercultural and interreligious [exchange]," said Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser on Friday, who will attend the Belt and Road Forum on International Cooperation in Bejing in mid-May.

"In order to achieve not only a strong economy but also peace, we need stability [and we need to] work together and cooperate."

UNAOC will sign a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cooperate on the areas of intercultural and interreligious dialogue under the Belt and Road initiative during his visit, Al-Nasser said.

"Especially when the world today faces many big challenges, we see problems around the world coming through culture and religion," he said, "but that's why the mission of the UNAOC is leading the UN organization to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue, and build bridges of understanding between civilizations."

The initiative, proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, is called the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and aims to build connectivity linking Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes.

More than 100 countries and organizations have joined the initiative, and about 40 countries signed the memorandum of understanding of cooperation with China.

"This means it's a very important initiative; we need something like that today to work together," Al-Nasser said, adding that it will not just be good for China, but good for the rest of the world.

"We see how much attention many many countries are paying to this," he said.

Al-Nasser, who served as the president of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly in 2011, has been UNAOC's high representative since 2013. The agency was established in 2005 to explore polarization that happens between the Western and Islamic worlds.

One of the main pillars of the UNAOC's work is on migration and refugees, and Al-Nasser said that the Belt and Road Initiative can help strengthen ties between countries that are involved in the initiative.

"We see there is rising sentiment against refugees. Many look at them as a threat of stealing jobs, causing more problems to the economy — but that's not true," he said.

"The contribution of migrants in many ways is positive. But when we deal with this, we also have to look at integration — how to educate them, to integrate them, to respect their dignity," he said. "I think now with this great initiative, this will really strengthen the cooperation between countries, especially those who are on the Silk Road."

Contact the writers at amyhe@chinadailyusa.com

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