An international Conference on Tolerance and Diversity is taking place at the Federal Foreign Office today (20 October) under the auspices of the German Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The conference was opened by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and General Music Director Daniel Barenboim. In his opening speech, Steinmeier urged people to see diversity and cooperation primarily as an “opportunity”.
Importance of fostering tolerance and diversity
Speaking in the run-up to the conference, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said “it was more necessary than ever today both within and outside the OSCE area” that tolerance and diversity be the driving force behind overcoming rifts in society and politics. In his opening speech in the Weltsaal at the Federal Foreign Office this morning, Steinmeier said: “I strongly believe that the question as to how we promote tolerance and diversity, but also how we handle growing intolerance, concerns all of us – from Vancouver to Berlin and further to Vladivostok.”
Countering nationalism and hate speech through social engagement and a shared framework of principles
“What on earth is going on here?” asked the German Foreign Minister with regard to nationalist opinions, growing populism and budding intolerance in Germany. In view of these phenomena, it was clear that “[his] country still has a great deal to learn in the search for responses to intolerance, hate and hate speech”, Steinmeier said. At the same time, Germany was “currently witnessing the incredible willingness on the part of countless Germans to help their fellow human beings” in the context of the refugee crisis "with openness, a thirst for knowledge and empathy".
Above all, a framework of principles was needed in order to define the scope and limits of tolerance. This framework stood on firm and tried and tested foundations in Germany, that is, on the Basic Law, the principle of the rule of law, fundamental rights and, above all, human dignity.
I cannot and will not tolerate actions or attitudes that violate or jeopardise people’s lives, freedom or equality. We must stand up to such behaviour across the board. And this goes for each and every one of us – the rule of law, we who shoulder responsibility as politicians, and also civil society.
OSCE rules form an integral part of the international system of values
International law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a large number of further agreements and treaties meant that there was also a clear system of principles and values at the international level that regulate our co-existence within the international community. The principles and obligations drawn up in the OSCE were “an integral part” of this system of values.
Combating intolerance and discrimination a priority of the German Chairmanship
As early as the 1990s, institutions were set up in the OSCE “in order to support our mutual efforts to combat intolerance”; these institutions included the High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Representative on Freedom of the Media and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. And, together with these institutions, Germany has made the fight against intolerance and discrimination a key focus of its Chairmanship.
Working together at the global level for a more just world
Looking at the global level, populism and isolationism were not the answer – nor was pulling up the drawbridge. Instead, these approaches posed a threat. In order to create an open and more just world, “we must also work together here”, Steinmeier said. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was an important step in the right direction. With the Agenda as a “global pact on the world’s future”, there was now a focal point for joint actions. The German Foreign Minister summed up his speech by saying that it was now all the more important to “allow our diversity and the richness of our experiences and traditions to come to the fore” in order to find solutions to the global challenges.