On November 19, 2020, The Aspen Institute France, in partnership with EY, had the pleasure of hosting an exceptional conversation as part of the « Zoom sur » webinar series with Miguel Ángel Moratinos, High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain on the theme “Freedom of Speech and Caricatures vs. Respect of Religions: Clash or Alliance of Civilizations?”.
Twenty years have passed since the tragedy of 9/11 and we are far from eradicating terrorism. According to Miguel Ángel Moratinos, Western society also failed to take lessons from the intervention in Iraq. ISIS managed to gain power and recruit worldwide despite the anti-terrorism military intervention that took place in the Middle East. We must therefore urgently review the response to such questions. If the minds and hearts of radical individuals do not change, terrorism will continue to be a major issue. And in order to change them, we must first understand them, which is completely different from justifying barbaric actions like terrorist attacks.
This involves accepting and promoting multiculturalism. The Alliance of Civilizations must be built under one motto: “One humanity, different cultures”. We must overcome binary reasoning, like “the Western Civilization and the Others” or “freedom of speech versus freedom of worship” and embrace the complexity of humanity. Secularism ad spiritualism must dialogue in order to coexist. Multiculturalism creates citizens rather than minorities.
Education is at the heart of the question and must be reviewed in both spiritual and secular societies. To prove his point, Moratinos appealed to one important consideration: “From those who criticize Islam, how many have actually read the Quran?”
Conflict is not inherent or unavoidable between ethnic and religious groups. Bridges between cultures must be rebuilt, which demands work on all sides, with openness to dialogue as the crucial first step.
Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé has committed his professional and political activity to international relationships and development cooperation. He was born in Madrid on the 8th of June 1951 and studied at the Madrid French Lyceum. He graduated in Law and Political Sciences at the University Complutense in Madrid, and then in Diplomatic Studies at the Spanish Diplomatic School. He entered Spain’s diplomatic service in March 1977.
At the dawn of Spanish democracy, he began his diplomatic career as the head of the Coordination Section for Eastern Europe between 1977 and 1980. At the end of 1980, he was appointed First Secretary of the Spanish Embassy in Yugoslavia and remained there until 1984 and during the last three years there he held the post of chargé d’affaires. From Belgrade he went on to Rabat, this time as a political adviser, remaining there between 1984 and 1987.
With the Mediterranean in mind, he was appointed General Deputy Director for Northern Africa (1987-1991) and then Director of the Institute of Cooperation with the Arab World (1991-1993). After his tenure at the Institute, he was appointed General Director of Foreign Policy for Africa and the Middle East, holding such position between 1993 and 1996, where he took part in the organisation of the historic Middle East Peace Conference in Madrid in 1992. After being Spain’s Ambassador in Israel from July to December 1996, he was appointed by the European Union as EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, a mission in which he worked from December 1996 to June 2003. During this period, he promoted Peace Agreements and carried out actions on behalf of the EU to foster the Arab-Israeli dialogue and turn the Mediterranean into a region of peace and prosperity.
After these years of intense political and diplomatic activity, he engaged in Spanish politics and was elected member of Parliament on the lists of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) for the constituency of Córdoba. On the 18th of April 2004, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. In his term at the head of the department, he held the presidency of the United Nations Security Council and the chairmanships-in-office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe and the Council of the European Union. He fostered the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
As the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the first Minister of Cooperation of the Spanish democratic period, he fostered effective multilateralism, the Alliance of Civilisations, the Group of Friends for the Reform of the United Nations and contributed to the creation of innovative programmes for development, healthcare and women within the United Nations system. He promoted new programmes and funds for water and sanitation in Latin American development countries. In his term as Minister, he doubled Official Development Assistance funds and placed Spain as the sixth donor in the United Nations system.
Upon termination of his office as Minister, on the 20th of October 2010, he joined parliamentary activity until November 2011. In that period, he ran to be elected Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and targeted his international action towards the struggle against hunger and poverty, the promotion of food security and the right to food.
In January 2012, he joined the team of the Global Dry Land Alliance in Qatar and promoted this international treaty for food security in more than 15 member countries of all continents. From 2012 to 2013 he promoted the signature of the International Treaty for a Global Dry Land Alliance in Qatar and was member of the high level advisory panel of the president of the 67th UN General Assembly.
During his career he has been awarded numerous distinctions, awards and decorations acknowledging his political and diplomatic career path. In the academic sphere, the undertakings of Miguel Ángel Moratinos have been acknowledged with honorary doctorates by the Universities of Saint Petersburg, Malta, as well as by the Ben-Gurion University, in Israel, and the Al-Quds and Tel Aviv University.
He is also a regular lecturer in several international institutions and forums, as well as a prolific writer of articles in Spain and abroad. Since 2011, he teaches at Sciences Po Paris.
Actually he is Honorary Chairman of the CIRSD Board of Advisers (Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development), Senior Advisor of Sustainable Development Solutions Network of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and member of the Leadership Council of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).
In Spain, he is also the president of REDS, the SDSN Spanish Network and the president of the Trobades literàries mediterràneas association and the promoter of the Albert Camus Mediterranean Literary Gathering and the Trobades Albert Camus Award.