RWI Senior Researcher Alejandro Fuentes spoke at the opening of the Southern Regional Session of European Youth Parliament Sweden. “One of the major challenges today is to find the adequate balance in combating and countering terrorism while enhancing our fundamental values,” he said.
Here is Alejandro Fuentes’ speech in its whole.
“I am glad to be here, contributing to the work that the European Youth Parliament is intending to conduct, advocating for European solidarity and inclusion, as a means for the reinforcement and consolidation of a common European identity.
“In today’s world, key principles of the democratic societies, such as pluralism, tolerance, and broad-mindedness, are challenged by the ferocity of terrorist groups targeting innocent civilians in different regions in the world.
“The terrorist attacks perpetrated in Paris one week ago is the latest massacre of a long list of crimes committed against humanity, against the inspirational words written more than 60 years ago, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948.
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
“This is the message of the very First Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“After all of these decades since its adoption, we are still facing the same challenges: the disregard and contempt for human rights generated by the perpetration of barbarous acts that outrage the conscience of mankind and the fundamental values of democratic societies.
“The question for you, for all of us, is how to react vis-à-vis these atrocities.
“In other words, today’s challenge is to find the adequate balance in combating and countering terrorism while enhancing our fundamental values, that is, promoting and protecting human rights.
“All acts, methods and practices of terrorism, in all their forms and manifestations, wherever and by whomsoever committed, regardless of their motivation, should be condemned as criminal and unjustifiable, without any hesitation.
“With equal resolution, we should reaffirm that all measures used in the fight against terrorism must be in compliance with the obligations of States under international law, including international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.
“Measures that can undermine human rights and the rule of law, such as the detention of persons suspected of acts of terrorism in the absence of a legal basis for detention and due process guarantees, the illegal deprivation of liberty and transfer of individuals suspected of terrorist activities, and the return of suspects to countries without individual assessment of the risk that they would be in danger of subjection to torture or ill treatment, cannot be accepted in democratic societies that fully respect human rights. Effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not conflicting goals but complementary and mutually reinforcing.
“In order to enjoy the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms, it is absolutely necessary to guarantee our safety in society by introducing all reasonable and proportional security measures needed in order to prevent and combat terrorism. Terrorist practices are essentially acts of profound hatred and intolerance vis-à vis cultural diversity and pluralism.
“Therefore, they should also be combated by enhancing societal cohesion and inclusion within our multicultural societies.
“In fact, European societies are becoming increasingly more diverse and multicultural.
“As a result of globalisation and closer interaction between individuals and groups with different cultural traditions, there is a growing fear for diversity with an increasing rejection of ‘the other.’
“Accommodating different social, religious and cultural values and traditions, while fully respecting all human rights and fundamental freedoms, has become an unavoidable challenge.
“In fact, increasing acts of racism, hate speech, xenophobia, and religious intolerance need to be addressed without delay, in order to avoid further cultural fragmentation and violence in our societies.
“Programmes promoting multicultural dialogue between communities, tackling the increasing ethno-cultural segregation of our neighborhoods and cities, and generating equal opportunities without discrimination for members of vulnerable groups and minorities, need to be introduced in order to enhance social cohesion.
“In addition, the respect and protection of the ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of European societies requires discussing racism and xenophobia as threats to social cohesion rather than as phenomena that only affect ‘foreigners.’ Such an approach could foster the successful social inclusion of members of minority groups, an issue that concerns not only minorities, but society as a whole.
“Within this societal framework, it is important to highlight that Europe is facing today an unprecedented flux of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Conflicts in areas neighbouring Europe and beyond are driving significant numbers of people from their homes in search of safety and security.
“Over 4 million Syrians – half of them children – have fled the country since the conflict started nearly five years ago. Many of them are making their way to Europe by undertaking a dangerous journey, by land and by sea, which has led many to lose their lives in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers and traffickers.
“Unfortunately, these tragedies are taking place too frequently. Therefore, an urgent humanitarian response from the international community is needed. The response of European States to this crisis has varied; from building walls to opening doors and welcoming refugees and asylum seekers. Border control operations and other pre-entry mechanisms have been strengthened and reinforced in most European countries.
“Sweden is not an exception.
“These actions should be conducted with full respect of States’ obligations under international law, particularly international refugee and human rights law, towards persons seeking international protection. The principle of non- refoulement should be fully respected, especially in those cases where there are substantial grounds for believing that asylum seekers would be in danger of subjection to torture, or where their life or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
“Inclusive and integrated societies are societies where discrimination does not take place and where all persons, individually or together with others, have the opportunity to equally and substantially enjoy all human rights and legal guarantees, and where social inclusion and participation are encouraged and facilitated.
“Your responsibility, as member of the European Youth Parliament, is imagining today the Europe of tomorrow. I deeply hope that you will succeed in providing adequate answers to the today’s and tomorrow’s challenges for the creation of more inclusive and cohesive societies in which everybody, without discrimination of any kind, could achieve his or her full potential.
“Let me finish where I started: taking inspiration from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In the face of terrorist attacks, humanitarian and refugee crises, and increasing fear of “otherness”, we need to reaffirm - with more determination than ever – the inherent value of human dignity and equal and inalienable rights for all members of the human family.
“It is a truly spirit of brotherhood that could help us to build more cohesive and inclusive societies. The same spirit that today I perceive in this auditorium.
“Dear friends, now is your time to make a contribution for a better and more inclusive Europe for all.”