3 June 2010
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Outcome of Third Forum of Alliance of Civilizations

 


Building bridges across cultures was important because it had an impact on politics and helped create the necessary conditions for long-term peacebuilding and peaceful societies, Marc Scheuer, Director of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Forum, said at a Headquarters press conference today.


Briefing on the outcome of the Third Forum of the Alliance, held from 27 to 29 May in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he said that after Madrid and Istanbul, the Rio Forum had been the first organized outside Europe and the Mediterranean region, an indication of the Alliance’s global dimension.  As a platform for working on divisive issues in a different way, and inspired by mutual respect and interest, the Forum had debated such sensitive topics as the issue of “Islamophobia”, particularly in Europe, in addition to hearing calls for a collective look at restrictions on freedom of religion in a number of Muslim-majority countries.


He said that following remarks by the host, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and President Evo Morales of Bolivia, which especially illustrated the initiative’s globalizing trend, the Alliance had examined some of the challenges faced by indigenous populations and revisited the tremendous impact of poverty and humiliation on the building of inclusive societies in which all members and groups would be treated with respect.


Mr. Scheuer said the Forum had achieved three main outcomes:  it had helped to broaden the Alliance and extend the reach of its activities; it marked the expansion and globalization of the Alliance, having brought together more than 3,000 participants from over 100 countries and convened a “very powerful network of leaders”, the result of which was stronger momentum among political leaders and policymakers to put inter-cultural dialogue in its rightful place on the international agenda; and it had helped to deepen the reach and scope of the Alliance’s projects and initiatives.


Building bridges across cultures was important because it had an impact on politics and helped create the necessary conditions for long-term peacebuilding and peaceful societies, he said.  An interesting feature to emerge from the Forum was that young participants had been meeting ahead of the event and had presented their recommendations to the political leaders in attendance.  One of their recommendations entailed supporting media literacy education efforts, fostering cross-cultural programmes and including young people in decisions affecting their lives, he added.  The Forum also helped strengthen partnerships with a broad range of organizations, he said, explaining that one of the aims of any forum of the Alliance was to create further connections between a very wide diversity of players.


Asked what standards the Alliance had in place to ensure that corporate entities participating in the activities of its Business Council took into consideration the needs and integrity of indigenous people of their areas of operation, Mr. Scheuer said that up until the Rio Forum, the Alliance had been working mostly, if not exclusively, on aspects of the so-called West-Muslim divides, and had been especially active in the Euro-Mediterranean area.


He went on to say that listening to many voices at Rio had made clear that other aspects of “compensating” for or repairing past errors, and allowing the building of inclusive societies with indigenous people, had now emerged as important aspects at the top of the Alliance’s agenda that would be examined carefully in the months ahead.  Indeed, the Alliance was in the process of involving the corporate sector in its efforts to address some of the world’s cultural divides, he added.


For the time being, he said, the Alliance had decided which partners from the corporate world to invite to its Business Council so as to ensure that they met its standards as far as the concerns of indigenous peoples and the environment were concerned.  It was envisaged that as more and more partners joined, the Alliance would set rules that would determine who would join.  “But we are not there yet,” he pointed out.


Asked what kind of contribution the Alliance expected from the United States, which had announced that it was joining the Alliance during the Rio Forum, Mr. Scheuer hailed that decision as “tremendously important”, saying that a country with such a huge international agenda would see the Alliance as a useful tool.  It would also see it as an attempt to build a global conversation that was not necessarily confrontational, and did not repeat some of the deadlocked debates that had been tried in other places.  Rather, it tried to push the dialogue further.


“The fact that the United States would recognize this as a useful tool is a first important contribution for us, he continued.  “We have no doubt that after a period of a few weeks or a few months of further observation from within the structure, the United States will get involved in one or the other of the major programmes that the Alliance is developing.”  He cited as positive examples State Department statements in support of the Alliance’s fellowship programme of bringing emerging leaders from all member countries into close contact, so as to realize the world’s diversity in the twenty-first century.


He went on to express confidence that the United States would get interested in many other projects, to which it would contribute not only ideas, but also political and funding support.  He similarly praised the contribution of the Balkan States to the Alliance, noting that South-East Europe was the first region for which it had been able to develop a strategy and adopt an action plan supported by all regional Governments.  The regional strategy had been unanimously adopted in Sarajevo last December, he added.


He described that as a “reassuring and comforting” development for the Balkans countries, which had been at war within and among themselves less than 20 years ago.  It was an example the Alliance hoped to replicate in the Mediterranean region first, and then later in Latin America, but from the perspective of indigenous populations.


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