At UN forum, countries commit to advance cross-cultural dialogue

UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations Nassir Abdulaziz. Photo: UNAOC/Dan Sakamoto

28 February 2013 – Governments and international organizations from around the world reaffirmed their commitment to advance cross-cultural dialogue at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Forum, which ended today in Vienna, Austria.

The commitment was reaffirmed through the Vienna Declaration, in which participants recognized the importance of increasing cooperation among countries, promoting greater respect among civilizations, cultures and religions, and establishing collaborative links among governments, the private sector, civil society and the media.

The Declaration is the result of two days of discussions attended by more than 2,000 people from around the world. During the forum, heads of State and foreign ministers also met separately to discuss pressing global issues such as Syria, Mali, the Middle East peace process and the future of sustainable development.

Launched in 2005 through the initiative of Spain and Turkey, and under the auspices of the UN, the Alliance seeks to promote better cross-cultural relations worldwide. The theme for this year’s forum, which comprised decision-makers, experts, and a variety of stakeholders in the field of intercultural and interreligious dialogue, was ‘Responsible Leadership in Diversity and Dialogue.’

Outlining his vision to make the Alliance more active in addressing inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions, the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, stated “we will strive to use the tools at our disposal in the difficult settings around the world. We will not shy away from them.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the meeting yesterday and stressed the need for world leaders to promote the principles of tolerance and respect to find durable solutions to conflicts.

“From the world stage to local communities, leaders need to speak the language of tolerance and respect, not division and defamation,” he said. “Wherever tensions divide communities, the opportunity exists for the Alliance to build bridges and to help people move from conflict to collaboration.”

While in Vienna today, Mr. Ban also met with Austria’s Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Michael Spindelegger, with whom he discussed the crises in Syria and Mali and the urgent need for effective international responses.

The two men also exchanged views on the Middle East peace process, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Western Balkans and human rights, including the protection of journalists.

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