Technology plays key role in promoting understanding among cultures – UN official

High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser. Photo: UNAOC/Dan Sakamoto

27 September 2013 – Information and communications technologies (ICTs) are essential tools to promote understanding and tolerance among cultures, a United Nations official said today, while warning that if misused, they can spread discriminations and divisive attitudes.

“In no other time in human history have we had more exposure to those different from us. Access to, and information about the ‘other’ can be powerful unifying tools for humanity. But they can also be used in divisive and destructive ways,” said the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser.

“Ideas are no longer local. Information and communications technologies make them global. In a globalized world, information is an essential component of our life – it can lead to prosperity, or if misused, can drive us to confrontation and division.”

Speaking at the Annual UNAOC Ministerial Meeting, held during the 68th session of the General Assembly in New York, Mr. Al-Nasser noted that the Alliance has been working to channel technological tools in a positive way that fosters nations’ shared interests and promotes sustainable development for all.

For example, the Alliance recently partnered with the World Bank and Google to organize capacity-building workshops for journalists in transition countries in the Arab World with the aim of introducing them to the latest technological tools as well as best practices in newsgathering and reporting.

It also organized a social media campaign targeting journalists covering the issue of migration with the aim of launching a discussion of current media coverage of migrants, who are many times misrepresented.

In addition, the Alliance is boosting its work with youth, providing grants to social entrepreneurs and organizing a fellowship programme for young professionals focused on overcoming identity-based conflicts and tensions.

“Cultural intolerance through hate speech, racism, religious tensions and discrimination can really hamper the development of a well-functioning society, and they can lead to more dangerous fractures,” Mr. Al-Nasser told the meeting, entitled “Global Harmony for Development and Prosperity.”

“In this context, the need for the Alliance of Civilizations is more apparent than ever.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the meeting that the Alliance plays a unique role by providing for national organizations to engage with governments and the UN system, and to learn from each other.

“Too often, we see discrimination against migrants and minorities, and political campaigns that feature bigotry and demonization,” Mr. Ban said. “The Alliance is helping to change the narrative and, in the process, open minds and hearts. This is essential to meet the priorities we have addressed this week – and to uphold our shared values of the United Nations Charter.”


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