The initiative, called “Alliance of Civilizations,” is intended “to respond to the need for a committed effort by the international community – both at the institutional and civil society levels – to bridge divides and overcome prejudice, misconceptions, misperceptions, and polarization which potentially threaten world peace,” Mr. Annan’s spokesman said in a statement at UN Headquarters in New York.
The call for the alliance was initiated by Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and co-sponsored by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr. Annan called on the international community to contribute to a trust fund to support the Alliance.
“The Alliance will aim to address emerging threats emanating from hostile perceptions that foment violence, and to bring about cooperation among various efforts to heal such divisions,” the statement said.
“Events of recent years have heightened the sense of a widening gap and lack of mutual understanding between Islamic and Western societies – an environment that has been exploited and exacerbated by extremists in all societies,” it added.
“The Alliance of Civilizations is intended as a coalition against such forces, as a movement to advance mutual respect for religious beliefs and traditions, and as a reaffirmation of humankind's increasing interdependence in all areas – from the environment to health, from economic and social development to peace and security.”
In answer to questions at the daily noon briefing spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said the initiative was not “linked in the calendar” to last week’s terrorist attacks in London that killed more than 50 people and injured 700 or to other attacks, adding that the two prime ministers had been working on it for some time.
“But I think any initiative that can help bridge understanding between civilizations and especially between the Western world and the Islamic world is very much a welcome one,” he declared.
The statement said the Spanish and Turkish governments would continue, as co-sponsors, to provide support and several other Governments and organizations had expressed interest in joining them.
“The Secretary-General hopes that more will do so,” it added. “The co-sponsors have already pledged substantial initial contributions to a Trust Fund set up to finance the initiative, and the Secretary-General will be inviting other governments and entities to contribute.”
Mr. Annan is bringing together a high-level group of eminent persons to guide the initiative. The group is expected to present a report with recommendations and a practical plan of action in late 2006.