ASSEMBLY WEIGHS UNITED NATIONS YEAR OF DIALOGUE AMONG CIVILIZATIONS

GA/9684
10 December 1999

ASSEMBLY WEIGHS UNITED NATIONS YEAR OF DIALOGUE AMONG CIVILIZATIONS

10 December 1999


Press Release
GA/9684


ASSEMBLY WEIGHS UNITED NATIONS YEAR OF DIALOGUE AMONG CIVILIZATIONS

19991210

Iran, Introducing Related Draft Resolution, Says Its Adoption Would Be Propitious Start to New Millennium

Dialogue among civilizations and cultures could potentially take mere tolerance of diversity a few steps further, raising the level of discourse to higher planes of caring, genuine cooperation and constructive engagement, the representative of Iran told the General Assembly this morning. Introducing a draft resolution related to the issue, he suggested that while diversity generated growth in strength and enhanced the beauty of human life, it should also promote the solidarity of all human beings.

Should the Assembly adopt the resolution, it would call upon Governments to encourage all members of society to take part in promoting dialogue among civilizations. He added that the reaction to the proposed United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, to be observed in 2001, was a good omen that the world would start the new millennium with a step in the right direction -- promoting dialogue to foster mutual respect for and understanding of differences among peoples.

The representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, proposed using a wider concept of civilization, to accommodate varying conditions under which people belonging to different cultures and diverse backgrounds met to engage in dialogue and to interact. That was an excellent way to promote pluralism and tolerance, as well as to promote civil society’s participation in processes of governance. Also, the Organization had adopted a wide range of instruments on tolerance, human rights, cultural cooperation, science and education, which constituted a solid basis for the Year. New international instruments or long processes of intergovernmental negotiation were not needed; what was needed was practical action to bring people together by using modern methods of communication.

Other delegations expressed the opinion that globalization might negatively affect the success of dialogue among civilizations. The representative of Malaysia said although it brought about greater global interaction, it also carried the potential for cross-civilizational misunderstanding or even conflict. There needed to be an intensified struggle for justice, fairness and equality within the world order, so that non-dominant nations would not be marginalized.

General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9684 77th Meeting (AM) 10 December 1999

The representative of Liechenstein said globalization had already become a controversial concept and an emotionally charged term and dialogue among civilizations could be a perfect vehicle for ensuring its successful evolution. The representative of Andorra said globalization affected both economic and cultural dialogue, but everyone must promote the convergence of values that were common to all mankind. Dialogue among civilizations, if it was to succeed, should aim at overcoming differences of opinion among peoples. If there was no dialogue, preventive diplomacy would remain fruitless and wars would increase.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq, Cyprus, Qatar, Finland, Solomon Islands, Republic of Korea, and the Russian Federation.

The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. to continue its consideration of the dialogue among civilizations, and to begin consideration of emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan.

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this morning to begin its consideration of the Dialogue among civilizations and Emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan. It had before it related reports of the Secretary-General and resolutions on those issues.

Report of the Secretary-General: United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations

The report of the Secretary-General (document A/54/546) states that by resolution 53/22, the Assembly proclaimed the year 2001 as the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, and invited Governments, the United Nations system and other relevant international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to plan and implement the appropriate cultural, educational and social programmes to promote the concept of dialogue among civilizations. The Secretary-General states that the present report is provisional, and is meant to provide Member States with a brief outline of how he intends to respond to the Assembly's invitation to reflect on the idea of a dialogue among civilizations, and to seek tangible ways to impact the world community.

The Secretary-General states that he appointed Giandomenico Picco in August 1999 as his Personal Representative for the United Nations on the issue. Mr. Picco has already made contact with some regional groups and Governments and will continue such efforts in the future. It has been recognized that due to lack of financial resources, any projects would have to be supported by funds from outside the United Nations system. Mr. Picco's provisional report is contained in the annex to the current report.

Mr. Picco's report states that membership of the United Nations shares a set of common values, as reflected in the Charter. The expansion of those common values would, by definition, facilitate dialogue, as Member States would share more and more common principles. There are fears that such an expansion could lead to the domination of the weak by the strong, the report notes, but the United Nations can play a significant role by seeking to ensure that, in the process of expansion, identities are preserved. The message of diversity, as it relates to the United Nations, can serve as a tool to protect distinct identities, as the common denominator of values which brings everyone together. It would therefore be fitting if the spirit of dialogue among civilizations could open the door to a major process of reconciliation in one or more parts of the world. Perhaps in the future, those who seek peace will use dialogue among civilizations as a means to move forward.

Draft resolution:

A draft resolution on the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations (document A/54/L.60) recommends that the Assembly would invite Governments, the United Nations system, and other relevant international organizations and NGOs, to continue and further intensify planning and organizing appropriate cultural, educational and social programmes to promote the concept of dialogue among civilizations, and to inform the Secretary-General of their activities. It would also call upon Governments to encourage all members of society to take part in promoting dialogue among civilizations, and to provide them with an opportunity to make contributions to the international year dedicated to the issue. Report of the Secretary General: the situation in Afghanistan

The report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (document A/54/536) describes principal events in Afghanistan, including major military and political developments in the country, as well as the activities of the Special Mission and the missions of Lakhdar Brahimi, who continued to serve as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General during the period under review.

Regarding the military situation, the report states that fighting between the Taliban and the United Front (UF) has ebbed and flowed without resulting in significant change to the territory held by either party. The level of fighting reached an unprecedented scale for 1999 when the Taliban launched a major ground and air offensive against the UF on 28 July. That offensive added further problems to the already grave humanitarian and human rights situations on the ground. In addition to the existing troops, the Taliban offensive was believed to have been reinforced by between 2,000 and 5,000 new recruits, mostly emanating from religious schools within Pakistan, many of them non-Afghans, and some below the age of 14. On 11 August, the Taliban launched a new attack from the front line north of Kabul. In September, the Taliban air force intensified its aerial bombing of Taloqan, causing a considerable number of civilian causalities, damage to property and a population exodus.

Turning to the political situation, the report States that after two rounds of talks held in Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan, between the Afghan parties, the Taliban suspended their talks with the opposition. The Taliban made clear that talks could only be resumed if the UF agreed to join and work within the system of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. That remained unacceptable to the Rabbani administration who said they could not accept the Emirate system since the Taliban possessed no popular or legal mandate to govern or to impose such a system. Since the collapse of the Ashkhabad talks, there has been no change in the Taliban's decision, despite the repeated efforts of the Special Mission and others to persuade them otherwise.

According to the report, the "Six plus Two" group (China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan plus Russian Federation, United States) met in July 1999, and the two Afghan parties were also invited as observers. Significantly, the members of the group publicly committed themselves for the first time not to provide military support to any Afghan party, and to prevent the use of their respective territories for such purposes.

Alongside the unilateral financial and economic sanctions imposed by the United States against the Taliban, on 15 October 1999 the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1267, imposing sanctions on the Taliban unless the latter turned Mr. Osama bin Laden over within 30 days of its adoption. At the time of the writing of the report, there was no indication that the Taliban were prepared to comply with the Council's demand.

The report then describes the activities of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General. During his regional travels, the Secial Envoy pleaded with host Governments for a positive and constructive engagement of Afghanistan's neighbouring States. He suggested that such a goal be pursued vigorously through the mechanism of the "Six plus Two" group, with the twin aim of encouraging the Afghan parties to negotiate a peaceful settlement and to call a halt to their fighting. He expressed disappointment at the continuous influx into Afghanistan of war materiel and thousands of non-Afghan fighters from neighbouring countries. He made clear that that trend ran contrary to the stated wishes of neighbouring States, which wanted the Afghans to resolve their own problems without outside interference.

According to the report, the main activities of the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA) are to support the Special Envoy in promoting peace, to monitor political and military developments in the country, and to coordinate activities with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Activities (UNOCHA) as well as the indigenous and international humanitarian assistance community. However, UNSMA's political and military monitoring role has been heavily circumscribed by the lack of security and the lack of cooperation within the Taliban military establishment.

Regarding humanitarian activities, the report states that access to affected populations has been a significant concern throughout the year. In addition to the physical problems of reaching affected populations, political and military considerations of the warring parties have also hampered humanitarian operations. Combatants have denied humanitarian agencies effective access to many areas. The Secretary-General says that next year will be particularly difficult. A significant food deficit is forecast and the shortfall may be compounded by a large number of refugees returning from the Islamic Republic of Iran. The report adds that one component of the humanitarian assistance programme is the national Mine Action Programme, coordinated by the United Nations.

The devastating impact of the war on all aspects of Afghan society is compounded by a combination of poverty, profound underdevelopment, the absence of representative and accountable governance mechanisms and the marginalization of particular groups, including the severe restrictions imposed on the participation of women and girls in public life. In addition, a pattern of systematic and gross violation of human rights and humanitarian law continues to deprive Afghans of their most fundamental rights.

In 1999, Afghanistan became by far the world's largest illicit producer of opium, with its output reaching up to 75 per cent of all illicit opium worldwide. The first impact of such large increase in the availability of opium and heroin will be felt by Afghanistan's immediate neighbours, as a large proportion of those drugs is expected to remain within the region. Afghanistan's neighbouring States will have to counter an increasing threat to internal security from cross-border traffic in illicit drugs and associated criminal activity. The report says that drug abuse is sharply on the rise, mainly as a result of the increased availability of opium and heroin, and of mental health problems resulting from the last 20 years of war. Drug abuse, especially among women and war veterans, has intensified, with little opportunity for the victims to obtain treatment.

Another factor that has begun to attract the serious attention of the international community is the growing concern that Afghanistan is becoming a breeding ground for religious extremism and sectarian violence, as well as various types of international terrorism, the scope of which far exceeds Afghan boundaries.

According to the report, the Special Mission will assume the primary role in conducting United Nations peacekeeping activities in Afghanistan. It is the Secretary-General’s intention to appoint a substantive Head of Mission at the Assistant Secretary-General level, to be assisted by a deputy director and four political affairs officers. The number of military advisers will be reduced from four to two, owing to current difficulties experienced in the fulfillment of their monitoring and advisory activities. In order to increase the Organization's political effectiveness, the UNSMA will progressively move its head office from Islamabad to Kabul. The Secretary-General also intends to proceed with the opening of a sub-office in Tehran in early 2000, so as to increase regular contact with neighbouring States as well as Afghan factions and individuals.

A draft resolution on the situation in Afghanistan (document A/54/L.58) is divided into two parts: part A is entitled “The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security”, part B is entitled “Emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan”.

By the terms of part A of that draft text the Assembly would stress that the main responsibility for finding a political solution to the conflict lies with the Afghan parties, and would urge all of them to respond to the repeated calls for peace by the United Nations.

It would also call upon all Afghan parties, in particular the Taliban, to cease immediately all armed hostilities, to renounce the use of force and to engage in a political dialogue under United nations auspices aimed at achieving a lasting political settlement of the conflict by creating a broad-based, multi-ethnic and fully representative government.

The Assembly would also urge the Taliban and other Afghan parties to refrain from all acts of violence against civilians, including women and children. It would strongly condemn the sharp escalation of the conflict, and the fact that foreign military support to the Afghan parties continued unabated through 1999. It would call upon all States to refrain from any outside interference and to end the supply of arms, ammunition, military equipment, training or any other military support to all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan.

The Assembly would support the intention of the Secretary-General to strengthen the United Nations Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA), in particular by appointing a new Head of Mission, by progressively moving its head office to Kabul and by increasing its presence in neighboring countries. It would redouble the efforts of the UNSMA to achieve a durable political settlement by facilitating an immediate and durable cease-fire and the resumption of a dialogue between the Afghan parties.

It would also express deep concern at the lack of tangible progress in the Taliban’s investigations of the death, serious injury or disappearance of international or national staff members and other persons employed by the United Nations, and would urge the Taliban to proceed with the immediate and thorough investigation of those cases. It would reiterate its condemnation of the killing of the diplomatic and consular staff of the Consulate-General of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Mazar-e-Sharif and the correspondent of the Islamic Republic News Agency.

The Assembly would also strongly demand that all Afghan parties, and in particular the Taliban, refrain from providing sanctuary or training for international terrorists and their organizations, cease the recruitment of terrorists, close down terrorist training camps inside Afghanistan, ensure that the territory under its control is not used for terrorist organizations and camps, and take the necessary steps to cooperate with efforts to bring indicted terrorists to justice without delay.

It would also reiterate its call to all Afghan parties, in particular the Taliban, to halt illegal drug activities and to support international efforts to ban illicit drug production and trafficking. It would call on those same parties to protect the cultural and historic relics and monuments of Afghanistan from acts of vandalism, damage and theft.

By the terms of part B of the draft, the Assembly would stress that the responsibility for the humanitarian crisis lies with all warring parties, in particular with the Taliban, and would strongly condemn the forced displacement of civilian populations, the torching of residential houses, the burning of crops, the cutting of fruit trees and the deliberate destruction of infrastructure.

It would urge all Afghan parties to respect international humanitarian law and to ensure the safety, security and free movement of all United Nations and humanitarian personnel and the protection of the property of the United Nations and humanitarian organizations, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It would condemn all interference in the delivery of humanitarian relief supplies to the Afghan people as a violation of international humanitarian law, and would note the recent lifting of the blockade in central Afghanistan by the Taliban.

The Assembly would further denounce the continuing discrimination against girls and women as well as ethnic and religious groups, including minorities, and other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Afghanistan, and would call upon all parties within Afghanistan to respect fully the human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. It would strongly urge all the Afghan parties to end discriminatory policies and to recognize, protect and promote the equal rights and dignity of women and men. It would urge all Afghan parties to prohibit conscripting or enlisting children or using them to participate in hostilities in violation of international law.

It would call upon the international community to respond to the inter-agency consolidated appeal for emergency humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance in Afghanistan, launched by the Secretary-General on 23 November 1999 for the period from 1 January to 31 December 2000, bearing in mind the availability also of the Afghanistan Emergency Trust Fund.

The draft resolution is sponsored by 65 countries.

Report of Secretary-General: emergency assistance to Afghanistan

The Secretary-General’s report on emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan (document A/54/297) covers developments from 4 September 1998. The report states that the first half of 1999 had seen the humanitarian condition of the country worsen because of instability, conflict and natural disasters. Combatants had denied most humanitarian agencies access to many areas, and the unabated decline of the country's economy had exacerbated the level of poverty and economic hardship.

The report describes the response to the 1999 consolidated appeal as disappointing. Of the $184 million requested, only $44 million had been received -– representing a serious threat to the assistance programme in many vital areas. It concludes that a durable political settlement remains the key to resolving the crisis in Afghanistan and to securing a stable future for its people. All humanitarian assistance, however indispensable, can only provide temporary relief.

Introduction of Draft on Dialogue among Civilizations

Introducing the draft resolution, HADI NEJAD HOSSEINIAN (Iran) said that whatever “dialogue among civilizations” entailed, the reaction it had received from world leaders, representatives of Member States and the general public indicated that there was general agreement on Iranian's President Khatami’s proposal for a sharper focus on the dialogue and the designation of the year 2001 as the United Nations Year for that theme. The reaction to the proposal was a good omen that the world would start the new millennium with a step in the right direction, promoting dialogue in order to enhance mutual respect for, and understanding of, differences among peoples. Dialogue among civilizations and cultures could take the mere tolerance of diversity a few steps further and enhance the level of discourse to higher planes of caring, genuine cooperation and constructive engagement.

He noted that the Organization of the Islamic Conference had established an intergovernmental group of experts to draft a major document on global common values to be considered in the United Nations in 2001. That organization had also decided to draft a 10-year programme of action to start in 2001, on the theme of "dialogue among nations". Iran had also held two panel discussions on aspects of the theme, in May and November. Both had been well attended. Some of the key points of the two panels, such as the conclusion that "intra-civilizational dialogue was as important as inter-civilizational dialogue, should be the focus of future debates.

He announced the addition of the United States, Australia, Belarus, Burkina Faso, and Tajikistan to the list of sponsors. He described the resolution as a simple one which incorporated factual developments of 1999 and invited Governments and United Nations agencies to continue and further intensify planning and organizing programmes to promote the concept of dialogue among civilizations. He ended by making an oral revision to the preamble to include a reference to “peace and culture”.

FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said culture was multilateral and diverse, and the values it enshrined included peace and understanding. Civilization was not just the fruit of the 20th century, it had commenced with the beginning of time. People were the basis of civilization, and history taught that the achievements of humanity had been developed from communication among peoples.

He stated that the present imbalance of the international community had its inception after the Second World War, and he expressed the hope that now that the cold war had ended, a "hot war" would not begin. Post-cold war clashes were the outcome of transformations that followed the demise of communism. However, it was the characteristics of the planet’s cultures that would determine the future of civilization. It had been said that Islam posed the greatest threat to civilization's future, but Islam was a religion as well as a way of life.

In the past, international conflicts were the outcome of ideological confrontations designed to polarize and influence the other elements playing a role in global relations. However, the world community no longer accepted that single vision. His kingdom had been endowed with the most important and sacred monument of Islam -- the Koran -- which said that all peoples were included. On the basis of that divine invitation, he strongly supported the proposal that 2001 be designated the year of dialogue among civilizations. Furthermore, he appealed to the international community to fight selectivity, particularly any vilification of Islam. It was a religion of peace and civilization, and attempts to link it with terrorism revealed an unfair turn of mind that must not be tolerated. Terrorism cropped up everywhere and a mechanism must therefore be established, through the United Nations, to confront that phenomenon.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said that Egypt would forever believe in tolerance, justice, and solidarity. Regrettably, the world had witnessed different forms of ethnic, tribal and religious conflicts, environmental dangers, and irrational uses of technology. It was, therefore, vital to activate a dialogue among civilizations to preserve the dignity and values of humanity, and to adapt a new approach based on common goals. Interaction and mutual respect were cardinal elements, and common endeavour, understanding and cooperation all contributed to the development of international community.

Every civilization was important. All civilizations were participants in forming the definition of humanity. International community should be based on intellectual pluralism and religious and cultural diversity. Every civilization was entitled to preserve its identity and thus reinforce the idea of unity, which was based on constructive coexistence. Moreover, freedom for every society was a legitimate demand, since it meant that no civilization could dominate others. In that context, the objective of a dialogue among civilizations was to focus on a new world in which differences would be respected.

Turning to globalization, he said that the culture of every people was the product of profound and influential social interactions. There were focal points among civilizations that could lead to dialogue and meetings. The real challenge lay in safeguarding cooperation and dialogue. Conflicts could not lead to development or progress. Dialogue and coexistence were the only keys to a peaceful world. It was important to build a better future through a commitment to the law and respect for traditions and principles. In that regard, the United Nations played a vital role in enhancing cooperation and understanding.

IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal) said his delegation supported the resolution because the proposal came at a time when the world was racked with doubts and materialism, and small countries were in danger of losing their identity and their culture through globalization. Independence meant a new vision of international relations that excluded confrontation and xenophobia. The strength of the future world depended on a spirit of peace, tolerance, dialogue and solidarity between different partners.

He said that all the initiatives taken so far, including the proclamation of 1995 as the Year of Tolerance and the decision to proclaim 2000 the International Year of Peace, reflected a common commitment to promoting an era of cooperation and understanding among the various civilizations of the world. The report indicated that the dialogue assumed many forms, including dialogue between Islam and the West, as well as dialogue between religions and cultural and political exchanges with other historical civilizations. That would certainly help to prevent and control conflicts, and manage differences through promoting shared values.

Currently, the world faced religious, ethnic, cultural and political differences, he continued. The United Nations and institutions such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference and NGOs, could play a central role in promoting intercultural dialogue among civilizations. When observing other cultures, one should look for similarities rather than differences, and examine reasons for those differences. One method that could be used was education of youth, through national programmes, on the differences between modern and traditional values.

MOHAMMAD J. SAMHAN (United Arab Emirates) said his country had adopted Islamic civilization and law as its code of conduct and for its development because it believed that humanity represented God on earth and should therefore enshrine the principles of good for the sake of all. This spiritual and divine method was at the root of legislation to protect rights and justice in a world where peace should reign through dialogue. The aim was to develop a country that was strong, with a civilization that rejected international terrorism and promoted tolerance and peaceful coexistence in order to build a culture of peace and friendship. Civilization had an essential part to play in protecting humanity and spirituality, irrespective of race and sex.

He reaffirmed the right of all States to protect their cultural heritage, religious beliefs and civilizations and said that diversity was an important criterion for development. He hailed efforts to enshrine constructive harmonious dialogue among as many civilizations and countries as possible, in order to avoid ethnic or racial aggression or occupation, the stockpiling of nuclear weapons, or recourse to force. He also supported the right of peoples to put an end to poverty and illness and the widening gap between wealthy and the poor, and violations of human rights and pollution of the environment. Today’s world should be multi- religious.

ELMIRA IBRAIMOVA (Kyrgyzstan) welcomed the idea of a dialogue among civilizations as well as the draft resolution prepared by Iran. Kyrgyzstan had co- sponsored the draft because it had a strong commitment to international efforts to see the world enriched by the cultural, philosophical and economic heritage and experience gained by all countries from East to West. Globalization had led to an awareness that no country, however powerful, could face such challenges as the arms race, terrorism, narcotics and crying social needs alone.

She said it was highly symbolic that the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations would be followed in 2002 by the International Year of Mountains. Mountains made up more than a quarter of the earth's land surface and were home to about 10 per cent of the world's population. Common problems, values and mentalities were shared by people who lived in mountainous areas, irrespective of which part of the world those mountains were in.

SAEED HASAN (Iraq) said his country was the cradle of many civilizations. Moreover, it was taking an active part in the Dialogue among Civilizations. Against a background of conflicts caused by hegemony, aggression, colonialism, supremacy, and the illegal use of force, the international community must seek a common denominator to reach peace and dialogue. In that regard, States should pursue education and social programmes. Cultural and intellectual diversity were a feature of human society, he said. Respect and tolerance among civilizations could be reached by rejecting hegemony. It was important to cooperate to put an end to the dangers to peace. He pointed to the tragic effects of sanctions on the Iraqi population, particularly the children. He reaffirmed the role of the United Nations carrying out cultural programmes to consolidate the importance of dialogue and create a model based on integration to achieve peace, respect of human rights and development.

JASMI YUSOFF (Malaysia) described the initiative calling for dialogue among civilizations as commendable and timely. It came at a time when humanity stood at the threshold of a new millennium and would therefore make a major contribution in promoting a culture of tolerance and understanding among humankind which would hopefully characterize the next century.

Turning to the effects of globalization, he said that although the process had brought about greater interaction between nations and civilizations there had also been the potential for cross-civilizational misunderstanding or even conflict. It was therefore imperative for the international community to formulate appropriate strategies and programmes aimed at greater “inter-civilizational dialogue and understanding”.

There was also a need to intensify the struggle for justice, fairness and equality within the world order, because without this the non-dominant nations would continue to be marginalized thereby making it difficult for them to voice their concerns and aspirations and promote their legitimate agendas.

He said that as a multiracial, multi-religious and multicultural nation, Malaysia fully understood and appreciated the importance of harnessing cross- cultural understanding in nation-building. Through a process of communal dialogue and the practice of tolerance, Malaysians had been able to live in harmony, goodwill and peace. In fact it benefited from the fusion of civilizations and believed there could be unity in diversity.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said the United Nations was the perfect forum for staying the dialogue among civilizations. However, the Charter of the United Nations provided no clear concept of what a civilization was. It was therefore important to recognize that a civilization was a process, not a product. That quality made the dialogue among civilizations such a necessity – in which the inclusion and active participation of a very wide range of actors were essential. Governments and their policies were expressions of civilizations, but they did not represent them. The main activities associated with the dialogue should take place outside of the intergovernmental framework. The task of Governments was to provide a forum for such a dialogue, and to give a voice to those with something to say.

A prerequisite for genuine dialogue was that the parties involved approached one another with full respect and on the understanding that they were on the same level. Recognition of diversity must not establish a hierarchy, but rather serve as a basis to establish possible common ground and common language.

There seemed, he continued, to be broad agreement on the existence of a relationship between globalization and a dialogue among civilizations. Modern technology had intensified and promoted intercultural exchange, largely unimpeded and at unprecedented speed. Technologies were relatively recent, and their overall impact on the very nature and core of communication was not yet clear. Globalization itself had already become a controversial concept and an emotionally charged term. The dialogue among civilizations could be a perfect vehicle to make the effects of globalization beneficial for the largest possible number of people worldwide. The relationship between globalization and a dialogue among civilizations was a circular or mutually sustaining one. Technologies, which were characteristic and indispensable elements of globalization, could greatly facilitate a dialogue, which in turn could contribute to shaping the forces of globalization in a culturally sound and sustainable manner.

JULI MINOVES-TRIQUELL (Andorra) stated that civilizations were defined by a cultural concept and were continuously changing -- as evidenced by the need for today's discussions. He noted that Andorra was a melting pot for many civilizations, as many different nationalities had found refuge in its valleys. A haven of peace for 700 years, it too had experienced a period of war triggered by ideological enmity, as happened so often when civilizations based on differing ideas confronted one another.

He said that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms was what linked different cultures. Globalization was a factor that affected both economic and cultural dialogue, but everyone must rise to promote converging values that were common to all mankind. Dialogue among civilizations must override differences of opinion if it was to be successful. If there were no dialogue, preventive diplomacy would remain fruitless and wars would increase.

CONSTANTINE MOUSHOUTAS (Cyprus) said the world was getting smaller and distances seemed to be of no consequence. In that context, it would be expected that men would draw closer together, accepting and appreciating diversity and pluralism. Sadly, that was not the case. Separatism, division, partition, and segregation were pursued, instead of unity and integration. Those separatist trends, especially when militant, formed the root causes of internal strife, and could pose threats to regional and even international peace and security. The majority of recent conflicts where the United Nations peacekeeping operations took place were based on ethnic, tribal, or religious grounds.

Promoting understanding, tolerance and cooperation through dialogue was not only and ideal policy, it was also the choice for survival. The Charter of the United Nations, the General Assembly resolution on the Culture of Tolerance and the Declaration of a Culture of Peace, declared dialogue to be the sine qua non for harmonizing human relations. The initiative of the President of Iran seeking to institutionalize dialogue was wise and visionary. It was important to inform peoples of different cultures and civilizations of the benefits of cultural pluralism, and the enrichment of civilizations from each other. Concerns that portrayed specific religions and cultures as threats to peace and coexistence should be addressed. It was necessary to promote dialogue as the accepted mode of behaviour in settling differences and disputed in accordance with the United Nations Charter.

ALI FAHAD AL-HAJRI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the League of Arab States stressed the importance of the dialogue among civilizations based on the pioneering role of the Islamic Arab civilization in enriching human civilization. The challenges posed by globalization were mainly based on the tyranny of power and the failure to recognize other cultures. To avoid endangering national identities and cultural diversity, there must be a dialogue among civilizations based on the concepts of equality, justice, diversity, tolerance and peace.

Achieving a dialogue among civilizations would mean that all nations must strive toward a just peace, the elimination of foreign occupancy and hegemony, he continued. The sovereignty of all States, their territorial integrity and political independence must be respected. Nations must remove obstacles that impeded the right of peoples to self-determination. The use or threat of use of force to acquire territories must not be allowed. In that regard, the United Nations played an important role in educating people about the dialogue among civilizations.

ANNA-MAIJA KORPI (Finland) speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, voiced caution towards stereotypical definitions of what constituted a “civilization”. The European Union proposed to use a wider concept in order to accommodate the varying conditions under which people belonging to different cultures, beliefs, nations -- including indigenous peoples, ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, and immigrant and refugee communities -- met and interacted. Dialogue in its most diverse sense among and within countries, nations, cultures and religions, was an excellent way to promote pluralism and tolerance, as well the participation of civil society in processes of governance.

She said that the wide range of existing instruments adopted by the United Nations system concerning tolerance, human rights, cultural cooperation, science and education, constituted a solid basis for the United Nations Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations. New international instruments or long processes of intergovernmental negotiations were therefore not needed; what was needed was practical action to bring people together by using modern methods of communication. While the European Union supported further development of intergovernmental dialogue in the United Nations system, it would be disappointed if the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations eventually fell into that category.

In Europe, she concluded, multiethnic and multicultural diversity and interaction had created an enormously rich heritage, but had also generated conflict. The countries of the European Union were aware from their own experiences that the only way to peace and stability was through democracy, pluralism and human rights in open and tolerant societies. They were, therefore, committed to promoting international cooperation, democracy, the rule of law and human rights in the global context.

HAROLD FRUCHTBAUM (Solomon Islands), responding to the analysis presented by the Secretary-General's Personal Representative for the Year of Dialogue, said that the "common denominator of values" Mr. Picco had said "by definition, facilitate dialogue”, needed to be delineated. He wondered whether a consensus on what that common denominator was could be reached in the near future.

Certainly, the work of Mr. Picco on behalf of the Secretary-General, and the future efforts of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), were welcome, he said. Regional and national conferences and symposia were valuable. Nevertheless, the dialogue among civilizations raised sensitive questions; there needed to be serious dialogues rather than "unanswered monologues”. How these matters were to be addressed could not be left to the Secretariat or a specialized agency to resolve. Moreover, if the dialogue among civilizations were to have any long-term success, it should not be confined to elites at the exclusion of the widest representation of civil society. This meant public information efforts were needed, to obtain the early involvement of the print and electronic media.

LEE SEE-YOUNG (Republic of Korea) said it was necessary to address the root causes of conflicts through the promotion of dialogue among diverse civilizations. The rich diversity of the world’s civilizations could and should be a rallying cry for global harmony and prosperity, rather than for clash and conflict. As history had shown, great civilizations had always flourished by sharing their ideas and experiences with other civilizations.

Moreover, in the age of globalization, it was increasingly evident that contact among different peoples from different civilizations and cultures would intensify, as information and communication technologies continued to develop and link people more closely than ever. The international community must be able to provide the “normative architecture” to channel that social entropy towards harmony, understanding and peaceful coexistence.

Although an “acceptance of diversity” and a “spirit of tolerance” were essential ingredients in the dialogue among civilizations, it was not possible to deny the existence of universal values, which generations all over the world had aspired to and struggled for throughout their respective histories. Those universal values were the embodiment of collective wisdom, insights, and experiences emanating from different civilizations. They provided rich soil in which the seeds of diversity among civilizations could together be planted and encouraged to flourish.

SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said that recognition of the right of every nation to equal security and a place among nations was a prerequisite for the interaction of different civilizations. Achieving dialogue among nations presumed the consolidation of the principles of pluralism and the democratization of international life. By promoting and protecting human rights and developing civil society, a “dialogue inside civilizations” would promote stabilization both within and among nations.

The development of a dialogue among civilizations demanded that the role of the United Nations as a mechanism for international cooperation be increased, he said. The Charter was both the political and legal core for constructive cooperation of civilizations in the transition to a multipolar world. On the threshold of the twenty-first century, the Charter had not lost its moral force. While the Russian Federation agreed with the conclusions of the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative in his report on the Year of Dialogue, it was inappropriate to make a distinction between civilizations that perceived diversity as a threat and those that perceived diversity as an integral component of growth. Dialogue among civilizations must be developed as a joint effort of all nations in their struggle against violence, extremism, terrorism, poverty, hunger and disease –- disasters that denied the very essence and foundation of any civilization.

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For information media. Not an official record.