Dialogue among CivilizationsNo. 3 Vol. XLIX 2012
Issue 3, 2012 looks at the progress made and lessons learned in trying to redefine diversity and improve dialogue among civilizations and cultures since the 2001 United Nations Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations. In his remarks at the School of International Relations in Tehran, Iran, on 30 August 2012, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said:"Our collective responsibility is to build bridges of mutual understanding". This issue features articles from eleven leading experts from within and outside the United Nations on helping to foster and maintain that mutual understanding.
Since conflict begins where dialogue ceases, it is essential to search for ways past political fragmentation and strive to find common ground for debate. Thus, the ideal of authentic dialogue among people belonging to different cultures and civilizations has never lost momentum or its driving force. It must just be adapted to an evolving political landscape in the current era of globalization.
Reggae music blew up with a bang to the resistance movement against imperialism in the 1960s. It started in Kingston, Jamaica, and has conquered the world and acquired an emblematic Rastafarian character, but an understanding of its fundamental nature is still lacking.
The long list of incidents that have revealed the intensifying tension between the Muslim and Western worlds over the past few years is countless. The terrorist attacks of 9/11, the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and the interminable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians are merely the highest profile examples of a global state of affairs whose ramifications extend to even the very local and regional levels.
Three billion young people stood on a single stage at the opening plenary session of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 Summit) in Rio de Janeiro this past June. They demanded change and called on world leaders to take action to ensure that a sustainable future for our children and our grandchildren was secured.
Situations of conflict often arise in a complex setting of historical, social, cultural and political interaction between communities; accordingly, they must be dealt with in a multifaceted and integrative manner. In order to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, as the peoples of the United Nations proclaim in the Preamble to the Charter, we first have to understand each other, or appreciate each other's way of life and socio-cultural identity.
If we are to solve the world's major problems such as ending war and making sure everyone has enough to eat, millions of people from all over the world will need to be involved. They will need to understand the interconnectivity of all people, care about others, and maintain the highest ethical standards while they focus on solutions. In other words, we need world citizens to communicate with one another. But how are we to find and cultivate these people?
When the existing paradigm is one of war, domination and violence, the world needs to hear the voice of peace, dialogue and compromise. The widespread acceptance of the proposal to designate 2001 as the Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations by the United Nations General Assembly was of high importance.
Communicating for social change is an incremental process. Despite television being the world's most pervasive medium, broadcasts alone cannot accomplish this. Our experience in developing Asia shows that narrowcast outreach in classrooms and other small groups is often more effective. However, clearing non-broadcast rights is a major struggle.
The awareness that all human rights concerns and the effective move towards the realization of human rights—be it political, civil, economic, social or cultural—are indivisible, interconnected and interrelated, with a gender perspective, endows communities with a holistic insight of how we are all different from one another yet yearn to belong in community in dignity with others.
In reality, the creative and destructive sides of human passion are deeply integral to what it means to be human, but as an educator I increasingly wonder how can we differentiate between the two sides?
Women in higher education who believe in cultural dialogue and cross-cultural respect, understanding and collaboration are contributing as authentic persons and as women of authority and influence to slowly change perception, practices and policies by valuing people.