Fifty-sixth General Assembly
40th Meeting (AM)
TERRORISM DENIES UNIVERSALITY OF VALUES IMPLICIT IN DIALOGUE AMONG CIVILIZATIONS,
INDIA TELLS ASSEMBLY AS TWO-DAY SESSION BEGINS
The past year of conflict had developed against a background of suspicion and exclusion, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria, told the General Assembly this morning as it started a two-day session on the Dialogue among Civilizations. That session is the culmination of the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, aimed at nurturing a dialogue among all nations that was both preventive of conflicts and inclusive in nature.
He said that the increasing incidence of extremism and terrorism highlighted the topical nature of the item. It made one think of humanity’s future prospects, which only made sense if all civilizations stood together. Intolerance was not an appendage of any religion or civilization. Rejecting the view that there were good and bad civilizations, he said civilizations should be complementary, mutually nourishing and converging towards universal values that could be shared. No country was big enough to do without others, or small enough not to contribute.
The representative of India said dialogue among civilizations had enlarged the common denominator of values and principles, including the values of liberal and participative democracy, rule of law, and tolerance. It was precisely that universality of human values that terrorism denied. The terrorist did not belong to any civilization, and rejected tolerance and diversity as values central to all civilizations. "To allow terrorists and the States which nurture them to hijack our discourse would be to give them a legitimacy which belongs only to the civilized," he said.
The notion that there were two groups of civilizations -- one which perceived diversity as a threat and the other which saw it as an opportunity -- was a simplistic and dangerous one, he said. Dialogue among civilizations had eroded the ignorance caused by ethnocentrism and led to the understanding that all human societies possessed their respective civilization and culture.
The representative of China said history had shown instances where one civilization would attempt to force its values upon others. However, such attempts had all failed because they ran counter to the historical trend of human development. In the current international situation, profound changes were taking place. With further multi-polarization of the world, economic globalization and the rapid development of technology, humankind faced unprecedented opportunities for development -- as well as a series of negative global issues such as environmental degradation, terrorism, refugees, poverty and the widening gap between the North and the South.
The United Nations represented the diversity of the world’s civilizations, he said, and was a forum for all different civilizations. In promoting dialogue, the Organization must conduct the dialogue among civilizations so as to remove the negative impact of the cold war mentality from international relations; promote the principles of democracy and equality in international affairs; and push forward the establishment of a just and equitable new international political order.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said the international community had been shocked by the murderous terrorist act against the United States, which was condemned by all peace-loving peoples and responsible governments, Arab and Muslim governments chief among them. The events of 11 September had shown that there were certain historical sensitivities that remained in the subconscious of the East and the West. While the past could not be changed, the future could. Interaction among peoples did not recognize religious differences, and the unity of the human race transcended racial divisions.
Chile's representative said the discussion must be an exercise in humility. As members of the United Nations, States should not accept the idea that this would become a planet where a globalized elite would protect and isolate themselves from the marginalized. All should agree to eliminate from children’s texts all references to “the other” as the enemy, especially in religious teachings. He hoped that this year would be known in the future as the moment when the international community began its reflections on the future of civilization.
The representatives of Kuwait, Burkina Faso, Singapore, Egypt, Belarus, Japan, Morocco, Yemen, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Mongolia and Ukraine also spoke.
The Assembly was informed that tomorrow, 9 November, at noon, it would hear from seven members of the group of eminent persons appointed by the Secretary-General, Nadine Gordimer and Hans Küng among them.
The Assembly will meet again this afternoon at 3 p.m. to continue its debate on the subject.
The General Assembly met this morning to begin a two-day review of this year as the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. The Assembly has before it the Secretary-General’s report on the Year (document A/56/523). It also has before it a resolution on a draft global agenda for dialogue among civilizations (document A/56/L.3).
From noon to 1 p.m. the Assembly will hear statements by seven members of the group of eminent persons appointed by the Secretary-General on the occasion of the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, as well as Ahmad Jalali, President of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) General Conference. The seven eminent persons are: A. Kamal Aboulmagd (Egypt), Judge of the World Bank Administrative Tribunal; Ruth Cardoso (Brazil), member of the Board of the United Nations Foundation; Nadine Gordimer (South Africa), writer and Nobel Prize laureate for literature; Sergey Kapitza (Russian Federation), professor of physics; Hans Küng (Switzerland), President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic (Welethos); Tu Weiming (China), Professor of Chinese History and Philosophy; and Javad Zarif (Iran), professor of International Law and Deputy Foreign Minister.
(For more information see Note to Correspondents No. 5693, issued on
The Secretary-General’s report on the Year states that a final report should already have been submitted. However, it was hard to think of finality when the events of the year itself had drawn attention to the imperative of dialogue among civilizations. The terrorist attacks of 11 September represented the worst of humanity while the dialogue sought to promote the best. The Group of Eminent Persons on the Year, headed by the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for the Year, had issued a collaborative book entitled Crossing the Divide which summed up their views on the subject.
The report states that the idea of a dialogue among civilizations had engendered wide interest among academic and international institutions, as well as non-governmental organizations and governments. Numerous events had been held worldwide at the local, national, regional and international levels in forms ranging from symposiums to international conferences. A number of governments had lent support to encourage a dialogue among civilizations in the years ahead. Other governments had supported the work of the Eminent Group and one had contributed to the Secretary-General’s trust fund for the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations.
Among the national initiatives during the Year, the report continues, were a series of events held by Austria, Germany and Japan. The UNESCO had been actively involved in many events. One international conference held in July under the auspices of Lithuania, Poland and UNESCO had brought together political leaders, decision makers, scholars and artists from more than 20 countries. They exchanged views on ways to build mutual understanding among peoples based on common concepts of tolerance, solidarity and cooperation. Another international conference held in July in Tokyo had drawn speakers from 23 countries. Among other issues, it had explored the political aspects of the dialogue. Both conferences and activities looked at means of facilitating dialogue and had suggested that traditional and new media could promote dialogue alongside face-to-face encounters.
Further, the report states that the dialogue could be strengthened by taking advantage of science as a medium for discussion. A shared body of knowledge, and a common understanding at the technical level, made science a forum for exchange of information based on shared interests, even when dialogue had been discouraged or denied at the political level.
The prospects for future dialogue were positive if cultural and religious diversity were viewed as a source of strength and not a cause for confrontation, the report concludes in its overview of the Year’s activities. The prospects for dialogue were even better with the understanding that the goal of dialogue was not to impose a viewpoint on others or even to reach consensus, but rather to promote the acceptance of a diverse world with shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect for human rights. A respectful dialogue that did not pass judgement on other cultural norms could draw lessons from the relative successes of past cross-civilizational exchanges. Best practices from contemporary experiences could also be exchanged. Most important for the dialogue, however, was the political will of governments to ensure dialogue within their societies at all levels, from local and national to regional and international, involving those who were traditionally under-represented such as women and youth.
Further, says the report, the conferences and activities had shown the United Nations to be the natural home of dialogue among civilizations. Globalization was one important topic for the dialogue, with an emphasis on distributing the benefits of globalization evenly. It was also critical that no ideology and no cultural or economic system should triumph over others, and that cultural diversity should be preserved.
Finally, the Secretary-General reaffirms, a dialogue among civilizations was not only the answer to terrorism but also its nemesis in many ways. Terrorism sought to divide while dialogue aimed to unite. Terrorism was exclusionary and belligerent while dialogue was inclusive and accepting of the notion that no group was the exclusive owner of the truth. Where terrorism made diversity the source of conflict, dialogue made it the foundation for growth. The book compiled by the group of eminent persons provided the stimulus for going forward with the dialogue, which could serve as a tool in the ongoing struggle against terrorism as a “soft” tool of diplomacy that could prevail in the long term.
An annex to the report lists the members of the Group of Eminent Persons, who also authored Crossing the Divide. Another annex states that Austria, Germany, Finland, Japan, the Philippines and Portugal had so far submitted reports of their activities with regard to the Year.
The resolution on a draft global agenda for dialogue among civilizations (document A/56/L.3) proclaims the Agenda. It contains objectives, principles and participants of the Agenda and a programme of action.
According to the text, dialogue among civilizations was a process between and within civilizations, founded on inclusion and a collective desire to learn, uncover and examine assumptions, unfold shared meaning and core values and integrate multiple perspectives through dialogue. It constituted a process for attaining such goals as inclusion, equity, equality, justice and tolerance in human interactions; promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and enrichment of common understanding of human rights; development of a better understanding of common ethical standards and universal human values; and enhancement of respect for cultural diversity and cultural heritage.
Further to the draft, participation in the dialogue should be global in scope and open to all, including people from all civilizations; intellectuals, writers, scientists, representatives of the arts, culture and the media and youth; and individuals from civil society and representatives of non-governmental organizations, as instrumental partners in promoting dialogue among civilizations.
The draft contains a programme of action according to which States, the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations and civil society are invited to consider the following as a means of promoting dialogue among civilizations within existing resources and also drawing upon voluntary contributions: facilitating and encouraging interaction and exchange among all individuals from various societies and civilizations; promoting of mutual visits and meetings of experts in various fields from different civilizations; exchange of visits among representatives of the arts and culture and the organization of cultural festivals; sponsorship of conferences, symposiums and workshops to enhance mutual understanding, tolerance and dialogue among civilizations; planning sport competitions; and other activities.
States, funding institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector are invited to mobilize the necessary resources to promote dialogue among civilizations, including by contributing to the trust fund established by the Secretary-General for that purpose. The United Nations system, including the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations and UNESCO, are invited to encourage and facilitate dialogue among civilizations and formulate ways and means to promote such dialogue in the activities of the United Nations in various fields.
The draft is sponsored by Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Chad, China, Colombia, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Yemen.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said there had been circumstances in history when one civilization would attempt to force its values upon others. However, such attempts had all ended up in failure because they ran counter to the historical trend of human development. History had demonstrated that differences and disputes among civilizations were nothing to be worried about. Rather, one must adopt a proper attitude towards them. There were no superior or inferior civilizations in this world. On the contrary, they were equal. Moreover, profound changes were taking place in the current international situation. With further multi-polarization of the world, economic globalization and the rapid development of technology, mankind faced unprecedented opportunities for development as well as a series of negative global issues such as environmental degradation, terrorism, refugees, poverty and the widening gap between the North and the South.
Under those circumstances, countries must demonstrate a broader vision to conduct the dialogue among civilizations and solve disputes and differences by peaceful means. The United Nations represented the diversity of the world’s civilizations and was a forum for all different civilizations. It played an irreplaceable role in promoting dialogue. In the political dimension, the United Nations must conduct the dialogue so as to remove the negative impact of the cold war mentality from international relations; promote the principles of democracy and equality in international affairs; and push forward the establishment of a just and equitable new international political order.
In the economic sphere, the United Nations must conduct the dialogue so as to obtain full knowledge of the difficulties and problems countries faced, developing countries in particular; it must formulate an effective global economic cooperation strategy, in accordance with the realities of different countries and regions; and enable people of different civilizations to benefit from globalization, creating a win-win situation. He added that in the social and cultural field, the United Nations must raise awareness in the international community to respect and promote the diversity of civilizations, enhance the protection of cultural relics, and encourage people of all countries to carry out cultural exchanges.
ABDELAZIZ BELKHADEM, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria, said that increasing extremism and terrorism highlighted the topical nature of a dialogue among civilizations. It made one think of humanity’s future prospects, which only made sense if all civilizations stood together. Intolerance was not an appendage of any religion or civilization. Algeria’s support for tolerance and universal spirituality had helped make it more attuned to contemporary developments, and promote a new kind of humanism based on the unity of humanity. Algeria wanted to be an open place, a place of understanding, which would bring together universal values.
The past year of conflict had developed against a background of suspicion and exclusion, he continued. In reaction to that, the international community should promote dialogue and understanding. Diverse civilizations needed dialogue to better understand and mutually respect one another if they wished to exist within the narrow confines of this planet. Algeria rejected the view that there were good and bad civilizations, or that some had congenital flaws whereas others could be held up as unique. Instead, civilizations should be complementary, mutually nourishing, converging towards universal values that could be shared.
Islam had given birth to a brilliant civilization covering a vast geographical area, where people were united by the faith they shared and respected the religion of others. Today the world was witnessing the creation of a universal civilization, the fruit of contributions from various civilizations. Globalization and the Internet were on everyone’s lips. It was true that a lesser work was often translated from Chinese, Hebrew or some other language, but other languages lost the battle of trying to converge with the universal and the effort to converge had of course had its victims, who were left behind by globalization.
No country was big enough to do without others, he said, or small enough not to contribute. What could one do for cultures threatened by indifference and exclusion? Of course, all such cultures were not doomed to disappear. Some were on the rise -- but that was not to be perceived as a threat but as a benefit, bringing in fresh blood and ensuring that universal civilization continued to grow, that it was not confined by man-made borders. It was important to have a true dialogue among civilizations, but each must be convinced that they stood to learn from the other, that the other was exactly what was missing from its own development.
T. C. A. RANGACHARI (India) said the world today could not claim a finite number of distinct civilizations. It was the whole of a multitude of overlapping cultures. The notion that there were two groups of civilizations -- one which perceived diversity as a threat and the other which saw it as an opportunity -- was a simplistic and dangerous one. The dialogue among civilizations which had taken place over the years had eroded the ignorance caused by ethnocentrism, and had led to the understanding that all human societies possessed their respective civilization and culture.
It was but natural that each society sought to protect and preserve its civilizational and cultural values, he said, but dialogue led to the understanding that there was neither an inferior nor a superior civilization. They were different, but there was commonality in civilizational values and achievements. Beyond the shared genetic material and evolution of technology, there had always been a similarity in approach that different civilizations had taken to issues of ethics. That was not surprising, as value systems had relevance to human situations. The right to life, for instance, enjoyed primacy in all civilizations. The dialogue over the past half-century had allowed those values to be codified into internationally accepted instruments protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Dialogue among civilizations had enlarged the common denominator of values and principles, including the values of liberal and participative democracy, of rule of law, and of tolerance. They should not be construed as an imposition, nor should one or another civilization claim proprietary rights over them. It was that universality of human values that terrorism denied. The terrorist belonged to no civilization and rejected tolerance and diversity. “To allow terrorists and the States which nurture them to hijack our discourse would be to give them a legitimacy which belongs only to the civilized,” he said.
MOHAMMAD AL-AWDI (Kuwait) said that this was one of the most important issues on the agenda of the General Assembly. Kuwait had been involved with this topic of dialogue, both at governmental level and with the United Nations. That had led to optimism. He was pleased by the activities that had so far been undertaken to reinforce the concept of dialogue among civilizations. He stressed that the dialogue was a strategic objective, and he welcomed the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. Many States and organizations had deployed great efforts to that end, and his Government would support all related resolutions.
Kuwait was involved in several activities which aimed at cultural education for Kuwait and the world. His Government had signed a number of international treaties and bilateral agreements on cooperation, education and cultural programmes. Many of those activities had been implemented on the national level, including cultural programmes, cultural and artistic festivities and exchange programmes. His Government had also organized several other activities in cooperation with UNESCO’s programmes.
Dialogue among civilization was particularly important this year, following the events of 11 September, he said. He hoped that from it would emerge a guarantee of peace and stability for all the people of the world. That wish was reflected in the foreign policy of Kuwait. Following the terrorist attack, the Kuwaiti Government sought to cooperate in reinforcing the dialogue in peaceful manner. He stressed that Arab civilization had totally renounced terrorism. It was important that dialogue among civilization should take place, not simply as a response to terrorism, but for all times.
MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said that in light of the events of
11 September the choice of the present year to elaborate discussions on dialogue among civilizations could not be more opportune. The dialogue was a unique tool for creating a climate of peace, security and trust between nations and fostering better understanding between peoples. The dialogue among civilizations would contribute greatly to the pacification of inter-community and international relations.
At a time when communications technology had reduced the world to a global village, at a time when the globalized economy was creating new interdependencies, the United Nations needed to play the role of moderator of member States and assume leadership in the dialogue process.
He took the occasion to share the experiences of his country, which had a cultural heritage based on good humour. That had led to many examples of fraternal dialogue. His country contained 60 ethnic groups and many religious communities which existed in harmony. Good humour was successfully resorted to in a host of situations; creating a congenial ambiance. There was a similar sense when it came to religion, and it was not rare to see Muslims celebrating Christmas, or Christians celebrating Mouloud. His country wished to reaffirm its determination to pursue and implement the process of dialogue among civilizations.
TAN YEE WOAN (Singapore) said trade and commerce were the most important points of contact among civilizations. It was important not only to avoid reducing interactions with people outside one’s own societies and cultures but also to extend and deepen such contacts.
Developed countries tended to trade and invest among themselves, he said. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had shown that between the years 1998 and 2000, more than 76 per cent of foreign direct investment inflows went to developed countries and only 21 per cent went to developing States. With the world economy now shaky, that discrepancy was likely to widen. Both developed and developing countries must take steps to reverse the phenomenon by liberalizing trade, reducing barriers to imports and helping developing countries to create the social, legal and physical infrastructure to encourage foreign investment.
Further, he said, the movement of people was a major, if involuntary, force in the dialogue among civilizations. The International Labour Office estimated that in 1999, more than 97 million people lived and worked in countries other than those of their birth. That did not include the approximately 11.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons estimated by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In short, he concluded, every society had foreigners among its native people, who were a source both of economic prosperity and cultural interchange. The anxiety caused by the recent threats of terrorism had already led to xenophobia and calls for restricted immigration. Both developed and developing countries would suffer if the flow of people and skills were limited. Now, as in the past, the strongest and most resilient societies were those that could accommodate different strands of thought, opinion and behaviour. Culturally homogenous societies, like fields of such crops, were vulnerable to unpredictable changes in the external environment. The interaction of civilizations therefore was a choice for survival against the forces leading to extinction.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said that dialogue among civilizations had started with a philosophical idea aimed at bringing civilizations together. That had now become a necessity rather than a philosophy, because of the world’s common fate. The international community needed serious dialogue aimed at coexistence to bring it together. It needed to establish a framework for unification, a civilization that would link culture, religion and other aspects. It was difficult to agree on a definition of civilization, because there were several, based on historical and geographical elements and the interplay between them.
The dialogue among civilizations stemmed from belief in equality of all civilizations, he said. Each and every civilization contributed to the destiny of humankind, with no notion of superiority or racism. All civilizations, no matter how diverse, were part of a unique system of human civilization. Humankind had not been able to achieve progress through a single civilization. All civilizations had erected their intricate structures through a long process of interaction -- through a dialogue within civilization itself.
Within a single civilization there were various faiths and languages, he continued. Each civilization had to eliminate the idea of superiority and to understand acceptance rather than rejection because of different convictions or lifestyles. The international community must understand that religion could not be used as a pretext for confrontation among people. Religion had to be a driving force for dialogue and coexistence.
SERGEI LING (Belarus) said that the start of the new millennium was the right time for humankind to review the importance of the whole spectrum of diversities among civilizations. We must all enrich one another, learn from one another, exchange experience and cooperate on the basis of equity and mutual respect. Only thus could existing differences be settled through peaceful means. Unfortunately, the world was still overflowing with conflicts, ecological problems and social threats. It should be noted that against that background, the majority of modern conflicts could be found at the crossroads of indigenous civilizations.
As the trend towards globalization continued, he said, it was important that the principles of democracy and equity be adhered to international affairs. It was in that context that the issue of combating terrorism should be considered. The efforts by the Security Council Committee on Counter-terrorism, established through the provisions of Council resolution 1373, should be continued and enhanced. Belarus shared the conception of the key role of the United Nations in the process of encouraging dialogue among civilizations. Proceeding from that position, Belarus had become a co-sponsor of the General Assembly resolution which contained the Global Agenda on Dialogue among Civilizations.
Today’s Belarus, he said, represented a miniature example of dialogue among civilizations. There were more than 140 ethnic minorities in Belarus, and all of them enjoyed the right to cultural, historic and linguistic identity. There were 26 major confessions registered in Belarus. The practice of organizing round tables with the participation of ethnic minorities, holding national cultural festivals and encouraging inter-ethnic scientific conferences was a long-standing tradition in Belarus. His country was interested in continuing that integration process in the future.
YUKIO SATOH (Japan) said the dialogue under discussion was an epoch-making undertaking with historical significance. It was most ironic, therefore, that the heinous terrorist attacks of 11 September had demonstrated in the cruelest manner the magnitude of yet another threat to civilization: terrorism. The intentional community must cooperate to eradicate terrorist attacks. But it could not be overemphasized that it was the terrorists who must be confronted -- not Muslims, or Islam, or Arab countries. Indeed, in January the Government of Japan had launched a new initiative which sought to further enhance understanding between Japan and Islamic countries in an effort to promote dialogue among civilizations.
There was no doubt, he said, that every civilization had been stimulated and enriched though its interactions with others. From Japan’s own historical experience, it was recognized that an understanding of different religions, cultures and customs was essential in order to reap the benefits of interaction between civilizations. As globalization continued to advance, different civilizations were coming into contact with each other in a very short span of time and in such a way as to involve entire societies, which sometimes engendered intolerance. It was, therefore, of utmost importance to promote exchanges, especially among young people who would one day be shouldering responsibility for the future of the world.
The United Nations Millennium Declaration stated that tolerance was essential to international relations in the twenty-first century. It was the responsibility of the international community to achieve that goal. The United Nations dialogue among civilizations had provided the world with an important opportunity. In the coming years, the international community would have to make further efforts in close cooperation with each other in order to expand dialogues and exchanges.
FAWZI SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) said that humanity aspired to make this century one of tolerance and cooperation; strengthening the human edifice and spreading security, peace, progress and prosperity to all. Yet the international community had been horrified by the disaster that had befallen the United States, shocked at that murderous and terrorist act which was condemned by all peace-loving peoples and responsible governments. Chief among them had been the Arab and Muslim governments that had been hurt by terrorism and had suffered from extremism and violence. He stressed that it was regrettable that there were forces in the West that lay in wait for Islam and the Arabs, and that saw in Muslims and Arabs the real antagonists and related them to terrorism. They had substituted the so-called green danger -- Islam -- for the red danger of the cold war.
Such tendentious individuals ignored the fact that terrorism was an international phenomenon not limited to a nation, a race or a religion. Every culture was subject to those who misrepresented it and misunderstood it, in a manner that was far from reality and truth. Those who theorized about the concept of conflict between civilizations and said that history was a product of violence, started from the premise that conflict was the basis for relations between individuals, nations and States, and that violence merely reflected human instinct. But the truth confirmed that conflicts were waged for interests, benefits, and objectives, and that violence, coupled with hatred and cruelty, was the result of prioritizing economic interests and political objectives by a unilateral power which was domineering and tyrannical, and in whose relations double standards were the norm.
Extremism, violence and terrorism were the results of excessive oppression and a lack of freedom and justice. The international community must work together to track the roots of terrorism and continue in its endeavours to find just solutions to conflicts. The events of 11 September had shown that there were certain historical sensitivities that remained in the subconscious of East and West. He had been surprised by the numerous residuals that had surfaced, and by how residues of the past with all their attendant hatred, had begun to show their face. While the past could not be changed, the future could. The world had changed, States were no longer an expression of a culture or a specific religion. Interaction among peoples did not recognize religious differences, and the unity of the human race transcended racial divisions.
MOHAMMED ARROUCHI (Morocco) said the principle of dialogue among civilizations was one of the foundations of Islamic society, which also espoused openness among peoples. The United Nations was the result of constructive dialogue undertaken 56 years ago among the nations of the world. Those nations were determined to preserve the world for future generations to live together in the spirit of good neighbourliness, which could only be achieved by promoting dialogue. That was especially necessary at a time when globalization had revealed the depth and complexity of humanity in all it aspects.
Morocco had been and remained a crossroads of tolerance and coexistence, he said, as well as a focus for the establishment of communications channels among different societies, regardless of their beliefs or starting points. It was a land of contact between Europe, the Arab world and sub-Saharan Africa, which had all contributed to the identity of the country. Differences existed among political and social systems, but there was a hard core of common fundamental rights which protected a person’s dignity. Tiny groups of extremists would like to protect their own cultures by creating a foreign threat. Others would like to profit from extremist actions, which was inadmissible because it would awaken ancient demons and quarrels.
The acceleration of globalization must not mean homogeneity or uniformity in the world, he continued. The international community must guarantee that the opening of trade and borders was carried out with respect for cultural diversity throughout the world. A nation that crushed another nation could not consider itself free of barriers, because it became part of a dialectic between master and slave, which was prejudicial to both parties in a relationship. He hoped the year of dialogue among civilizations would lead to specific measures, not only to eliminate terrorism but return hope to the children of Palestine.
ABDUL-DAYEM MUBAREZ (Yemen) welcomed the increasing interest paid by the General Assembly to the dialogue among civilizations. It reflected a collective consciousness of lessons learned from the last century. He added that the attacks of 11 September had highlighted the need to strengthen dialogue and eradicate all conflict in the world. The terrorist attack had made it clear that the eradication of terrorism was a collective priority, since its existence threatened both international peace and stability and hampered development. That made it important to intensify efforts for pushing ahead on the current topic, as dialogue among civilizations was the essential answer to terrorism. Terrorism was based on the aggressive assumptions of others, he said.
It was clear from the report of the Secretary-General that the activities undertaken these past few years had gone a long way to crystallize the basic concepts for international cooperation and understanding. Throughout its history, Yemen, as a point of contact between Asia and Africa, had always been a centre for trade and exchange between different countries and cultures. The Government of Yemen had undertaken several activities, including symposiums and improvements of educational curriculums. The traditional medium of education could go a long way to raise awareness, particularly among the young, of understanding and tolerance of other cultures.
The role of the media could not be underestimated, he said. It was vital to urge people working with the media to aim for understanding as opposed to prejudice. Some journalists, after 11 September, had been quick to point fingers in and attempt to link international terrorism to Arabs and Islam. That regrettable behaviour made it essential to redouble efforts to find new channels of dialogue and diversification. Humanity had suffered enough from intolerance and prejudice, he said.
JUAN GABRIEL VALDES (Chile) said that it was more important today than ever before to proclaim the diversity of the world as an asset. Chile welcomed the dialogue and was inspired by the hope that these meetings would help prevent millions of people from forgetting that all culture is life. This debate was not about power and prestige among nations, but about bringing nations closer together. The international community should arm itself with a spirit intent on fostering the appreciation of all that was alien. Latin Americans, he said, came from a blend of inhabitants of the Iberian peninsulas, together with indigenous races, and therefore could not ignore the pain of intolerance which had affected their history.
In considering the process of globalization, one could not but acknowledge the great impact that it was having. Nations joining in the globalization process must do so with an open mind. Chile was aware of the advantages and risks and knew that there was no alternative, but it warned against the obsession with imposing a single idea based on science or narrowing the spirituality of contemporary human beings. Too may times, Western civilization had looked at the world around it and then created categories which it believed to be universal -- with negative results.
These discussions, he said, must be an exercise in humility. As members of the United Nations, States should not accept the idea that this would become a planet where a globalized elite would protect and isolate themselves from the marginalized. A situation where more than half the planet was excluded from progress could not be accepted; it was the duty of States to promote and protect all human rights and basic freedoms. It was for that reason that all who supported the value of these meetings should agree to eliminate from children’s texts all words that referred to “the other” as the enemy, especially in religious teachings. It was Chile’s hope that this year would be known in the future as the moment when the international community began its reflections on the future of civilization.
MADINA B. JARBUSSYNOVA (Kazakhstan) said globalization had promoted mutual enrichment of civilizations and created new opportunities for cultural exchange. In this interdependent world, cultures and civilizations had an urgent need of dialogue based on mutual dignity and respect. The world was confronted with threats to its creative diversity, such as ethnic conflicts, xenophobia, racism, prejudice and intolerance. Many of today's problems had arisen as a consequence of differences within nations.
This year, she said, was particularly important for her country as it was celebrating the tenth anniversary of its independence. It had proclaimed a human society with equal rights for all peoples and nationalities of Kazakhstan. Faced with a potentially explosive mix of 130 nationalities, the people had learned to live together in peace. A visit by the Pope last year had promoted inter-cultural dialogue and fostered understanding, tolerance and mutual respect.
She said dialogue among civilizations was an important tool for different cultures to find their places in this complicated world. Each culture should cultivate within itself respect for other cultures, which was crucial in the light of the most recent events. She stressed that blaming Islam -- a religion which was used by criminal elements to justify their terrorist acts -- must be opposed. Islam was a religion of peace that called for coexistence, tolerance and respect among people and prohibited the killing of the innocent. Today’s theme, Dialogue among Civilizations, was an excellent opportunity for the international community to consolidate pluralism and democracy and to struggle against terrorism, intolerance and other phenomena that threatened all civilizations.
SERGEY V. LAVROV (Russian Federation) said Russia possessed unique experience of the coexistence of great cultures and religions. Their interaction and mutual enrichment were the basis of its national being. East and West, Europe and Asia had come together on a vast space between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. That was why Russians were so much in accord with the principles of dialogue and tolerance, which must take precedence both at the juncture of civilizations and within them. Russia had recently adopted a federal programme on tolerance and the prevention of extremism.
The notion of a “Russian world” had always gone far beyond the geographical boundaries and even the boundaries of the Russian ethos. The Russian-speaking community was the fifth-largest in the world. Tens of millions of people who spoke, thought, and perhaps felt Russian now lived in countries other than the Russian Federation. The principal task was to preserve the national culture, to help their compatriots to defend their human rights, and to protect them from discrimination. The achievement of that goal was in harmony with the philosophy of dialogue among civilizations -– namely, the promotion of tolerance and respect for diversity.
In the face of new challenges and threats, the Organization must be strengthened and its role enhanced as an indispensable instrument for intensification of the universal dialogue in order to maintain international peace and security and to establish a non-violent, democratic world order. A pledge of success in that respect was the equality of all Member States under the United Nations Charter and other basic principles of international law.
The task of promoting an equitable dialogue among civilizations was even more urgent in the context of globalization. The world community needed unity in diversity. It was notable that the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations had coincided with the first year of the new century. The international community was under an obligation to strengthen and develop that dialogue in every possible way.
J. ENKHSAIKHAN (Mongolia) said this was an appropriate time for the General Assembly to consider the dialogue among civilizations, because the 11 September terrorist attacks had represented the worst of humanity while the dialogue sought to promote and enable the best of humanity. The importance of the deliberations lay not only in the subject matter, but in that they took place in the General Assembly, which in itself represented a dialogue among civilizations. If the United Nations were to be successful in preventing future conflicts, it must promote a norm of interaction between nations based on dialogue, cooperation and mutual respect.
Governmental and academic institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations had been involved in the activities of the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, he said. The UNESCO had been instrumental in fostering interest in the Year of Dialogue, and had made the dialogue among civilizations its strategic objective for 2002-2007. He expected that a book entitled Crossing the Divide: Dialogue Among Civilizations, prepared by the Personal Representative of the Secretary General for the Year, together with the Director-General of UNESCO and a group of eminent persons appointed by the Secretary-General, would contribute substantially to renewed efforts towards fostering dialogue among civilizations.
A series of activities and events, including an International Symposium on “Interaction between Nomadic and Other Cultures of Central Asia” held in Ulan Bator last August, had been launched in Mongolia, he said. In a world both unique and diverse, exchanges between civilizations were of great importance in exploring each other’s rich legacies and in forecasting the future. Mongolia was making every effort to further develop studies on nomadic civilization, as well as its influence on and interactions with other cultures. The ability of nomads to adapt to nature and live in full harmony with it could be of use in developing further action to preserve the environment.
Efforts should be made, he continued, to distribute more equally the benefits of “accelerating globalization” among countries and various groups within societies. Globalization and increasing interdependence compelled the international community to mould a new vision of international relations based on the spirit of peace, mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation. Unanimous adoption of an item concerning the Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations would further enhance solidarity among nations, and serve as an expression of Member States’ unity in the fight against intolerance, prejudice and violence.
PETRO DATSENKO (Ukraine) said dialogue among civilizations had become not only an important form of general communication, but a global force promoting mutual understanding and acceptable decisions for the further sustainable development of humankind. It would allow the international community to cope with the global problems of underdevelopment, poverty and disease, as well as such ugly
phenomena as racism, extremism and terrorism. Dialogue among civilizations should favour deeper understanding of global processes. That understanding was essential for the elaboration of effective mechanisms of cooperation and for promotion of a culture of tolerance and respect for religious and cultural diversity.
Cultural diversity was a unique value of humanity, a source of strength and a catalyst for the social development of the international community, he continued. The need for dialogue was especially pressing in the context of ongoing and rapidly developing globalization, which was crucial to the economic, spiritual and cultural development of all countries. He believed that the United Nations had all the means at its disposal to unite the efforts of the international community in stimulating and consolidating the global movement for the dialogue among civilizations.
Dialogue among civilizations would facilitate the formation of a global climate of mutual trust and tolerance, he said. That would involve a giving up of “old thinking” stereotypes, and a promotion of new models of coexistence based on common ethical values and principles. It would encourage foreign policy-makers to reflect on outdated conceptions and ideological models. Today, international stability and security went far beyond the military sphere. It was influenced by factors of economic, political, educational, scientific, technical and cultural character.
* *** *