Alliance of Civilizations told to act - Summary
Posted on : 2008-01-15 | Author : DPA
News Category : World

Madrid - The United Nations' Alliance of Civilizations project was Tuesday advised to engage in concrete programmes instead of just discussing inter-cultural dialogue at meetings and in documents. The countries involved should "tenaciously" seek to apply "concrete programmes," European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said at the alliance's first annual forum, which began in Madrid.

The Alliance of Civilizations, which was launched by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero after Islamist train bombings killed 191 people in Madrid in 2004, seeks to break down cultural prejudice and to increase understanding especially between the West and the Muslim world.

The two-day forum brought nearly 400 people from more than 60 countries to the Spanish capital, including representatives of governments, international organizations, civil society as well as religious leaders, entrepreneurs and artists.

The guest list included the presidents of Senegal, Finland and Slovenia and the prime ministers of Algeria and Malaysia.

"We do not need new documents, but they need to be applied," Solana said, pointing out that many of the alliance's ideas were already contained in EU legislation.

The countries involved should not "just hold meetings, but the meetings need to serve to solve problems," Solana insisted.

The Alliance of Civilizations will only succeed if given a "concrete content," Zapatero said, calling on all countries to adopt it as a "policy of state."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed the urgent need for inter-cultural dialogue to thwart the threat of extremist movements.

"Never in our lifetime has there been a more desperate need for constructive and committed dialogue," Ban said, describing the Alliance of Civilizations as a "unique" platform for that purpose.

It was easy to call for cultural bridges, Ban admitted, but it was much more difficult to turn the words into deeds influencing how people thought and acted.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos urged the participants to engage to back US peace efforts in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, complaining of a "lack of political will" to create a Palestinian state.

Former Portuguese president Jorge Sampaio, the UN high representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, said it was filling a "vacuum" existing on the international level.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has joined Zapatero in sponsoring the initiative, said Turkey's entry into the EU would "prove that the Alliance of Civilizations is possible."

The forum included workshops aimed at sparking initiatives and partnerships to promote inter-cultural understanding.

Jordan's Queen Noor announced the creation of a 100-million-dollar fund to subsidize audiovisual productions promoting cultural integration, while the Spanish government said it would support movies and television series of that kind.

Recommendations issued by 20 eminent personalities in 2006 set education, the media, youth and migration as the main areas to be targeted.

Zapatero's and Erdogan's initiative for an alliance of civilizations was adopted by the UN in 2005.

The United States has backed the initiative, though it has shown a limited interest, and only sent its ambassador to Spain to the Madrid forum, according to Spanish sources.

The general action plan issued in 2006 is now to be followed by national plans. Zapatero outlined Spain's 60-point national plan and pledged to appoint a coordinator to implement it.

Original article: Earth Times
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