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The Issyk-Kul Declaration
on Dialogue among Cultures and Civilizations in Eurasia

adopted by the international Conference on Dialogue among Civilizations
"Eurasia in the XXIst Century: 
Dialogue of Cultures, or Conflict of Civilizations?"

Issyk Kul, Kyrgyzstan 10 and 11 June 2004


Final Declaration
Background Document

UNESCO - Dialogue among Civilizations

UNESCO - Dialogue among Civilizations

We, the participants of the International Conference "Eurasia in XXI Century - Dialogue of Cultures or the Conflict of Civilizations?", convened at the initiative of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, H.E. Mr. Askar Akaev, together with the Director-General of UNESCO, H.E. Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura;

Welcoming the presence of the President of Tajikistan, H.E. Mr.Emomali Rahmonov; the personal representatives of the Heads of State of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Turkmenistan; the representatives of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Eurasian Economic Community and the International Fund for the Aral Sea; as well as high-level participants and specialists from some 50 countries;

Expressing its appreciation for the video message delivered by the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran;

Encouraged by the participation of personalities and eminent experts, representatives of civil society, academia and science, spiritual leaders, the artistic community, and the media hailing both from the region and from many neighboring countries and countries outside the region;

Convinced that sustainable and peaceful development is only possible through open and continuous co-operation and dialogue among actors of civil society, States and regions;

Imbued by the dynamism of cultural diversity prevailing in the Eurasian region with its multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic and multi-religious characteristics;

Inspired by the Global Agenda for Dialogue between Civilisations, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 21 November 2001 (resolution 56/6) and by the resolution adopted by the UNESCO General Conference on 16 October 2003 (resolution 47), setting out new perspectives and concrete action for the Organization’s work in the area of dialogue among cultures and civilizations;

  1. Welcome the timeliness of the Issyk-Kul International Conference, which has allowed to identify concrete measures for the promotion of dialogue and for countering and removing barriers, prejudices and ignorances between the countries and peoples of the Eurasian continent;

  2. Applaud the collective commitment expressed by all leaders participating in the conference to dialogue, good governance, sustainable development and cultural diversity;

  3. Enjoin all peoples and countries of Eurasia, their youth and political decision-makers to engage in and practice dialogue, aimed at building and strengthening mutual understanding, trust, respect for the Other and cultural diversity, democratic practices and co-operation with the aim of securing peace, development and prosperity throughout the region;

  4. Invite international and in particular regional organizations to facilitate such dialogue and to engage in exchanges among themselves with a view to sharing experiences and identifying best practices;

  5. Express our profound appreciation to H.E. President Askar Akaev, the Government and the people of Kyrgyzstan for their gracious hospitality and for the excellent arrangements made ensuring the success of the International Conference;

  6. Commend the Director-General of UNESCO, H.E. Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, for the effective and generous support provided;

  7. Join in the joy and celebrations of the 75th birthday of Mr. Chingiz Aitmatov, distinguished son of Kyrgyzstan, internationally acclaimed novelist and writer, humanist and Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the International Conference;

  8. Hereby unanimously adopt the

Issyk-Kul Declaration
on Dialogue among Cultures and Civilizations in Eurasia:

  1. For centuries, Eurasia has been at the crossroads of continents, philosophies, ideologies, trade routes and geopolitical and strategic processes and interests. It is a multi-ethnic and multi-faith region, which embodies characteristics and manifestations of both East and West. It has experienced a rich history of interaction, confrontations, co-existence, dialogues and conflicts. Owing to the interpenetration of different traditions, customs and practices, Eurasia has become home for diverse cultures, providing an environment within which the rich experience, aspirations and customs of nations can be effectively shared. Since ancient times, in particular during the era of the Great Silk Route, cultural values as well as material values and riches have moved between East and West.

  2. In Kyrgyzstan, many imprints have been left from historical dialogues, which have provided linkages and bridges between regions, cultures and civilizations. As a modernizing Central Asian state, Kyrgyzstan today sets an example by pursuing through dialogue a greater integration into the globalizing world economy, at a time when new and multifaceted threats to peace and stability have thrust the region again into the international limelight. President Akaev’s proposed grand design for a new “Diplomacy of the Silk Road” responds imaginatively to these challenges. This initiative should be accompanied by concrete steps and modalities aimed at regional integration, providing the economic foundations for sustainable development of the region, including through the promotion of free trade, investment and the sharing of innovative solutions. Central Asian countries should further be encouraged to revive and create new international transport-communication routes and corridors through joint infrastructure projects, to develop tourism, and to share know-how using information and communication technologies (ICTs).

  3. Under conditions of globalization, major developments in Eurasian life and culture have acquired an international dimension. Indisputably, globalization begets dialogue and international cooperation. Since the early 1990s, Central Asian countries have advanced in creating modern, secular, and open democratic societies. All these newly independent countries are now going through periods of transition that are driven by complex socio-political processes calling for continuous dialogue on a number of burning issues, including trafficking in drugs and human beings and transnational crime. By moving toward mutual trust, dialogue, social harmony and peace, the states of the region can embark on a most promising journey together. This path must be pursued with a view to constructing genuinely democratic and plural multilingual and multi-ethnic societies, respectful of human rights and ready to cope with the challenges and requirements of the 21st century while remaining true to the spirit of Central Asian contexts and realities. The region as a whole is also called to consolidate its policy responses to these challenges and opportunities, searching for new avenues of socio-economic and political development, and for a more dynamic interaction with the world community. Prosperity and security are inextricably linked.

  4. Strong emphasis must be placed on tackling the roots of potential conflicts, by reducing inequalities, combating poverty, enhancing governance and creating necessary conditions for peace. The interaction of cultures and communities is an integral feature of, and precondition for, social progress, the strengthening of socio-cultural pluralism and cultural diversity in the region.

  5. Today a multi-level and multi-pronged dialogue must be initiated and fostered both among and within civilizations with a view to developing the foundations for a peaceful and prosperous life of future generations. A major line of dialogue should aim at a synthesis between the values of rights, democracy and autonomy on the one hand and those of responsibilities, community and social order on the other hand. Contemporary trends of nationalism, separatism, and religious extremism as well as the threat of armed conflict call for increased intercultural and intra-civilisational dialogue in the Eurasian geopolitical space. Such dialogue must categorically denounce, if not ostracize terrorism, extremism, violence and hatred.

  6. Nurturing democracy, protecting human rights and promoting social and economic development are indispensable ingredients for a prosperous Eurasia as are partnerships between peoples, the private sector and countries in the region. Open democratic processes provide the fertile soil for cultures to blossom provided there is freedom for creative expression for all.

  7. The notion of a clash between civilizations is not our collective destiny, as we live in an era of globalization, integration and mutual exchange. Setting up a divide between irreconcilable alternatives flies in the face of historical experience and actual dynamic intercultural interactions and exchanges. Yet, a well-founded and honest dialogue among civilizations and cultures is no minor endeavour. Genuine dialogue based on openness towards the Other and an open-endedness of discussion is vital in opening up space for a deeper understanding of the diverse nature of the human family. It helps to shed misconceptions, dispel misperceptions and stereotypes, reveal differences, and generate confidence and trust.

Shared values as a framework for constructive interaction and sustained dialogue

  1. Respect for certain core universal values and ethical principles, such as tolerance, human rights, democracy and the rule of law and respect for cultural diversity, are universally shared and transcend all civilizations. They are central to the concept of our common humanity, as is respect for cultural diversity. Dialogue must therefore focus on the centrality of shared values, which confer meaning to life and provide form and substance to human identities. The development of democratic societies is impossible without the capacity of each citizen to integrate his or her values and principles with the values of other socio-cultural groups. Here dialogue is essential. But security is a pre-requisite for the ability of the region to share values and to cooperate fully in trade and social development.

  2. In all these processes, education plays a pivotal role. Educational solutions to many of the regional challenges are of paramount importance, underpinning virtually all other aspects, such as regional integration, security and political as well as economic viability.

  3. In this area, we call for the following action: Countries of the region should establish both a permanent security structure for the region and an institutionalised mechanism to foster regularly dialogue and mutual understanding on critical issues in the Eurasian geopolitical space, based on shared values and principles;

  1. Governments should foster people-to-people contacts through cultural exchanges and the exchange of scholars, students, and media personnel.

  2. Consideration should be given to creating a new “Silk Road Project” aimed at gathering knowledge of religions of all Silk Road peoples, including Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and other faiths, so that greater understanding could be achieved between the peoples of the region, and by the world at large, helping to formulate common ethics and values.

  3. Governments should adapt educational programmes, harmonise curricula and develop suitable textbooks and learning materials to impart values education with a view to ‘learning to live together”, including through multi-lingual education emphasizing mother tongues; UNESCO should be invited to assist in these endeavours;

  4. Governments should link educational reforms with the practice of democratic values, activities to promote the observance of human rights, and advocate non-violence;

  5. Governments and UNESCO should explore and promote the introduction of a region-wide approach to teacher training;

  6. Within the context of education, UNESCO, other international organizations and professional associations should offer training to journalists so as to enhance the level of professionalism in the regional media thereby countering trends towards control and censorship;

  7. Institutes of Central Asian Studies should be formed in all regions of the world in order to foster better knowledge and understanding of the region.

The role and potential of cultural diversity as a vector for dialogue

  1. The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001) underscores that policies for the inclusion and participation of all citizens are guarantees of social cohesion, the vitality of civil society and peace. Cultural diversity denotes the human and societal capacity for expression, creation and innovation, as well as for reconciliation. It benefits from dialogue and interaction within and between societies.

  2. The cultures of the region must be enriched by new possibilities of expression, which may require changes in individual and societal norms, values and practices.

  3. The role of tangible and intangible cultural heritage is paramount. Indeed, heritage is an increasingly significant vector of identity and reconciliation. Intangible cultural heritage in particular is endangered and the recent adoption of the UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage is a signal action for more pro-active international action. Early ratification of this new international instrument will be crucial as it will provide Member States with mechanisms of assistance for the identification, safeguarding and promotion of forms of expression of the intangible cultural heritage. It will also stimulate the exchange of information, experience and joint initiatives in the field of safeguarding.

  4. Kyrgyzstan is not only an example of what could be called ‘living cultural diversity’, but also of a unique cultural heritage. The recent proclamation of the traditional Kyrgyz musicians and storytellers, the Akyns, as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity clearly underlines this and is welcomed as a recognition of the region’s inherent cultural riches and diversity. This follows on the proclamation of the Cultural Space of Boysun District of Uzbekistan as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001.

  5. In this area, we call for the following action:

  1. Governments should agree to reject ideological approaches to any element of common cultural heritage;

  2. Governments should establish a Regional Forum for Dialogue among practitioners in the cultural field;

  3. Cultural dialogue aimed at peace-building at national, regional, and global levels should be supported by Governments, international and regional organizations, the private sector and foundations;

  4. Support should also be solicited for publications aimed at underpinning integration, peace-building exercises and trans-cultural understanding;

  5. The countries of the region should act to ensure early ratification of the Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage;

  6. UNESCO should recognize to a greater extent the breadth and wealth of the region‘s intangible cultural heritage, which will be of significance for the development of the entire region.

Water resources and the quest for human security as a new dimension of dialogue

  1. Peaceful cooperation and synergies in the region can be advanced by focusing on water, sustainable development and human security at large. Pollution and environmental degradation in the region may jeopardize the management of scarce resources, shared across national boundaries, and impinge on human security. Water, with its trans-cultural symbolic significance, not only has the power to unite but also to cause tensions and conflicts if not addressed adequately. Water can generate tensions between States and within a State – or it can lead to cooperation. The countries of Central Asia benefit from possessing rich natural resources, including oil, gold and the most precious of all, water. The issue of water and its management has become of strategic importance for sustainable development, national well-being and the security of all States of the region – requiring cooperation and dialogue between countries sharing water resources. The World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in 2002 in Johannesburg, affirmed that one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is that both the number of people living in extreme poverty and those being without access to safe drinking water and sanitation should be halved by the year 2015. 

  2. Geopolitical changes, agricultural demands, energy requirements, urbanization, economic and industrial growth all impact on the water situation and the management of water resources in the region – in complex and highly interdependent ways as can be seen in the five-country Aral Sea Basin, which relies on water resources from the Syr-Darya and the Amu-Darya rivers. These pressures often give rise to tensions and even conflicts, due to the fact that freshwater resources do not correspond to political borders and that spatially they are not evenly distributed.

  3. Central Asian countries in particular will be challenged to mount a huge effort aimed at improving water supplies and quality and to reinforce regional cooperation among the countries concerned through regular and institutionalised dialogue. Bodies like the Interstate Coordinating Water Commission between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan can help chart and implement effective cooperative approaches. Water has always been a vector of dialogue in the region, involving people at grassroots and local levels, but it merits increased attention given the changing global and regional trends.

  4. In this area, we call for the following action:

  1. Governments should intensify their cooperation and interaction on issues pertaining to water and sustainable development and encourage the formation of informal or semi-formal partnerships involving other actors;

  2. International financing institutions, donor governments and the private sector partners should provide urgent assistance to and funding for irrigation infrastructure projects to foster the sustainable use of water resources and sustainable agricultural production;

  3. Governments at all levels should pay greater attention to the revitalization of traditional water harvesting technologies which have proved their sustainability;

  4. Collaboration between sub-national, national or regional authorities should be encouraged and the development and implementation of concrete projects should be supported, such as the Greater Altai project;

  5. Research should be undertaken to explore ways in which traditional technologies have helped to decrease water-related conflicts with a view to drawing lessons for the future;

  6. Governments and UNESCO are encouraged to support the creation of regional and interregional centres dealing with various aspects of water-related issues in the Eurasia region, also making use of the modality of dialogue.


  1. Dialogue must be built in the present to bear its true fruits in the future. The support provided by UNESCO's Goodwill Ambassador for the Dialogue among Civilizations, Mr. Ara Abramian, to equip educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan with computers and internet access is a fine example of initiatives to lay the groundwork for new forms of dialogue -  Appeal presented to us by the Assembly of Associated Schools of UNESCO from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan was not only moving and timely, it was straight to the point. The successor generation expects from us to take all measures to prevent the outbreak of inter-communal and international conflict, to create the legal basis for peace and development of all nationalities living in a state, to be guided by the precept “we are different, but we are equal”, to conduct policies on the basis of mutual respect and dialogue, and to avoid any action hurting the elderly and children. Their expectations and their unambiguous “No” to national and religious strife, to acts of violence and to the killing of innocent people must be our sacred obligation!

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