Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations: : Irina Bokova emphasizes need to invest in cultural diversity
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, emphasized the positive nature of humanity’s great cultural diversity as she addressed the Third Forum of the United Nations’ Alliance of Civilizations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Forum, held on 28 and 29 May, focused on the theme of Bridging Cultures, Building Peace.
Several hundred political and business leaders and representatives of civil society are attending the Forum to identify ways to improve intercultural relations to counter extremism and belligerence.
During the Forum, Irina Bokova and Jorge Sampaio, High Representative of the Secretary-General for the Alliance of Civilizations signed an agreement extending the Memorandum of Understanding linking the two organization for a further two years. The agreement sets the goals the two organizations expect to achieve in 2010-2011, and events they plan to organize jointly, with a particular focus on intercultural exchanges among the young. Projects underway include an anthology on the Muslim/Arab civilization and its contribution to the revival of Western philosophy and culture.
The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations was created in 2005 at the initiative of Spain and Turkey, to promote concrete actions to enhance mutual respect among peoples and cultures of different regions. According to Mr Sampaio, education - human rights education in particular - is the key to mutual respect.
The Third Forum features numerous workshops devoted, notably, to the role of the media in challenging stereotypes; history as a tool for cultural cooperation; and empowering women through education.
On 29 May, Ms Bokova was to moderate a plenary session entitled "education for an intercultural citizenship." This definition of citizenship concerns citizens’ ability to get involved in the life of their community, their country and the world.
On 27 May, ahead of the opening of the Forum, a round-table debate examined a report published by UNESCO in late 2009
Ms Bokova, who moderated the debate declared: "The diversity of the world’s cultures is our wealth and our future. It is high time to increase our investment in cultural diversity and dialogue for development. This is long term work. The challenges are great but the rewards are greater."
During the launch of the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures, on 18 February in Paris, UNESCO organized a debate about two essential themes: the crucial role of cultural diversity and dialogue between cultures and the need to develop shared values which will help us build peace. "These considerations are not given enough prominence in international relations, where they should play an absolutely pivotal role," according to Ms Bokova.