30.01.2013 - ODG

The Director-General opens the Conference on “Cultural Dialogue between Europe and the Arab World”

© UNESCO/Emilien Urbano

January 30, the European Union and the Arab League held a joint conference on “Cultural Dialogue between Europe and the Arab World,” at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. This meeting is the first of a series of annual meetings to enhance dialogue between the EU and the Arab World so as to explore their shared values and exchange experiences in a number of areas of common interest such as education, youth and the media.

In her opening statement, Ambassador Maria Francesca Spatolisano from the European Union underlined the importance of this conference as a follow up to the Cairo declaration adopted at the Second European Union-League of Arab States Foreign Affairs Ministerial meeting in Egypt in November.

Ambassador Dr. Nassif Hitti, Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States to UNESCO, recalled the long and deep history of dialogue between the European and Arab regions and their societies, featuring rich exchanges at all levels. “In a world of diversity, marked by rising intolerance and the risks of misunderstanding, it is essential to talk,” said Ambassador Hitti.

The Director-General Irina Bokova declared “UNESCO is honoured and pleased to host such an important debate. In times of change, we need to seize every opportunity for dialogue and exchange of ideas, to foster mutual understanding. This is the clear message I took from the 3rd Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and from the Davos Economic Forum. Dialogue is the only way forward. This is my hope and this is UNESCO’s Commitment”.

Highlighting the importance of this Conference, Mr Michael Forbes, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Ireland to UNESCO and to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), underlined that UNESCO is the right place for this debate. “It is our role, as Ambassadors and member states of UNESCO, to bring the debate to a higher level, to meet the ethical issues of our time”. In the same spirit, Ambassador Zohour Alaoui from the Kingdom of Morocco, on behalf of the Arab States Group of UNESCO, recalled that “We must all be committed to dialogue in order to fight extremism. UNESCO has a key role to play in promoting a culture of peace and tolerance, and improving mutual understanding.”

This Joint Conference of the European Union and the League of Arab States under the auspices of UNESCO brought together a number of specialists to discuss two closely linked themes “Education and Youth: Shared Values” and “The Role of Media and Civil Society in Intercultural Dialogue”.

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