16.12.2016 - Social and Human Sciences Sector

Euro-Arab dialogue strengthened

© UNESCO / C. Alix

UNESCO, National Commissions for UNESCO members of the Euro-Arab Dialogue Initiative and the MBI Al Jaber Foundation jointly organized an international conference entitled "Mawaïd - Rendez-vous for the Euro-Arab Dialogue" held at the UNESCO's Headquarters in Paris, on 9 and 10 December 2016. The objective of this conference was to strengthen Euro-Arab cooperation and to adapt this initiative, created in 2001, to the current international challenges.

The MBI Al Jaber Foundation has strengthened the Euro-Arab dialogue initiative, which reflects universally shared values and the three cornerstones of the work of the foundation: good governance, cultural dialogue and particularly, education. The Foundation firmly believes that education constitutes a catalyst for building a better tomorrow, and since the past two decades, has helped many young Arab men and women develop their education through several scholarship programs in Europe and in the Arab world.

This two-day conference was opened by Eric Falt, Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Public Information of UNESCO, on behalf of Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO; followed by Harald Stranzl, Ambassador, Alternate Permanent Delegate of Austria; Carolyn Perry, Director and Head of philanthropy at MBI Al Jaber Foundation; Samira Mohamed Moosa Al Moosa, Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of the Sultanate of Oman; Laurent Stefanini, Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of France and David Fajolles, Secretary-General of the French National Commission for UNESCO. It focused on topics such as harnessing cultural heritage for reconciliation, the importance of local governments (municipalities, regions, etc.) in the educational and cultural cooperation between Europe and the Arab world, and education as a vehicle for the prevention of violent extremism. The role of media in promoting intercultural dialogue and in preventing radicalization was also discussed.

The speakers and participants at this event included, among others, Metin Arditi, UNESCO Special Envoy for Intercultural Dialogue; Mounir Bouchenaki, Advisor to the Director-General of UNESCO on World Heritage; Francesco Rutelli, President of Priorità Cultura (Culture First); Ziad Hawat, Mayor of Byblos (Lebanon) and Moncef Ben Moussa, Director of the Bardo Museum (Tunisia). In addition, four short videos entitled “Words of radicalization” were screened with interviews with the writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, the philosophers Ali ben Makhlouf and Barbara Cassin, and Elias Sanbar, Ambassador, the Permanent Delegate of Palestine to UNESCO.

During the conference, the young personalities invited by National Commissions for UNESCO, provided elements for a Plan of Action to strengthen the dialogue between Europe and the Arab world, which shall also contribute to the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022) led by UNESCO.

Michael Worbs, Chairperson of UNESCO’s Executive Board, addressed the audience on the first day of the Conference, and Nada Al-Nashif, Assistant-Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences, presented her concluding remarks at the end of the second day.

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