Alliance of Civilizations in Albania: Challenges and Experiences
At the end of the two-year action plan of the National Strategy for the Alliance of Civilizations to promote understanding through dialogue in the country, the Albanian Forum for the Alliance of Civilization (AFALC), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNESCO Venice Office organized a national conference entitled “Alliance of Civilizations in Albania: Challenges and Experiences”.
Held on 8 June 2011, it was attended by high-level national authorities, the international community in Albania, and representatives from interested target groups and elaborated on the main results achieved through activities carried out in the framework of the MDG-F Joint Programme “Culture and Heritage for Social and Economic Development”. Mr. Edmond Haxhinasto, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Albania, reiterated the strong commitment of the Government of Albania in supporting the values and principles of the Alliance of Civilizations (AoC). He said that, within the AoC-related structures that had been set up, experts were now crafting the design of the next two-year plan of action, building on the first plan’s excellent achievements and the four pillars of the UN AoC.
Mrs. Zineb Touimi-Benjelloun, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Albania, argued that Albania offers a great model for other countries and societies, which strive to foster genuine tolerance and mutual understanding in interreligious harmony while recognizing and embracing diversity.
On behalf of UNESCO, Mr. Engelbert Ruoss, Director of the Venice Office, presented the main results accomplished in the fields of cultural diversity and safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. Recalling the universal declaration on cultural diversity, he reaffirmed that intercultural dialogue was the best guarantee for peace and a powerful tool to prevent a “clash of cultures”.
One of the main AoC activities focused on media and journalists in Albania. The Rapid Response Media Mechanism “Hand-to-Hand Team of Journalists” project was presented by Mr. Besnik Mustafaj, AoC National Coordinator and President of AFALC. As one of the four major focus areas of AoC, media is considered one of the most effective tools in promoting mutual understanding for the existing differences amongst various religions, ethnicities and cultures, helping to boost a culture of dialogue. The team of journalists monitored written media and identified a number of main issues related to the reporting of intercultural and interreligious issues. It also empowered journalists through a number of trainings on cultural and religious diversity as well as dialogue in the media. While there is an awareness towards reporting such issues (one article per day on average), it was observed that articles are often biased, and hence there was a need for further trainings, workshops, and debates.
Mr. Remzi Lani, Director of the Albanian Media Institute, and Mr. Pirro Misha, Director of the Institute of Dialogue and Communication, presented 7 books and 13 brochures on topics of interreligious and intercultural understanding recently published in Albanian for the first time. All publications will be uploaded in electronic form on the newly established UNESCO National Commission website, in order to facilitate free access for all interested institutions and individuals.
Education being one of the main tools to foster dialogue and peace, Mrs. Tidita Abdurrahmani shared the findings of an analysis of 10 history and geography textbooks from the intercultural and interreligious perspective. She reported on the training of 300 textbook authors, teachers and evaluators, and emphasized the need to proceed with this work.
The reading of the winning essay by Ms. Megi Mulita, “P.N.Luarasi” high school student, generated much interest among the participants. Mrs. Zana Tabaku, Chair of the Essay Competition Jury, explained that it had been selected out of 40 essays participating in the AoC Essay Competition “Instead of Clash, Alliance of Civilization: My View”, organized in January-March 2011 with Albanian high school students. The screening of the documentary film “Island of Peace” was also attended with much interest and appreciated for the artistic tools used by the filmmakers to portray interreligious harmony in Albania.
Mrs. Zhulieta Harasani, UNESCO National Professional Officer in Tirana, after listening to comments made by representatives from religious communities who expressed their willingness to get more involved in UNESCO activities, pointed out that the achievements and social networks realized so far were a good basis for the next phase of implementing the AoC National Strategy and action plan.
This activity is implemented within the framework of the UN Joint Programme “Culture and Heritage for Social and Economic Development” (CHSED) financed by the Spanish Government through the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund (MDG-F).