Alliance of Civilizations
The Alliance of Civilizations (AoC), established in 2005, is an initiative proposed by the President of the Government of Spain, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, under the auspices of the United Nations.
The AoC aims to improve understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions, and to help counter the forces that fuel polarization and extremism. These goals are achieved supporting, trough a network of partnership, the development and implementation of projects related to the four main fields of action of the Alliance that are: youth, education, migration and media.
UNESCO and AoC
“Cultural diversity and inter-cultural dialogue contribute to new humanism and they are the best tools for building peace, democracy, human rights and justice” Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General
UNESCO is fully engaged in the work of the AoC and fully shares the Alliance’s concerns about the need to foster greater mutual respect among different cultural and religious groups. Indeed, the quest for dialogue among civilizations is deeply entrenched in the UNESCO’s Constitution where it is written that the purpose of the Organization is to build peace in the minds of men.
UNESCO and the AoC have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) about their cooperation.
UN Joint initiatives and AoC
For the UN Agencies and particularly for UNESCO, one of the main tools to achieve the goals of the AoC is the Spanish MDG Achievement Fund (MDG-F), an international cooperation mechanism established in 2006 by the government of Spain and the United Nations. Many programmes funded through the MDG-F promote also intercultural and interreligious dialogue with multi-stakeholder involvement at the international, regional and even national level, in the field, among others, of media, youth and education. Particularly important is the establishment of multi-stakeholder partnerships.
Indeed, “to encourage intercultural dialogue and to create conditions conducive thereto, are essential responsibilities belonging to all levels of public authority, civil society, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and each citizen” (MOU)
UNESCO Venice Office and AoC
The UNESCO Venice Office develops and implements several projects in the framework of joint programming related to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and to the objectives of the AoC, with a special emphasis on South-Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Region, including Turkey that is one of the promoters of the AoC initiative.
In this region, considering its problematic history, the achievement of the goals of the AoC is essential.
South-Eastern Europe and AoC
In the majority of these countries co-exist different ethnic groups with different identities and different religions. In the past, these diversities were the reason of many conflicts which have led to difficult socio-economic situations. Thus, in order to guarantee a new social cohesion, peace and sustainable development in the region, with a consequent promotion of international stability, intercultural/interreligious dialogue is an indispensable tool. In this regard, the specific fields of work involving this office are youth, education and media, which are also among the main fields of action of the AoC initiative.
Therefore, the contribution of UNESCO Venice Office to the UNESCO Medium Term Strategy (2008-2013) is built upon a mission statement of which intercultural dialogue, mutual comprehension and promotion of cultural diversity form an explicit and integral part.