Home / International / Opinion Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
New endeavor to build a harmonious world
Adjust font size:

The UN-backed Alliance of Civilizations is the latest international endeavor to promote cross-cultural understanding and bridge cultural divides, which is seen as a good recipe for resolving conflicts and building a harmonious world, analysts say.

The United Nations has thrown its weight behind the efforts to promote inter-cultural dialogue between religions and countries, as the world body views such dialogue as, in essence, one between civilizations, they say.

The Alliance of Civilizations ended its first international forum last week with a series of initiatives aimed at promoting cross-cultural understanding and seeking new ways to handle cultural conflicts.

Civilization dialogue more urgent than ever

The need for inter-cultural dialogue is more urgent than ever, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at the forum, designed to build bridges of understanding across cultures and promoting understanding between the Western and Muslim countries.

The forum will aim to "avoid the predicted clash of civilizations, by promoting security, understanding, tolerance, and mutual respect in a globalized world," Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said in an inaugural speech at the Alliance of Civilizations Forum, a brainchild of his.

Conflicts and wars caused by religious and cultural factors have intensified after the Cold War. The Sept. 11 attacks on the United States have further strained the relations between the West and the Muslim world.

Those conflicts and misunderstandings have been caused not only by the religious and cultural divides and many other factors including differing political approaches also play a part.

The publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a Danish newspaper in 2005 that led to violent demonstrations throughout the Muslim world, and the Holocaust conference in Iran last year are telling examples.

"These events that seem to happen every few months and are not purely political but get quite politicized," said Shamil Idriss, acting director of the Alliance of Civilizations.

As religions and cultures have many points in common, such as the spirits of peace, tolerance, respect and equality, enhancing understanding between the West and the Muslim world and other regions is seen by many as an important way to counter and heal the divisions that threaten world peace.

"Never in our lifetime has there been a more desperate need for constructive and committed dialogue, among individuals, among communities, among cultures, among and between nations," Ban said.

"The threats are terrifying but the responses are at hand," Ban added.

Forum is not just talk

The idea of establishing a forum for dialogue between civilizations was initiated by Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero to the UN General Assembly in September 2004, after the Madrid train bombings that claimed 191 lives on March 11 of that year.

The forum, approved by the UN, has enlisted support from over 80 countries in the world. Around 350 delegates, including government members and representatives of international organizations and civil society, discussed ways to bridge gaps, promote exchanges and dispel misunderstandings.

The attendees also included Turkish Prime Minister Recep Yayyip Erdogan, who co-sponsored the idea along with Zapatero, and UN High Representatives for the Alliance Jorge Sampaio.

The forum aimed to contribute to isolating those extremists who attempt to use religion and culture as pretexts to achieve their political purposes, Zapatero said.

Youth, education, migration and the media are four areas to which the Alliance pays special attention.

In a bid to prove the forum is not just talk, Queen Noor of Jordan has unveiled a project of 100 million U.S. dollars to promote movies productions that help build cross-cultural understanding.

A Rapid Response Media Mechanism is another project announced at the forum, which is aimed at providing a platform to journalists from all over the world when a cross-cultural crisis erupts.

Both challenges and hope ahead

While there is confidence and hope, some people issued cautious or even suspicious note about the prospects of the forum.

For one thing, some major countries were absent from the forum, with the United States most conspicuously, which has been spearheading efforts to combat terrorism by military means.

However, Sampaio said that at least they were not against such an idea and that he hoped to bring those absent on board.

Some critics of Zapatero in Spain even dismissed the forum as a futile bid simply aimed at boosting the Socialists' standing ahead of Spain's general elections in March.

While the road ahead is tortuous, the Alliance did provide a ray of hope. As Sampaio put it, the forum provided "a solid glimpse of a renewed hope that if we unite efforts we will bring some change to the world."

The forum serves not as a miracle solution to all problems in the world but as one of the best ways to handle confrontations --"the work on the ground counts," Sampaio added.

It is easy to speak about building bridges of trust, but harder to make it into concrete action, one commentator said.

"Fostering dialogue will not produce change overnight. It is not the fast way. But it is the sure way. It is the enduring way. The careful plans of the Alliance will deliver in the long run," Ban said.

(Xinhua News Agency January 22, 2008)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read
Pet Name
China Archives
Related >>
- Old Issues, New World
- We Must Work to Create a Harmonious World
- China stresses UN role in building harmonious world
Most Viewed >>
- Rice to visit China
- China has done 'a great deal' for solving Darfur issue
- Serbian protesters storm US embassy
- Europe needs more women in top positions
- Serbia urges UNSC to reject Kosovo's unilateral independence
- Kosovo declares independence from Serbia
- New endeavor to build a harmonious world
- China, EU leading 3rd Industrial Revolution
- Terms reiterated for Vatican ties
- Dinosaur mummy found with intact fossilized skin
> Korean Nuclear Talks
> Reconstruction of Iraq
> Middle East Peace Process
> Iran Nuclear Issue
> 6th SCO Summit Meeting
- China Development Gateway
- Foreign Ministry
- Network of East Asian Think-Tanks
- China-EU Association
- China-Africa Business Council
- China Foreign Affairs University
- University of International Relations
- Institute of World Economics & Politics
- Institute of Russian, East European & Central Asian Studies
- Institute of West Asian & African Studies
- Institute of Latin American Studies
- Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies
- Institute of Japanese Studies