Eight Heads of State gather at Ohrid Forum for Dialogue Among CivilizationsA southeast European regional Forum on Dialogue Among Civilizations will take place on August 29 and 30 in Ohrid, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Organized by President Boris Trajkovski with UNESCO, the Forum will bring together eight heads of state: Alfred Moisiu (Albania), Dragan Čoviċ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Georgi Parvanov (Bulgaria), Stjepan Mesic (Croatia), Ferenc Mádl (Hungary), Svetozar Marovic (Serbia and Montenegro), Janez Drnovšek (Slovenia). Political leaders, experts, religious leaders and representatives from civil society and the private sector from all over the world are expected to attend.
Inaugurated by the President Trajkovski and UNESCO Director-General Koďchiro Matsuura, the Ohrid Forum aims to strengthen peace and stability in the region, by encouraging understanding and dialogue between peoples, cultures and religions, as well as promoting the respect of human rights and equality.
“We have gathered in Ohrid,” President Trajkovski writes in his message to participants, “because we see the potential of a new kind of international and inter-civilizational communication and cooperation. This cooperation shall not be rooted in force and power, but in hope for peace and prosperity; it shall not be nourished by fear of the Other, but by the desire to understand difference.”
UNESCO promotes Dialogue Among Civilizations to widen the understanding and appreciation of the historical and cultural foundations of the different peoples of the world. It also aims to promote education for peace and respect for cultural diversity. UNESCO's role consists of supplying a working framework that is suitable for the emergence and recognition of cultural identities, but also one that stimulates concrete action. To achieve these aims, the Organization has launched a series of projects in South-East Europe, in education but also in the fields of culture, science and communication.
In his message to the Ohrid Forum, Mr Matsuura stresses that the “Dialogue Among Civilizations” must be conducted simultaneously at several different but inter-connected levels. “It must be undertaken and validated at the highest levels of political authority,” he writes, before stressing the role of institutions and civil society in establishing such dialogue in daily life, through education, science, communication, and culture. The Director-General of UNESCO believes that the “Dialogue among Civilizations, in fact, must become part of our way of life.”
The Ohrid Forum follows the High-Level Conference of Ministers on Strengthening Cooperation in South-East Europe, held at UNESCO Headquarters in April 2002, and also follows a series of conferences launched for the United Nations Year for Dialogue among Civilizations in 2001.