Dialogue among civilizations
The message from OHRIDThe South-East European Regional Forum on the “Dialogue among Civilizations” held August 29 and 30 in Ohrid (in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) ended on Saturday with the adoption of the Message from Ohrid.
The eight heads of state in attendance, as well as the other participants, committed themselves to “a culture of dialogue, tolerance and peace, in order to advance the prosperity, well-being and mutual co-operation among the people and countries of the South-East Europe region.” According to Macedonian president Boris Trajkovski, “this is a decisive moment for the future of the region.”
The Message of Ohrid, which was adopted unanimously, is a strong reminder that “the region, which is the cradle of European culture and civilization” after having witnessed “wars, destruction and ethnic cleansing” is now on the doorstep of a “new era where dialogue, understanding and reconciliation are poised to replace the tribulations of history”, and that “forgiveness will help rid the region from the biases and ignorances of the past.”
Granting a special place to “dialogue and cooperation in all spheres,” the participants of the Ohrid Forum decided to launch a series of joint projects, such as the one proposed by Boris Trajkovski, creating a universal education network with the objective of assuring the development and promotion of a dialogue among civilizations. The criteria for this network will be determined during a conference of ministers of culture and education, planned for 2004.
Another project approved by the Forum is the creation of “Cultural Routes in Southeast Europe.” Proposed by Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, this project will be discussed during a gathering of heads of state, scheduled for 2004 in Bulgaria, which will be devoted to the cultural and historic heritage of the region.
The Forum also approved the proposal of Dragan Covic, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to organize a re-opening ceremony for the Mostar Bridge, attended by heads of state from the region.
Relying on the principle that respecting cultural heritage “allows people to understand themselves” as well as being “one of the keys to understanding others,” as stressed by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura during his opening speech to the Forum, the participants set themselves the goal of developing “a culture of conservation and preservation” that, in addition to its economic impact, will prevent cultural heritage from being transformed into a “symbolic target of aggression and intentional destruction.”
Organized by President Boris Trajkovski, in cooperation with UNESCO, the two-day Ohrid Forum brought together some 100 participants, including heads of state Alfred Moisiu (Albania), Dragan Covic (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Georgi Parvanov (Bulgaria), Stjepan Mesic (Croatia), Ferenc Mádl (Hungary), Svetozar Marovic (Serbia and Montenegro), Janez Drnovsek (Slovenia), the political leaders of Cyprus, Greece, Moldova, and Turkey, as well as experts, spiritual leaders and representatives of civil society and the private sector from around the world.
During the first day, following the presidential speeches, several other important speakers took the floor, among them the former presidents of Macedonia, Kiro Gligorov, and Bulgaria, Zhelyu Zhelev, as well as the Forum’s co-sponsors, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, and Giandomenico Picco, Personal Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for the Dialogue among Civilizations.
Three round tables took place during the Forum. Louis Emmerij of the Netherlands, co-director of the UN’s Intellectual History Project, former president of the OECD’S Development Centre, and head of the round table on “Culture and Diversity,” declared that, “Contrary to popular opinion, globalization doesn’t seem to stand in the way of greater diversity of cultures. But for that diversity to continue to flourish and a dialogue to be re-established, we must allow local groups, keepers of their own culture, to be fully integrated in civil society.” For Srdjan Kerim of Macedonia, Permanent Representative of the United Nations and former minister of foreign affairs, who presided over the discussion on “Peace and Stability,” these two concepts “are of vital importance for the prosperity of the region, provided they are based on dialogue and cooperation, as well as their integration in Euro-Atlantic structures.” Matthias Kleinert, Senior Vice President of Daimler Chrysler AG and head of the round table “Democracy and Civil Society,” stressed his conviction that the business world had a place in the debate on the Dialogue among Civilizations. “We have a social responsibility and we accept it,” he said, adding that “cooperation between the political, business and cultural spheres is a new dimension of modern dialogue in the world.”
The Ohrid Forum is a follow-up to the High-Level Conference on Strengthening Cooperation in South-East Europe that took place at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, in April 2002, as well as the conferences launched on behalf of the United Nations Year for Dialogue among Civilizations (2001): in New York (September 2000), Vilnius (April 2001), Islamabad (April 2001) Tokyo and Kyoto (July 2001), Paris (December 2001 and January 2003), and New Delhi (July 2003).
For more information on the Ohrid Forum, go to: http://www.unesco.org/dialogue2001/ohrid/index.htm