Director-General addresses the third High-Level Group Meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations

Director-General addresses the third High-Level Group Meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations

The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, participated in the third High-Level Group Meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations in Dakar, Senegal, on 30 May 2006.

Set up by the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and co-chaired by former Director-General of UNESCO, Federico Mayor, and Minister of State of Turkey, Mr Mehmet Aydin, the High-Level Group aims at fostering better intercultural understanding through concrete actions to bridge divides and overcome prejudice, misconceptions and misperceptions, in particular between Islamic and Western societies. Its report, together with an Action Plan, is to be submitted to the Secretary-General before the end of the year.

In his address to the Group, the Director-General underlined that “UNESCO fully shares the Alliance’s concerns about the need to foster greater mutual respect among different cultural and religious groups, which forms a central part of the Organization’s mandate”. “Since its launch last July, I have been following the work of the Alliance with great interest. It is pleasing to observe that the recommendations that its High-Level Group has been developing closely echo the directions that I have been receiving from UNESCO’s Executive Board.”

The Director-General briefly highlighted some of the activities developed by UNESCO in this regard. “Education”, Mr Matsuura said, “is a key vehicle for dialogue. Quality education can contribute to stabilizing conflicts, eliminating cultural stereotypes, and building understanding and mutual respect for other religions and cultures. Language policies have, in this regard, an important role to play.” “High quality learning materials and pedagogical approaches that promote tolerance, social cohesion and respect for human rights are also crucial, and they need to be adapted to both formal and non-formal educational contexts.”

Mr Matsuura also underlined the importance of preserving cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. “The origins of heritage are multifarious and interrelated. Through actively seeking to highlight the many different influences that have shaped the history and identity of our heritage, we can help to promote dialogue, exchange and understanding between communities and peoples, and especially among youth. […] Cultural festivals, sports events, cultural fora, art and book fairs are further potential vehicles for dialogue and understanding.”

“The mass media can provide another effective vehicle for creating and bolstering dialogue”, the Director-General added. “It is essential that media professionals act according to the highest professional and ethical standards. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are vital to cultural dialogue and must be defended as indispensable elements of democratic societies. […] “freedom and respect are two principles on which we cannot compromise”.

Mr Matsuura went on to state that: “The challenge before us is vast and complex, and can only be met through concerted actions at all levels of society. […] In developing our plans of action, our policy dialogue must become much more inclusive. We need to draw into our discussions civil society organizations, the private sector, local communities, as well as religious and faith leaders. We must also reach out to other levels of leadership, building alliances with those leaders capable and willing to engage in genuine intercultural dialogue. It is important, in particular, to systematically engage women and youth in our deliberations.”

The Director-General concluded by stating that “UNESCO will not be found wanting in contributing to the High-Level Group’s efforts to make full use of the power of dialogue to transcend cultural and religious differences and help preserve peace”.

During his visit to Senegal, the Director-General was invited by President Wade to a tête-à-tête lunch. Their discussions focused on ways of strengthening cooperation between Senegal and the Organization.

The Director-General also visited the 7th Biennial of Contemporary African Art, Dak’Art 2006, accompanied by the Minister of Culture, Mr Mame Birame Diouf, and some of the artists represented in the exhibition.

  • Auteur(s):Flash Info n°083-2006
  • Source:Office of the Spokesperson
  • 02-06-2006
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