Terrorism key topic for UN General Assembly's 'Dialogue among Civilizations'

Terrorism key topic for UN General Assembly's 'Dialogue among Civilizations'

"Dialogue among Civilizations" - an agenda item to be debated next week in the United Nations General Assembly - has gained special significance in the wake of terrorist attacks against the United States, a UN envoy said today.

Speaking at a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, Giandomenico Picco, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Personal Representative for the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, said terrorism had actually made the issue of the Dialogue quite compelling for the General Assembly's discussion, slated for 8 to 9 November.

"The Dialogue, we believe, is philosophically at the opposite end of the spectrum from terrorism," he said. "Terrorists believe that diversity is equal to enmity, and those who take the position that dialogue should be pursued believe in the opposite."

Three years ago, the Assembly designated 2001 as the UN Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. Next week's meetings take place just before the Assembly's annual high-level general debate, and several Heads of State and government are expected to take part in the discussions on the Dialogue.

Mr. Picco said that the Dialogue, considered a banality by many governments before the 11 September tragedy, was now drawing keener interest. "I have been approached by several governments with different requests focusing on this issue, which may be transformed, I believe, into a soft tool of diplomacy against terrorism," he said.

He also noted that a book called "Crossing the Divide," written by the Group of Eminent Persons set up by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to discuss international relations based on dialogue, had also become more relevant after 11 September. The book will be presented to Mr. Annan immediately before the Assembly debate.