Dialogue 'central pillar' of global response to all conflict, violence: Annan

Dialogue 'central pillar' of global response to all conflict, violence: Annan

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Nurturing an understanding between peoples is a central pillar of the global response to violence of every kind, particularly when it is based on bigotry and intolerance, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today as the UN General Assembly moved into the second day of its debate on the issue of "dialogue among civilizations."

"With this dialogue taking place in every part of the world, appeals to war will be met with appeals to compromise," Mr. Annan said at the outset of the debate, which stemmed from the 1998 decision of the General Assembly to proclaim 2001 as the Year for Dialogue among Civilizations. "Hatred will be met with tolerance. Violence will be met with resolve. A dialogue among civilizations is humanity's best answer to humanity's worst enemies."

The Secretary-General noted that the Dialogue was not based on the premise that humanity was all the same, or always in agreement, "but rather on appreciation of the fact that we represent a diversity of cultures, and that our beliefs reflect this diversity."

For his part, Assembly President Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea said that over the millennia, humankind had developed and nurtured a wealth of civilizations that had interacted with each other. In the globalizing world, diverse cultures could constitute a source of stability, which was an important lesson the Dialogue among Civilizations had taught. "Indeed, tolerance and dialogue should be included among the core values of the international community. Without them, peace and security cannot be achieved and would hardly be worth achieving," Mr. Han said.

President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, who initially proposed the Dialogue idea, said all cultures, civilizations and faiths were now bound to cohabit the same world by the inviolable verdict of technology. It was therefore the best of times to cultivate harmony and foster empathy among this variety. "Let us have compassion not only for ourselves but also for others," he said. "Let us have compassion for the others within their own idiosyncratic realms. Having compassion for others should not coerce them to assimilate within us, or to succumb to our values. Compassion should come unconditionally."

Among close to 30 speakers addressing the Assembly today, the Federal Chancellor of Austria, Wolfgang Schüssel, stressed that in order to reach all segments of society, it was important to put the Dialogue on a broader base. "We will have to aim for the children, our future," he said. "They all - boys and girls alike - need to be taught the merits of mutual respect and solidarity. They shall be able to grow up with a profound understanding and esteem for diversity."

Zlatko Lagumdzija, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that less than 10 years ago terrorists in his country had tried to misuse religion and ethnic identity in order to widen the gap between "us" and "them." Today, another group of people was misusing religion in order to impose its own brand of terror. The international community had to use this overall human and American tragedy as an opportunity to wake up and hit the very roots of global terrorism. The fight that was being fought today was a fight against the consequences of poverty, ignorance and injustice. There was, however, a much bigger task facing the international community: uprooting the causes and eliminating potential focal points for the new extremists.