Following up on a Spanish and Turkish initiative to establish an “Alliance of Civilizations” to foster mutual respect for religious beliefs and traditions, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today announced the composition of a High-Level Group to guide the initiative and help bring about cooperation.
They range from such renowned theologians as Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Karen Armstrong of the United Kingdom, Arthur Schneir of the United States and Mehmet Aydin of Turkey, to administrators of cultural institutions, such as Ismali Serageldin of Egypt’s Biblioteca Alexandria.
“The members have been identified through extensive consultations with specialists in the field of inter-civilizational and inter-cultural relations. A few more members may be included later,” a spokesman for Mr. Annan said.
The Group, chaired by former UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Frederico Mayor and co-chaired by Mr. Aydin, is expected to hold its first meeting in November and to submit a report late next year.
The call for the alliance was initiated by Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and co-sponsored by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In July when the Alliance was announced, Mr. Annan said in a statement that the Group was intended “to respond to the need for a committed effort by the international community – both at the institutional and civil society levels – to bridge divides and overcome prejudice, misconceptions, misperceptions and polarization, which potentially threaten world peace.”
Mr. Annan has urged the international community to contribute to a trust fund to support the Alliance.
In his July statement, he said: “The Alliance will aim to address emerging threats emanating from hostile perceptions that foment violence, and to bring about cooperation among various efforts to heal such divisions. Events of recent years have heightened the sense of a widening gap and lack of mutual understanding between Islamic and Western societies – an environment that has been exploited and exacerbated by extremists in all societies.”