Global perspective Human stories

‘Alliance of Civilizations’ group advances work at Dakar meeting

‘Alliance of Civilizations’ group advances work at Dakar meeting

A meeting of experts on the Alliance of Civilizations – an initiative aimed at bridging the gap between Islam and the West – concluded today in Dakar, Senegal, having advanced preparations for a report on actions to tackle the problem that will be presented to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan later this year.

During the Dakar meeting, the High-Level Group of eminent personalities continued their work in four key areas – education, media, youth and integration – that were identified at their second session, held in Doha, Qatar, in February.

The opening of the Dakar meeting was presided over by the President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade. Iqbal Riza, Special Adviser of UN Secretary General for the Alliance, delivered a message from Kofi Annan, in which he stated that diversity among religions, cultures, societies and people should not only be accepted but also respected, referring to Senegal as an example of tolerance and cohabitation.

In his opening remarks, President Wade hailed the Alliance initiative at the current time when ignorance and intolerance was feeding conflicts in the world.

At the end of the three-day Dakar meeting, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, the Co-Chairman of the High Level Group, said it had been marked by substantive discussions on the causes of extremism in the world.

Mehmet Aydin, the other Co-Chairman of the Group, in his closing remarks, said participants had given guidance to the Alliance secretariat for drafting the report to be presented to the Secretary-General in November.

The concluding meeting of the High Level Group will take place in the fall of 2006 in Turkey before the report, containing a Plan of Action on the concept of an Alliance of Civilizations, is given to Mr. Annan.

The Alliance, which was proposed by the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey and whose launch Mr. Annan announced in 2005, aims to address the hostile perceptions that foment violence and to bring about cooperation on the various efforts to heal divisions.

Participants in the High-Level Group 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 and Mr. Mayor, a former Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).