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Ban Ki-moon to fill key UN post to promote dialogue among cultures and religions

Ban Ki-moon to fill key UN post to promote dialogue among cultures and religions

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon confirmed today in Italy that he soon plans to appoint a High Representative to promote dialogue between cultures, religions and ethnic groups, building on the work done by the Alliance of Civilizations, the international initiative set up to encourage reconciliation.

Speaking to journalists in Rome after a meeting with the city’s mayor, Walter Veltroni, Mr. Ban said the two had discussed “the urgency and the importance of intra-religious dialogue.”

Last year the High-Level Group of the Alliance of Civilizations, which was launched by Mr. Ban’s predecessor Kofi Annan following a proposal by the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey, issued a report calling for a series of measures, legal and otherwise, in education, media, youth and migration to build bridges between different communities and promote a culture of respect.

The report also recommended the creation of a High Representative post to assist the UN Secretary-General to try to defuse crises that arise at the intersection of culture and politics, along with measures aimed at restarting the Middle East peace process and encouraging political pluralism in Muslim countries.

Mr. Ban said today he hoped that, with the aid of the High Representative, “we will promote a much better and secure world at this time.”

His remarks came on the final stage of the Italian leg of his four-nation official tour that will take in stops in Switzerland, Qatar and Syria as well.

Earlier today he visited the UN Logistics Base in Brindisi, observing the main facility used by the world body to support its field operations around the world. Mr. Ban toured warehouses that stock tents, blankets and high-protein biscuits, which can all be sent in rapid response to a humanitarian emergency. He also spoke with staff about the challenges they face in setting up communications equipment in peacekeeping locations, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists.

Mr. Ban is now in the Swiss capital, Bern, for talks with that country’s President Micheline Calmy-Rey, and then a working dinner before heading to Geneva later tonight.

Tomorrow the Secretary-General is slated to chair a meeting of the Chief Executives Board, which brings together top officials from across the UN system.

He is then scheduled to speak before the Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade in Doha, Qatar, before heading to the Syrian capital, Damascus, where meetings with senior Government officials, including President Bashar Assad, are expected.