Former Portuguese president chosen as UN envoy to Alliance of Civilizations
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appointed the former Portuguese president Jorge Sampaio as the first United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, the international initiative set up in 2005 to promote reconciliation between religions, cultures and nations.
Mr. Ban designated Mr. Sampaio in the post after consulting with Spain and Turkey, the co-sponsors of the Alliance, which was created to try to tackle fear and suspicion, bridge divides and overcome prejudices and polarizations between Islam and the West.
“The High Representative will provide the vision and leadership required, especially to promote the Alliance of Civilizations as a credible and viable attempt to diminish the dangerous tensions between diverse societies and their threat to international stability,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters.
Last year the Alliance’s High-Level Group issued a report calling for a series of measures in education, media, youth and migration to build bridges between different communities and promote a culture of respect.
It also recommended the creation of a High Representative post to assist the 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.
Spain and Turkey set up the Alliance amid concern that events in recent years have exacerbated mutual suspicions, fears and misunderstandings between Islamic and Western societies, and that a new global effort is necessary to overcome those divisions.
Mr. Sampaio, 67, served as Portuguese president from March 1996 to March 2006. He served also as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Envoy to Stop Tuberculosis (TB). Mr. Sampaio previously held numerous public offices, including Mayor of Lisbon in 1989, Member of Parliament and member of the European Human Rights Commission of the Council of Europe.