UN Alliance of Civilizations eyes corporate sector to ease cultural tensions

3 June 2010

The corporate sector has a key role to play in overcoming prejudice among nations, cultures and religions and can draw on the experiences of companies working in different countries and communities, the head of the United Nations-backed Alliance of Civilizations Forum said today.

“Multilateral companies are themselves confronted with that challenge and contribute innovative solutions both within the structure of the companies and in the way they relate to the market environment in their countries,” Marc Scheuer, Director of the Alliance of Civilizations Forum, told journalists in a briefing following last week’s Alliance forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Mr. Scheuer said that the Alliance is in the early phase of involving a core of companies in its work, but added that it was too early to discuss the criteria by which the businesses would be chosen.

Last week’s forum was the first be held outside of Europe, and Mr. Scheuer said that half of the nearly 6,000 participants were from Latin America.

Mr. Scheuer noted that while the forum discussed sources of tensions between the Western and Islamic worlds, this session had fewer debates about freedom of expression versus freedom of religion than in previous years.

Instead, there was an attempt to a larger extent to try to measure the phenomenon of Islamophobia.

“To try to see what form, shape, and extent it could take in different countries, what were the reasons and explanations for that,” Mr. Scheuer added.

He said that while some forms were linked to cultural or religious misperceptions, others were a reflection of an unfavourable global economic context.

“Building bridges across cultures is important because it has an impact on politics. It helps create the necessary conditions for long-term peacebuilding and peaceful societies.”

The Alliance of Civilizations, which was established by Spain and Turkey under the auspices of the UN, will hold its fourth forum next year in the Qatari capital of Doha.

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