Friday, March 15, 2013

International Relations: Alliance of Civilizations can be ‘major soft power tool’ in global diplomacy

High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations Nassir Abdulaziz Nasser briefs the press. UN Photo/Mark Garten

UN - 14 March 2013 – The United Nations-backed Alliance of Civilizations this year will strengthen its role through mediation and fostering of cultural understanding, including sports, arts and music, the head of the initiative said today, outlining his priorities for the year.

“The Alliance can become a major soft power tool to diffuse tensions and conflicts, especially those which are ethnically or identity based,” the High-Representative for the Alliance, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, told journalists in New York.

“Under my leadership and from the Alliance office here in New York, I will reach out to religious leaders, community leaders, grassroots organizations and youth groups, these are the real change-makers,” he said, underscoring that he will work with peacemakers “wherever we may find them.”

In addition to youth, who according to the UN International Labour Organization make up roughly half of the world population, Mr. Al-Nasser said he wants to build on previous achievements in the areas of intercultural education, integration and support for immigrants, and the media, which has the capacity to promote cross-cultural understanding, tolerance and acceptance of ethnic, cultural, religious and gender differences in communities.

He said the Alliance is “more relevant than ever, particularly in these times of historical changes and unprecedented political, economic, social and cultural challenges.”

The Alliance is an initiative supported by the UN Secretary-General. The idea was first proposed at the 59th UN General Assembly in 2005, co-sponsored by the Governments of Spain and Turkey. The initiative seeks to galvanize international action against extremism through the forging of international, intercultural and interreligious dialogue and cooperation

The Alliance places a particular emphasis on defusing tensions between Western and Islamic worlds, according to its website.

Its goals for the year, along with its agenda and activities for the year, were compiled into the ‘Vienna Declaration’ and adopted by consensus at the Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations, held from 27 to 28 February in the Austrian capital. The document is currently under circulation to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as UN agencies, Member States and partners.

Mr. Al-Nasser said the Vienna Declaration “is the first of its kind” consensus document to pave the way forward. It is expected to be made public next week.