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114 nations seek ways to reduce cross-cultural,religious tensions

Publication Date : 28-08-2014


Representatives from 114 countries, 25 international organisations, the private sector and civil society are set to gather on Friday and Saturday at the sixth United Nations Alliance for Civilisation (UNAOC) global forum in Nusa Dua, Bali, to exchange ideas about advancing mutual interests across religions and cultures that can help reduce tensions worldwide.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s director general for information and public diplomacy, Esti Andayani, said the forum would bring together political leaders, business representatives, faith leaders, media professionals and young people in a collaborative effort to foster cross-cultural dialogue.

“They will discuss their ideas in plenary and breakout sessions as well as side events relating to the four pillars of UNAOC activities: media, migration, education and youth,” Esti told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday. Those were the main four areas, she added, that could play a critical role in helping to reduce cross-cultural tensions and build bridges between communities.

Under the theme, “Unity in Diversity: Celebrating Diversity for Common and Shared Values”, the participants will endeavor to form lasting partnerships to address shared global challenges, cutting across community and identity lines.

 “The theme is based on Indonesia’s motto, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika [Unity in Diversity], which reflects the vision of our founding fathers and embraces the diversity of the nation. Through the UNAOC, we can glorify the motto on a world stage,” Esti said.

The UNAOC forum was established in 2005 on the initiative of former UN secretary-general Kofi Anan, cosponsored by the Spanish and Turkish governments. The initiative aimed to galvanise international action against extremism through the forging of international, intercultural and interreligious dialogue and cooperation. It particularly emphasized the need to defuse tensions between the Western and Islamic worlds.

At the start of its work, UNAOC’s high-level panel of experts explored the roots of polarisation between societies and cultures. Today, it maintains a global network of partners from states, international and regional organisations, civil society groups, foundations and the private sector to improve cross-cultural relations between diverse nations and communities.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations  Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser are all due to address the forum during the opening session, as are Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Spain’s foreign minister and UN General Assembly President John Ashe.

Other speakers from Indonesia include Paramadina University rector Anies Baswedan; chair of Nahdlatul Ulama’s (NU) women’s wing, Khofifah Indar Parawansa; and former NU chairman Hasyim Muzadi.

Prior to the main event, 100 youngsters from 40 countries will gather on Thursday for the UNAOC Youth Forum, which will provide them with an opportunity to share their opinions and perspectives with other attendees.

The UN’s Al-Nasser stressed that the UNAOC forum remained one of the world’s best hopes to counter polarisation across and within societies.

“Not only will diversity matter even more tomorrow than it does today, it is our inescapable human condition; the question is, how can we equip future generations with the tools to enable them to make this coexistence an experience of peace, creativity, personal happiness and a better life for all,” he said.

The previous five UNAOC forums were held in Madrid, Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, Doha and Vienna.


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