HASAN KANBOLAT

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HASAN KANBOLAT
February 25, 2013, Monday

Alliance of Civilizations in Vienna

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations' (UNAOC) fifth forum, “Promoting Responsible Leadership in Diversity and Dialogue,” takes place in Vienna on Feb. 27-28.

We are seeing now an “alliance of civilizations” that the state created in 2005 across the Mediterranean coast aimed at bringing an end to the polarization between East and West. An effort initiated by Spanish Prime Minister Don José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gradually became one administered by the UN General Assembly.

The Group of Friends, which in the context of this effort falls under the auspices of the UN, has reached membership of over 130. As part of the UNAOC in New York they are conducting concrete projects in the areas of media, youth and education. The first forum of the Alliance of Civilizations was held in Madrid on Dec. 15-16, 2008. It was the first of their meetings that took place at an international level. The alliance's second forum was in İstanbul, on April 6-7, 2009. The Alliance of Civilizations acquires its international qualifications through multicultural dialogue, which complements the process of globalization. The group decided what steps would be taken to direct the implementation of the Group of Friends' projects and they agreed to focus on the creation of regional strategies. The regional strategy for strengthening multicultural dialogue in Southeast Europe was prepared in light of this decision and accepted on Dec. 14, 2009, at a ministerial meeting in Sarajevo.

Many projects aimed at a regional strategy have been developed. However, due to the lack of financial resources, very few have been carried through to the implementation phase. The Alliance of Civilizations' third forum in Rio de Janeiro took place on May 28-29, 2010, and the fourth forum in Doha on Dec. 11-13, 2011. At the Rio meeting the idea of a Latin America Regional Strategy was presented. In 2010 an Alliance of Civilizations Mediterranean Regional Strategy and Action Plan was accepted at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Group of Friends.

The UNAOC Group of Friends' ministerial meeting was held in New York to coincide with the UN General Assembly's annual assembly on Sept. 28 of last year. The first topic on the agenda at the ministers meeting was the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" and the reactions to it.

The Alliance of Civilizations is a positive development; however, in order for it to be successful and effective, when possible, an inclusive model must be managed. A new period began after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The political borders of the European Union spread to the Black Sea area. And yet, did the spread of Europe's political and geographical borders also bring a development in civilization and dialogue? No.

In addition to communication and dialogue, the speed of life, the spread of American pop culture from West to East and global citizens ensures the one-sided flow of individualism that sweeps away all else. There is no flow from East to West corresponding to the one going West to East. Because of this, we must protect local cultures both on their own soil and as part of the global community. In response to work and education rights for the youth and women, which come West to East, we must begin a large project to be sent East to West. We must mobilize technical and professional education programs. We need a new multi-pronged and multi-dimensional strategy to merge civilizations. We must think of ways to understand and cooperate with one another.