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Speech at the North-South Prize Award Ceremony

March 16, 2009

Jorge Sampaio, Un High Representative for The Alliance Of Civilizations

Speech at the North-South Prize Award Ceremony
Lisbon, March 16, 2009

His Excellency the President of the Portuguese Republic
Her Majesty the Queen Rania and His Majesty the King Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
The President of the Portuguese Parliament
Honorable Members of the Portuguese Parliament
The President of the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
The Council of Europe Deputy Secretary General
The President of the North-South Center

Ladies and Gentlemen

In the unequal and often disappointing course of our world there are times when men atone for their sins and conflicts by forging paths that promote solidarity and greater ethical demands. This was the case when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the universal Declaration of Human Rights, providing a modern and universalistic body for the old founding documents of American independence and of the French constituents of 1789.
With it a new era began. Although devoid of direct binding power its text would serve as the decisive basis for later legal efforts that through new documents, duties and execution mechanisms have attempted to outline a face of greater justice and more effective responsibility for the international community.
The “European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity, the North-South Centre”, an auspicious creation of the Council of Europe, can by virtue of its objectives, functioning and peculiar decision-making process, be included in the direct lineage of those same concerns to improve mankind, so evident in the name itself. So, I am understandably proud to receive this award, greatly enhanced by my gratification at sharing the distinction with Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, whose outstanding efforts to bring cultures closer together have today received just recognition.
In the face of this honour I would like to proffer a personal note. I belong to a generation of Portuguese who from their young days and due to our domestic situation accompanied with particular expectations the legal developments of the various forms of human rights, from political and civil to economic, social and cultural. Later, both for professional and civic reasons, I defended their breach in the law courts of the dictatorial regime, or took part in initiatives that denounced the offences perpetrated by the national authorities of those unhappy times.
All this explains the particular memory I will cherish forever: that of being, five years after the restoration of democracy, the first Portuguese representative at the Human Rights Commission of the Council of Europe, immediately after Portugal ratified the Convention, at a time when tension between the two ideological blocs still fractured our continent.
Now, because of this award, I have reencountered today memories of old battles that helped mould my life. Today, and that is no doubt the reason behind this generous award, I am committed to and fully engaged in two other struggles for human dignity. Although on different planes these are based on identical principles of solidarity and on the promotion of understandings.
At the distinguished charge of the United Nations it befalls me to help raise awareness to the urgency for a more collaborative fight against the growing scourge of tuberculosis. In another sphere I work to promote the dialogue between peoples of different cultures and faiths which, by means of an alliance in the noblest meaning of the word, will improve the ambiguities and some of the mistakes made due to the reducing theory of the clash of civilizations.
In both cases we are fully immersed in one of the goals of the North-South Centre: mobilization towards greater awareness by political leaders and civil society to global problems by promoting policies geared to a more ambitious interpretation of human rights.
The plain but still widely disregarded truth that the real wealth of a nation lies in its people is often repeated, so that effective development will require appropriate health care systems, its condition being a privileged indicator of the progress of nations. Unfortunately, the asymmetries of wealth and of access to public goods that continue to characterize our times show that economic and social factors are decisively projected on the grim world geography of disease, epidemics and exclusions.
In this framework, through my many contacts, namely in sub-Saharan Africa, I have been able to witness the terrible and destructive power of tuberculosis. Despite the progress made in treatment, the new outbreaks reveal not only a terrifying persistence, but have also moved into new areas and made new victims with dire consequences on the social cohesion of vast communities.
It is therefore vital to insist on this subject that is so often marginalized, and to ask that it receive greater attention with more solidarity, – as this is a problem that by its very proportions exceeds its immediate political and medical nature to become an undeniable ethical issue.
In the other sphere of my current responsibilities, with the Alliance of Civilizations, the aim is to start from what is inherent to human societies – the amazing diversity of civilizations and cultures – and, on the fertile road of mutual interaction so finely recorded by historical memory, encourage conviviality and exchanges – both of information and of experiences – in order to establish collective action strategies leading to greater peace, more respect for differences and greater progress. As our period of intervention is short we must insist on remembering that the challenges of the varied interdependencies that beckon us in a world become by force of technology an immense global village, has never been so ample, diverse and harsh.
Hence the world financial and economic crisis we are currently experiencing – and with it discovering a parallel crisis of values – has underlined the need to respond to the global problems of our times through greater cooperation between States, structured on the open, democratic principles of responsible multilateralism. To do that we should remember that the credibility and effectiveness of this indispensable diplomatic method will depend on the long-planned but continuously postponed urgent reforms by the recurrent selfishness of States.
Miguel Torga, a Portuguese writer accustomed to looking beyond the horizon, wrote that “The Universal is the place without walls”. Let us follow his example and in line with the praiseworthy objectives of the North-South Centre, demolish the many walls that endanger our duties of solidarity and obstruct possible paths of concord.
Many thanks.
Video of the ceremony

Address to the European Parliament

October 22, 2008


Jorge Sampaio


Address to the European Parliament

October, 22, 2008


Mr PÖTTERING, President of the European Parliament,
Mr Harald RØMER, Secretary General of the European Parliament,
Honorable Members of the European Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Senhor Presidente do Parlamento Europeu
Senhor Secretário-Geral
Senhores Parlamentares
Minhas Senhoras e Senhores

Não quis deixar de fazer esta saudação inicial na minha língua materna, o português, mas todos compreenderão por certo que, na qualidade em que aqui hoje me encontro, recorra a outro código linguístico…

Let me express at the very outset my heartfelt thanks to Mr.Pöttering for his kind words of welcome. Let me also add that it is an honor and a great pleasure to address this prominent audience both on behalf of His Excellency the Secretary General of the United Nations and in my capacity as his High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations.
The Secretary General was invited to address this parliamentary session but was unable to be here today with us. He has asked me to deliver the following message, and I quote:

Strasbourg, 21 – 22 October 2008

“It is a great a pleasure to send greetings to all the distinguished participants in this important session of the European Parliament on intercultural dialogue.
Throughout its history, Europe has seen terrible outbreaks of armed conflict often rooted in prejudice and hatred. Yet the continent has also been fertile soil for some of the world’s most remarkable innovations, artistic creations and scientific progress. Europe’s tremendous diversity and its strategic geographic position, at the centre of old and new migration routes, have made it a significant venue for cross-cultural interaction and interfaith dialogue. In particular, its close relationship with its neighbors across the Mediterranean makes Europe an important bridge between civilizations.
Like many other regions of the world, Europe faces multiple challenges in promoting intercultural dialogue. Migration, economic uncertainty and political tensions are putting strains on relations between different cultural, ethnic and religious groups.
But it is precisely in your region, where constructive contacts over the centuries have allowed humanity to take major leaps forward, that opportunities for reconciliation and cooperation exist.
This special session today holds great promise. I urge you to make the most of this opportunity, and to pursue joint economic projects, educational exchanges, and other initiatives that will improve people’s lives and create a bulwark against intolerance, religious fundamentalism and extremism.
The United Nations will do its part to support and complement your efforts, both in and beyond Europe.
The Alliance of Civilizations is one of our main vehicles for this work. It aims to address the growing divisions between societies by reaffirming a paradigm of mutual respect between peoples. It also seeks to mobilize joint action for this purpose. Among the Alliance’s major initiatives are a Youth Solidarity Fund to promote dialogue, and a Global Expert Finder to provide a source of commentators who can shed light on potentially divisive issues.
“If I were to do it all over again, I would begin with culture.” These famous words, most often attributed to Jean Monnet, who worked so tirelessly for European unity, remain strikingly relevant today.
Cross-cultural tolerance, dialogue, respect and understanding must be pillars of the better world we are trying to build. It is very encouraging to know of your strong commitment to this quest.
For the sake of countless people living between the extremes and yearning for dignity and peace, let us work together so that intercultural dialogue can bear fruit. In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for the success of your discussions”.



As a former MP I know that Parliament is and always will be the home of democracy. Its members have the sometimes ungrateful task of guaranteeing a sustainable view of the future for the people they represent.
As far as Europe is concerned, we all know how slow has been the evolution of the parliamentary institution, and how great the challenges are to enforce a specific European model of democracy.
I can only praise the work already carried out and its contribution to build a more participative, pluralist Europe that is closer to citizens, closer to all citizens. These are the results of your labour and therefore I wish to address a warm greeting to all the members of this assembly, the legitimate representatives of a community of nations committed to achieve an original and unique project, in which the last century placed so many hopes and which in this one faces so much expectation.

Members of Parliament,

I come today to speak to you of the Alliance of Civilizations, an issue that although it may seem remote and distant from our day to day life is in fact deeply embedded there. An academic dispute between scholars who predicted the end of history and the clash of civilizations, but that turned into a major hot social topic, a challenge to democracy and a core issue of international policy because of globalization, increased migrations and 9/11. An issue, finally, that the United Nations managed to put high on the global agenda.
What am I talking about?
I refer to the huge – ethnic, cultural and religious – diversity of our societies and of the increasing difficulties we experience in living together.
I speak of the worsening divides of all types, the erosion of social cohesion and the widening rifts between societies.
I speak, too, of a widespread malaise that has been expressed in increased tensions intra and inter-communities, mutual distrust, in polarized perceptions and world views, in intractable identity-based conflicts, and in the rise of extremism.
Furthermore, I speak of religion being employed as a tool by all and sundry, and used and abused for various purposes and effects.
I speak also of the disorientation of political powers, confronted with the deficiencies of a purely security-based and/or repressive approach, and the absence of suitable policies and instruments for proper governance of cultural diversity.
All this serves to underline what to me is irrefutable evidence: cultural diversity has become a major political issue challenging modern democracies, pluralism, citizenship and social cohesion as well as peace and stability among nations.
For me this is crystal clear and even if serious but circumstantial crises such as the current financial and economic turmoil take up all attentions, we cannot allow present emergencies to deflect us from handling the in-depth problems of today and guard against the catastrophes of tomorrow.

Members of Parliament,

To put it harshly – to us, to the European Union, stripped down to its bare essentials, it means: how to integrate minorities, all minorities, but the Muslims of Europe in particular? How to develop our relationship with the Mediterranean? Where to draw the lines of the European project? How to enhance European foreign policy to project what we consider universal values to the world?
In my view, this is all about fundamental questions concerning values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. This is about democracy, rule of law, human rights and respect for cultural diversity; about justice, social cohesion and inclusive societies; about States, secularization and secularism or laicité; about the public sphere, private acts and religious revival. This is all about European identity and values. That’s it.
As time is obviously very short, I will not be able to discuss all these points, so I will focus on the issue of the Muslim minorities in Europe.
Why there is growing anxiety about the integration of Muslims in Europe ? Because it is a demographic issue ? Yes, of course!
Because of the integration issue? No doubt about that! In my view, the presence of Muslims in Europe is not a question of Islam and the West, but an acute problem of integration.

But, to my mind, there is another thing, there is an identity issue. Indeed, the arrival of immigrants in any society has an impact on the host country’s sense of self. But the point here is that, as someone has put it, “the dam separating Christian Europe from Muslim East has sprung a leak, altering Europe’s culture”.
Why, for instance, did past discussions on the preamble of the former European Constitution end in such vocal acrimony? Why does Turkey’s accession to the European Union trigger such passionate and combative debates? All these questions are inter-related and they all point to the so-called European values and identity.

Ladies and Gentlemen

In order to reinforce it, European identity should encompass individual allegiances and adopt cultural legacies. Europe as a place where we can live together as equals requires more and more inclusive citizenship and better governance of cultural diversities.
To cope with the integration of Muslims in our European societies we need new policies at all levels. We need European action, but also national governmental initiatives as well as local measures. We need democratic governance of cultural diversity. We need integrated perspectives and policies on education, youth, and integration of migrants.
In order to develop appropriate cultural policies we need to build cultural statistics and indicators to enlighten decision-makers and the decision making process and to monitor and assess the implementation of those policies. We need to develop democratic citizenship and participation.
We need education for human rights. Education for citizenship and respect for others. Education for intercultural understanding and dialogue. Education on media literacy. Education about religions and beliefs and both intra-and inter-religious dialogue. We need to learn about and to teach intercultural competences to our citizens.
We need to create urban strategies and policies for intercultural dialogue. We need youth policies based on equal opportunities. We need to engage civil society at large, youth, religious leaders and the media. But we need also to expand and develop the intercultural dialogue agenda in international relations and give it priority.

Mr. President,
Honorable Members of the European Parliament,

How can we live together in our globalizing word, where clashes anywhere are clashes everywhere and where cultural and religious fault-lines divide our societies? This is the global challenge the Alliance of Civilizations is facing and which it has to address in concrete terms.
Turning this global challenge into “glocal” deliverables is therefore AoC’s main task. By “glocal” I mean that deliverables have to be extensively underpinned by a global approach, but have to be implemented at a local level.

This means that the Alliance relies greatly on the European Union to implement an agenda of good governance of cultural diversity in the European region, meaning by that not only the members of the European Union, but also its neighboring countries, particularly the Mediterranean ones.
This is why I am so happy that an Action Plan on cooperation between the European Union and the Alliance of Civilizations has been agreed and will provide a solid base for the pursuit of concrete objectives and the implementation of practical projects.
In this regard, let me stress how important and significant it will be if the European Year of Inter-cultural Dialogue could be expanded into a long term, sustainable framework for promoting good governance of intercultural diversity.
I am sure that it would have a terrific impact on boosting National Strategies for intercultural Dialogue comprising measure and programmes on education, media, migration and youth that I have asked countries to design and implement. This is a suggestion that I put forward last April and to which I would like to draw your attention, asking honourable Members of Parliament kindly to back it.
Another area where in which the Alliance is eager to collaborate is the Union for the Mediterranean in order to help improve and manage inter-cultural diversity and inter-cultural dialogue, including inter-faith issues, within and among European and Muslim societies and communities.


To put it bluntly: the current international difficulties and the increasing anxiety we all feel in living together in mutual respect have encouraged the misguided view that cultures are set on an unavoidable collision course leading to a clash of civilizations.
We face increased polarizations that come up against a backdrop of growing tensions over a series of political issues and of growing cultural stereotypes. It goes without saying that political conflicts can only be solved through political negotiations. The long-term resolution of tensions between Muslim and Western societies, for example, cannot be achieved as long as some of the egregious sources of hostility are not successfully addressed.
But it is equally true that peace agreements rarely hold if they are not strongly backed by the communities involved. Many peace deals in the past have floundered because deep-seated suspicion and hostility remained, dividing people along cultural and religious lines.
Now the point is that all findings are unanimous and show a great divide in the way Westerns and Muslims view each other, with Westerners seen by Muslims as patronizing and domineering, and Muslims seen by Westerners as fanatical and intolerant. Moreover, socio-economic marginalization and discrimination generate disaffection and intolerance, and aggravate the chasm between Muslim and Western publics.

This so-called divide, opposing two fictional monolithic blocks, Islam and the West, fuels further stereotypes and polarization, and gives rise to extremism. But let me stress that the vast majority of peoples reject extremism in any society and support respect for religious and cultural diversity. Both Muslims and non-Muslims are concerned by the challenges of security and the threat of social polarization. Millions of Muslim families worry about losing their young to religious and political extremism.
In order to tackle this problem, new strategies to manage and promote inter-faith dialogue as part of cultural diversity, based on universal human rights, should be developed. In other words, creating the necessary conditions for sustainable peace requires efforts of a different kind, aimed at generating a mind shift among divided communities. This is my first concluding point.
My second point regards the need to give political priority to the development of democratic governance of cultural diversity.
In the European Union this implies creating a collective identity between its citizens – regardless of their origins and their ethnicities, languages, philosophical beliefs, political and religious affiliations – to share values, attitudes and projects, and make room for a common future to build on together. This is why cultural diversity should go hand in hand with protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, equal opportunities for all, economic solidarity and social cohesion.


These issues will not be sorted out in the short term and long term efforts are needed. Indeed, the temptation to give up is likely to be with us all the time, but we must never resign ourselves because after all small changes in circumstances can produce big shifts in behavior. And this is exactly what we need to generate the will to live together in mutual respect and appreciation of our ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious differences.
The urgency of the task cannot be underestimated. But I am sure that with your work and your commitment, we will manage to live together in integrated communities.

Many thanks
Audio File [EP]

JORGE SAMPAIO Address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe // Discours devant l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe

September 29, 2008


Address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Discours devant l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe

Fourth part of the 2008 Ordinary Session
Quatrième partie de la session ordinaire de 2008
Autumn Session /Session d’automne

29 -09- 2008

Monsieur le président
Monsieur le secrétaire général
Mesdames et Messieurs les parlementaires
Mesdames et Messieurs

Monsieur le Président, tout d’abord, acceptez mes remerciements pour les aimables paroles avec lesquelles vous avez bien voulu m’accueillir.
C’est un grand honneur et un vrai plaisir que de m’adresser à cette assemblée d’élus, réunis ici sous l’égide de l’aînée des institutions européennes.
Permettez-moi de saisir cette occasion pour rendre hommage aux hommes et aux femmes qui depuis plus d’un demi-siècle œuvrent sans relâche à l’édification de la «Maison commune européenne», pierre après pierre, sur le socle des textes fondateurs du Conseil de l’Europe et de son large dispositif conventionnel.
En tant qu’européen convaincu, je tiens aux normes et aux valeurs portées, défendues et patiemment mises en œuvre par le Conseil de l’Europe, à travers les activités multiples et complémentaires de ses organes constituants. Je crois dur comme fer aux principes de la paix, de la justice et aux droits de l’homme qui, tous, sous-tendent le projet européen.

Monsieur le Président,
Mesdames et Messieurs

Je suis heureux de pouvoir m’adresser à l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe au nom des Nations unies.
Le sujet qui nous réunit aujourd’hui me tient à cœur – l’Alliance des civilisations. Il en va des droits de l’homme, il en va de la paix, il en va de la démocratie – des valeurs auxquelles j’ai consacré toute ma vie, qui me passionnent et qui sont au centre de cette nouvelle initiative des Nations unies.
Vous n’êtes pas sans savoir que l’Alliance des civilisations, lancée par l’Espagne et la Turquie, en 2005, et qui regroupe aujourd’hui plus de quatre- vingt-dix membres vise, au fond, à s’attaquer à l’idée – aussi fausse que répandue – que les cultures se trouvent sur une trajectoire de collision inévitable et que la paix et la stabilité mondiales sont menacées par des conflits d’identité intraitables.
Dit sous un autre angle, plus positif, l’Alliance cherche à traiter les divisions croissantes entre les sociétés, en réaffirmant un paradigme de respect mutuel entre peuples et communautés aux traditions culturelles et religieuses différentes, tout en s’efforçant de promouvoir la bonne gouvernance de la diversité culturelle.

“Comment vivre ensemble, en respectant l’autre dans sa différence ?”, «Pouvons nous vivre ensemble, égaux et différents?», telles sont donc les questions auxquelles l’Alliance tâche d’apporter des réponses en mettant sur pied de projets concrets dans les domaines de la jeunesse, de l’éducation, des médias et des migrations. L’Alliance mène son action par la création de partenariats avec des gouvernements, mais également avec le secteur privé, les médias, la société civile et les organisations intergouvernementales dont, bien évidemment, le Conseil de l’Europe.

Monsieur le président
Mesdames et Messieurs

En cette année de célébration du soixantième anniversaire de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme, la certitude devrait l’emporter sur les doutes, la proclamation des réussites sur l’inventaire des insuffisances et l’affirmation de l’universalité et de la pérennité sur les constats d’échec.
Nous sommes tous, cependant, conscients que, de nos jours, les droits de l’homme sont sur la sellette, en proie à toute sorte d’accusations. À cause des doubles standards; à cause des inégalités profondes qui marquent notre temps; à cause de ce mal de vivre ensemble que nous éprouvons de façon plus aiguë en raison de la mondialisation…

Au fond, c’est toujours l’universalité des droits de l’homme qui est au cœur de toutes les disputes, compte tenu des difficultés rencontrées pour les combiner d’une façon adéquate avec le respect de la diversité culturelle au sens large.
Disons que la nouveauté n’est pas tant la diversité en soi –puisqu’elle a de tout temps existé -, mais plutôt la reconnaissance que la gestion de la diversité culturelle lance un défi sans précédents à nos démocraties. Au fond, l’Alliance des civilisations émane de ce constat, doublé du refus du choc inévitable entre civilisations.
Bien sûr, depuis le tout début de l’Alliance, nombreux sont ceux qui y ont vu un verre à moitié vide, plutôt qu’à moitié plein. Et je ne suis pas sans ignorer qu’elle a été accueillie avec un brin d’indifférence, voire de scepticisme, bien que l’argumentaire proposé ait été souvent plutôt disparate.
C’est pourquoi, en acceptant de devenir son porte parole, j’ai fait de la prudence mon mot d’ordre, bien que la confiance soit mon refrain, certain qu’il s’agit d’une bonne initiative, survenant au moment opportun.
En effet, à mon sens, l’Alliance représente un espace global de gouvernance de la diversité culturelle au titre de quatrième pilier du développement durable, et en cela elle comble ainsi un vide qui est bel et bien de nature politique. Elle se veut un laboratoire de partenariats et de mise en œuvre de projets communs, orientés vers la réalisation d’un certain nombre d’objectifs pratiques en matière d’éducation, de jeunesse, de médias et de migration, ses quatre domaines d’intervention.

Mais, il est clair que les défis sont considérables.
Ou nous parvenons à divulguer l’Alliance et à l’ancrer aux processus régionaux en cours, en l’intégrant dans leurs agendas respectifs (je pense, par exemple, à l’Union européenne, à la Ligue arabe, à l’Organisation de la conférence islamique, à l’APEC, à l’Ibéro-Amérique, à l’Union africaine, au Conseil de l’Europe naturellement…), ou bien nous passerons difficilement le cap des bonnes intentions.
Ou nous réussissons à l’inscrire dans l’agenda interne des États, ou bien il sera difficile de dépasser le plan rhétorique des beaux discours.
Ou nous parvenons à mobiliser la société civile, ou bien nous mettrons en danger notre objectif ultime: celui de viser des petites améliorations sur le terrain, porteuses d’un nouvel espoir pour les peuples.
Voilà pour les trois défis majeurs de l’Alliance.

Monsieur le président
Mesdames, Messieurs

L’Alliance des civilisations concentre ses efforts sur la coopération interculturelle et le développement des pratiques de bonne gouvernance de la diversité culturelle. Aussi travaille-t-elle actuellement avec tous ses membres pour que soient développées et mises en œuvre des Stratégies nationales pour le dialogue interculturel envisageant des mesures dans le domaine de l’éducation, des jeunes, des médias et de l’intégration des minorités.
En outre, nous misons sur la création de réseaux sur le terrain, engageant les acteurs de la société civile et le secteur privé, dont le but est de développer des activités conjointes permettant de réduire les tensions multiculturelles et d’établir des ponts entre les communautés.
Pour atteindre nos objectifs, la coopération avec le Conseil de l’Europe jouera un rôle décisif.
Riche de son expertise incomparable dans le domaine des droits de l’homme, de l’expérience acquise, de la chute du mur de Berlin au suivi des processus de transition démocratique en Europe, de son action de longue date pour renforcer la coopération culturelle et la cohésion sociale à l’échelle du continent, de son engagement résolu dans le développement du dialogue interculturel, aussi bien au sein des sociétés européennes qu’entre l’Europe et ses régions voisines, le Conseil de l’Europe est un partenaire essentiel pour l’Alliance des civilisations.
Je me réjouis de le compter parmi le « groupe d’amis » qui soutiennent l’Alliance, et j’ai déjà pu apprécier l’importance du soutien reçu des principales institutions du Conseil de l’Europe (le Comité des Ministres, votre Assemblée, le Congrès des pouvoirs locaux et régionaux) ainsi que celui du secrétaire général.
C’est pour cette raison que le mémorandum d’accord que j’ai signé aujourd’hui avec le Secrétaire Général du Conseil de l’Europe revêt à mes yeux une importance toute particulière.

A cet égard, je tiens à souligner plus spécialement deux points:
– l’importance du Livre Blanc sur le dialogue interculturel, lancé en mai 2008 par le Comité des Ministres, qui agit à la fois comme une boussole pour nos efforts conjoints (en rappelant les principes fondamentaux sur lesquels le dialogue interculturel doit s’appuyer) et une véritable « feuille de route » pour le développement de la coopération entre le Conseil de l’Europe et l’Alliance des civilisations dans ce domaine essentiel. Je me réjouis que ce document de premier ordre existera non seulement dans les deux langues officielles du Conseil de l’Europe (le français et l’anglais), mais aussi dans des langues aussi répandues que l’allemand, le russe, l’arabe, l’espagnol, l’italien et (je l’espère) le portugais ;
– le rôle spécifique revenant au Centre Nord-Sud, qui par son emplacement à Lisbonne et sa vocation de « pont entre l’Europe et ses régions voisines » est un partenaire naturel et peut s’affirmer comme une force motrice dans l’établissement et le développement de synergies entre le Conseil de l’Europe et l’Alliance.
Ici je pense plus particulièrement à l’espace méditerranéen, lieu où se joue l’avenir du dialogue entre les cultures et les religions. Il y va de notre intérêt à tous de faire progresser ces échanges sur la base de la réciprocité et de la transparence. L’Alliance des civilisations est partie prenante dans cette entreprise et compte sur le Centre Nord-Sud pour multiplier les chances de réussite du changement et faire la différence.

Nous avons d’ailleurs déjà programmé un certain nombre d’activités communes, dont le « forum de Lisbonne », en novembre, qui traitera, à juste titre, de la question des plus actuelles qu’est le principe d’universalité des droits de l’homme et de sa mise en œuvre aux niveaux international et régional, au regard du 60e Anniversaire de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme.
En somme, j’ose espérer que le mémorandum signé aujourd’hui marquera un tournant décisif dans nos relations et qu’il y aura désormais un « avant » et un « après ». Pour ma part, soyez certain que je ne ménagerai pas mes efforts pour éviter à la coopération entre l’Alliance et le Conseil de l’Europe de devenir un jeu de somme nulle et pour qu’ensemble, nous fassions toujours partie de l’équipe gagnante.

M. President
Ladies and gentlemen

Since the 11 September 2001 attacks, the notion that we are facing a so-called “clash of civilizations” has, alas, gained increasing support. In reaction to this worldview, initiatives aimed at fostering greater understanding between different faiths and cultures have proliferated.

Regarding more particularly inter-faith efforts, these are probably a reflection of increasing awareness in political circles of the importance of religious communities to address the problems of an increasingly interdependent world. They also reflect a concern over the detrimental impact that religious extremism is having on global stability and the need to foster and strengthen more moderate and constructive forces within religious traditions as a bulwark against such developments.
For all these reasons, the Alliance expresses strong support and encouragement to all efforts that are inclusive of diverse religious leaders and activists in an effort to enhance and facilitate their contribution to cross-cultural understanding and peace-building.
As an initiative with a global scope, the Alliance aims at consolidating its role within the UN Global Agenda as its pillar for good governance of cultural diversity and as a tool for conflict prevention and peace building.
When conflicts are framed in terms of identity rather than competing interests, they easily become intractable. Efforts to address cultural and religious divides are therefore of utmost importance and good governance of cultural diversity is part of any comprehensive approach to sustainable peace.
It goes without saying that political conflicts can only be solved through political negotiations. The long-term resolution of tensions between Muslim and Western societies, for example, cannot be achieved as long as some of the egregious sources of hostility are not successfully addressed.

But it is equally true that peace agreements rarely hold if they are not strongly backed by the communities involved. Many peace deals in the past have floundered because deep-seated suspicion and hostility remained, dividing people along cultural and religious lines. In other words, creating the necessary conditions for sustainable peace requires efforts of a different kind, aimed at generating a mind shift among divided communities. This can be achieved by instilling in people, particularly the young, the values of tolerance and respect for the other. People-to-people activities, also known as “city diplomacy”, youth exchange programs and civic education also contribute to that goal. So do initiatives that promote informed debate in the media on immigration, integration and the management of cultural diversity.
That is why efforts to address cultural and religious divides are so important. They can help lift the hurdles that hamper negotiations and pave the way towards successful political dialogue. Post conflict, they can support the long and arduous process of reconciliation. And when the peaceful co-existence of different communities is being threatened by simmering tensions, these efforts can help prevent conflicts developing in the first place.

M. President
Ladies and Gentlemen

In my role as the United Nations Secretary-General’s High Representative, I have been promoting the implementation of National Strategies for cross-cultural dialogue, helping to connect government policies with civil society initiatives aimed at reconciling divided communities. The Alliance also acknowledges the constructive role that religious communities can play in mediation and conflict resolution. To support this process, the Forum of the Alliance, held in Madrid last January, brought together religious leaders from across the world to identify and commit to strategies that support peace-building in their communities.
In order to help create the social conditions that foster tolerance and understanding, the Alliance also generates practical projects that promote cooperation among diverse cultural and religious communities. For instance, in January, it supported the launch of “Silatech”, a major youth employment initiative in the Arab world. Supported by an international partnership that transcends cultural and religious divides, this project will help the process of job creation and enterprise, connecting first-time job seekers to networks of employers and providing them with training and resources to build their skills and access capital.

Addressing prejudice and stereotypes that increase polarization among cultures is equally important. To this end, an Alliance of Civilizations Media Fund was created earlier this year, with the support of major Hollywood companies, to finance mainstream productions that challenge negative portrayals of minorities. With a view to promoting informed debates on sensitive international issues in the media, the Alliance has also developed an online resource of global experts who can provide analysis and commentary to journalists in times of intercultural crises.
The strategy of the Alliance of Civilizations is to work on all these fronts with all partners as it recognizes the importance of facilitating dialogue in a variety of ways.

M. President
Ladies and Gentlemen

As you know quite well, these are all long-term efforts. They will not bear fruit overnight. But their importance should not be underestimated.
As much as mediation and hard-edged political negotiations, they are essential to build conditions for sustainable development and lasting peace. To achieve these goals, we should stand united in our common endeavors in contributing to make the world a better place to live in.

Thank you