UNAOC Group of Friends, Statement by H.E. Michael Spindelegger Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me express my sincere appreciation for the work of the Alliance and commend the High Representative and his Secretariat for the achievements of the past year. There is no doubt that the UNAOC is a central voice in promoting the agenda of intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
The tragic events in Benghazi, as well as the subsequent incidents in Cairo, Sanna’a and Tunis have shown that dialogue is more relevant than ever. Whether or not we will be able to foster peaceful relations between different cultures and religions constitutes one of the decisive challenges of the decade. In this context, the Alliance’s Mission of fighting prejudice and raising cultural awareness is crucial.
Peace and understanding grows at grassroots level, it is the result of an open conversation, a shared moment of joy or a jointly resolved problem. The particular strength of the Alliance lies in its’ bottom-up approach, offering a platform for concerted action of local, regional and national actors.
I am proud to inform you that the preparations for the 5th Global Forum in Vienna on 27th and 28th of February 2013 are well underway. Together with the High Representative and his Secretariat we have prepared a concept note and a draft-program which were distributed in advance to this meeting.
Entitled “Promoting Responsible Leadership in Diversity and Dialogue”, the Vienna Forum shall address the following three overarching themes:
First: the promotion, protection and full enjoyment of the freedom of religion or belief. Currently a Member of the UN Human Rights Council, Austria strives to achieve specific progress on these issues.
The Vienna Forum will shed light on what governments can do to uphold freedom of religion or belief in a context of growing diversity and pluralism, as well as discuss how education contributes to the promotion of tolerance.
The second aspect of the Forum will be media pluralism, diversity of media content and their contribution to fostering public debate, democracy and awareness of diverse opinions. Media freedom constitutes an issue of utmost importance to the UNAOC and Austria alike. Moreover, the protection of journalists is a key concern of the Austrian foreign policy. We shall also forge synergies with UNESCO in this context.
As a third element, the discussions in Vienna shall revolve around shaping a new narrative for migration, integration and mobility in a globalized economy. I mentioned the future of interreligious relations as one of the most important questions of our time. Our capability of handling international migration for the benefit of migrants and host-
societies alike will be crucial. The Forum will provide an opportunity to contemplate new concepts of inclusive societies and multiple identities.
In addition to those thematic aspects, we will put a regional focus on the Danube and Black Sea region, South Caucasus and Central Asia. There will also be room for making progress on existing regional strategies. Moreover, a youth event will take place on 26th February, recognizing youth as a driving force of intercultural dialogue.
Formal invitations to the Vienna Forum will be sent out shortly. I look forward to welcoming you, Friends of the Alliance, to the Vienna Forum in five months!