Ferrero-Waldner at the IPI World Congress and 52nd General Assembly
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IPI World Congress and 52nd General Assembly
"Pluralism, Democracy and the Clash of Civilizations"
Address by the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
Salzburg, 14 September 2003, Congress Centre
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Freedom of the Press is the oxygen of Democracy. Without this freedom, democracy cannot thrive. With this in mind I would like to thank the International Press Institute (IPI) for its engagement for the promotion and protection of press freedom and the improvement of the conditions of journalism all around the globe.
In 1992, the IPI decided to make Vienna the home of its headquarters, a fact that Austria is truly proud of. Allow me to extend on this occasion my particular thanks to Professor Johann Fritz, the director of IPI, who has organised this congress so rapidly after it had to be cancelled in Nairobi.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
When we think about the concepts that have shaped the world in which we live in during the past half-century, even within the past decade, there are many key words that come to our mind. "Globalization" which has many meanings, both positive and negative, may be the most decisive concept of all, because this term signifies the fact that we have to learn to look at political and economic questions in a way which includes all of their global consequences. Globalization has made all of us more acutely aware of the ways in which our currencies, our economies, our political fortunes, our attempts at waging war and our attempts at building peace are all inter-linked. It is not possible to "go it alone" in the kind of world we live in, since there is no such thing as "alone."
Along with the globalization of world systems we have been confronted with an increased movement of people as refugees and as economic and political migrants. The demography of our world has changed, and our way of looking at a world of religious, cultural, and ethnic difference must now begin to catch up with those changes.
It is precisely the interpenetration and proximity of great civilizations and cultures that will be the hallmark of the twenty-first century. The map of the world cannot be colour-coded as to its Christian, Muslim, Hindu identity, but each part of the world is marbled with the colours and textures of the whole. People of different religious traditions live together all over the world - as majorities in one place, as minorities in another.
Since the publication of Samuel Huntington’s "Clash of Civilisations" ten years ago claiming that world politics in the post cold war era is mainly comprehensible from a perspective of "a clash of civilisations", it has become customary - when discussing world politics - to refer to his theory. Huntington basically concludes that world politics from here onwards will be increasingly characterised by clashes along the civilizational fault lines separating them:
"In the emerging world, the relations between states and groups from different civilisations will not be close and will often be antagonistic. Yet some intercivilizational relations are more conflict-prone than others. At the micro level, the most violent fault lines are between Islam and its Orthodox, Hindu, African and Western Christian neighbours. At the macro level, the dominant division is between „the West and the rest“, with the most dominant conflicts occurring between Muslim and Asian societies on the one hand and the West on the other. The dangerous clashes of the future are likely to arise from the interaction of Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance and Sinic assertiveness."
Despite Huntington's claim of a clash of civilizations between the West and the rest, the World Values Survey, a worldwide investigation of socio-cultural and political change, based at the Institute for Social Research of the University of Michigan reveals that, at this point in history, democracy has an overwhelmingly positive image throughout the world. In country after country, a clear majority of the population describes "having a democratic political system" as either "good" or "very good." Democracy is virtually the only political model with global appeal, no matter how different the cultural background of people may be.
Yet Huntington is correct when he argues that cultural differences have taken on a new importance, forming possible fault lines for future conflict. Although almost the entire world pays lip service to democracy, there is still no global consensus on fundamental values - such as social tolerance, gender equality, freedom of speech, and interpersonal trust - that are crucial to democracy.
Not surprisingly, at the point of contact of two or more civilisations, there are bound to be some frictions emanating from different values. We all have our own personal experiences with private “clashes”: arguments with neighbours, the missed party/concert because of parental forbiddance, etc. The main point is how we deal with these differences. Basically, there are three ways of handling "difference":
1) Exclusivism which requires the exclusion of those who are different and demands that those who are different go home - "what is foreign should leave."
2) Assimilation or Inclusivism, where differences dissolve into a melting pot, adding their flavours, but losing their form - people are welcome to come - and to be like "us."
3) Pluralism, where a group or community is shaped by the encounter of the many, the engagement of the many, a "cultural pluralism" where one has a right to be different, not just in dress and public presentation, but in religion and creed, united only by participation in the common covenants of citizenship.
What we have to opt - and work - for is pluralism, pluralism not as an ideology, but rather as a dynamic process through which we engage with one another in and through our very deepest differences. "Pluralism" which regards "otherness" not as a threat but as an enrichment, not as something to be afraid of but as a chance to cooperate. Pluralism is not given, but must be created. It requires participation and active attempt to understand the other. The language of pluralism is that of dialogue and encounter, give and take, criticism and self-criticism. It is the language of dialogue that we will need to develop further.
This dialogue has not only to take place between religions and cultures but also WITHIN religions, societies, and cultures. In this dialogue we should not disregard the potential, inherent in our religious or ethnic minorities, if they are encouraged to take part in these discussions as bridges rather than outsiders. The Christian minorities and the Jewish minorities - for that matter - in the Islamic countries should be such bridges and the other way round. Muslims living in Europe for example can better explain to us what Islam is all about and to their Islamic brethren what Western civilization is all about.
Austria has a longstanding record in the organization of a dialogue between Cultures and Civilizations and has acquired some tangible political know-how. Based on the conviction that the dialogue between cultures and civilizations has to include the media in order to reach out to the general public and to all actors in the civil society, the Austrian Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs has organized last year an international seminar on the role of the media in the Dialogue between Cultures and Civilizations. Another seminar will take place this November in Vienna where we should discuss realistic chances for “ethical conduct” in a globalized media world. I am truly looking forward to co-hosting this seminar, which will be entitled "Cultural Diversity, The Quest for Common Moral Ground and the Public Role of the Media" together with the Jordanian Minister for Social Affairs, Ms. Rowaida Al-Maaitah.
All political and religious efforts to promote a dialogue between cultures and civilizations must reach out to a wider public. The task we as governments, religious leaders, teachers, writers and journalists share is to give people a fair chance to understand and appreciate different cultures and civilizations. In order to involve our civil societies in this dialogue, we need the media, writers, and poets to help transmit the message of understanding.
The media, as we are all aware, are among the most powerful creators and transmitters of cultural images today. This places them in a very special position. We of course do understand that most media are businesses and therefore have to follow certain rules of the market. Only media who sell their product will survive economically and will have an impact on public opinion. But we also recognize that there is an ethical responsibility for intellectual honesty, for truth and for sensitivity to transport valid images and messages that are not purposefully biased and prejudiced.
In an age of globalization we may very well feel the threat that all our deeds and actions have global consequences but at the same time I ask all of us also to realise that there is a second side to this coin - namely that our positive efforts towards a just dialogue will have a global impact.
Thank you for your attention.