Rio de Janeiro, 28. May 2010 Press release

Spindelegger: “Alliance of Civilizations as a global umbrella of intercultural dialogue”

Austrian Foreign Minister delivers speech at the Annual Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro (28 May 2010) – “With its motto A country for all, Brazil impressively demonstrates that rather than remain a vision cultural and religious diversity may become a pragmatic reality,” stated Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, who paid tribute to Brazil, the country hosting the Third Annual Forum of the Alliance, while at the same time emphasising the economic and social progress it has achieved in recent years. The Conference, which was opened by Brazil’s President, is being attended by heads of state and government, foreign ministers and high-ranking representatives of over 100 member states and international organisations, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the Spanish and Turkish heads of government, Prime Minister Jose Luiz Zapatero and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations and former Portuguese President, Jorge Sampaio, as well as Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, Chairwoman of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.

“Austria’s priorities in the dialogue are human rights, pluralism, the successful management of diversity and equal rights for men and women. The key question is how can we promote and support responsible leadership in politics, society and business,” stated Spindelegger, regarding this question as being in the interests of all – beyond any cultural or religious spheres and national borders.

Minister Spindelegger also affirmed that the integration and participation of Muslims remained a key challenge for both Austria and Europe. One of the priorities of Austria’s initiatives for dialogue was therefore Islam in Europe, the Foreign Minister added. “European Islam must be integrated more strongly in dialogue and used as a mediator in intercultural dialogue.” It was also imperative to strengthen the networks between individual regions – one of the core tasks of the Alliance of Civilizations. In this context Spindelegger referred to Austria’s successful initiatives, including a university course for Islamic education aimed at the basic and further training of religious teachers of Islam and Imams, the history and geography training programmes for Turkish Imams provided by the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, as well as the Third Vienna Conference for European Imams and Religious Advisers, which took place in May.

The Foreign Minister emphasised that the Alliance of Civilizations had to go beyond the relations between the West and the Muslim world, and had to integrate the varied experiences of other regions, such as Latin America, Asia and Central Asia. This gave rise to important questions: How can we make use of ethnic, cultural and religious diversity to promote prosperity and development? How can we manage to shape our societies in the interests of the welfare of all.

The Alliance of Civilizations had a special role to play in looking for answers to these questions of the future: “As a global umbrella and think tank for inter-cultural dialogue and cooperation, the Alliance is making a valuable contribution to the mutual understanding between peoples and cultures,” concluded Spindelegger.

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