United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC)

What is the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations?

The Alliance of Civilizations is a United Nations political initiative of the Secretary-General. It was launched in 2005 by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, with the co-sponsorship of the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey. The goal is to merge joint action beyond different societies and cultures in order to fight extremism and overcome cultural, religious and social barriers mainly between the Western and the Muslim world.


The fundamental values of the UNAOC are respect and tolerance among human beings. Values, which define how we handle the diversity of beliefs, cultures and languages. The Alliance aspires to the ideal of a culture of peace and dialogue, based on the conviction that “differences within and between societies be neither feared nor repressed, but cherished as a precious asset of humanity.” (UN Development Millenium Declaration, 1-6)



The primary mission of the UNAOC is to forge collective political will and to mobilize concerted action aimed at improving cross-cultural understanding and cooperation among countries, peoples and communities. The Alliance develops its actions at both governmental and civil society levels. It also works to counter forces that fuel polarization and extremism. The UNAOC’s particular focus is on improving relations within and between Western and Muslim societies and addressing persistent tensions and divides.


The three main tasks of the Alliance are:

  • Giving an assessment of the situation in the world, especially regarding security problems and threats emanating from extremist forces
  • Planning joint action on an official as well as civil society level
  • Recommending a real action plan for states, international organisations and the civil society in order to support the creation of harmonious relations between different societies


Areas of activity

While active on a number of crosscutting issues, the Alliance works mainly in four priority areas, which are:

  1. Education – In increasingly multicultural contexts that shape our lives, education is fundamental to address the ignorance and mistrust that are at the source of human conflict. Enabling citizens to acquire intercultural competencies and skills is key to fostering intercultural dialogue, overcoming cultural stereotypes and intolerance.
  2. Youth –Roughly one in five individuals, over 1.2 billion people worldwide, is between the ages of 15 and 24. The UNAOC considers young people key agents for social change, economic growth and technological innovation.
  3. Media – Traditional media, as well as social media and new information technologies, shape perceptions, narratives and attitudes. They hold the potential to bridge divides and to develop a positive narrative around diversity.
  4. Migration – Migration and mobility of populations bring potential, which must be harnessed, but also create new challenges that need to be addressed in a solution-oriented way.