New York, 24 September 2010 – “Dialogue on an equal footing - which acknowledges the diversity of our globalised and networked societies - is and shall remain the most effective means of conflict resolution, understanding and building social cohesion. The Alliance of Civilizations is facing this challenge, and – as an important platform of intercultural dialogue - makes an essential contribution to the mutual understanding of peoples and cultures,” stated Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger during a ministerial gathering at the Alliance of Civilizations meeting, organised within the framework of the UN General Assembly in New York. The Foreign Minister also confirmed Austria’s promise to organise the Alliance’s 2013 annual forum in Vienna.
In this context Spindelegger stressed Austria’s special commitment to its immediate neighbours. Aimed at finding more effective solutions to problems, the Strategy for the Danube Region was such an example of a macro-regional approach designed to enhance networking between the countries with a similar profile facing similar challenges. “Here, too, dialogue constitutes a key element in defusing tensions, resolving conflict and contributing to the shared development of new political, economic and social perspectives for the region,” affirmed Spindelegger.
In addition to human rights, pluralism and the equality of men and women, promoting the participation of young people is a priority for Austria’ facilitation of dialogue. “The integration and participation of Muslims will remain one of the key challenges for both Austria and Europe over the coming years,” maintained the Foreign Minister, referring to successful Austrian initiatives, such as the university course for Islamic religious education designed to train teachers of Islam and Imams, the regional cultural studies for Turkish Imams by the Foreign Ministry or the Conference of European Imams and Religious Advisers, which in May 2010 was hosted in Vienna for the third time.
“If we want to sustain this dialogue and encompass a large swathe of society, then we must also succeed in developing innovative forms of cooperation between politics, business and civil society,” emphasised the Foreign Minister. As an example, Spindelegger cited the first Arab-European Young Leaders Forum to be held in Vienna at the end of November, an event hosted by the Foreign Ministry, in conjunction with the League of Arab States, the BMW Herbert Quandt Foundation and the OPEC Fund for International Development.
In conclusion, and campaigning for support of Austria’s candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council during the period 2011-2014, Spindelegger emphasised the role of dialogue as a tool for the promotion of a better understanding of the importance of human rights.
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