Vienna, 27 February 2013 Press release

Spindelegger: “Vienna is at the centre of the dialogue between cultures”

The 5th Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations opens in the presence of over 1000 participants in Vienna Hofburg

Vienna, 27 February 2013 – “Simmering trouble spots around the world show us that the demand for respect and tolerance between people of different origins, cultures and religions is now more important than ever before. The dialogue process between the cultures and religions is thus clearly not a soft issue! It is a focal task for international political efforts”, Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said today at the opening of the 5th United Nations Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) to be held in Vienna from 27 to 28 February.

In his opening address, Spindelegger underlined the importance of the Alliance of Civilizations in the efforts being made to achieve international dialogue. “Turkey and Spain set a groundbreaking initiative with the founding of the Alliance under the aegis of the UN Secretary General in 2005. In this context I would like to congratulate UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo who are present here today”, the Vice-Chancellor said. Spindelegger also used the opportunity to thank outgoing UN High Representative Jorge Sampaio for his work over the past few years and to wish his successor Nassir Al-Nasser every success in dealing with the challenges ahead.

The Global Forum will be dedicated to three central issues with the agenda title “Responsibility, Diversity and Dialogue” and Spindelegger briefly explained the content: “The issue is primarily that of promoting religious and media freedom and also of placing all successful integration projects in the spotlight. Through this the Alliance of Civilizationshas the effect of a global think tank, in which politicians, civil society and representatives of the media all take part. They are reacting to the ever more pressing necessity for countering prejudice and stereotypes, as also for understanding cultural differences and learning to accept them.”

Youth is a special focus of the Vienna Global Forum. A parallel Youth Event is being held for the first time. Its agenda covers concrete issues such as the African minority in Tunisia, joint sports events involving Israelis and Palestinians, the improvement of living conditions for women in Liberia or the development of quality arts journalism in Kosovo. “It is my conviction that the efforts to bring about rational and meaningful dialogue between people from different cultures must above all address young people. With this in mind we have invited 150 young people from 94 countries aged between 19 and 35 to attend. The recommendations they make will be adopted in the work of this conference”, the Foreign Minister said.

The aim of this Vienna Forum is furthermore to achieve a strategic realignment of UNAOC. The objectives for the future are to be set down in what will be known as the Vienna Declaration, which will be based on an analysis of the work done so far in five years of operative activity. “The Alliance of Civilisations will focus its work in future to a greater extent on specific issues and establish a new geographical centre of gravity. There will be specific regional strategies in future for those areas of the globe that are of special importance for us: these will be the Danube area, the Black Sea region, the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia”, Spindelegger said.

“This conference is in the long Austrian tradition of dialogue. Austria has consistently made sustainable contributions to establishing mutual trust and securing of peace through initiatives in the area of the dialogue of the cultures and religions. Vienna is thus an ideal venue as a traditional dialogue hub and platform”, Spindelegger said.

The 5th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of the Civilisations (UNAOC) takes place from 27 to 28 February in Vienna. Established in 2005 under the aegis of the United Nations, the Alliance is an attempt to deal with and defuse polarisation and extremism through cooperation and dialogue. The annual Global Forums are the highest ranking meetings of the Alliance. Previous Forums have been held in Madrid (2008), Istanbul (2009), Rio de Janeiro (2010) and Doha (2011).

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