Magazine article UN Chronicle

Dialogue among Civilizations: Contexts and Perspectives

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Dialogue among Civilizations: Contexts and Perspectives

Article excerpt

Although dialogue has been a human idea since ancient times, "dialogue among civilizations" became a pervasive and inclusive theory and emerged as a symbolic asset due to its proper and timely presentation. Even the world's most notorious terrorist attacks of 9/11, which took place the same year which had been designated as the Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations and which caused the discourse of violence and war to overshadow the discourse of peace and compromise, did not stop the world from pursuing the dialogue of cultures in various practical fields. When the existing paradigm is one of war, domination and violence, the world needs to hear the voice of peace, dialogue and compromise. The widespread acceptance of the proposal to designate 2001 as the Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations by the United Nations General Assembly was of high importance. The fact that the proposal was accepted by consensus indicated that in their depths of conscience, the powers, whether oppressor or oppressed, considered the international political situation worrisome. More importantly, the positive response of public opinion, particularly intellectuals, thinkers, academic and political as well as social circles to this proposal was impressive.


One can say that dialogue among civilizations has been one of the few initiatives able to create such a considerable, if not the greatest, wave during the past decade. This includes the formation of dialogue institutions, the writing of books and theses in this field, the establishment of academic chairs, and the holding of numerous international conferences in the West and the East, in the Muslim and Christian worlds. The fact that all governments approved this proposal and, more importantly, that the scientific, human rights, academic, social and political societies paid attention to it was outstanding. However, upon closer inspection, it is not so surprising why certain remarks are sometimes heard and sometimes not. Due to public concerns, the world responded to that calling at that particular time when it was first presented. That is why dialogue among civilizations became widespread--the time was ripe for raising this issue. Despite all problems, today dialogue among civilizations is still a prominent issue and continues to exist. Though the spread and promotion of the idea seems to have decreased, it is still of importance and appealing in the depths of man's thought and history, and I think it is a light that will never go out.

Two Governments, one Western and the other Eastern, Spain and Turkey, later on raised the issue of the "alliance of civilizations". As 1 of 18 high-ranking groups that the United Nations Secretary-General had chosen, I announced that dialogue among civilizations was not over and that the alliance of civilizations could not replace dialogue. The civilizations must first be able to talk and find their commonalities while maintaining their own identities.

The idea of alliance of civilizations, in the sense that all civilizations merge together as one, is different from the idea that has been promoted all these years. Imagine that all civilizations completely set aside their issues and focus and cooperate on certain subjects; this is a job for governments and politicians. It was, nevertheless, a welcomed initiative as it indicated that the idea of dialogue among civilizations was still centre of attention.

Dialogue among civilizations is not a philosophical or political theory per se. We presented the issue as a paradigm; as a desirable model and example for relations among humans, societies and different groups. In the current era, but particularly in the twentieth century, the dominant paradigm was that of war. On one hand, there was the Cold War, regional wars, military and revolutionary conflicts with unaccepted regimes, while on the other hand, there was the matter of occupation, oppression and two world wars. …

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