The Alliance of Civilizations
BIOGRAPHIES HIGH LEVEL GROUP MEMBERS Presentation of Final Report Istanbul, Turkey 12-13 November 2006
Part I I. BRIDGING THE WORLD’S DIVIDES
1.2 We also live in an increasingly complex world, where polarized perceptions, fueled by injustice and inequality, often lead to violence and conflict, threatening international stability....Some political leaders and sectors of the media, as well as radical groups have exploited this environment, painting mirror images of a world made up of mutually exclusive cultures, religions, or civilizations....
1.4 ... the need to build bridges between societies, to promote dialogue and understanding and to forge the collective political will to address the world’s imbalances has never been greater. This urgent task constitutes the raison d’être of the Alliance of Civilizations. Launched by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in 2005... the Alliance of Civilizations affirms a broad consensus across nations, cultures and religions...
1.5 The Alliance seeks to address widening rifts between societies by reaffirming a paradigm of mutual respect among peoples of different cultural and religious traditions and by helping to mobilize concerted action toward this end. This effort reflects the will of the vast majority of peoples toreject extremism [Does that include uncompromising Christians?] in any society and support respect for religious and cultural diversity. To guide this initiative, the Secretary-General has established a High-level Group of eminent persons. This is their report.
1 ....it evaluates relations between diverse societies and examines the emergence of the contemporary trend toward extremism with special attention to relations between Western and Muslim societies.... It recommends a practicable program of action for states (at national, regional, and local levels), international organizations, and civil society....
II. GUIDING PRINCIPLES 2.1 An Alliance of Civilizations must by nature be based on a multi-polar perspective. As such, the High-level Group has been guided in its deliberations by principles which set out the framework for promoting a culture ofdialogue and respect among all nations and cultures. The Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [See Trading U.S. Rights for UN Rules] of 1948 which seeks to free humanity of fear and misery....
2.2 An increasingly interdependent and globalized world can be regulated only through the rule of law and an effective multilateral system, with the United Nations system at its core. This requires adherence to international law and covenants including all rights and responsibilities....
2.3 ...These rights include the prohibition against physical and mental torture; the right to freedom of religion; and the right to freedom of expression and association. The integrity of these rights rests on their universal and unconditional nature.... [But as UNESCO has stated, certain uncompromising religions are not acceptable. See A New Global Ethics ]
2.4 .... There is no hierarchy among cultures, as each has contributed to the evolution of humanity. ...
2.5 Poverty leads to despair, a sense of injustice, and alienation that, when combined with political grievances, can foster extremism. Eradication of poverty would diminish those factors... as called for in the Millennium Development Goals.
2.6 Terrorism can never be justified. ...we need to address all the conditions conducive to it, recognising the links between peace, security, social and economic development, and human rights. In this regard, the recently approved UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy represents an important landmark.
2.7 Democratic governance that is representative of citizens and responsive to their needs and aspirations provides the most effective means for individuals to achieve their full potential. To be successful, democratic systems must emerge organically from within each society’s culture, reflecting its shared values and adapted to the needs and interests of its citizens....
2.8 Religion is an increasingly important dimension of many societies and a significant source of values for individuals. It can play a critical role in promoting an appreciation of other cultures, religions, and ways of life to help build harmony among them.
III. THE GLOBAL CONTEXT Overview
Identities and Perceptions
3.8 The exploitation of religion by ideologues intent on swaying people to their causes has led to the misguided perception that religion itself is a root cause of intercultural conflict. It is therefore essential to dispel misapprehensions and to give an objective and informed appraisal of the role of religion in modern day politics. Indeed, a symbiotic relationship may be emerging between religion and politics in our time, each influencing the other. ... Conversely, the overtly religious platforms of some contemporary movements conceal political ambitions that appropriate religion for ideological ends.
3.9 ... There is increasing support in many societies for a greater role for religion in public life. Most express this desire in peaceable ways, persisting in a world that many view to be increasingly hostile to faith. But a tiny proportion of religiously motivated groups worldwide take part in acts of violence.
3.10 ...it is important to clarify our understanding of certain commonly used terms. “Fundamentalism” is a Western term coined by Protestant Christians which is not readily applicable to other communities. It is frequently used to describe movements which are disturbed by the marginalization of religion in secular society and seek to reinstate its central role. Even though all these movements are in fact highly innovative and even unorthodox, they often call for a return to the roots of religious tradition and a literal adherence to basic texts and principles irrespective of historical factors. ...such movements exist across most faith traditions. Moreover, they are not by nature violent. What is common to them is a deep disappointment with and fear of secular modernity, which many of them have experienced as invasive, amoral, and devoid of deeper meaning.
Extremism, on the other hand, advocates radical measures in pursuit of political goals. It is not, by nature, religious, and can also be found in secular movements. In some cases, fundamentalist and extremist ideologies can be used to justify acts of violence and even terrorist attacks on civilians.
3.11 It is imperative to recognize that none of the world religions condones or approves the killing of innocents. All promote the ideals of compassion, justice and respect for the dignity of life. However, in a wide range of recent conflicts in many parts of the world religion has been exploited to justify intolerance, violence and even the taking of life. Recently, a considerable number of acts of violence and terrorism have been committed by radical groups on the fringes of Muslim societies. Because of these actions, Islam is being perceived by some as an inherently violent religion. Assertions to this effect are at best manifestly incorrect and at worst maliciously motivated. They deepen divides and reinforce the dangerous mutual animosity among societies.
3.12 Extremism and terrorism are not motivated solely by exclusivist interpretations of religion, nor are non-state actors alone in employing them. Indeed, secular political motives were responsible for some of the most horrifying reigns of terror in living memory, such as the Holocaust, the Stalinist repressions in the Soviet Union, and more recent genocides in Cambodia, the Balkans, and Rwanda, all perpetrated by state powers....
3.13 ... Effective counter-measures cannot rely solely on attacking adherents of such ideologies.... The only durable solution lies in addressing the roots of the resentment and anger that make exclusivist and violent ideologies attractive in the first place. Nowhere have exclusivist ideologies, adversarial perceptions, cultural arrogance, and media stereotypes combined more dangerously with conflicts bred of perceived and real injustices than in relations between Western and Muslim societies.
IV. THE POLITICAL DIMENSION Historical Narratives
4.1 Building on the efforts of the Dialogue Among Civilizations and other related initiatives4, the Alliance of Civilizations must examine - within a multi-polar and comprehensive approach - the state of relations between diverse contemporary societies, their world-views and the reciprocal perceptions that shape these relations. ...
4.2 ... it is important to note that peaceful co-existence, beneficial trade and reciprocal learning have been hallmarks of relations between Christianity, Islam and Judaism from their earliest period until today. During medieval times, Islamic civilization was a major source of innovation, knowledge acquisition, and scientific advancement that contributed to the emergence of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment in Europe. Historically, under Muslim rule, Jews and Christians were largely free to practice their faiths.