The Alliance of Civilizations was launched in 2005 by the Prime Ministers of Turkey and Spain, to be later adopted by the Secretary General of the United Nations to become a UN initiative.
The atmosphere of mutual distrust, fear and polarization prevalent in recent years particularly between the Islamic world and the West has been exploited by a number of circles. The Alliance aims at stemming this trend by garnering a broad coalition to foster greater cross-cultural tolerance and understanding. It bases itself on the understanding that all countries and communities are interdependent in such areas as development, security, environment and prosperity, and intends to generate a political will to counter prejudices, stereotypes and reciprocal misgivings between and among persons and groups belonging to different religious and cultural backgrounds. The Alliance has quickly become the foremost initiative in the area of interreligious and cross-cultural dialogue.
The Secretariat, the High Representative
In order to ensure a proper coordination of the activities within the ambit of the Alliance, a Secretariat within the United Nations was established in New York. The Secretariat runs the day-to-day activities of the Alliance, while running programs to enhance its visibility and overseeing the implementation of concrete areas in the Alliance’s four areas of priority, namely youth, media, education and migration. In April 2007, the former President of Portugal, H.E. Mr. Jorge Sampaio, was designated by the UN Secretary-General as High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations. Thereon, the Secretariat drew up an Implementation Plan which it submitted to the Secretary General in June 2011 upon the approval of the High Representative.
On 28 September 2012 in New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, the President of the 66th UN General Assembly as the new High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations as of 1 January 2013.
The General Assembly Resolution
With a view to firmly entrenching the Alliance at the international arena, a draft resolution was submitted to the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly by 96 co-sponsors. The draft was adopted unanimously to become UN General Assembly resolution 64/14.
The Group of Friends
Moreover, a Group of Friends was established to inculcate a culture of international ownership of the Alliance. Membership in the Group of Friends has expanded at an impressive pace, and today includes more than 130 countries and international organizations.
The Annual Forums
The main international event of the Alliance is the Annual Forums where numerous Heads of State/Government, Ministers and statesmen, as well as representatives of NGOs, various faiths, youth organizations, media and academicians numbering in the thousands, meet to exchange views, experiences and ideas related to the Alliance’s progress and possible future goals.
The first Forum was held in January 2008 in Madrid. The Madrid Forum set the scene for a thorough review of the Alliance’s orientation and introduced the Alliance of Civilizations to the international arena. The second Forum, organized in Istanbul in 2009, marked the successful completion of the Alliance’s institutionalization phase, and witnessed the transition to the implementation stage. The 2010 Rio Forum embossed the universal nature of the Alliance’s goals and values, while helping the process establish itself firmly in the Western Hemisphere. The fourth forum was held in Doha in December 2011.The Doha Forum aimed at establishing a link between Alliance’s goals and Millenium Development Goals.
Turkey has hosted the Alliance of Civilizations Partners Forum under the Replenishment Mechanism on 31 May-1 June 2012 in Istanbul. It was a breakthrough activity for the Alliance.
The fifth Forum of the Alliance is expected to be held in Vienna on in February 2013.
The Regional Strategies
Regional Strategies constitute another important component within the overall mechanism of the Alliance. These strategies establish a framework for propitious cooperation among countries belonging to the same region, and provide a stimulus for non-governmental actors to become more involved in the Alliance’s work by developing projects to advance interreligious and cross-cultural understanding and harmony. The Regional Strategies frame the domains of activity and goals, while the projects to be undertaken within the scheme are compiled in an Action Plan, which also constitutes an integral part of the Strategy.
It was at the Istanbul Forum that a decision was taken to launch the first such strategy. The ensuing negotiations bore fruit, and the Alliance of Civilization Regional Strategy for Intercultural Dialogue in South East Europe was adopted in December 2009 in Sarajevo. A notable number of projects to advance the Alliance’s ideals in the region were developed and submitted to the pertinent countries and international organizations for consideration.
This was followed by the Regional Strategy for the Mediterranean which was adopted in Malta, in November 2010.
Finally, negotiations to develop a Regional Strategy for Latin America, inspired by the Rio Forum, were initiated in Peru, in December 2010, followed by a second meeting, again in Peru in March 2011.
At the national level, the Alliance has called for the elaboration of National Plans to disseminate greater knowledge and increase both awareness and sensibility about the process within the public opinion. These plans contain numerous projects aimed at bolstering national espousal of the Alliance, and cultivating an environment of intercultural harmony within a given country.
Turkey’s National Plan has been developed under the guidance of the then-Minister of State in charge of the Alliance, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Aydın. This National Plan may be accessed also through the Alliance’s website. Turkey has completed its work on the second National Plan as well.