I write this blog a few hours before I take off for Barcelona where I will be one of the invited speakers at a scoping conference organised by the United Nations University for the establishment of an International Institute for the Alliance of Civilisations. The UN Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) was set up in 2007 on the recommendation of a High Level Group Report (November 2006) that saw the critical importance of such forum managed out of the UN Secretary General office.
UNAOC operates in four distinct but related fields of action: migration; education; youth and media. Through initiatives and strategies outlined by the UNAOC and carried by member states through national plans of action, the UN wants first and foremost to achieve intercultural understanding and cooperation rather than allow international relations to be dominated by the 'clash of civilisations' thesis and the neo-conservatives pursuit of military options and conflict to achieve military victories by all means.
The UNAOC underlying principle is one that highlights shared human values and a core attachment to human rights; social justice; good governance and holistic human development. In other words, if we are able to minimise if not eradicate intercultural tensions and inter-state conflicts then the overall conditions for development and good intercultural relations will improve significantly.
The new UNU Institute to be set up in Barcelona will dedicate research programs and post-graduate training to this end and will explore research gaps and challenges in these four fields of action. I look forward to robust discussions with policy makers, fellow researchers and UNU staff to what is promising to be an highly stimulating event.
Stay tuned for further updates.