Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura: We are assembled here because in November 1998 the General Assembly of the United Nations, in a resolution sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran, proclaimed the year 2001 as the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. A mutually enriching exchange between cultures is essential to furthering peace between nations and peoples. It lies at the very core of the mandate given to the United Nations and to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is dedicated to contributing to peace and security by promoting cooperation among nations through peace, education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
In today's world the need for dialogue is increasingly relevant and acute, at both national and international levels. Both internal focus and external focus are equally important as civilizations and their impact have often transcended the borders of nation States. It is therefore particularly fitting that the first meeting of the dialogue is held at such a symbolic time on the eve of the world Millennium Summit, not only to explore one another's past legacies but to reflect on what future may lie in store for the diverse civilizations, values and creeds which form the fabric of humanity.
I wish to thank all those who have made such a meeting possible. I pay particular tribute to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan. I thank President Mohammad Khatami of the Islamic Republic of Iran for his initiative and contribution to this event, and the distinguished Heads of State and Ministers gathered here today. I am convinced that getting to know the cultures of others, listening to what they have to say, dispels hatred, ignorance and mistrust and helps to build peace. We must learn to recognize what each culture owes to all other cultures. We know that civilizations endlessly change as they redefine themselves in the light of new surroundings.
Many nations and peoples nurse long-standing memories of historic grievances and cultural slights. Only dialogue stands a chance of resolving them and not law or our aggressive behaviour. Dialogue alone can lead to long-term understanding, reconciliation and peace. Dialogue alone brings these truly into the open where they may be assessed with true intellectual honesty and deep concern for one another's merits. Cultural dialogue thus helps to sow the seeds of peace.
UNESCO is one of the world's peaceful forums for such dialogue. The dialogue it fosters is predicated upon universal acceptance and observance of basic human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of 1948 to which all members of the Organization are committed. Within this broad moral framework each culture knows that its voice is heard, weighed and respected. Dialogue in itself means exposing and certainly not blanketing over different ways of thought.
[Some cultures will borrow from it] while others have too often conflicted violently. Cultural tolerance and open-mindedness are called for in order to learn from others. That is what I hope we can do this morning and again this afternoon with the gathering of scholars and thinkers whose presence here today I should also like to salute.
Before I call on Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, for his welcoming remarks, I should like briefly, as the Moderator, to outline how I see the organization of this morning's meeting.
The first main speaker will be His Excellency, Mr. Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and co-initiator of this round table. Thereafter, we shall hear addresses from nine Heads of State who have kindly accepted our invitation to be here with us this morning, followed by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of India and Costa Rica who are representing their Heads of State who are not able to join us this morning.
On this occasion I should like to extend a word of welcome to the Secretary of State of the United States, Mrs Albright. I also welcome the participation of His Highness [Sayyid Faisal bin Ali bin Faisal Al-Said], Minister of Culture of the Sultanate of Oman. I call on Mr. Kofi Annan.
Mr. Kofi Annan (interpretation from French): Thank you, Mr. Director-General, for your kind words. First, I should like to express my gratitude to His Excellency, President Khatami, under whose initiative the Dialogue among Civilizations has become a reality within the Organization and throughout the world. Mr. President, the presence of so many Heads of State amongst us in this room is an eloquent tribute to your ideal of a world society based on compassion and tolerance. I also thank Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura and the staff of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for having organized today's event. (continued in English)
I am honoured and pleased to join you for this important conference on the day before the opening of the Millennium Summit. Indeed, I can think of no better moral and spiritual foundation for the Summit than a meeting devoted to dialogue among civilizations. The United Nations itself was created in the belief that dialogue can triumph over discord, that diversity is a universal virtue, and that the peoples of the world are far more united by common fate than they are divided by their separate identities. The United Nations, at its best, can be the true home of the dialogue among civilizations the forum where such dialogue can flourish and bear fruit in every field of human endeavour. That is why I have warmly welcomed the proclamation of the year 2001 as the United Nations Year of the Dialogue among Civilizations. Without this dialogue taking place every day among all nations, within and between civilizations, cultures and groups, no peace can be lasting and no prosperity can be secure. That is the lesson of the United Nations' first half-century. It is a lesson that we ignore at our peril.
What that history should teach us also is that alongside an infinite diversity of cultures there does exist one global civilization in which humanity's ideas and beliefs meet and develop peacefully and productively. It is a civilization that must be defined by its tolerance of dissent, its celebration of cultural diversity, its insistence on fundamental, universal human rights, and its belief in the right of people everywhere to have a say in how they are governed. It is a civilization that we are called on to defend and promote as we embark on a new century.
Our own specific efforts to advance the dialogue among civilizations are led by my Personal Envoy, Mr. Giandomenico Picco. As part of his responsibilities he has assembled a group of eminent persons to help frame the issues in a forthcoming report which will be presented to me next summer. In turn, I intend to present it to the Assembly as our contribution to the dialogue. Those reflections will start from the realization that we have to use diversity as an asset in an increasingly interconnected world. Indeed, the perception of diversity as a threat is the very seed of war. Diversity is not only the basis for the dialogue among civilizations, but also the reality that makes dialogue necessary. I am confident that this meeting will contribute greatly to the report and to our common efforts to advance this vital dialogue for humanity. It will no doubt also offer guidance and inspiration to the [World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance] which will be held in South Africa next year.
I know that you all have important contributions to make on this vital subject and I will close with the thought that I hope that we can engage today in a genuine and fruitful exchange of views on this question and thereby ensure that we display the value of a true dialogue among civilizations.
Mr. Matsuura: I now have the honour to ask His Excellency Mr. Mohammad Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to take the floor.
President Khatami [(interpreted from/spoke in )]: The General Assembly of the United Nations has only recently endorsed the proposal of the Islamic Republic of Iran for dialogue among civilizations and cultures. Still this proposal is attracting day after day increased support from numerous academic institutions and political organizations. In order to comprehend the grounds for this encouraging reception it is imperative to take into account the prevailing situation in our world and to ponder the reasons for widespread discontent with it. It is, of course, only natural for justice-seeking and altruistic human beings to feel discontented with the status quo. The political aspects of dialogue among civilizations have already been touched upon in various settings. Today in this esteemed gathering allow me instead to begin with certain historical, theoretical, and, for the most part, non-political grounds for the call to a dialogue among civilizations.
One reason, which I can only briefly touch upon today, is the exceptional geographical location of Iran, a situation connecting various cultural and civilizational domains of Asia to Europe. This remarkable situation has placed Iran on a route of political hurricanes as well as pleasant breezes, of cultural exchange and also venues for international trade.
One of the unintended if only natural consequences of this strategic geographical location has been the fostering of a certain cultural sense which has formed a primary attribute of the Persian soul in the course of its historical evolution. Should we try to view this primary attribute from the vantage point of social psychology and then attempt to scrutinize the constituent elements of Persian or Iranian spirit, we would recognize a remarkable and exceptional capacity, a capacity that we could refer to as its capacity to integrate. This capacity to integrate involves reflective contemplation of the methods and achievements of various cultures and civilizations in order to augment and enrich one's cultural repertoire. The spiritual wisdom of Sohrevardi, which elegantly synthesizes and integrates ancient Persian wisdom, Greek rationalism and Islamic intuitive knowledge, presents us with a brilliantly exceptional example of the Persian capacity to integrate.
We should also note that Persian thought and culture owes an immense debt to Islam as one of its primary springs of efflorescence. Islam embodies a universal wisdom. Each and every human individual, living in each and every corner of time and place, is potentially included in the purview of Islam. The Islamic emphasis on essential human equality and its disdain for such elements as birth and blood, conquered the hearts of those yearning for justice and freedom. The prominent position, on the other hand, accorded to rational thought in Islam, and the rejection of an allegedly strict separation between human thought and divine revelation, also helped Islam to overcome dualism in both latent and manifest forms.
Islamic civilization is indeed one of only a few world civilizations to have become consolidated and to have taken shape around a sacred text, in this case the noble Koran. The essential unity of the Islamic civilization stems from the unique call that reached all Islamic peoples and nations. Its plurality derives from the diversity of responses evoked after Islam reached various nations.
What we ought to consider in earnest today is the emergence of a global culture. Global culture cannot and ought not to overlook characteristics and requirements of native local cultures with the aim of imposing itself upon them. Cultures and civilizations that have naturally evolved among various nations in the course of history are constituted from elements that have gradually adapted to collective souls and to historical and traditional characteristics. As such, these elements cohere with each other and consolidate within an appropriate network of relationships. In spite of all constitutive plurality and diversity, a unique and harmonious form can be abstracted from the collection.
In order to provide natural unity and harmony in form and content for global culture and to prevent anarchy and chaos, all concerned parties should engage in a dialogue where they can exchange knowledge, experience and understanding in diverse areas of culture and civilization. Today it is impossible to bar ideas from freely travelling between cultures and civilizations in disparate parts of the world. However, in the absence of dialogue among thinkers, scholars, intellectuals and artists from various cultures and civilizations, the danger of cultural homelessness seems imminent. Such a state of cultural homelessness would deprive people of solace both in their own culture and in the vast open horizon of global culture.
The notion and proposal of dialogue among civilizations undoubtedly raises numerous theoretical questions. I do not mean to belittle such intellectual and academic undertakings. Rather, I want to stress that in formulating this proposal the Government of Iran has attempted to present an alternative paradigm for international relationships. This should become clearer when we take comparative notice of already existing and prevailing paradigms that underlie international relations today. It is incumbent upon us to radically examine the prevalent master paradigm and to expound the grounds for replacing it with a new one.
In order to call on the governments and peoples of the world to follow the new paradigm of dialogue among cultures and civilizations, we ought to learn from the world's past experience, especially from the tremendous human catastrophes that took place in the twentieth century. We ought to critically examine the prevalent master paradigm in international relations based on the discourse of power and the glorification of might.
From an ethical perspective, the paradigm of dialogue among civilizations requires that we give up the will for power and instead appeal to the will for empathy and compassion. Without the will for empathy, compassion and understanding there would be no hope for the prevalence of order in our world.
There are two ways to realize dialogue among civilizations. First, actual instances of the interaction and interpenetration of cultures and civilizations with each other, resulting from a variety of factors, presents one mode in which this dialogue takes place. This mode of interaction is clearly involuntary and optional and occurs in an unpremeditated fashion, driven primarily by vagaries of social events, geographical situation and historical contingency.
Second, alternatively, dialogue among civilizations could also mean a deliberate dialogue among representative members of various civilizations such as scholars, artists and philosophers from disparate civilizational domains. In this latter sense, dialogue entails a deliberate act based upon premeditated indulgence and does not rise and fall at the mercy of historical and geographical contingency.
Even though human beings inevitably inhabit a certain historical horizon, we could still aim at meta-historical discourse. Indeed, a meta-historical discussion of eternal human questions such as the ultimate meaning of life and death or goodness and evil ought to substantiate and enlighten any dialogue on political and social issues. Without a discussion of fundamentals, and by simply confining attention to superficial issues, dialogue would not get us far from where we currently stand. When superficial issues masquerade as real, urgent and essential, and where no agreement, or at least mutual understanding, obtains among parties to dialogue concerning what is truly fundamental, in all likelihood misunderstanding and confusion will proliferate instead of any sense of empathy and compassion.
The movement of ideas and cultural interaction and interpenetration recurs in human history as naturally and persistently as the emigration of birds in nature. Translation and interpretation have always proved to be one of the prime venues for the movement of ideas. The subtlety lies in cases where the language under translation or interpretation sounds the same as the one we use today, whereas the world, or universe of discourse to which the two languages belong, has changed over time. Particular difficulty arises when one of the parties to the dialogue attempts to communicate with another by employing a basically secularist language in an essentially sacred and spiritual discourse. By secularism here I mean the general rejection of any intuitive spiritual experience and any faith in the unseen. The true essence of humanity is more inclusive than language and this more encompassing nature of the existential essence of humanity makes it meaningful to hope for fruitful dialogue.
It now appears that the Cartesian-Faustian narrative of Western civilization should give way and begin to listen to other narratives proposed by other human cultural domains. Today the unstoppable destruction of nature stemming from the ill-founded preconceptions of recent centuries threatens human livelihood. Should there be no other philosophical, social, political and human grounds necessitating dialogue but this pitiable relationship between humans and nature, then all selflessly peace-seeking intellectuals should endeavour to promote dialogue as urgently as they can.
Another goal of dialogue among cultures and civilizations is to recognize and to understand not only the cultures and civilizations of others, but also one's own. One ought to take a step away from oneself in order to get an enhanced perspective on oneself. Seeing in essence requires taking distance in perspective, and distance provides the grounds for immersion into another existential dimension.
In dialogue among cultures and civilizations, great artists should undoubtedly get due recognition together with philosophers, scholars and theologians. For artists do not see the sea, mountain and forest as mere mines and sources of energy, oil and fuel. For the artist the sea embodies the waving music of a heavenly dance, the mountain is not just a mass of dirt and boulders, and the forest is not merely an inanimate collection of timber to cut and use. A world so thoroughly controlled by political, military and economic conditions today inevitably begets the ultimate devastation of the environment and the eradication of all spiritual, artistic and intuitive havens. To alleviate this crisis we need the magical touch and spell of the enchanted artist and the inspired poet to rescue life at least part of it from the iron clasp of death and to make possible the continuation of life. Poets and artists engage in dialogue within and through the sacred language of spirit and morality. That language has remained safe from the poisonous winds of time.
So far as the present relationship between man and nature is concerned, we live in tragic times. The sense of solitude and monologue and the anxiety rooted within this situation embody this tragic world. Our call to dialogue aims at soothing this sense of tragedy. In addition to poetic and artistic experience, mysticism also provides us with a graceful, profound and universal language for dialogue. Mystical experience, constituted of the revelation and countenance of the sacred in the heart and soul of the mystic, opens new existential pathways on to the human spirit. A study of mystical achievements of various nations reveals to us the deepest layers of their life experience in the most universal sense. The unified mystical meaning and content across cultures and the linguistic parallelism among mystics, despite vast cultural, historical and geographical distances, is indeed perplexing. The proposal for a dialogue among civilizations builds upon the study of cultural geography of various fields of civilization. Yet the unique and irreplaceable role of governments should never be overlooked in this process.
In the absence of governmental commitment to their affirmative vote to the resolution on dialogue among civilizations, we cannot maintain high hopes for the political consequences of this proposal. Member States of the United Nations should endeavour to remove barriers from the way of dialogue among cultures and civilizations, and should abide by the basic precondition of dialogue. This fundamental principle rejects any imposition, and builds upon the premise that all parties to dialogue stand on essentially equal footing.
The symbolic representation of Themis, goddess of divine law and justice, has already gained virtually global acceptance as its statue appears on judiciary courts in many nations. It is now time to ask Themis to remove her blindfold. Let us ask her to set aside the lofty scale that currently weighs political and economic might as the sole measure. Instead, she should call all parties to an open discussion in various domains of thought, culture and civilization. She ought to look observantly at the evidence with open eyes and, by freeing herself from any prior obligations, she should then finally charge citizens of the world with the task of making political, economic and cultural decisions.
The escalating development of information technologies will continue to penetrate deeper layers of our lives far beyond the realm of social relationships and will form common underlying interconnections between disparate cultural and geographical regions. The science of [semiotics] provides us with tools to excavate such common underlying links and would form the common language we need for any dialogue. [We should listen in earnest to what other cultures offer, lest by relying on profound human experiences we can seek new ways for human life.]
Dialogue is not easy. It is even more difficult to prepare and open up vistas upon one's inner existence to others. A belief in dialogue paves the way for vivacious hope: the hope of living in a world permeated by virtue, humility and love, and not merely by the rein of economic indices and destructive weapons. Should the spirit of dialogue prevail, humanity, culture and civilization should prevail. We should all have faith in this triumph and we should all hope that all citizens of the world will be prepared to listen to the divine call:
["So Announce the Good News to My Servants Those who listen to the Word, And follow The best (meaning) in it." (The Holy Koran, XXXIX:17-18)]
Let us hope that enmity and oppression will end and that the clamour of love for truth, justice and human dignity will prevail. Let us hope that all human beings will sing along with Hafez of Shiraz, that divinely inspired spirit, that: ["No ineffable clamour reverberates in the grand heavenly dome more sweetly than the sound of love." (ref?)] I take this opportunity as the representative of one of the most ancient human civilizations to present to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as a token of friendship, one of the most ancient artifacts found in the world.
Mr. Matsuura: The Secretary-General has to leave us now but I should like to thank him for having joined us and for his welcome.I now have the pleasure of asking His Excellency, Mr. Sam Nujoma, President of the Republic of Namibia to take the floor.
President Nujoma: The yearning for dialogue among civilizations is not a novel aspiration. The quest for peace, justice, tolerance and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms has been with us all at different stages in our lives and in the histories of our countries. However, something very important and new indeed emanates from General Assembly resolution 53/22 of 1998 which proclaims the year 2001 as the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations.
That important decision of the General Assembly was a collective realization that global solidarity must entail global peace, tolerance, justice and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all people of the world. Yes, we have made that important recognition. Now we must work it and live it together. That is important because one thing binds us all we are all human beings and we all deserve that basic peace, security and sustainable development.
It is in this context that I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your initiative. This round table on dialogue among civilizations could not have been more timely and I am most gratified to be participating in this process. Since 1995 several initiatives have been taken to recommit ourselves to the values of peace, tolerance and solidarity that will give the world's young people a sense of ownership of the process of peace, justice, liberty and sustainable development. Indeed, the international political and economic process is evolving. Goods are moving from one country to another and from one continent to another. Some feel disadvantaged by globalization. Others are basking in the benefits accruing therefrom. A better understanding and appreciation of the common bonds of people will help us all to benefit even from our diversity. We must inculcate in ourselves a culture of peace that is inviolate. Solidarity must know no race, no hate. Dialogue among civilizations must enable us all to pursue the higher goals of peace, tolerance and civil dignity.
In all that we do as world leaders and individual human beings we must put at the centre of our decisions and undertakings the well-being and dignity of all people. It was perhaps no coincidence but out of immense foresight that the preamble of the constructive act of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states: ["Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed." (ref?)]
It is clear that we have the instruments to realize this goal. We must support and sustain UNESCO to bring home to future generations that tolerance and understanding is for the benefit of us all. I also believe, therefore, that dialogue at this juncture should broaden our focus on what is to be done to be canvassed while we continue to share knowledge about our diverse culture. [Healthy] international cooperation cannot be overemphasized. We are interdependent. Nevertheless, the level of tolerance we have exercised and the number of violent conflicts that have added to the catalogue of despair and poverty since 1995, is of great concern to Namibia.
The alarming global statistic indicating that 75 per cent of the world's population is struggling to survive below the poverty line, including 25 million internally displaced persons, 30 million affected by HIV/AIDS, and 15 million refugees, underlines the urgency with which dialogue among civilizations must be conducted.
In Africa many countries, including 23 heavily indebted poor countries, have been waiting to qualify for debt relief and/or cancellation. While the waiting game continues those countries have no choice but to service their external debts with 40-45 per cent of their gross national product (GNP) at the expense of social programmes such as education and health, and this continues to impact negatively on women and children. I stress once again that we must enter into dialogue to foster international cooperation and must promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The culture of peace cannot be fostered and talked about only in the halls of the United Nations. It must be lived and realized by the women and children who are sidestepping the deadly landmines and the working poor who are mining the gold and diamonds in their countries but who cannot enjoy the fruits of their labour. If we cherish the principles of human dignity and the sanctity of life we must apply economic justice proportionately to addressing the question of poverty which remains the root cause of human misery in many developing countries. Only when we appreciate one another as human beings with diverse cultures can we begin to understand one another's social and economic needs and standpoints.
It is therefore my firm conviction that the call for international cooperation and tolerance for human diversity is the key to building democracy and sustainable economic development in the world. Equally, constructive engagement by each country through dispensing resources for education and training in technology appreciation, would facilitate the promotion of cultural diversity and the protection of those human rights and freedoms which constitute the cornerstone of harmony and peace among nations. We at the United Nations all have a role to play in our countries, our homes, our schools and in our villages. Let us join hands to meaningfully enhance dialogue among civilizations.
Mr. Matsuura: I now have the honour to ask His Excellency, Mr. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria to take the floor.
President Bouteflika (interpretation from Arabic): If we ask ourselves why we should proclaim the year 2001 the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, my answer would be that if the lives of men can be measured in terms of years, ideologies in decades, and nations in centuries, then the unit measuring civilizations, born of the interaction among peoples, would be the millennium.
Throughout past millenniums the seven or eight major civilizations of the world were moulded in the form of the major religions which constituted their cradle. As temporal ambitions, demography or economy allowed, constant interaction among these groups has led to a fluctuation between dialogue and confrontation in a continuously renewed movement of ebb and flow.
Today, we reiterate our legitimate determination to regulate these fluctuations throughout the world to ensure that dialogue wins out over conflict and to promote and guarantee peace. Otherwise, having just emerged from an ideological conflict which might well have triggered disastrous consequences, we ran the risk of moving straight towards an even more dangerous explosion of violence stemming from the polarization of differences among our civilizations. Yet, history has shown that if material force can defeat an ideology it can no longer obliterate a civilization without destabilizing the whole planet.
Today, nations which have forged their independence and become aware of their identity as nations, belong to cultural groupings that have durably marked their historical evolution and shaped their cultural being. The concept of a nation in its modern definition no longer implies a break with this basic heritage of civilization and the characteristics of a people. On the contrary, a nation must be embraced, rehabilitated and expressed as a tangible sign of human creativity and as an integral element of mankind's heritage.
Without going too far back in history, the colonial expansion in the nineteenth century and here I would mention only the Muslim civilization to which my country belongs led to attempts to obliterate that civilization seen as lifeless remnants, a fertile field for anthropologists, scientists and ethnographers seeking the exotic. There were and are today orientalists islamologists as we call them today who are above suspicion but that notwithstanding, the general usefulness of their work has often been distorted, wasted and even biased, given preconceived notions of ideologies that are no longer acceptable because they reflect a vision that denies the socio-historic realities which were only set in stone because the predominant ideology had decided that it was so.
The West, steeped in its power, claimed to be the bearer of a civilizing mission as if the rest of the world, the object of its envy, was peopled only by barbarians. A thinker of renown as well known as Ernest Renan, the author of an authoritative work on [Even Rochard "Averrois and Averroisme"], and who along with Djamal-Eddine Al-Afghani was a well-known figure, did not hesitate to describe history in China as boring because nothing happened there, and that the Koran was a yoke binding the human spirit and that the last of the sons of Ishmael should be pursued to the far reaches of the desert. The Japan of Meiji did not escape this kind of ideological lynching either: it was said that the Japanese, unable to be creative, were only good at imitation.
Western ethnocentrism, this unilateral way of looking at another and deeming that other to be inferior when that other is no more than different, or deeming that the other's historical difficulties were permanent or even a congenital defect, has for a long time been a stumbling-block for non-Western civilizations. The West, taking on the lion's share of scientific and cultural development in the world from the time of the Greek miracle until now, has tended to reduce everything that was not part of the West to a marginalized fate, eternally destined to lag behind.
This attitude, claiming universality, in fact runs counter to it. The danger is that it brings into question the unity of the human spirit while setting aside for the West technology, philosophy and rationality in general, while relegating the other to the gloomy fate of being excluded from human progress.
Proclaiming the year 2001 the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations was a welcome initiative taken by my brother, His Excellency, Mohammad Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is a particularly timely proclamation. It has been made when we question the possibility of sustaining a fruitful and balanced dialogue among nations with varying degrees of material development and, in addition, given the common context of globalization.
Countries poor in resources but rich in culture could quite rightly fear that some of the ethical and social values to which they are most committed, have already suffered from the colonial confiscation of the past and that they might be further eroded and truncated by the universalization of a one-dimensional model stemming from materially wealthy or prosperous countries. This model does not take into account all of man's dimensions. It does not enable one individual to see the human in another individual. It is a one-way model that transforms genuine and warm societies into what I would call schizophrenic societies.
Yet, it is from the industrialized countries that the cry arises fuelling this irrational fear of a supposed Green peril, which is replacing the Red or Yellow peril and which could now be the prime danger for the survival of Western civilization. We find in the arsenal of concepts used to justify the inevitable clash between Western and Islamic civilizations a reference to stereotypes based on racial prejudice which would give rise to indignation were it to be applied to other ethnic groups. While abandoning the traditional, condescending clichés regarding privacy in Islam, these stereotypes now equate Islamic civilization with violence, terrorism and fanaticism, and that is done in order the better to fight Islam.
A dialogue among civilizations can be seen as a dialogue between the individual and the universal. Greater significance is given to this in the Koran when God addressing men tells them:
["O Men! We created males and females and We made peoples and tribes so that you may know each other!" (The Holy Koran, ref?)]
By transcending the mix of these national and tribal groupings the Koran has a specific purpose and reason for man to recognize man. To the motto on the Temple of Delphi, "Know yourself", we should add "by knowing the other" or recognizing the particular identity of the other. Cultures, civilizations or individuals can only recognize their identities and originality when compared to other cultures or civilizations. That is why proclaiming the year 2001 as the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations could be a timely opportunity to put on the spot the extremists from the West claiming the inevitability of conflagration between the two civilizations, and those in the Muslim world who call for the Manichaeist division of the world into the realm of Islam on the one hand and the realm of war on the other.
The proclamation is timely because it follows conflicts in Eastern Europe which have left atrocities in their wake and set civilization against civilization using divergences between civilizations as a pretext. It will also promote throughout the world the active and positive coexistence of the great religions in pluralistic societies, rich in their diversity but experiencing today tensions and hardships.
In order to ensure a successful dialogue among civilizations it seems to me that the following prerequisites must be met: first, the countries participating in this dialogue must themselves be democratic countries. Otherwise, how can they seek to reconcile their disputes with others if they are not able to ensure that dialogue at home?
The second prerequisite would be that these countries should recognize that there is no pure civilization but that each civilization is a river with other civilizations as its tributaries and thus it must be open to the universal, otherwise it is doomed to fall into decay. In this context, the alleged opposition between the so-called Judeo-Christian culture and the Islamic culture ignores the harmonious coexistence of these three religions of the Book, in Andalusia for example, where they gave birth to a highly civilized society. Western civilization today is no less Islamo-Christian than it is Judeo-Christian if one takes into account the contribution made by Muslim thinkers and scholars in the emergence of Western societies from the darkness of the Middle Ages and later in the blossoming of the Renaissance.
Furthermore, this dialogue must take place among nations. By that I mean that the various components of society must be involved. All levels of society must be involved. Dialogue should not be limited to States alone. We must ensure that a state's political power does not usurp the role of the nation as a whole.
Finally, the dialogue must be multifaceted. It must encompass the different areas of life, with dialogue among religions as an integral part of that life.
It is time to break with the narrow concept that only takes international relations and economic aspects into account while ignoring the problem of values which play a central role in the imagination of peoples today. Peoples who have historically known the grandeur of their nation through previous civilizational achievements will not rest until they are recognized and reintegrated within the so-called civilized nations and are no longer rejected, excluded or condemned to a misunderstanding which is as injust as it is demeaning.
It goes without saying that this does not mean that they should not strive to overcome archaic practices and to choose dialogue. In do doing they will become more sensitive to the critical eye of the other and will therefore be more open to the requirements of modern societies.
This dialogue can be seen as a therapy of choice. It acknowledges differences but does not aim to abolish them. It is not a question of falling into an insipid cosmopolitanism by sacrificing fundamental elements in each civilization. Karl Jaspers defined dialogue as a lover's quarrel, that is, a kind of arm-wrestling match between two equally defensible logics, but moderated and guided by the awareness of working towards a common cause, namely the destiny of mankind.
The starting point could be the recognition by each regional grouping of the contribution of their diverse civilizations, recognizing that each civilization has its own sense of belonging and identity. But the underlying culture must be an open one seeking harmony and not a culture of "us" and "them", of alienating the other. That is why the proportions should be defined as basic elements in civilization: for example, between individuals and groups, between individualism and others, between a place of consensus, of participation, and competition, between the use of law, wise men and elders, between material and non-material values, between solidarity and charity and between the place of history and the future, of tradition and progress.
Such proportions differ from one civilization to another. They should be explicit and made known. Civilizations do not stand still, they move forward, they evolve. This assessment will help each nation individually to bring the balance to this dialogue that is considered to be a necessary component of its civilization. It could also participate through dialogue in a collective effort that would lead towards defining a substratum of shared values which could truly be called a universal civilization based not on their respective truths and justice but on truth and justice.
The value of dialogue among civilizations lies in man's quest for his universality with the numerous cultural expressions he has given himself throughout time and space. This is a genuine antidote for racism and discrimination in all its forms. In this regard I pay tribute to the initiative taken by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Mrs. Mary Robinson for the year 2001, an undertaking to know oneself better by knowing the other. It is an opportunity to deepen our humanity by fully understanding it. International ethics will benefit from this as also will, inevitably, the cause of peace.
Mr. Matsuura: I now have the honour to call on His Excellency, Mr. Abdurrahman Wahid, President of the Republic of Indonesia.
President Wahid: I will not repeat the Islamic concepts on different cultures and so forth because they have already been discussed by my brother Presidents, President Khatami [from the Islamic Republic of Iran] and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from Algeria. I would like in the short time available to talk about the internal dimensions of this dialogue because if we have a true civilizational dialogue among us then in the said external discussions we have to be aware of the internal developments happening in our own countries and societies, especially in societies such as Indonesia which is comprised of very different cultures as between one part of the country and another. Because of that we should welcome the initiative to declare the year 2001 as the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations.
This is important because without that kind of dialogue there will be no compulsion for us to have an intensified internal dialogue. Only by such an internal dialogue will we be able to have dialogue among the peoples of the earth. Because of this I think we have to know first what actually happens in our countries. In every country we see the so-called process of dialogue between the idea of modernization and that of clinging to tradition. Modernization and traditionalism is the essence of dialogue between different forces in our countries. If we look into this situation then we will have a very rich ground for having a dialogue internally. If we can have that dialogue internally then we can have an international dialogue among the peoples of the earth. Only the construction of a civilizational dialogue at international level will bring us a result. Dialogue without any practical measures or results to be implemented in our own areas will be futile.
In Indonesia, for example, after the debacle of the authoritarianism of the past more than 30 years, we begin to see democracy blossoming in our country. But the fact remains that the dialogue of modernization versus traditionalism happens there in a very intensive way. Because we have an intensive way of dialogue among us then we are able to see the emergence of the so-called militantism or hard-liners in our own countries. The emergence of such groups in Indonesia now consists mainly of a very small number of people who cannot digest the essence of dialogue, which is to know each other. They cling to their own eternal truth, their own eternal reference that they think will be applicable to all mankind. But this is wrong. We have to develop by taking new dimensions of situations into our lives. We have experienced this in our very long, more than 2000 years, of history. In the country, if I can take an illustration, the local palaces of course have embraced both modernism and traditionalism in their policies in the past. For example the palace of [..Djakarta?], an area in Java, encouraged the emergence of traditionalism by asking the Muslim [olemachs?], or "clergy" as they are called in Christianity, to develop their own thing with the left hand but with the right hand they also try to embrace modernism by making the modernist challenge to traditionalism. By embracing both sides they think that this will bring a stop or at least a pause to the fighting between the two. But of course now the situation has changed because now with the emergence of the nationalist state concept the results in the old forces of modernism versus traditionalism do not lie only at local level but are raised to the national level. Because of this, the dialogue between the Islamic organizations that are modernist as well as traditionalist happened. That is only one part of it. There is also dialogue between different manifestations of different cultures as well.
Because of this then, internally we have to have the current dialogue move towards how we in the past understood modernity, how in the past we understood the challenge of the changing world and how we respond to that. At that level then we will have results that we can offer to other nations to study, understand and, in the long run, have as a component of the global changing world. In this sense then I should like to congratulate the Secretary-General, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and President Khatami on bringing up the idea of a United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. We have suffered so much from the so-called dialogue in a confrontational way, dialogue between civilizations in enmity, we now need some kind of peace among us. We can have real dialogue if we can live in peace, understanding the reasons for violence, wars and everything and then try to overcome those things.
Mr. Matsuura: I now ask His Excellency, Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Republic of Nigeria, to take the floor.
President Obasanjo: We are on the eve of the Millennium Summit, to which so many of us have looked forward with anticipation for breakthroughs in the reform of the United Nations, or some initiatives that could be of advantage for developing countries in a world that is increasingly inequitable. While these hopes may not be fulfilled, we have today a real opportunity to reflect on the foundations, indeed the underpinnings, of multilateral engagement.
The dialogue of civilizations is not an ancient abstract notion, it is very much a fresh and badly needed approach to help us to understand each other better, to capture and respect complexities and diversity in a globalizing world and to help build a more effective framework for cooperation. Dialogue is the very essence of the United Nations as we have heard from the Secretary-General himself and so I welcome the General Assembly's decision last year to declare the year 2001 as the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, a decision which owes so much to the initiative of President Mohammad Khatami of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
I also salute the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and its Director-General for organizing this novel event. We are convinced that UNESCO is well placed to play a leading role in promoting this dialogue and we are confident that we will be able to engage in many more fruitful events over the next 15 months.
Indeed, throughout its history humankind has experienced the conflict of civilizations, prompted by the hegemony of civilizations and sustained by the arrogance of civilizations. These tendencies have been the cause of deep anguish for the world community. Behind the masks of ethnic, religious and economic causes of disharmony among peoples and nations, there was always the inability of peoples to give due regard to the heritage and identities of others. Sometimes this disregard and lack of respect for the worth of others has been manifested so blatantly and with such brutality that it affronted the collective conscience of humankind. But most often it is expressed in subtle and unspoken ways which nevertheless precipitate disruptions and instability in human relations. The world has long registered the consequences of this human disability, consequences such as hatred, wars, mutual contempt, suspicion among nations and lack of peace.
The United Nations was founded on the belief that the scourge of war could be minimized while the virtues of peace could be perennially promoted. In the past 55 years we have pursued those goals vigorously and with varying degrees of commitment and success. Now I truly believe that we are making a great leap forward in the realization that peace is bound up inextricably with a clear understanding and respect for the mutuality of the diversities of human heritage and identity.
Surely with the assignment of peace we face the challenge of human diversity. The foremost challenge lies in our ability to recognize these diversities, to admit that their existence is a positive thing and not a pointer to mindless hegemony, and to respect them as we aspire to greater success in our assignment.
The second challenge will lie in our capability and capacity to appreciate the richness of the diversity in cultures, religion and ethnic values, the morals and traditions of other cultures and their levels of creativity. The variety of these experiences together provide an abundant storehouse of knowledge for the uplifting of humankind.
The global village will not owe its existence solely to scientific, technological and economic advances. It will survive only when its development process incorporates the educational with the cultural, the social with spiritual and the religious and ethnic with the traditional. These are the true indices of the intellectual content of the emerging new world. Prejudice towards other cultures and civilizations is a major impediment to true globalization.
While dialogue at the international level is ostensibly the focus of our meeting here today, dialogue, as we have heard from previous speakers, begins at home. A democratic dispensation and a spirit of good governance affords us the opportunity for dialogue, debate and deliberation together for peaceful solutions rather than bitterness, confrontation and violence. Each nation must embark on the urgent task of reconciliation and confidence-building which is vital to the building and continuous review of relations among communities. In many developing countries reconciliation and harmony among communities and various interest groups is indispensable for economic and social development. Reconciliation is also at the heart of enjoying the fundamental rights enshrined in our constitutions which comprise the freedoms of worship and speech, and the freedom from all forms of discrimination and fear guaranteed to every citizen. We must cherish and uphold these fundamental freedoms.
Within many countries, industrialized and developing alike, we must hold in check the temptation to resort to violence for settling differences between groups, whether religious, ethnic or political. We must rid ourselves of the mentality and propensity to resort to violence that stems from fear and suspicion of the other person. We must rediscover the value of dialogue. In our communities, in our nations, and indeed in the global community, we must begin to return to the fundamental faith that life, all life, is sacred. There is nothing in any of our cultures that even remotely justifies the cynicism with which many today respond to acts of lawlessness, corruption and wickedness. We must demonstrate our good-neighbourliness and willingness to be keepers of our brothers and sisters and to preserve a sense of outrage and moral sensitivity. We must care to share.
In looking at the disturbances my country experienced earlier this year, I noted in a speech to the Nigerian nation that Islam and Christianity are based on peace. Both religions make love cardinal in their creeds. An adherent of either religion would thus be failing in his or her faith if he or she were to resort to violence, or destruction of life and property. It is irrational, to say the least, to assert our faith in a manner that engenders conflict and violence. Instead, we must enthrone tolerance, constitutionality, decency and good-neighbourliness. Extremism in religion, nationalism or in any other belief is self-destructive, in addition to possibly destroying its victim.
What seems to have happened in Nigeria is that after many years of tyranny, misrule and mindless violence, encouraged and practised by the State itself, a general atmosphere of moral apathy set in and the population grew indifferent to the moral, even religious, duties that we all owe one to another. Today, as we are no longer hostages of an evil and lawless Government, we are striving to ensure that our conduct, our relationships whether religious, ethnic or political are governed by the laws of the land. We are once more dealing with each other in transparent comradeship. We now seek to settle our differences peacefully, decently and humanely. Above all, in matters of religion and conscience, rational and just behaviour guide our actions in our institutions and at all levels of government, and all because we place the highest premium on peace and harmony in society. Peace is not a means. Peace is an end in itself. Peace is indivisible. A life without peace is not worth contemplating. The greatest and the most enduring legacy is peace. Peace is the foundation of all development and progress. It is either there or not there. We need peace everywhere at home, at work, in our family, in our community, in our locality, in our country, in our continent and indeed in our world. There is no substitute for peace and any sacrifice is worth making for peace. This message is the very essence of the [International Year of the Culture of Peace] for which the year 2000 was designated by the United Nations General Assembly and which will now be followed by the [Decade of the Culture of Peace].
Dialogue is an imperative at both international and national levels. There is no hierarchy in culture nor is there superiority in the manifestations of human civilization. Rather they are cumulative and progressive. It is thus noteworthy that earlier this year political leaders of Africa and Europe sat down in a dialogue to promote cooperation for the mutual benefit of Africans and Europeans. A little more than a century ago the continent of Africa was partitioned in Berlin among European Powers who proceeded to impose a regime of colonial administration on the continent, the negative consequences of which are still with us today. Africa's modern history has, since the 1884 Berlin Conference, been essentially the story of the European impact on Africa. It is a story of how autonomous African people were forcefully divided and separated by a stroke of the pen; it is a story of how they were merged into different political units without rational justification; it is a story of how, for most of last century, that arbitrary partition led to constant war and conflict among African countries. It is also a story of many bloody revolts against colonial oppression and racism, a story of the emergence of modern African States and a story of how African countries in the contemporary period have embarked on the search for a more equitable form of partnership with European and other industrialized countries of the world.
The dismemberment of Africa by Europe did not, of course, begin with the partition of 1884-1885. For four previous centuries European countries had rivalled one another in competition to seize and transport the largest number of Africa's youth to the Americas. The slave trade, which this macabre project was cynically called, is the epitome of man's inhumanity to man, and an act of criminality against our continent. It depopulated the continent, it deprived it of its most able-bodied and productive inhabitants, and it destroyed its economy and traditional political structures. Africa became so brutally delinked from world history that African peoples and societies were rendered helpless to cope with and manage the technological revolution of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Between 1884 and 1960 African affairs were generally regarded by many in Europe as simply an extension of political and economic conflicts in Europe. African colonies had no say in the determination of their own fate. They had no control over their own resources. They were obliged to live with whatever their political masters in Europe imposed. When there was war in Europe they were drafted to fight, quite often without knowing exactly what it was they were fighting or dying for. And when, in the decade of the sixties, most African countries began gradually to achieve their independence, they inherited severely depleted natural resources and economies that were contrived almost entirely for the benefit of the former colonial masters, to the exclusion of the interests of the citizens of the new, independent countries in Africa.
Colonialism made its exit just before the end of last century but that process is still at work. Who can deny the imprint of that process when we still carry tags of Lusophone, Anglophone and Francophone Africa? Today millions of Africans speak European languages, together with the inherent cultural implications of the transformation of their original African cultural values. Yet, there is all too often a tendency in the industrialized world to indulge in the comfortable myth that the so-called backwardness of Africa is divinely ordained. It most certainly is not. It is, instead, the direct consequence of a deliberate policy, adopted and practised by virtually all European countries over half a millennium, to degrade, depopulate and denude the continent for the benefit of Europe. This might seem hard, but it has to be said. The relationship between the rest of the world particularly the Western world and the people of Africa, is laden with pointers for re-defining human values for the new millennium. There are good reasons for the feeling among many Africans that the continent has disproportionately suffered at the hands of foreigners. Many even reckon that the suffering is unparalleled. Critically, the treatment of African peoples has uniquely exhibited racialist implications and designs. Indeed, other groups around the world have at one time or another suffered discrimination because of their faith, religion, or culture. However, Africans seem to have been the only people to have been subjected to the worst form of indignity simply on account of their race for which they are indelibly marked by physical features.
With all the advances in human genetics there may be the temptation to regard the issue of race as academic. But not for us Africans. Scars of historic and individual experiences are too deep and too fresh for us to engage in dialogue among civilizations without due recognition of the negative force of racism, even when it exists subliminally. For some time to come into this new century, a degree of soul-searching is an imperative for all dialogue between Africa and the world until the ghost of racism is finally laid to rest.
I have recently been calling for a new Berlin conference that would see the beginning of a series of dialogues which will restore the parity between Africa and the rest of the world culturally, politically and economically. Primarily, the dialogue would be between Africa and Europe, two continents which God in His infinite wisdom have put next to each other to share a common destiny. The hope is that Africans will get the chance to participate in the agenda set in motion by the formulations of the Berlin Conference of 1884. No time can be better than now, the beginning of a new century, with all the opportunities offered for incorporating our mutual hopes, wishes and aspirations into a new agenda. Our common destinies should be peace, security, harmony, prosperity and cooperation in a stable and sustainable environment. Our partnership must be based on common concern for equity, justice, mutual respect and primary regard for the uplifting of underprivileged people everywhere but particularly for African peoples from their present economic and social predicament. That is the true meaning of dialogue today.
Let us begin to get the future right on the occasion of this unique Millennium Summit. We will not have many more such historic, solemn and defining moments in the history of humankind. Our generation has a particular responsibility not to fritter away this unique opportunity.
Mr. Matsuura: I now have the honour to give the floor to Her Excellency, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of the Republic of Latvia.
President Vike-Freiberga (interpretation from French): Today I will make a few brief comments on the main subject of concern today, the two basic concepts in question, that of civilization and of dialogue.
(spoke in English)
I should like to start by offering a very plain and simple definition of what civilization means to me. I take it to be everything that makes man different from an animal. I take civilization to be everything that makes humankind truly human. We are biological beings for whom civilization offers an opportunity to transcend the animality which we have inherited from the long eons of biological evolution. Man may be a naked ape, may be a bipedal, a reptile with an over-developed cerebral cortex carrying in its mid-brain the very same instincts of devouring, destroying and survival that one finds among the lowest of reptiles on this planet.
But at the same time, man and when I say "man", of course I mean mankind since English lacks the all-including lexical item for mankind is a creature endowed with a brain that is totally unique on our planet that allows it to write a new programme for each new life, each new generation. But instead of starting from scratch as the animals do, we have the privilege, the endowment, of being able to inherit from countless past generations all the wisdom, experience, knowledge and understanding that they have been able to accumulate.
That knowledge is what I mean by civilization and by definition it cannot be equal, it cannot be identical in every part of the world. We are finite beings limited not just by our biology but by our time, our place, our experience and the particular events of history that have shaped the fate of our nation. Each of our nations has known its joys and its sorrows, its moments of glory and its moments of humiliation. All of us as human beings have known joy and sorrow. We share aspirations. We share the same hopes for tomorrow.
In dialogue for civilizations as I see it, it is incumbent upon us to tell our view of the world, to present it to others in as simple and as plain a manner as we can, but more important still, it behoves us to be there and to listen to the other. To listen not just with an open mind but with an open heart and with an open spirit. Each of us in our culture, in our nation, in our civilization, has tried to distill, to retain what we feel is the most valuable contribution that we as human beings, as a nation, can make to the world. These contributions are as different as we are who sit here today; as different in physical appearance, in gender, in [government/garment?], in conviction and in religion, but we are all united by our one common trait, that of belonging to the family of mankind.
Just as each individual makes a unique contribution to their people and their nation, so each nation makes a unique contribution to the community that is the world and I am happy at this opportunity of sharing with you today the idea that now, this present moment, at the dawn of a new millennium, we have a chance to rethink and to reaffirm the necessity, the importance, of listening to each other, of hearing what the other has to say, and of showing respect and appreciation for the achievements that they have to offer and hope that they in their turn will do the same for us.
With this new millennium stretching ahead of us we are given a wonderful opportunity to use the tool that is the United Nations to help us to redefine what we mean by civilization; to help us to redefine what we mean by mankind and to help us to progress and to evolve in the very essence of what is an ongoing and an open process. If civilization is the accumulation of wisdom from ages past, it is also the opportunity for us to contribute ideas, innovations, things that have never been seen before. It is our opportunity to offer something new. It is our opportunity to do things in a different way without renouncing our past, without renouncing our heritage, without giving up on the values that we have held dear. The new millennium offers us the challenge of developing new values to which we can all subscribe, of finding and distilling that which is truly human and which will not cause us to oppose each other but in which we can recognize that we are all part of the same family, the same brotherhood and sisterhood of man.
Mr. Matsuura: I now have the honour of giving the floor to His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar.
His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani (interpretation from Arabic): The choice of "dialogue among civilizations" as a theme for this round table, an activity within the framework of the Millennium Assembly organized by the United Nations, was extremely opportune due to the utmost importance this subject has for the world in the post-cold-war era. We are, therefore, indebted to President Mohammad [Ali] Khatami of the Islamic Republic of Iran for his initiative in raising this subject. Indeed, it is not surprising that such a call should emanate from him because of his profound knowledge of both the Islamic and Western cultures and because of his past and present responsibilities for cultural affairs and his present responsibilities as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
We would also like to extend our thanks to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and to the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and to all members of the group involved in preparing for this noteworthy event. We would also like to express our sincere thanks and deep appreciation for the invitation extended to us to speak at this round table discussion and to address this outstanding assemblage of Heads of State or Government.
The importance of this meeting is evident from the theme chosen for it, which is dialogue among civilizations. The theme is also indicative of the positions of those present here regarding the issue of the relationship between different civilizations and the fact that it is based on positive interaction which we all enrich. It is, accordingly, a most eloquent repudiation of those counter-claims that were circulated a few years ago and which culminated in a well-known essay entitled ["The Clash of Civilizations?"] written by American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington and published in the 1993 summer issue of the periodical Foreign Affairs. In that essay Mr. Huntington gives expression to the dangerous idea that the post-cold-war world will witness an increase in conflicts within and among States because of cultural differences. Basing his theory on the premise that differences among civilizations are not only real but also fundamental, he asserts that in a world that is becoming smaller, shrinking distances are increasing interactions between the peoples of different civilizations, thus intensifying awareness of differences between civilizations. Local identities and loyalties and national ties are weakening and are being replaced by allegiance to religion. The growing power of the West is creating an increased animosity towards it among the members of other civilizations, and cultural characteristics and differences do not readily disappear but could, perhaps, acquire regional dimensions leading to the emergence of major regional groupings in North America, Europe and East Asia.
For those reasons he foresees the clash of civilizations occurring at two levels. At a lower level, namely within States, tensions would escalate between culturally different groups and may explode into violence as a result of rivalries for control over territory and people. At a higher level, States from different civilizations would compete among themselves in order to acquire greater military and economic power, to gain control over international institutions and third parties and spread their own political and religious values.
No doubt that hypothesis, although put forward by a well-respected intellectual such as Samuel P. Huntington, is replete with contradiction and is inconsistent with historical fact and reality. Moreover, it has dangerous political consequences. The shrinking of distances in the world as a result of scientific and technological breakthroughs might, for instance, result in bringing people closer together when they discover that despite differences in colour, religion and language, major common and shared interests bind them. Examples of such interests are many and varied, for instance, the hundreds of millions of viewers around the world who simultaneously enjoy a historic moment happening somewhere on the globe; political events taking place in a certain country; or those who watch transmitted pictorial programmes or sympathize with the same ideas. In addition, the process of modernization throughout the world may well weaken the effect of primary ethnic or linguistic loyalties in shaping people's consciousness. That theory also ignores the fact that substantial differences exist between members of the same culture. Have there not been wars between Britain and France, China and Japan, or Iraq and Kuwait? Yet in each of those examples the combatants belonged to the same cultural-religious group. Finally, it is still States, and not civilizations or cultures, that form the basic units in international relations. States act in accordance with the dictates of their strategic economic, political and military interests, and not necessarily on the basis of their cultural affiliations alone.
More important, however, are the dangerous political consequences inherent in this theory since it presumes that because people differ in their cultural affiliations this would, by definition, create tensions and conflicts between them. The most acute and the most perilous of such differences would be between the West and the rest of the world, particularly the Islamic and Confucian civilizations. Indeed, there is evidence that foreign-policy planners and some members of parliament in major Powers have started formulating policies for confronting countries of different cultures, civilizations and religions, and taking positions of both judge and jury towards them.
Proceeding from our Arab Islamic civilization we in fact utterly reject such orientations. In our view, differences among peoples are reasons for cooperation and collaboration for the welfare of all. Our Holy Koran states:
["We have made thee peoples and tribes that ye may know each other" (The Holy Koran ref?)]
and emphasizes that the best humans in the eyes of God are the most pious and the most dedicated to their work.
["The most honoured among thee in the sight of God are the most pious" (The Holy Koran ref?)].
That is a verse of the Holy Koran. Islam's prophet Mohammad the prayers and praise of Allah be upon him stressed the same idea when he said that Arabs are not privileged over non-Arabs except in piety, and he added that it is the duty of Muslims to search for knowledge everywhere and in every group of humans when he said: "Seek knowledge even in China".
These values of tolerance have been reflected in our Arab Islamic civilization as characterized by acceptance by the adherents of other heavenly religions, Christianity and Judaism, and by the quest for the sources of knowledge in the old Indian, Persian and Greek civilizations. It is this openness to the various civilizations of the world as experienced by the Muslims at the peak of their civilization between the seventh and thirteenth centuries, that enabled them to make some brilliant contributions to human civilization and to become the link between what was then known as the West of the world and its East through Avicenna and others. This is a link between old and modern civilizations.
These traditions did not disappear. We in Qatar are proud that we were able to translate these values into a lifestyle that represents a fruitful interaction between people from different civilizations in Africa, Asia and Europe who had come to Qatar to assist its people to achieve their modern renaissance. In Qatar they find security and a dignified livelihood.
As regards the subjects for discussion in this round table, such as the definition of the parties to the dialogue, of civilizations and the role of the United Nations and its agencies, in this respect we believe, first, that the definiton of culture or civilization should not be rigid. It should not link culture exclusively to religion or language nor to geographical affiliation or shared historical experience alone. Second, the dialogue should be open between the representatives of all governments and peoples regardless of their diverse affiliations. Without doubt, the United Nations, with its specialized agencies and numerous activities aimed at consolidating international peace and security and promoting friendly relations between peoples, is an outstanding example of this effective and fruitful dialogue between civilizations. Its member Governments represent most of the fundamental cultural groupings in the world today. They participate in its activities for the good of them all, be that by putting an end to armed conflicts and finding solutions for them, or by furthering international cooperation in many fields from drug control to catastrophe management and promoting economic and social development in all its aspects.
However, the danger in advocating the clash of civilizations by some of the mass media in the West requires specific action by the United Nations aimed at combating the various effects of this theory which would lead to an escalation of tensions in the world at a time when we were hoping that the end of the cold war would mean reducing the reasons for these tensions and bringing about harmony and concordance among all peoples regardless of any divergence in their cultural affiliations.
For this reason we could perhaps suggest that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) play an essential role in this respect. UNESCO's constitution states that it is in the minds of men that wars first start. Similarly, it is in the minds of people that any probable clash of civilizations would also start through an erroneous perception and a false mental image of other human groups. UNESCO may want to conduct the dialogue on strengthening relations between human groups from different cultural backgrounds at three levels: the first level to be comprised of a purely scientific activity involving scholars in history, politics and social sciences with a view to disclosing the truth of the claims of the so-called clash of civilizations and whether what appeared to be a clash of civilizations was in actual fact a result of either conflicting strategic, economic, political and military interests, or a manipulation of the basic loyalties of people in order to serve the narrow interests of political leaderships.
The second level would be mainly geared towards the men and women who are the opinion shapers in the public information field and all its media, with a view to exploring the best ways to clarify the effects of erroneous images that the media might convey of groups from differing cultures. This activity could also include the faculties and administrators of educational institutions, especially those responsible for deciding curriculums, and particularly those intended for the young in their early formative stages.
The third level would bring together political leaders and statesmen from different cultural groups with the aim of eliminating tensions between those groups and reducing the prospects for clashes between them.
Discussions that would take place at those three levels do not necessarily have to stay confined within the walls of UNESCO or the United Nations. Their proceedings and findings should rather be made available on the widest possible scale through television, radio and the press, as well as books and electronic information systems.
We in Qatar are ready to participate at all three of the proposed levels should recommendations materialize to transform them into reality, or in any other activities conducted for this purpose through the United Nations or its specialized agencies. Moreover, in appreciation of the important task of the committee of wise men, the first session of which will be hosted by Brazil, we would welcome hosting the second session of that committee in Qatar. Naturally we would provide it with all the facilities to ensure its functioning in a smooth and fruitful manner.
We believe that dialogue is a way of enriching our cultures. Therefore we have great hope that the results of this meeting will help us. May God guide us all so that we can serve the best interests of the human family.
Mr. Matsuura: I now invite His Excellency, Mr. Eduard A. Shevardnadze, President of Georgia to take the floor.
President Shevardnadze (interpretation from Russian): I believe that it is appropriate and even symbolic that we have gathered today to talk about culture, tolerance and a global dialogue as mankind enters an entirely new epoch and during the course of the Millennium Summit. The problems that we are discussing are no less relevant today than they were a thousand years ago. While we can deplore the existing reality we must first recognize it for what it is and work out a contract for our dialogue. In this sense I very much appreciate the efforts of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, and the efforts of the initiators and organizers of this meeting, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, and His Excellency, President Khatami, who have so precisely captured the essence of the global problem of the dawn of the third millennium. When scholars predict a clash of civilizations in this very new millennium, an epoch of the internet and the final mapping of the human genome, we are compelled to ask ourselves the question, after several milleniums of human existence can we not avail ourselves of humankind's accumulated experience and make the universal dream of peaceful coexistence and the mutual complementarity of cultures finally come true. Can we not ensure that new technologies serve only the goal of mutual enrichment and not the development of misanthropic theories on the innate inferiority of particular cultures.
History has proven that there are no inferior cultures. A human being by virtue of his ability to think and feel is naturally predisposed to ideals of goodness and justice that are inherent in all religions and civilizations. I represent a small country with the grand traditions of multi-ethnicity, plurality of beliefs, and tolerance and wisdom. Throughout Georgia's multi-century history, my homeland, there has been no epoch when our country's Orthodox Christian culture was not adorned by the presence of others, including the great Islamic culture. The Muslims of Georgia have always felt themselves equal citizens as did the sons and daughters of Israel. In this sense the notions and traditions which later became the basis of the values of good citizenship and equality were inherent to Georgia which also enriched its national culture with great humanist ideals of Iranian, Turkish, Byzantine, Russian and European civilizations. This is not only a cultural tradition but it is also a State one and is naturally for us a priority.
At the same time, Georgia represents an example not of wars and animosity but of mutual complementarity of cultures that leads not to decline but to a flourishing of national culture. Thanks to, but not in spite of, cultural pluralism our people managed to not only preserve our national identity but to add new colours and shades to our national Georgian ethnic culture. I do not fear conflict in the desire to preserve one's secret inherent national self. We desire to do this with a similar national aspiration to draw on different cultures. In this very fact I see a modern embodiment of the ideal of choice, not as a negation but as a way of enrichment and development.
As the President of Georgia I consider myself to be entitled to suggest to you that the next meeting of the round table be held in [Tbilisi]. I will be entirely forthright and say that I consider the capital of my homeland to be well placed for organising such an event and even for locating the headquarters of a permanent international structure which would systematize and coordinate our joint efforts. I fully realize that a policy maker speaking about culture, risks crossing over into the political coordinates and logical schemes. Indeed there is a common system of coordinates which we can see and understand only through the unconditional recognition of the primacy of universal human values, giving such notions of political culture and cultural politics some concrete meaning. Thus retaining culture as a constant denominator.
That is precisely what we had in mind when developing the concept of new thinking for the new world. Five years ago at the Tbilisi international forum for a dialogue of cultures, I stated that the policy maker must become a key figure in the dialogue of cultures and that politics itself must become an instrument for interaction between cultures. At the same time the more culturely based politics is, the stronger it will be as a link between cultures. As I said then the past years have strongly reinforced my conviction that we must create world architecture which is in line with the new realities of current geoculture and geopolitics to prevent the devastating manifestations of xenophobia, ethnic cleansing and intolerance and to develop not merely the dialogue of cultures but elaborate a system for the interaction of cultures.
The principle of solidarity against a flagrant lack of cultural regard, hence aggressive separatism and ethnic hatred, must become its basis. I hope that our dialogue will become an important factor in this global process. We not only must, but based on the historical experience and culture of our peoples, can create strong guarantees for a peaceful, happy development in the new millennium which will we hope become an epoch of solidarity between peoples and civilizations.
Mr. Matsuura: I now have the honour to invite His Excellency, Mr. Alpha Oumar Konaré, President of the Republic of Mali to take the floor.
President Konaré (interpretation from French): My profound thanks to His Excellency, President Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for having suggested to the international community that the year 2001 be proclaimed the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. I also congratulate the United Nations and its Secretary-General and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and its Director-General on the implementation of this idea.
In recognizing the major nature of the initiative I cannot however hide my apprehension that it will suffer the same fate as several other meetings of this kind. Triteness following the [indecipherable] and the standard rituals which the august assembly of world decision makers could not escape. The question of dialogue among civilizations is before us all and asks of us fundamentally the question of man, fundamental value, exceptional creature, shaper of the universe, so powerful, so weak, the dominator. Man who is creative because he is also vulnerable and submissive. The relationship also between man and God. All of the problems of spirituality are before us. Nor can one have dialogue among civilizations if there is no respect for life, and above all, the preservation of life. That raises the problem of the death penalty the refusal, the rejection or the physical mutilation of human beings, and mutual respect for and amongst people.
It would be a pity, indeed highly detrimental, if the dialogue among civilizations which is at the centre of the possibility of human history, just served as a simple outlet for profound anguish and concern at the end of this century when again spectacular technological and scientific progress is accompanied by exclusion, intolerance and hatred. We must be clearly aware that if we set ourselves this initiative it is one of the most fundamental which the United Nations has ever had in its brief history. Because the quest for dialogue among civilizations cannot be reduced in this discussion group to mere mental whimsy, to brilliant but empty international speculation about ethics and the law. After all, at the time we are holding this round table individuals, minorities and peoples are harrassed, persecuted, excluded, indeed exterminated due to a lack of such dialogue and a lack of tolerance.
For all that, people do not reach exclusion through philosophical actions but frequently, alas, through the errors and follies of their leaders, follies based on a consideration of self with a sovereign scorn for the differences of others. Slavery, colonialism, racism, xenophobia, [integrism?], and a certain degree of underdevelopment have no other meaning. It is for us, the leaders, to re-read our own histories and to revisit our collective history to understand and accept that the quest for dialogue among civilizations does not place everyone, yesterday and today, at the same level of responsibility and that the common future can be envisaged only in the light of the duty of truth.
This level of meeting on such an important subject cannot be discussed in "official speak". When we are talking about dialogue, if it is not a tribunal history, nor is it a simple protocol for communication which in itself can kill dialogue. Rather it is a profound marriage of two diverse identities which respect each other because somewhere they are equal in value. They are interchangeable. They borrow from each other. They enrich each other mutually. They mingle and can lead to a wealth of exchanges. There is no civilization at this time whose members would be tortured or crucified for their inferiorities. Past civilization and other past is a dead heritage. The death of civilizations always occurs with decline and violence, frequently brought in from outside. The time is suddenly far away where the law of the strongest is that of nations. But what is the tool of force if not of progress. The coordinate of Africa was that of the neolithic, drawing its superiority from considerable advances in tool techniques. The advantage of scientific and technological progress as a driving force of civilizations has never been disproved over the course of history. For us to be able to have dialogue with other cultures we need to be able to give above all, give and not just receive.
It is a misfortune to civilizations then which have no future. I accept clearly the central place of the contribution of the mind, of the sap of [indecipherable]. But allow me the symbolism. It is only its sap, not its blood. Humanism which flourishes in philosophy, literature, art and all of the creations of the mind, is the fruit of progress and well-being. By well-being I mean feeling comfortable, feeling at ease with oneself, comfortable in one's environment. May I paraphrase someone famous by affirming that the quantity and quality of the production of the mind differ according to whether one lives in a castle or a cottage. Socrates would certainly have been ignored if he had been in the latter position. Even more so, if he had not benefited from the providential pen of a patrician.
Certainly, material poverty reduces a human being. They need a certain amount of dignity and responsibility. Equality cannot be replaced. It is the source of communicability among men. Whether the [Dogon?] or the [indecipherable] developed systems of thinking that referred to the extraordinary strength of their internal balance, nevertheless they were reduced to forced labour and to depersonalization in the face of a better equipped civilization, and whether [Dogon?], [Arnan?], or philosophy of Jesus, a tiny number of experts, it is essentially through dead letters, letters which are incommunicable to their heirs.
It [means little] for an African to hear in round tables that his continent is the cradle of humanity. But that is where the respect for its cultures stops. When it is a question not of the past but indeed of the present of our continent, which is starving, ill, torn apart by debt, suddenly dialogue becomes deafness, deafness to the desperate appeal of a portion of forgotten humankind. We would like there to be a true dialogue among civilizations at last, one which is not, I am sorry to say, just the subject of conversation among a few people from the developed world between the dessert and cheese courses but rather meaning a real commitment to respect the hundreds of millions of human beings who are drowning.
Apart from the numbing refrain about the African past, of which everyone is a passionate advocate, the Africans of the year 2000 indeed possess a civilization and not just a heritage. After having resisted a thousand vicissitudes in history, day after day they labour with their hands, with their sweat and with their blood to cultivate their land, to build roads and towns, to construct schools and hospitals, sources of water and to set up funds of micro-credit and to shape a society based on solidarity and sharing, the only recipe that has made it possible for them to survive for millenniums.
The real Africa advances above the noise of the media today, taking small but sure steps and highlighting some of its profound values solidarity, a sense of consensus, neighbourliness, fellowship and respect for the elder to help it to progress and to ensure its development, not just material but integral, social, cultural, moral and economic. We need solidarity, and sharing in greater social justice today. Tired, deprived, but full of human warmth and humanity, believers, exploited, increasingly losing their culture, torn apart but stubborn, standing upright despite famine and illness, Africans are marking out their destiny with determination towards democratic and humanist societies. For them, a dialogue among civilizations means a little respect and consideration for what they are and what they are doing. For them a dialogue among civilizations is the end of this inextricable spiral of endless debt and that they be paid fully and properly for the fruits of their labour. Dialogue among civilizations will be based on societies of freedom where censorship will be abolished, where acceptance of differences will be a right. It will be based on international relations which have been made democratic.
If we understand the dialogue among civilizations differently then we cannot explain this world of despair where men and women express themselves through violence and terrorism, through genocide and [integrism?] and act through exclusions of all kinds. The small minority which possesses three-quarters of the wealth and riches of humankind will never, unless superficially, establish a real dialogue with the huge majority of the deprived, for the feeling of indignity is their lot. The United Nations must demand this truth so that tomorrow new relations between the people of the blue planet can be built. If the virtue of communication in itself were the remedy to the nightmares of humankind this end of the millennium would be a kind of end of history.
In the past 50 years the means of communication has increased more than in 4,500 years of history. The area of the multimedia, with the internet at the top, has made civilizations communicate in real time without however making them transparent to each other. The reason is that communication is not necessarily dialogue. If we want tomorrow to open the eyes of our children to the wonders of others let us ensure that they do not pity them. Let us work so that our children can show admiration and respect for the beauty of living civilizations as much as for those of their past. Let us educate them by opening schools and universities, teach them to read, to write and to count. This is laying down good roots for dialogue among civilizations and for developing a culture of peace. Security and peace must be rights for all. Let us educate them in human rights. Let us protect the whole heritage of mankind, including the living libraries. Let us promote tourism and sport and increase exchanges through major gatherings and festivals, meeting at Olympic Games and world cups, which promotes dialogue among civilizations. In this respect I would like to testify to the unfailing commitment of the United Nations for this to be so.
At the dawn of the third millennium tribute must be paid to our common institutes for having laboured tirelessly over the past half century to translate into reality the dreams of an insane humankind. The struggle against hunger, ignorance, illiteracy, illness, violence and corruption; the struggle to promote children, the protection of refugees, above all now, the struggle against the great pandemic, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the protection of refugees, employment and social security, all of these battles for the whole of humankind, with respect for the beliefs of others, of all cultures and particularly of languages, respect for the elderly and for youth, this long youth today which needs new efforts. We have more generations today because our lifespan has been extended. All these battles for the whole of humankind, without racial discrimination or discrimination of belief or sex, without reductions of minorities, all these are the best tool for multicultural reality and dialogue among civilizations. We must give each of our great international organizations a committee of ethics. We would strengthen the current logic of repentance first to renew dialogue.
In concluding this contribution I would like to address myself again to President Khatami and once again offer him our sincere congratulations on his initiative and express our confidence in his continuing this action. [Let us note with him indeed that he should not hold it against me: there should be forgiveness never forgetfulness.] That is an important aspect of dialogue among civilizations. People, even those condemned for an [indecipherable] act deserve pardon. We should never despair of humankind for in humankind resides eternity. To the great country of the State of Iran and all the others let us share our concerns with a greater demand for solidarity and public support which is stronger for the most fragile countries through the logic of globalization and which will be a sign of dialogue among civilizations, a dialogue which is unavoidable and inescapable. At the moment it is driven only by the logic of the market whereas the social aspects should also be involved.
What is the interest of the market? What is the point of it? It is not just to sell or to buy. To be able to buy and sell, each of the leaders of the world must be inspired by this ideal from the peoples to cultivate day by day more justice at the global level, more equality, more humility, more truth for the explicit benefit of the balance of the world.
Mr. Matsuura: The next Head of State who will honour us with his speech is His Excellency, Mr. Joaquim Alberto Chissano, President of the Republic or Mozambique.
President Chissano: I should like to join those who have preceded me in congratulating President Khatami of the Islamic Republic of Iran on his initiative to originate the debate on this topic and to suggest the holding of this round table. I should also like to express my appreciation to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for their endeavours and active involvement in promoting the dialogue among civilizations, including the holding of the present round table.
The discussion of the present topic could not be more appropriate today on the eve of the Millennium Assembly dedicated to debate the role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century in a world characterized by an increasing interaction among nations, with the consequent reduced importance of geographically demarcated physical spaces.
The twenty-first century, with daunting challenges posed by globalization, brings not only economic, financial and technological interaction, but also a more comprehensive level of interaction among peoples, cultures and national identities. It is thus imperative to seek common ground for a continuous and open dialogue among us, the peoples of the world, with a view to allowing the harmonious existence of humanity by accepting our cultural diversity and the right to be different, thus strengthening our commitment to peace and the development of our peoples. This meeting is certainly a step towards that goal by means of reviving the lofty ideals of peace, prosperity, human dignity and social progress based on dialogue, tolerance and the mutual respect and understanding of the peoples of the world.
There was a time when some of us believed in the dichotomy of "us" versus "them", the civilized versus the uncivilized. There was a time when some of us, the so-called civilized, undertook a mission to spread civilization around the world. But history has taught us that those dichotomies were false. They were no more than a well-elaborated discourse to hide greedy political and economic agendas. We came to understand that humanity is by itself a civilization and therefore all of us are in one way or another part of that civilization. We came to understand that what we called different civilizations were in fact integral parts of that great civilization called humanity.
Nature is diverse and that diversity is reflected in our cultures, religions, languages, customs and races. Yet we are united by a single human dignity. Our diversity is a precious cultural asset of human civilization and therefore it is in our interest as human beings not only to value it but also to use it to face the challenges we have today. One of the major challenges today is the need to disseminate and transform the ideas of peace and non-violence into an intrinsic part of the collective conscience of people as we strive to meet the challenge of bringing people together in a more just world free from conflict, poverty and hunger.
The proclamation by the General Assembly of the [International Year for the Culture of Peace] in the year 2000 and of the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations in 2001 constitutes vivid invitations to revive the debate on interaction among the peoples of the world. In this regard we understand the concept of the culture of peace as being a set of values, attitudes and behaviour, ways of living and acting based on respect for life, the dignity and rights of the human person, rejection of violence, including all forms of terrorism, and commitment to the principles of freedom, justice, solidarity, tolerance and understanding among all peoples, all groups in society and among individuals.
The culture of peace means above all the spirit of non-violence and the conviction that retaliation can never restore what was destroyed. This spirit and conviction can help us to develop a sense of the value of life above and beyond the circles of the past, to revive the memory of what was lost, to work hard with dignity and solidarity, to restore broken spirits and a country's economic, social and cultural fabric. Thanks to this spirit and approach, in Mozambique we have made it possible for our people, regardless of race, colour, ethnicity, culture, political or religious belief, to work together for the construction and economic development of the country. This is the spirit of unity in diversity that underlies the recent economic and social progress the country has been experiencing.
Success in making and strengthening peace in Mozambique has put us in a position of actively contributing to the solution of existing and potential conflicts. It is in keeping with this principle that Mozambique has actively participated in several international initiatives organized by, inter alia, the United Nations, UNESCO, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and other regional organizations and individual States. Our presence here is in the context of that spirit.
We all agree that globalization presents us with great challenges. We had hoped that the globalization process would result in increasing economic opportunities for all, especially the developing nations. Evidence shows that there is an increasing marginalization of some parts of the world. Perhaps this dialogue is the right moment for us to understand our past, to interrogate the present globalization process and together, by bringing our diversity to the dialogue, imagine and shape the future of human civilization. In Mozambique, experience taught us that through dialogue we could build peace and development, which are two faces of the same coin. There can be no peace without development and there can be no development without peace.
We should avoid the risk of the line dividing the poor and rich being mistakenly taken as the line allegedly dividing races or cultures. We commit ourselves to make our modest contribution to this dialogue among civilizations in recognition that tolerance and respect for diversity must prevail as envisaged by the United Nations founding fathers. Only then shall we have a sound foundation for the full participation of the whole of civil society in the management of public life in a constant search for consensus, and the values of unity, social harmony and peace.
Mr. Matsuura: As I said at the outset, I should now like to invite two Ministers for Foreign Affairs who will represent their Heads of State. First I give the floor to His Excellency, Mr. Roberto Rojas Lopez, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Culture of Costa Rica.
Mr. Lopez (interpretation from Spanish): It is a great honour for Costa Rica to speak here, to represent the Spanish-speaking American world and to be involved in the dialogue we are having this morning. We human beings must recognize at the outset that amidst the magnificent diversity of cultures and forms of life we are a single family and a single community on earth with a common destiny. We must be united to create a sustainable global society based on respect for nature, for universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace. In this way mankind will be able to reverse the present environmental destruction, the depletion of resources, the massive extinction of species, inequality in the distribution of the benefits of development, extreme poverty, inequality of opportunity, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor.
Development outside its human and cultural context is only growth. But seen as a whole, development is part of culture. Economic growth is essential since it provides us with goods and services so that we may have a better quality of life. This concept is not determined solely by material conditions. While the process of globalization is irreversible, it is not a solely economic phenomenon. In opening greater and better channels of economic and commercial communication among human beings, corporations, States and societies, there are also greater and better possibilities for mutual understanding and the coming together of human beings in their various views of the world and the various ways in which they do things. Having one's own strong culture is a key element in making globalization an instrument of development and not a threatening instrument. Globalization can only make sense if it promotes the coexistence of all peoples in dignity and honour, which is the common health of mankind, and to date is the only physical space which shelters life, at least life as we know it.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines the culture of peace as a multidisciplinary process in which there must be participation by all sectors of Government and the various generations of society. It is the hub seeking a system of life where common sense, respect for human rights for all, gender equality, efforts in honesty, must be the beacon guiding efforts towards the establishment of a suitable environment free of physical and social contamination, which is adapted to the development of the best mankind has to offer.
Education for peace is an instrument through which a culture of peace is built and on which that culture is founded. It is a process which promotes among peoples the development of values, knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and behaviour which will strengthen the culture of peace. Maintaining peace depends to a great extent on the levels of interdependence and the community of socio-economic, geographic, political and cultural interests among peoples and States and the level of understanding and knowledge among individuals. True interdependence among peoples is no more a purely economic phenomenon than is globalization. There will be greater interdependence among human beings and societies since societies will understand each other better. For this dialogue among people, among individuals, among societies and among cultures, this is an essential precondition.
Another essential precondition is tolerance and respect for diversity. Costa Rica, in its traditions but also in the conviction of its people, has made dialogue, tolerance and mutual respect a daily instrument. This stance is also reflected in our foreign policy. We constantly seek out dialogue and negotiation in order to solve disputes and disagreements peacefully.
In 1980 the General Assembly of the United Nations created the University for Peace. My country is honoured to house the headquarters of that University. The mission of the University for Peace is to provide mankind with an international institute of higher learning for peace, to promote a spirit of understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence among human beings. The members of its Council were recently elected in consultation with the Director-General of UNESCO. This new Council represents a new impetus and a further universalization of the concept of peace. My country represents and supports the spirit of understanding, tolerance and coexistence. We feel that this University should also play a role in this new dialogue that has been established. We wish to thank President Khatami for this initiative and UNESCO for welcoming it. All of us, States, nations, peoples, individuals and of course organizations such as UNESCO, must work together to make a new world order of intercultural relations effective, which will enable us to turn cultural differences once and for all into an element of progress and development and not one of conflict.
Mr. Matsuura: I now have the honour to ask His Excellency Mr. Jaswant Sing[h], Minister for External Affairs of India, to take the floor.
Mr. Sing[h]: The distinguished Heads of State or Government and others that have spoken before me have already most eloquently elucidated several facets of civilizations, their contributions and also exchanges between them. Indian thought, a unique synthesis and an unmatched confluence, has always held that the deliverance of man is possible but only through release from avidya, or ignorance. I am confident that discussions today and also later during the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, will fulfil this yearning for greater knowledge and bring an enhanced appreciation of each other, of our ways of life, and also, as a consequence, enhance the contribution that each of us can make to the other in our common shared richness and the eternal journey of man on that road which has no end.
I visualize the dialogue among civilizations as a confluence of great streams, some ancient and thus widespread and placid, imbued with eons of reflection and knowledge, the very distillation of human experience. Others are younger, more ebullient, forging ahead with the vitality of invention and material progress. These streams must merge, greening the entire spread of humanity with shared wisdom, freedom of spirit, liberty, thus generating lives enriched by real choice, drawing in the rivulets of modern technology to nourish the arid soil of poverty and human deprivation to create a world secure in respect for each other, where there is no inequality, no discrimination and no insecurity from want or violence.
It is only appropriate that there be a dialogue among civilizations now at the dawn of the twenty-first century, that Iran initiate this dialogue and that UNESCO take the lead in this respect. The century just past marked the culmination and also the end of the age of imperialism. It was an age in which Europe, enriched by the industrial revolution, and also enriched by renaissance, spread out its colonial control over great parts of the globe. It is a thought to which with eloquence their Excellencies the Presidents of Algeria and Nigeria have already given voice. But that age of imperialism was marked by the deafening silence of an absence of dialogue. What marks the transition from the twentieth to the twenty-first century is the end of the age of imperialism and the potential for the release of the creative energies and genius of mankind in its entirety.
It is in that context that it is only timely that the dialogue among civilizations be initiated now on the eve of the Millennium Summit. Today in our midst, in consequence of the growing influence of the media, the poor are certainly aware of the lifestyles of the fortunate and the affluent, but can the "haves" say with any degree of conviction that they have more than a fleeting sense of their existence in their midst. Can we say that we are a global village of equality, or a global village of shanties, slums and the oppressed on whose very shoulders and through whose labours and endeavours some of the present-day material prosperity of the globe is based. The dialogue which it is hoped will bring together the advances of all civilizations will be judged by one touchstone, that of compassion, a reaffirmation of human conscience and of universal fellowship, and the care that it will bring to those whom material advances have left behind. I trust that this dialogue among civilizations will promote a sense of indivisibility, of mutual belonging, that will nurture the feeling that a community's or civilization's ascent cannot be complete until it is accompanied by the progress and advancement of the whole of humanity.
Unprecedented advances in science and technology hold out the promise of great material progress and development. We stand on the doorstep of the age of knowledge, post-industrial revolution. It offers a unique possibility of intensifying productive exchange in diverse fields. Science and technology also provide us with valuable tools for historic preservation and documentation and wide dissemination of the cultural heritage of all civilizations.
The promotion of identity and cultural diversity could in itself become the very substance of dialogue among civilizations. Globalization, to which reference has been made by many, should contribute towards the creation of a world that offers equal opportunity and not any obliteration. We must guard against the tendency of threatening diversity and unique cultural attainments through globalization and the technological revolution. A balance between the acceptance of integrative globalization to mutual advantage and the necessary quest for identity has emerged as a major civilizational challenge of our times. Unless vigorously addressed by those that are threatened by the erasing hand of uniformity, it will heighten the anguish of exclusion and marginalization and at a profoundly deeper level it will separate humanity instead of bringing it together. Cultures are not to be placed on the extinction list in this world of bio-diversity.
Of course, the maintenance and promotion of identities and the protection of cultural and civilizational traditions, must not become a tool to shield ultra-nationalism and exclusionism. Mahatma Gandhi once said that he would certainly not like to be blown off his feet but would also not like to shut the windows of his consciousness to the rest of the world. He thought that breezes from all directions must blow through his house. Therefore, exceptionalism and exclusivism become the base for a clash of civilizations instead of a dialogue of civilizations which would enrich us all collectively.
The promotion of universalism must not become a means to undermine the rich diversity of the human race, thought and civilizational accomplishments either. There should be no attempts at a standardization of global cultures and civilizations. The parameters of this dialogue should move away from the traditional to a greater appreciation of the diversity as but a variation on the theme of one humanity and its unlimited potential. The enlarging of a common denominator of values and principles on which our entire humanity rests, must be part of our quest in this dialogue among civilizations.
A great Indian sage in the last century, Vivekanand, said that you cannot claim to be more human simply on the basis that you have six fingers as against my five. The Indic civilization to which I have the honour to belong, from time immemorial has believed in the fundamental unity of all humanity. The whole world is a family. The ancient Sanskrit saying vasudhaiva kutumbkam, means "all the world is one family". The central message of our philosophy has always spoken of ekam sat, viprah bahuda vadanti there is but one truth, the learned express that one truth in different ways. Respect for all cultures, non-violence and tolerance therefore form the core of the Indian value system. Indian tradition has fostered the value of creative interaction and peaceful coexistence for thousands of years among our people as amongst the peoples of the world. It is this vibrant mosaic that is threatened by the belief that civilization can be based only on narrow religious affinities. Religion is personal and an individual's relationship with his or her God. Civilization is what is common, what is shared and that which should enrich all. While promoting the dialogue among civilizations we must be conscious of this delicate difference.
Over the past half-century the United Nations has served as a host to all nations promoting reconciliation and a culture of dialogue among them. Search for common moral and ethical values has led to the codification of a range of international instruments concerning tolerance, human rights, cultural cooperation and cooperation in science and technology. Values of democracy, human rights, pluralism and respect for the rule of law, all common civilizational influences, have acquired almost universal validity. Dialogue among and within nations and civilizations can and must promote understanding, pluralism and diversity as essential components of progress and human advancement. The central question that we have to grapple with is how to forge societies that are truly liberal and multicultural but which retain a sense of unity and a corpus of common values; how they can best contribute to the emergence of a truly shared and liberal human civilization; and how the dialogue among civilizations can deal effectively with the menaces that today afflict and threaten to drown our common civilizational heritage. I believe that the United Nations and UNESCO, in the context of dialogue among civilizations, should work to ensure that the principles of pluralism and democracy, acceptance of diversity and mutual respect, freedom and equality, solidarity and a sense of shared responsibility in a word, humanity are consolidated. The dialogue must bring out the uniting features of our civilizations, all of which have contributed to the human saga while preserving those distinctive features of a civilization which gives it a distinctive genius and adds to the totality of human richness. India will contribute in thought and action to this endeavour.
Mr. Matsuura: Lastly I should like to give the floor to His Excellency, President Khatami.
President Khatami: Once again I deem it necessary to extend my thanks to our esteemed guests and ladies and gentlemen. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Secretary-General, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Mr. Picco, Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. I am confident that in this afternoon's session the distinguished scholars, thinkers and writers will engage in very fruitful discussions. God willing, this will be the beginning of a new phase in the betterment of human life in better [indecipherable] towards peace based on justice, which is mankind's most important need in the next century.
Mr. Matsuura: I wish to join you, Mr. President, in extending my thanks to those to whom you have referred, but I must point out that you have omitted the most important person, yourself. I should like to thank you on behalf of all the participants present and myself for the initiative you have taken, and for the contribution you have made to the success of our round table on dialogue among civilizations.
I wish to announce that the afternoon session among thinkers and scholars will take place in Conference Room 2 at 3.30 p.m.
The meeting rose at 1.40 p.m.