Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

Madrid forum on bridging divide between Islam and West

Author: Paulo Coelho

8 January 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will head to Spain next week for the first United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Forum aimed at promoting the global campaign launched by the world body to help overcome prejudices between nations and cultures and to promote interfaith dialogue.
Mr. Ban will open the Forum on 15 January along with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Rodriguez Zapatero, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan, and the Secretary-General’s High Representative for the Alliance and former President of Portugal, Jorge Sampaio.
The two-day meeting in the Spanish capital will bring together political leaders, the media, corporate and film industry executives, and grassroots and civil society leaders. Participants include author Paulo Coelho, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, Queen Noor of Jordan, Al Jazeera anchor Riz Khan, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and former Irish President Mary Robinson.
Created in 2005 at the initiative of Spain and Turkey and under UN auspices, the Alliance seeks to tackle fear and suspicion, bridge divides and overcome prejudices and polarizations between Islam and the West.
“This event next week is the first major event of the Alliance of Civilizations,” the group’s Acting Director said at a press briefing in New York.
Shamal Idriss pointed out that a number of high-profile initiatives will be announced at the Forum, including major projects aimed at promoting understanding among cultures in the areas of media and youth. These will include efforts by the “Group of Friends” network – a growing community of over 80 States and international organizations that support the objectives of the Alliance.
The “centrepiece” of the Forum will be the launching of two major initiatives, he noted, confirming that one of them will be a “major investment” in the Alliance’s planned youth employment initiative, which would bring together Governments and major multinational corporations.
Madrid will also see the launch of a multi-million dollar Alliance of Civilizations Media Fund, an initiative that will be run independently of the UN and set up by private philanthropists and media agencies to “support major film productions that help to promote cross-cultural understanding and combat stereotypes.”
He added that so far investors had committed $10 million towards what will ultimately be a $100 million campaign for the Fund. While the names of the Fund’s partners will be announced at next week’s gathering, he noted that they include new media companies that were “household names” and “three major Hollywood film companies.”

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