Dr. Marc Scheuer

Marc Scheuer, Director, Secretariat of the UN Alliance of Civilizations. UN Photo, Paulo Filgueiras

An Alliance of Civilizations

It was a particular pleasure and satisfaction to read that this initiative had been inspired by the lively interactions between more than 2,000 participants in the recent fourth global forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations in Doha, Qatar. Coming from all walks of life, senior politicians, religious leaders, mayors of big cities, corporate CEOs, NGO activists, media professionals, youth representatives, those participants in Doha were all looking for the most promising experiences and the most innovative ideas for improving understanding and cooperation among nations and peoples, reducing polarization, and building more inclusive societies at local and global levels in which cultural and religious differences can be experienced as an asset and contribute to underlying rather than obscuring our common humanity.

This is precisely what the Alliance of Civilizations, proposed a few years ago by the prime ministers of Spain and Turkey and put on track by the UN Secretary-General, is all about. Under the leadership of the High Representative, President Jorge Sampaio, it serves as a platform and a matchmaker. It helps improve our understanding of the common grounds for our efforts on trans-cultural values and on the scope of human rights that are the founding layers of all our efforts. It also helped to identify the most helpful policies, practices, and initiatives for interfaith dialogue and cooperation and to replicate them and scale them up.

All partners, public and private, are doing the job. And in that context, year after year we see a growing recognition of the many initiatives implemented at different levels and in a great diversity of contexts, both by religious leaders and by faith-inspired movements, to help address common challenges and promote peace and harmony. We’ve seen a number of remarkable efforts to mitigate and settle conflicts, to promote humanitarian relief, to support development, and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

We follow with tremendous interest and sympathy ongoing attempts by leaders of world religious denominations, in particular in the Middle East region, to project a vision of pluralist societies in which all are entitled to the same treatment and respect, of societies which they, the religious leaders, encouraged to define a common good for all their citizens.

The Alliance will continue to support all these efforts at grassroots levels and by interfaith dialogue among the leaders. It will also continue to work with government and international organizations in order to ensure that progress is steady in the fight against all forms of religious intolerance. It recognizes the important step forward that Resolution 1618 of the UN Human Rights Council constitutes in that respect, and it will amplify its own work in the fields of education and the media when it comes to addressing the challenges of dialogue.

More generally, the Alliance will be at the disposal of all to help multiply the successful forms of cooperation between institutional and civil society actors. In all these efforts and initiatives which we celebrate today, and for which we congratulate our partners, we are looking forward to a greater participation of women and youth. They are incomparable agents of change, and we shall be all better off by having them more centrally in our midst.

Marc Scheuer is director of the Secretariat of the Alliance of Civilizations, a political initiative under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General. Most of his previous activity has been with the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, France) in the fields of political advice and cooperation and of human rights protection. As a director of political advice and cooperation in that organization, he was in charge of conflict prevention programs and post-conflict reconstruction initiatives.

He coordinated the Council of Europe’s early response to 9/11 events, including addressing the roots of terrorism, and contributed to the development of intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Before joining the Alliance, he was the director of the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner. A doctor at law from Louvain University (Belgium), he has been a long-standing member of the Board of the European Centre for Minority Issues and a lecturer at Robert Schuman University (Strasbourg).

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