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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Alliance of Civilisations Gets Off to an Auspicious Start - By Tito Drago

MADRID, Jan 24 (IPS) - The First Forum of the Alliance of Civilisations sponsored by Turkey and Spain concluded in Madrid with concrete commitments, including generous funding, and the announcement that the second forum will be held in Turkey in 2009.

Around 400 political, business and religious personalities from 82 countries participated at this first Forum, including the heads of state or government of Algeria, Finland, Malaysia, Senegal, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey, as well as Roman Catholic, Ethiopian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox and Protestant Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Shinto, and Hindus.

"The Alliance of Civilizations (AoC) aims to improve understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions and, in the process, to help counter the forces that fuel polarization and extremism," its official mission statement says.

The two-day meeting last week was opened by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki- moon, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The AoC -- originally proposed by Spain and Turkey -- was adopted by the U.N. in 2005.

Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned of Qatar announced funding of 100 million dollars for one of the Alliance programmes, the "Silatech" Global Initiative for Youth Employment, directed at creating jobs and opportunities for young people in the Middle East and North Africa. "Silatech" means "your connection" in Arabic.

Queen Noor of Jordan promised another 100 million dollars, with 10 million dollars upfront, for a fund that is to finance making movies with large Hollywood production companies, on a not-for-profit basis. The goal is to combat stereotyped images of communities and minorities in the media. [for more click on the heading]


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