Baku, 31 May 2013
Dear Minister Abulfas Garayev,
Dear Alumni Fellows of the Alliance of Civilizations from the Arab world, Europe and North America,
Let me first extend my gratitude to the Government of Azerbaijan for hosting this event. The event is a good opportunity to all fellows to meet and exchange views on diverse issues. I’m also very pleased to hear that Azerbaijan has expressed interest in partnering with the AoC in the Fellowship program ; this represents indeed a major development and a first step towards the expansion of the program to the whole Muslim world, not just the Arab world.
Let me also extend my special thanks to the partners , without whom this program wouldn’t be what it is now. There is indeed no such program for emerging leaders like this one that brings around the table a wide spectrum of partners such as the German Government, ISESCO, the League of Arab States, the OIC, the Qatar committee for the Alliance of Civilizations, the Guerrand-Hermes Foundation for Peace, the Institute of International Education and the British Council.
This program has been designed from day one by all partners under the auspices of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. Its aim is to present to them the “other society” as it is in reality. During the program the fellows are able to form their own opinion, and eventually de-construct the stereotypes.
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you all this morning in this first UNAOC Alumni Fellowship meeting. I have already met a few of you in New York last November. I know how important this program is to advance the goals of the Alliance of Civilizations that aim at promoting dialogue and understanding between emerging leaders from the Arab and the Muslim world, Europe and the North America. Few weeks ago and during the AoC Group of Friends Meeting in New York, I was very pleased to hear many delegations commending the program.
Most of you may agree that there is no clash of civilizations, but rather a clash of ignorance. This program was designed prior to the Arab Spring . It has become even more relevant in the past two years with the need to connect and empower emerging leaders in all parts of the world to promote peace and prosperity.
The recent incidents whether in Boston, London, France , Niger and elsewhere remind us unfortunately that there is still a long way to go before we can overcome the clash of ignorance.
Your responsibility is tremendous: you are the messengers of a new form of dialogue and the agents of change. You must make your voices heard. We need your voices.
I wish you very productive deliberations today.
I stand to support your effort
I wish you all the best.