Initiated against the backdrop of the global war on terror, Huntington’s prediction of the clash of civilizations in the aftermath of 9/11 and the chain of bombing attacks that, in particular, targeted Bali, Madrid, Egypt, Istanbul and London in 2005, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) was created to improve understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions — in particular, between the so-called Western and Muslim societies — and in the process, to help counter the forces that fuel polarization and extremism.
In spite of the conceptual controversies that it sparked from its inception, the Alliance – as a political initiative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations — generated an ever-growing support from countries, as well as from regional and international organizations. Between May 2007 and May 2011, UNAOC membership almost tripled, bringing together developed countries of the North and developing countries of the so-called global South, the East and the West. As of 2016, UNAOC membership of the Group of Friends has now reached 146 and counting.
To date, UNAOC has convened eight Global Forums: In Madrid in 2008, Istanbul in 2009, Rio de Janeiro in 2010, Doha in 2011, Vienna in 2013, Bali in 2014, Baku in 2016, and the UN Headquarters in New York in 2018. Those forums rendered UNAOC as one of the most relevant UN platforms for intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation by connecting governments, law makers, local authorizes, civil society organizations, the media, and religious leaders devoted to promoting trust and understanding between diverse communities, specifically between Muslim and Western societies.