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universe we need


the world’s new leaders

UNAOC Global Forum Vienna 2013

“WE are all migrants” She has interviewed people such as Muammar Gaddafi and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, lived on three continents, and is the face of Al Jazeera English. Ghida Fakhry on what is considered home, the clash of cultures and how to deal with forbidden interview questions. You were born in Lebanon, went to school in Switzerland, studied in London, worked in the US and now in Qatar. Where do you feel at home and how important are your cultural roots to you? I used to be based in the US, New York, and then Washington, but moved to Doha two and half years ago where Al Jazeera English is

Freedom of speech is like ‘freedom’: easy to understand, difficult to define.

headquartered. When one moves around, the concept of “home” becomes much more abstract, much more relative, for after a while, one feels at home everywhere, but also somewhat foreign, even in one’s own


home country. This evidently has a bearing on one’s “cultural roots”. Because there are indeed roots, but then there is also the trunk, the branches, the leaves, and those are shaped by one’s life journey. Yes, roots are important - they are our starting block - but I would not go as far as suggesting that they define us because that would also mean that they confine us. The short answer to

UNIVERSE Vienna, February 2013

your question is that for me, “home” is where my family is, my daughter and husband.

by Marina Delcheva & Marguerite Meyer

You know different cultures and different perspectives. Is the world becoming a slightly better place or is there still a clash of cultures? This question is best answered by historians. If one takes a historical perspective, the answer is probably a resounding ‘yes’. But we still have a long way to go. Look at the conflicts all over the place - ethnic tensions, sectarian conflicts, ideological clashes: all these could be looked upon as “cultural” in essence. But then we have to be careful with such broad concepts as they often hide many dimensions, one of which, and I believe a very critical one, is resource allocation, within societies, and among societies, and among larger groups such as nations or blocks of nations. And I believe there is sufficient empirical evidence to suggest that an important aspect of so-called

cultural clashes, political or ideological clashes among larger entities often have at their root an economic underpinning. To paraphrase what has become an adage in US political culture, “Isn’t the economy, stupid?!” Even large historical conquests, the marches of empires, colonisation, etc., were not merely so-called ‘cultural enterprises’, but a quest to amass power and, thus, wealth. And today, although the world is a better place, vicious fights for control over resources, natural resources, continue to fuel quite a number of conflicts as well as tensions among large powers. The conference in Vienna focuses on the alliance of the civilisations; a lot of statements will highlight their efforts on intercultural dialogue and freedom. Can conferences like this one really make a change in society? I have been associated with the AOC since its first Forum in Madrid, five years ago. These conferences are important even if their impacts, overall, may be modest. One problem is that, I feel, such forums seem to bring together people who are already in agreement with many of the objectives of the Alliance, whereas a major threat to the world is the rise of extremisms all over the world, including here, at the heart of Europe where neo-Nazi groups are active - people and groups that are fundamentally, and ideologically diametrically opposed to what the Alliance proposes, groups with exclusive views about the supremacy of their world-

view, their culture, their creed, etc. It is important to engage them because they are instrumental in fomenting inter-cultural tensions. When one considers the ongoing tensions between the Islamic and Western, Christian worlds, these tensions are largely the product of the activism of fringe, radical groups that manage to a certain extent to foment division and mistrust. What kind of role does the media play in this discourse? That’s a difficult question, because the media can equally help mitigate, as well as fuel some of the existing tensions. What is the difference between western and Arabic media? The first one is obvious: language! It is not a question I can address here for the spectrum is too wide - there is not one ‘western media’ and one ‘Arab media’. But I would note that the Arab media has exploded in recent years; it is far more diverse than let’s say 15 years ago. It is a newer industry compared to media outlets in the Western world, some of which were started over a century ago. And of course there is this emerging potent new media force, that is neither Western nor Arabic, that is the Internet...

One of the main topics of the event is “freedom of speech and media”. Were you ever forbidden to ask a question as a journalist? No. Never, because throughout my career, I adopted the policy of not disclosing my questions to my editors, or the interviewee for that matter. That got me into trouble a few times, but that’s part of the job! I did forgo some important interviews with some heads of state whose handlers wanted to have my questions in advance. If you had to make recommendations on the topics “migration”, “freedom of speech” and “freedom of religion”, what would they be in one sentence each? “Let’s never forget that we are all migrants, or the descendants of migrants, a generation ago, two generations ago, a century ago, or millennia ago.” “Freedom of speech is like ‘freedom’: easy to understand, difficult to define.” “Defining ‘freedom of religion’ is a double challenge: it necessitates that we agree on the concepts of ‘freedom’ and of ‘religion’ - and we have not really come to a universal understanding on these two concepts.” You have interviewed powerful men like Muammar Gaddafi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kofi Annan and Yasser Arafat. Who was your favourite interview partner? The four leaders you mention were or still are all extremely interesting leaders who have played an important role in our recent history. But if your question is who was my favorite interviewee, that I can’t tell you!

Nice to know! Ghida Fakhry (1970) was born in Beirut and studied at Richmond University, the University of London and the Boston University. In 2006, Fakhry was appointed Lead Female Anchor at Al Jazeera English in Washington. She now works in Doha, Qatar, and is the host of the award-winning programme Witness. In January 2008, Fakhry moderated the first Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in Madrid.

February 2013, Vienna UNIVERSE


We Need You! 150 future leaders from 94 nations meet, greet and tweet: Yesterday, the 26th of February, the fifth UNAOC Global Forum kicked off in Vienna.

As is the case at such international conferences, hands were shaken, cards were exchanged, smiles were flashed. The standard questions were posed: “What’s your name?”, “What do you do?”,”Where are you from?”. The first day of the Global Forum, which took place at the MuseumsQuartier, was the Youth Event, with participants between the ages of 19 and 35 from all over the globe. They were chosen from 4000 candidates. For these ambitious, savvy young people, “Where are you from?” warrants a two-, three-, sometimes fourpart answer: “I was born in xxx, my parents are from xxx, I was raised in xxx, but I live in xxx.” This was never an awkward exchange for them, as they all had an implicit understanding that a one-part answer wouldn’t suffice here. The younger generation are not only up-to-date in their awareness of modern identities, they are also, of course, technologically outfitted. As they had already been communicating for two months via online discussions before they even got to the event, it was not surprising that their various electronic devices were never far from reach in order to keep up that momentum. The event itself had already set up a tenmember Twitter team to keep those who couldn’t attend in the loop. “Shine like the whole universe is yours” As the many young participants were being prepped for their first round of workshops, one of the facilitators did a quick gadget count among them: “How many of you have iPhones? Androids? Blackberries?” (the last option got a good laugh). Then a survey of apps: “Twitter? Instagram? Foursquare? (a participant’s response to the last one: “Don’t push it!”) One of the officially designated tweeters asked the young Sudanese man sitting next to her: “Do you tweet?”, to which he responded: “I’m more of a Facebooker.” The facilitator concluded his instructions on a lyrical note: “Shine like the whole universe is


UNIVERSE Vienna, February 2013

yours.” The tweeter quickly tweeted: “Ooh, I like that!” Roundtable realisations The UNAOC has put youth and the recruitment of youth at the forefront of their agenda. The young people can be counted on for their enthusiasm, inspiration, and a fresh perspective. This doesn’t mean that they are naive, however. Some were newcomers, some were seasoned, having already attended two or three previous Fora.

By Janima Nam photos by Natascha Unkart Popstar, United Nations style A notable and highly anticipated part of the morning was the brief but auspicious arrival of His Excellency Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. An aisle running down the centre of the room was prepared in advance. Then chairs, tables were pushed aside, people hurry-scurried. All sessions came to a halt as the Secretary-General, followed by his attendants and a blur of press and photographers, made his way to the stage.

Kristina, Odai and Yassmin – Belarus, Jemen and Australia meet at the heart of Vienna.

Most were aware of the fact that networking was a primary goal for them, that intensive discussions and major revelations only came after this priority. If they weren’t already expecting it, it didn’t take long to realise that discussions often ended up in a fairly uniform consensus. Rada from Bulgaria, who participated in a roundtable discussion about media freedom, noticed that it didn’t take her group long to realise that, as mostly university students, “we all share the same basic values. It’s only when we get older that we will begin to disagree and have conflicts.”

Within his concentrated schedule, the Secretary-General joined a roundtable discussion where normally nine participants are accommodated. Naturally, they suddenly turned into much more, forming concentric circles of onlookers around the table, at least a third of whom were photographers. But this didn’t daunt the young participants, who all had their own photographic devices - cameras, mobiles, iPads - to capture the moment and, most likely, instantly transmit it to a world that extends beyond the mass of beaming faces surrounding Ban Ki-moon, radiating even further outward than the spectacle at hand.

150 young people from 94 nations debate on migration, media & religion.

information from the austrian development agency

learning in their mother tongue

With Austrian support in Burkina Faso, 277 youth were able to learn a trade in the past school year.

With Austrian support in Burkina Faso, 277 youth were able to learn a trade in the past school year, although many girls and boys in remote regions of the West African state often lack the opportunity to attend school. Sometimes, misgivings towards the French language are also a reason for inattendance. This is where the programme, Education et Formation pour un DÊveloppement Endogène (EFORD), comes in, an initiative supported by Austria, Denmark and Switzerland. Almost 300 children and youth are currently being trained at EFORD education centres in northern and south-western Burkina Faso. Subjects such as livestock management, agriculture and general knowledge are taught in the regional languages Fulfulde, Djula and Cerma. Learning in their own language is easy for the children and youth who in this way successfully complete their vocational training. More information on Austrian Development Cooperation at February 2013, Vienna UNIVERSE


Answering Ban Ki-moon’s call for help, the participants of the Youth Event of the UNAOC Global Forum courageously dived into what turned out to be quite a challenge. By nina cranen

Global SpeedDebating It remains to be seen if the outcome improves the understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions. Nevertheless, some very applicable recommendations were presented for our world leaders.

OUR TOP 10: Religious Diversity: 1. Invest in education. 2. Define the relationships between youth and stakeholders so that stakeholders will listen to youth.


UNIVERSE Vienna, February 2013

Forging recommendations with a group of strangers with different backgrounds, mentalities and religions is difficult. Especially when you are put on a schedule leaving hardly enough time to introduce yourself properly. Speed-debating on questions addressing global problems is really challenging when it has to be done between lunch and dinner. Yesterday, youngsters from all over the world gathered to come up with a list of recommendations tailor-made for and directly addressing the world’s decision-makers, experts, and a variety of stakeholders in the field of intercultural and interreligious dialogue.

The young global leaders showed their commitment and dedication with staggering energy. Divided into six teams, they put their heads together for three hours, sometimes getting caught up in heated discussions and sometimes feeling the task loaded upon them impossible to complete: “I am a bit sceptical about our contribution turning into results”. Bound by their aspiration to really make a change, the participants maintained engagement throughout the entire day: “Being sceptical is allowed. We all live with frustrations towards our political structures. However I feel like we don´t have the time to go over our own sentiments. We have to come up with recommendations!”

Freedom of Religion:

Media & Diversity:

3. Start ethical religious education in early childhood.

7. Cultivate culturally diverse art.

4. Ensure the right to freedom of religion.

Freedom of Media: 5. Use social media to go from monologue to dialogue. 6. UNAOC establishes a legal framework for exchange of information regarding freedom of speech.

8. Create job opportunities and training programmes for minorities in the media sector.

Migration & Integration:

9. Create policy law aiming to enhance the position of minorities in society. 10. Provide children with education in their mother tongue.

yassmin, 21 - australia I started “Youth without Borders” when I was 16. My organisation helped set up mobile libraries in Indonesia and we run an engineering camp for disadvantaged students in Australia.

nacer, 23 - algeria My NGO serves as a mediator between talented youth and people who can help them, for example by sponsoring them. Lots of people say: “They are the future of our country.”

There sure is a lot of buzz and excitement when 150 young people from 94 countries meet. The participants of the UNAOC youth event have different cultural backgrounds and aspirations, yet they have one thing in common: They were picked out of 4000 applicants because of their outstanding projects that foster cultural understanding. Here are some young people who want to change the world.

chaya, 24 - israel When I attended a model UN conference in 2009 I realized that I was the only one there from my country. That was ridiculous, so I founded the Israeli model UN association to foster leadership in my country.

photos: natascha unkart & franziska zoidl

melissa, 30 - guyana I started “Guyanese girls unite”. One of our projects is to encourage women to work in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths to give them confidence and self-esteem.

arish, 26 - new zealand

Publisher: biber Verlagsgesellschaft m.b.H. Museumsplatz 1, e.1-4, A-1070 Vienna

Printing: Plankopie Eder Theobaldgasse 15, A-1060 Vienna

Editor-in-chief: Simon Kravagna

Contact details:

Managing editor: Marina Delcheva Editorial Team: Franziska Zoidl, Marguerite Meyer, Nina Cranen, Janima Nam, Leila Al-Serori, Sharma Dham Photographers: Natascha Unkart, Amèlie Chapalain Layout: Kellie Rife

My NGO serves as a mediator between talented youth and people who can help them, for example by sponsoring them. Lots of people say: “They are the future of our country.”

Homepage: biber is a multi-cultural magazine located in Vienna. “Universe” is a special edition on behalf of the Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs. The editorial responsibility lies on biber.

February 2013, Vienna UNIVERSE


Jackpot for grassroot growth Last night was a big night for the finalists of the Intercultural Innovation Award. At the Viennese Volkstheatre, the clearly delighted members of the winning team “Puerta Joven” received the prestigious award from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

US-Dollar reward; the second to fifth places share the same amount. But money is not the main assistance they get: the winners become members of the World Intercultural Facility for Innovation in order to connect with donors and mentors. All finalists will be invited to Munich, Germany, to participate in workshops held by BMW experts on public relations, fund raising, staff planning and marketing.

By Marguerite Meyer photo: Amèlie Chapalain Before the award ceremony, a chatty crowd gathered at the Volkstheatre. Many faces were to be seen, many languages to be heard. Among them were the excited finalists and the Mexican winners-to-be, who had no idea yet of just how jubilant they would soon be beaming. “This award is about promoting projects that allow people to learn to live together”, said Barry van Driel, head of the international jury. As simple as this sounds: picking the winner project was not easy. JeanChristophe Bas, UNAOC Senior Advisor for Strategic Development and Partnership, explained: “There were 500 submitted projects that we narrowed down to ten finalists. All of these finalists have presented great projects – each of them are actually winners.” Corporates taking responsibility The international Award is the outcome of a partnership between the BMW Group and the UNAOC. His Excellency Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, who presented the Award together with Bill McAndrews from BMW Group, appreciates the commitment of a private corporation to supporting innovative projects striving for intercultural dialogue and understanding: “We hope this will serve as a model and that many other large PARTNERS companies will follow.” McAndrews

illustrated the motivation for the company’s engagement: “We believe companies are part of society. And we have a duty to give something back to society.” The “Puerta Joven“ project team convinced the independent jury with the project’s impact on the community, its innovation and the way it can be translated into different contexts. The Mexican project brings together indigenous youth groups who are discriminated against because of their cultural identity or language. The project has been developed in eight different cities in Mexico and will be replicated in Guatemala, too. The team received more than just a round of applause at the lively ceremony last night. Their prize is a 50,000

Striking up gypsy sounds in the City of Waltz But last night was not only about business, it was also about fun. Whilst international guests mingled with Austrian politicians, musicians and artists, several bands striked up their tunes and caused quite a bit of hip-swaying and foot-tapping. And the happy winners and finalists got to continue their networking in the best kind of environment possible: during a scrumptious dinner at a smart restaurant in the middle of the City of Waltz.

UNiverse Issue 1  
UNiverse Issue 1  

Official Conference Paper to the 5th UNAOC Global Forum