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universe get it? got it. good! UNAOC Global Forum Vienna 2013

peace love & understanding? Statesmen and diplomats give their speeches that are being simultaneously interpreted for the international audience.

The 5th UNAOC Global Forum fulfilled all the expectations that such an international, highprofile event promises. But do these kinds of events lead to any real dialogue or results? by janima Nam photos: natascha unkart


UNIVERSE Vienna, February 2013

The official opening of the 2013 UNAOC Global Forum took place on February 27th in the expansive, grand Festsaal in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. With baroque music playing in the background, cameramen perched on the sidelines, and a massive video screen on which the faces of the high-profile speakers were projected, it might have been easy to forget that the event was not meant to be so much a show as an occasion to provoke thought and foster dialogue. But after getting past the flashing cameras and the massive crystal chandeliers, one’s eyes then fell upon the somewhat incongruous and slightly incognito glass booths that line the top of one of the side walls. They were illuminated just enough to reveal the much-needed interpreters who do the behind-the-scenes but important work of keeping the flow of information fluid and available to the international crowd that has assembled there.


Unlike the intimate, casual mood of the Youth Event, which took place in the humbler MuseumsQuartier one day earlier, and where discussions took place in small groups, the main conference of the Global Forum was marked by all the pomp and circumstance of a high-profile spectacle, with important leaders, officials, dignitaries, and representatives convening in one place, accompanied by all the security force, press coverage, hospitality staff, and technical support that such occasions require.

There was a constant sense of a multilayered operation taking place, and in such hallowed grounds as the magnificent, labyrinthine Hofburg Palace, it might be easy to lose sight of the essential issues being brought to the table at this Forum: peace, understanding, dialogue. In the end, the people brought together, whether they are world leaders, academics, royalty, or NGO founders, are all here for a common end: to express a shared belief that they can make the world a better place.

The scent of days long gone

The future of success

The programme included opening, keynote, and closing speeches, plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and various workshops — addressing the topic of “Responsible Leadership in Diversity and Dialogue” — which took place simultaneously, and from which the 1,500 participants, representing over 90 countries, NGOs, and organisations, could pick and choose. For such a large-scale undertaking, organisation is key: technical functions must be maintained, people must be directed, time schedules must be kept to.

It was not lost on some of the more humbler attendees that such an event could not be taken just at face value. Some of the younger participants realised that this part of the conference was simply about “listening to some fascinating speakers”. A gentleman from a Christian organisation in the Netherlands commented on how the difficulty of registering for one of the nearly 1,500 places available might indicate that such a large headcount might not lead to any real dialogue, adding, “When I fly home tomorrow, will all this really make a difference?”

As in the days of the monarchy, where a strict hierarchy was designated, and the space and layout of a castle like the Hofburg was dictated by such structures, an event like the Global Forum also has its order, perhaps not so much Islam meets Orthodox Christianity. determined by differences such as status and class, but more due to the need to keep things running smoothly. In contrast to the Youth Event, which really only required the presence of the 150 youths themselves and a few facilitators to guide them, the Forum called for all kinds of additional supporting roles: law enforcement, security staff, cameramen, moderators, the incognito interpreters, technical support — the list goes on and on.

However, Billy Batware, from Rwanda, who runs an NGOsponsored educational programme on the UN for young people right here in Vienna, thoughtfully summed up the overall effect after getting to observe the experience of some of his students who were in attendance. He acknowledged that, of course, at such conferences, the time restraints are not really conducive to any true discussions. “But it’s good for the young people to simply see, hear, and perhaps even feel (by shaking their hands, for example) these ‘important’ people in person and realise that they are just human beings no different from themselves. They then can come away thinking, ‘Someday, I could be one of them, too!’”

February 2013, Vienna UNIVERSE



no heels or ties Yesterday, after two days of fruitful discussions, a variety of experts and practitioners with in-depth knowledge discussed regional strategies and priority areas of the UNAOC. by nina cranen Photo: natascha unkart Representing regions from the Black Sea to the Asia Pacific and the Danube Region, the attendants at the Global Forum closing session sought answers for questions like: where is the need for more intercultural and interreligious dialogue? And: which projects can be used as best practice examples? Key dilemmas were intensively debated on. The role of history in building a better future was as much discussed as the way cultural and religious literacy can foster tolerance and dialogue in people’s hearts and minds. The outcome showed that education of migrants, journalists and stakeholders is essential. Johannes Kyrle, Secretary-General of Foreign Affairs of Austria, underlined that by saying: “We can come to peacefully and equally living together only if we understand the value of diversity”. Also, responsible leadership and cooperation between religious leaders was largely supported. Heiner Bielefeldt, human rights professor and UN Special Rapporteur, stated: “Tolerance is not enough, we need to move beyond it”.


UNIVERSE Vienna, February 2013

The sound of youth His Excellency Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser officially closed the Global Forum. He noted that it had been a remarkably productive one, highlighting the Vienna Declaration signed by the UNAOC members, a document of consensus that embodies the shared agenda. He also turned his attention to the young global leaders who joined the youth convention ensuring them that the UNAOC will do its best to make sure their voices are heard. This promise was welcomed by a wave of applause caused by the youngsters, who until that point were quietly seated in the Hofburg’s Festsaal. After the peace returned, Mr. Abdulaziz Al-Nasser brought back everybody’s attention to the task that lies ahead: “We will strive to use the tools at our disposal in the difficult settings around the world. We will not shy away from difficulties.” The last appeal, however, came from Ghida Fakhry Khane, who had charmingly moderated the Global Forum. She surprised her audience with an unexpected message: “Next time, make sure high heels and ties are forbidden. I would suggest an open-air Forum, accessible to everyone. To turn our words into action and actually have a dialogue in diversity”.

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser is the Representative of the Alliance of UN diplomat on united diversity a by Marina Delcheva Mr. Al-Nasser, you’re following Mr. Sampaio as the High Representative of the UN Alliance of Civilizations. What is, to you, the most important role of this alliance? The Alliance has the potential to achieve responsible leadership that can create the necessary social cohesion and inclusion. In today’s world where we see everyday intolerance, xernophobia and incitement to hatred, the Alliance can play a preventive role, using mediation as a tool. The Alliance can build bridges that unite and open the door for dialogue.

Nice to know!

ty united

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser is the former permanent representative of Qatar to the United Nations. In his diplomatic career, he worked at the embassies in Lebanon, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. His work at the UN started in 1986, when he became appointed minister to Qatar’s permanent mission to the UN.

e Incoming High f Civilisations. The former and the Arab Awakening.

What is the most import value a society has? Diversity. In some societies, diversity of cultures is perceived as source of division instead of path to dialogue. Diversity should unite us, not divide us. Did the Arab Spring succeed or fail? You can’t look at the Arab Spring in black or white terms. It is an ongoing process. I like to call it Arab Awakening because we are past springtime now. No one said it will be easy. It is difficult and will require a lot of perseverance, political will and determination for the people of the Arab region to fulfil their basic rights for freedom, democracy and social justice.

Photo: natascha unkart Publisher: biber Verlagsgesellschaft m.b.H. Museumsplatz 1, e.1-4, A-1070 Vienna Editor-in-chief: Simon Kravagna Managing editor: Marina Delcheva Editorial team: Franziska Zoidl, Marguerite Meyer, Nina Cranen, Janima Nam, Leila Al-Serori, Prerana Dahal Sharma Proofreader: Marguerite Meyer Photographers: Natascha Unkart, Amèlie Chapalain

Layout: Kellie Rife, Printing: Plankopie Eder Theobaldgasse 15, A-1060 Vienna Contact details: 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


wise men talking

Assume that I’m a billionaire and you are homeless. I respect you - human rights without sympathy is not enough. The new language of the global citizen is ‘spiritual humanism’. China needs to learn to trust, leaving behind narrow nationalistic sentiments. There is a powerful and urgent need for new cultural identity in China.

- Tu Weiming (China), historian, New Confucian and ethicist. Teaches at the University of Peking and Harvard University.

Three intellectuals from three different continents opened the last day of the fifth UNAOC Global Forum – discussing love and leadership, human rights and sympathies. by Prerana Dahal Sharma photos: natascha unkart The audience of almost 200 guests was captured by the inspiring views of ethicist Tu Weiming, professor Vitaly Naumkin and philosopher Candido Mendes de Almeida that were expressed during the plenary session. The lively discussion – held in several accents from all over the world – showed that the three experts all had a certain background and roots that inspired them to their standpoints. During the exchange of opinions it became apparent that empathy as a fundamental principal was considered essential for the exertion of human rights. In this context, Tu Weiming also criticised China’s increasing trend towards scientism.

Diversity is decreasing, many indigenous cultures are disappearing. They need to be protected. There should be respect for minorities.

- Vitaly Naumkin (Russia), Chair of the Faculty of World Politics at Moscow State University. “Today, we have less diverse cultures – but we must protect them”, Vitaly Naumkin warned. Post-modernity, the experts agreed, brings about elements that raise concern. The challenges in today’s societies can be faced by initiating a genuine dialogue within the culture on its core values – on this, the Chinese, the Russian, and the Brazilian intellectual were at one.

How can we face post-modernity? South American countries are under the permanent bondage of the colonial system. How do we address nation-building in the age of globalisation?

- Candido Mendes de Almeida (Brazil), writer, philosopher and sociologist. Teaches at the University of Rio de Janeiro and Harvard University.


UNIVERSE Vienna, February 2013

better toget

information from the austrian developmen

Better living conditions, more opportunities and development cooperation makes a contribution our partners on their own development path. Fo Austrian Development Cooperation has been c more security and justice. Only with education water and energy supply, viable economic dev and stable democratic institutions can poverty Austria is engaged in Africa, Asia, Central Ame South-Eastern and Eastern Europe – for the goo

More information on Austrian Development Coo at

point of view

Before the start of the UNAOC Global Forum, young photographers from all over the world were invited to send their images of diversity in culture. We present the three best pictures among over hundred submissions:

1st prize

2nd prize African Pearl: This picture is a remake of the “The Girl With The Pearl Earring” by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It was shot by Ben Anastase from the Netherlands.

nt agency

d prospects – n. We support or years, committed to for all, reliable velopment be reduced. erica and od of us all.


special prize

© 2013 Thomas Röhlinger

Sharing the power of media: The Austrian photographer Thomas Röhlinger took a picture of two 14-year-old girls. One of them teaches the other one, who grew up on the countryside, to use media devices.

© 2013 Ben Anastase, the Netherlands


© 2013 Ahmed Hamed Ahmed, Egypt

Freedom: Ahmed Hamed Ahmed from Egypt took this photo on Tahrir Square in Cairo during the protests. One of the participants in the prayer is wearing a logo of a cross inside a crescent on his t-shirt, showing the spirit of respect for religious pluralism.

February 2013, Vienna UNIVERSE


a home to international organisations and institutions by Franziska Zoidl & Marguerite Meyer

As a base for international organisations, Austria is known to be a hub for the promotion of peace, security, and sustainable development. Together with New York, Genf and Nairobi, Vienna is a headquarter of the United Nations Secretariat.

Austria’s significant international role goes back to the Cold War, when the country was a platform for international dialogue due to its special geopolitical location and its neutrality. This status was further strengthened with the opening of the Vienna International Centre VIC (known as “UNO City”) in 1979. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was the first UN organisation that was set up in Vienna in 1957. With approximately 2,400 employees, the IAEO is the largest UN organisation in the “City of Waltz” today. The world at our doorstep Other important organisations seated in the former capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire are the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). With technical assistance, consultation, and mediation as well as science and study programmes, the UNIDO supports the industrialisation of developing countries and states in Central and Eastern Europe with as much consideration for the environment as possible.

photo: natascha unkart


The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization is also located in Vienna, since 1997. Additionally, there are numerous other international organisations, which are, however, located outside of the Vienna International Centre, including the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) is also based in Vienna. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) established a regional office in 2011. A lasting commitment Due to Austria’s reputation as a nation that is committed to disarmament, several related institutions are headquartered in the Austrian capital: the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) and the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) were opened in 2011. One of the latest developments was the UN informing Austria in October 2012 about their plans to set up the Sustainable Energy for All initiative in Vienna. This decision can certainly be seen as a result of the strong Austrian commitment to the issue of sustainable energy.

UNiverse Issue 3  

Official Conference Paper to the 5th UNAOC Global Forum

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