Welcome Messages

WELCOME TO THE 5th UNAOC GLOBAL FORUM IN VIENNA!

Dr. Michael Spindelegger, Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria

Austria welcomes you to the website of the 5th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations. The Global Forum is the Alliance’s highest-profile event. It brings together decision-makers, experts, and a variety of stakeholders in the field of intercultural and interreligious dialogue from all over the world.

At a time of dizzying change on a global scale, the Vienna Forum will focus on the promotion of Responsible Leadership in Diversity and Dialogue.

Our world today is more interdependent and interlinked than ever. However, this surge in communication and interconnectedness does not automatically generate an equivalent increase in understanding. In a global environment, where power is diffuse and various worldviews stand in direct competition, people around the world often see no other alternatives to either a complete loss of tradition or the frantic attempt to defend one’s own culture and basic values against all external influences.

Cultural diversity and integrity are universal Human Rights and fundamental conditions of human dignity – at the same time, human rights facilitate the respect for and the protection of cultural diversity.

Thus, we cannot leave people and states with these two choices. A new understanding of identity is needed. More than ever, we require new concepts that acknowledge the treasure of diversity, cultivate inclusive societies and thereby spark a new kind of pluralism: one that boosts peace and fosters social progress.

Only jointly can governments, private sector, civil society, religious communities, as well as academia, professional organisations, youth, and the media change obsolete narratives about “the self” and “the other”. “Responsible Leadership in Diversity and Dialogue” appeals to leaders from all sectors acting in accordance with the fundamental principles of human dignity. This in turn will lead to decisions that are based on cooperation and consensus and will provide for a long-term perspective. Responsible leadership means maximising the human profit – not only today, but also in 10 as well as in 50 years.

In our world of today, societies mutually depend on each other.   Decisions taken by national governments or transnational companies influence the lives of people all over the world. The most pressing challenges of today – finding a sustainable balance between economic development and the protection of our eco-system, handling international migration for the good of migrants as well as host countries, conceiving a new religious pluralism and preserving our rich cultural heritage – can only be faced by the cooperation of decision-makers from all over the world.

Thus, by means of involving our greatest minds and the most creative and strongest opinion leaders in changing the perceptions of combating identities, it is imperative to find sustainable solutions for all of those challenges.

We are excited to host this year’s UNAOC Forum in Austria, a country that has a long standing tradition as a hub for international dialogue, thereby contributing to stability and peace worldwide. We look forward to fruitful discussions, enriching encounters and new perspectives for concrete action.

 

Dr. Michael Spindelegger

Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria

 


WELCOME TO THE 5th GLOBAL FORUM!

Jorge Sampaio, High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations

As you have clicked on this webpage, you are embarking on a journey to the 5th Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) – I am thrilled to welcome you on board!

From now onwards you are committed to the success of the Vienna Forum and are part of the global community of participants.

Rather than being single events, the Alliance’s Forums aim to be a unique process of consultation and broad discussion. Thus, while culminating in a gathering to be held in Vienna on 26-28 February, the Forum starts to take shape as of now with your active participation and distinctive contribution.

The pathway to Vienna was devised as an opportunity to build upon the most challenging question of “Responsible leadership in diversity and dialogue”. Indeed this is a multifold topic, but it matters to us all, as citizens in a stakeholder society, whether at local or global levels.

What is responsible leadership? Regardless of the context in which we think of it, the level or any sectoral perspective, “responsible leadership is geared toward the concerns of others and asks for what and to whom leaders are responsible”, as an author puts it. Now of course the key questions are who “the others” are and what responding to their concerns entails.

In placing the issue of “Responsible Leadership in diversity and dialogue” at the core of the Vienna Forum, our take is that this topic matters in the most relevant way to the Alliance of Civilizations’ vision and mission.

As is well-known, the  primary mission of the UNAOC is to forge collective political will and to mobilize concerted action at institutional and civil society levels aimed at improving understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions and, in the process, helping to counter the forces that fuel polarization and extremism. The UNAOC particular focus is on improving relations within and among Western and Muslim societies and on addressing persistent tensions and divides.

Against this backdrop, the journey to the Vienna Forum as I see it will be an opportunity to explore further this topic, to generate informed debates about the various dimensions of this key concept, the challenges and concerns it encompasses, its intrinsic links with diversity as a fact of life and dialogue as a strategic tool that allows responsible leaders become architects of change.

I wish to invite all of you to engage in the preparations of the Vienna Forum, by participating in the various group discussions and in the calls for participation that will be launched in the next months.

Youth, political leaders, lawmakers, but also business people, philanthropies, religious leaders, researchers or simply you, as a citizen, are all invited to contribute with your experience, your particular insight, your mindset, your questions, and your concrete proposals to address this topical and most challenging question.

In Vienna, we want to achieve a deeper, more insightful understanding of what responsible leadership means from the perspective of the Alliance of Civilizations, what it represents in its main fields of action - education, youth, media and migration - , how leadership is about change and transformation and how the principles, values and vision of the Alliance can help shape a leadership focused on caring concern for others or a high level of other-regard. I strongly belief that Vienna can make a difference if you join in!

 

Jorge Sampaio

High Representative, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations