Building peace in the minds of men and women

Dialogue among civilizations

In several regions of the world, peace remains fragile and tenuous. Poverty and conflict put human security at risk and endanger human dignity and social justice. Helping to preserve peace in all its dimensions is an abiding challenge for the international community, especially in conditions of globalization. The community of nations must strive for better and more equitable ways of addressing these multiple challenges.This quest must be based on universally shared values, while safeguarding the diversity of individuals and cultures, and it must be targeted at the urgent needs of the disadvantaged and excluded groups or geographical regions.

Solidly anchored in democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, dialogue is the key to this quest, because dialogue alone can lead to long-term understanding, reconciliation and peace.

The year 2001 was proclaimed United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. UNESCO and other relevant organizations were invited by the UN to promote inter-civilizational and intercultural dialogue through conferences and seminars and by disseminating information and relevant scholarly material.

For its part, UNESCO has organized global as well as regional and sub-regional conferences. These meetings have sometimes been at the level of Heads of State, sometimes they have brought Ministers together and sometimes eminent thinkers; occasionally, a mixed group of participants has been convened in order to explore ways to develop intercultural exchange and dialogue.

This special issue of the new UNESCO Courier, devoted to Dialogue among Civilizations, presents a selection of excerpts from the presentations made at these fora, as well a range of articles showing how the Organization works, and has always worked, to promote dialogue through all of its other activities, whether it be in the field of culture, education, communication or science.

The task is an ongoing one. Dialogue, as French sociologist Edgar Morin reminds us in the opening pages of this edition, requires much more than different parties gathering around a table. But we are convinced that the challenge must be met. Only through a whole-hearted and committed practice of dialogue can conflicts be resolved, disagreements overcome and discord healed. And only in this way can we embark upon our major task of ‘humanizing globalization’ and making it more inclusive and equitable.

This issue of the Courier is dedicated to the memory of Michel Barton, the Director of UNESCO’s Bureau of Public Information and Chief Editor of the new UNESCO Courier until his untimely death last November. His energy, enthusiasm and camaraderie – as well as his own capacity for dialogue – will be sorely missed by all those who had the good fortune to work closely with him.

Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of the UNESCO

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January 2004

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