Spanish and Turkish “Alliance of Civilization” Initiative Seeking Civil Society Support - October 2006

Ambassador Palacio (left) earned his law degree from the University of Madrid, and is a graduate of the Madrid School of Diplomacy. He started his diplomatic career in 1983 and has served in Bolivia, Morocco, Brazil, Geneva and in 2004 was appointed Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. The Ambassador was very involved with Rotary and attended many meetings while serving in Brazil. As such, he commends Rotary as a great humanitarian organization working to improve the world.He met with the International Service Divsion at our Monthly Breakfast meeting.

Events of recent years have exacerbated mutual suspicion, fear and misunderstanding between Islamic and Western societies, and this environment has been exploited by extremists throughout the world. With this in mind, when the prime minister of Spain José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was first elected in 2005, he introduced the “Alliance of Civilization” initiative to bridge the divide between the Western and Islamic societies. Spain also invited a very special ally, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to join in the initiative, because it is a nation at the crossroads of two different worlds and the dividing line between the Eastern and Western worlds.

The Alliance seeks to counter deterioration of relations between societies and nations, which could threaten international stability, and to promote a paradigm of mutual respect between civilizations and cultures.

Ambassador Palacio pointed out that the initiative needed to receive global legitimacy which is only attainable at the United Nations. Therefore, the Initiative had been presented at the 59th General Assembly and many members-states are in support. At the same time, this is a plan for tangible actions and the plan asks for support from civil society , foundations, and all organizations that are currently working in these fields to reach out to the areas of conflict and disaffection.

There are four areas that are crucial to the success of initiative:

Education - one example is misrepresentation in school text books
Youth - They are the future. It needs to be ascertained that misrepresentation is minimized and discrimination is reduced.
Migration -Spain being on the frontier of the EU is especially aware of how migratory movements can create tension. It is essential to learn how to effectively integrate new immigrants into new cultures.
Media - It should be determined what messages or images newspapers, films, television, video games, etc. are presenting of the other societies or their own society.

Editors Note:

Rotarians have been promoting cross-cultural exchanges through the Ambassadorial Scholars, High School Student Exchange , Group Study Exchange, and many other programs. Rotary is a perfect and experienced partner in assisting the “Alliance of Civilizations.”