UNESCO House - Joint Conference European Union – League of Arab States on ‘Cultural Dialogue between Europe and the Arab world’ (30/01/2013)

The Delegation of the European Union to the OECD and UNESCO and the Permanent Observer Mission of the League of Arab States, together with the Irish Presidency of the EU and with Morocco as Presidency of the Group of Arab States, have organized the joint conference "Cultural dialogue between Europe and the Arab World" on 30 January 2013 at UNESCO headquarters.

In her opening statement, Ambassador Maria Francesca Spatolisano stressed that the event, intended to foster mutual understanding between the two regions, was a first implementation of the Cairo Declaration of 13 November 2012 . In this declaration, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European Union and of the League of Arab States had underlined the

"necessity of a continued dialogue and understanding between people and of the respect for their religious and cultural diversity [and] of participating effectively in initiatives aiming at reinforcing intercultural and interreligious dialogue, such as UNESCO".

“In a world of diversity, marked by rising intolerance and the risks of misunderstanding, it is essential to talk”, said Ambassador Dr. Nassif Hitti, Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States to UNESCO. "Dialogue is the only way forward", added UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

During the conference well-known researchers, diplomats and journalists from both European and Arab countries debated around two round tables on education and youth as shared values and on the role of media and civil society in intercultural dialogue. The panellists' presentations focused on a variety of issues such as existing misunderstandings between Europe and the Arab world, freedom of press and expression as well as the respect for religion and culture.

A wide audience of around 200 participants from a variety of professional backgrounds, including diplomats, journalists, NGO representatives and university students, subsequently engaged in a lively discussion, clearly revealing the need for and the added value of further dialogue between the two regions.