Statement by H.E. Ambassador Baki İlkin, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN, at the Informal Thematic Debate of the General Assembly Entitled "Civilizations and the Challenge for Peace: Obstacles and Opportunities" Panel 1 - Respect for Cultural Diversity is a prerequisite for Dialogue

Baki İlkin 10.05.2007

Madame Moderator,

Distinguished Panelists,

Esteemed Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the President of the General Assembly for organizing this important and very timely meeting. The issue has long been on our agenda and it was indeed the time to have such a multi-faceted and open debate.

Though I do not have a question poised to the distinguished panelists, I do want to take the liberty of making a few brief remarks.

Coming from a country whereby tens of ethnic groups are living in peace with each other and where cultural and religious diversity is a fact of life for more then two millennium, the issue is of particular importance to us. Indeed, Turkey today, as in the past, represents a living example of "unity in diversity".

In that respect, we believe that our cultural diversity is not a source of weakness, but on the contrary, it is a unique asset that further bonds us in today's multicultural currents. Thus, the diversity poises us to play a special role in promoting cross-cultural dialogue and understanding. And we are committed to play this role as best as we can.

This is precisely why we took the lead in a number of initiatives towards this direction. And of course, the most relevant and result-oriented endeavor is the Alliance of Civilizations initiative of the United Nations, which we have the honor to co-sponsor with Spain.

As the recently appointed High Representative of the AoC, H.E. Mr. Jorge Sampaio will address us tomorrow, I would not take much of your time with a detailed presentation, but allow me very briefly to comment on how we see this project and the potential it holds.

The Alliance of Civilizations aims to build bridges among diverse cultures and facilitate understanding and cooperation across world communities and religions. The initiative is indeed a comprehensive global response to address the deepening divide in today's world. Toward this end, the Alliance of Civilizations, through its implementation plan, will commence cross-cultural projects to further the notions of dialogue, understanding, tolerance, mutual respect, moderation and collaboration among societies.

In order to ensure the success of the initiative, an expansive network of partners is being cultivated. Member States, international and regional organizations, civil-society, religious leaders, the corporate sector, media and the donor community are deemed not only as partners, but also as stakeholders in this significant undertaking. The expanding Group of Friends of the Alliance, based in New York, represents the first tier of partners who would play a vital role in the implementation phase of the initiative. In this framework, we look forward to establishing cooperative relations with the international community at large.

Finally, I would be remiss if I were not to express Turkey's sincere appreciation to H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the UN, for his wise guidance, strong encouragement and continued support for the successful implementation of our initiative, the Alliance of Civilizations.

Thank you.