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European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
Universal Human Rights at the heart of common cultural heritage
New York, 24 September 2010
Mr. High Representative Sampaio, distinguished Ministers, Excellencies,
The Alliance of Civilization came to life out of a very simple, yet powerful consideration, that is: only through dialogue and interaction we can address the global challenges of today's world.
It was the response to a number of crises that had given way to misunderstandings and misperceptions that risked tearing apart the very fabric of the international cultural dialogue.
On behalf of the European Union, I reiterate our commitment to the central aim of the Alliance of promoting genuine dialogue to reach out to others and the search for the common values that unites us. I thank once again the government of Spain and Turkey for their vision and leadership in launching this initiative. We also want to thank the High Representative Sampaio for his tireless efforts at the head of the Alliance.
As European Union Commissioner for International cooperation and humanitarian assistance, I travel to countries that are suffering because of natural or man made disasters, from Haiti to Pakistan, from Sudan to the Sahel and many other places.
In these moments of human hardship, it is not just relief staff and money that come to rescue lives. It is above all the common and universal values of our shared humanity which bring us together to express our solidarity with our fellow men and women, across borders, across oceans, across cultures, across religions. This is this very common cultural heritage, which we need to value and promote through the Alliance.
The promotion of universal human rights lies at the heart of that common cultural heritage. This very building still resonates of the discussion that took place among Heads of States just a few days ago on the right of the mothers to health, as well as the right of children to education. We need to realize these rights, as we need to open societies to allow all opinions to be expressed, all faiths and beliefs to be freely followed and intolerance banished; this will allow our countries to grow stronger politically and economically and to be open to the views of others to build genuine intercultural understanding.
The European Union is a strong supporter of the Alliance of Civilizations. All the 27 EU Members States as well as the European Commission are members of the Group of Friends.
We celebrated two years ago the European Year of Cultural Diversity with several activities which were supporting the very aims of the Alliance of Civilization. In addition, The EU has an Action Plan with the Alliance covering several areas. Our most successful joint project to date is the Rapid Response Media Mechanism, which was developed in cooperation with the Anna Lindh Foundation. It is an operational network which gives journalists and media professional from all over the world fast, free and direct access to some of the word leading commentators and analysts.
Now the question is where to go. The EU will soon discuss with the Alliance the follow up to the current Action Plan for the years 2011-2013. The EU wants to concentrate on areas where the Alliance of Civilizations and its members can jointly deliver real added value through projects. This is the only way to root firmly our shared ambition into concrete action. We look forward to discuss this with the team of High Representative Sampaio in the future.
Distinguished Ministers, Excellencies, I thank you for your attention.