Olaf Gerlach Hansens speech in Rabat (Morocco)
June 13, 2005


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Fostering Dialogue among Cultures and Civilizations through Concrete and Sustained Initiatives

Honourable Excellencies, Dear Partner Organisations, Ladies and Gentlemen,

  Olaf Gerlach Hansen - Dansk Center for Kultur og Udvikling
Olaf Gerlach Hansen - DCCD
Danish Center for Culture and Development

First of all, I want to express my gratitude to the kingdom of Morocco and to all our partner organisations for the wonderful work you have done to make this conference possible. We are indeed very grateful to you.

The Danish Center for Culture and Development is co-sponsoring this conference, because we feel a strong sense of urgency.

For a long time many have been speaking of the dangers related to the prophesy of a “Clash between civilizations”. We can no longer talk. It is now an urgent matter to take the dialogue between cultures and civilizations from the philosophical level, to the level of concrete and sustained ACTION. This is indeed the aim of this conference. We agree on this. This is why we are supporting this conference.

What are concrete actions?

We are interested in new actions in the MEDIA, in CULTURE and in EDUCATION. These initiatives must, in short:

- Address ignorance, stereotypes and prejudices
- Create dialogue between cultures, in areas where common people fear a “clash of cultures”.
- Have a positive starting point: the rich cultural diversity of humankind. The common universal values, such as e.g. defined by the World Commission for Culture and Development when it formulated a global ethics and subsequent declarations by UNESCO.

The following are examples - in part drawn from the background paper - of concrete initiatives we are interested in, and which we hope will be discussed the following days.

* MEDIA
- Concrete initiatives to develop “cultural journalism” in the daily practise of the media. I.e. changing the tradition of traditional “news-journalism” to give a higher priority to cultural and social portrays of the daily life, values and concerns of common persons, the human story, which can create identification, fascination and – intercultural understanding.

- Concrete initiatives on the use of “Images” in the media and public spaces, which challenge the stereotypical “images” we all carry, about people from other cultures. This will require new experiments of using photography, film, scenography in the media and advertising.
- Concrete initiatives to develop “intercultural competencies” in the training of new generations of journalists in schools of journalism, in-service training etc.

- Concrete initiatives for links and exchanges between journalists, editors, media-institutions, which encourage intercultural co-operation, collaboration etc

* CULTURE and ART
- Concrete initiatives on new models for using cultural festivals and events to nurture dialogue. All too often major events such as the Olympic games, Cultural Capitals etc do not use their potential for creating dialogue. DCCD has developed one model, the IMAGES festival, next year “Images of the Middle East”, which I will say some more about below.

- Concrete initiatives, which focus on the problems of understanding, which arises when art and cultural expressions from one culture is transferred to another culture. How to counteract this through workshops, meetings, education, the media etc. This is also called “contextualisation” of art and culture. A concrete initiative could e.g. be an art laboratory, where artists, educators and media-workers themselves address the problems related to their own works in a setting, where their work is taken to another culture.

- Concrete initiatives to strengthen management of arts and cultural production to foster genuine dialogue and understanding. Without strong “cultural management and administration” there will be few sustainable activities, where art and culture is used as a tool for dialogue. This goes in general, but not least for important new work done by artists with very few. It is also an important point for minority cultures, indigenous peoples, marginalized groups etc.

* EDUCATION
- Concrete initiatives to integrate citizenship education and multicultural education in school curricula. Working with educational planers, teacher training etc, at central and regional levels.
- Concrete initiatives for curriculum development through new educational materials and revision of existing textbooks. There is a lack in both North and South of updated materials that is relevant in the context of contemporary life, culture and society, not least the urban life of young people, in the Middle East.
- Concrete initiatives on developing School links and exchanges as a method for advancing intercultural learning and global ethics content in schools. School links and exchanges also require the active involvement of the local community around the school, e.g. through volunteer host families, twinning arrangements etc. This requires new initiatives for partnerships between NGOs, local and central authorities in education.

How do we make the concrete initiatives turn into realities?

We think it’s important:
- To identify whom are the core agents implementing the new initiatives in education, communication and culture? It would be wonderful if we after this conference can increase the number of organisations and experts, who are the ones who will carry the new initiatives forward after the conference. One of our major criteria for success is the increased involvement of civil society actors in addition to governmental and private actors.

- to indicate what will each of the partner organisations (with that I mean UNESCO, ISESCO, ALECSO, Anna Lindh Foundation, DCCD) do to help the core agents, i.e. those who will do the “real work”. UNESCO has a special role and we hope that UNESCO and its regional offices will be able to prioritise means to concrete follow up. I will say more on what DCCD can do below.

- To use our co-operation to create an international enabling environment. We there need to identify what should be done, which is beyond what each of us. This could e.g. include a) Joint point of references/secretariat which can help initiatives avoid overlap and instead strengthen synergies. b) Financial incentives/pool of financial means in focal areas c) Follow up meetings and conferences.

After the conference we would like that:
- The experts at this conference act as facilitators for getting concrete initiatives of the ground
- The partners after the conference seek to implement the final document, and meet no later than e.g. in September 05 to agree on a plan of supporting appropriate follow-up
- After the first year a focused conference is organised which take stock of how the implementation proceeds. We would be happy to co-host this conference to take place at the occasion of the Images of the Middle East cultural festival in Denmark in August-September 2006.

Now, what will DCCD contribute with?

a) A long-term commitment to follow up
We have a long-term commitment to working with the content of the conference. We are right now seeking to establish the following initiatives:
- Media: partnership with the international NGO “International Media Support” on the challenges in media with a very broad range of media institutions in the Arab world, internationally and in our country.
- Culture: partnership on an International Danish-Arab Culture Network focusing on the challenges for contemporary production of art and culture.
- Education: collaboration with organisations addressing this.
- Creating an enabling environment: The Rabat initiative, working with UNESCO, ISESCO, ALECSO, Anna Lindh Foundation. We thank the partners for a very constructive co-operation, which give good prospects for the future.

b) A major international cultural festival “Images of the Middle East” next year, which can be used to test new initiatives for dialogue
Next year in Denmark we organise ”Images of the Middle East” - a major international cultural festival, with HRH Prince Joachim as the patron. It will be the largest of its kind in the world with a focus on the Middle East. It will:
- Include music, theatre, dance, film, literature, visual art, photography, design, architecture, publications as well as a major program in schools/education and a program with the media, both TV, radio and interactive media. More than 400 artists, journalists and educators from the Middle East will take part.
- Take place in all the major cities in Denmark, and
- Coincide with a major focus of the National Broadcasting TV, Radio and interactive media on the Middle East during these two months.
- Co-organised by DCCDE with hundreds of cultural institutions, NGOs, local and national authorities in Denmark/Europe, in co-operation with partners throughout the Middle East region at all levels and genres.
- Based on previous experiences, we expect a major international media-interest

The overall aim of the festival is dialogue. The focus is contemporary culture and identity. It is the intention to present the rich cultures of the entire region from Mahgreb, the Middle East proper, and the Golf/Iran.

DCCD sees a very close link between the “Images of the Middle East” (IoME) festival and the RABAT conference. IoME will be used as a platform to test out NEW CONCRETE INITIATIVES discussed in Rabat, such as in:
- Media (twinnings, co-productions etc)
- Education (school links and exchanges, new educational materials)
- Art (laboratory for artists)
- Experimental projects, such as:
* Photography/images in the public space to raise questions and open dialogue
* Theatre for intercultural dialogue
* Popular music and cultural events as instrument for creating new dialogue

All this will be a very concrete ACTION, which within only one year, could be a wonderful symbol of concrete action. It can also provide a space for discussing the lessons learned with developing new initiatives, both the failures and the successes.

We therefore hope that “Images of the Middle East” can be used as first milestone in the follow up of the Rabat Conference.

Conclusion

As I said in the introduction, for a long time many have been speaking of the dangers related to the prophesy of a “Clash between civilisations”.

Taking the Dialogue between Cultures and Civilisations from the philosophical level, to the level of concrete and sustained ACTION, is not only an exercise in creating intercultural understanding.

It is also a serious attempt to create solutions based on DIALOGUE, instead of VIOLENCE and CONFLICT. This is actually an alternative security policy. To do this we need a long term enabling environment, which requires broad based international co-operation between many institutions.

We are taking an important step in this direction at this conference.

Dansk oversættelse:

Balder Blog 24 maj 2006 - Olaf Gerlach Hansens tale i Rabat, 13. Juni 2005

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