Year of
the Dialogue between Civilizations


    We perceive that a civilisation is as fragile as a life

    Paul Valéry


    On 4 November 1998, United Nations General Assembly declared 2001 the "United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations" (resolution A/RES/53/22 of 16 November 1998, 53rd session, agenda item 168).

    The General Assembly, reaffirming the purposes and principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, recognised in mankind's diverse cultural realisations the crystallisation of cultural pluralism and creative human destiny. Expressing its awareness that positive and mutually beneficial interaction among civilizations had continued throughout human history despite impediments arising from intolerance, disputes and wars, it emphasised the importance of tolerance in international relations and the significant role of dialogue as a means to reach understanding. It reaffirmed that civilisational achievements constitute the collective heritage of mankind, providing a source of inspiration and progress for humanity at large.

    Accordingly, it invited Governments, the United Nations system, including UNESCO, and other relevant international and non-governmental organizations to plan and implement appropriate cultural, educational and social programmes to promote the concept of dialogue among civilizations.

    On 12 November 1999, the Secretary-General submitted to the General Assembly his Personal Representative’s provisional report. It will be recalled that it was at the request of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who delivered a major statement on the subject of dialogue among civilizations to the General Assembly at its 53rd session, that the question had been placed on the agenda.

    On 7 February 2000, the General Assembly took note with interest of the report of the Secretary-General and invited Governments and the United Nations system to promote the concept of dialogue among civilizations.

    It is in that spirit that the United Nations Office at Geneva decided to take measures to promote that dialogue. The Director-General established an organizing committee, which the President of the Diplomatic Club kindly agreed to head. The committee has drawn up the following five-part project:

  1. Art exhibitions demonstrating Member States' cultural vitality. There will be three types of exhibition, chosen for their quality in the following respects: first, exhibitions sponsored by Member States that express a spirit of tolerance and a desire for dialogue and clear understanding among peoples; second, exhibitions in museums and galleries in Geneva that are exemplars of cultural diversity and artistic originality; third, a multicultural exhibition of genuinely original or historic artworks loaned by Permanent Missions here in Geneva. This joint exhibition is intended as the keystone of the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations.

  2. Concerts demonstrating multicultural variety, i.e. concerts of multi-ethnic classical, folk or jazz music or events in which several orchestras combine to interpret the same work -- or, to put it another way, musical dialogue as a dialogue of cultures.

  3. Talks highlighting not stances or political interpretations of the modern world with its stubborn conflicts, but thinking about dialogue among civilizations that will promote tolerance, cultural diversity and, in addition to a culture of peace, ways of bringing humanity to a better understanding and respect for the fundamental rights of men, women and children. Contributions illustrating this theme, expanding on it and making it truly universal will come from writers, philosophers, scientists, artists and thinkers in general.

  4. Cinema films showing the reality of a sometimes painful world and revealing, whether through fiction or a documentary approach, the essence of a society. The 20th century was unquestionably the century of the cinema and the image. Will the 21st century be a century of multiform cultural expression in which cinema plays a crucial role? Geneva is fortunate in being the venue for such outstanding events as the North-South Media Festival or the Black Movie Festival and the United Nations will be associated with them. The themes of North-South dialogue (the North-South festival) and women's issues (the Black Movie Festival) are by their very nature conducive to closer dialogue among civilizations.

  5. A novel theatrical project will be implemented in cooperation with Geneva's Théâtre Saint-Gervais, Fondation pour les arts de la scène et de l’image: texts by writers such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Hans Magnus Euzensberger will overlap around the "Bibliothèque censurée" (The Censored Library), a work written and directed by Thierry Bedard in tribute to the International Parliament of Writers.

    The United Nations Office at Geneva gives below the provisional programme of events it has planned for the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. The programme is open to change. It is a sketch to which everyone is invited to add their touch of colour.


    Exhibitions   |    Music   |    Talks   |    Films   |    Theatre

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