International Forum On Dialogue Of Cultures In Eurasia Ends

Kyrgyzstan: International Forum On Dialogue Of Cultures In Eurasia Ends
By Antoine Blua

Radio Free Europe, Czech Republic
June 11 2004

A two-day high-level international conference to promote dialogue in
Eurasia ended on 11 June in Kyrgyzstan with the adoption of a draft
document on future European-Asian cultural relations. Participants
underscored the need to accept the diverse cultural values of the
region’s various populations — and to work together to resolve any
security issues that might arise from future culture clashes.

Prague 11 June 2004 (RFE/RL) — A two-day forum on enhancing
international stability and intercultural dialogue concluded today
in the Kyrgyz resort town of Cholpon-Ata.

The forum — titled Eurasia in the 21st Century: Dialogue of Cultures
or Conflict of Civilizations? — was held under the aegis of the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The international gathering ended with the adoption of a draft document
stating that Central Asia has the prerequisites needed to become a
model for the development of dialogue on European and Asian cultures
and civilizations.

The document says that the region is suited to such a role because
it is situated in the heart of Eurasia, has many languages, and is
multiethnic and multireligious.

Participants included the Kyrgyz and Tajik presidents as well as
high-ranking officials and scholars from around Eurasia, including
Russia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Iran,
Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Pakistan.

At the opening ceremony, UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura
noted that globalization — and the sometimes aggressive reaction to
it — is the reality of the world today. But Matsuura said he remains
optimistic.”My conclusion from the lessons of history is that people
learn little from it.” — Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov

“Conflict between civilizations is not our collective destiny,”
Matsuura said. “After all, we live in an era of globalization,
integration and mutual exchange. Also, there is new ignorance
being generated by increased globalization. [But] we are capable of
addressing that.”

Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, who initiated the gathering, also denied
the threat of a “clash of civilizations,” and expressed hope the
forum would pave the way for improved dialogue and practical action.

“It is very important under present conditions to preserve
the diversity of cultures and encourage the harmonious
multi-civilizationism [coexistence of civilizations] as an essential
condition for stability in the world,” Akaev said.

Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov noted that globalization may be
having a negative effect on Eurasia’s national cultures. He warned
that only dialogue based on the principle of equality between European
and Asian countries can prevent this.

At the same time, Rakhmonov urged the countries of Central Asia to
pursue greater ties between themselves in order to prevent conflicts.

“My conclusion from the lessons of history is that people learn little
from [it],” Rakhmonov said. “This is one of the reasons why sad events
sometimes repeat.”

Azerbaijan’s Deputy Prime Minister Elchin Efendiev, referring to the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has led to the occupation of Azeri
territory by Armenian troops, described what he called the “tragic”
consequences of military occupation on a native culture.

“The occupation of a territory has, among other things, humanitarian
consequences that are tragic for the preservation of the cultural
heritage and the development of culture,” Efendiev said.

Not all examples were so bleak. Seyyed Makhdoom Raheen, Afghanistan’s
minister of culture and information, said his country’s reconstruction
process is a good example of cooperation between cultures.

“Afghanistan has suffered for several years under the shadow of
terrorism and the Taliban rule, which resembled a nightmare in our
national life,” Raheen said. “Now the country, with the thoughts of its
people and the assistance of the international community, is moving
ahead towards its moral and material reconstruction. According to
President [Hamid] Karzai, Afghanistan is a good example for cooperation
of civilizations.”

Violence in Afghanistan and Iraq was a strong theme throughout the
gathering. Iranian Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
Mohammad Ali Abtahi criticized the use of Islam by terrorists as a
justification for their actions. He, too, pressed for better dialogue
as the first step toward resolving international conflicts, but with
a condition.

“No doubt a real dialogue is possible only when we see that the other
part is also seeking the truth and the ideal and their words are part
of this truth and this ideal,” Abtahi said.

Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Eleonora Mitrofanova stated that
attempts to bring in Western models of civilization have failed in
Iraq. She said she believes it is impossible to use force to propagate
Western-style democracy in a non-Western civilization.