Dialogues among cilivizations
Conflicts and dialogue have characterized the relations between civilizations, cultures and religions for centuries. The need to revive and strengthen the dialogues has increased over the past years.
Religious and cultural motives have often been used in conflicts to cover and strengthen economic and political reasons with a view to justifying undemocratic and violent action. The need to revive and promote dialogue has increased because, in the relations between civilizations in recent years, tension has replaced interaction and harmony. Dialogues to present new perspectives would be necessary especially in the crisis areas in the Middle East and in southern Asia, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Governments, organizations and other actors have shown initiative and launched dialogues. Questions related to dialogues are nowadays often on the agendas of international conferences and diplomatic meetings.
Dialogues have also been integrated into the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Separate units to follow and prepare dialogues serving the needs of national governments and the CFSP have been established in the foreign ministries of many countries, including in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.
The UN and especially its General Assembly have traditionally been the forums where dialogues are initiated and conducted. The most important dialogue project at present in the UN is the Alliance of Civilization (AoC) together with its declarations and action plans. Finland is a member of the large Group of Friends of the Alliance. (For further information, see http://www.unaoc.org).
The Council of Europe is a key forum of dialogue in Europe. Its White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue of 2008 gives guidance and recommendations to its member states on matters of interest in the area, such as education, media and youth policy. (For further information, see http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/intercultural/)
The role of the Foreign Service
Dialogues among civilizations have become a significant sector also in Finland’s external relations and in both bilateral and multilateral diplomacy.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and its missions abroad follow issues and events in the area globally and report on them to serve also the needs of other public authorities.
The Ministry assembles substance related to the dialogue and prepares Finland’s positions to serve the needs of international cooperation. Themes that are dealt with, in particular, include education, media and youth.
Representatives of the Foreign Service take part in cooperation and interaction with representatives of other religions and cultures in Finland and abroad.
The Unit for Dialogues among Civilizations follows international dialogues and participates in their development.
Key tasks of the unit are:
- to generate substance for Finland´s dialogue dossier and to formulate Finnish policy line in these affairs
- to acquire information about inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogues and extremism and to report on them for needs of the Foreign Affairs and other relevant Administration
- to co-ordinate Finland’s policy positions and operative activities in the dialogue domains for needs of cooperation with the EU, the UN and other actors
- to cooperate in dialogue affairs in Finland with other public authorities, organizations and the research community as a representative of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs
- to work on dialogue issues for high level meetings and visits by the President of the Republic, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs.