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Dialogue Among Civilizations

Special Messages

Events of 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington

Aterrorist attack of unprecedented scale and cruelty has shaken the world. In the immediate aftermath of the assaults on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, the image of an unavoidable "Clash of Civilizations" has been invoked by some. Incidents have been reported where members of particular ethnic or religious groups going about their daily lives - shop owners, passers-by - were randomly accused of being responsible for the devastation in New York and Washington, sometimes threatened with violence, simply because of their race or religion.

The world stands united in its demand that those responsible for the atrocious acts committed on 11 September 2001 have to be found and brought to justice as quickly as possible. However, for the sake of our own future, we may not allow ourselves to be carried away by our shock, grief and rage in view of the recent terrorist action and declare all who believe in a particular religion our common enemy. Just as there co-exist many ways of thinking and many different value systems within what some call the "Western World", the same is true for those who believe in Islam, in any other religion, or in none at all.

We have to realize that the world will fall into a permanent state of suspicion, fear, perhaps even war, should we not succeed in making a distinction between fanatics with a total disregard for life who pose a threat to all of humankind - irrespective of religion, culture or ethnicity - and those who simply have different ways of organizing their lives, or different cultural preferences, but share the basic goals and aspirations of all mankind: to live a life in peace, love and joy.

The need for a Dialogue among Civilizations is now greater than ever. Those who have dared to look beyond what seems different in members of other ethnic, religious, cultural or social groups and have discovered that there is so much that we all have in common will no longer easily pass sentence on a person simply because that person looks, talks, prays differently. This is what the Dialogue among Civilizations is about. It will take time and effort, and certainly will not in the short term be able to prevent atrocious acts as the ones just witnessed. In the long run, however, dialogue might do just that: by uniting those who strive for a common future, and thereby effectively isolating those who want to generate irreconcilable rifts between the peoples of the world.

14 September 2001
Hans VAN GINKEL, Rector of United Nations University
Birgit PONIATOWSKI, Coordinator of the UNU Project on the Dialogue of Civilizations

The Challenge to Global Leadership in Light of the Events of 11th September 2001

The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 against innocent people in the United States of America have profoundly shocked the world. Moved by these tragic events, we, the participants of the United Nations University course on "Leadership for Human Security," wish to address our fellow global citizens. We sympathise with the people of the United States of America and all other nations affected by this tragedy for their catastrophic loss of life and property. We support their wish to see the perpetrators of this heinous act brought to justice. However, we would also like to appeal to world leaders to be guided by wisdom in the search for a solution that will not further endanger innocent lives.

We recognise that there are major challenges for global leadership in contemporary times. These include managing the process of globalisation and rapid technological change, promoting intercultural dialogue, understanding and co-operation and addressing issues of global inequality and injustice. We are gravely concerned that progress towards addressing these challenges may be jeopardised in the aftermath of these attacks.

We support the ongoing efforts to construct bridges of understanding amongst civilisations. It is our considered view that this crisis should strengthen and not weaken the resolve towards a dialogue amongst the peoples of the world. The fact that this act has attracted condemnation across the world is confirmation of humanity's shared desire to live together in peace, security and harmony. We should not allow global progress towards a more secure future for all humanity to be reversed.

We appeal to global leadership at all levels to address the concerns facing us today, with renewed dynamism, creativity and wisdom. In addition to taking appropriate measures to confront terrorism, we urge the continuation of humanity's march towards the goals of global citizenship, a healthy global environment, sustainable human development, and the elimination of racial, gender and religious discrimination of all kinds. In this way, we firmly believe that the needs and aspirations of the citizens of the World will be realised.

UN University Leadership Academy Course Participants
September 2001

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