Celebrating intercultural dialogue with Elaph in the Palais des Nations in Geneva
On Tuesday 21 June 2016, the UNESCO Geneva Liaison Office hosted a reception at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, which is the headquarters of the United Nations in Europe.
Held within the framework of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022), this event also served as an excellent occasion to celebrate the fifteen anniversary of Elaph Newspaper. The event was attended by Permanent Missions, International Organizations, UN Funds and Programmes, civil society organizations and academic institutions.
The “rapprochement of cultures” implies that international security and social inclusion cannot be attained sustainably without a commitment to such principles as human dignity, conviviality and solidarity which are the corner stones of human coexistence, in all faiths and secular ideologies.
The Action Plan of the Decade focuses on four major themes inspired by the mobilizing framework of the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures, including the following: (i) Promoting mutual understanding and reciprocal knowledge of cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity; (ii) Building a pluralist framework for commonly shared values; (iii) Disseminating the principles and tools of intercultural dialogue through quality education and the media; and (iv) Fostering dialogue for sustainable development and its ethical, social and cultural dimensions.
Since the media play an increasingly important role in the daily lives of people across the globe, namely among young people, it is crucial to harness their potential for promoting the rapprochement of cultures. The traditional mass-media such as the press, television and the radio remain essential vectors to inform people on other cultures and religions. Their capacity to change the perception of different cultures and religions is possible if journalists and media actors are well trained and sensitized to the need to respect and positively promote human rights and cultural diversity as well as non-violence-infused programmes.
While digital tools have the potential to bridge the different cultures and religions of the world, they can nevertheless also be misused and widen the divide between and among cultures. The Internet and social media, remain a largely uncharted territory which can offer open platforms for dialogue as well as an echo chamber for intolerance, extremism and division. In that context, media and information literacy and intercultural competences programmes must become essential references if the exercise of freedom of the press and freedom of information and communication is to foster mutual understanding, tolerance and cooperation among peoples.
Elaph, which in Arabic means "Coming together", could be an important actor in the implementation of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures, and in particular its Action Plan, by being the first daily Arab independent online newspaper, which is not associated with any established print or broadcast medium. In addition, this newspaper was launched in 2001 in London, a city that offers liberal viewpoints and promotes intercultural dialogue.