Rhodes Declaration 2008

We, the participants of the 6th Rhodes Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” from Oct.9 to 13, 2008:

Bearing in mind the deliberations and results of the five previous Rhodes Forums as well as of several regional conferences under the auspices of the World Public Forum – Dialogue of Civilizations that contributed to a permanent process of a vibrant dialogue among the representatives of civil society from different countries;

Bearing in mind the role of the public initiatives and efforts to find appropriate solutions for the resolution global challenges;

Stressing that the dialogue between civilizations is the dialogue between individuals and public organizations;

Recognizing the role of the Kronstadt Initiative of 2002 in creating and supporting “the regular holding of the World Public Forum which could become a deliberative and consultative body uniting various social organizations to represent the public interests of their respective countries in this social process";

Reaffirming the intentions of the co-founders of the World Public Forum – Dialogue of Civilizations, Vladimir Yakunin, Jagdish Kapur and Nicolas Papanicolaou and the members of the WPF society to support the United Nations activities in the area of dialogue among civilizations worldwide thru initiatives of civil society.

Hereby declare

1. Establishing control over the present situation: new peaceful initiatives

1.1. The situation in international relations is deteriorating steadily and, in its impacts, dramatically. Confrontational debates are held instead of dialogue in the spirit of mutual respect.

1.2. Civil society and its organizations have to contribute to confidence building among nations, religions and civilizations by promoting and supporting peaceful solutions of international conflicts and emphasizing the desire of the people for peace, stability and security. Civil Society should play a major role in these circumstances.

1.3. We appeal to the leaders of the world to refrain from cold war rhetoric and to return to a climate of constructive dialogue which brings together all available forces to face the global challenges and to find common solutions for the greatest threats to mankind.

1.4. States and International Organizations should therefore further develop legal principles and rules and their effective implementation for the resolution of conflicts on the basis of respect of civilizational (human) dignity.

1.5. Leaders and nations should voice resentment of the use of military force, except in cases stipulated by the UN resolutions, and reaffirm the complete ban on the use of weapons of mass destruction. States and International Organizations should commit themselves to support peace operations, including peace support and enforcement operations conducted in support of diplomatic efforts to establish and maintain peace.

1.6. The international community must find ways to find common responses to global and regional challenges respecting the equality of nations as well as the right of each civilization to self-determination.

1.7. Fruitful dialogue should lead to partnership of all nations in order to jointly fight terrorism, to take all possible measures against climate change, to bridge the poverty gap and to overcome dangerous imbalances.

2. Economic partnership to overcome the financial crisis

2.1. The present condition of the global economy confirms the need to discard the principle of unipolarity, not only in politics but also in the international economy, bearing in mind that 2|3 of the world population lives in poverty and hunger.

2.2. We consider regional economic cooperation important and necessary, to avoid a situation where one economy is the dominating one and problems of this economy can hurt the whole world.

2.3. New communication technologies, including audio, video, printed press, multimedia and the Internet provide new economic opportunities as well as the opportunity of closer cooperation between civilizations, which serve as the basis for the intercultural and interreligious dialogue.

2.4. We underline the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Private Partnerships in a new World Economic Order, since the ultimate target of all economic activities should be the well being of human beings and not the agglomeration of capital.

2.5. Constantly rejecting the predatory aggressiveness of consumerism, our societies should overcome this prevailing trend after the obvious failure of the ideologies of communism and capitalism. The permanent desire for more consumption would lead to a global system of beneficiaries of consumption and the victims who would have to satisfy this desire.

2.6. We firmly believe in the responsibility of the richer countries to bridge the poverty gap. Poverty of whole nations is endangering regional and global stability. We consider the use of the Kyoto agreements for commercial trade-offs amoral, when developing countries are deprived of development perspectives. The conclusions of the 6th session indicate the inevitability of the a world economic order, based on the multipolarity in this era of globalization.

2.7. We firmly express our appreciation for new forms of financial business such as social business, ethical funds, environmental funds and all types of ethical banking, in particular Islamic banking.

2.8. We encourage “historical and cultural” tourism one the one hand as a mean to foster economic development and on the other hand as a means of learning more about other civilizations and cultures. This means also that tourism has to respect traditions and customs of the host country.

3. Education – the key to dialogue and mutual understanding

3.1. The World Public Forum – Dialogue of Civilizations is therefore an active partner of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. We support the global dissemination and sharing of information and knowledge –helping all civilizations to build their human and institutional capacities for the sake of a better and peaceful future.

3.2. We work for a sustainable world with just societies that value knowledge, promote a culture of peace, celebrate diversity and defend human rights, achieved by providing education for all. As underlined by World Public Forum’s conference at Carleton University Ottawa, Canada, education serves as a “Dialogue Model of Social Development”.

3.3. But today there is not only a big gap in the world economy, but following the same dividing line there is also a huge gap in education which leads to a vicious circle – no economic resources, no education, no education – no economic development. We therefore want to support the UN millennium goal that, by 2015, all children complete a full course of primary education.

3.4. We stand for the establishment of schools for the dialogue of civilizations, which would promote social skills, cultural and religious tolerance, the study of other cultures, respect of the right of the “alien” (if it does not contradict the norms of the local civilization).

3.5. We emphasize the importance of adult learning and education in a very fast developing world. If the gaps in economy and development should be narrowed it will be necessary to give everybody the chance to keep his or her knowledge and skills up to date.

4. Believers of different religions united for peace

4.1. The world religions constitute a unique pool of wisdom and desire for a better co-existence of mankind in friendship and peace. But no one possesses the “ultimate truth”. Dialogue and cooperation between the world religions, their believers as well as their leaders, is therefore essential to achieve their common goals, which are better relations among people and enhanced respect for the divine creation.

4.2. To achieve greater unity among mankind, dialogue, cooperation and common actions of the world religions should be promoted at all levels, not only among leaders, but also among believers, in particular where they share the same neighbourhood.

4.3. A prerequisite for mutual respect is knowledge about each other. We therefore suggest that the world religions work together for the elaboration of a common curriculum for teaching about the other religions. This will ensure respectful information on the one hand and avoid misunderstandings, while wrongful stereotyping and hatred will be avoided.

5. A legal basis for a just world order
5.1. In an increasingly interconnected world progress in the areas of development and security must go hand in hand. There will be no development without security and no security without development. Both development and security depend on respect for the rule of law.

5.2. The foundation of the United Nations Organisation back in 1945 was in important step towards justice and legally based international cooperation after the catastrophe of World War II and as a response to the barbarism that initiated this tragic experience.

5.3. Interstate relations should therefore be the supreme place of dialogue among civilizations and nations, the ultimate instance in international law and the only source of law enforcement at the international level. WPF “Dialogue of civilizations” is a platform for public support of these activities.

5.4. Human rights and human dignity are indispensable and indivisible. They are based in the common heritage of all civilizations and religions and in traditions and moral values of societies around the world. No civilization and no nation has the right to monopolize the system of human rights. Each member state of the United Nations has committed itself to implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in accordance with its civilizational traditions and societal values.

5.5. WPF supports the Millennium Declaration of the UN, which reaffirms that each nation has the right to choose how it is ruled, and through the who rules it. This has to be achieved thru the self-determination of peoples and nations. It can neither be imposed from outside nor can it follow a single model.

6. Migration – not a danger but a chance for the dialogue of civilizations

6.1. Migration trends are linking different civilizations. This calls obviously again for the dialogue of civilizations to ensure that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society, a principle the International Migration Organization is committed to.

6.2. The root causes of contemporary migration can be found very often in armed conflicts, in extreme poverty, in racial, ethnic or religious discrimination and in natural disasters (more and more connected to climate change). This underlines once more the need of dialogue, not only on migration, but on its root causes.

6.3. We appreciate the work of the International Migration Organization which brings together all interested parties, states of origin, of transit and of destination of migration. But still a lot is to be done. Daily tragedies suffered by migrants in many parts of the world, e.g. in the Mediterranean, exploitation of illegal migrants as a cheep work force, racial, ethnic and religious discrimination of migrants, rising xenophobia in many countries, all call for action.

6.4. Through dialogue, also within the societies concerned, conditions for a humane and orderly migration should be prepared. Immigrants have the right to keep their identity as well as to be integrated in the host country’s society with due respect to the culture of the recipient nation. This requires the effort from both sides. Natives should also have the right to maintain local traditions as well as self-identification vis-?-vis immigrants.

6.5. Education to dialogue and integration is not a one-way-street. Therefore awareness of traditions, customs and religions of major migrant groups in the main stream of the host country’s society is essential for a successful integration without tensions.

7. Culture and arts – fertile soil for dialogue of civilizations

7.1. Each civilization has its specific expression in arts and culture which contributes to its distinctive character. But at the same time the arts and culture of a civilization can attract the people belonging to other civilizations and traditions and build bridges between people of different civilizational background.

7.2. Literature, music, architecture, archaeology, fine arts as well as theatre and film are valuable tools of dialogue.

7.3. Interaction between artists and cultural institutions of different civilizations contributes to better mutual understanding. Such interactions as cross-border exhibitions and guest performances are fostering the dialogue of civilizations.

7.4. We highly value the freedom of expression and the role of the media in developing a better society. At the same time we want to remind the media of their responsibility to contribute to better mutual understanding thru fair and unbiased reporting, and not to fan the flames of confrontation. We appeal therefore to the mass media, to refrain from provocation and direct or implied insults of other civilizations and religions.

8. Conclusions: Intercultural dialogue as a platform for global development

8.1. Facing increasing tensions in international relations, dangerous tendencies to seek military instead of political solutions, and to ring back cold war rhetoric, we are firmly convinced that the world needs dialogue instead of confrontation, partnership instead of ruthless competition.

8.2. All civilizations are committed to respecting human dignity and the indispensable fundamental rights of each human being, but also of each nation and of each civilization. International relations as well as national legislation should therefore be based on the principle of equality of human beings and of the civilizations and of nations built by them.

8.3. The financial crisis which started in the United States and has spread to the whole world needs efficient means against virtual economy. We support the idea of international financial markets supervision and trans-national taxes on speculative profit. This depends on mutual trust among the nations which can be achieved through true dialogue.

8.4. Taking into consideration the complexity of the global system, and in particular, current economic and social turmoil, the participants of the Forum recommend to the co-founders to launch a special taskforce to foresight and analyze medium – term socio – economic and political development with the aim to support the statutory activities of the Forum.

8.5. We appreciate the creation of an internet network (http://www.wpfdc.at/network.php) of the World Public Forum – Dialogue of Civilizations and invite all those who are interested in promoting the dialogue to join this network.

8.6. We pray tribute to the laureates of the International Prize “Dialogue of Civilizations”, who contributed substantially to the development of the philosophy of dialogue and its implementation in practice.

8.7. Despite all obstacles, despite all recent deterioration in international relations, despite the current financial crisis, we are convinced, dialogue will prevail over confrontation, we will overcome the reigning culture of clashes and violence and replace it by greater cross-cultural understanding and partnership between societies and civilizations. We, the participants of the 6th annual session of World Public Forum – Dialogue of Civilizations will continue to work for these goals, for a new humane world order!
Letter to participants:

Dear participant of the 6 annual session of the World public forum
"Dialogue of civilizations",

We sincerely thank you for fruitful participation in the Forum, for your ideas, presentations and activity support. We hope that you had a minute to get acquainted with the Forum declaration on Rhodes. Your opinion about the Declaration text is very precious to us.

Should you have comments, remarks and corrections related to the Declaration as well as its' acceptance or refusal, please, send it to us.

Thank you for your help.

Best regards,
Executive Committee