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UNAOC to Ensure Strong Voice For Youth in Political Process

UNITED NATIONS, May 13 2013 (IPS) - In countries paralysed by ethnic clashes and plagued by illiteracy, the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) intends to play a greater role in conflict prevention and reconciliation.

“Our world grows more interdependent by the hour,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Economic integration, migration flows and environmental concerns illustrate this basic truth.”

Therefore, the UNAOC, “as a multicultural global platform”, should ensure that young people have a strong voice in political processes, especially in places which are in transition, added Ban.

At a meeting Monday, the global body discussed the outcome of the fifth global UNAOC forum hosted in the Austrian capital of Vienna from Feb. 27 to Feb. 28.

The new High Representative of UNAOC Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar, a former president of the United Nations General Assembly and chairman of the Board of Directors of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency identified a new vision for UNAOC. “The vision needs an action oriented strategy,” he said.

While media, migration, youth and education remain the priority areas, an integrated approach is in place, where “in many cases we are combining those areas with programs in media and migration,” he said.

“We are continuing our efforts to mobilize and strengthen youth-led efforts to build more peaceful communities at a local, national, and regional level.”

UNAOC Director Matthew Hodes highlighted a few projects that the organization is currently involved in. “We have continued to create opportunities for media professionals, especially in the middle-eastern Africa to enhance their skills by exposing them to current best practices in journalism,” Hodes said.

For example, the UNAOC has teamed up with Google and the Jordan Media Institute to give a platform to young journalists in the Middle East to share their experiences and insights. A fellowship program involves fellows from Europe and North America (EUNA) travelling to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and vice versa.

As part of its strategic plan for the coming years, “One of the things to watch is how we use the existing structure of working with the youth, the media on the issue of migration, with a more directed focus on how it impacts preventing tensions or outbreaks of violence or reconcile society that have those problems,” Hodes told IPS.

With youth-led initiatives figuring high on its agenda, various member states urged the UNAOC to consider other issues as well.

It was “food supply” for Ambassador Fernando Arias, Permanent Representative of Spain. “Without achieving the Zero-Hunger Challenge, launched by the Secretary General, it is very difficult to build that peace and understanding among communities that have different cultures and religions,” Arias said.

Ambassador Hussein Haniff, Permanent Representative of Malaysia insisted on the creation of a “Global Movement of Moderates” to counter extremism, along with “socio-economic development programs that target the disenfranchised and under-franchised areas.”

With an array of activities on the Alliance’s to do list, funding remains a critical challenge for the organization, Hodes told IPS. “The predictable flow of money into the trust fund has been traditionally an issue.”

The sixth global forum of UNAOC will be held in Indonesia next year. The previous forums were held in Madrid, Spain (2008), Istanbul, Turkey (2009), Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (2010), Doha, Qatar (2011) and Vienna, Austria (2013).

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