The new head of the Alliance of Civilizations, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, believes that this initiative is “more necessary than ever” and should offer “more results on the ground” in the face of the increase in hate speech and xenophobia.
“The current situation deserves the Alliance to deploy with more capacity,” Moratinos defended in his first press conference since he took office this month as a high representative for the agency, which is integrated into the United Nations system.
The former Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs acknowledged that there are certain “trends” in the world today that point to parallels with the years prior to the Second World War and insisted that the problems are “serious”.
In response, Moratinos wants the values of understanding and tolerance promoted by the Alliance of Civilizations to reach citizens to achieve greater cooperation between cultures and religions.
According to he pointed out, “general statements” are not sought, but rather those principles serve as a way to manage daily life, for example working with local authorities.
“I want more results on the ground and more specificity in the projects and programs,” he told Efe Moratinos, who said he is trying to give “greater coherence” to the agency and give it a “more focused narrative” to the five dimensions that wants to give it
In the four areas in which the Alliance of Civilizations so far focused its efforts (education, youth, media and migration), the Spanish diplomat has added a fifth area with the focus on gender and the role of women.
Moratinos said he wants the Alliance to have groups of experts capable of deploying quickly in certain situations to offer their support.
As an example, he pointed out the usefulness that this type of action could have had when the German government decided to accept large numbers of refugees from the Middle East, contributing their knowledge on how to deal with different cultures and to avoid misunderstandings.
It will be, he said, a kind of “sociocultural mediation” that will seek to help people understand each other.
In addition, he said he plans to recover the “quick response” initiatives used during the first years of the Alliance of Civilizations to respond to certain crises, as in the case of the controversy over the cartoons of Muhammad published in European media.
“At that time, the Alliance played a very important role,” he said.
Moratinos replaced the Qatari Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser this month, but had already participated directly in the beginning of the project, proposed in 2004 by the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and later assumed by the UN.
So, the focus of the Alliance was on the relationship between the West and the Arab-Muslim societies, after jihadist attacks such as the 11M in Madrid.
Although terrorism remains one of the priorities, the Spanish diplomat wants to pay close attention now to the situation of migrants and to go to the roots of the tensions around them.
Moratinos assured Efe that there is a major concern for the growth of hate speech, racism and xenophobia that are gaining strength in many countries.
In this area, the Alliance is working with other branches of the UN in the preparation of a great strategy to counteract those messages commissioned by the Secretary General, António Guterres.
In the case of Spain, he considered that the rise of the extreme right wing party Vox is a “warning signal” that shows that “there are sectors in Spain that consider that the rejection of the other and exclusion can give votes”.
“Of course, from the Alliance we will try to maintain what is the democratic framework, the constitutional framework, of coexistence,” he said.