Alliance of Civilizations forum opens in Madrid
( dpa ) - The United Nations' Alliance of Civilizations project will only be successful if the countries involved give it "a practical and concrete content," Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on opening the alliance's first annual forum Tuesday in Madrid.
The two-day forum brought together more than 350 people from over 60 countries, including representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society.
The guest list included the presidents of Slovenia and Finland, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, former Irish president Mary Robinson and author Paulo Coelho.
The meeting was to be opened by Zapatero and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who launched the alliance, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and former Portuguese president Jorge Sampaio, the UN high representative for the project.
The Alliance of Civilizations aims at increasing dialogue to reduce cultural prejudice and misunderstandings especially between the West and the Muslim world.
The forum was to provide a platform for participants to develop initiatives and partnerships.
Soon after Zapatero launched the idea of the alliance in 2004, it received the backing of Erdogan, and was adopted by the UN in 2005.
In 2006, a group of 20 notables ranging from former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami to South African archbishop Desmond Tutu presented an action plan, issuing recommendations.
The idea is for every country to now make its own plans, according to the Spanish government.
Spain has approved a national plan of 60 initiatives in the areas of youth, education, media and immigration, Zapatero announced, pledging to appoint a national coordinator to implement the plan.