The Words of the Handschin Family

Geneva Conference on Multiculturalism and Peace

Carolyn Handschin
February 22, 2011

Geneva, Switzerland -- As a continuation of the series of conferences held at the United Nations in Geneva and New York, as well as in London, Bergamo, and Fribourg, Switzerland on inter-religious/intercultural peace-building since 2008, a full-day symposium is being planned to commemorate the International Day of Peace on September 21, 2011.

The organizing task force includes representatives of non-governmental organizations and other civil society actors, including from the academic and religious sectors. Several governments have been consulted, and the International Organization on Migration (IOM) has just confirmed its partnership.

The theme was spurred by the recent speeches of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron about the "failure of multiculturalism" in their nations as well as the thought-provoking referenda results in Switzerland. The emphasis will be on Europe, but not excluding the input or best practice models from other continents, most of whom have a stake in the success of the European model as well.

Is it correct that multiculturalism has failed? If so, why and what needs to be changed? •How can immigrant communities be supported to contribute in dignity the best of their cultures as participatory citizens in their destination countries?

How can trust be built and human security guaranteed on both sides?

What is needed to build a culture of peace among such diverse components?

The day-long sessions will each develop a certain aspect of the roles that the United Nations, governments and civil society/private sector organizations could play in improving social cohesion and preventing the isolation, dissatisfaction, violence, and crime in our increasingly culturally diverse societies.

Problem solving of this dilemma will be developed through five sessions: 1) UN and government, 2) inter-religious and intercultural programs, 3) empowerment of girls and women, 4) educational programs/institutions, and finally, 5) youth leadership training.

The objectives of the conference are first to provide a vision for change by looking more deeply at root causes, a common language of core values, and the essential missing "will." Another focus will be on concrete proposals to government policy makers and community leaders that could appease tensions while drawing on empowerment tools such as volunteerism, community solidarity, and faith-based and youth leadership training programs.

The expertise and long experience of the IOM, diverse views drawn from civil society organizations, governments, as well as the unique approach of inter-religious/intercultural cooperation for peace and development promise an innovative and valuable outcome. A longer-term cooperation is envisaged towards the implementation of conference results, as well as a hard copy or online publication of speeches.

For more information, email Carolyn Handschin. 

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