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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2614

The Dialogue of Cultures

By Eduardo Faleiro

In the present age, international exposure is a requirement of an increasing number of jobs. The trend is likely to expand further in view of the ongoing globalization of the world's economy, transnational movements of people and the emergence of strong regional and global institutions. In a recent survey of large businesses, over 80% said that they would place greater emphasis on "international competence" in hiring and training during the next decade. Former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch reflected on the requirements of the globalized economy:

"The Jack Welch of the future cannot be me. I spent my entire career in the United States. The next head of General Electric will be somebody who spent time in Bombay, Hongkong, and Buenos Aires. We have to send our best and brightest overseas and make sure they have the training which will allow them to be global leaders and who will make GE flourish in the future".

Whilst transnationals look favourably at economic globalization many analysts take a dim view of the present international scenario. Samuel Huntington in his "Clash of Civilizations and the remaking of the World Order" asserts that conflicts in future will be mainly along cultural and religious lines. Huntington observes that the western belief in the universality of its values and political systems is naive and that continued insistence on such "universal" norms will further antagonize other civilizations.

To counter the theory of the Clash of Civilizations, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted in 2001, the Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations (Resolution 56/60). The Resolution recalls that "all civilizations celebrate the unity and diversity of humankind and are enriched and have evolved through dialogue with other civilizations and that despite obstacles of intolerance and agression there has been a consistent interaction throughout History among various civilizations……….the diversified sources of knowledge and cultural diversity are fundamental features of human society and an indispensable and cherished asset for the advancement and material and spiritual welfare of humanity at large". The U.N. Resolution suggests a Programme of Action towards the Dialogue of Cultures and Civilizations. The Programme of Action includes "incorporation of studies of various cultures and civilizations in the educational curriculum including teaching of languages, history and socio-political thoughts of various civilizations as well as the exchange of knowledge, information and scholarship among academics".

Some of these issues were addressed at the fourth Asia Europe meeting (ASEM) Summit held last September in Helsinki. Heads of State and Government of thirty eight countries from both continents participated in the Summit. They called for a dialogue of cultures in the context of the present day conflicts and reiterated their determination to remain united in efforts to further a culture of peace among people of all religions. Cultural and social dialogue between Asia and Europe is at the heart of the ASEM process. The current members of ASEM are the countries of the European Union, the European Commission, the ten countries of ASEAN (Association of South Asian Nations), China, Japan and South Korea. India and Pakistan will join the ASEM process next year.

ASEM partners are committed to developing cultural exchanges as well as protecting and promoting cultural _expressions in various forms. The ASEM Ministerial Conferences on Cultures and Civilizations were held in China in 2003 and France in 2005. The ASEM Summit in 2004 adopted the ASEM Declaration on Dialogue among Cultures and Civilization, reaffirming that cultural diversity is the common heritage of humankind and on important driving force for economic progress and social development, conducive to building a more stable and peaceful world.

ASEM is also committed to promoting dialogue and building harmony among different religious and faiths. The ASEM Inter faith Dialogue meetings bring together religious leaders, senior officials, intellectuals and media from ASEM partners. These Meetings affirm that peace, justice, compassion and tolerance are keys to building international harmony and suggest measures particularly in the field of education to promote these objectives.

The ASEM partnership has achieved substantial results during the last decade in boosting educational, cultural, intellectual and people to people exchanges, expanding and facilitating research networking and providing cultural diversity. Inter cultural dialogue is also seen as crucial in achieving progress in the political dialogue and economic cooperation between Asia and Europe. The first ASEM Ministerial Meeting on Education will be held in Germany in 2008. It will be a further sign of transcontinental cooperation in the areas of education, research and human resource development.

University education should prepare the students to the new internationalism that has enveloped every aspect of our lives. Our Universities have cultural and scientific agreements with several Universities in Europe and elsewhere. It is necessary to strengthen these agreements and promote exchange of teachers and students within the country as well as among countries. The University Grants Commission has a pivotal role to play in this regard.

Eduardo Faleiro - The writer is a former Union Minister External Affairs, India and presently the Commissioner for NRI Affairs with a cabinet Minister rank in the Government of Goa. He is also the Editorial Consultant of "Asian Tribune." This article is based on his keynote address to the first International Conference of Teachers of French held in Goa recently. He submitted to "Asian Tribune" for publication.

- Asian Tribune

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