Dr Mir Asghar Husain presents his lecture on ‘Euro-Arab Dialogue: the Challenges and Opportunities’
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MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series: ‘Euro-Arab Dialogue: the Challenges and Opportunities’ by Dr Mir Asghar Husain

In his lecture on ‘Euro-Arab Dialogue: the Challenges and Opportunities’, Dr Mir Asghar Husain discussed the genesis and general context of the EAD initiative under UNESCO, supported by Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber and the MBI Al Jaber Foundation. This particular Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD) initiative has always aimed at promoting better understanding and co-operation between Europe and the Arab Countries within the framework of a public-private partnership.

Dr Husain highlighted the added value brought to the initiative by private sector ‘know-how, flexibility and adaptation to changes in working relations’, stressing Sheikh Mohamed’s personal commitment to human resource capacity building and reform in the Arab region, and how this was already at work when the partnership was formed. He discussed the institutional framework and key actors including the UN Agencies, Regional Institutions, and Civil Society Organisations and Foundations, and outlined details of the conceptual framework. The latter was based upon reports published in 1995 and 1996 by UNESCO and the UN which favoured ’education for democratic citizenship’ and supporting ‘diversified and multiple cultural identities’. Recommendations from the reports were used as a model for inter-regional cooperation between the Arab and European countries.

Asghar Husain emphasised how the Euro-Arab Task Force – ‘Learning to Live Together’ (established 2001-2003) was revitalised with the forming of UNESCO’s partnership with Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber and his Foundation. The Vienna Declaration, announced at the International Conference of National Commissions for UNESCO, ‘Euro-Arab Dialogue: Contribution to a New Humanism’, (31.5 – 1.6 2012), intensified efforts towards intercultural dialogue in all areas of UNESCO’s competence, drawing upon the expertise of the network of Associated Schools. Greater participation and involvement of youth in the EAD process as well as the participation of other international and regional organisations, civil society and the private sector were also encouraged.

What are the positive outcomes from this public-private partnership between UNESCO, its National Commissions and the MBI Al Jaber Foundation? Asghar referred to a Comparative Study of History Text Books; the preparation of an Education Resource Kit on shared values for use in schools, and a Compendium of best practice projects related to multicultural exchanges. With regard to future developments, there will be a focus on interagency cooperation; outreach projects; expansion of partnerships to grass roots level; youth visibility and ownership, and an emphasis on shared values and bridging the gap in differences between the European and Arab regions.

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