Ladies and Gentlemen,
National Heads of Networks,
Director General of the Foundation,
Building on the events that saw the Heads of Networks of the Anna Lindh Foundation come together, we are here to award the 2015 “Euro-Mediterranean Award for Dialogue Between Cultures”. This prize is given in recognition of projects that work to eradicate stereotypes, xenophobia and hateful discourse. Before inviting the winner to come forward to receive the prize, I would like to share with you some brief remarks.
On the night of Friday 13 to Saturday 14 November, a death squad brought bloodshed and indiscriminate killing to the streets of Paris and its suburbs. On this autumnal night, 129 persons, French citizens but foreign nationals too, were gunned down with bullets and explosives for no other reason than radical hatred and murderous intent.
On this autumnal night which in its bloody wake left scores of bodies lying in streets, on the terraces of restaurants and cafés, outside a stadium and in a concert hall which these cowardly assassins had in their sights, in addition to this shocking massacre and killing of innocents, it was an attack on the symbols and values that make us who we are: a society of individual and collective freedoms, and a way of living side by side. This was what came under attack with such murderous fury, it was the peaceful and soothing freedom to talk with friends around a dinner table; to meet and come together to listen to music; to share in the delights of a sporting event.
What the assassins were attempting to destroy was a way of life which is rooted in the values we hold most dear: the freedom to come together, men and women, to share a moment of collective emotion or experience the simple pleasures of an intimate exchange. Paris was chosen as the site of this bloodshed because it was symbolic, only a stone’s throw away from the Place de la République where all of the struggles took place for freedom which deeply defined France: liberty, equality, fraternity.
But we must make no mistake: whilst we were targeted, we are all targets: a neighbourhood in Beyrouth, a museum in Tunis, an aeroplane above Sinaï, ruins in Palmyra. Terrorism is driven by the desire to prevent people from walking around a neighbourhood safely, to take a moment for reflection in a museum, discover another country as a tourist, look on in marvel at the complex layers of History we have inherited.
As the President of the French Republic said on Monday before the Parliament which met in an extraordinary congress in Versailles, “we are not engaged in a war of civilisations, because these assassins do not represent any”.
Ladies and Gentlemen, National Heads of Networks,
At a time of such dark and cruel violence, the mandate of the Anna Lindh Foundation is more necessary and urgent than ever before. The Foundation exists to ensure that cultural diversity and dialogue flourish in our Euro-Mediterranean community, that we live side by side with values of tolerance and respect.
The political and security challenges we currently face are of course immense. And they are very often mired in tragedy. I’m sure you are all fully aware of them, there is no need to recite them one by one.
Syria currently poses the most significant challenge from a human and security point of view. Whilst the fight against DAESH and its imitators must be waged mercilessly, and the solution to this devastating conflict must come through a diplomatic conference bringing together all of those affected, there is a parallel war that must also be waged on both sides of the Mediterranean: what is the answer to radicalisation and extremism?
The Foundation has a strategic and irreplaceable role to play: it must draw strength from its mandate, it must tap into its diversity. It must be a catalyst of ambitions and a network of projects, fully and visibly, in a dynamic and tangible way. The 26 November will see us celebrate twenty years of the Barcelona Process. This anniversary must not only be a time of commemoration. It must be a time for action, of looking towards a new horizon.
The Foundation must be part of this new horizon. How? I would like to share with you some of the beliefs I hold dear.
The first of these beliefs is that civil society must be at the heart of any dialogue revolving around diversity, culture and tolerance. The great British historian Toynbee said, “History is again on the move.” Today it is people and societies that are on the move. The genie is out of the bottle: this emancipation can no longer be contained. I am all too aware of the difficulties, the impediments, the obstacles, fear and repression.
But since taking up this role as head of the Foundation, everywhere I go, I sense this tremendous effervescence, an extraordinary energy that bursts forth from civil society all around the Mediterranean. The Foundation must respond, assist and support this energy and these desires.
My second belief is that it is young people and women who are at the forefront of these developments. Both to the North and South of the Mediterranean, the challenges remain the same: education, equality, training, employment, independence and responsibility. A society that does not make sufficient space for its young people is a society in decline or regression. A society that does not allow its women to shape their destiny is a hemiplegic and impoverished society.
The Foundation will respond to its mandate by focusing on two priorities: placing young people and women at the heart of its activities.
One of the Foundation’s programmes has already enjoyed a certain degree of success since 2011, “Young Arab Voices” [the flag-ship debate programme co-created by the Anna Lindh Foundation and British Council and co-funded by the European Commission]. Since its creation it has directly involved 13,000 young people and indirectly has reached out to over 90,000.
Hearing the voices of young people means giving them the means to express themselves. This programme shapes the public debate. No society without words, no intellectual autonomy without discourse, no democracy without debate. These young people are ambassadors for dialogue and fraternity in the Mediterranean region.
Giving free rein for powerful and dynamic words to flow from our hearts in our own words, own ambitions and own values is what the programme is aiming to do. This is the best way to tackle radicalisation and its discourse of enslavement and terror. I am happy to see this programme being extended through new partnerships: very recently the Foundation joined together with UNESCO and the Club of Madrid to develop and extend the scope of the programme.
We should use a positive counter-discourse to oppose the discourse of war and hateful intolerance: we should speak of values, laws, democracy, a culture that emancipates and brings people together. We should oppose the cynicism of violence, murderous slogans and corrupt images with universal values, language and words, which have the power to set people free.
I would like to see the Foundation developing its programmes by using the internet and social networks. Digital hatred is quite simply hatred. We must promote a dynamic digital agora to ensure that any discourse based on mass murder and extremism cannot succeed.
Alongside these young voices, we must also grant new generations of women the capacity to act. I would like to see the Foundation paving the way in gender promotion programmes. There are many initiatives under way, they are often fragmented. Some form of project coordination work is required such as, for example, a roadmap that can be shared with the key players of civil society or institutions such as the UpM.
My third belief is that our Mediterranean community has always been based on mobility and exchange. I know that it is terribly difficult and complex to deal with this issue given the latest very dramatic events with refugees forced to flee in particular the war in Syria and persecution at the hands of DAESH.
Our shared responsibility in the face of this major challenge requires dignity and generosity but also discernment, lucidity and responsibility. We must be relentless in this respect with the criminal and terrorist networks. But a culture of separation, of hermetically-sealed and barbed wire borders, of high walls and suffocating confinement is not our shared culture and is not part of our shared history. We must not sacrifice mobility for security. We must foster talent mobility. We must create a passport for Euro-Mediterranean talent.
We have left institutionally derelict the fields of culture in all its forms: theatre, music, dance, comic strips, digital media. We have to contemplate new ways of working together, of cooperation, circulation and incubation of projects. Here, the Foundation must play the role of a cultural incubator and disseminator.
Whilst men and women must be able to travel from shore to shore to enjoy and share their unique voices and talents, the fruits of their efforts must also serve as cultural messengers. There can be no intercultural dialogue without broadcasting or translation. This is why the Foundation will be heading up a Euro-Mediterranean conference in 2016 on translation and how to promote it.
A book that is not translated is missing out on its universal vocation. Translating brings people into contact. Babel is not a source of confusion but of recognition. The aim of this conference is to bring together those working in the field of translation: editors, authors, translators, digital managers.
Whilst culture in all its forms is at the heart of the Foundation’s mandate, I would also like it to be able to welcome and support other forms of powerful social exchanges, such as sport, which is one of the oldest and most popular pastimes in our Mediterranean community.
My fourth and final belief lies in the wondrous originality of our network. The Foundation is not merely an institutional organisation, a functional agency among others. What makes it stand out as such a shining example is that it is organised in the form of national networks and that it is able to draw support from a wealth of very diverse associations that reflect the diversity and plurality of our community itself.
You embody the wealth and very purpose of the Foundation. You are the lifeblood of the association. But a network requires people to come together, learn from one another and to circulate. Its richness may stem from its diversity but its effectiveness comes from sharing these experiences and projects.
The Foundation is also a platform, an intersection, a hub for exchanges and communications. This network must become even more visible, speedier, and more agile. It is the indispensable template for a Euro-Mediterranean civil society which offers recognition and proposals.
Whilst Euro-Mediterranean civil society is vital, it is still suffering from a lack of means and from not having its voice sufficiently heard. I firmly believe that we must look towards new programmes and new forms of governance. Civil societies must be associated right from the outset in the formulation of projects and policies that affect them. And they must be supported in line with the ambitions we harbour in its representatives.
This is why, in my view, we ought to support the creation of an ERASMUS for Euro-Mediterranean associations which would contribute greatly to exchanges and cooperation between civil society on both the Southern and Northern shores.
The ERASMUS programme has been a remarkable success story in intercultural mobility and dialogue. This programme has created new generations of “European” students who have benefited and felt enriched by their shared experiences and knowledge. The same thing must be created for a new generation of Euro-Mediterranean associations.
That is the message I wanted to share directly with you, the members of our Anna Lindh network. Each one of you I’m sure carries the conviction that what unites us is stronger than what divides us, that we must never succumb to that night of hatred but rather we must look towards the hope we see shining from our shores, despite a tumultuous History.
We will now proceed to recognise the projects that embody these values. Thank you very much for your kind attention.