Session: Addressing restrictions on religion: law matters

The aim of the session is to come up with two recommendations on the topic of “freedom of religion” for the UNAOC within the scope of small group discussions.

Two broader and diverse subjects attracted special attention of the group: the first topic concerning the issue of how to effectively address restrictions of religion and how to guarantee the protection of human rights as well as the freedom of religion, religious practice, faith and spirituality; the second topic dealing with the role of education at an early stage to promote respect and to prevent conflicts caused by intolerance and ignorance towards religions, faiths, spiritualities and beliefs.

Recommendation 1 : We recommend the UNAOC to enforce the incorporation of ethical, religious and spiritual education, both formal and informal, from early childhood level.

Recommendation 2 : We recommend the UNAOC to ensure the rights of freedom of conscience, thoughts, religions, religious practice, faith, spirituality and its protection on a state and public level.


Session: Living together at ease in a landscape of religions diversity and difference?

Education Matters! 

The participants worked on issues of how freedom of religion, freeom of speech and opinion could be implemented in education. And furthermore how cross cultural dialogue and networking can raise efficiency and cooperation betweek stakeholders and youth. The concluding thoughts were summarized in 3 main topics: training and educating youth as equal stakeholders, integration, and communication.

These “buzzwords” were later transformed into the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1: Member states should invest in education. Education of students and education of teachers in dealing with diversiy and tolerance should go hand in hand.

Recommendation 2: Refining the relationship of youth and stakeholders is a social responsibility ensuring that stakeholders recognize communication with the youth as a necessity.


Session: Diversity of media content

Touching a variety of related topics the most important issue concerned the question on how to address and promote diversity through the media. Is a regulation by law necessary? And how does the society react on a government induced process towards diversity?

The participants of the workshop reached a broad consensus that civil society integration is of utmost importance to shape the process. Some favored purely market-based concepts, whereas others promoted public incentive schemes encouraging diversity both in the overall media landscape as in content. When discussing the optimal design of national funding programs, emphasis was laid upon the concepts of market power and pressure groups’ influence in decision making.

Recommendation 1: It is important to cultivate a plural society through the promotion and support of culturally diverse art (e.g. cinema, music, etc).

Recommendation 2: The UNAOC should create a training program for minorities in journalism, art and media. Governments need to be encouraged to provide funding for minority employment in media.


Session: Media Freedom

Responsible leadership and media freedom – two key elements for democracy and diversity

During the workshop “Media Freedom” the participants developed different approaches to the meaning of responsible leadership in context of media. They pointed out that media institutions should be aware of their responsibility and the effects of their chosen agenda and words. Motivating people to participate is always a key issue to keep up or enhance democracy. The question if censorship can be legitimate was discussed vividly because more than half of the participants live in the Arab world and experience governmental censorship every day. Therefore they underlined the importance of the right of freedom of speech, implemented into the constitution, in order to guarantee a diverse world.

Recommendation 1: Social Media has transformed media from monologue to dialogue and engages especially young people to participate in debates and social movements. It is a new way of providing and consuming information interactively. Recognizing the importance of this transformation process we recommend that the UNAOC should offer workshops to teach young leaders from transforming countries how to use social media effectively.

Recommendation 2: Free access of information is a key element for high-quality media work and democracy. Being aware of that, we suggest that the UNAOC should help to establish a legal as well as an institutional framework for the availability and exchange of information. The UNAOC should encourage dialogue between governments and civil society through mutual decision-making and information systems. We recommend evaluating best practices and providing expertise to national states on this matter.


Session: Integration – Diversity, multiple identity and social inclusion

Within this session, essential questions such as the role of different societal levels to help with integration, migrants‘ own possibilities to facilitate integration and the importance of language and education for integration were discussed. Issues included the translation of history books, a platform for best practices and the access of migrants to national labor markets. The discussion elaborated two recommendations:

Recommendation 1: Creating polylogue between various stakeholders including civil, government, business community with an aim to enhance political and active participation of minorities in society to ensure and / or create long-term social inclusion and integration. We propose this through including migrant histories in the political discourse of host nations, by highlighting and replicating best practice outreach and affirmative programs and actions and by ensuring that outreach is comprehensive and inclusive through political campaigns/elections.

Recommendation 2: To achieve a successful inclusion crossing language divides and creating a sense of community, we recommend to provide children with qualitative education equally in their mother tongue and the main language spoken the respective region/country, create an international open source platform where migrants can share their experiences, needs and best practices to achieve mutual benefit and to guarantee language education for refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants.


Session: New approaches on the narrative on migration 

The participants within this group were elaborating thoughts and answers on major topics such as:

  • benefits and costs of immigration for host countries,
  • the role of policy makers, civil society and other stakeholders in shaping the narrative on migration and
  • the contribution of the media to counter prejudices towards migrants.

The discussion elaborated the importance of a strong cooperating network between media, government, society and the private sector.

But to shap the narrative on migration in a much more positive way, the follwing recommendations should be carried out by the international community:

Recommendation 1: Form a task force which includes all stakeholders – especially migrants – to develop practical solutions through a multi-perspective approach in order to depoliticize the narrative of migration.

Recommendation 2: Make the path to citizenship easier.




The photo exhibition is the result of a photo competition which has been organized ahead of the Youth Event in order to reach out to a wider public and raise awareness about the issues relevant to the UNAOC. The photos display different perspectives on the topics of the conference. Youth from all over the world have been invited to submit entries in one of the following categories: Perspectives on Religious Pluralism; Freedom of the Media Matters; A new Narrative on Diversity.

The best 24 photographs – among 130 entries – have been chosen for display. Furthermore, the best 5 photos have been printed on postcards which are distributed at the Global Forum – watch out for them! The best 3 photos were awarded with a LOMO Camera and the best photo was awarded with 200 Euros, generously donated by the Federation of Austrian Industries.

Here are the five finalists of the Photo Exhibition:

ahmed hamed

1st Prize Winner – Title of the Photograph: Tahrir Square Prayer

“The photograph was taken during a Friday prayer at the Tahrir Square, Egypt, after the 18 days of revolution in 2011. One of the participants in the prayer placed a cross inside a crescent, showing the spirit of respecting religious pluralism and respecting persons from different religions.“

Photographer: Ahmed Hamed Ahmed (26) Egypt

ben anastase

Title of the Photograph: African Pearl

“A remake of the painting “Girl with a Pearl Earing” by the famous 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. In reaction to all the discussions in the Netherlands for the last few years regarding immigration and foreigners, I made this photo with a question in mind: Can we, as Africans and persons of African descent, ever be seen in a positive way, as “Pearls”, in this country?”

Photographer: Ben-Anastase Nsabimana (25) The Netherlands

sasha smyrnova

Title of the Photograph: The Dialogue of Nations

“The photograph shows that despite many differences within various cultures, people will always find tools for communication. Age, race, nationality, or language is not important as long as there is a will for communication.”

Photographer: Oleksandra Smyrnova (24) Ukraine

nadja najjar

Title of the Photograph: Brunnenmarkt

“The photo was taken at the Viennese “Brunnenmarkt”, on a Saturday in spring. The photograph shows the multicultural atmosphere at the market, where the men wearing turbans sit in front of Austrian traditional dresses.”

Photographer: Nadja Najjar (18) Austria

wolfgang fischer 2 media

Title of the Photograph: Sharing the Power of Media

“The photograph was taken in Marrakesh at Chaair El Hemra Middle School. It shows two young women, one comes from a city while the other one comes from a village. The photograph describes how the young woman from the city teaches the one from the village how to use various media tools and technologies. “

Photographer: Nada Touil (14) and Ichrak ait Bellkouhia (14) Morocco

From February 27 to 28, the 5th Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations of the United Nations, preceded by a Youth Event on February 26 will take place in Vienna, Austria.

On this occasion, a photo exhibition at the conference venue will display different perspectives on the topics of the conference.

We invite you to submit your entry in one of the following three categories:

  • Perspectives on Religious Pluralism
  • Freedom of the Media Matters!
  • A new Narrative on Diversity

The best photos will be displayed at the conference venue as well as on the homepage of the UNAOC Global Forum 2013. The best 5 photos will be printed on postcards and distributed among the participants of the Global Forum. The best 3 photos will be awarded with a LOMO CAMERA. The best photo will be awarded with 200.- €. The Prizes have been generously donated by the Federation of Austrian Industries.

CONDITIONS: You must be under the age of 35; All photographs must be in digital format and submitted as electronic attachments via email at youtheventvienna@iz.or.at; Only one photo can be submitted per person; All submissions must include the photographer’s name, date of birth and email address; as well as a short explanation of the photograph (no more than 10 sentences); Submitted photo files must be minimum 1MB, maximum 5MB; 2000x2000pixels (with minimum 150 DPI); The selected finalists will be notified by e-mail. Entries not selected will not be notified!

Deadline for submissions is February 17, 2013.

Copyright of the image remains the property of the photographer. Entries must be submitted by the person who took the photo. Photos taken by someone else will not be considered. With the submission of your photo you guarantee that you are the original photographer and copyright holder of the given photo.



We would like to remind you that the Online Consultation for the UNAOC Youth Event in Vienna has started on January 14 and that all applicants are welcome to participate! If you have not yet received log-in and password information, please email us your NAME and EMAIL at the following address: Youtheventvienna@iz.or.at.



The online consultation for the Youth Event will start on January 14, 2013. All applicants for the Youth Event – if selected to come to Vienna or not – are most welcome to participate in the consultation. The online platform, which can be found here, will offer a space for discussion on the topics of the Vienna Forum and exchange with people with the same interests and professional background.

Applicants of the UNAOC Youth Event will receive their personal code to access to the platform. In case you applied for the Youth Event and did not receive an email with the code, we kindly apologize and ask you to write us at Youtheventvienna@iz.or.at, indicating your NAME and EMAIL ADDRESS. You will then be provided with a username and password.

Furthermore, participation in the GLOBAL FORUM (without the YOUTH EVENT!) is still possible upon registration at the homepage. The organizers cannot cover for any costs of normal participants at the Global Forum.

Prior the launch of the UNAOC Youth Event Online Consultations, we will publish summaries of relevant studies, which will serve as base for future discussion.

To start with, it would be worthwhile to take a look into the “Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools” which was prepared by the “Odihr Advisory Council of Experts on Feedom of Religion or Belief” in 2007. The purpose of the principles is, among others, to provide countries with a tool to enhance religious freedom in education and to offer a set of criteria that should be considered when teaching about religions.

The Authors base their work on two core principles, “first, that there is positive value in teaching that emphasizes respect for everyone’s right to freedom of religion and belief, and second, that teaching about religions and beliefs can reduce harmful misunderstandings and stereotypes.” (OSCE & ODIHR, 2007)

What are principles that you would promote in order to foster intercultural learning and reduce conflicts in addition to the foundation proposed by the OSCE? Based on your experiences, which attitudes, actions or behaviors could contribute to a fruitful dialogue or teaching? Can you think of any best practice examples in your country? Should education about different religions be an obligatory part of school curricula? What can governments do, to allow a peaceful co-existence of different religions?

In case you are interested, please refer to the reference mentioned below. Please note that the article is only an example and presented from our point of view, the organizational team of the Youth Event does not take any responsibility for the content of these two studies. In the Online Forum, you will have the freedom to post your personal opinions and experiences regarding responsible leadership and its impact on the three topics of the 5th UNAOC Forum.



OSCE & ODIHR, (Eds.). Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools (Warsaw, OSCE, 2007).



Dear Applicants,

We would like to thank each and every one of you for applying to the 5th UNAOC Youth Event taking place in Vienna! We have received up to 4,000 applications from all over the world! We would like to apologize for not being able to reply individually to every applicant. Please keep in mind that applications from international candidates are no longer accepted; However, the call continues for persons from Austria until November 24, 2012.

All applicants will be notified of the results of the selection process as soon as possible!

Thank you for your patience!