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An article from China.org
Twenty-three years after Samuel Huntington’s popular book “The Clash of Civilizations” was published and aroused calls for dialogue between different civilizations, it is still as relevant as ever in the current era of regional confrontations and inter-religious mistrust. In this context, and through an initiative with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Chinese Ministry of Education, the first Asia-Pacific Youth Dialogue opened on Sept. 21, the International Day of Peace, in the southwestern city of Chengdu, Sichuan Province.
Around 200 young delegates from 46 countries of the Asia-Pacific region gathered to discuss how to build a nexus between Asia Pacific civilizations, cultures, social cohesion, respect for diversity and peace building, as well as engaging with the youth as agents of change and custodians of the future regionally and internationally.
The initiative coincides with the call of the country’s policymakers to boost regional cooperation and development as President Xi Jinping proposed in a speech last year at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA). This, he said, could act as a platform to enhance interactions among young people, local communities and the media and to form a network of cooperation.
Dr. Marielza Oliveira, director and UNESCO representative to the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia and the Republic of Korea, said at the opening ceremony, “The youth delegates here are chosen from thousands of applicants and represent the best, the brightest and the most committed who come together to discuss what needs to be done to defend the dignity of all human beings.”
She called for young people to act on the domestic and international problems they face, citing the fact that British youth might be the hardest hit by the Brexit scenario due to their inaction before and during the referendum.
Robert H. Xiao, CEO of Perfect World Co., Ltd., China’s online gaming giant and sponsor of the event, highlighted three keywords, i.e. communication, hope and responsibility, as his expectations for the young people.
“Communication is the foundation on which Asian young people can build mutual understanding, find mutual benefits and grow together,” said Xiao. “Communication among Asian countries and among young people in particular, is an important source of confidence and recognition of Asian civilization.”
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“It is also the basis for Asian people to build mutual understanding and benefits, and achieve joint development.”
When asked about his expectation for the event, Andrew Lesa, a youth delegate and also a diplomat from New Zealand told China.org.cn he wanted to see actions in earnest following the event.
“At a lot of meetings, all we do is talk.” He hoped that after the meeting and when everyone had returned home, there could be tangible projects and activities staged in their respective countries on the important agenda items of the event so as to “make a difference on the ground.”
Hoe Wee Kiat, a youth delegate from Singapore, told China.org.cn the event could enable them to learn about each other’s culture and civilization. “Youth can be agents of change, and they should be more proactive and take the initiative in making a positive difference.”
The three-day event is envisioned as a dynamic and participatory event utilizing a combination of plenary lectures and workshops organized both thematically and sub-regionally, and fun activities to provide learning and networking opportunities for the youth.
According to the organizer, the initiative is a follow-up to discussions on Young Global Citizens for a Sustainable Planet in 2015 and leads up to the 2017 Asian Civilization Dialogue Forum in China.