LDI Second Dialogue International Forum

"History, Geography and Reconciliation"

Friday November 3, 2017

Notre Dame University - Louaize (NDU) Lebanon

The Lebanon Dialogue Initiative (LDI) is in the process of organizing on November 3, 2017, for the second consecutive year a Forum at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU). Through its plenary session and two panels, the Forum will highlight best practices in dialogue, peacebuilding, reconciliation, freedom, tolerance, etc., using cases from around the world and Lebanon.  

This Forum provides a platform to emphasize that dialogue is the most natural way to resolve disputes, whether such disputes are in- or cross-country.

Three important ways will distinguish the Forum from other initiatives:
• It is organized to demonstrate that Lebanon can play the role that LDI is working to achieve, which is to make Lebanon the land for dialogue among civilizations and cultures;
• It is organized in partnership with local and international organizations that pull their own weight in dialogue, the role of youth, and the role of the corporate sector in bringing about developmental interventions for the benefit of social justice; and
• It rallies the support of local religious, faith, and ethnic networks in Lebanon, as a proof of the nation’s historic experience in conviviality.

Objectives of the Second Annual Forum
The 2017 Forum will address through a case study best practices in dialogue, peacebuilding, reconciliation, and conviviality by inviting two disputing parties that have resolved or are in the process of dialoguing toward peacefully resolving their differences. Participants will be high-level officials who have been involved, or are currently involved, in dialogue. In attendance will be officials, diplomats, civil society, international, regional, and local organizations, faith-based organizations, analysts, journalists, professors, students, and the public. The Forum will highlight the case study’s historical, geographical, and dialogue trajectory from the perspectives of two parties who will contribute to our understanding of war and peace, and serve to promote dialogue as a peaceful method to resolving disputes.

Taking Lebanon as a model, the 2017 Forum will also address best practices in freedom of religion. The session’s purpose is to show that although the Lebanese constitution does not to date officially recognize these religions, practitioners of those faiths may assemble for worship without government limitation or interference. 

Speeches delivered by well-renowned figures will set the tone for the Plenary session, which will include a keynote speaker, representing the Forum’s strategic partner.

Obtaining UN recognition for Lebanon as a land for dialogue among civilizations and cultures is the key mission of the LDI, and the LDI — firmly believing that Lebanon’s raison d’être is to play such a role — calls upon the UN to establish a universal UN center for dialogue in Lebanon.

a) The Need For A Universal UN Center For Dialogue
In April 2016, “The General Assembly and Security Council adopted ground-breaking parallel resolutions on the Review of the peacebuilding architecture. The resolutions on sustaining peace are a comprehensive statement on the role of the United Nations in peacebuilding and prevention; connecting our efforts for peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights. The resolutions call for the dissolution of silos and the advancement of a strongly integrated approach. They place ‘sustaining peace’ at the core of United Nations actions. The vital role of women and youth in building and sustaining peace is underscored throughout. Sustaining peace underlines the ‘comprehensive, far-reaching and people-centered’ vision of the transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the connections between the Sustaining Peace and the Sustainable Development Goals are both highlighted in the Resolutions, which recognize that development, peace and security, and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.’”

In April of 2017, the Report of the Secretary-General on the Peacebuilding Fund, and its commitment to providing catalytic, rapid-response, and flexible support to sustaining peace was issued. In 2016, the Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund approved US$70.9 million to 17 countries, integrating UN strategies in support of sustaining peace. Against these achievements, the resolutions on sustaining peace call on the Secretary-General “to provide options for securing adequate, sustainable financing for peacebuilding in his upcoming report on sustaining peace in 2018.”

According to a speech by H.E. Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly, this matter “will be considered further during the 72nd session as we work together to address the urgent needs to invest in prevention and in creating the conditions required to sustain peace.”

In addition, the UN Security Council (UNSC), which is one of six main organs of the UN, has, as part of its mandate, the following purposes to “i) maintain international peace and security; ii) develop friendly relations among nations; iii) cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights; and iv) be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.” As such, the UNSC has the prerogatives the right to: i) maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations; ii) investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction; and iii) recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement. Consequently, we believe that the UNSC should establish a universal center for dialogue to not only allow and facilitate dialogue among disputing parties, but to, whenever possible, prevent disputes from turning violent.

Consequently and to further the UNGA’s efforts and the mandate of the UNSC, the LDI, in partnership with the Lebanese government, friendly nations, and civil societies in Lebanon and abroad, is calling for recognizing Lebanon as a land for dialogue among civilizations and cultures, and for establishing a universal UN center for dialogue as a platform to resolving disputes.

b) Lebanon a Land for Dialogue among Civilizations and Cultures  
In his address on November 12, 2008, at the High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the Dialogue between Cultures and Religions (Item 45: Culture and Peace) in New York, former Lebanese President H.E. Michel Sleiman stated, “The philosophy of the Lebanese entity is based on dialogue, reconciliation, and coexistence.” He went on to declare that he and the Lebanese people would like Lebanon to “become an international center for the management of the dialogue of civilizations and cultures and consequently a global laboratory for that inter-entity dialogue.”

President Sleiman was partly inspired by a similar declaration (11 years earlier) that touched the minds and hearts of all Lebanese and the world; namely, the Apostolic Exhortation for Lebanon in 1997 by His Holiness St. Pope John Paul II who said, “Lebanon is more than a country: it is a message of liberty and a paragon of pluralism for East and West alike.”   These declarations and many others have resonated among Lebanon’s various ethnic and religious communities, and a vast majority of them has been adopted as the ultimate vocation of Lebanon and its people. A particularly powerful expression related to this line of thought came recently in September 2012, during the Muslim-Christian Summit at the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkerke. In that summit, the convened religious leaders called for the designation of Lebanon as a “space for dialogue among civilizations based on peace and diversity.” Lebanon, in fact, has paradoxically become somewhat of a universal symbol for both fruitful intercultural global dialogue and for the complete breakdown of all civility—the latter being the result of what happens when a place like Lebanon loses sight of its historical vocation. As Imam Musa Sadr once famously said, “The world needs Lebanon. And if it did not exist, we should have to create it.” In 2017, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri called Lebanon “a model of coexistence.”

Albert Hourani, the great Middle Eastern scholar and author of A History of the Arab Peoples, teaches “the development of Lebanese political society over the centuries.” It emerges that despite Lebanon’s tragic recent past, its historic vocation has long been one of providing a space for dialogue and peaceful coexistence.

President Sleiman’s address was based on the initial idea proposed by the late Ambassador Fouad el-Turk, the late Lebanese Minister Ghassan Tueni, and Honorable William Zard Abou Jaoude. In 2013, the LDI began operating at NDU. In 2015, the LDI signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with NDU, and in 2016, the LDI became an officially registered Lebanese NGO and continued to operate from NDU with the support of the latter.

National, regional, and international peoples and governments believe that Lebanon’s raison d’être is founded on the paradigm of understanding, freedom, and conviviality among civilizations and cultures. In spite of the challenges to its vocation, which oftentimes results in tragic failures, the world can still learn much from Lebanon’s historical experiences and Lebanon can play a pivotal role in promoting dialogue and conviviality among people of various backgrounds.

Target Participants in the Forum
• Fifty representatives from international organizations, private sector organizations, developmental organizations, and banks interested in further engagement in dialogue, peacebuilding, socio-economic justice, development, and the like;
• One hundred local, regional, and international networks and organizations, active in dialogue, peacebuilding, reconciliation, and the like;
• Twenty members from the diplomatic corps in Lebanon;
• Fifty members from the Lebanese parliament, members of the Council of Ministers, members of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue Committee, and religious, academic, journalistic, and youths active in the field; and
• Two hundred interested members of the public from different backgrounds.

Forum Output
The proceedings of this Second Forum will be documented and disseminated through a publication aimed at informing civil and religious institutions, the media, the diplomatic corps in Lebanon, and the local, regional, and international organizations that can support the LDI mission.

This Forum will be taped and photographed, and both the video and the photos will be made available to the public on the LDI website as well as through its various social media platforms.

The LDI has a worldwide outreach through its relations with the local, regional, and international media outlets in Lebanon as well as through its social media campaigns employed in the pre-, during, and post-event periods to inform and mobilize.

(More details will be provided shortly)

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