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The Light Millennium, in collaboration with the College of Arts and Letters at Stevens Institute of Technology, jointly presented the 11th Anniversary Celebration of The Light Millennium via a panel discussion on:
at Stevens in Hoboken on November 28, 2011.

"Some member states look at diversity as something that divides."
"I had encountered at least five attempts of conversion."

"I want to live in and create a flower garden not a melting pot."
"Globalization works both ways."
"Cross cultural competence is not a natural ability, it is learned."

Rochelle Roca-Hachem Ahmet Erdogdular, Ali Osman Erdogdular Dr. Thomas Uthup
Rochelle Roca-Hachem, Programme Specialist for Culture at the UNESCO Liaison Office at United Nations Headquarters, New York Ahmet Erdogdular and Ali Osman Erdogdular Dr. Thomas Uthup, Research and Education Manager at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.

Brief BIOS of the Keynote Speakers, Panelists and Musicians

[Lightmillennium.Org] The panel entitled Challenges of Cultural Diversity and Globalization was jointly presented by The Light Millennium and College of Arts and Letters (CAL) at Stevens at the Kidde Hall, Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken on November 28, 2011.

Dr. Thomas Uthup and Prof. Edward Foster
Prof. Edward Foster during the interactive section, and
Dr. Thomas Uthup is responding to a question.

Professor Edward Foster, moderator, opened the panel with introducing musicians Ahmet Erdogdular (tambour and voice) and Ali Osman Erdogdular (ney). The brother musicians performed both instrumental pieces and songs in traditional classic Turkish music. The authentic and mystic music and songs, which connected everyone in the room. And, it laid out a cultural ground work at the beginning of the program that followed by the keynote statements from UNESCO and UNAOC, which led the panel section that both keynote speakers and panelists as well as attendees of the program were diverse and inclusive such as American, Indian, African-American, Turkish, Philippino, Sri Lankan, Spanish, and others... The panel presented representatives from the NGO, academia, private sector (on behalf) and youth/student.

Follow by the musical performances, Prof. Foster introduced of Ms. Rochelle Roca-Hachem, Programme Specialist for Culture at the UNESCO Liaison Office at United Nations Headquarters, New York for her keynote statements.

Ms. Roca-Hachem started her remarks by thanking the organizers. In her speech, Ms. Roca-Hachem has said:

"United Nations system has many specialized agencies and UNESCO is one of the specialized agancies. In the wake of World War Two, UNESCO was founded initially to handle education and preserve cultural heritage sites. However the founders of the organization later decided that UNESCO could produce much more in terms of cultural exchange which, in turn would benefit international peace. UNESCO does this through various sector in itself; Education, Science, Culture and Communication. UNESCO had a silo mentality but in the recent years, dialogue between each sector have increased.

There are many issues that are affecting the world that range from globalization to the environmental issues. UNESCO is trying to contribute to the global effort to solve the environmental crises in its own way. We are looking at Sustainable Development in our own way; connecting peace and sustainable development. Sustainable development has three pillars; economic, environmental and more importantly: social. Looking at all three pillar and we see that multiculturalism is an important aspect.

Obstacles before peace and development go beyond just global warming, they also lie in social matters, stereotypes, marginalization, fanaticism, lack of mutual respect, ignorance and repression of beliefs and cultures. Our economic development depends on our moral and political development. What UNESCO aims to do is to solve these issues in the context of sustainable development.

We have 192 member states, we have just admitted two new ones, South Sudan and Palestine. Along with our member states we try to solve such issues. Some member states look at diversity as something that divides. They believe that it causes unrest. But we say just the contrary. If you can leverage the diversity through sensible policies, you can make diversity an asset. Our perspective is that diversity supports innovation. We see diversity in many forms, ranging from cultural to generational. Hence, we give special importance to youth. Youth is the biggest geopolitical population and a very important stakeholder in our future.

Rochelle Roca-Hachem

ARTICLE 1 Cultural diversity: the common heritage of humanity Culture takes diverse forms across time and space. This diversity is embodied in the uniqueness and plurality of the identities of the groups and societies making up humankind. As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature. In this sense, it is the common heritage of humanity and should be recognized and affirmed for the benefit of present and future generations.

UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity
Adopted by the 31st Session of the General Conference of UNESCO
Paris, 2 November 2011

We have world reports on many issues. In 2010, we have produced World Report on Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue. It is important as it contains extensive research on the relationship between diversity and development. One of the important factors in the report is language. UNESCO actively tries to protect endangered languages. We also work with the member states to develop multilingual curriculum. We support mother tongue education, local language education and a foreign language education if possible.

Culture is also a key player in many international treaties. Some countries assert that they fear that culture could be used as an excuse for violations of human rights. This is a very sensible concern. However UNESCO supports cultural practices if and only if they are in accordance with the declaration of Human Rights. In that sense we never condone things such as female circumcision. We have a supreme human rights based approach.

In 2001, member states produced Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. It talks about the importance of cultural diversity and gives guidelines for the protection thereof. The declaration is not binding but, rather normative, unlike conventions. Therefore this gives governments a moral guideline. This is a universal endorsed standards for diversity. This also gives platform to individuals to advocate cultural diversity.

There is a link between the culture and sustainable development.

I would also like to mention cultural diversity and sustainable development. We are changing our development paradigms. We are not just doing and leaving projects. Sustainable, for us, means community based. If you don’t take the people factor, and if the people cannot accommodate your projects then it will not work. There is a link between the culture and sustainable development. If you are talking about HIV, you must take religious and cultural sensitivities of the population. Cultural diversity is also creating jobs through cultural tourism. Reinforcing cultural aspects such as cultural festivals will help with social cohesion and eradication of poverty.

Notion of cultural diversity through education is enforced through conventions. World Heritage Sites are enforced through 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. It is not just that we want to protect old places, but each heritage site has an outstanding universal value. I care as much as Taj Mahal as people with Indian heritage. They are the heritage of humanity. In 2003 UNESCO established the convention on Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. This convention sought to address, music, dance, tradition and other intangible aspect of the world heritage. The convention is important in recognizing and respecting the importance of cultural diversity. The example for this is Nowruz. Many countries celebrate Nowruz in their own separate ways. Then, UN decided to celebrate this tradition by instating the global Nowruz Day. The last convention that was accepted in 2005 was on diversity of cultural expressions and the safeguarding thereof.

Finally, UNESCO has celebrated the decade of Culture of Peace between 2001-2010. It had an important focus on education. We have just adopted a new education course action on the culture of peace. Along with education for all, we have adopted the principle on the quality of education. We have decided to look whether the education properly prepares the students for multiculturalism. We have instated programs to eradicate stereotypes in textbooks. One example of this is our efforts to prevent Arabs and Muslims from being reflected in bad light in European textbooks. We also have associated schools network program working in the elementary and middle school level. Furthermore we have UniTwin program where Universities pair up and work together on research and multiculturalism.

I would also like to mention the Rapprochement of Cultures, which began in 2010 based on the understanding of the other and the promotion of the multicultural values. Recently it was adopted to be a decade between 2013-2022. People can use it a platform for action that could be used by the civil society, agencies and governments.

My last message is to be proactive. How can we use that diversity proactively? Think about being proactive in cultural diversity and how it contributes to the global development.

The second keynote speaker for the day was Dr. Thomas Uthup, Research and Education Manager at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. After thanking everyone for their efforts, Dr. Uthup said he will talk based on his own experience.

What is the definition of culture? Culture should be regarded as a set of distinctive  spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of a society or a social group, this encompasses any art, literature, lifestyle, ways of beliefs, value system and traditions. When it comes down to what provokes prejudice, there are few factors that led to prejudice. I would like to cite few examples which has happened to me personally. First is ethnicity or race. As an Indian, I cannot say that I faced same prejudice that African Americans and Hispanics face. I have never been pulled over for DWB, Driving While Black or DWH, Driving While Hispanic.

However I have had some encounters of my own. I have lived in Texas, Upstate New York and Ohio. I have faced different types of prejudices in all these different places. In Texas, when my Indian friends and I went into a store, people followed very closely behind us. When I asked why, they told me that they thought we were Mexican. Texans were even more prejudiced against Hispanics.
Dr. Thomas Uthup

In Upstate New York, African American Population was 2% back then and people thought I was African American. Sometimes ladies would protect their little children when we were alone in the elevator. Once I shaved my head and grew a goatee. At night when I was walking on the street people would go to the other side of the street despite the fact that I don’t look that big. Finally in Ohio, I encountered people shouting to me “Go back home!” after the 9/11 attacks. Religion is another element. When I was in Texas, I had encountered at least five attempts of conversion. I don’t know if I had a sign on my forehead saying: “Please convert me I need to be saved”.

Finally language. As you can tell I don’t have an American accent. My masters is in journalism. When I approached my professor asking if I could work on his book which he produced annually, he told me “I don’t really know”. However, when I presented him with my writing samples, I got the job. On a positive note, I met my wife on a flight from Boston to Cleveland. My wife is a Slovak German of American descent and I am an Indian. What brought us together was the similarities, not differences. In fact one year later she told me she could only understand me 50%.

As for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, it is a UN initiative of the Secretary General. It is led by a higher representative, former President of Portugal, President Simpaio. It is headquartered in New York with 14 employees. Alliance aims to build cooperative missions between cultures while countering the forces of extremism and racism. It also provides a platform for addressing the challenges of the cultural diversity. As Rochelle has told you cultural diversity is very important in the context of peace. Let me give you an example, almost two thirds of the conflicts around the world have cultural issues as one of its factors.

Our projects are in four fields; education, media, migration and youth. Alliance is very new, active since 2005. Briefly. In the area of media we are trying to connect journalists to experts so that they can sensitively report on the cultural issues. In the Education, we are trying to come up with ways to teach religion in such a way that we are not indoctrinating anyone but just giving information on the said religion. In the area of youth, we are encouraging young people to be active in the area of multiculturalism.

In the area of migration, we have a web resource on good practices on migration policies. We work with civil society, foundations, governments etc. We also have activities that comprise all of these fields. We have BMW award on Intercultural Innovation that is awarded annually. We also have Dialogue Cafes, which as technologically aided to promote cultural dialogue. In May, we have done a project with UNESCO a Facebook campaign to promote this dialogue. There are many ways to learn about different cultures that we advertise on this Facebook page. To learn about others and remove prejudies, you could visit the website of different countries, read history and culture section, watch movies with subtitles or eat foods from different countries.

There are some people who incite cultural clashes by advocating hate and lack of understanding. We must collectively challenge such people as the civil society and civil leaders. One of the things we want to do with our migration projects is to try to combat cultural illiteracy. You can volunteer your time for society cohesion or you can make a microloan for those who are actively working to prevent these phenomena.

After the keynote speakers have concluded their remarks, The Light Millennium Organization's Founder Bircan Ünver made a quick slide presentation for the 11th Anniversary celebration of the organization, and referred to Ms. Roca-Hachem's encouragement as being "pro-active", and framed the organization's programs pro-active as well. She also focused on the diverse LMTV programs, which also promotes in various form "cultural diversity, freedom of expression, fostering global connectivity and cultural globalization". Bircan also talked about briefly her dream that with as minimum as $1 per annual on-line membership, if/when the organization is reached one million members, who will be also active participants and decision makers of the organization, accordingly, the organization will be run by one-million members as a public benefit media and culture organization in globally. In her presentation, she also shared recent good news about the LMTV's "Production Assistant Grant" from Queens Public Television for 2012, and also moving up from monthly series to a weekly series in 2012. Please see below related two slide and click the link for the full presentation..

Bircan Unver LMTV at QPTV
Bircan Unver, Founding President and Permanent Representative of The Light Millennium,
presented the organization as "pro-active" for "cultural diversity".
For full presentation
(as a quick movie file)
Also available through Vimeo

Following Bircan's presentation, Prof. Foster introduced the panelists prior their speeches. Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely, The Founder of New Future Foundation, Honorary Mayor of Harlem, Goodwill Ambassador for Africa and United Nations NGO Representative took the floor as first within the panelists and delivered her presentations in the following lines:

Queen Mother Akif Kirecci, Associate Professor Janet Salazar Cem Zorlular
Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely, The Founder of New Future Foundation, Honorary Mayor of Harlem, Goodwill Ambassador for Africa and United Nations NGO Representative
Akif Kirecci, Associate Professor at Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey.
Janet Salazar, Chair, WDLS UN-Accredited NGOs and Fellows.
Cem Zorlular from Columbia University & prospect Youth Representative of The Light Millennium to the United Nations.

I want to live in and create a flower garden not a melting pot

"As Queen Mother, I would like to add to my colleagues who spoke about where we are today in terms of multiculturalism. For me developing the New Future Foundation in 1969 was to create the world I wanted to live in. It was about where we want to be, the role we want to play and how we want to get there. And the world we lived in, in 1968 was one with the power, off with the peace and student unrest in society.

In 1968, at NYU, at a university there was a person looking at the issues of young people came from all over the world. I happened to live in Greenwich village. The world I wanted to be a part of happened to be Greenwich village. Greenwich village was multi-ethnic and multicultural. Over the last 42 years I looked at a world to spend my time in and that happens to be the United Nations. It became by second home. My first is Harlem. I wanted to experience the global experience with myself. In doing that I set a model in 68 with the students at the New Future Foundation as a documentary we have filmed.

We looked at New York city and how is was racially divided. There were pockets of many different ethnicities and cultures all over the New York. NYC is truly racially isolated. In looking at that young people came to NYU came from the global world, came from the international world that I wanted to be in as myself. In that world I wanted to visit the whole world that became my classroom. I wanted to go around the world and see what it really looks like. Most of the other places I have visited were racially isolated as well. Then I took the young people close to home and create the world I wanted to live in. I started with children, aged 6 to 12 year old then, 12 to 18 year old. That is direct service as well. In indirect service, college students getting their undergrad or maters degrees, or getting their doctorates. I decided to use ethnically and culturally diverse Greenwich village as my base of operations. As a black woman who comes out of racial isolation, and coming out of worst experience of any human being of slave trade. Out of that energy, I created a world for myself. I decided to keep the global community as an institution to continue the world I wanted to live in. The young people now are coming from all over the world to occupy wall street, striving for inclusion. I have contacted them the second day they came in. I am saying all this to show the future generations steps one must take to create the world they want to live in. In a long period of time that becomes reality. That is the message I gave to the Occupied Wall Street. What is the plan of action to make what we dream happen for real to create a new society that includes everyone, a new society for the ninety nine percent."

Queen Mother concluded her presentation with a beautiful analogy in the following lines: "I want to live in a flower garden not a melting pot."

Globalization works both ways.

The next speaker was Mr. Akif Kirecci, Associate Professor at Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey. Associate Prof. Kirecci started off telling a story. In his words:

"Several years ago, a student went to USA to study from Turkey. He went to an upscale bar. When he was having his drink, an American gentleman came and they started talking. Suddenly topic came to be beliefs. Student was asked what was his religion. He told he was an Atheist. Then the student was asked where he was from. The student replied he was Turkish. Then gentleman said: 'Oh, you are a Muslim atheist, then.'. I prepared a very long presentation about the notion of globalization and the historical context and look at the attempts to unite different cultures. Romans and Greeks did small attempts but I think the first true attempt was by the Abbasid, an Arab, Muslim empire. What they did was interesting. In their time Arabic became a lingua franca. Wherever they have conquered, they have requested books in any language they could find. He then had the books translated to Arabic. It is thanks to them that we have ancient Greek works. Another thing they did was establishing a unique international trade network. These were early attempts to globalization. Then the torch passed on to the Europeans. Their enterprise of globalization started with colonial endeavors. This allowed the global business culture which in turn propagated the industrial revolutions. Another thing was the information revolution such as email and the Internet. United States is currently leading the world. If you travel outside US, you can see other countries wanting the be like United States. However there is a problem. While the world is wanting to become more American, Americans are getting away from the rest of the world. I find this troubling. There is a tendency towards closure. I have seen a tendency in televisions that are lambasting the Arab spring. Americans need to travel more for the nation to be healthier. Globalization works both ways."

Cross cultural competence is not a natural ability, it is learned.

Mr. Kirecci was followed by Janet Salazar, Chair, WDLS UN-Accredited NGOs and Fellows. She delivered her presentation on behalf of Mr. Douglas Freeman, CEO, Virtcom Consulting; Founder-Organizer, World Diversity Leader Summit. And, shared her experience and expertise both in corporate world and NGO sector, and she focused on the term "relationship" within the context of diversity. Ms. Salazar stated the following:

"As a permanent representative for an international NGO, I have all sorts of experience with diversity. However diversity and globalization are biggest issues all around the world in many diverse areas. For the purpose of having a more defined focus, I will talk about relationship. When we start thinking about reaching about someone, we become aware of our differences and commonalities. It all starts with relationship. As foundation of diversity will have to deal with gender, race, nationality, religion, age, ability, sexual orientation. The main question of diversity especially in business is this: if I am different and you are different, how do we connect? The major answer is cross cultural competence. Cross cultural competence is not a natural ability, it is learned. We need to learn cross cultural competence to be more aware of the other. Personally, through being an active member of the NGO community at the UN, I was exposed to different cultures and perspectives. World Diversity Leadership Summit, is an annual meeting of Fortune 500 CEOs and employees where we talk about the business implications of the diversity. We talk about topics on how to deal with and promote diversity at the workspace. Recently I attended International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge, this is a very good international platform acknowledging women doing great business efforts in the international platform. This is an example of how women entrepreneurs are given an international platform to share good business practices. Finally, I would like to invite everyone to participate in the World Diversity Leadership Summit in New York next fall, and in particular, I will have complimentary tickets for limited amount students and NGO representatives that I'd like to encourage you to particpate."

Final speaker for the day was Mr. Cem Zorlular from Columbia University, and prospect Youth Representative of The Light Millennium to the United Nations. Mr. Zorlular, at the age of 19th, was the youngest of the all speakers and brought in Youth perspecitive and shared his own experience in both facing "prejudies" as well as "cross cultural difference" in between New York and his home country. He also reflected differences in between a more mono society and multicultural as follow:

"Having just started university, I was exposed to a level of multicultural environment that my childhood did not prepared me for. This caused great hardship to me and my friends. Along the way I have learned a couple of lessons as to how one should act in a multicultural environment. Firstly, we should forget whatever we knew about the other culture. That can and will cause comical situations as best, offensive situations at worst. Furthermore, we should not try to reflect our emotional feelings about the nationality of the person we have just met. He or she is neither an ambassador nor a government official of their country, therefore has not capacity to solve our feelings. Likewise, debating such policies will bring nothing but hostility. Moreover, one must make sure that he or she respect the person one is speaking to in order to ensure mutual respect. This led me two conclusions as to how we can advance the fight against prejudice. Firstly, we must make friends from different cultures to increase our own exposure and gain support. Secondly, we must treat prejudice as a global crime against humanity rather than ignorance committed to our own culture."

Challenges of Cultural Diversity and Globalization - Panel, Nov. 28, 2011

Following the speeches the floor was opened to questions from the audience. The questions asked ranged from eligibility to WDLS to examples of projects the United Nations Alliance of Cultures have produced.

As conclusion, Mr. Roca-Hackem and Dr. Uthup laid out the ground of the "challenges of cultural diversity and globalization" on the UN as well as global level. Also, each and every panelist openly shared both their own experience and expertise with a do-able, realistic and practical ideas and proposals for solutions that overall all the speakers contributed and promoted the concept on the utmost level as well as provided hints for implementations on a daily base.

- . -

On behalf of The Light Millennium: We THANK to the keynote speakers, panelists and musicians for their outstanding statements, speeches and musical performances.

We also, we would like to thank Professor Edward Foster, moderator and co-organizer of the program, and Dean Lisa Dolling, Faculty of Arts and Letters at Stevens Institute of Technology (CAL) for hosting the program at Stevens. And, to Ms. Jennifer McBryan and Mr. Dave Silverstein, CAL/SIT;

(Sandra Henao and Joyce Muller) and photography.

As last, we would like to thank to some of the attendees of the program: Ed Diaz (came from Pennsylvania), Kausha Siriwardana (Helping Hands Inc-Nonprofit, came from Texas), Wale Ajibade (African Views, nonprofit), Aydogan Vatandas (Cihan News Agency), Cahit Oktay (IUMEZ-US Association), Constance Peak (Program Director, Foundation for the Support of the United Nations-NGO), Farida Yesmin (Care Queen Business Women Network Inc.), Mesut Sahin, P.HD, (Newark College of Engineering)...

Challenges of Cultural Diversity

1) The program was video-taped by Justin Russ, and will be produced in two parts programs for the LMTV, and will be scheduled at QPTV in February or March 2012.

2) This report may be reproduced fully or partial in the condition with given full credit and hyperlink to this page and both to The Light Millennium and College of Arts and Letters at Stevens.

Photo Credits: Abhay Sampath(volunteer, student), Lightmillennium.Org and Justin Ross.

- Bios of the Presenters of the Program
Slide presentation made by Dr. Thomas Uthup.
- 11th Anniversary of The Light Millennium - Slide presentation made by Bircan Ünver.
- Lessons I have Learned by Being a Stranger by Cem Zorlular
- INVITE with the Purpose of the Panel

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