The International Dialogue Centre, an Intergovernmental Commitment to Peace
As the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) reaches its sixth anniversary in November 2018, the organization, fruit of the commitment of the governments of Austria, Saudi Arabia and Spain, with the Holy See as the Founding Observer, has reached almost 18,000 people around the world. In just the last three years, the Centre, an intergovernmental effort to bring peace through dialogue, has created interreligious platforms in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Arab Region and trained over 5,000 people in interreligious dialogue.
The Centre’s unique governance structure has been key towards its achievements. With a Council of Parties composed of the founding states, a Board of Directors consisting of nine representatives of five religions, and an Advisory Forum that gathers over 40 members from world religions, religious organizations, and cultural institutions, KAICIID’s governing bodies reflect the organization’s goal to bring together policymakers and leaders of religious communities in a dialogue that can result in concrete solutions to current challenges around the world.
The unique combination of States (including Austria, Spain, Saudi Arabia and the Holy See as founding observer) and religious leaders is a guarantee of the independence of the Centre: a clear signal to the world that KAICIID represents no single religion or government. This fact has helped us build partnerships with international organizations like the United Nations, but also with religious communities around the world.
In places where religion is being manipulated for violence, KAICIID has established interreligious platforms for peace and reconciliation. Through them, and as per the Centre’s mandate, KAICIID is building spaces for dialogue between religious leaders from different communities, and between religious leaders and policymakers. Ongoing financial and technical assistance are provided to support their work.
In Europe, through the Muslim Jewish Leadership Council, leaders from both communities dialogue on their shared challenges in the region, like hate speech, xenophobia, and legislation limiting religious practice. In Myanmar, KAICIID established the Peaceful Myanmar Initiative, the country’s largest interreligious network, which promotes Buddhist-Muslim dialogue, and it recently trained a group of parliamentarians in interreligious dialogue.
In Nigeria, the Interreligious Dialogue Forum for Peace recently concluded an advocacy visit to five provinces where conflict between Muslim Fulani herdsmen and Christian peasants has worsened ethnoreligious tensions, and the Centre is working with a coalition of religious communities and civil society organizations to sponsor a bill combating hate speech through the parliament. In the Central African Republic, it supports the Interfaith Platform and is assisting with the establishment of 16 local offices covering every prefecture in the country. In the Arab region, the Centre founded the Network of Religious Faculties and Institutions, who are working together to create the first joint curricula on interreligious dialogue; and in February 2018, KAICIID also launched the Interreligious platform for Dialogue and cooperation in the Arab World.
Multiplying effect: Educating peacebuilders
Since its establishment, the International Dialogue Centre has prioritised capacity building of religious leaders and practitioners who can lead peace efforts in their communities through interreligious dialogue. Over 5000 people have been trained, including through the Centre’s flagship Fellows programme, which trains mid-career education professionals in dialogue, through our collaboration with the World Organization of the Scouts Movement and reaching over 4000 young people in the use of social media to promote interreligious dialogue.
We have produced training manuals on interreligious dialogue in English, French, Arabic, Burmese, Spanish, German and Russian. These manuals are free to download and use by anyone in the world. Also downloadable and directed to youth, is the recently launched Dialogo! game, an educational aid that facilitates conversations on sensitive topics in an engaging and fun way.
The Centre also created and maintains an online database of knowledge about interreligious dialogue, including publications, videos, and webinars; and has produced the world’s first university-accredited, totally free and universally available online course on interreligious dialogue, accredited by the University of Montreal.
Joining efforts: International alliances
Throughout its history, the input and support of local and international partners have been essential in all KAICIID’s programmes and activities. The Centre’s multilateral approach is aligned with the United Nations’ call to multi-stakeholder partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals, while through its work with policymakers and religious actors on intercultural and interreligious dialogue for peace and social cohesion it contributes directly to SDGs 4, 5, 11, 16 and 17.
KAICIID has recently seen a growing request for capacity-building from the international community on how to use interreligious dialogue in their programming. Only in the last month, it held two panel discussions at the Fundamental Rights Forum on the shared spaces of religion and human rights; during the UNGA, it partnered with the United Nations Population Fund and the European Union on an event on the critical role of women in interreligious dialogue for conflict resolution; and it hosted a joint workshop with the OSCE on Religion and Conflict. Also in September, KAICIID was elected as the co-chair of the Faith Advisory Council of the UN Interagency Taskforce, which strengthens collaboration and engagement between the United Nations and faith-based entities.
Other partnerships include the African Union, the UN Office of the Secretary General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, UNDP, UNAoC and the World Organization of the Scout Movement. KAICIID co-chairs the PaRD, the partnership on religion and development inaugurated by the German foreign ministry and GiZ, and is a core member of the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, a network of the Finnish Foreign Ministry.