New York, December 21, 2011—OneVoice delegates led a session at the fourth annual United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Forum in Qatar last week, taking the opportunity to present a united Israeli and Palestinian vision of the two-state solution.
Attended by political, corporate and civil society leaders, activists, journalists and academics, the forum brought over 2,500 participants together to present and debate actions to improve cross-cultural relations as a means of building lasting peace.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a dominant topic during many of the events, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, among others, mentioning the urgency for a solution to the conflict in their remarks. The forum, with delegates from 130 countries, involved one of the most diverse audiences OneVoice has ever engaged.
"This conflict is everyone's business, and its shockwaves are felt far beyond the borders of Israel and Palestine," John Lyndon, executive director of OneVoice Europe, reiterated to the 50 attendees at the OneVoice workshop. "All heads of state at the opening sessions of the forum spoke about it. We need to ensure that we channel this interest and concern toward pragmatic and constructive ends."
OneVoice has cultivated a close relationship with the UNAOC in recent years. This was the third UNAOC forum OneVoice has participated in, having attended previous conferences in Istanbul and Rio de Janiero, and High Representative of the UNAOC Jorge Sampaio, visited OneVoice Palestine's offices in Ramallah in October.
Sampaio endorsed OneVoice's grassroots activism as the greatest avenue to effect change. "Watching your presentation," he told OneVoice Palestine staff and youth leaders in Ramallah, "I was thinking about what kind of work and activities our organizations can do jointly. There is a huge range of opportunities for cooperation."
OneVoice's presentation, focusing on the urgency and potential of the two-state solution, the threats it currently faces, and the international and diplomatic actions needed to herald it, did not go unchallenged by audience members, some of whom espoused alternative approaches to resolving the conflict. Yet, for many of the delegates from across the Arab world, the workshop presented an all-too-rare opportunity to hear an Israeli moderate's perspective on ending the conflict and to see Israelis and Palestinians share a common vision for the two-state solution.
OneVoice representatives were also invited to attend a closed door briefing on the state of the conflict. The meeting was attended by politicians from around the world, including Sampaio, former president of Portugal, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, former EU special representative for the Middle East peace process, and Riyad Maliki, Palestinian foreign affairs minister.
Tal Harris, executive director of OneVoice Israel, used the platform to urge the leaders to broaden their engagement with voices in Israel opposed to the conflict and to remain open to partnerships with Israeli organizations trying to break the status quo.
"The window of opportunity is closing," Samer Makhlouf, executive director of OneVoice Palestine, told the delegates. "We now feel the support of the people in Tahrir Square, and across the Arab world. But the Arab states and the Arab people can help us by engaging pragmatically, like, for instance, with the Arab Peace Initiative."