17 October 2007 – For Immediate Release

IGE President Chris Seiple presided over an “on the record” discussion with Former Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio on Tuesday, 16 October 2007. The event, entitled “The Nexus of Religion and Foreign Policy: Toward an Alliance of Civilizations,” was sponsored by The Council on Foreign Relations and focused on Sampaio’s recent appointment as High Representative for the U.N.’s Alliance of Civilizations in April 2007. The event opened with Seiple asking President Sampaio three focus questions about the background and vision of the Alliance, as well as asking what role religion plays in international affairs.

In response, President Sampaio explained that the vision for the Alliance is to create a global network of nations that will propagate dialogue between Western and Islamic societies. The Alliance, co-sponsored by the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey, states on its
website that it “… seeks to forge collective political will and to mobilize concerted action at the institutional and civil society levels to overcome the prejudice, misperceptions and polarization that militate against such a consensus.” President Sampaio introduced several initiatives put forth by the Alliance, including a clearinghouse of knowledge that would serve as a practical tool for governments seeking to engage in intercultural and interfaith conversations.

Answering questions about the role religion plays in the realm of foreign affairs, President Sampaio expressed his desire for the Alliance to promote open dialogue between international religious leaders while acknowledging the challenges of cross-cultural communication. He stressed the importance of faith and religious beliefs to the world’s pressing intercultural issues.

President Sampaio served as President of the Republic of Portugal from 1996-2006. After finishing his term as president, Sampaio was asked to lead a United Nations Special Envoy to the Stop TB Partnership. Throughout his political career Sampaio has been active in battling the problems of HIV/AIDS and TB around the world. The Alliance of Civilizations will be hosting an annual forum in Madrid, Spain in January 2008.

To read the CFR event transcript, click here. For more information, please contact IGE’s Press Officer, Amy McDowell, at 703-527-3100.