Jeffrey Haynes

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations: an Effective Actor to Improve Global Dialogue?

Associate Dean of Faculty, Director of Research Centre
London Metropolitan University, Faculty of Social Sciences
London, United Kingdom

Capstone Conference Talk

Friday (8/4) 5:20-5:40PM

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations: Enhancing Life?

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) was created in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 (“9/11”). Its aim was to increase dialogue and reduce enmity between “civilizations,” notably between Christians and Muslims. In other words, the UNAOC was created to enhance life for the millions of people around the world imperiled by inter-civilizational and inter-religious tensions and conflicts. To what extent, if at all, has the UNAOC achieved its objective of enhancing life for such people? To what extent, if at all, is the world now committed to enhanced dialogue and understanding of different civilizations, cultures, and religions as a result of the activities of the UNAOC?


Capstone Conference Research Laboratory

SATURDAY (8/5) 9:30-10:40AM

Politics and Enhancing Life: Disruption, Dialogue, and Democracy

The premise of our laboratory is that in order to engage fully the questions of enhancing life, one must explore it in relation to global political challenges. This is because global political challenges (e.g. climate disruption, terrorism, refugee crises, post-truth media) provoke questions about power (who’s got it, who doesn’t), value (forms and loci) and shared life (social and ecological, global and planetary) that directly bear on the questions of Enhancing Life Studies. The purpose of our laboratory is to test the utility of “Enhancing Life Studies” as a framework for interpreting and/or morally engaging global political challenges. Our group hypothesis is that Enhancing Life Studies provides a way of looking at global political challenges that illuminates them in new ways which we will explore in the laboratory. 

Research Laboratories allow audience members to interact with a panel of ELP Scholars and Interlocutors in addressing a problem of public relevance. We invite active participation from audience members in the creation of new knowledge.

Academic Biography

Jeffrey Haynes has research interests in several areas, including: religion and international relations; religion and politics; democracy and democratisation; and the politics of development.  Haynes has more than 200 publications, including nearly 40 books, 66 peer-reviewed journal articles, 92 book chapters, and three working papers for international organizations: the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the European University Institute.

Haynes has extensive experience as a research leader, manifested by his experience in forming and developing research networks and communities. He regularly organizes and directs international academic events and is frequently asked to give keynote addresses at national and international events. In recent years, he has directed international academic events in, inter alia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the USA. He has given keynote speeches at international conferences in many countries, including, in addition to the countries mentioned above: Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Norway, Singapore, and Turkey.

 Haynes convenes the Religion and Politics Standing Group for the European Consortium for Political Research’s, with over 250 active members, chairs the International Political Science Association’s Research Committee, ‘Religion and Politics,’ and co-edits a peer-reviewed journal, Democratization, published seven times a year by Taylor and Francis.

 Haynes is book series editor of ‘Routledge Studies in Religion & Politics,’ for the major publisher Routledge, UK, which publishes around four books a year and co-editor of Democratization’s book series, ‘Special Issues and Virtual Special Issues,’ which publishes approximately three volumes a year.

Project Executive Summary

After 9/11, the global community was concerned with cultivating better inter-civilizational relations between the Christian and Muslim worlds. This goal requires real, sustained, and meaningful global dialogue. The United Nations (UN) and the ‘citizen-civil’ sector agreed to work together to improve Muslim-Christian relations, to address their needs and help preserve their identity and cultural heritage using inter-faith dialogue to build peaceful coexistence and enhance life.

My focus is the dedicated UN body, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), created in 2005. I want to understand how UNAOC works towards the goal of enhancing life for Christians and Muslims by refining strategies and social mechanisms in several dimensions.

My initial perception is that UNAOC is a well-meaning, elite-sponsored, initiative that may struggle to achieve its goals. Is UNAOC provided with enough leadership, funds and/or infrastructural support, to make achievement of its aspirations possible?

Second, does UNAOC engage primarily in ‘symbolic politics’, that is, does it seek to create ‘only’ a more open atmosphere for political discussions among elites from the Christian and Muslim ‘civilizations’? Does UNAOC engage meaningfully and consistently with grassroots actors in pursuit of its goals? If not, why not?

Third, how can UNAOC develop an institutionalised framework fit for purpose, enabling grassroots interactions involving representative civil society actors from the Christian and Muslim worlds?

In sum, how does UNAOC help give Muslims and Christians hope to believe better relations are possible?