Upon the initiative of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, a Ministerial Conference was convened in Athens, on April 23-24, 2017, with the view to establish the Ancient Civilizations Forum (ACForum) between countries with ancient cultural heritage. Participation was as follows: Egypt, Italy, Iraq, Iran (at FM level), China (represented by FM and Deputy Minister of Culture), Peru (Minister of Culture), Bolivia (Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs). India and Mexico originally invited, were represented by local Embassies.
The Greek initiative that was communicated some time ago by Minister Kotzias, was embraced with great interest from all countries involved. The ACForum aims to bind countries with ancient civilizations and intertwine already existing bilateral cooperation links, maximizing their appeal and contribution to the international community. The aim of the ACForum is to promote further the cultural dimension of international relations, by using civilization as a soft and smart diplomatic power, as well as an agent of economic growth.
During the Athens Conference, Ministers praised the Greek initiative as very timely and important. The ACForum participating States (China, Egypt, Bolivia, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Peru) expressed their commitment to promoting cultural diversity and inter-civilizational dialogue, understanding and tolerance among peoples. They confirmed their will to tighten cooperation in the cultural framework and to use their legacy of ancient civilisations to the common goal of coping with the current challenges and of promoting international peace and prosperity. It was widely acknowledged that there is a very wide range of common actions and cooperation in the cultural field, that can be undertaken within the ACForum.
Alongside with the Ministerial Conference, an Academic Forum was convened, with the participation of Academic personalities of all countries involved. The Academic Forum had a wide exchange of views on ideas and fields of potential cooperation within the ACForum.
As regards to the set up of the Ancient Civilizations Forum, the participating States agreed on the following:
- The ACForum will be annually chaired by a participating State, on a rotation basis. The Chair will hold an annual Ministerial meeting. Next meeting will be hosted in 2018 by Bolivia.
- A meeting of the Ministers of the participating States of the ACForum in the sidelines of the UNGA each year is envisaged.
- The ACForum is open for enlargement upon agreement of all participating States.
- ACForum could consider accepting observers at its meetings upon agreement of all participating States.
- The ACForum will invite UNESCO and the UN, as well as other specialized organizations to take part in its meetings according to the agenda of the meetings.
- The role of the Secretariat of the ACForum will be undertaken each year by the rotating Chair.
- An online network will be established as a platform of communication and exchange. Greece will set up the electronic domain, starting from the Athens Conference.
- There is an added value in holding an Academic conference along with each Ministerial meeting.
- Main competency of the ACForum falls into the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, however States can be represented in the meetings by any Ministry they deem more relevant according to its agenda.
The Athens Conference concluded its works by establishing the Ancient Civilizations Forum with 8 participating States. In this view, the Ministers of the participating States adopted the Athens Declaration.