Foreign Minister Alfano’s speech at the Ancient Civilizations Forum (Athens, 24 April 2017)

Thank you for inviting me,

My thanks to Minister Kotzias personally.

I will speak in the name of Minister of Foreign Affairs Alfano, who unfortunately this morning was forced to return to Italy due to an emergency situation.

I would like to express my thanks to the Greek presidency and the Chinese presidency and express my warmest congratulations for this initiative. It is indeed a brilliant idea Mr. Kotzias, and I hope it will be fruitfuil.

Now I will read the speech that Minister Alfano wanted to deliver.

The ancient Romans used to say “Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit” , in other words Rome conquered with weapons, but Greece conquered with letters, art and civilization, through which it managed to civilize the Roman conqueror. This is something that must happen even today.

History has taught that the Mediterranean has created the best works of art through the positive dissemination of various civilizations. The history of ancient civilizations is a guide to the pursuit of all mankind, when we learned to have a dialogue, we regained our humanity and a great deal of wealth. Civilization and culture is the wealth that emerges through our diversity. Civilization is multi-dimensional, civilizations have different expressions. We may have different ideas, some based on scientific aspects others claim culture’s knowledge, others claim that culture is what is left when everything is lost in oblivion, others consider that it is an intellectual aspect; others view it as a civil commitment. Some point out the importance of having research to the service of companies. Some place priority in the protection of civilization and heritage. Some give a primary role to States and others in partnerships with individuals. Civilization, culture, is a multiplicity of plans and interactions that showcase the identity, the power and the wealth of a country. For example, Italy is a country with few natural resources. We grew without gold, diamonds or other natural resources. But culture is a key source of our growth. Our treasure is 350 museums, 500 archaeological sites and parks and 51 UNESCO designated areas. We invest in civilization, in education, in schooling and training because we have realized that in the current world wealth comes through knowledge.

Our diplomacy uses culture and civilization not as a point of influence and exerting pressure but as an intellectual cloak for understanding diversity and understanding each other. This is the quintessence of diplomacy. A proposal to be constantly open to a complexity and a breadth of thought, this is where civilization favors awareness to listening to something different to our view. This is very important to promote international stability and development. For this reason Italy globally promotes education and training. It is important so as to attract the young and condemning any sort of fundamentalism. A major Greek philosopher, Aristotle would argue that civilization is a decoration of good fortune but also serves as a refuge in a different situation.

This reference is very useful today because we are experiencing a situation and reality that is very negative. The common challenge is to place our cultural heritage to cover the needs of security because now they are at risk. If civilization is lost, all is lost.

Civilization can also combat extremism. ISIS has destroyed some of the wonderful works of art that identified people and by extension humanity as a whole. These are terrible events, but civilization is much stronger than bombs. Through cultural cooperation we shall assist our Syrian and Iraqi friends and many other friends globally to find their way back to peace, reconciliation and prosperity.

Italy is at the forefront of protecting cultural heritage in sensitive areas. We discussed at the Security Council the promotion of resolution 2347 for the protection of cultural heritage in impacted regions. We participate in international missions, we avail to local civilizations the culture of dialogue, based on the principle that nobody can be forced to deny themselves of their fundamental rights. For example we support that the orders for peace missions regarding the protection of culture and heritage are important. The same activities for training of international powers are something we need to dedicate more time and effort. This is an effort that Italy is making with the assistance of the Carabinieri, especially within the framework of UNESCO and the “United for Heritage” campaign. We also have a force available to deal with threats on global heritage. Therefore, Italy promotes many initiatives against the illegal trafficking of cultural goods, which often serve as sources for funding of terrorism, especially against ISIS.

Italy, furthermore, organized the first G7 meeting on civilization and culture, this year in Florence. The final declaration of the G7 meeting for civilization staged the commitment for the protection of global heritage that is being threatened from illegal trafficking, the role of civilization for sustainability and the fundamental contribution of civilization to global dialogue and cooperation.

There are also other similar initiatives of Italian cultural diplomacy. First of all, Italy has a very reach tradition. 180 archaeological missions are currently funded by Italy. In many cases our archaeologists are our best diplomats. In Iraq for example, our archaeologists working in Uruq have created friendly bonds, they are considered as parts of the family by locals.

We support research; we support innovation in the preservation of cultural goods. Science, technology, creativity and innovation have contributed greatly to the growth and development of civilizations. The dissemination of our language is another priority, because languages build bridges with other civilizations. Every year approximately 2,5 million people from around the world are studying the Italian language. We want to increase the presence of foreign students in Universities and improve language training in the service of inclusion and integration. Civilization is one of the drivers of economic activity. The production system [produces approximately 90 bn euros in revenue every year, about 6% of our GDP, supporting 1,5 million jobs.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that the links between civilization, security and peace in the prevention of conflicts is not only a moral issue, a moral imperative, but it is also an imperative for security. Millennia have taught us that civilization is a tool for peace, because through civilization humans discover wealth. They open up to others; they respect others by sincerely understanding what their interlocutors are saying. Through this intention dialogue, a necessity for peace is being born. So civilizations are born through intentions but are enhanced through actions. Today, with the launch of this forum, we see a new intention of investing in the culture of dialogue and friendship in order to produce security and peace.

Thank you for your attention.