JULY 24 – 31, 2017



The fifth International Summer University for Intercultural Leadership was organized in Baku and Gakh, two Azerbaijani cities, from July 24 to July 31, on the theme “Intercultural dialogue in the context of religious and cultural diversity”.

The International Summer University for Intercultural Leadership is an annual program organized by the Aladdin Project under the patronage of UNESCO. This year’s program was organized with the support of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Baku International Multiculturalism Centre.

In partnership with prestigious universities in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North as well as South America, the International Summer University for Intercultural Leadership aims at bringing together students for one to two weeks in order to give them the opportunity to study together key issues in international affairs from a historical and socio-cultural perspective and develop their intercultural skills.

Recent years have witnessed an unsettling polarization, politicization, and securitization of cultural and religious identities linked to "Islam" and "the West." Political and military conflicts have fed a larger dynamic of identity conflict, in which partisans perceive their cultural values or religious identity - and not merely their state or nation - to be under attack. Samuel Huntington’s theory that the source of the great divisions and conflicts between peoples of global society would be cultural, and not necessarily ideological or economic as in the last century, began to gain credence in western circles in the aftermath of terrorist attacks ranging from 9/11 in the US to London in March this year. These events have undoubtedly reinforced hostile perceptions and attitudes towards ‘other’ cultures and the peoples that live in some distant countries. Studies have revealed a consistently close link between radicalization and ‘vicarious’ experiences of marginalization and discrimination. The stereotypical representations of “others” in the media and popular culture have profound implications for intercultural communication and prevention of conflict and radicalization. This year’s program seeked to explore how intercultural and interfaith dialogue can be used, not just as a tool but as a strategy, to deescalate this conflict and stimulate cooperative efforts to advance an inclusive agenda based on mutual respect, equality and dignity.

Cutting across many disciplines (politics, history, international law, theory of international relations and diplomacy, sociology, communication, religious studies, journalism…), this year’s course was done in the form of a lecture series by scholars in the field, combined with active participation by students in the form of project presentations and discussion groups. The program also enclosed cultural and social activities.

The program also provided the students with an opportunity to keep in touch and continue their discussion and cooperation beyond the summer course through their research project in groups. Working under the supervision of tutors during the summer university, each group submitted has continued to work together since in order to submit their complete research paper to an international panel of academics at the end of October 2017.

In addition to lectures, discussions in classes and informal activities, the program included extracurricular activities among which: visits of the Old City of Baku, the cities of Gakh (Kurmuk temple, Sumu Castle, Sangar Castle, old mosque) and Ismayilli, the village of Kish (Albanian temple), the Caravanserai and Khan’s Palace in the city of Shaki, the settlement of Nij, a tour of Gobustan and finally a visit of the Fire temple of Ateshgah.