Rhodes Forum 2015 – The World Beyond Global Disorder

Rhodes Forum 2015 – The World Beyond Global Disorder

Conference impressions

by Dr Eva-Maria Föllmer-Müller and Erika Vögeli

The following article gives a first impression. The conference can be checked on the website of the World Public Forum as lifestream at www. wpfdc.org.
From 8 to 11 October, the 13th Rhodes Forum of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” took place in Rhodes. This at a time of a daily flood of disaster reports regarding refugee flows, economic crises, continuing armed conflicts in Ukraine, in Syria, on the African continent – and last but not least, about the miserable situation of the people in Greece.
During the ride from the airport to the conference venue, the taxi driver told us in fluent German (his grandparents had worked in Germany) that Greece could no longer survive without the revenue out of tourism on the islands. Other than the cultivation of olive trees, Rhodes has no agriculture, only tourism. Now his wife works 12 hour per day, he had to work 14, sometimes 16 hours to feed his family with two children. The worst, however, was the state of the health care system in Greece: Hardly anyone could afford an expensive health insurance. Those who were compelled to go to hospital had to pay the fees themselves. Very few were able to do this. As we drive past abandoned unfinished constructions, he explains that during the years of 2000 to 2005, the banks had telephoned the citizens and asked them if they wanted a loan. You could take out a loan immediately to the amount of EUR 250 000, all one had to do was to just go to the Bank and sign. He knows many who took out such loans at that time and are now hopelessly indebted.
The reception at our hotel is extremely helpful and hospitable.
Traditionally, the opening ceremony took place in Rhodes in the courtyard of the castle of the former Grand Master of the Order of St. John. The hitherto arrived 300 participants were welcomed by Mayor Chatzidiakos of Rhodes, who paid tribute to the conference, which he was now able to host for the 13th time in Rhodes. Subsequently the Metropolitan of Rhodes and the President of the WPF, Vladimir Yakunin, held welcoming speeches.
It was beneficial that about 400 participants and delegates from more than 50 countries around the world came together, to discuss pressing current issues and possible causes and solutions for our current world situation. Six high-level plenary sessions and five workshops were held.
The conference was opened with contributions of the President of the World Public Forum Vladimir Yakunin, former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, former Foreign Secretary  of India, Kanwal Sibal, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece Ioannis Amanatidis, Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs Nikos Xydakis and former Federal Chancellor of Austria, Alfred Gusenbauer.
At the beginning of his speech, Vladimir Yakunin made the ethical position of the World Forum clear: It is about global pluralism. Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” and the ensuing wars that the West has created geo-politically, is countered by the World Forum through the “Dialogue of Civilizations”. The emphasis is on the things in common and on the equivalence of civilizations, less focus is put on the differences. “The objective means and instrumentaria of a dialogue of civilisations go far beyond the framework of scientific and research interest. This is because the maintenance of peace among countries and peoples depends on how efficiently and precisely is the work of the mechanisms geared to establishing mutual understanding, as well as promoting a trustworthy atmosphere among the parties in the dialogue – be they interstate institutions, NGOs, transnational corporations or individual personalities. The conditions of an open, mutual respect and equitable dialogue are the chief factors that determine the efficacy of cooperation and partnership among civilizations.” The World Public Forum sees this approach of a dialogue among civilisations as the only alternative to oppose the existing global chaos, conflicts and crises of all kinds and to achieve durable and sustainable solutions.
Yakunin sees a fundamental difference between East and West: The West (NATO countries) is pursuing a theory of the inevitability of conflict, which often leads to military intervention, while in the East wars are seen as a result of an erroneous policy. As an example he cites the utterance of British Prime Minister Cameron at a meeting in Manchester: that it was indeed legitimate to use nuclear weapons.
It is wrong to think that there is no alternative, there are alternatives. The creation of a trustful relationship in dialogue between the states. There is also a third way to world development, beyond neo-liberalism and collectivism/authoritarianism. In a world with hegemonic aspirations, with hybrid wars and neo-liberal oligarchy it is the order of the day to enforce dialogue, the legitimate dialogue between equivalent cultures and states.
Yakunin expressed strong criticism of the Western interventionist policy: “We have seen that a world dominated by a single civilization does not work. Recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria have demonstrated the failings of Western interventionist foreign policy. It is clear from the current state of conflict throughout the world that intercultural dialogue is vital.”
Postmodernism, that knows no historical continuity, leading to the isolation of people who are only directed by consumption, he compared to the terrorist militia. Against both significant opposition is indispensible.
By contrast, he highlighted the importance of the family as a union of human beings. Everything in the world is firmly interconnected: the crisis of one civilisation is also a crisis of all other civilisations.

Great variety of topics

The great variety of topics at this conference is shown by a brief glance at other numerous lectures.
The Deputy Foreign Minister of Greece pointed out that an improvement of peace was possible by further developing democracy. Religions would have to return to their core tasks. The aim was to live together in prosperity and peace.
The former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney made a strong case for the values that are conductive for the uneven road in the political struggle regarding the questions of peace: truth, just reality, peace and dignity. Everyone should try not to be part of the problem, but part of the solution.
Former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer clearly criticised how Greece was being dealt with: on the one hand they forced Greece to reduce the public budget, on the other hand, Greece should master all the administrative work of registering the refugees.
In former times economic decisions had been carefully prepared, now everything went very fast, Vladimir Yakunin said. The digital world with their e-banking was only there to dominate others.
Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics at the University of New Delhi, expressed her surprise at the great furore in Germany about the refugee problem: In many countries of the world there was migration and had been for years, she said. In addressing the question of the causes she was missing the search for the fundamental reason: Economic globalisation prevented development. Professor Ghosh spoke of a veritable “financial artillery”. Also the problem of intellectual property might prevent development. After a colonialisation of the mind had taken place over the years, a decolonisation of the mind had become necessary. One should no longer place a higher value on capital than on human beings. We need a democratisation of intellectual property and control of the financial system and above all a significant decentralisation. Communes and municipalities had a very important task here. How could it be achieved that people become capable of mobilising their own people’s will, asked the well-known expert on international law and former UN special envoy of the Human Rights Council Richard Falk. He added that everything was depending on that mobilisation. Militarisation had to stop, military power has never won wars.
Hans Köchler, the well-known professor of philosophy and President of the International Progress Organization emphasized that questions as to the morality and compatibility of hybrid warfare with international law did not have to be dismissed, if one was committed to a just and stable world order.
The deputy director of the Department of Security Policy of the Austrian Defence Ministry, Gustav Gustenau, commented on Austria’s contribution with regard to the past and the future of European security: Austria, for a long time, had simply followed the EU and not made its own analysis. On the outside Austria had followed Germany. In the background, however, Austria was establishing a strategic partnership with Russia resulting in a good dialogue and regular meetings. Gustenau argued that European countries needed to redevelop their own positions.
The director of the Foundation for African Cultural Heritage, Theresa Okafir from Nigeria, declared her determined rejection of the ideology of genderism in today’s world: What kept parents really busy day and night, was not “gender”, but the question of how their children were doing.
Participants at the three-day conference unanimously agreed it is possible to counteract disorder and anarchy and that a different response to conflict that looked to solve the roots of destabilisation could pave the way for a better world.     •

The plenary sessions:

–    A Prosperous Future Together: Financial and Economic Policies for Inclusive and Equitable Development
–    The World Beyond Global Disorder
–    Which Way WANA (West Asia and North Africa)?
–    The New Threat: Hybrid Wars as a Tool of Subversion
–    Family Values as a Basis for Sustainable Development of Human Civilization
–    Future of International Development Institutions: Challenges and Opportunities

The workshops:

–    Past and Future of European Security in the Aspects of Dialogue of Civilizations
–    Digital Media, Digital Transition and Internet of Things
–    On the Way to the Network of Schools of the Dialogue of Cultures
–    China and Russia: History and Future
–    The Current Migration Crisis: Causes and Solutions in Europe and Beyond

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