The Role of Intercivilizational Dialogue in Securing Successful International Cooperation


A Paper by Vladimir Yakunin, Founding President of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations”, delivered at the Beijing Forum on November 6, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen!
Dear friends!

This is a great privilege and honor for me to address the distinguished participants of the Beijing Forum. The Forum has gathered leading representatives of the UN, prominent intellectuals and world-renowned scholars to discuss the most pressing issues of the contemporary studies of the humanities and social sciences in line with paradigm of Dialogue of Civilizations, as well as to contemplate and decide the prospects of future developments of nations, cultures and civilizations.

The Beijing Forum is one of the most highly esteemed platforms, which encourage and facilitate the civilizational discourse, and it is my pleasure in the capacity of the Founding President of World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” to note that both our Fora share common principles of openness, reciprocity and mutual trust. These values form the bedrock of any true and unbiased dialogue between civilizations. This kind of dialogue is of ever greater importance in today’s complicated international context, which we called in 2012 “The Period of the Tectonic Transformations in the World”.

May I will share with you several aspects of the role of intercivilizational dialogue in securing successful international cooperation as it was discussed during the 13-th World Public Forum Session on the Greek island of Rhodes this October.

The Forum stated the evident signs of the failure of the neo-liberal Globalization model of modern development everywhere. Social and economic inequality is only aggravating and the modern world is facing an unprecedented intensification of conflicts arising from various ethnic and religious fractures. The global disorder is visible in all aspects and spheres of human existence. Unfairness and inequality in the world reach unprecedented level: 400 billionaires are getting more income than 50% of the poorest of the world population; so the richest own ½ of the world population (Prof. R. Werner, Southampton University).

The chaos is manifested in each and every of the existing cultures and civilizations. Those of us, who recognize that responsible behavior in this chaos is of paramount and primary importance, understand that now is the time to get together and undertake joint practical steps for implementing the alternative models of possible future that may lead the humankind to a more just and more sustainable world order.

The world is being persistently offered only two options. It is either to join those forces, which have designed and developed a neo-liberal model of the world Globalization and offering everyone the values of a global armament protected consumerist society as a panacea (as described by late JC Kapur, one of the World Public Forum co-founders ), or to perish in the chaos of the world wars, economic disasters, and environmental cataclysms. In this situation, to all the parties interested in a joint and coherent future there is a third option. This option lays outside the framework of chaos imposed by neo-liberalism and authoritarian (hegemonic) rule. For more than fifteen consecutive years, common people and professional communities, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations expressing various opinions and different ideas were getting together at independent places, including the Beijing Forum and World Public Forum. This is a practical confirmation that the way of trans-cultural discussions and intercivilizational communications is the only alternative to consumerism being imposed to the world by the force of arms.

Our joint approach is an adequate means to correct and recast the existing global disorder and pioneer the way for greater prosperity of mankind.

Right from the moment it came into being, the World Public Forum took a stand of supporting and upholding a contemporary pluralistic vision of the world. We strongly called for a natural development of the multitude of different civilizations that had been formed historically on the basis of mutual supplementation of diversified but responsible approaches that could lead to a viable coexistence of different nations and peoples. We have left no stone unturned in the matter of upgrading methodologies and practical means to promote a dialogue among civilizations.

It is precisely such a stand that can bring us closer to understanding not an engaged, not an ideologized, but an all-inclusive “picture of the world” without which, in our opinion, the further advancement of mankind will hardly be possible.

The objectives, means and instrumentaria of a dialogue of civilizations go far beyond the framework of scientific and research interests. 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 NGOs, transnational corporations or individual personalities. The conditions of an open, mutual respect and equitable dialogue are the main factors that determine the efficacy of cooperation and partnership among civilizations.

The contemporary concept of stable development that was recently proclaimed in the United Nations can be implemented only by determining the initial conditions for such development, its specific numeric economic and social achievements in the fight against poverty, disease, ignorance, shortage of resources for whole nations and continents, as well as by determining the sources necessary for material and other resources for the whole of mankind. That means that the percentage of the economic growth doesn’t properly reflect actual conditions of the wellbeing of the people and should be added by real factors of the prosperity of the citizens. By coming to such a conclusion, we proceeded from our “civilization map of the world” as being the most adequate reflection of the present day intellectual structure capable of practically corresponding with the logic of a responsible pragmatic utilization of the potential for development over a great space of the Earth’s mainland.

On the basis of this methodology, the Rhodes Forum at its past Session stepped forward with the initiative of establishing a World Public Forum Think Tank, which will develop the network structure of the dialogue of civilizations and involve all the forces of civil societies, their intellectual potential represented in the respectful academic institutions, in the processes of comprehending the present-day picture of the world and forging new practical responses to the most pressing and actual challenges.

The Beijing Forum provides all the mentioned above prerequisites to bring the bright idea of harmony of civilizations and prosperity for all into life. The issues put on the agenda of the Forum’s panel sessions are of the utmost importance for fostering the social development and maintaining successful dialogue between civilizations.

In the conclusion I would like to make two quotations from the statements of the leaders of China and Russia at the General Debate of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly.

His Excellency Xi Jinping President of the People’s Republic of China said: “Only through mutual respect, mutual learning and harmonious coexistence can the world maintain its diversity and thrive. Each civilization represents the unique vision and contribution of its people, and no civilization is superior to others. Different civilizations should have dialogue and exchanges instead of trying to exclude or replace each other.”

His Excellency Vladimir Putin President of the Russian Federation stated: “Ensuring peace and regional stability remains the key objective of the international community, with the UN at its helm. We believe this means creating a space of equal and indivisible security which is not for select few, but for everyone. Yes, it is a challenging, difficult, and time-consuming task, but there is simply no other alternative.”

I believe that these words of the China and Russia leaders fully reflect the ideas and aims of the true dialogue and perspective partnership, which we jointly support in the work of the Beijing and Rhodes Fora.

This proves the grounds for inter-civilizational dialogue to be the real practice in securing successful international cooperation.

I wish all the participants, the organizers and guests of the Beijing Forum to have fruitful and successful discussions. Thank you for your attention!

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Vladimir Yakunin

Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, Head of the Department of State Governance of the Faculty of Political Science, Moscow State University, RU

Russian business leader and philanthropist. Former President of Russian Railways (2005-2015). Head of the Department of State Governance of the Faculty of Political Science of the Lomonosov Moscow State University. Doctor of Political Sciences; visiting professor at the Stockholm School of Economics; visiting professor at Peking University; Honorary Doctor of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry; Member of the Russian Academy of Social Sciences. Vladimir Yakunin graduated from the Leningrad Institute of Mechanics as a Mechanical Engineer in 1972. After completing military service he worked with the Administration of the State Committee of the Council of Ministers of the USSR for Foreign Trade and as a department head at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute. In 1985-1991, Vladimir Yakunin was Second and then First Secretary of the USSR’s Permanent Representative Office at the United Nations. In the 1990s, Vladimir Yakunin occupied various positions in business and public service, including high-ranking positions in the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation. Yakunin served as Deputy Minister of Transport and as first Deputy Minister of Railways. In 2005 he was appointed CEO of Russian Railways, Russia's largest employer, a position he held until 2015. Vladimir Yakunin is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the St Andrew the First-Called Foundation and a member of the Russian-French Trianon Dialogue Coordination Council. In 2013, Vladimir Yakunin founded the Endowment for the World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations, aimed at supporting research in the sphere of political and social sciences, religion and culture, developing communication between countries on political and economic matters, and seeking compromise in cases of social unrest and international disputes. In 2016, together with the Former Secretary General of the Council of Europe Walter Schwimmer and Professor Peter W. Schulze of the Georg-August University of Gőttingen, he founded the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute. Vladimir Yakunin was appointed Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Institute. Vladimir Yakunin has received around 30 state awards, both Russian and international.