Ever since the first meeting in 2003, discussions at the annual Rhodes Forum have reflected the most important items dominating the global affairs agenda of the day. Debates at the Forum have produced ideas capable of shaping the future development of the world. The concepts, strategies, and solutions that have been debated always share the same human-centric aspiration – that cultural diversity and the common good of all people should be cherished and nurtured. The life of every individual is not only the top priority – it is essential for the progress and well being of all of humanity.
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The theme of this year’s Rhodes Forum ventured into dialogue-based worldviews. The basis of dialogue should be ethical and constructive. Aristotle, in an ethical work addressed to his pupil Eudemus (who himself came from the island of Rhodes), wrote: “it is impossible to be truly virtuous without reason, nor reasonable without moral virtue” (translated from Russian, Eudemian Ethics, 1144a line 30). Rhodes Forum co-founder, Professor Fred Dallmayr, called the Dialogue of Civilizations initiative an ethical and moral commitment, and one that requires us to stand up and speak out if brute force threatens to undermine social justice and peace. Aristotle wrote his work more than two thousand years ago; Professor Dallmayr’s statement was made at the Rhodes Forum a little less than a decade ago. We can see that virtue, wisdom, and ethical norms are always central to humanity. And the Rhodes Forum remains a platform to find common solutions and answers to the most important issues affecting humanity.
The Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, which organises the Rhodes Forum, has emerged as a think tank that brings together ideas from different parts of the world. These ideas address multiple challenges related to the peaceful coexistence of diverse cultures and communities in a globalised world.
Given the fact that a growing number of political leaders have disengaged from multilateral cooperation, and that nationalism and right-wing populism are on the rise across the world, many people are doubtful that their governments are able to address the problems that humanity faces today. Many societies are torn between those who embrace diversity and multilateral cooperation, and those who see them as a potential threat to cultural identity and the nation-state. The gap between these two groups is growing. How can it be reconciled?
Keeping the peace among nations depends on the efficiency and precision of mechanisms that establish mutual understanding, as well as promote an atmosphere of trust among the parties involved – be they governments, NGOs, multinational corporations or individuals. The Rhodes Forum provides just this sort of mechanism – a specifically designed and historically proven space for dialogue where all voices can be heard and all peaceful aspirations can be met.
The Rhodes Forum has consistently brought attention to the demand for a new world order, but also the threat of certain processes in the reconfiguration of the world order that could plunge all of us into a state of chaos. Over the past 18 years, experts from the Dialogue of Civilizations network have consistently testified to the fact that a world order based on technocracy and material consumerism is inherently unstable. Such a world could emerge due to the economic failure of existing models of global financial management, as well as the political flaws of global governance systems. Humanity is already facing the consequences of environmental degradation – a problem that will only intensify in future.
The 17th Rhodes Forum facilitated a better understanding of the deep changes our societies are currently undergoing. It shed light on initiatives that contribute substantially to sustainable economic development; proposed concepts for new international governance models in the context of shifting power within the global economy; and examined the restoration of civility and the promotion of ethical standards in the digital age.
In 2019, the Forum raised the tough question of how to stimulate a new narrative based on the shared values of people from different worldviews, religions, and cultures. Forum participants examined the most pressing global challenges and potential solutions. Our partners joined us in promoting the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute’s principles of openness, reciprocity, and mutual trust. Most importantly, the Forum offered new and workable ideas and policy recommendations, the essence of which are presented in the following chapters.
The 2019 Rhodes Forum ventured into great debates on diverse challenges that the world faces today. Forum participants from more than 60 countries were driven by their passion for dialogue across cultures. The Forum achieved its objective in demonstrating that the methodology of dialogue of civilisations matters and that it is able to make a difference by producing convincing proposals on issues that trouble policymakers, experts, and the public.
In his opening address, Dr. Vladimir Yakunin, Chairman of DOC Research Institute, stressed that the quest for a new multilateral world order should be based on equality, openness, trust, dialogue, and inclusion. He pointed out that experts from the Dialogue of Civilizations, over the past 18 years, have consistently testified to the fact that a world order based on the principles of technocracy and material consumerism would be inherently unstable.
The agenda of the 17th session of the Rhodes Forum was based on a civilisational approach aimed at resolving issues of economic sustainability, the progress of civilisational states, digitalisation, interreligious dialogue, and cross-cultural interactions. This year, it had a particular focus on Africa. The Forum was proud to welcome His Excellency, the President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Yakunin specifically referred to the opportunities and challenges of digitalisation. He quoted Israeli historian Yuval Harari, who recently told Mark Zuckerberg “connectivity doesn’t necessarily mean harmony”. Harari asked quite a substantial question: “How to make sense of this world, which is more connected than ever, but at the same time is building more walls than ever before”?
We need a broad collaboration of institutes and civil society in different countries to tackle this conundrum. Dr. Yakunin argued that one practical approach is the development of multilateral interaction between representatives of various civilisations on the basis of trust, inclusivity, and equality. The Dialogue of Civilizations Rhodes Forum specifically designed and arranged platforms of dialogue to achieve this.
The Forum struck a good balance between its themes of cultures and civilisations, sustainable economic development, and geopolitics and international diplomacy – the three priority areas of the DOC Research Institute. It brought together stakeholders from different backgrounds and different kinds of institutions, including politicians, academics, religious leaders, investors and entrepreneurs, and journalists from many countries.
The Forum began with an open and sometimes heated debate on ‘30 Years Fall of the Berlin Wall’. Panellists discussed different scenarios for emerging new world orders. They paid particular attention to the rise of China and India, which together account for more than half of global economic growth. The opening session set the stage for addressing many critical issues that trouble policymakers, while emphasising dialogue and cooperation. As the Forum went on, the session content also addressed opportunities for investors and philanthropists to make meaningful contributions and foster intercultural communication.
Whether the rise of the East will lead to a decline of the West, and what the consequences for Europe in particular would be, was a key theme of the discussions. Panellists referred to the many policy dialogue formats and initiatives of the G20 and BRICS and to the growing economic integration of Eurasia facilitated by China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Two panellists boldly called for doing away with the G7. There are multiple forums for global dialogue and the G20 is a group that deserves our foremost attention. The opening session witnessed a heated debate between Vyacheslav Nikonov and Martin Schulz about the strength of the West, as well as about the merits of global governance institutions that are still dominated by the West. The panellists also debated the concept of ‘universal values’ and whether the term risks being hijacked by the West with a purpose of justifying interventionist foreign policies.
The new format of the Rhodes Forum 2019 sessions, with fewer speakers per panel and high-profile moderators, facilitated a good exchange of arguments. The first panel largely agreed that international relations should not be a zero-sum game. Shada Islam stated that many actors feel energised by challenges such as US President Trump’s disregard for multilateral cooperation and are keen to defend liberal values and promote intercultural cooperation and human rights and to support climate protection.
Wang Huiyao from a leading Chinese think tank, the Center for China and Globalisation, referred to the peaceful rise of China and its commitment to multilateralism. Alphons Josef Kanautham, a member of the Indian Parliament, cautioned us not to build new mental walls, for example in the context of electoral contests. One question audience members went away discussing was whether there were circumstances in which we might compromise on democratic principles or on individual freedom, such as free speech and the right to association.
On the first morning of the forum, President Issoufou of Niger brought attention to Africa. We learned how the country has suffered from the military intervention in Libya and what Niger could offer to the global community through its young population, its agricultural and mineral resources, but also in cooperative efforts to address climate change and meet sustainable development challenges.
The issue of climate change emerged during many panels. President Issoufou made strong statements in this regard. Climate change has already triggered a series of negative developments in his country and he called on the global community to urgently learn about realities in Africa and to address them jointly.
Prof. Peter Eigen, founder of Transparency International and former manager at the World Bank, referred to the report ‘From brown to green,’ which presents comparative analysis of G20 country climate policies and provides hints on how to best raise commitments. The greenhouse gas emissions of G20 countries amount to more than 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The challenges of entering into a new partnership with Africa was also discussed. Many Western donors have been very demanding but also slow in meeting the expectations of African leaders, for example in the field of infrastructure development. Africa has engaged with a plurality of partners and has developed good potential for attracting investment.
Another issue brought up during the Forum was the role of religion and religious leaders and the risk of religion being instrumentalised by political leadership. The kinds of collaboration that religious communities should have with the state were examined, and how they can position themselves in national and global civil society.
In the ‘Twiplomacy: Diplomacy and governance in the age of social media’ roundtable, participants shared their concerns and ideas on what the interconnectivity provided by social media has done to society and discussed possible guidelines to preserve objectivity and truthfulness in the digital environment. Instances of politicians using social media were examined. The participants argued that more original reporting is needed but financial resources are therefore required. Digital platforms should be open and accessible for all. Populations should be taught how to fight fake news and all institutions should stand up for good journalism. People from different countries and cultures should have equal access to information. The roundtable participants agreed that a regulatory intermediate system, for fact-checking and preventing the dissemination of fake information, should be installed for the sake of openness and transparency.
Risks to civility were reviewed by panellists at the Forum, noting the dissolution of civility on the international stage and corresponding breakdown in social cohesion within many societies. Participants debated the idea that democracy does not guarantee civility. Digital disruption has created an attention economy with information overload. The values of global society should be further examined. Anger, fear, hate, and sensationalism are used by media and social media to attract public attention to the detriment of reflective analysis, respectful exchanges, and civilised behaviour. Participants argued that politicians and citizens should dialogue on ethical issues and shared values. It is important to unequivocally accept the culture of diversity. Humanity should also accept the developments in ICT but stay in charge of the social transformations it provokes. We need more initiatives that foster civil cultural exchanges.
The Forum showcased impressive examples of philanthropic work. The story of the Tatev Revival project illustrated how the building of a cable car to a monastery revived tourism and generated significant income for a poor region in northern Armenia. The roundtable discussion also covered critical issues related to the image of philanthropy. For example, whether philanthropists should engage in lobbying for political parties or on controversial/sensitive issues. Agreement was found, suggesting that philanthropy is becoming professionalised as it is integrated into business models rather than based on political influence.
We learned that the realisation of sustainable development needs more than just attention to the economic, social, and governance criteria at the core of the sustainable finance concept. The new EU Action Plan on Sustainable Finance might be a laudable initiative but falls short in exploring the full dimension of the sustainability agenda. Investments in culture and art can play an important role in stimulating transformative ideas on sustainability issues, especially by fostering harmony between people and societies and contributing to social cohesion.
The Forum touched upon the impact of technologies, digitalisation, and artificial intelligence (AI) on social and cultural development. AI has huge potential to improve effectiveness and efficiency, to ease our life in many ways, in the field of transport – autonomous driving – but also in health and education. However, if it is not properly regulated, there are many critical risks and ethical minefields, such as the possibility of genetically engineered babies. A few big players could reap the benefits and control our lives. We need an international coalition around AI just as we had with nuclear disarmament, across cultures and borders. This is a very challenging task that requires much more dialogue.
The impact of digitalisation on employment is also significant, with the possibility of humans being replaced by robots, for example in the transport industry but also in elderly care. We discussed the need for basic safety nets, for lifelong learning, training, and retraining.
It was agreed that policymakers and decision-makers need to be prepared for change; change in technology as much as change in the field of political and social communication and even personal interactions. Anything else would be naive. A gloomy outlook will not help us in safeguarding our civilisational and cultural assets. We should assign new meanings to them and debate global ethical standards. Civility and dignity need to be redefined, to quote Rupert Graf Strachwitz, Head of the Macenata Institute, Berlin, a newcomer to the Rhodes Forum this year.
The Forum reaffirmed the core principle that dialogue of civilisations is performed by concerned individuals, who represent different cultures. The major advantage is that dialogue engages representatives of different civil societies in direct communication, while the state institutions conduct international negotiations exclusively by diplomatic means. Therefore, it is crucial for the global community to maintain inter-civilisational communications and exchanges, to develop quality educational programs, and to support initiatives aimed at fostering intercultural dialogue. The Forum underlined that only the paradigm of dialogue that champions the idea of equality of civilisations, is the most solid foundation for the successful development of all nations.
The media programme of the 2019 Rhodes Forum was the most ambitious in the event’s history. Almost 50 journalists from some 20 countries attended, and around 250 print/online articles and video reports were filed from the Forum. Rhodes 2019 achieved coverage in top-tier media from countries including the UK, US, France, Greece, and China. Significant coverage across Africa was also generated by the presence of the President of Niger. The Forum also strengthened its ties with two international TV channels as media partners – CGTN of China and ERT of Greece – and brought on board a new partner, young Indian digital TV channel GoNews.
DOC Research Institute much appreciated that its partners made significant contributions to showcasing the breadth and depth of the Forum’s topics and speaker faculty. All of the Forum sessions from the Jupiter hall were live-streamed to an audience of hundreds of thousands. Sessions in other halls were recorded. All sessions are available to watch on the DOC website and YouTube channel. The exchanges at the Rhodes Forum 2019 will guide future debates on issues of culture and civilisation, sustainable economic development, geopolitics, and international diplomacy, and they will inspire us to engage in further policy analysis and initiatives and to organise more dialogue events.
Taken from the opening speech of Dr. Vladimir Yakunin, Chairman of the DOC Research Institute; the welcome address of Jean-Christophe Bas, CEO of the DOC Research Institute; and the closing remarks of Dr. Berthold Kuhn, senior advisor to the DOC Research Institute. With contributions from Nikita Konopaltsev, DOC Moscow.
30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall: In search of a roadmap and a compass
- Moderator: Ali Aslan, journalist and moderator
- Gabriela Ramos, OECD chief of staff and sherpa to the G20
- Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament from 2012 to 2017
- Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization (CCG)
- Vyacheslav Nikonov, member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation; dean of the Moscow State University School of Public Administration
- Shada Islam, director for Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe
- Alphons Joseph Kannantham, member of the Indian Parliament and former Union Minister
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago, the world has undergone profound changes politically, economically, and socially. The developments in Russia and Eastern Europe in the 1980s urged Francis Fukuyama to write about “the end of history”. What he meant was that liberal democracy was about to become the final form of government for all countries. 30 years later, the situation looks different. Meanwhile, Fukuyama has written another bestselling political analysis, this time on “identity politics”, focusing on the crisis of social cohesion in liberal democracies.
Moderator Ali Aslan opened with some historical perspective. The panel discussed geopolitical fault lines and whether and to what extent resurgent great power competition, driven mainly by the US-China trade conflict, is a threat to the post-Cold War status quo. They debated responses to key global policy challenges, such as the negative consequences of climate change, which is occurring at a faster pace than many thought, and also the reviving forces of religious fundamentalism that continue to challenge civilisations across the world, and rise of nationalism, which is putting multilateral cooperation under stress.
The panel began by debating the question of whether the rise of the East will lead to a decline of the West. Different scenarios for emerging new world orders were discussed, as was the rise of China and India, which account more than 50% of global economic growth. Panellists referred to the many policy dialogue formats and initiatives at the level of the G20 and the BRICS and to the growing economic integration of Eurasia facilitated, by the Belt and Road Initiative. Two panellists called boldly for the abolishment of the G7, pointing out that there are multiple forums for global dialogue and the G20, as a group that has upheld multilateral cooperation in recent years, deserves the highest attention.
Martin Schulz and Vyacheslav Nikonov exchanged different perceptions on the strength of the West and the merits of global governance institutions that are still dominated by the West. Martin Schulz agreed that the Trump administration has moved the world into troubled waters. However, this is an opportunity for Europe to strengthen its own identity based on values of freedom and solidarity.
Nikonov pointed out that Europe tends to exhibit a significant level of arrogance and overestimate its influence on other states. The global political position of Europe has been weakened and it would be well-advised to reengage with the East and promote Eurasian dialogue.
Gabriela Ramos pointed to the risk of trade frictions and the challenge of inequality. In recent decades, 40% of new jobs created worldwide can be attributed to trade. The trade-based model of growth, however, has not led to a reduction of inequality. In addition, the climate challenge has put this growth model into question. People are concerned that there is more plastic than fish in the ocean.
Shada Islam agreed that Trump’s disregard for multilateralism is a huge challenge. Furthermore, Europe faces many challenges due to the rise of populism. However, the EU is not at all dysfunctional and many people and institutions feel energised by the challenges ahead. EU countries should engage in multilateral cooperation that includes China and make greater efforts to introduce EU perspectives and standards through dialogue and cooperation. Western Europe should get more involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Wang Huiyao referred to the peaceful rise of China and its commitment to multilateralism. With regard to upholding universal values, including civil and political rights, Wang Huiyao pointed out that China does not oppose such values but that it also assigns significant value to social and economic rights. He stated that China has moved 800 million people out of poverty and its infrastructure investments contribute to growth and development in many parts of the world. A question arose from this discussion as to under which circumstances we might accept compromises on democratic principles and individual freedoms such as free speech and the right to association.
Alphons Joseph Kanautham critically assessed newly emerging confrontations in world politics and trade but also in domestic politics in many countries. He urged the audience not to build new mental walls, for example, in the context of electoral contests. He stressed the importance of infrastructure and referred to the 150 million toilets recently built in a short space of time in India and to the great progress that has been made in providing people with bank accounts and electricity across the country.
- Political leaders need to be reminded that international relations is not a zero-sum game and they should make efforts to avoid confrontations. The rise of the East may lead to some geopolitical shifts but also offer many opportunities for economic development and for jointly addressing global challenges such as climate change.
- Europe may realistically assess and strategically choose its engagement in global and regional dialogue formats. The G20 forum continues to warrant the highest attention while the G7 has lost relevance in the context of the growing importance of emerging economies.
- Institutions of global governance need to reflect new balances of economic power. Arrangements should be made to accommodate the claims of emerging economies. Initiatives of global significance, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, should provide opportunities for dialogue and cooperation by signalling openness to the introduction of new regulations and the promotion of good practices, for example, in the fields of environmental and social standards.
Special session with President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger
- Moderator: Stefan Grobe
- Mahamadou Issoufou, president of Niger
- Gabriela Ramos, OECD chief of staff and sherpa to the G20
- Jomo Kwame Sundaram, senior adviser to the government of Malaysia; former United Nations assistant secretary general for economic development
The dialogue with the president of Niger focused on major issues facing Niger, the Sahel region, the African continent and its relations with the UN, Europe, and other major economies. In the first part of the interview the President discussed the major challenges facing Niger and the region and outlined his visions for future solutions.
The 74th UN General Assembly meeting was the starting point of the discussion. In a world shaken by the rise of populist movements that value walls instead of bridges, it is important to ascertain the value, the power, but also the limits of the UN. The president declared himself a strong supporter of multilateralism and the UN as a key platform for dialogue. Understanding where the world stands on crucial issues – together – is not to be underestimated. He mentioned some of the most important concerns tackled by the UNGA: the rise of right-wing populism, increasing inequality around the world, the mounting effects of climate change, and migration.
At the same time, President Issoufou is convinced about the necessity of reform at the UN level. One of the most important changes should take place at the level of the UN Security Council and ECOSOC. He argued for a greater presence of the African viewpoint, which he sees as being underrepresented at the moment. He will start his mandate as a non-permanent representative member of the Security Council in January 2020.
The president pointed out that should the world aim for a path of fairness and increased equality, decisive action needs to be taken at the global governance level, to achieve ‘win-win cooperation’. He mentioned that at the moment, one of the biggest stumbling blocks is that global trade is geared towards a ‘zero-sum’ approach, which leads to escalating inequalities, especially in the Global South.
Economic hardships are directly connected to increased security risks. President Issoufou intends to be a powerful advocate for UN reform in the light of pressing priorities arising from the Sahel region. In a strong statement, he advocated putting the region into the spotlight, as ignoring its priorities will only lead to global instability. However, he is against ‘solutions’ from the international community that do not involve African countries. The president deplored finding out about the intervention in Libya from the radio.
Other compelling concerns of Niger and the region focus on the imminent effects of climate change, which are already felt and are predicted to have an outsized impact in Africa. The illegal market for fake drugs is another aspect of regional challenges that lead to increased public health risks. He is working to create adequate legislation to criminalise this practice and protect the population.
Discussing issues of terrorism and national/regional security, President Issoufou demonstrated how these regional conflicts can expand, ‘like a cancer’ and ensnare other parts of the world. He is building security alliances with Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria, and Cameroon, especially to fight the threat of Boko Haram. Nevertheless, he is of the opinion that there is little solidarity at the international level. France is the only country currently supporting the fight against terrorism in the region. Without this type of solidarity, the UN peacekeeping role is put into question, in his view.
He pointed to the Libyan crisis and to the way in which enhanced cooperation with regional partners can bring about better outcomes.
The climate change crisis will have a lasting impact on Africa and especially the Sahel region, the president underlined. Diminishing resources, combined with increased incidence of diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, have been made a more potent threat by climate change, leading to severe consequences. One of these is terrorism, which can be linked to the impact of climate change on disadvantaged communities. Together with regional partners, President Issoufou has developed a plan to fight climate change in the Sahel, which has gathered 4bn dollars so far. However, he sees the need of the region surpassing this figure.
President Issoufou understands the fight against terrorism in a double-edged fashion. First, the short-term view implies military cooperation. The long-term plan has to be rooted in development, which needs to include social and economic growth, in which the fight against climate change plays a key role. Improving the quality of life of the people in Niger and the Sahel region is the only way forward, and for that, Niger needs the support of the international community and the UN.
The second part of the dialogue with the president included Gabriela Ramos and Jomo Kwame Sundaram. It focused on the way in which Africa could or should implement some of the ideas and principles used by East Asian economies. Ramos pointed out that the East Asian model included important investment in education and infrastructure, enhanced connections to international markets, as well as internal quality control. She asked if the president, as a social democrat, could advocate decreasing inequalities for the benefit of economic growth and not only due to social pressure.
The president mentioned that providing a good business environment is key to his mandate. In his view, African economies are growing at a good rate. However, in terms of sources of inspiration for development, he looked not only towards East Asia but also Europe. France, the UK, and Germany constituted important examples in his view. Taking into account different country models while forging a genuinely African development blueprint was the preferred model.
Sundaram praised the president’s approach of a clear break with the colonial past. He underlined that many of the economic solutions proposed for African development had not, in fact, benefited Africa. Often the dependence on foreign investment led to a rewriting of laws, which made African countries poorer in the long term. One of the most important solutions proposed, which could be successful in Niger and the Sahel region, is represented by green finance.
President Issoufou agreed with the fact that Africa is an extremely rich continent but most of its people are poor. This radical imbalance is due to the practice of exporting cheap raw materials and buying expensive finished products. He sees the development of infrastructure as an essential next step, which is currently being discussed within the African Union. He advocates tearing down the walls that separate African countries from each other.
A similar debate concerns institutional reforms within the continent and the possibility of a unique currency, all to be discussed at the next UNGA.
Finally, the president outlined his support for democratic processes in Niger and the fact that he will be stepping down, in January 2021, as required by the constitution. This process will take place for the first time since the country’s independence.
Civilisation state: Multilaterism and globalisation
- Moderator: Christopher Coker, professor of International Relations, London School of Economics, and co-director of LSE IDEAS
- Richard Higgott, emeritus professor of International Political Economy at the University of Warwick; researcher at the Institute of European Studies; distinguished professor of Diplomacy at the Vesalius College of Global Affairs, the Vrije Universiteit, Brussels
- Vladimir Yakunin, co-founder and supervisory board chairman of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute; chair of the Department of State Governance at Lomonosov Moscow State University
- Naciye Selin Senocak, UNESCO chair in Cultural Diplomacy, Governance and Education
- Amitav Acharya, UNESCO chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance
- Shade Islam, director of policy, Friends of Europe
The chair of the panel, Christopher Coker, noted the initial use of the notion of the ‘civilisation state’ by Vladimir Putin in 2012 to be followed several years later by Xi Jinping referring to China as a civilisation state and that it has become an increasingly used concept in international relations; taking us beyond ‘Euro provincialism’, which privileges ideas of the Enlightenment tradition above all other values of other states/civilisations. Moreover, the concept of the civilisation state was a highly elitist and semi-authoritarian discourse.
Richard Higgott, the author of the Rhodes Forum Report on Civilisations, States, and World Order, noted that a missing dimension of our normal analysis of world order – which had tended to focus on the geopolitical and geo-economic – was the cultural-civilisational dimension, which had for so long been marginalised in both scholarship and public policy. This is no longer the case. Higgott demonstrated how the shortcomings of economics as a science, the Asian and then global financial crises of the last decade of the 20th century and first decade of the 21st century paved the way for the backlash against economic globalisation and the rising interest in cultural and identitarian politics, as well as the political utility of the concept civilisation in the hands of semi-authoritarian political leaders. Globalisation might have been the most successful generator of aggregate wealth that the world has known but it did so with massive inegalitarian distributional consequences for the middle and working classes in countries like the US and the UK, which have spawned the rise of populism and nationalism.
Naciye Selin Senocak from Turkey identified the elements of her country’s view of the civilisation debate. Turkey is “a modern secular country” with an interest in European science and culture but it is at the same time extremely disappointed with Europe. She saw Turkey as now a part of Eurasia, not of Europe. She was quite clear that Turkey, and indeed other countries, should resist any attempted imposition of European values, which she considers to be a continuing mistake made by the European Union. Turkey has a new foreign policy that we might see in terms of “post European membership aspirations”. Now it is much more driven by a recognition of the salience of Eurasia, and especially better relations with Russia and China.
Amitav Acharya started by resisting the idea of the existence of civilisation states, rather than the existence of civilisation regimes or governments. Differences between China, India, Russia, and others limit the utility of civilisation states as an analytical category. Moreover, civilisational politics for Acharya is principally a domestic phenomenon that exacerbates intolerance and authoritarianism. Secondly, he notes that it is not new for countries and states to identify themselves by virtue of their culture; every post-colonial state does it, he argues. Indeed, he criticises what he sees as “civilisational narcissism” in international relations, rather than a dialogue accompanied by self-reflective analysis.
Vladimir Yakunin took issue with the use of the term civilizational state, preferring instead ‘civilisation state’, which emanated from Russian philosophy, he said. Thus for Yakunin, the national state and the civilisation state are merely two sides of the same coin and not contradictory. The historical concept of civilisation refers to a specific set of people developing in a specific geographical setting. He resists the idea that civilisation states can lead to a political or civilisational clash. When asked by Coker, he persuasively resisted Susan Strange’s idea that there only is only one civilisation – a business civilisation. The substance of civilisation is much more complex than that, he argued.
Shada Islam argued that the US trade war with China, and to a lesser extent India, is to some extent about a civilisational clash because it is bigger than just trade. It is a clash between Caucasians and non-Caucasians. But the strongest cultural clashes, she argues, are within civilisations; for example, between Christians and Muslims, between progressives and conservative populists still harking back nostalgically to the past. She takes comfort from the developments of global networks, especially of the young, which transcend some of these cleavages, especially in crucial areas such as the environment and climate. She is also a believer in the utility of “alternative” soft powers such as Bollywood. As she notes, “there is wisdom outside of Europe”. She also agreed with Dr Senocak that Muslims are part of Europe.
- Amitav Acharya suggested we build a dialogue based on an acknowledgment of diversity that at the same time recognises long-standing commonalities in the cultural behaviour of states.
- Vladimir Yakunin suggested we should resist global ‘standardisation’.
- Shada Islam recommended that Europeans read non-European literature.
Creating shared economic views
- Moderator: Stefan Grobe, business correspondent, Euronews
- James Galbraith, professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and at the Department of Government, University of Texas, Austin.
- Jomo Sundaram, senior adviser to the government of Malaysia; former United Nations assistant secretary general for economic development
- Uri Dadush, senior fellow at the Policy Centre for the New South, Morocco
The increase in income inequalities in major developed countries since the 1980s has posed a threat not only to local social stability, but to globalisation. One could envisage two outcomes of these trends. Firstly, social upheavals could be expected in some countries in which the social disparities are most tense. This could descend directly into social turmoil. Secondly, increasing income and wealth inequalities mean that certain groups of people are not gaining from globalisation; this would allow unrest to grow on the fertile ground of nationalism and ethno-populism. When globalisation is properly managed, it is conducive to economic growth, does not worsen income distribution and it does not lead to nationalism. Contrarily, if it is accompanied by a decline in the real incomes of large population groups, nationalist political forces gain additional arguments for instigating and harbouring anti-globalisation and isolationist sentiments.
The following questions are offered for discussion: Why is income-inequality currently at its highest level in history? What conditions are likely to contribute to better wealth distribution? What will follow the liberal economic order – a new ‘reformed capitalism’ or a period of chaos and disarray or something else entirely? Will the rise of nationalism lead to conflicts or wars between countries, with the collapse of international trade and capital flows, like in the 1930s?
Moderator Stefan Grobe asked what are the major reasons for the rise of income inequalities.
Uri Dadush proceeded to expose four contributory factors: (1) the expansion of workers’ skillsets (2) integration into the global economy, (3) an increase in capital to output ratio (Piketty argument), and (4) the failure of the states to oppose these unfavourable trends and to redistribute income. James Galbraith elaborated on the redistribution of national income in favour of capital (rather than of labour). He posited that in the US, ninety per cent of the increase in disparity is a result of the progressive redistribution from labour to capital. Jomo Kwame Sundaram drew attention to “monopoly rent”: pharmaceutical companies that are the proprietors of patents collect huge revenues by denying the others the rights to produce generic drugs. For example, Hepatitis C drugs are being sold in the US for $70,000, whereas the average price of the generics is only $300.
Jomo Sundaram continued that it is not so easy to impose redistributive taxes and that marginal personal income taxes were falling recently, whilst inequalities were increasing. Daisuke Kotugawa cited an example of policy of the government of the Netherlands. It hoped to impose Tobin tax (a tax on short term capital movement), but failed to do so because Phillips and Royal Dutch Shell threated to leave the country in this case.
Uri Dadush answered questions about the structural adjustment programs at the World Bank. He remarked that their purpose is validated by the fact that at the end of the day countries have to adjust. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, however, referred to article 6 of the IMF which allows countries to regulate their balance of payments on capital account. On the other hand, Michelle Camdessus (IMF director in 1987-2000) believed that countries will gain from liberalisation of capital flows. James Galbraith recalled how he was advising the Chinese government in 1995 not to liberalise capital account. Development, he noticed, is a long-term process and it cannot rely merely on structural adjustment programs.
When questioned about why the Obama administration did not take measures to alleviate income inequalities, James Galbraith observed that they basically “liked deregulated capitalism”.
Vladimir Popov concluded the session by underlining the contradictory trends in the world economy He said, ‘An economic boom continues for over ten years, unemployment is at the historic lows and incomes are at the historic highs in major countries, casualties of wars and conflicts are lower than previously, but at the same time inequalities continue to rise, financial sector is inflated (ratio of total debts to gross world product is at the highest level), trade wars, embargoes, sanctions threaten to undermine the world trade. It looks like the elite, while paying a lip service to these threats, is not considering them as dangerous because no serious measures are taken to counter them’.
It is incorrect to suggest that the reduction of inequalities should come at a cost of economic growth. The following measures were suggested against the rising income and wealth inequalities:
- Investment in human potential, so as to eliminate the gap between skilled and unskilled workers;
- Redistribution policy, in particular through progressive taxation;
- Reform of the social security system (the US spends twice as much as other countries on health care, but does it inefficiently);
- Reversal of the decline in the rate and progressivity of corporate taxation which has been ongoing for several decades already;
- Elimination of base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) – corporate tax planning strategies used by multinationals to “shift” profitsfrom higher–tax jurisdictions to lower–tax jurisdictions, thus “eroding” the “tax–base” of the higher–tax jurisdictions. To affect this, international tax cooperation would be needed.
The future of knowledge, education and learning
- Moderator: Ali Aslan
- Qun Yu, chairman of the Soong Ching Ling Foundation in Beijing
- Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan, vice president of the Board of Directors of DEMSA A.Ş in Turkey
- Ruben Vardanyan, president of LLC Vardanyan, Broitman and Partners, and co-founder of the RVVZ Foundation
- Jaime Graça, head of the Education Business of ABO capital
This session aimed to share insights into how education could be adapted to fit the needs of the 21st century discussing how technology can serve to help pupils learn skills needed for labour markets now and in the future.
Qun Yu, whose pioneering charity focuses on children’s welfare and development in China, started the roundtable discussion by laying out a key social and ethical framework within which education should occur. Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan, who leads projects on international dialogue and education, stressed the tremendous need to focus on human needs when dealing with technology. Ruben Vardanyan, a well-known financier and social entrepreneur, discussed details of what a future educational system could look like. Jaime Graça, who previously worked as a teacher at Lusíada University of Angola, emphasised the potential for education in African countries to cater to unschooled children in rural areas.
Yu Qun emphasised that one of the most important principles in today’s world is to treat each other with respect and to try to understand civilisations that differ from one’s own. The co-existence of different civilisations, based on mutual respect and open-mindedness, he said, is the key to a prosperous and safe world. The Soong Ching Ling Foundation (SCL) contributes to a more prosperous world by funding welfare activities that promote the health of young people. It is committed to deepening peace and mutual understanding with friends.
Demet Sabanci Çetindoğan started out by referring to the multi-faced lessons about democracy that technology is teaching people. Besides some positive effects of technology, Çetindoğan stressed some of the most problematic effects of the application of new technologies, like selfishness and aggressiveness. She argued that it is freedom of thought that triggered today’s rapid technological and scientific development and so freedom of thought has to be maintained and safeguarded. Only education that is designed to cater to individual needs will help people to appreciate social values and to tap into their full potential. Çetindoğan thinks the world has become a place that lacks smiles. People have become increasingly impatient because they don’t have enough time for contemplation, but are busy with their stressful lives. The first and most important lesson to learn is that we are all different human beings, while at the same time we are all equal. To achieve this goal, Çetindoğan is promoting a project called ‘peace education’ in universities in Turkey and Switzerland, which encourages better understanding of social values and other global civilisations.
Ruben Vardanyan started out by saying that we are in a perfect storm because several transformations are happening all at once. The current educational system does not reflect these challenges. People study and then work in a profession for several decades. Because of the decreasing half-life of knowledge, five years after graduation the things they learned are no longer up to date. People used to think that if they only worked hard enough, they would be successful. But that no longer holds true because robots will do the hard work in the future. Every task that can be algorithmically described can be done by robots. The only two areas that are going to stay under human control are ethics and aesthetics. Advanced education will become more elite, teaching a small group of people how to continuously create value and wealth, while all others will receive a basic education. Nevertheless, life-long learning is essential for human development in the future. Vardanyan sees a need to help older people gain access to university education.
Jaime Graça stressed the fact that many African countries adopted colonial educational systems. These systems often do not fit local conditions and thus deliver poor results. It is important to think out of the box. There is a huge challenge in terms of children that don’t attend schools. The concept of having lessons in a classroom in a school is outdated. Rather, technology should be leveraged in order cater to all children, regardless of their geographic location. In ABO capital schools, the foundation leads a project where more tangible and practical subjects are taught. E-learning has huge potential. There is lack of 4.6 million teachers in Africa today; e-learning could help to train more teachers.
- Explore opportunities for new technologies and online education for pupils in rural areas in the Global South.
- Use online courses to teach ‘multipliers’, i.e., teachers.
- Give elderly people the opportunity to enrol at university.
Sustainable finance for culture, in cooperation with Respethica, France
- Moderator: Pascale Thumerelle, founder of Respethica and former head of Sustainability at Vivendi; Sciences Po faculty member
- Alain Bidjeck, secrétaire général du Centre des Cultures d’Afrique
- David Gorodyansky, social entrepreneur and investor and chairman of GlobeIn
- Holger Heims, managing partner at Falcon Group
- Patricia Piriou, managing director at Triodos Finance
- Julien Ravalais Casanova, counsellor in the cabinet of the UNESCO director-general
- Concluding remarks: Berthold Kuhn, senior adviser at the DOC Research Institute
The sustainability transformation requires greater awareness and significant investment. Sustainable finance, or sustainable investment, refers to the integration of environmental, social, and governance criteria (ESG) as factors in original investment decisions and then continuously throughout subsequent investment holding periods. The DOC Research Institute and Respethica would like to draw the attention of the finance sector to culture and arts as possible areas for purposeful investment that meet ESG criteria by focusing on human dignity, respect for cultural diversity, and the promotion of social cohesion and peace.
Investors are increasingly aware of their vital role in promoting sustainable development through sustainable finance. As good corporate citizens, they have to meet the growing expectations of institutions, the business sector, and civil society in building responsible economies that take environmental, social, and social impact into consideration. They must also avoid repeating the crisis that happened ten years ago. Their commitment is crucial for companies that are determined to create value, not only for themselves but also for all their stakeholders, defined as people ‘impacted by the decisions taken by companies’.
The cultural and creative industries (CCIs) and media sectors are often the investor community’s blind spot. The DOC Research Institute and Respethica believe that culture deserves more attention amidst the promotion of social cohesion and the dialogue of civilisations.
Moderator Pascale Thumerelle introduced the session by referring to the importance of cultural industries in terms of income and employment worldwide. She explained that the session would not focus on corporate social responsibility or charity but explicitly aim to highlight the potential of linking investors to the cultural industry.
Thumerelle pointed to the huge potential for the promotion of art and culture from Africa in particular. For example, the percentage of movies available on Netflix that originate from Africa is still very small. She proposed that the session operate on the basis of a broad definition of culture, along the lines of UNESCO’s wording: “In its widest sense, culture may now be said to be the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, ritual, material, intellectual, and emotional features that characterise a society or social group. It includes not only the arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions, and beliefs”.
Julien Ravalais Casanova referred to culture as the foundation for peace and social development in the context of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN), which promotes cooperation among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. The 180 cities that currently make up this network work together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating at the international level. UNESCO also engages with the private sector and links companies and investors to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in order to promote sustainable investments that benefit culture. He underscored the importance of creating and preserving social values and social cohesion.
Alain Bidjeck stressed the importance of dignity, self-esteem, and knowledge of one’s own history. Lots of musical styles that originated in Africa have spread to other continents and are now world-famous. Music is a strong uniting force, especially for young people. Africa’s population is growing quickly and the percentage of young people will be very high for the foreseeable future. This poses demographic challenges but also presents numerous opportunities. However, this potential has not been fully explored, mainly because of a lack of access to financial resources.
Patricia Piriou introduced the principles of Triodos Bank, which aims to make finance work for positive change, creating jobs and promoting artistic quality with the potential to reach large and diverse audiences. She also stressed that culture is a global connector. Museums, theatres, and musical performances bring people together, inspire, educate, promote creativity and contribute to social harmony and cohesion.
Holger Heims explained that support to culture and its diverse expressions has a long-standing tradition in many globally successful German family-owned businesses. Business also needs to manage diversity in a sensitive way. In his opinion, embracing and managing culture and diversity is increasingly becoming a vital element for entrepreneurial success in today’s world. He stressed the importance of procedures and accountability in order to effectively demonstrate that investment in culture and diversity generates positive impact for companies and for society.
David Gorodyansky highlighted the fact that technology significantly impacts culture. Access to information and technology is key for people in the modern world to communicate and connect. Information technologies have transformative power, particularly in the field of education. For Gorodyansky, culture is about creativity and inspiration. Creating is more fun than consuming. Creative spirits are open to change, to connecting with people of different backgrounds, and to supporting the sustainability transformation with good ideas and practices. These are all strong reasons for supporting sustainable finance for culture. We should strive to match financial returns with cultural objectives. Gorodyansky called for multipliers to scale up good practices.
Alain Bidjeck showed a video about the founder of the KEYZIT record label, which plays music and features many artists from Kinshasa. Bidjeck explained how a bank has supported musical entrepreneurs in African countries. In many African countries, there is a need – as well as business potential – to invest in the building of medium-sized music halls that can attract larger audiences than restaurants but are more convenient than large open-air stadiums. The African music industry needs professional and financial support to develop its great potential.
Patricia Pirou stated that Triodos takes investments in arts and culture very seriously. A lot of emphasis is placed on accountability and measuring positive impact. Triodos Bank has acquired expertise in different cultural sectors and strives to provide data and information on the number of artists and concerts it has supported, the numbers of people reached, etc. Triodos Bank invests financial resources but also time and energy in understanding the cultural sector and meeting the expectations and information requests of its clients.
David Gorodyansky pitched a project idea. The idea was that customers in the US would pay a recurrent subscription fee of 50 USD and regularly be able to buy fairly traded art and handicrafts, the producers of which would mainly be women. This would create jobs and income. More children would be sent to school, and creativity would thrive through the development of new products that cross borders.
Berthold Kuhn concluded the session by pointing out that the DOC Research Institute, in cooperation with Respethica and the session’s panellists, would continue to work on the subject by engaging with financial industry representatives and advocating more attention for culture and the arts in promotion of sustainable finance. Investment in culture and art could play an important role in stimulating transformative ideas on sustainability issues and in fostering harmony between people and societies, thus creating social cohesion.
- In their efforts to promote sustainable finance, policymakers should pay attention to the great potential of culture and arts for promoting human dignity, social cohesion, and peace. Culture is a great connector between civilisations.
- The financial sector would be well-advised to acquire more knowledge and expertise on the cultural sector, including in Africa, in order to fully tap the potential of the sector around the world.
- Monitoring investment projects is key in order to ensure sustainability and to communicate their positive impact. Stakeholders should jointly develop quantitative and qualitative indicators to measure the impact of sustainable finance activities for culture.
Twiplomacy: Diplomacy and governance in the age of social media
- Moderator: Martina Fuchs, former CNN Money, TV anchor based in Zurich
- Yannis Koutsomitis, European affairs analyst and television producer
- Yang Rui, dialogue and talk show host on CCTV News
- Madeline Roache, freelance journalist focusing on politics, society and culture in the former Soviet Union
- Pankaj Pachauri, journalist at NDTV, BBC, India Today, The Sunday Observer, The Patriot & the Prime Minister’s Office 2012-2014
- Kim Hjelmgaard, deputy foreign editor for USA Today
- Hannane Ferdjani, fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University
- Seth Frantzman, executive director of Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis
Moderator Martina Fuchs, in a conversation with workshop participants, outlined the main agenda points of the discussion. The world is becoming flatter, with the middle class enjoying equal access to social media; such media sometimes become a hotbed for the rise of extremism, which arouses hate and, in many cases, rumours, half-truths, and fake news. Global leaders are becoming winners and victims of social media, which increasingly divides the world. These leaders’ use of social media is a blessing and a curse; in one prominent case, the use of social media affected the elections process. Leaders’ use, or overuse, of these new media channels should be approached carefully. Midlevel diplomats, or midlevel politicians, are connecting through Twitter; this may be the most important element of this new media environment. For instance, a politician in the Asia-Pacific region can instantly connect with a politician in Africa. World diplomacy is thus connecting on this middle level.
An important question is whether social media should be more interactive? Could social media possibly facilitate direct dialogue among officials, ministries, and governmental institutions within countries and internationally? Social media is being widely exploited, but the main concern is what this interconnectivity has done to society—and who are the people behind these social media accounts? If official institutions participate in social media and enter the digital information environment, then it is important to understand whether they are going to open a public dialogue or if they will simply use these channels for public purposes. How can digital diplomacy be used in a more effective manner? Should there be more controls, or even censorship, when it comes to political tweets? Should be there more censorship against hate speech in social media?
In diplomacy and public discourse, as more people feel excluded from decision making, there is a demand to engage people in the public debate around politics and social issues. The more individuals feel responsible, the more they will participate in social media discussions. Roundtable participants addressed actual cases of politicians using social media in different situations and following diverse agenda items. Participants argued that more original reporting and more investigations are needed, but financial resources are required to achieve these aims as well.
Pankaj Pachauri argued that the government should respond to people if they use social media; if they do not respond to people, then social media is useless. The real goal of using social media is to talk to people and address their questions and concerns. The number of social media users is increasing, but there have been no developments in the content broadcast on social media.
Social media is all about people. The examples of two large countries, China and India, which are on social media, should be focal points. When the President of China visited India, the Indian social media presented their perceptions, and their Chinese counterparts provided their own coverage of this visit. The agenda discussed on social media had nothing to do with diplomacy, such as the dress of the Indian Prime Minister. There should be a healthy dialogue among the countries’ populations and regarding diplomacy.
There is also a problem of fake journalism. India has the largest number of social media news subscribers in the world, but statistics show that India is not among the top countries whose population is worried about fake news.
Due to artificially ignited hate in social media, news tends to bypass traditional media channels and result in a dangerous attitude of uninformed publicity towards different communities, be they Muslim, Mexican, or other. There is no regulatory system for social media to eliminate hate news and incited violence of one social group towards another. Companies like Facebook and Twitter refuse to join regulatory systems in India. The modern outlets are selling headlines, and more journalists have started behaving like marketing professionals, which is the biggest problem in journalism. There has to be a sort of wall between journalism and marketing. Journalists have a social responsibility, more so than other professionals.
Kim Hjelmgaard made the point that it is not clear why interactions among officials should necessarily happen in a public space, if we take social media as that public space. Lower-level diplomats have always talked to each other, so social media facilitates these contacts, but it remains unclear why these conversations need to occur in a public space. Twitter is good for politicians but not for diplomacy.
Journalism is a business model, it is a public service, but it is also a commercial enterprise. Social media falls somewhere in between.
Madeline Roache felt that dialogue via Twitter can help expose leaders to interviews and promote a kind of mutual understanding. But in terms of a meaningful dialogue or conversation, it is hard to imagine how it is possible to fully present content within the 140-character limit instituted on this social media platform. Large corporations, like Twitter and Facebook, have collaborated to reduce hate speech.
Yang Rui said that with regard to policymaking, the use of social media will definitely help promote transparency and broaden official agencies’ engagement with the general public. The use of social media by governmental agencies and officials would be a major step in the right direction and would promote mutual understanding. All parties involved in social media should be aware of potential consequences if they use the right for free speech in maleficent ways. In China, freedom of the media and speech is used to promote transparency – to promote the role of the media as a watchdog of officials’ misconduct. The West should consider imposing a regulatory role on social media. Journalism is a serious profession, but there needs to be a new definition of what constitutes ‘good’ journalism. You can hardly tell the truth if you are under the influence of stereotyped judgements and perceptions. We have to prepare the younger generation through education and teach them how to identify what is right, what is healthy, and what is not because there is so much hate speech, rumours, and misinformation. Emancipation of minds through social media will broaden the vision of the present world.
Yannis Koutsomitis questions what the position of a country is on social media. Social media presents the personal opinions of a country’s politicians. There are two cases in which politicians can wield social media: to promote the political agenda within a country and to facilitate dialogue between countries. A successful example of using social media came during the terrorist attack in Germany, when the German police informed the public via Twitter whether the streets were safe.
Seth Frantzman said that there is an issue of celebrities – opinion makers – and influencers talking about politics and engaging in social activities over social media, to save the rainforests, etc. The question is, are these celebrities well-informed? Leaders or opinion makers should not bypass the media because outlets provide filters that pit well-informed opinions against those that are ill-informed or even fake. We need to know how large companies operate and which algorithms they use; who is paying for certain information to be promoted on social media? It will be important for governments to institute some rules related to respecting users’ rights.
- Digital platforms should be open and accessible for all parties.
- All countries should teach their population how to fight fake news.
- A new definition is needed to classify ‘good’ journalism, and all institutions should stand up for such journalism.
- A careful approach to social media should be implemented; on social media, we cannot understand a country’s position.
- Some kind of regulatory intermediate system should be instituted for social media between the news and widespread publicity, which will engage in fact checking to prevent dissemination of fake information.
- People from different countries and cultures should have equal access to information.
Civil society and the state
- Moderator: Jean-Christophe Bas, CEO and executive board chairman of DOC Research Institute
- Marwa El Daly, founder and chairperson of the Maadi Community Foundation
- Rupert Graf Strachwitz, chairman of the Maecenata Foundation and co-founder
- and shareholder of HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform (Germany)
- Helmut Anheier, former president of the Hertie School of Governance and professor of sociology
In the 21st century, the market, state, and civil society are generally believed to be the main pillars of any social order. While social order is commonly envisaged in terms of governance – and when performing well, of good governance – over time, civil society has assumed an increasingly important role in governance arrangements. This materialises in terms of several functions and relates to issues such as economic development, provision of healthcare, the fight against poverty, to justice, ethnicity, gender, and religious equality.
Civil society is an amorphous grouping of the most diverse actors – individual and collective. When talking about state-society relations or about the relationship between politics and civil society, most observers refer to organized civil society, i.e., non-governmental organisations active in healthcare, social affairs, the defence of democracy, justice, or in gender or ethnic minority issues. From a broader perspective, it is both formal organisations, including labour unions, and less formal groups such as social and protest movements, which make up civil society. Regarding public visibility, it is these latter organisations which have attracted most attention from the media – especially since the recent uprisings in France, Egypt, Russia, Iran, Hong Kong, and in vast parts of Latin America. With Fridays for Future, the environmental movement has risen again to become a proper global force. These open expressions of discontent are frequently directed against state authorities which, in turn, often react with harsh and violent countermeasures.
However, with a view to the entire range of organisations and activities in the field of defending civic values, the relationship between the state and civil society appears to be more subtle. A distinction can be made between open conflict on the one hand, and more invisible attempts to break and readjust the state-civil society nexus on the other hand. This was explicitly addressed by all members of the panel.
While Marwa El Daly emphasised the brutal face of government in her home country, pointing to the incarceration of thousands of members of NGOs fighting for freedom of expression, for justice, and for democratic rights, Rupert Graf Strachwitz turned to more concealed attempts by state authorities aimed at marginalising and crowding out those parts of organised civil society that do not conform to mainstream ideas and worldviews as propagated by the media. This often takes the form of making the registration of internationally active NGOs compulsory as so-called foreign agents – a practice of submitting their activities to cumbersome bureaucratic procedures that ultimately threatening the very existence of these groups.
Strachwitz underlined that this is not necessarily limited to the South or to the East, but has become practice in parts of Western Europe as well. The deprivation of a charitable or non-profit status in the case of organizations such as ATTAC, or the Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime (VVN) in Germany are particularly devastating examples. This undermines the financial basis of these organisations and represents a specific form of what has been called “shrinking spaces” in debates on civil society engagement. Overall, Strachwitz emphasised that civil society has witnessed significant advancements throughout the past century. Among other things, it has gained representative status in the United Nations and one of its major successes has been the peaceful transformation from ‘real existing socialist rule’ towards liberal democracy in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Helmut Anheier raised another crucial question: could it be that, ultimately, the concept of civil society as habitually used in the literature is an entirely Western concept that does not travel well in other parts of the world? Universal values and the idea of a civic culture, as forcefully outlined by Almond and Verba in 1963, may in reality be diversified and ‘locally coloured’. This would make a more pluralist and variegated discussion of the relationship between state and civil society mandatory. The problem is further complicated by the fact that, in the process of globalisation, both (firmly established) nation-states and their (cohesive) civil societies would increasingly lose sovereignty, influence, and self-organising power throughout.
Walter Schwimmer (secretary general of the Council of Europe, 2004-2009, and co-founder of the DOC Research Institute) pointed to the crucial role of civil society organisations as intermediaries between government and the people and to the fact that this intermediary function may get lost in the shift from small formal organisations towards large and mainly unorganised groups such as Fridays for Future. We should, therefore, pay attention to the secret and unwritten rules underlying these movements.
Notwithstanding the many problems civil society organisations are facing in many countries, Wang Huiyao (founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization) pointed to an area where they could assume particular importance, namely in global governance and global alliances. Their role will definitely become more important in this respect – a fact that is welcomed by most international organisations. Another important issue commented upon by different speakers was the increasing juridification over an ever-growing part of our lives. Ron Soffer (founder of Soffer Avocats) claimed that instead of governing, we are actually legislating in the first place. Both Strachwitz and Anheier agreed and argued that the problem is not only the mushrooming of new laws but, in particular, the outdated logics underlying the present laws, which all too often are stuck in early 19th-century life situations. Civil society is all about trust and trusting relations. The juridification of public life is an indication of declining trust and this latter, accordingly, can only be overcome by supporting civil society and its organisations.
Finally, Peter Eigen drew attention to a phenomenon that was touched upon by all contributors to the discussion, namely, the nexus between civil society, the state, and the market. He argued that none of these three systems should be looked at in isolation. The state needs the market and civil society as much as civil society needs the other two. Only if all three systems join forces and cooperate with each other can mutual-deliberation lead to success. As a positive example, Eigen mentioned his activities in East Africa, where the fusion of state authorities with representatives of civil society and of business (ABB, Daimler, and Siemens) has brought about a winning coalition able to overcome corruption.
- Good governance needs input from civil society. Where civil society is marginalised, no such governance arrangements are likely to emerge.
- There is a need strike a balance between all three modes of social order – the state, the market, and civil society. Disequilibria should be identified and appropriately realigned.
- More research is needed to differentiate between formal organisations, charity organisations, social movements, and protest movements. None of them should a priori be disadvantaged or played off against each other.
- The issue of shrinking space (for civil society activities) needs more academic and political consideration. Particularly important is research on bureaucratic and financial treatment (tax exemptions, etc.) and on possible countermeasures to be taken.
- Unorganised groups should receive more organisational assistance from the state with a view to helping them assume more formalised structures, such as to increase their representation and to work as proper intermediary actors between state and civil society.
Civil society and protest in the digital age
- Chair: Vladimir Yakunin, chairman and co-founder of DOC Research Institute
- Moderator: Jean-Christophe Bas, CEO of DOC Research Institute
- Rob van Kranenburg, founder of Council theinternetofthings.eu, DeTao Master, NGI.eu FORWARD, Strategy CSA
- David Gorodyansky, social entrepreneur and investor and chairman of GlobeIn
Over the past few months, much attention has been paid to the massive rallies and upheavals in Hong Kong (anti-extradition law), Russia (fair elections and freedom of speech), France (Yellow Vests), the United Kingdom (‘Leave’ versus ‘Remain’), the global Fridays for Future movement (environment), but also the almost forgotten Arab uprisings of 2010-2011. It is often far from obvious how this protest originally emerged. Is it rooted in discontent related to single and very specific causes and events, or is it an expression of a generalised dissatisfaction with government policies? The strength and wide diffusion of these protests can hardly be understood without taking note of the role of social media connecting and activating the masses. Digitalisation can therefore be said to substantially change the way civil society acts and expresses itself in public.
Yet, the extent to which civil society is influenced by processes of digitalisation is more far-reaching. We observe a growing dependence on digital platforms, where people are searching for information, job opportunities, emotional partnerships, social contacts, etc. Technologies employed in digital processes leverage social and personal behaviour, big data analysis, and algorithms, including AI, for the achievement of designed goals. This panel tries to answer to what extent digital technologies are changing social movements and vice versa, and how sustainable social movements can be built in today’s world.
Gabriela Ramos drew attention to the many initiatives undertaken by the OECD in the field of civil society involvement and engagement. The organisation, however, is worried by the constantly diminishing space available for the free expression of civil rights and the nurturing of civil virtues (shrinking space). In that context, the digital age would represent a marvellous opportunity for the creation of forward-looking platforms of likeminded people interested in defending their concerns vis-à-vis contenders from the part of business and the state. At the same time, however, the negative implications of digitalisation constantly threaten the positive effects. Ramos specifically pointed to phenomena such as the radicalisation of children, hate speech, terrorism, misinformation, fake news, and echo chambers. This would need to be addressed by government action. For instance, what about the phenomenon of so-called ‘influencers’? This is a real-world phenomenon and, yet, nobody actually knows who they are, by whom they are paid and/or managed, and how many people are in their reach. This all requires appropriate regulation.
Dimitrios Psarrakis mentioned yet another aspect. Digitalisation has an enormous impact on civil society and the concept as well as the practice of community. With communication increasingly losing its character of face-to-face exchange, the building of trusting relations is under serious threat. What once has been generalised trust – inter-personal and inter-organisational – does increasingly turn into a one-off exercise of an exchange of favours whereby nobody can actually be sure that these favours will ever be reciprocated. Civil society and its organisations are thereby deprived of their role as intermediaries guaranteeing, to some extent at least, the observance of fair and balanced forms of exchange among different types of actors and institutions.
Generally agreeing with Psarrakis, Rupert Graft Strachwitz argued that, considering the event of digitalisation, we would need to reconsider the entire concept of ‘community’ right from the start. Networks of belonging, neighbourhoods, and family relations which he called ‘communities of fate’ would increasingly lose influence while so-called ‘communities of choice’ (echo chambers in the internet, etc.) would tend to disorientate people and deprive them of the viability of steering through an increasingly complex world. The fact that digitalisation is anything but neutral was also mentioned by Peter W. Schulze. He supported ‘community of choice versus fate argument’, but added yet another aspect, namely the social divide. Values and debates diffused via the internet do not necessarily reach the less well-off parts of the population. The choice versus fate divide would thus be further reinforced with masses of the population left behind both in technological and in cultural terms.
Rob van Kranenburg discussed the enormous gap between advancements in the field of high-tech and the next generation internet on the one hand and the present state of governance in most of our countries. Processes and procedures of present forms of governance simply do not match the challenges represented by AI and other innovations. Van Kranenburg insisted on the need to build up data sovereignty and to invest in ‘edge’ rather than ‘cloud’ computing to avoid being appropriated by US giants such as Amazon and Google. The European Union, he continued, has recently come up with an initiative pointing in the right direction, namely a four-step ‘plan of identity management’. This consists of a digital signature for persons, a digital signature for services, a digital signature for the arts and, finally, a digital signature for governance of all sorts.
Finally, the panel was closed by the panel chair, Vladimir Yakunin, who summarised that the secular process of atomisation of society has become ultimately reinforced by technological developments. Overall, these developments seem to further reinforce that process rather than to stop and reverse it. Accordingly, Yakunin called for a joint initiative by civil society actors and the state against a further commodification of the internet that would need to be directed against figures such as Zuckerman and the like.
- Reinstall and develop civil society organisations within governance arrangements in a way such that they manage to gain an equal footing with state and business actors.
- Develop appropriate regulatory means and techniques, both at the domestic and the international level, to fight the spreading of fake news and misinformation.
- Support civil society platforms aimed at assisting people in their fight for freedom, justice, equal treatment and, at the same time, against racism, xenophobia, ethnic, gender, and religious discrimination.
- Develop and increase forms of digital sovereignty both regionally (EU, Central Asia, etc.) and domestically to gain independence from US- and China-led corporations in the field of high-speed communication.
Chasing the tiger: Economic models of the global south
- Moderator: Stefan Grobe, business correspondent for Euronews
- Donghyun Park, principal economist at the Economics Research and Regional Cooperation Department (Ercd) of the Asian Development Bank (Adb)
- Jomo Sundaram, senior adviser for the Government of Malaysia and former United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development
- Andrey Klepach, chief economist of Vnesheconombank, Russia
- Daisuke Kotegawa, former IMF Director for Japan
The implications of China’s economic rise are multifaceted. We are already witnessing geopolitical shifts. China is a rising superpower which rivals the US and its rise has inevitable impact on global governance architecture. China successfully creates, or co-creates, new institutions – the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, BRICS Bank – and constantly strives for even stronger influence within the United Nations, its programmes and affiliated organisations. There are conflicts over technology, investments and an alleged emerging shortage of resources that might be leading to an increase in raw material prices.
The following questions were offered for discussion: Is China’s rise seen as an opportunity or a threat, or perhaps both, by other developing countries? What are the special features of the East Asian/Chinese growth model? Is the growth model of India similar to the East Asian model? Can the East Asian growth model be replicated by other developing countries?
Moderator Stefan Grobe began with the fundamental question on how the rise of China should to be assessed. Jomo Kwame Sundaram explained that in East Asia there are countries allied with the US and allied with China and therefore the attitude of particular East Asian countries to the rise of China is naturally be diverse. Daisuke Kotegawa, however, observed that China’s growth provides the material base for the quantitative easing. Donghyun Park asserted that South Korea regards China as a competitor. Andrei Klepach pointed out that the rise of China creates new opportunities for Russia.
Responding to Stefan Grobe’s question about the other consequences of China’s rise, Jomo Kwame Sundaram pressed our memories to recognise the many conditions that are needed for successful catch up development. For example, in the United States Alexander Hamilton’s strategy to catch up with Britain became successful only after the victory of the North in the Civil War (if the South would have won, there would not be any catch up development).
Donghyun Park discussed entrepreneurship as the key factor of China’s rise and forecasted that the rise will continue. Daisuke Kotegawa argued that the trade tensions between rising China and the US are natural. There were similar tensions between Japan as it was rising and the US in the 1950-70s. Andrei Klepach agreed with Donghyun Park that entrepreneurship is important, but stressed the importance of the government in engineering the Chinese economic miracle. There was also a discussion on whether the changing focus from investment to consumption will affect Chinese growth and whether China is a currency manipulator or not.
Vladimir Popov, concluding the session, observed that there seemed to be three points of disagreement between discussants:
- Who is responsible for the Chinese miracle – the state or the private sector?
- Will Chinese growth slow down due to the decline in the share of investment in GDP and increase in the share of consumption?
- Is China a currency manipulator?
He put forward his own arguments on three issues respectively:
- Economic liberalisation in other countries (Sub-Sahara Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union) has led to stagnation or collapse of output because there were no strong state institutions that were present in China.
- Investment and growth are of such tight connection that it is reasonable to expect the decline in growth rates if the share of investment in GDP falls.
- The Foreign exchange reserves of China reached a maximum of $3 trillion in 2009-10 and since that time has fallen to $2 trillion. Hence, in the last decade, the People’s Bank of China was trying to push the value of the yuan higher rather than lower.
- Markets are as important for economic growth as the state, government failure can be a reason of poor growth as much as market failure.
- Financial restraints – keeping the interest rates low – is conducive to growth, whereas the notion of “financial repression” which justifies financial liberalisation is harmful for growth. East Asian countries are trying to counter bad international trends by switching to domestic demand, but this is an unfortunate forced policy.
- Red tape is suffocating entrepreneurship; this is one of the constraints, holding back India’s development.
- Infrastructure is crucial for growth. The international financial institutions gave a lot of credits to India, but not for infrastructure development, whereas China built infrastructure using its own domestic savings; this is one of the crucial causes of steady growth in China.
- It is good that Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement did not materialize (due to opposition from the US) because, if this agreement had been put into effect, it would be a constraint for growth inzChina and other developing countries.
The role of philanthropy in the new world order
- Moderator: Ali Aslan, journalist and moderator.
- Jean-Yves Ollivier, Brazzaville Foundation
- Ruben Vardanyan, RVVZ Foundation
- Pavithra Kumar, Tata Trusts, India
- Iwi Sumbada, Susilo Institute for Ethics in the Global Economy
- Ivor Ichikowitz, Ichikowitz Family Foundation
Philanthropy plays an ever-growing role in addressing social issues at local and global levels. It has become an important player in the third sector and often intervenes on scales that are typically only reached by government or industry. Supporting themes that are close to their hearts, philanthropists are typically passionate about influencing and resolving key concerns for a more equal and sustainable world. With the purpose of supporting society by resolving social problems and creating opportunities in the long term for a more harmonious future, philanthropists have a significant impact on many global issues.
The session started with the panelists explaining their personal experiences and the role of philanthropy in the 21st century. The discussion brought perspectives from very different parts of the world, such as India, Indonesia, Africa, and Armenia. Despite regional differences, the panel agreed that because of the massive challenges governments are currently facing, civil society needs to play a supporting role. Therefore, philanthropy could make a real difference in the new world order.
Jean-Yves Ollivier described the Brazzaville Foundation and emphasised that philanthropy enables dialogue-based, concrete solutions to local, regional, and global issues. It can approach the main issues of our society without the restraints government and industry face. Nowadays, it is crucial to create global philanthropy platforms to share knowledge, strategies, and success models.
Ivor Ichikowitz spoke about his experiences in South Africa, where he witnessed the rise of democracy in 1994 and thus of a new world order in the African continent. The transition period in South Africa was about dialogue, that is, people resolving problems through human interaction, very similar to what the DOC does.
One project of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation is the creation of the African Oral History Archive, to capture original testimony from people who were involved in the struggle and to preserve their stories. Other projects are about citizenship, conservation, and education. All these programmes aim to give Africa an opportunity to be a better place and to play a serious role in the new world order.
Ichikowitz pointed out that pitying the continent is a widespread but unsuccessful approach to development. In fact, Africa experienced a new world order much sooner than other continents. Due to the magnitude of the issues faced, African governments realised very early that they needed – and thus accepted – outside support. This is today’s role of philanthropy in Africa: getting things done on the ground.
Philanthropy in Africa can be divided in two types:
- ‘Industrialised philanthropy’, which is all about raising money in the West and in the East to run massive organisations that deploy very little money on the ground.
- A new style of philanthropy and business that aims at a social and sustainable impact on the ground.
Iwi Sumbada introduced the Susilo Institute for Ethics in the Global Economy and its founder, Harry Susilo, who always believed that sustainable business requires strong ethics. Therefore, when he retired, he founded the Susilo Institute, which collaborates with Boston University to advance the research of business ethics based on both Eastern and Western values. The purpose of the Susilo Institute is to ensure that the next generation of business leaders possesses a strong ethical foundation.
In Indonesia, philanthropy is an increasing trend, as is the emphasis on impactful work on the ground. Handing out money will not create sustainable communities; rather, capacity-building, empowerment, and the right resources lead to development.
Pavithra Kumar presented the Tata Trusts’ work, which is based on the belief that “what you take from the society should be given back to the society”. The Tata Trusts founder, Sir Dorab Tata, always maintained that nation-building is the main objective of Tata Group. He highlighted that philanthropy needs to adapt to changing requirements. Tata Trusts originally started with scholarships, but later they added initiatives in health, hygiene, and education, among others. Typically, this happens in partnership with governments. Tata Trusts focus on direct impact on the community life by studying and applying global best practices. Today the Indian government seeks advice from Tata Trusts and they work closely as partners.
Ruben Vardanyan stated that for 20 years, he has combined commercial and philanthropic activities, aiming to create social impact. The RVVZ Foundation implements projects in three areas: education, sustainable development, and immigration. These efforts are mainly meant to fight brain drain and fill the current gap between emerging and developed markets. Philanthropy usually tries to go from bad to normal; but this foundation aims to go from bad straight to excellent: for example, it restructured a remote monastery in Armenia and built the longest cable car in the world to bring tourists there. Visitor figures went from 40,000 to 150,000. Consequently, 27 hotels and restaurants opened in the area.
This demonstrates the successful combination of philanthropy and business:
- The philanthropic project: renovation of the monastery.The infrastructural support: the construction of cable car.
- Impact: increased investment and business in the area.
Vardanyan confirmed that younger generations want to have businesses with a purpose. Philanthropy and business are becoming one. This can at least partially serve the always increasing requirement for results-oriented and transparent projects.
- Philanthropy has to operate with clear strategies and best practices to obtain concrete results on the ground. Doing good is not good enough.
- In addition, global philanthropists should share their strategies and best practices, and combine efforts in order to increase impact.
- The quickly changing world and consequent social issues require philanthropy to be flexible and adapt quickly to new circumstances, challenges, and solutions.
- Philanthropy must integrate social and commercial activities to obtain the desired positive impact on populations.
- Collaboration and dialogue are essential if philanthropy wants to tackle global issues. Therefore, the DOC should provide platforms and forums where new forms of impactful philanthropy can be developed.
Examining geopolitical worldviews: Towards a battle of giants?
- Moderator: Martina Fuchs, journalist
- Peter Schulze, professor at the University of Göttingen and co-founder of DOC Research Institute
- Bruno Maçães, former Portuguese minister of European Affairs
- Sergey Markedonov, leading researcher of the Euro-Atlantic Security Center at the MGIMO Institute for International Studies
- Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization
- Dhruv C. Katoch, general director, India Foundation
- Richard Sakwa, professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent
The panel aimed at examining the role of influential players on the international scene and their potential to shape the global system. The question of what kind of world will emerge, and how international players will react to the undergoing changes in the power structure, received particular attention.
The geopolitical landscape is experiencing profound changes, one striking feature of which is a major structural power shift. The speakers acknowledged that the United States continues to decline, yet it will remain the biggest power at least over the next decade. This is due to its relative advantage over other states, most notably in the field of technology. Nevertheless, the wide gap that existed between the West and the ‘Rest’ is continuously narrowing. As Bruno Maçães pointed out, it is not only China that is putting the US-led unipolar world under constraint. Several other states are striving for more autonomy and influence, including Indonesia with its rapidly changing technological landscape.
In Sergey Markedonov’s view, a battle of giants is indeed taking place if we define the struggle as competition or confrontation instead of open war. Competition – such as between Russia and the West – is not absolute. It is, however, carried out with regard to specific issues and in certain parts of the world, i.e., Europe, the post-Soviet space, and the Middle East, through the use of various instruments, including trade, technology, infrastructure, information, and culture.
That confrontation is likely to continue with different levels of intensity over time. Nevertheless, direct full-scale military war is improbable in the foreseeable future. Actors will carry out their conflicts within limits, making sure that the situation does not escalate. This is well exemplified by the current trade conflict between the United States and China, which, once it came to the brink of escalation, began to show signs of abating, Bruno Maçães pointed out. The factors that hold back the actors from intensifying their dispute are technology, market forces, investment, and economic connectivity, he added.
While competition will continue, cooperation will take place as well. According to Sergey Markedonov, so called ‘situative concerts of power’ – rather than global ones – are the most likely form of interaction among states in the future; this is already visible in places such as Syria. States are not always aligned with one or another but instead form various alliances with different actors depending on their interests in a particular region. This leads to a situation in which states are partners in one region and opponents in another. Such a scenario might be riskier, yet it is safer than an actual battle of giants.
General Dhruv Katoch urged states to pay more attention to threats and risks rather than to ongoing conflicts and other global hotspots. These are what is called the ‘grey rhino’ – highly probable yet neglected events which could have devastating consequences. One such scenario is the disruption in energy supplies in the Gulf. According to Katoch, this is one of the biggest threats to the world’s economies, with the exception of Russia and the United States. If this disruption takes place, it will be the end of the Asian century.
As Bruno Maçães pointed out, we are increasingly moving towards a multipolar world, in which no one actor will dominate in all areas. Most states are no longer willing to follow others in their plans. Instead, they aim to develop their own autonomous foreign policy. For Maçães, the emergence of different poles will not lead to unmanageable chaos. Quite the contrary: the greatest threat is a model in which the world is becoming homogenous, in which every state would embrace the same model.
On the other hand, according to Peter Schulze, stable multipolarity does not have a chance as a future international world order. This is due to the complexity of the contemporary world and the inequality between global actors – as opposed to the situation in the 19th century. For him, the more likely scenario is that multipolarity will be interlinked with bipolar elements, and with US-China, US-EU, and US-Russia relations.
The current system is in crisis, yet there is no sense in dismantling it and building everything from scratch, Huiyao Wang said. Instead, global governance requires improvement and new initiatives that add value to the current one, as through the AIIB. Wang stresses that the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative has vast potential to boost multilateralism, contribute to peace and stability, and benefit all nations. Establishing an international committee, an international office, and an arbitration centre for OBOR would allow all actors to be strongly involved in the project and benefit equally from it.
General Dhruv Katoch showed scepticism that indeed all states would profit from the project. He pointed to the China-Pakistan economic corridor, which is part of OBOR and is one reason why the project is problematic for India. Another concern is that OBOR does not follow international standards of transfer, sustainability, and openness under the rule of law.
Views presented on the EU – its future place in the world and actual power to co-shape the transforming international system – were divided. According to Peter Schulze, as of now, there is no reason to believe that the EU will become an influential and independent strategic player anytime soon.
An opposing opinion was expressed by Bruno Maçães for whom over the next one to two decades, the EU will be to a much larger extent willing and able to act as a geopolitical player. For Maçães, Brexit might paradoxically have a positive effect on the EU in the sense that without the United Kingdom, the EU will have greater freedom to integrate more deeply, especially in the fields of foreign policy and defence. Sakwa supported this view by adding that Brexit offers a change for the revival of pan-European continentalism, in which Russia would become a genuine partner of the EU and an equal member of a new community. Other speakers supported the view that only in cooperation with Russia could the EU build a peaceful European order and shape events on a larger scale.
- Global powers must undertake efforts to strengthen multilateralism towards inclusive globalisation. The OBOR initiative is a unique opportunity for international actors, including states and institutions such as development banks, to work closely together.
- There is no sense in building new international institutions. Existing ones must be reformed and improved.
- Cooperation between Russia and the West is essential to build a peaceful and stable European order. No major economic, security, or other European issue can be resolved without Russia’s participation. A moderate and pragmatic approach is needed to normalise their relations.
- Global powers must pay particular attention to potential disruptions in energy supply in the Gulf. Recent events in the region, including attacks on Iranian ships and the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil plants, should serve as warnings for the international community. Disruptions in energy supply are one of the biggest threats for the international community, as they might have unimaginable and devastating consequences for the world’s economies apart from Russia and the United States, most notably Europe, China, India, Japan, and ASEAN. Such a development would mean the end of the Asian century.
Religion as a political factor and ideology
- Moderator: Katherine Marshall, senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs
- Fabio Petito, head of the ISPI-Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Programme on Religions and International Relations
- Ednan Aslan, director of the Islamic Religious Education and the Institute for Islamic Studies, University of Vienna
- Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat, founder and president of the Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation
- Alexey Malashenko, chief researcher at DOC Research Institute
The roundtable’s focus was on the issue in which ways religion is related to politics and, to an extent, to geopolitical forces today. The interconnection should not appear as a surprise, given that 46% of current world population has strong religious affiliation. This circumstance has strong implications for both internal and external policies of states as well as for international relations where the religious factor is increasingly important. At the same time, this factor has been ignored for many years. A turning point that changed the perception of religion was September 11th attacks in New York City.
Speakers and participants of the roundtable considered the following issues:
- The nature of religion.
- Defining the place of religion in current global narrative.
- Current dynamics within religious realm.
- Is religion’s influence in the domain of politics a good or a dangerous thing?
- How to deal with these religious forces.
Fabio Petito said that the 20th century was a secular century for the most part. Religion was considered to become increasingly insignificant during that period. The end of the Cold War made the situation quite different (especially in the former USSR). The impression emerged that religion was coming back, and with it such threats as instability, extremism, and terrorism.
The trend of religion’s growing significance will persist, and religion can contribute to solving major global challenges. There is however the problem of persecution on religious grounds. For instance, the situation with religious freedom in China is a disaster. Thus, religious leaders have a responsibility to act as a kind of moral compass for common believers and beyond religious communities.
Another major point that was raised is that religious communities are a part of civil society. When Islam becomes too close to the state, as is often the case in the MENA region, it constitutes a considerable challenge. Another worrisome example is the implementation of anti-conversion laws in India and the problems they generate for Christians in the country.
There is a danger of the religious realm being captured by the political agenda. Religion should not become politics. One of effective countermeasure against religious extremism is knowing one another and partnering with one another. Anne de Tinguy said that religion is an important factor in forming foreign policy. Religion can be used to legitimise state policies. The largest religious organisations are important international actors, sometimes with their own tradition of foreign policy.
Ednan Aslan argued that one of the most pressing issues is that of Muslims finding their place in modern society. In today’s world, support for extremism in Islamic world often comes from well-educated people. Radicalism is not a product of religious teachings, but the latter can be a part of this challenge. The Quran is a part of peace. But at the same time, it wouldn’t be correct to say that there is no place for violence in Quran.
It is important to understand what kind of Islam we want to cultivate. Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat said that what Muslims are doing in real life very much differs from what is written in Quran. Celebrating diversity is a part of Islam’s DNA and spirituality has to be integrated with diversity. Alexey Malashenko posed a complicated question: who is in a position to provide training for members of the clergy?
- Promoting religious literacy is crucial in responding to the challenges of extremism and terrorism. For example, if you want to promote peace in Afghanistan, you need to address the religious factor.
- It is necessary to find a balance between religious engagement and strengthening freedom of religion (given that around 80% of world population experiences pressure or conflict due to religious differences).
- It is important to explain what Islam is (including to Muslims themselves).
- The potential of religion in fighting climate change has to be explored, especially in communities that have broader chances to succeed.
- The problem of certain religious institutions’ not recognising the importance of gender issue must be addressed.
- It is important to train religious leaders on issues of diversity (e.g., there are teaching programmes for Imams in Europe explaining to them the European social and religious landscape).
- There is a need to analyse the reciprocal influence of religion and politics.
- It would be reasonable to take advantage of mass media potential in implementing interreligious dialogue.
- Open debate on the role of religion in modern society.
Towards a new partnership for Africa
- Moderator: Hannane Ferdjani, presenter, producer, and fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard
- Mahamadou Issoufou, president of Niger
- Kabiné Komara, former prime minister of Guinea
- Peter Eigen, founder of Transparency International and co-chair of the Africa Progress Group
- Igor Ichikowitz of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, South Africa;
- Jaime Graça, head of the education business of the ABO Capital Group and CEO of BluAir
- Jean-Yves Ollivier, founder and chairman of the Brazzaville Foundation
The session ‘Towards a new partnership for Africa’ examined thae current economic, regional, and geopolitical issues facing Africa and what the prospects for the continent are in terms of finding endogenous solutions for development, as well as revisiting its partnerships with external actors.
As a resource-rich continent with one-third of the world’s mineral and energy reserves, more than half of the world’s available arable land, and a rapidly rising population, Africa has a great deal of potential. But it also has to be careful in terms of its relations with other global players, as the continent is expected to become the next hub of global economic growth. Having long undergone development models imposed by the West, the speakers emphasised the need to preserve Africa’s unique position in the world and establish mutually beneficial relations with external actors.
Generally, the speakers were optimistic and resolute that the continent would not be dominated again, economically or otherwise, and that the time for Africa to find solutions for itself is here. While President Issoufou, PM Komara, Ichikowitz, and Ollivier were exuberant about Africa’s future, Eigen was a bit more cautious, pointing out that we have to recognise that there are serious conflicts on the continent and a scramble for Africa, 2.0.
Graça began the conversation about partnerships with external actors by stating that ‘win-win’ has to be the aim of all economic relations. China’s role in Africa was of course a large part of the conversation, with the speakers in favour of the Chinese approach to investment and general involvement in Africa. Ichikowitz made the often-cited point that China, unlike Western powers, is not trying to colonise Africa, be it overtly as in the late 19th century to early 20th century, or more subtly with conditions such as improving human rights, as in the last several decades.
The speakers argued that China’s involvement in Africa is the first success story on the continent, with billions of dollars in investment that wasn’t contingent upon Western standards or norms. Ichikowitz continued with the point that the West created the problems on the continent, yet continues to demand certain actions from African leaders in order to receive aid or investment, which often has additional strings attached.
Addressing corruption, Eigen pointed out that African leaders didn’t just all of a sudden become corrupt, rather corruption in Africa has largely been due to the relationships between the West and Africa and the uneven power dynamics between the coloniser and colonised. And now, China offers an alternative.
PM Komara stated that there are in fact an increasing number of anti-corruption measures being implemented in Africa, with decisions made in the interest of the general public rather than the powerful. Addressing unemployment will also play into reducing corruption since people with jobs are less likely to engage in corrupt activities, he argued.
Trade was also a key topic brought up during the conversation, with the tariff-free African Continental Free Trade Agreement a major shift towards economic integration for the continent. With over 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of 2.2 trillion USD, the world is starting to take Africa seriously. However, it’s critical for the continent to unite as one trade bloc with collective negotiating power and to force manufacturing to the shores of Africa so that jobs can be created.
Africa has one of the highest youth populations (19% of the global population), with 60% of the continent’s population under the age of 25. The former PM of Guinea argued that the youth are not the future – they’re the present. Businesses need to work with the governments to improve conditions for the younger generations, said Graça. Aside from earmarking resources for education, this can come in the form of corporate investment in education, working with schools and governments to determine market needs (so as to avoid over or under qualification), and developing mechanisms to meet the needs of employers and employees.
Entrepreneurship was also singled out as crucial for Africa, as well as a success story. There are a number of tech hubs and incubators for small businesses across the continent, particularly in cities like Nairobi, Kampala, and Lagos. Fin Tech has been a huge success, with mobile banking allowing African banks to replace European banks. All of the speakers agreed that the ‘4th revolution’ is undoubtedly benefitting Africans, particularly women. The issue that remains for tech companies in Africa is the lack of African investment – if a company wants to go global, the have to go to Silicon Valley or Seattle to raise capital.
Cooperation across the Africa was also highlighted in regard to addressing climate change. The continent is home to some of the world’s most vulnerable areas when it comes to this issue, be it through desertification or dwindling water resources. Solutions will require governments to change their view from a short-term outlook to a longer-term perspective, as well as engage NGOs and international institutions. But, the speakers agreed, the change has to begin within Africa.
- Investment from external actors should come with no strings attached, as with the ‘Chinese approach’.
- Regional economic blocs such as ECOWAS should be supported and expanded; further unification of the African continent regarding trade should be developed and promoted in order to give African countries more international bargaining power.
- Efforts on the part of government and business should be made to bring the manufacturing industry to Africa and to avoid revenues solely based on natural resource exportation. This would also produce jobs in manufacturing – according to the panellists, more jobs lead to less corruption.
- African governments should earmark resources for education in their annual spending budgets.
- Corporate investment in education should be incentivised or mandated by governments.
- Initiatives that bring together corporations, schools (and the relevant government institutions) to determine labour market needs should be established.
- Regional (African) investment in African tech companies should be incentivised and promoted.
- Campaigns to change government views from short-term to longer-term regarding climate change should be initiated.
Our smartphone lives: Of humans and robots
- Moderator: Dimitrios Psarrakis, economic and monetary policy advisor to the European Parliament
- Jane Zavalishina, president and co-founder of Mechanica AI, a provider of AI-based solutions for the industrial sector; former executive at Yandex
- Aditi Surie, sociologist at the Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics
- David Gorodansky, chairman of GlobeIn, a subscription marketplace with a mission to connect a billion people to the global economy; founder of AnchorFree.
This panel addressed the ethics of algorithmic decision-making and the feasibility of a global AI code, the threats and potential of AI technology, how AI will impact labour markets, and the future of the planet and AI being a means to help to curb climate change.
The first topic that panel discussants dealt with was the threat and potential of AI and technology. Jane Zavalishina was convinced that there is tremendous potential in technology. For example, in metallurgy, managers see a shortage of new employees because people don’t want to work in that profession anymore. Here, Zavalishina saw the value of AI-based technology that could capture the knowledge of experienced workers, which would otherwise be lost, and keep the industry alive. She argued against fears that AI would be able to ‘take over humanity’. Rather, it will be the humans that develop and control technology that will possess the potential to use technology for bad purposes.
Aditi Surie stressed the potential of technology to do people good. For example, Ola, the ride-hailing app, has created lots of jobs for people from rural areas who have migrated to cities. Surie was also sure that AI poses no existential threat.
In David Gorodansky’s view, AI and technology have great potential to serve human well-being. He also saw challenges, for example, of AI falling into the wrong hands. To rule out any potential risks of AI technology being used in an unethical way, Gorodansky argued for regulation.
The second question dealt with the ethics of algorithmic decision-making and the feasibility of a global AI code. Zavalishina started out by underlining that it is technically impossible to regulate AI, because data can easily be copied and moved to anywhere in the world in an instant. Therefore, if we know we can´t control the bad guys, it would be much better to support the work of the good guys. Also, AI ethics is only as good as the human developers and their biases and stereotypes. People want AI to be less biased than themselves, but in Zavalishina’s eyes that is asking too much. She added that AI ethics are not universal. She referred to a situation where an algorithm would have to decide between potentially killing a child or an elderly person (e.g., when controlling a self-driving car), this could have different outcomes in different cultures.
Surie elaborated on the discriminatory potential of AI. She referred to the advanced and complicated structures of AI-based people-management. Highly complex and non-transparent of algorithmic decisions about platform drivers (like Ola drivers) make it difficult to have an informed perspective on the market. Surie also mentioned that platforms like Ola are non-transparent about how orders are distributed to drivers. She sees this as a big problem. For example, Ola drivers who have purchased their cars through loans from Ola receive more orders than drivers who drive their own cars. She welcomed the idea of a global AI code but pointed to the fact that companies and countries are competing in developing and reaping the gains of AI technology.
Gorodansky was strongly in favour of regulating AI technology and called for a code similar to that which advocates the non-proliferation for nuclear weapons. He underlined that he is an advocate of technology for the common good, but that certain technologies (e.g., genetic engineering) and their applications need careful attention to avoid their usage turning against the common good.
One central topic for the panel was how AI would impact labour markets. Gorodansky envisioned a future society where the majority of jobs would be automated and where people would be able to devote themselves to more fulfilling tasks and work. While a large-scale automation of jobs was technically possible, he underlined that governments should provide a basic income for all in order to guarantee basic needs and to cover retraining. Without a basic income, he saw the risk of ever-rising technology-induced inequality because gains from technology are only reaped by the top 1% of the wealth and income ladder.
Privacy protection was also discussed. Zavalishina supported the notion that it should be possible for people to choose how much data they wanted to provide to platforms. People shouldn’t be punished for opting out. Surie and Gorodansky agreed on that. Gorodansky proposed a start-up for privacy protection that he then could help find investors for. He also talked about the need for anti-AI technologies and mentioned a start-up that has created a technology to disturb facial recognition, allowing its users to avoid recognition. Surie referred to the excessive use of data by platform companies like Ola, when drivers are left in the dark about what aim massive data collection from them serves.
Another central issue was the future of the planet and AI being a means to help to curb climate change. Zavalishina saw tremendous potential for algorithmic calculations of water and food supplies in certain industries. AI could help calculate efficient ways to save some of the planet’s finite resources. Surie also believed AI could serve as a perfect tool to address some of the problems that Indian mega-cities are facing in terms of sanitation, water supply, and traffic. At the same time, she highlighted the need for modern infrastructure in order to make use of new technologies. In many countries in the Global South, this critical infrastructure is not available. Gorodansky underlined the fact that progress in robotisation is providing humanity with new technologies. He referred to a company that deploys robots to carry huge cages in the ocean to catch fish, which then live in the cage farm until they get harvested. In contrast to widespread aquafarming, cage farming could help farmers to use fewer antibiotics and lessen the detrimental effect on ocean fauna caused by trawling.
- Create a global AI regime similar to that for nuclear non-proliferation, in order to prevent the use of AI technologies for bad
- Make it possible for every user of a platform to decide what data to share with platforms. It has to be possible to opt out and not share any data without facing detrimental treatment or poor service
- Consider the potential of a social safety net like basic income to cover basic needs and to enable people to educate themselves in the face of rapid technology-induced job losses
- Make algorithmic decision-making and people management transparent and accountable
- Apply AI technology to predict changes in the supply and demand of essentials like food and water, thereby saving valuable resources; likewise use technology to grow food in areas where it has not previously been possible, like oceans
- Upgrade infrastructure to enable the application of AI technologies that foster the common good by saving resources
World (dis)order and civilisations in dialogue: European (in)security in an age of civilisational states. In cooperation with the University of Kent and LSE IDEAS think-tank
- Moderator: Adrian Pabst, professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent
- Michael Cox, emeritus professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and co-director of LSE IDEAS
- Vladimir Chizhov, permanent representative of the Russian Federation to the European Union
- Aaron McKeil, course tutor, Executive MSc International Strategy and Diplomacy at LSE IDEAS
- Elena Chebankova, former reader in Politics at the University of Lincoln
- Richard Sakwa, professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent
- Christopher Coker, professor of International Relations, London School of Economics, and co-director of LSE IDEAS
- Paul Goldstein, president and CEO of Pacific Tech Bridge, LLC.
The debate about whether geopolitics is fundamentally about the economy, security, or technology, or about culture and civilisational values and norms, is still continuing. Prof. Christopher Coker argued in his book, The Rise of the Civilizational State, that the world has now reached the point, where cultural and civilisational aspects are considered the “new currency of international politics”. After the end of the Cold War, the transition from a bipolar via a unipolar to a multipolar world has simply not strengthened international cooperation or multilateralism. Instead, a backlash against liberal globalisation and a growing lack of trust towards supranational institutions can be observed. The challenge for Europe is not only about the economy or security or technology, but also about self-perception and identity. The European Union as a confluence of nations can be seen as a core crucible of civilisations, having no single starting point or predefined order, and finding itself at a different level of development to other countries. It is not a state in quite the same way as modern sovereign states such as the US or China and yet the debate about the geopolitical pivot from the Euro-Atlantic to the Eurasian and Indo-Pacific world suggests that Europe is a cultural association of nations and peoples who share a common destiny.
This session raised the state of affairs of European and global ‘order’ and ‘disorder’ and asked how European powers can draw on common cultural, social, and civilisational ties to find a way out of the impasse. The current dead-end is challenging global order, especially in the age of rising ‘civilisation states’.
Michael Cox argued that the US is a kind of liberal ‘empire’ and state model that many others have followed. Even besides its project associated with its own prosperity within the global economy, it can be seen as one of the most successful civilisational states in history. Pointing out that there is a major connection between Brexit and the Trump presidency – events which realigned two of the leading globalising powers – he underlined that ‘American decline’ should not be overestimated. Nevertheless, we are in a new era and despite enduring economic and military ties, deeper disorder within the transatlantic relationship could have profound consequences for European security and the world order in transition.
Vladimir Chizhov pointed out that major sources of modern instability are linked to the crisis of the pan-European value system. In order to prevent Europe from undergoing a critical decline, a system of ‘integrating integrations’ – uniting the potential of the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union – is required. This could provide healthy economic competition for other regions and strengthen the principles of a common multilateral economic and humanitarian space throughout Eurasia, particularly by including projects like the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. There is a need to start substantive talks on the parameters of a reliable and equal security system in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian areas. Therefore, it is necessary to create a permanent dialogue channel at the highest level and to discuss multipolar issues and common global challenges.
Aaron McKeil explained the meaning behind the concept of ‘global disorder’, saying it means three different things: the condition of instability, which precipitates (great power) war; irresponsible foreign policies; and the gap between the ambitions of order and the reality of the actual underperformance of the order that we have – this latter sense is the most important one. Not only multiple ambitions, but also common global ambitions, should be discussed in relationship to a global order as a common project for global civilisation. Such an approach should not induce the homogenisation or uniformity of cultures, but rather create a Venn diagram of various ambitions and values, showing where they overlap, in order to clarify the required order for the contemporary era.
Elena Chebankova presented different modes of dialogue between civilisations, arguing that defining differences and demarcating cultural borders is a precondition for dialogue. She explained the need to internalise a synchronic approach in discussions about civilisations, arguing that even the most advanced civilisations can contain elements of both – culture and barbarism. At the same time, an effective dialogue between Western and Eastern civilisations will be difficult due to the ongoing recasting of their basic civilisational frameworks. The contemporary West is a society in transition, while Russia is trying to defend its civilisational base but is still standing at a cultural crossroads. The lack of clearly shaped subjects for dialogue impedes opportunities for productive communication.
Richard Sakwa argued that contemporary disorder can be seen as a function of the crisis of the Atlantic power system, which radicalised in certain ways after 1989 in the absence of a Soviet power system. Challenged by its expansive dynamism, Russia and China became conservative status quo powers and aligned on a platform of anti-hegemonic neo-revisionism.
Christopher Coker explained that the EU is facing a crisis of exceptionalism in social terms. As a transnational community it cannot be seen as a civilisational state and does not even use the concepts of civilisations. Many of the origins of the current crisis originated in Europe, rather than at the hands of external powers, and had their essential root in a lack of self-belief and confidence in defending its values and identity in the world.
Paul Goldstein agreed that the notion of the US decline does not address the underlying principles of what the US is really about. Thinking in terms of power relationships instead of culture, the biggest challenge for the US is to recognise the importance of starting new frameworks of dialogue with Russia and other cultures. Otherwise, the deregulation of common global institutional and financial infrastructure might bring the world into an uncontrollable collapse.
- In the transitional era of the global order, ‘American decline’ should not be overestimated, although the rift within the West is creating sources of disorder and the potential for a deeper crisis within the global security system;
- Instead of following the logic of power relationships and exceptionalism, major political parties must acknowledge the realities of contemporary cultural transitions and adopt adequate modes of dialogue with other cultures;
- A permanent channel for dialogue at the highest level should be created to discuss multipolar issues and common global ambitions and challenges, including the parameters of a reliable and inclusive security system in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian areas in order to consider multiple models of development;
- In order to overcome a deeper crisis, an order of ‘integrating integrations’ as a multilateral economic and humanitarian space throughout Eurasia, needs to be considered;
- Discussions of global order as a common project for a global civilisation should not induce the homogenisation or uniformity of cultures, but rather create a kind of Venn diagram of various ambitions, values, and overlapping ties.
World order seen from a business perspective
- Moderator: Stefan Grobe
- Michael Bröse, managing director of OOO Dürr Systems
- Andreas Knaul, managing partner at Rödl & Partner
- Gaukhar Nurgalieva, head of the Eurasian Studies Lab at the Institute of Emerging Markets Studies (IEMS) at the Skolkovo School of Management in Moscow, Russia
- Bruno Maçães, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a former secretary of state for European Affairs in Portugal
The integration of Eurasia and cooperation among Eurasian and European economies seems inevitable due to the rapid economic expansion of China, India, and other Eurasian countries. The rise of the East provides an opportunity for Eurasian countries to emerge as hubs for finance, goods, and services, making them valuable trading partners for Europe.
Consequently, businesses in both Europe and Eurasia have voiced support for closer cooperation between the European Union (EU) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), with a view to creating a common economic space between the two regions. Business leaders have encouraged political actors in across the EU and the EAEU to give the European Commission and the Eurasian Economic Commission respective mandates to begin an official dialogue on the harmonisation of regulations.
In this context, panellists discussed a few major questions: (i) would the harmonisation of standards and increased ease of doing business improve the competitiveness of both Europe and Eurasia? (ii) would a common economic space among two regions with rather different resources lead to equal growth and prosperity? (iii) What is the role of common infrastructure? (iv) would a free trade zone generate benefits beyond economic growth, i.e., political, juridical, and social?
On standards and regulations, Andreas Knaul said that an increase in legal security in the last 25 years has resulted in an improved business climate. In Eurasia, according to World Bank, Russia ranked 31st, Kazakhstan ranked 28th, and Germany ranked 24th in terms of ease of doing business.
Michael Bröse began by noting that Russian economic growth, which is between 6-8%, has declined recently. He added that Russia has tried imitate Germany’s business model but it has been unsuccessful due to a lack of reforms to regulations and standards. Further business reforms are necessary for Russian economic development.
Gaukhar Nurgalieva argued that we need to modernise the so-called ‘Soviet Union structure’, as shown by the slowdown the Russian economy has experienced over the past few years. The drivers of economic growth in the Eurasian region are the Caucasus and Central Asia, she added.
Bruno Maçães emphasised that Eurasia stretches over two continents and Russia, Kazakhstan, and Iran are located in the middle, meaning they are key to promoting integration. Eurasia is therefore not just about China and India. He pointed out that trade is accelerating in the Eurasian region, hence economic integration seems to be powerful, but political integration remains a question mark.
On infrastructure, Michael Bröse pointed to the success of the soccer world cup in building infrastructure in Russia. The revival of the Silk Road will also result in fewer logistical costs in the region.
Andreas Knaul said that obstacles to infrastructure development in the region should be abolished in order to promote economic development. There are visible improvements in the freedom of moving of capital, labour, and people in the region, although these have not reached the same level as the EU. A common market between Europe and Asia should be what we are aiming for.
Nurgalieva talked about Kazakhstan as a Eurasian country. Natural resources in Kazakhstan, Russia, and other economies of the region are stimulating Eurasia such that it is playing a key role in the global economy. However, the region is facing challenges, for example, the structures of the respective national economies are very different from one another. Kazakhstan is seen as a gateway for China and other Eurasian countries. The new ports in Kazakhstan exemplify infrastructure development in the region. In addition, Uzbekistan (with a growth rate of 6%) is considering joining the Eurasian Economic Union. 90% of Chinese exports currently depart by sea, so reviving the Silk Road will allow some more exports to go through Eurasia to reach the EU.
Bröse described the limited number of SMEs in Russia and elsewhere across the region. In comparison, 80% of German GDP is generated by SMEs. Some in Russia have said that US sanctions are good for the country because they are forcing the country to grow, although this has not fully translated into SME development.
Free trade in the region is good for peace-keeping and could help resolve the Ukraine crisis as well as boosting per capita income. Whereas free trade for Germany helps to increase per capita income by 100 euros, in Russia it raises per capita income by 250 euros. However, the lack of entrepreneurial activities in Russia will make it difficult for a free trade area to be beneficial.
Knaul said that here are many entrepreneurs in Germany who would like to operate in Russia but the obstacles to doing business in Russia prevent them starting business there. Economic reforms that benefit the business community in Russia are therefore necessary. He added that a free market between the economies of Eurasia would benefit the middle class.
Maçães said that the EU is thinking of expanding relations with Eurasia but is currently restricted by the problem of Brexit. Another problem is that Russia is resistant to various EU proposals.
Nurgalieva highlighted the role of Turkey, as it has previously tried to join the EU. Tukey has a large population and a large number of SMEs. Turkey could be a good potential partner for the EAEU. The MENA region also represents an opportunity for partnership with Eurasia, especially when there are 80 million Russian speaking Muslims.
- Business and economic reforms (investment regulations reforms, capital movement reforms, standardised regulation reforms, and allowing entrepreneurship and SME development) in Russia and Eurasia are necessary to enable entrepreneurship and foreign investment.
- The drivers of economic growth in the Eurasian region are the Caucasus and Central Asia because the Central Asian economies are mostly resource-rich countries and the Caucasus are able to act as a gateway connecting Europe to the East and vice-versa.
- A free market between the economies of Eurasia will help middle class to rise, specifically through a free market data exchange, a common electricity market and service, and a common customs code.
Culture and the return to civility
- Moderator: Anne McElvoy, British journalist, contributor to the Economist and the London Evening Standard, and the BBC
- Charlie Firestone, executive director of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and a vice president of the Aspen Institute
- Martina F. Ferracane, research associate at ECIPE
- Rupert Graf Strachwitz, co-founder and shareholder of Humboldt-Viadrina Governance Platform gGmbH
Regardless of countries where different politics are applied, there has been a dissolution of civility on the international stage and in terms of social cohesion within many societies. This development is the result of challenges to established discourse, and there are many ways in which one could look around the world and point at what has happened. The rise of a more reactive, even xenophobic, politics marks the collapse of a form of civility with consequences that extend far beyond mere politeness – increasing support for populist parties, left and right spectres of jihadism – and how various leaders choose to deal with them. There is a sign of something, which feels like a much-contested space, even if the direction that all people want to go in terms of securing the planet is a good one. What are the risks to civility in the modern world? What challenges surround culture and civility? Democracy does not guarantee civility; it is something to fight for in the face of constant challenges and transformation.
Charlie Firestone argued that the challenge facing civility is digital disruption in publishing, banking, retail, and so on. It has created the attention economy, characterised by information overload; the scarcity is people’s time and attention. What really gets people’s attention in the public sphere is anger, fear, hate, and sensationalism – these have created a movement against civility. Social media is connecting people, billions of people around the world, which is a great advantage of modern times. However, these connections are instant, simultaneous, indelible, forever, and infinite. Instead of a few publishers of information, there are billions. In addition, there is the issue of anonymity, which means that people are often no longer accountable for what they say. This combination has led to the devolution of civility.
We need to address the problem of individuals’ abilities to create viral messages with bad ideas. Nazism, totalitarianism, racism, and violence are negative concepts that should be excluded from civil debates. Politicians should be the least regulated, but they should be pressed to be more literate on civic and digital issues.
Are we able to exert democracy in our countries? What characterises sovereign control over what occurs within borders? And when people look at borders, what is between climate crimes, weather, disease, currency, economics, information? These issues all extend across borders. Nobody in particular has control anymore. There are influences through social media that are affecting the most basic democratic elements like voting. Concerning freedom of speech, do we believe that bad speech can be corrected by more speech?
Think about gene splicing, robotics, artificial intelligence, or designer babies – it all seems like science fiction. But if we look at each of these technologies, we may well end up designing a great athlete or a brilliant scientist one day. Technology is advancing rapidly. When we discovered social media and invented the Internet, which is the common mode of communication throughout the world… what a great invention, and what a wonderful thing it is to connect billions across the globe. We have great opportunities to solve medical and other problems due to technology, but we should be especially cautious because things may go wrong. It is important to find a proper balance.
There are two values of civility: one is tolerance, the other is respect. The golden rule of democracy is to rule as if you will not be in control one day. We have to understand networks of contemporary global society to navigate this world. Nevertheless, in the end, it is up to the people to be responsible, both as citizens and as leaders.
Rupert Graf Strachwitz felt that total reliance on new technology has brought the world an amazing degree of incivility and uncivilized behaviour. The enormous shifts brought about by the communication revolution have evoked sweeping changes in our political and social structure to maintain nation-state development. One crucial feature of these changes is that people are choosing where they live rather than living in the community where they were born. New technology provides people a new environment to live in.
It is important to admit that all new social developments should be incorporated in a civilised and effective manner to preserve the fundamentals of democratic societies.
One structure that is sort of disappearing is the nation-state, which has been challenged by civil society and continues to be influenced by the communication revolution. We have to develop a new sort of culture of identity and loyalty, which is probably going to become multifaceted.
We should not be afraid of new technologies and progress. Regarding the latter, humanity should remain in control of all developments. To do so, we must not only learn all these new technologies but also look at ourselves and see what we need to do, individually and collectively, to stay in charge.
There is a serious issue of trust and mistrust in modern society: nobody trusts each other anymore, the government does not trust people, people do not trust the government. If we do not restore a society based on trust, then we are not going to surmount these challenges.
We must not confuse civility with good manners. Civility needs to be redefined in such a way that respect becomes the key term. The first thing to learn is to be respectful of each and every individual and the dignity of all. Lots of people look to civil society to come up with ideas to solve problems. ‘Civil’, in this sense, has nothing to do with civility. ‘Civil society’ is a very technical term; it can make a contribution, but we have to come up with a totally new concept.
We do not have the solutions, nobody knows the answers, and we have to be humble; from somewhere a bright idea will come.
Martina Ferracane said that digital transformation poses two major challenges to civility. One is about giving people the skills and competence to be active users of digital tools and participants in the digital economy; there are billions of users, and only a few creators of these technologies. The other challenge is that the Internet is being vulcanised from different sides, and the identity and security of every person is affected differently, which should be examined. The future of the Internet will be the future of society.
The main priority is to train people to discern what is fake and what is true. We are teaching young people where to find information to verify whether something is true or false.
The way politicians relate to their citizens is changing rapidly, and old-school politicians have to re-learn how to communicate in a way that is convincing and gives people a vision and ideas. It is important to look at local politicians, who are giving simple answers to big, hard, and complex problems.
3D printing and other technological developments are advantages that can decentralise manufacturing and bring manufacturing to places where it no longer exists. 3D printing allows for new creations from start-ups prototyping new solutions in big cities, and bringing new jobs, both of which are essential in developing countries. The greatest advantage of 3D printing is in the medical space.
We have to be aware of social values; there should be more divergence in the world. The state should balance privacy and security with respect to every citizen representing society. When people cross borders, this balance may be ruined.
We are highly diverse, and in a global digital environment, it will be very hard to find a common and universal understanding of civility. The point is to be aware of what civility means for others and to be respectful.
- Young generations should be taught how to discern what is true and what is false in
the global digital environment.
- The values of global society in the context of technological transformation should be
- Politicians and citizens should open a dialogue that is realistic and based on shared values.
- It is important to structure society in a way that addresses the challenges posed by new technologies.
- Humanity should accept new developments but manage to stay in charge of these
transformations to maintain a decent and high level of culture and civility.
- It is necessary to introduce new approaches to moderate and regulate online worldwide.
- Internet discussion in which all civil actors are engaged.
- As we head towards a global society, it is important to accept a culture of diversity.
Tunis Process: ‘Overcoming differences, sharing paths: Building concrete initiatives and policies’
- Moderator: Jean-Christophe Bas, CEO of DOC Research Institute
- Moderator: Mohammed Cherkaoui, senior researcher at Al Jazeera Center for Studies
- Moderator: Haïkel Drine, LBH Foundation
- Ezzeddine Abdelmoula, research manager of Al Jazeera Center for Studies
- Imam Mohammed Bashar Arafat, founder and president of Civilizations Exchange & Cooperation Foundation
- Heather Brown, associate researcher and editor at DOC Research Institute
- Roman Bykow, professor, Tomsk University and co-founder of Tomsk Center of Interreligious Dialogue
- Elias d’Imzalène, founder of Islam & Info
- Emmanuel Dupuy, president of l’Institut Prospective et Sécurité en Europe (IPSE)
- Wajdi Filali, project manager of Urban Policies & New Discourses at Heinrich Böll Foundation
- Léa Frydman, international representative of Coexister
- Leila Ghandi, international moderator, journalist, and photographer
- Henry Hogger, former British Ambassador to Syria and senior consultant at Middle East Consultants International
- Shada Islam, director for Europe & Geopolitics at Friends of Europe
- Fatoumata Kébé, astrophysicist and educator
- Alexey Malashenko, chief researcher at DOC Research Institute
- Abdelaziz Saret, president of the FMDO (Federation of Moroccan global and democratic organizations)
- Solon Simmons, associate professor at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University
- Udo Steinbach, Director of the MENA Study Centre at the Maecenata Foundation, Berlin
- Rupert Graf Strachwitz, Executive Director of the Maecenata Foundation/Director, Maecenata Institute for Philanthropy and Civil Society
- Alma Sultangaliyeva, expert at the Institute of Asian Studies
‘Overcoming differences, sharing paths: Building concrete initiatives and policies’ was the second meeting of the Tunis Process. Partners for the event included the Al Jazeera Center for Studies, the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace, and the LBH Foundation.
The event consisted of brief presentations from a diverse group of civil society members, researchers, influencers, media, and policy experts from Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and Central Asia, followed by discussions among all participants. The selection of participants was based on their expertise in contributing to the discussion during the workshop, as well as their ability to help develop strong and practical recommendations, and in the case of media, their capacity to breakdown stereotypes and educate the public on a wider scale.
In the words of the CEO of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, Jean-Christophe Bas, where the first round of the process was very open-ended and unstructured, the second round combined, in seamless transition, a philosophical approach to global cultural change with a practical and pragmatic focus on concrete initiatives.
Bas went on later in the conference to provide a vision for the fruits of the process that encapsulated the hopes – if not the expectations – of its participants, that it might eventually reach audiences at the global level, what he called ‘the one billion’. Bas made it clear in his opening remarks how important it was to situate any project like this in the context from which it emerged, complete with the potential for dramatic social change that often exists in tragic origins.
Bas’s ambitions were reflected in the remarks of the co-host for the event, Mohammed Cherkaoui, who described the origins of the process in the philosophical interventions of thought-leaders like the philosopher and informal diplomat, Hans Köchler, and national figures like Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, Senegalese President Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Austrian President Rudolf Kirchschläger. Cherkaoui challenged the group to reimagine the very concept of dialogue as an alternative paradigm to the realpolitik and pessimism of the civilisation theorists and to use the Tunis Process to provide the kind of socio-political paradigm shift that might justify Bas’s aspirations for the process.
To round out the beginning of the meeting, Haïkel Drine, representing the Tunisia-based LBH Foundation, reminded the group of events that the prior speakers had noted as well, that this process emerges from the Tunisian experience. It’s an experience that reflects the dramatic events following what was once called ‘the Arab Spring’ after the Tunisian uprising of 2011; it was one of President Essebsi’s last actions to establish the process that very June, and October 2019 was a time of hope for Tunisia, as it was the day of a peaceful runoff election to replace Essebsi.
In this way, operational ambitions blended with philosophical reflections to provide the ground for a tough conversation about the hope for dialogue in a world structured by state power and newly energised security concerns. This is during a time when every country now seems to strive more to put its interests first and ‘make itself great again’ than to understand the ‘other’ or to adapt to the truths of increasing economic, social, and cultural interdependence around the planet.
Morning session key themes: ‘Overcoming the wounds of the past’. Panel presentations on reconciling mutual prejudices and grievances through dialogue: What can be healed and how?
Oftentimes conversations on so broad a topic as Islam’s place within the West can become too general. That was not the case during the second meeting of the Tunis Process. The group was lucky to have a seasoned group of discussants, most of whom had been in contact with one another during the first Tunis Process meeting. This allowed the group to cut through some of the typical distractions of philosophical discussion to hone in on a few key themes that could easily translate into concrete activities: multiple identities, the state, and the need for mutual credibility.
It is little surprise that a conversation on healing taking place in the shadow of the ‘clash of civilizations’ debate would speak to the question of identity. It is on the terrain of identity that members of the group believed that the process would break through the typical drudgery of interest-based negotiations to appeal to some deeper sense of reconciliation on the level of something like a civilisation. Moreover, the fact is that leading research for decades has pointed out how fragmented, situational, and relational identities are. Identity is both the wellspring of our higher purpose and a foundation of sand. Psycho-social forces are notoriously less predictable than are rational interests, but are increasingly important to address as the world comes together at the level of political economy.
A second theme of the discussion was the need to know to whom we are speaking. It is always helpful to have a heavy dose of scepticism in top-level processes like the Tunis Process. One constant point of scepticism for this conversation was the question of who our audience was. What made the scepticism helpful was the way it was linked to a passionate desire to achieve something concrete. Among the most interesting aspects of the discussions were those that touched on the need for all actions taken in support of inter-civilisational dialogue to speak with a credible choice to all parties concerned. Members of the group were painfully aware of the natural cynicism of global politics, especially in the context of newly muscular state activity and great power conflict.
The first to speak to the issues of identity was Alexey Malashenko of the DOC Research Institute. Malashenko, a former chair of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Religion, Society, and Security Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, made remarks couched in the spirit of International Relations realism, but he spoke eloquently about the issue of identity as it related to the Russian relationship to Islam. He brought what he called the ‘perspective of Russia’ to the conversation. His remarks were so relevant to the question of multiple identities because he spoke primarily about the need to bring Russia into the conversation about what would once have been called Oriental-Occidental relations.
Malashenko insisted that the Russian experience – with its Muslim neighbours and citizens – could be used as a model for Europe, in part because of the long history of Russian leadership in working with questions of national self-determination through past experience, but also because Russia is in some ways still part of Europe. This tension is a powerful one, which highlights how unique the Russian experience has been. One can feel in remarks like those of Malashenko’s, how eager Russian leadership groups are to enter the highest levels of global debate after the attempts to side-line the Russian experience after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Malashenko also spoke worriedly about the gap between the official Islam that is recognised in Russia and the underground organisations that potentially pursue ulterior agendas. Overall, Malashenko’s contribution to the debate was to anchor the discussion in the Russian orbit as much as it has been already in the Anglo-French, leading both to new ways to leverage global identities and trapping us in the kinds of philosophical realism and security concerns of the Russian political culture. Most of all, Malashenko warned the group to think about its interlocutor. Was it the state? The UN? The European Union? He worried that abstract conversations without a concrete sphere of action would produce little of consequence. His insistence on this practical point was one of the major insights of the Tunis Process as a whole.
Next to speak to frame the conversation was Udo Steinbach, who organised his remarks around the concept of Muslim grievances against the West. Steinbach set the tone of the conversation with a recitation of those collective memories that bind political identities into adversarial patterns. Although Professor Steinbach was sensitive to the awkwardness of the categorical opposition of Islam and Europe, he used those categories to organise his remarks. On the side of Islam, he spoke of: the West’s support for Saddam Hussein, regime change in mid-century Iran and similar attempts in the present, the selective use of human rights talk for what appear to be instrumental reasons, the history of the mandate system as a negative example, support for authors like Salman Rushdie, the Dutch cartoon controversy, Israel’s actions in the region, and the double-standard of reaction to the actions of President Erdogan of Turkey.
Steinbach provided what might be the overall theme of the Tunis Process itself when he demanded that if we are to make progress with Islamic people and with their leaders, ‘credibility is a pre-condition’. Put simply, the history of relations between European powers in both the public and private sectors have made it very difficult to take anything that they say as credible. Any efforts to push past the current politics of difference that so often erupts in violence will have to address this question of credibility, especially on the part of Europe and the West.
Steinbach also spoke of the grievances of the West, but with more nuance than he had of those of Islam, revealing his prognosis for future conversations in the very structure of his remarks. He framed his remarks with much earlier attempts to bridge this divide with figures like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Mohammad Iqba, but then mentioned 9/11, and the sense that Islam is disregarded as a ‘dark and gloomy religion’.
The obvious asymmetry in Steinbach’s list of grievances, presenting unresolved political abuses by the West against a set of Islamophobic cultural stereotypes in the West, organised around the tragedy of 9/11, was a prelude to his conclusions. In his view we need small common projects, that are specific and narrow and that can be framed more as action than dialogue. One might say that his recommendations were to ‘shift the narrative’ without drawing too much attention to the divisions themselves.
The final morning presentation was that of Alma Sultangalieva of the Institute of Asian Studies, Kazakhstan. She introduced the group to Kazakhstan and its largely unknown efforts to overcome religious divisions. Her work might be understood as an effort to leverage identity for productive purposes in that Kazakhstan presents an atypical case in a part of the world that has not been recently contested by Europeans in the way that terrain in the Middle East and North Africa have been.
Sultangalieva shared her view that Kazakhstan was a kind of a model for interreligious dialogue in that it had avoided religious conflict, in part based on its long history as a cultural crossroads of East and West. She spoke of identity formation as prioritised around citizenship first, then ethnicity, and then religion. Religion is not front and centre to Kazakhs in her view, which offers advantages for new self-concepts in a changing world.
Overall, Sultangalieva’s remarks pointed towards a project of identity infrastructure that would be productive of peacebuilding, not only in the steppes but in other parts of the Muslim world as well. Her emphasis on cross-cutting identifications was crucial for her argument and although she did not advocate for any specific programmes, she did offer Central Asia as a kind of more productive cultural model than we find elsewhere.
After the introductory statements, there were many interventions in the discussion that built on the notion of the importance of multiple identities in moving the civilisation conversation forward. Fatoumata Kébé spoke about educational discrepancies in the French school system between locals, Europeans, and immigrants, and how people remain defined as Muslim first and French second.
Leila Ghandi spoke about her plural identity as both Arab and French, Muslim and European, and how a reductionist specification of identity can actually trigger conflict. She talked about ‘wounds on both sides of the Mediterranean, of discrimination against Muslims, of judgments during Ramadan, of the truths contained in the rise of populism, and the opportunism of politicians’. She sees hope in this complex brew of identification in that the tension is more about fear than racism, per se.
Shada Islam spoke of a ‘dismal landscape’ with bright spots, of how she was drawn into the civilisation conversation because of her surname after 9/11, the power of the identity of ‘citizen’ over other identifications, on inclusion vs. integration, on the value of the concept of the European Union over the nation, against simplifications of any single ‘European way of life’, on the transformative power of the business community, and on the power of the media.
Emmanuel Dupuy followed on with concerns about the majority and its biases. He defended the deep history of French universalism and the civil basis of the state. He wondered if the Russian comparison would be fruitful in contrast to that of Europe, if it would make sense to train Imams for service in Western/Northern communities, and if there were lessons for Europe and Russia to share about how best to confront terrorism, to which Sultangalieva responded that terrorism was more a feature of geopolitics than culture, a feature of state activity, especially in Central Asia.
This intervention by Sultangalieva on violent extremism brought Malashenko back into an extended discussion of the Russian case, itself an indicator of how potent the imagery of terrorism is and how it drives this conversation. He spoke of the way that Russians fight in this context: they exaggerate the problem, especially in the Caucusus; of the challenge of identifying Salafism in relation to ‘normal’ practice (‘good vs. bad Muslims’); he worried about the phenomenon of ‘clandestine mosques’ in Russia and the need for more official mosques to capture the full range of practices in Russia; and insisted on the truth that Russia is multi-confessional, however it is portrayed in mainstream conversation.
At this point of the conversation, Strachwitz intervened with a comment that set one of the major themes of the process; he spoke of multiple identities as a clue toward diffusing the problem, as if identity were a bomb waiting to go off. He made a claim that resonated with the group that ‘nation is not an anthropological constant’ but rather a French idea that is only five hundred years old. He ran through his own complex identity and insisted that this was a general phenomenon for those willing to look at themselves. The goal, he said, was to convince people in Europe, Russia, and the Muslim world that this was perfectly normal. In essence, Strachwitz called for a public relations campaign that would develop the concept of multiple identities in a systematic way that applied in a credible way in local contexts.
After this breakthrough, there were two discussions of the Muslim experience in the West. Imam Mohammed Bashar Arafat, Founder and President of the Civilizations Exchange & Cooperation Foundation, spoke at length about the issue of being Muslim in the US. His discussion was optimistic, asserting that the issue of Muslim identity was addressed ‘way long ago’, and that ‘the air we breathe is diversity’. He linked the culture war in the US to events around the American Civil War and spoke about his own reaction to Samuel Huntington, which was to form his own organisation. He relies on US State Department funds for diversity conferences, works with public diplomacy, trains Imams, and believes in his experience that Trump is not representative the American people. Most important among his insights was that the group recognised that Islam is not about the past.
This future orientation is one of the most enduring stereotypes that binds both Muslim and non-Muslim in pessimistic illusions. Elias d’Imzalène, founder of Islam & Info, then used the example of France. He spoke about the prevalence of Islamophobia there, recited the record of abuses that are typical for Muslims in France, and inveighed against threats of figures like Marie le Pen. The most striking aspect of these two presentations was the optimism about the US case and the pessimism about the French case.
After this extensive discussion of the experience of Muslims in Christian dominated societies, the founder of the DOC, Vladimir Yakunin, took the opportunity to share his views on the broader project. He made it clear that he did not believe that we were engaged in theology but rather in a process of dialogue, and most of his comments seemed to apply primarily to the Russian case. He expressed deep scepticism about the concept of multiculturalism, and provided examples of its failure in places like Germany. The basis of his scepticism was the tendency of movements for inclusion to come into contradiction with the need for integration into the new society.
Raoul Allalouf, a senior consultant in the field of governmental and security development, took this break in the tone of the conversation to speak to the flexibility of the concept of identity. He himself decided to become German, for example, he joined the German army, and focused on what gave him the greatest opportunities in life. He advocated for conflict resolution training in small projects to build trust.
Roman Bykov of the University of Tomsk, a sociologist, then described his conflict resolution projects that use informal interfaith dialogue projects that he hosts in Russia, which overcome many of the problems of big formal dialogues that have ‘low efficiency’ results. He conducts the formal dialogues once or twice a year, but finds that the informal meetings are worth doing up to three times each month.
Wajdi Filali, head of Urban Policies & New Discourses at the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Tunis, followed up by discussing the injustices against North Africa during colonialism that have left a feeling of anger. He said, ‘the wounds are still open’. He spoke of widespread anti-immigrant animus in Europe and also of what he called the ‘wounded countries’, although he admitted how inspired he was by the examples of interfaith celebrations in Kazakhstan that Sultangalieva had described.
Leila Ghandi suggested that France could indeed follow the model of the more interfaith approach of the UK, to which Emmanuel Dupuy answered that secularism is entrenched in French society all the way back to its founding documents from 1789. Jean-Christophe Bas then intervened to support the claim that religion can have no interference in French society. These questions of faith in government had elicited the secular French self-concept.
These final comments about national examples, secularism, and the role of religion in affairs of state brought the morning session to a close. Ezzeddine Abdelmoula, the research manager for the Al Jazeera Center for Studies, channelled these comments into a discussion of democracy itself. Abdelmoula believes in the democratic peace theory, that democratic countries do not go to war with one another. He believes in the future of a democratic Islam and in the promise that these problems of faith and the state can be resolved with an inclusive democratic process.
These optimistic comments that stressed the importance of focuses on the future of Islam and its compatibility with democracy were echoed by Harry Hogger, who brought attention back to the bright spots of Islam, its default mode of tolerance toward other faiths, the trove of historical examples which can be mined, and the power of the concept of multiple identities to counter the security logic of various states in the West that are trying to come to terms with the future of Islam in their midst.
Afternoon session: ‘Building shared paths: Panel presentations on best practices in developing initiatives, key components, what works and what doesn’t’.
The afternoon session turned from abstract discussion to concrete projects. This interest in practical outcomes was always a key part of the Tunis Process, but this second session turned more explicitly to examples that already been implemented with some evidence of success.
In order to provide context for this practical conversation, Mohammed Cherkaoui began with remarks designed to push the group into what might be peacebuilding mode, an orientation to practical steps that are designed to overcome group divisions. His approach was quite typical of conflict resolution practice. He began with an appeal for the group to pivot from ‘diagnosis to prescription’. He acknowledged the strong assertions about French national identity made earlier in the morning, but also cautioned the group not to succumb to fear and to those who would capitalise on it by exaggerating the role that sharia law would play in the West and Russia.
Cherkaoui urged the group to think about majority rule but also minority rights as part of the legacy of the revolution tradition, and argued that Euro-Islam is only a subset of a much larger process of the ‘globalisation of Islam’. This new manifestation of Islam is not about things that happened 1,400 years ago, the events of yesterday, but things that are coming tomorrow. He suggested that if we continue to think of the Islam of the past, we will not be able to incorporate Islam into the coming global civilisation, allowing globalisation to drive us apart rather than bring us together. As part of the coming global order, Cherkaoui urged the group not to cling to powerful past symbols as limits to future practice, especially in places like France, whether it is the symbol of the Declaration of 1789 or the Constitution of 1958. He accented his remarks with a turn to the concept of change, of temporality, and dreamed of a Global Islam 2.0 that would be modern, future oriented, and creative.
At the core of our efforts to imagine concrete projects that would build shared paths for Islam and the West was a research project undertaken by Heather Brown of the DOC. She presented the results of her investigations into practical efforts to overcome religious divisions, with emphasis on those that had had practical effects titled, ‘Initiatives in Action: Models for Future Development’. Her presentation addressed a wide range of initiatives: the formal dialogue model of Kaiciid; a grassroots organisation called Shoulder to Shoulder; a youth citizenship-building program called FEMYSO; a German example of intergroup sports teams called Über den Tellerrand; examples of art and dialogue in the theatre; an example of using comic book formats to combat xenophobia, called Comix4; a production facility in which Greek and Turkish producers made olive oil together called COLIVE; and a global interfaith alliance to work on water projects and rainforest preservation.
Bas followed on Brown’s presentation with an enthusiastic endorsement of what the Tunis Process is about. He expressed strong interest in collecting the initiatives, getting the ball rolling, launching a website, and emphasising initiatives that could be scaled and replicated.
Cherkaoui then turned the floor over to Léa Frydman, an international representative of a group called Coexister, a youth group focused on interfaith dialogue. Frydman described the programmes put on by Coexister, which was also a feature of the Tunis round of the Tunis Process: Branch 1 focuses on dialogue, common action around food, and raising awareness about Laïcité or the French interpretation of state secularism; Branch 2 focuses on interfaith tours; and Branch 3 works with business groups for interfaith work.
The floor then passed to Arafat and a presentation on his organisation and his work on Imam training, with an extensive set of examples of the various groups who have gone through this experience. He emphasised the importance of the role of face-to-face meetings over the use of social media because the act of being together produces change in a way that more distant forms cannot match. Most important in his view were the local partnerships that emerged from the training that survive beyond the training itself. Arafat presented a video that captured the essence of the work and stressed the importance of youth and clergy for his work.
The next set of programmes were those of Bykow. He reviewed the work they do at his centre with many practical examples from Siberia and stressed the important of creating informal communication space. The tremendous ethnic diversity in this region and the need for dialogue was central to his advocacy for this mode of interfaith dialogue and he stressed the effectiveness of the work in dealing with migrants, a central feature of globalisation.
After these formal presentations, discussion opened up in response. First to speak was Leila Ghandi, who pushed back on the concept of the local and stressed the need to break into mass media if the Tunis Process had any hope of global impact, even though she admitted that good stories from local initiatives could become viral and achieve a more global impact.
Udo Steinbach then intervened to suggest that the current climate was not propitious or conducive to broad-scale interfaith dialogue between Christianity and Islam. Having worked on these issues most of his life, he focused on initiatives that were smaller scale, impactful, and somewhat infrastructural, examples of which were young Syrians serving as museum docents, and promoting faculties of Islamic Law at university.
Abdelaziz Saret brought attention back to the problem of double-standards as they are applied to the Muslim side of this Occidental-Oriental divide, and Malashenko worried about the changes developing in Siberia and stressed the challenges of the Russian case again.
A turn in the conversation appeared in the remarks of Hogger, who took the occasion to provide a bit of a summary. He remarked on the wide range of projects in so many countries and provided an alliterative summary of what he had seen so far that could lead to practical activities: 1) Compendium – gather the stories; 2) Coordination – take lessons from one place to another; 3) and Communication – make sure that everyone knows that these things are going on. His remarks were greeted with general appreciation and persisted and returned through the remainder of the discussion.
Abdelmoula cautioned the group against ‘bottom-up’ approaches, which he argued are not what we need right now. We need top-down approaches and we need policy. His recommendations were forceful but innovative, stressing both the failure of multilateralism and the need for it. He asserted that the United Nations was not the answer, but also that we need a multilateral group to take action.
Cherkaoui countered with concerns about the limits of a state-centric approach that leaves out civil society. Speaking of civil society and its relation to the state, d’Imzalene spoke again of anti-Muslim animus and the need for initiatives that build on a concept of ‘positive discrimination’ or what would be called affirmative action in the US.
Although there were forceful comments made against the bottom-up and locally sensitive approaches to conflict resolution proposed, Strachwitz returned to the power of the questions of levels of actors and the theory of change. He stated clearly that ‘bottom-up is better and civil society is better than state action’. At the same time, he admitted that we need space for serious intellectual conversations outside of those local spaces, that citizens movements are not always successful in matters that require subtlety as this surely does, and reaffirmed the importance of high-level discussions like those of the Tunis Process and DOC more generally. He was most concerned that we not lose sight of the power of both the bottom-up and the top-down contributions. Groups like the DOC can gather both grassroots actors and state-savvy players in efforts to move both up, down, and out. This theory of change as a kind balance seemed to capture the mixed mood of this diverse group.
Heather Brown returned to her summary and defended the effectiveness of the grassroots approaches after which Bas enumerated his views of the most promising initiatives so far discussed. He saw in them a way to avoid the syndrome of preaching to the converted and he saw ways that these local initiatives could work with the corporate sector, which is very interested in religious cooperation and pointed to work by BMW.
Bas also mentioned the power of top-level change and how we might imagine an interfaith group on something like the model of the G20 that could be scaled up and replicated. He shared his powerful image of engaging in projects that could reach the one-billion-member audience rather than working in smaller increments; he imagined the use of other media like film and fiction. Bas concluded that we need to keep interfaith dialogue as the core, but we need to move to the next level.
As these high-level, high-impact studies revealed, the group sat in a tension between working with the authenticity of the bottom-up models and the span of the top-down approach. Dupuy, on hearing Bas’s ideas, reacted again with a defence of the fixed nature of the French identity (which would never embrace multi-faith holidays), yet with acceptance of the possibilities of deepening appreciation for other cultures, in particular by working with corporate actors and digital strategies.
This second event of the Tunis Process ended with a round of reactions from the participants to the best idea that they had heard through the day. The range of responses varied from support for mediation centres, to interfaith dialogue, to work in the mosques, to business incubators, to media publicity events. In short, there were many ideas discussed and supported but all of them pointed to a mix of tactics an orientation to the future, and the celebration of commonality.
The ‘middle-out’ theory of change is consistent with the kind of group represented by the members of the Tunis Process. They have connections in government and industry, but also with groups working at the citizen level of popular education and initiative. The middle-out approach avoids the stifling dualism of top-down vs. bottom-up and promises the kind of complex array of approaches that would be needed to begin to rise to the challenge Mr. Bas put forward to the group.
Finally, although the group was gathered to discuss the challenge of building dialogue between and among civilisations, it was clear in almost all of our discussions together that the very concept of a civilisation as an entity that is living and vibrant today may lead us down the wrong path. A civilisation as a distinct entity necessarily points to the past, when points of contact and intermingling of cultures was relatively limited. Thought of in this way, we are building together a single civilisation that retains elements of its legacy cultures but not in a way that preserves the distracting images of division that less describe how we actually live and more how we think of our pasts.
The ideas for actionable items that were discussed during the Tunis Process meeting in Rhodes included:
- An interfaith tour, with approximately four researchers surveying best practices.
- Small common practices between groups of different faiths; instead of focusing on dialogue on faith, initiatives would focus on issues of common interest such as the environment.
- Taking the discussion beyond the issue of religion, as the identity of Muslims and non-Muslims alike are shifting.
- Increased engagement of companies and enterprises.
- Bottom-up approaches focused on:
- Identifying and raising the profiles of smaller grassroots initiatives
- Scaling up smaller grassroots initiatives
- Top-down actions focused on:
- The role of political and religious leaders using their positions to bring awareness to the need for interfaith dialogue initiatives.
- Government funding for mediation centres and incubators for dialogue initiatives.
- Government legislation that meets religious legal systems halfway, or at least recognises that in certain communities the religious authorities will have more influence than state authorities.
- Constitutional changes that acknowledge multiple cultures and religions, leaders and systems
- Ensuring a ‘catch-up’ of integrating groups into society who have been ‘left behind’.
- Filling gaps in educational services
- Synthesising bottom-up and top-down approaches, resulting in a ‘middle-out’ theory of change.
For the immediate next steps in the Tunis Process, a full summary of the Rhodes meeting will be sent to participants the week of 9 December along with a request for short essays.
We’d like to put together a series of short essays from those who attended the meeting, to be published on the DOC website, the Al Jazeera Center for Studies website, the LBH Foundation website, and the websites of participants and our other partners. We are also exploring other platforms for publication and to eventually have the essays be part of a larger report or book.
The essays should be short and concise – about 700 words, and they could focus on: 1. Identifying an issue/difference between Muslims and non-Muslims (be it Western Europe-Arab world, Central Asia-Russia, etc.) that needs to be overcome in order to move forward; or 2. An idea for an initiative or framework for initiatives that would help overcome differences and build bonds between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. The summaries could be the basis for the discussion in the third event.
Since the meeting, interest in the Tunis Process has been expressed by the Uzbek government, as well as prominent Chinese institutions.
A third event will be held in the second half of 2020, venue to be determined. The Al Jazeera Center for Studies is exploring the possibility of collaborating with USIP, North Eastern University, and George Mason university on conferences that will feature the Tunis Process.
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 Fukuyama, F. (1992). The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press.
 Fukuyama, F. (2018). The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.