The Rhodes Forum, which will take place from 30 September to 1 October on the island of Rhodes in Greece, is a part of the UN initiative organized annually by the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC-RI), a Berlin-based think tank, writes Lejla Dizdarevic.
The Rhodes Forum gathers up to 600 participants from more than 70 countries worldwide, including former presidents and senior officials, members of the international academic community and business elite, representatives of international non-governmental organizations, diplomats, experts from various fields, and the media. For the past 12 years, the Rhodes Forum has brought together scholars, political and spiritual leaders to discuss their concerns about our global destiny and enrich inter-civilizational dialogue. The main premise of the Forum has been to consistently promote a new culture of inter-civilizational debate and successfully reflect key issues on the international agenda, with the aim to protect the key values of humanity and to contribute to sustainable global development.
The agenda of the 14th Rhodes Forum will involve a plethora of issues such as civilizations against the new barbarism, alternative economic models, human ecology, global inclusive development, new strategies for growth based on infrastructure investment and reconciliation and peace between East and West. The Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC-RI) aims to foster inter-civilizational dialogue based on a respectful understanding of other cultures and to research the most complex issues pertaining to inter-relationships among civilizations. The fundamental principle of the dialogue is to exchange opinions that would ultimately enhance East-West relations.
Inter-civilizational dialogue is crucial for the just and prosperous destiny of our world today. As Mohammad Khatami, the former president of Iran who coined the term ‘dialogue among civilizations’, stated at the UN General Assembly in 1999: “If the axis of the 20th century was the force of the sword, and with each sweep of the blade some won and some lost, the main axis of the coming century has to be that of dialogue. Otherwise, the sword will become a double-edged weapon, sparing no one; and it is not inconceivable that the mighty warmongers would be among its first victims.”
Consequently, one of the many outcomes of this UN speech has been the Rhodes Forum, a refreshingly diverse assembly of voices who are questioning the status quo of the world’s politics today and are working together towards finding alternative solutions. The plenary sessions cover numerous topics that vary from Gandhi and Tolstoy’s culture of non-violence to peace and security in the EU and Asia, followed by multiple workshops on related and current issues, from social media to Christianity in the MENA region.
From day one, the Rhodes Forum 2016 will cover general topics such as inter-civilizational co-operation for peaceful existence, renewal of the traditions of the civilizations, fighting inequality and local responses to global challenges. On the last day of the Rhodes Forum, the participants will be able to discuss about new dimensions of cooperation based on culture and religion, farsighted resources to maintain peace and justice.
The solutions the key actors of the Forum have been bringing to the table for over a decade has not lost its significance.
As Walter Schwimmer, former Secretary-General of the Council of Europe and co-chair of the forum says: “There is one similarity between now and the time before the start of the First World War 100 years ago, and that is the so-called autism of the governments, where they are unable to listen or communicate properly with each other.”
This is what the forum is aiming to resolve and emphasize the paramount of inter-civilizational dialogue in order to build strong bridges between East and West, the global North and the global South. The resolutions that the key actors of 2016 Forum will propose is of extreme importance in solving today’s pressing issues in the world.
Also, the importance of inter-civilizational discussion in the era of universal polarity and the terrifying triumph of extremism was noted by the founders of the Forum. “It seems that our economically vulnerable societies did not make much progress and were unable to protect from the non-traditional threats.”
Finally, worldwide international experts with different views will contribute with various and opposing perspectives and successfully engage in an objective, open, inter-civilizational dialogue.