Václav Havel, Forum 2000 and Latin America
By Rosendo Fraga

Forum 2000 is an annual conference held in Prague since 1997 gathering personalities from the world over to assess global issues.

Encouraged by a deep humanitarian sense, Czech President Václav Havel, shocked by his visit to Hiroshima, Japan, acompanied by Peace Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, came up with the idea of gathering international figures with the purpose of sharing common experiences that could make human beings and Governments more tolerant and respectful of human rights, overcome and eliminate discrimination against race, religion, gender or economic level and foster peace and security both at national and international levels.

The common feature to all participants coming from the governmental sphere is that they have left aside their offices so as to express themselves without the common restrictions derived from discharging their duties. The most outstanding participants included religious and political leaders, business executives, academics, artists -both from classical and popular genra as well- and global thinkers.

With the cooperation of the Nipon Foundation a series of five annual conferences were hosted at the Prague Castle until 2001. The first took place in September 1997. The conclusions were that although the world is increasingly interconnected in technological and economic terms and ruled by the international labour standards, it remains divided and strongly antagonistic in political, social and cultural terms. Thus the world gets more and more divided as it becomes more interconnected and fears grow that the wealth of the most powerful countries might repress the religious values of the rest.

The second was held in October the following year at the same venue. On this ocassion, politicians, scientists, academics, economists and world religious representatives gathered to discuss globalization, especially in terms of mechanisms and procedures in the light of experience. At the opening session of the Conference, Václav Havel stated that ‘the global civilization is facing threats that must be identified so that we could reflect upon them’. At the conference, Hillary Clinton, among others, highlighted the importance of the necessary interrelation among State, market and society.

The Forum 2000 held in Prague in October 1999, entitled ‘The Process of the Integrated World- Alternative Views’, debated how an increasingly interrelated world in terms of technology and economy and labour market remains divided on the political, social and cultural fronts building on the central idea of the first Conference, especially as regards the ‘centre and periphery of the world’.

The Forum 2000 Conference hosted in Prague two years ago focused on ‘Education, Culture and Spiritual Values in the Globalization Process’. The role of intellectuals and artists as observers and interpreters of society was analyzed; also in relation to their part in the service of social memory. Regarding education, conclusions pointed to the fact that the investement needs in the world hinge around 6 billion dollars, a figure not so ‘huge’ for it is similar to the amount spent by developed countries on cosmetics, agreeing that investments in the educational system is the most effective method to fight poverty.

The fifth conference took place in October last year at the Prague Castle -just as the previous four- and was entitled ‘Human Rights -the search for Global Responsibility’. It was focused on the idea that human rights are values derived from the Western culture that have spread across the world. The paradox was raised that when those values become universal, the so-called ‘Western Imperialism’ is harshly criticized by the rest of the world, acknowledging that ‘human rights are not considered the same in the different parts of the world’. Therefore, the different faiths were urged to take on a more active stance in favor of respect and tolerance of human rights.

For another part, on June 26 the Forum 2000 Foundation planned a meeting of worldwide religious and faith representatives in the city of Prague. During the meeting, three main issues were debated: how the current globalization affects the relations among the different faiths, how to reduce the risks of misuse of religious ideas and symbols in global conflicts and the need for an increased cooperation among religions.

At the last Forum 2000 Conference, a ‘summary’ was made of the main conclusions and recommendations derived from the five annual meetings and it was decided to undertake a new series of meetings under a format that would allow for a greater global interaction by taking advantage of the Internet. As from next October, political, official, artistic and renowned academic personalities from the world over will meet again under a more restricted framework called ‘E-Forum’.

Also in the course of the Conferences, President Havel voiced his intention to join in youths and university students so that they become familiar with the problems and offer their inspiration in the quest for solutions to the major issues at debate. Also throughout these years, Prague has played host for international meetings of youths and students, many of which were also held abroad. In our country, a regional meeting of youths and university students was held in 1999.

This year the ‘Bridging Global Gaps Conference’ is held in Prague on October 19 and 20 at the premises of the Prague City Hall. It will be based on the previous five conferences dealing with ‘Global Democracy’ and ‘The search for global consensus’.

The spirit of this Conference is revealed in Havel’s phrase ‘Only a new type of understanding will allow for the development of new patterns of behaviour, new list of values and life goals, which must later imbue specific rules, agreements and institutions with the new spirit and sense of purpose’.

In times when Latin America faces a critical situation for it has lost some priority to the United States which has put international security at the top of the global agenda and the region struggles with growing difficulties derived from the Argentine default, the economic jitters in Brazil in the light of Lula’s victory and the violence prevailing in Andean countries, the Forum called by Václav Havel in Prague gives rise to an exchange of ideas that prove favorable to the region.

Rosendo Fraga
Director of Centro de Estudios Nueva Mayoría

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