A Model for Macropolitical Crisis Prevention? The Rhodes Dialogue of Civilizations


Erika Degortes – TRANSCEND Media Service

It is said that Rodhes, the beautiful island situated at the crossroads between East and West, owes its name to the fragrant roses that grow across its plains. The legend also claims that Helios covered the island in flowers and cherished the land as his own child, surrounding it with heat and sun.

Could he ever have imagined that someday, Rodhes would become the perfect location, for over 700 participants from 70 countries to gather in the course of the ninth edition of the World Public Forum’s “Dialogue of Civilizations”? This very forum devoted to issues related to the global economic crisis, the role of international political institutions and what civil society could contribute to overcome the crisis and its consequences, took place on the Greek island from 6-10 October 2011.

Organized as a series of panels and round-tables on various topics, this international conference allowed the conveners to act as cross-cultural facilitators, providing a cosmopolitan meeting place dedicated to impartiality and independent reflection. This was an absolutely befitting setting to discuss the existential issues, currently under the spotlight in all parts of the world, starting at the micro-level with the state of families and equally covering macro-issues, like the contemporary economic state of the world and the challenges that it conjures for social development.

The point is that basically all these issues can touch public life—including private or family issues, economic issues, cultural and religious issues, educational issues, incl. education of the young generation or “youth” as specified by the Co-Chairman Fred Dallmayr in his speech “Who are we? What is WPF-Dialogue of Civilizations?” 

This year, notwithstanding the observation that a universal recipe to address the current global socio-economic crisis doesn’t exist, a constructive note was struck throughout the conference, as it became clear that there was a growing need for diversified economic models more adequate, valid and appropriate to each specific country.

It should be possible to respond to economic and social changes and it should be made able for civilizations to cope with them locally. The World Public Forum identified the “Dialogue of Civilizations” itself as a possible approach to the current economic crisis, as well as conflict resolution models, as proposed by Prof. Galtung among others, as a method to develop a new growth and distribution model that would act as an alternative to the current ones.

Vladimir Yakunin, President and founder of the World Public Forum and President of Russian Railways, said that “the real urgency is to remedy imbalances and socio-economic global sources of instability, and to promote sustainable development. The current crisis has highlighted the limits of neo-liberal globalization and the theory of a post-industrialized world no longer makes sense.” He also quoted J.C Kapur (1920-2010), whose memory the event was dedicated to, in order to press home the purpose of the Forum:

We must recognize that the world is not just a globalized loot-haven, but a family of nations in a true sense, where all members of the family have a right to pray, work, and establish life styles of their choice. A state or a group of states in the name of freedom, democracy, and human rights or any other contrived or media projections have no right to impose their neo-imperial designs, will, and shattered moral and ethical consumerist frame over others. They have already done enough damage to the human system. It is time to stop.

President Yakunin expanded on the problematique by asking pertinently:  How did the world come to the present-day situation and what was the main mover and the cause of many events in the past and the present? A profound influence of Europe and Russia on the world community has been perceived universally since long ago. Russia and Europe have expanded in the world in the form of Russian paternalism and European colonialism.

Participants at the World Public Forum agreed that the EU should recognize the need for real dialogues, and strive to improve equal and mutual exchange patterns with Asia, Africa and South America. Ignoring the ongoing shift of the global equilibrium could result in the European economy becoming less competitive and circumscribing it, putting European societies at a clear disadvantage. The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Alexander Saltanov, said in his speech, that:

To address new challenges of the times, it is necessary to concentrate intellectual resources in the key areas to the greatest extent possible. It is not only that domination of one or several superpowers is a thing of the past – one or several intellectual centres can hold sway no longer. The future belongs to such flexible instruments, which help to understand the quickly changing reality and make recommendations, as your Forum that is attended by intellectuals, politicians, and public figures from several dozen countries.

Those challenges of the times, especially in the area of international relations, which I am particularly interested in, are manifold. Besides the global financial crisis, stability in the world is menaced, like in the past, by regional and local conflicts, terrorism, trans-border crime, food shortages and climate change.

These complex problems must be resolved in such a way as to preserve all the best that humanity has produced and, at the same time, to develop new mechanisms that would help to preserve global peace and bring about conditions for sustainable development.

This forum clearly expressed the image of a new Russia, a Russia that facilitates and wants to create opportunities for dialogues, to develop creativity and foster acceptable solutions for all parties involved. Among the participants, the former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, the deputy of the Russian Federation‘s Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, the Deputy Minister of Education of Saudi Arabia Faisal bin Abdulrahman and the principle founder of the academic discipline of Peace Studies, Johan Galtung, who proposed 7 solutions for solving the global economic crisis, respectively highlighted the concrete, constructive and creative  purpose of the entire forum, specifying that the idea of basic human needs, to some extent reflected in the basic human rights, are a core ethical guide-line for the international community.

Surely also to the god Helios would have liked this anthology, this collection of intellectual flowers (anthology = literally “flower-gathering” from the Greek anthos flower + logia collecting).


Erika Degortes is a member of the TRANSCEND Working Team and of TPS-TRANSCEND Peace Service.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 Oct 2011.

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