Building bridges to peace
(VNS) International Peace Foundation chairman Uwe Morawetz spoke to Viet Nam News about the upcoming ASEAN Bridges event series in Viet Nam and Thailand.
What are the goals of the ASEAN Bridges event series?
"Bridges – Dialogue Toward the Culture of Peace" aims to bring together people who won the Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, economics and peace to Southeast Asia to build long-term bridges with the universities here in the region.
We are a non-political, non-religious foundation and we believe that the basis for peace is education and the first step toward peace is dialogue. Peace cannot be achieved over a short period of time.
We also think that peace cannot only be reached by politicians, economists or scientists, or by religions or the media alone, but by working together. All of these different groups in our society speak different languages.
Bridges wants to create an independent platform for dialogue. We invite these Nobel laureates on a one-on-one basis. Bridges always take place for about six months. It's not just a three-day conference. It's an ongoing process.
We therefore try to have these Nobel laureates stay in the country as long as possible, allowing them to learn more about that country and, if possible, to fall in love with that country and in the future return on a regular basis.
Why was Viet Nam chosen to co-host the series this time?
It started in 2003 in Thailand. We have worked with more than 50 organisations. There were about 250 events in that series, attracting about 70,000 participants in Thailand between 2003-2005.
After the success of the Bridges program in Thailand, we have been approached by the ambassadors of different countries in Southeast Asia who were stationed in Bangkok if we could bring such programmes to their countries in the future.
We have chosen the ASEAN countries in the order we received the invitations. We have been invited first by Thailand, then the Philippines and Malaysia, Cambodia and now Viet Nam, for which Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has also accepted our invitation to become the honorably chairman of Bridges this year.
What are the key messages that the foundation wants to get across for the program in Viet Nam?
In Bridges, we have invited our keynote speakers to come here and approach peace from different angles.
Dialogue is not a one-way thing. Dialogue starts with listening. We not only invite the Nobel laureates to talk but also listen and learn more about the country and to see how they can contribute to the development of the country in the long run.
We're placing high emphasis on education as a basis for peace. When the Nobel laureates visit, they will speak at universities and schools in different parts of the country.
They're not addressing technical issues. In these events, which are open to and free for the public, they're addressing topics which can be understood by non-scientists. There are also smaller events with scientists from Viet Nam.
We want to support education with the knowledge and the wisdom of Nobel laureates and bring them into dialogue with students and policy makers.
How were these Nobel laureates chosen?
We have chosen them partly because they have chosen Viet Nam. We have worked with more than 600 speakers over the past 23 years. They have always come without any honorarium, showing their wholehearted support for our programs. We have had a lot of recommendations about who to invite. We also work with other Nobel laureates to advise us about laureates who we don't know yet.
The chosen speakers also have a specific interest in the host country. It was the case also with these speakers. They all want to come to Viet Nam and learn more. — VNS