A Baku Conversation with Nobel Laureates
14.10.2016 — Analysis
About the collapse of mankind
We arrived at Baku Airport from Moscow, and the first person that my eye caught in the VIP lounge was Oleg Sienko. CEO of the Uralvagonzavod Research and Production Corporation came to the ADEX-2016 International Defense Industry Exhibition and, as was to be expected, was courted by officers of the Azerbaijan General Staff.
The lounge was mostly occupied by civilians who came by the Aeroflot flight; most noticeable of them were Mikhail Gusman, Deputy Director General of ITAR-TASS, Anatoly Torkunov, Rector of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and Mikhail Shvydkoy, Special Representative of Russian President. It so happened that the military strength was demonstrated concurrently with the 5th International Humanitarian Forum (at which the Russian delegation came) that took place in Baku. Arguably, in terms of vitality and significance for establishing world peace, the forum was more important than the exhibition.
13 Nobel laureates responded to the invitation from President Ilham Aliyev. They received the prestigious award in different areas and in different years. However, when the laureates came on the stage of the Heydar Aliyev Center to make their brief reports, they created the Earth’s humanitarian pole right in the audience hall. Never before had I heard such a presentation of thoughts about our civilization, about the life on the edge people of Earth are having now.
The Baku forum is based on the concept of an intercultural and interreligious dialog. As Ilham Aliyev pointed out in his speech, "a number of people think that multiculturalism has outlived itself; however, what is an alternative to it? Xenophobia, discrimination, racism, islamophobia, anti-semitism. These are extremely dangerous tendencies". The fact remains that since the first Baku forum in 2010 the number of military conflicts around the world has increased.
The speech of Abdulaziz Othman Al-Twaijri, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), contained a sharper criticism. In his opinion, the world entered a cycle characterized by unpredictable dangers, and the United Nations Security Council is not able to perform its obligations. The words "great powers do not have sufficient will" elicited a storm of applause from the audience.
In fact, the thesis affirming that the world is turning to the rule of force instead of the force of law set the highest bar for the two-day dialog. The forum organizers encouraged an open discussion of the most painful problems, which found the first and foremost response from the Nobel laureates.
The Nigerian playwright and author Wole Soyinka who received an award 30 years ago noted "a collapse of mankind". Its consequences are a displaced generation, millions of people left without their homeland as a result of wars and armed aggressions. It can be compared with a pandemic.
According to the United Nations, in today’s world 21 million people are involuntary resettlers; 22 million people are refugees and more than 23 million people are looking for asylum. It is one of the most burning problems discussed in Baku. The example is not far to seek: Nagorno-Karabakh. For 25 years Azerbaijan has been campaigning for returning the territory to its control; the result is a massive outflow of Armenians from Baku that used to be so friendly to them. On the other hand, hundreds of Azerbaijani families who survived the massacre of 1991 left their homes in Karabakh.
The origin of conflicts offers nothing new, Soyinka notes. "Could it be true that in Europe in the 21st century we are witnessing the rebirth of fascism?", Ilham Aliyev aggrievedly asks the audience, which consisted of quite a few diplomats and former state leaders.
The world remains in limbo – as diagnosed by the Nobel laureates. It needs a dialog as an antidote to violence.
In this dialog, a critical part belongs to mass media; their transformation in the globalized world was the main subject of the roundtable discussion, one of the participants of which was Vadim Dynin, General Director of RusBusinessNews.
In apt words of the former Croatian President Stjepan Mesić, the newspaper equaled a human being to a fly. It can kill both of them.
Experts think that a much bigger threat comes from social networks. Unlike journalists, authors of messages are free of bounds of the law, while the number of users is growing like a rolling snowball. The present-day information wars are not initiated by traditional mass media – they start on Facebook or Twitter.
The new information consciousness amidst the global educational crisis is more than a phenomenon; it is a challenge the civilization will have to address. "The time of discussions is over; we need actions", says Leyla Aliyeva, a granddaughter of the renowned Azerbaijani leader, the Vice President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
During the forum, it suddenly struck me: What is the difference between this forum and meetings of politicians, business and military people? How would I feel if I took part in the Davos Forum or arms fair? Definitely, not as good, for only humanitarians – scientists, journalists, representatives of social movements – can say with a sore heart that our world is too small and too fragile. The concept of multiculturalism can be established on their civic position and professional knowledge. A credit should be given to the Azerbaijan government offering a rostrum for honest conversation aimed at finding similarities rather than differences among people living in different corners of the world.
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