East - West Dialogue
Reference Dialogue: East-West Dialogue
The main conclusions of this dialogue were that there must be more of this type of inter-cultural encounters and that a globalisation in which Asiatic countries can modernise without having to westernise is possible, that is, they can maintain their own cultural traits within the framework of an increasingly multi-cultural world.
The main conclusions of the Forum Dialogue, East - West Dialogue , organised by Casa Asia (the Asia House), were two. First, there must be more dialogue between these two civilizations. Second, within the framework of the prevailing globalisation, it is necessary to find a more socially- and environmentally-aware model of economic development for the Asian continent, which, according to the experts, is destined to drive the world economy starting around 2025.
The forum, which convened more than 35 speakers and 600 participants from the first to the third of July, was the first of the encounters that will now be held yearly in Barcelona among political leaders, entrepreneurs, ONGs and other actors representative of the various countries of both civilizations to “build collaboration and inter-cultural bridges for constructing a better world”, explained director of Forum Dialogues Mireia Belil in the closing session.
Important personalities intervened in this act: the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, the Iranian defender of human rights, Shirin Ebadi; the former President of the Republic of the Philippines, Fidel Ramos; and the former socialist Minister of Foreign Affairs that negotiated Spain's entry into the European Union, Fernando Morán, who coincided with most of the participants in rejecting the clash of civilizations theory of United States historian Samuel P. Huntington.
Fidel Ramos surprised the audience by inviting them to download his speech from the Casa Asia website (http://www.casaasia.es). It focused on “how to combat terrorism by coping with poverty". Instead of reading it, he gave a short, unassuming talk in which he invited all those present to embrace each other as an example of what an “East – West” encounter should be.
“We have to learn to listen but also to act, because, when you cut through all the rhetoric, it is about a human being having to seek the other human being”, he said.
The Iranian Nobel Prize Laureate also reflected the opinion of most of the speakers. She emphasised the importance of this type of encounters for people to meet Moslems that, contrary to some intransigent governments and the fanaticism of the fundamentalist terrorists “not representative of a religion that is synonymous with peace”, advocate a “moderate democratic, Islam that defends human rights”.
Shirin Ebadi went on to summarise one of the most used arguments throughout the dialogue, clearly condemning the Bush administration's policy: “the fight against terrorism cannot justify war and the infringement of human rights”. In her opinion“, open-minded Moslems” have the task of showing people that their beliefs are compatible with the democratic culture". “
Just because some terrorists incorrectly interpret Islam, we can not think that all the followers of this religion are fanatics, she said, just as we are not going to say that all Israelis approve of what their government is doing because Israel does not comply with the resolutions of the UN”.
Like other Forum Dialogues, US military intervention in Iraq and the conflict between Israel and Palestine were discussed intensely throughout the sessions. As a matter of fact, the Council Secretary of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and President of the first session, Eric Teo, declared that he was disappointed by the results of the meeting in this aspect.
“We have travelled half way around the planet in representation of a region with 2,500 million inhabitants, mostly Buddhists. If we include India, we are half the world. But you keep talking about Bush and Iraq. Do we have to set off bombs to get you to take us into account"? he concluded with the large audience applauding.
The three days of sessions within the “Globalization and development” block were divided into six blocks that dealt with the East – West relationships from various perspectives: economic, cultural and ethical-religious. The objective of this dialogue and of those that will follow it, organised by Casa Asia of Barcelona, is “to be a platform for efforts to prevent political, economic and social conflict at international, national and local level, reducing prejudice and distrust, and encouraging mutual understanding, tolerance and dialogue through an active interchange of ideas, visions and common aspirations”, state the principles of the call.
On the first day, for example, Former Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir bin Mohamad underlined that “globalisation without ethics is something that does not work in a period when we boast of being civilised”; therefore, ”I hope observers take note of the measures discussed in this and other future forums”. Speaking as chairperson of the first block, Eric Teo pointed out, in turn, that “in the East, we have learnt many things from the West, but now we hope you can learn from us and this is an objective of the dialogue”.
The interventions of two other panellists summarised another two conclusions of the dialogue. The director of UNESCO's Bureau of Strategic Planning, Hans d’Orville, after X-raying the cultural exchanges promoted by this organisation over the last 50 years, pointed out the priority of fostering education and knowledge between the two civilizations. A professor of the University of Texas, Philip Chase Bobbit, emphasized the need to create a new international law that counts on the participation of the oriental states, which is impossible without " a new dialogue for a new world".
As to the economy, the debate focused on the economic growth that the Asiatic countries must implement: economically viable, socially just and environmentally sustainable. Most of the panellists agreed. Former Asia Director of World Economic Forum Frank Jürgen Richter proposed the “network-enabled economic growth model ” as a main concept. This expert points out that “globalisation should not be a process of delocalisation and hegemonisation, but rather of denationalisation of the economy to make us see that we are all in the same boat and that, in order to make a safe port, we need the collaboration of all the actors involved”, and the commitment “of the governments and the multinationals with a long-term social view”.
The APEC and the ASEM models were presented as referents of volunteer collaboration among 21 countries on both sides of the Pacific and between the EU and 10 Asiatic countries respectively.
Indonesian co-founder of the Yakarta Centre for Strategic and International Studies Jusuf Wanandi solicited support for his country as a model of “moderate Islam”, which is demonstrating that it knows how to adapt to democratic values and capitalist growth. So it will be “fundamental to transmit the values of democratisation to other countries under more radical governments”.
China, as the future engine of the economy of the Asian continent and therefore of the world, also took up quite a bit of debate time. The Argentine diplomat and expert on Asia, Carlos Moneta, responding to a question from the floor, "Are we ready to satisfy the needs of China?” knew how to best summarise the general feeling: “We have played Dr. Frankenstein and now all must share the responsibility”.
Moving on to the local level, South Korean Professor Yoon Young-Kwan advocated a new global focus from the USA in their negotiations with North Korea, a nuclear power, to achieve a new system of trade relations between the two Koreas, “taking the EU as a reference”.
CNN correspondent in Istanbul, Yasemin Congar, and her compatriot, Omar Taspinar, director of the Turkey Program at the Brookings Institution in Washington, called for their country's entry into the EU. They argued that a large part of Turkish society have wanted this since the 19th century and that perhaps this way the EU “will not be a Christian club, but rather a truly multi-cultural space and bridge between the two worlds”.
A good part of the debates dealt with the homogenisation problem and the danger of globalisation-imposed westernisation. The speakers unanimously defended the concepts of interculturality and multi-culturality. This is well represented by a main concept put forth by the Indonesian, Jusuf Wanandi, in the title of his paper “Modernisation vs Westernisation”. This concept is based on the need of Asiatic countries to adapt to technological advances to cope with the challenges of globalisation without necessarily adopting Western values, that is, those of the powers that produce that technology and patterns of modernism. They should be able to assimilate the technology while maintaining the main characteristics of their respective cultures and national idiosyncrasies.
Another shared point by view was that Asiatic countries need to definitively close the wounds of the past, such as those that exist between Japan and China or Vietnam and Cambodia, and strengthen the ties of collaboration with each other following the EU model. For example, Asian mass media expert Willi Wo-Lap Lam advocated Asiatic countries creating a kind of CNN to “have a more pluralistic worldview”. He remarked that “Europe is a positive example of having known how to take advantage of globalisation for its cultural enrichment”.
As to religious issues, the philosopher of Indian origin and professor of the University of California Joseph Prabhu, in a main concept called “interconnected religions”, also expressed the values of ecumenism, multi-culturality, tolerance and respect for all civilisations and their religions unanimously commended during this dialogue.
The concept, dealt with differently by other speakers such as the Catalan-Hindu philosopher Raimon Panikkar, is based on “no religion holds the absolute truth” since “they are human creations” and therefore “have all their defects, but they all have the quest for virtue in common”.
Opposing the division between religion and secularism imposed by the principles of Enlightenment, this Indian thinker advocates that “they must be separate but coexist, without this implying a disjunction” because, far from dogma and ideologies, the role of religion is “to help us to understand man's spiritual dimension and his interrelation with the cosmos”.
As human creations, “all religions are incomplete, offering us numerous facets of the truth”. Therefore, Joseph Prabhu made a plea to take advantage of the opportunities that each offers for learning and reaching wisdom. We must be fully aware that “difference is not a threat; it enriches” and that, far from radicalisms, prejudices and intolerance, we must understand that “the other is not a threat, but rather a friend along the way in our search for truth, virtue and knowledge”.