Moscow, April 6-7, 2012
In his message to the Conference Dr. Walter Schwimmer (Secretary General of the Council of Europe 1999-2004) wrote: “There is no Russia without Europe, no Europe without Russia […] After so many bloody conflicts and atrocities that culminated in the historic tragedy of the World War II, Europe remembered not only its cultural identity but found also its political identity in the spiritual and moral values which are also the common heritage of the peoples of Europe, pluralist democracy, rule of law, individual freedom, political liberty, the respect for human rights. To respect this diversity is the key to stability, security and peace in Europe, not only at international level. […] To achieve unity in diversity, Europe needs Russia, Russia needs Europe. Russia is an indispensable part of Europe.
Peace and Security in Multicultural Societies at a time of Global Crisis
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Dr. Willem Van Eekelen, former minister of Defence of the Netherlands, spoke about conditions for security in democratic societies: good governance, accountability and transparency, respect for human rights, “zero tolerance for discrimination”. He said “Put governments before their responsibility towards their own people, before we talk of military intervention. In the end naming and shaming might be more effective in promoting mutual understanding and common values. And I encourage UPF to lead us in that direction.”
Dr. Stanislav Nikolaenko, former minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, introduced a vision of the “noosphere society”, where mankind’s current state of division and conflicts will be transcended by raising the human mind, through a process of intercultural communication and education. “Through the purification of humanity and a path of complete education, the noosphere society will allow us to enter into contact with other cosmic worlds”, he said.
Dr. Thomas Walsh, President of UPF, analyzed the concepts of peace, security and multiculturalism and noted their expanded meaning today: greater focus on human security; more inclusive meaning of peace-building, etc. He pointed to the challenge which multiculturalism can present to peace and the need for shared national values. “A family system, he concluded, that engenders respect for the role of the state and rule of law, on the one hand, and respect for the legitimate rights of other sub-cultures that inhabit the same state, is an essential component of peace and security in multi-cultural societies.”
Mr Sergei Kuchinsky, Chairman of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia, spoke about Russia’s 182 ethnic communities and 240 languages and dialects. Founded in 1998 to implement Russia’s state policy for nationalities, the organization has carried out projects for development and dialogue among nationalities: the Congress of Russian Peoples, the House of Nationalities, etc. He explained about their priorities of working with federal and local authorities, improving the status of nationalities, and creating an ”All Russian identity” to preserve spiritual and cultural unity in the post-Soviet world.
Peace and Security in Multicultural Societies: Russian and European Approaches
Dr. Michael Platzer, Director of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) in Vienna, introduced the integration policy of the Austrian government. He described a 20 point program for integration, from strengthening the participation in the education system, learning the German language, promoting employment for migrant women, to intercultural dialogue, sports activities, teaching integration skills, etc. He also described various NGO initiatives dealing with the cultural diversity in Austria.
Dr. Marcel de Haas, a war analyst and senior research associate at the Clingendael Institute of International Relations in the Netherlands, reviewed in fluent Russian the opportunities of military cooperation between the EU and Russia, and between NATO and Russia. He recommended that both sides should “consider the sensitivities of the other side and take each other seriously” and “cooperate from bottom to top”, encouraging exchange of students and military to promote trust.
Ambassador Nicolae Tau, former minister of Foreign Affairs of Moldova, discussed the pluralistic nature of societies in Europe and the former communist world. He analyzed multiculturalism from the perspective of culture, religion, and democracy; emphasized the need for objective scholarly approach to majority and minority views. “In western democracies, he said, it is easier to define the “other” on a religious or cultural rather than ideological basis; in post-communist societies the dominant other is still related to the previous experience of communist rule”.
Ambassador Robert Vandemeulebroucke, Honorary Ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, concluded the day with a reflection on the current challenges of inter-ethnic relations in Western Europe. He noted that last year’s terrorist act in Norway took place in one of the most progressive and integrated multicultural societies in Europe. He warned that terrorism was often caused by individuals under the influence of hate ideologies, and that governments should not discriminate against minorities under public pressure.
Mrs. Olga Meshkova, Secretary of the NGOs Council of Kondopoga municipal region (Russia), shared her experience in inter-ethnic integration as a local government official. Her city experienced, in 2006, a week of ethnic riots that shook the nation, shedding light on the deficient status of migrants from the Caucasus in Russia. Working under the chairperson of the Legislative Assembly of the Karelian Republic, Mrs. Meshkova has played a key role in building conditions for inter-ethnic harmony in her city in recent years.
A full report can be read at this link