Bridging the Gaps, Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace

Look East - Saturday, January 01, 2005

The headquarters of the International Peace Foundation (IPF) is in Bangkok, Thailand. Between November 2003 and April 2004 the foundation organized more than 100 peace related talks and seminars by Nobel Prizewinners that were free to attend, and which were open to members of the general public, government staff, academics, etc. The talks and lectures were presented under the banner “Bridges – Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace”. The programme is now continuing after a six-month break, and as before the events are not restricted to Bangkok and there will also be functions in Chiang Mai, Chonburi, Khon Kaen, Chiang Rai, Kanchanaburi, and Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat).

During the first series of talks (that were opened last year by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn) 10 Nobel Laureates came to Thailand, and were flown here free of charge. The second series began on 7 December 2004, and a further 18 Nobel Laureates will be coming to Thailand over the next four months. The final speaker, on 19 and 20 April 2005, will be former Secretary-General of the United Nations Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who will talk about the reform of the United Nations. The Honorary Chairman of this second series of events is H.E Anand Panyarachun, and the Chairman is Privy Councillor General Surayud Chulanont.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Peace Foundation, Uwe Morawetz, said, “I Chose Thailand as the headquarters of the IPF because I believe that Thai People have a special approach to achieving and maintaining peace , to celebrate difference rather than to fight them.” Uwe says that he himself as no concept for peace and can offer no solution as to how achieve it, but he fells that peace has to start from somewhere in the heart. When he first arrived in Thailand as a student he knew nothing about the country other than what he had read in guide books, but he took two years to traveling to many provinces outside Bangkok to learn about the rural life and the deep culture of Siam. He studied Buddhism at a Thai temple, he learnt to read and to write Thai, he worked with street children, drug addicts, and people living with AIDS. During this time he developed a deep fondness for Thailand and its people, and he decided that Thailand was the place where he should develop a foundation dedicated to finding peace in the world. It is due to him that the International Peace Foundation came into being, and it is due to him and his team that Nobel Laureates from so many countries and so many disciplines have embraced his vision, and have given their support to Bridges.

This month there are six Bridges events, the first of which is a talk entitled “From Matter to Life: Science and Society”, from 4-7 January. This lecture will be given by Jean-Marie Lehn, who is a Professor at the College de France in Paris, and is also Laboratory Director at the University Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1987 together with Professor Donald J. Cram and Charles Pedersen for their contributions to the basic understanding of molecular recognition processes. From 5-7 January Robert C. Richardson, a Nobel Laureate for Physics from the US will give a talk entitled “Training Scientists for the Future: How to Inspire and Train the People Who will Solve the World’s Problems in the 21st Century”. Then, from 10-14 January the 2002 Nobel Laureate for Physics Riccardo Giaconni, a Research Professor at John Hopkins will present his speech on “Interaction Between Basic and Applied Research”. Sheldon L. Glashow, a Physics Nobel Laureate, currently Professor of Physics at Boston University, will give a Lecture entitled “How Basic Science Drives Technological Progress”. The holder of the 2002 Nobel Prize for Economics Professor James J. Heckman will speak on “Globalization and Regionalism” on 17 January. Heckman is director of the Economic Research Centre and of the Centre for Social Evaluation Program at the University of Chicago. And from 24-29 January a presentation called “Education for Peace” will be given by Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo. Bishop Belo received the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize along with Jose Ramos-Horta for their work towards a just and peaceful solution to the problems in East Timor.

Such an ambitious project as “Bridges” requires rather more than just the hard work provided by the staff of the IPF, and Uwe says that he is forever grateful to the businesses and corporate entities that have given it their support, with money, services, and facilities. “Gold” sponsors are BMW, Dusit Hotels & Resorts, Kasikornbank and Ogilvy; “Silver” sponsors are Thai Airways International, Austrian Airlines, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Siam Commercial Bank an Unocal; “Bronze” sponsors include UNESCO, the World Bank, Olympus, Novotel Bangkok, the New International School of Thailand, IBM, Plan Printing and the Pranda Group.

The Thai government is proud that the International Peace Foundation has its headquarters in Thailand, and is proud to host Bridges – Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace. The high quality of the speakers – the Nobel Laureates – means that the eyes of the world will be watching. We join with Uwe Morawetz in wishing them a pleasant stay whilst in Thailand, and hope – from within our hearts – that some solutions will be found towards the worthy quest of the International Peace Foundation.

For more information and to order tickets for any of the events, please call 02 636 7764 or visit