Bridges to Peace

Philippine Graphic, November 12, 2007

IT SEEMED IRONIC THAT JAIME AUGUSTO ZOBEL DE A YALA WOULD PRESIDJE over the launching of an international dialogue on peace, five day the controversial blast that killed 11 people and destroyed Glorietta 11, one of the prime properties of the Ayala Group of Companies in the ritzy section of Makati.

But the 48 year-old chair and CEO of Ayala Corporation had long before the fatal blast agreed, to co-chair with Washington Sycip - founding chair of the SGV Group and of the Asian Institute of Management - an event series facilitated by the International Peace Foundation that aims to "build a culture of peace and development in a glabalized world."

And so, while authorities and the political opposition debated on whether or not the Glorietaa explosion was caused by a bomb or unfortunate accident, the two leading pillars of the Philippine business community opened "Bridges-Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace" at the Dusit Hotel, also in Makati.

No exclusion
Ever on the lookout for a possible sensational soundbite, a reporter asked Ayala of JAZA if he would invite leaders of terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf or the MNLF to the peace events of “Bridges.”

“We will abide by our general theme, which is inclusion and not exclusion,” he calmly said, adding that the aim of the event series is to “facilitate and strengthen dialogue and communication between societies with multiple cultures and faiths in Southeast Asia as well as with peoples in other parts of the world in order to promote understanding and trust.”

“Bridges will conduct a series of workshops that will continuously take place in the Philippines until April 2008 comprising of up to 50 events with Nobel Laureates from all fields. The Nobel Laureates will visit the region not all at on e, but separately, to conduct public lectures, seminars, workshops and dialogues hosted by local institutions during the continued period of six months,” JAZA explained.

He said that any kind of sharing has its own unifying factor: the power of sharing ideas. “There is a unifying force in the sharing of political and economic ideas and I am a firm believer and a great supporter of unifying ideas."

The pluralistic program of “Bridges” highlights an intercultural and trans-disciplinary approach towards peace.   

Washington Sycip says "Bridges" is non partisan because “it does not take sides but acts as a mediator by creating an independent platform or dialogue where representatives of science, politics, economy, culture, religion, the media, and the youth can meet, share their viewpoints, listen to each other and find mutual ways of understanding and cooperation.

'The Peace Foundation is in itself a bridge and a facilitator between different language groups," elaborates Sycip. "In a highly interdependent world, problems cannot be solved by either one of these language groups only, but by finding ways of working together."

Officially recognized as a non-profit, nongovernmental organization, the International Peace Foundation prides itself as being "ideologically, politically, and religiously independent."

Based in Vienna, Austria, the Foundation has on its International Board of Advisors prominent individuals crusading for global peace. These include Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein, Joan Armatrading, Franz Beckenbauer, and Dr. Karan Singh, among many others. Some 21 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates form the Patronage of the Foundation.

These Peace Laureates build bridges, listen and learn from each other and other peoples, and discover that there is not only one way to achieve peace, but that there are many ways people and certainly ways people had never thought of.

"Only it many ways cross and people walking these ways meet, can international understanding be achieved and problems commonly solved," says Uwe Morawetz, chair of the Board of Directors of the International Peace Foundation.

Other than the “Bridges" series, the Foundation also supports peace University as well as scientific projects and institutions dealing with research into conflict prevention. It likewise supports studies on strategies for the solution of conflicts as well as the promotion of peace activities, understanding and social exchange between peoples, their cultures and traditions.

Morawetz stresses that “Bridges” stands in the tradition of the Peace Summits which have been held in Europe since 1993.

From 2003 to 2005 Thailand acted as the host country for “Bridges.” Says Morawetz: “Thai people have a special approach to achieve and to maintain peace, to celebrate differences rather than to fight them, to accept one another and each others’ religions and beliefs and to create a world of pluralism which is the spice of life.”

After the success of the “Bridges” programs in Thailand, Morawetz crossed borders and sat down with Washington Sycip and Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala. The result of the coming together is “Bridges-Philippines – Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace” that will be held from November of this year, until April 2008.

“Bridges” organizers say that some eight Nobel Peace Laureates will be coming to the Philippines beginning November to speak on peace. They will be touring local Universities and will visit institutions to establish long-term relationships, which may result in common research programs and other forms of collaboration. By enhancing science, technology and education as a basis for peace and development, the events my lead to a better cooperation for the advancement of peace, freedom and security in the region, with the active involvement of the young generation, ASEAN’s key to the future,” Sycip said.

The topics of the ongoing events will deal with the overall theme of ‘building a culture of peace and development in a globalized world’ and with a range of issues in the fields of politics, economy, science, culture and media. They will especially highlight the challenges of both globalization and regionalism and its impact on development and international cooperation.

“Bridges” will focus on the young generation as it partners with different educational institutions including Angeles University, the Asian Institute of Management, Ateneo de Davao and de Manila Universities, De La Salle University, Department of Science and Technology, Mapua Institute of Technology, the University of San Carlos, the University of Santo Tomas and the University of the Philippines.

“The priority is education,” Morawetz emphasized, “that’s why we involved decision makers.”

“Peace,” says Morawetz, “is a process that cannot be achieved instantly. It needs time. ‘Bridges’ was not organized as a single conference, but an ongoing series of events in which Nobel Laureates and international decision makers build bridges with the leaders in all sectors of society and with the general public.

On November 15, Robert A. Mundell, professor at Columbia University in New York and 1999 Nobel Laureate for Economics, will be at De La Salle University in Manila in cooperation with Mapua Institute of Technology.

Mundell prepared the first plan for a common currency in Europe and is known as the father of the theory of optimum currency. On November 16, he will be at the Ateneo de Davao University to talk on “Economic Development by Fitting Globalization into the National Development Strategy.”

David Jonathan Gross, a professor at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics of the University of California in Santa Barbara and the 2004 Nobel Laureate for Physics, will be in UP Diliman, as well as the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on January 9, 2008. He will be at the De La Salle University in Manila on January 10, 2008: and at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City on January 11. Gross will talk on “The Coming Revolutions in Fundamental Physics.

Finn E. Kydland, the 2004 Nobel Laureate for Economics and a professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara and Tepper School of Business of the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg will speak on “Peace and Economic Development in the age of Globalization on Feb. 6, 2008 at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), Makati; on Feb 7, 2008 at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City; and on Feb 8, 2008 at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City.

James Wolfensohn, president of World Bank from 1995-2005 and currently the chairman of Citigroup International Advisory Board, will speak on “Beyond East-West, North-South – Peace and Prosperity in a Four-speed World” on March 5, 2008 at the AIM and on March 6, 2008 at De La Salle University in Manila. As president of World Bank, Wolfensohn successfully led initiatives on debt reduction, environmental sustainability, anti-corruption programs, AIDS prevention and treatment. He developed activities on religion and culture and decentralized offices overseas linked by most modern telecommunications system in the international community.

Prof. David Baltimore, the 1975 Nobel Laureate for Medicine and president emeritus of the California Institute of Tetchnology in Pasadena will be at the following schools in March 2008: University of Santo Tomas (UST), March 26; Mapua Institute of Technology, March 27; and Ateneo de Davao University, March 28. Baltimore will speak on “The Role of Science in Fostering Global Health and Development” and on “Gene Therapy as a Mode of Treating Cancer and AIDS.”

In April, 2008, Aaron Ciechanover, a 2004 Nobel laureate for Chemistry and professor at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, will speak on “Life and Death-Why our proteins have to die so we shall live” at the following schools: Ateneo de Manila, April 3; Angeles University in Angeles City, April 4; UST, April 7; and at the DOST on April 8.

Ciechanover’s work made it possible to understand at a molecular level how the cell controls a number of central processes by breaking down certain proteins and not others. This led pharma companies to initiate efforts to develop mechanism-based medication, and one successful drug to combat cancer is already on the pipeline.

Prof. Jose Ramos-Horta, President of Timor-Leste, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, will speak on “Building a Culture of Peace and Development in a Globalized World” at DLSU in cooperation with Far Eastern University on April 24, 2008 and at Ateneo de Davao University on April 25, 2008. A portion of funds received from the Nobel Prize was used to establish the Jose Ramos-Horta Mecrocredit Fund for the Poor, which is in full operation today, with a payback rate of 97%.

Morawetz stresses the problems of the world can not be solved only by politicians, by the economy, by scientists or religion alone, but by working together.

In “Bridges” people from all walks of life meet in a multi-disciplinary program to find creative solutions to problems and to achieve peace: peace within ourselves, within our families, peace within social structures, peace with nature and the environment, peace between nations, cultures and religions, Morawetz says.

“Personal Peace, which passes all understanding, results from cultivating love, compassion, wisdom and justice from which emerge balanced relationships with oneself, with others and with the environment. Such peace is a state of mind free from agitation, intolerance and aggression. It is the very foundation for harmony within family, community, nation and international relationship.” He adds.