The Peace Process

LifeStyle Asia, February Issue

The International Peace Foundation, in partnership with lifestyleasia for this year’s Bridges-Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace,” continues to build bridges by sharing ideas and developing innovative forms of cooperation through a series of events in both the Philippines and Thailand.

It is not uncommon for each new day to bring a new neighborhood crime, another terrorist attack, or another revolution. The reasons are the same issues of bread and butter, comparison of skin color, or the race to power. Thus, from five-year-olds to beauty queens, “world peace” has long been an ubiquitous dream.

In a time when violence is prevalent, it is apt that the International Peace Foundation (IPF) steps up in building bridges to promote a culture of peace among diversified regions. A politically and religiously independent organization based in Austria, IPF creates an independent platform for dialogue, so representatives of science, politics, economics, culture, religion, media and the youth can meet, share their viewpoints and find mutual ways of fostering cooperation. The past peace summits have had noteworthy participants, like Oscar Arias, Dalai Lama, Henry Kissinger, Frederik Willem De Klerk and John Nash. Celebrities Woody Allen, Elton John, Sophia Loren, Paul McCartney, The Beastie Boys, Pink Floyd and Queen have also joined to support the foundation’s humanitarian efforts, like the reconstruction and reconciliation programs between conflicting groups in Serbia, Montenegro and Albania after the war in Kosovo, the construction of schools and hospitals in Thailand, and the provision of education for street children and victims of the Andaman Tsunami tragedy.

“To have peace, you have to have dialogue.” Say Uwe Morawetz, founding chairman of IPF. “And before you can dialogue, you need respect.” The foundation itself is a bridge and facilitator between different language groups in today’s divided societies. In a highly interdependent world, problems can only be solved by finding ways to work together.

To keep the world from fragmenting further, the foundation has developed “Bridges-Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace.” The Philippines and Thailand have been selected as host countries from November 2007 to April 2008, with Nobel Laureates from all fields flying in to conduct public workshops and lectures in the fields of politics, economics, science and culture. Challenges of globalization and regionalization, and their impact on development and international cooperation will be the main highlight.

Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein, chairman of the International Board of Advisors, graced the country late in 2007 to announce the confirmation of the Nobel Laureates. Philippine honorary chairman of Bridges Washington Sycip and Philippine chairman of Bridges Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala continuously invite Filipinos to participate in developing a new culture of peace. The aim of Bridges is to facilitate and strengthen communication between societies in Southeast Asia with their multiple cultures and faiths. It also promotes understanding and trust. Through the Nobel Laureates, the event aims to build ties with local universities in the region to establish long-term relationships, which may result in common research programs and other forms of collaboration.

“There is not only one way to achieve peace,” continues Morawetz. “Only if many ways cross and people walking these ways meet can international understanding be achieved and problems commonly solved.