Spreading peace through science and commerce in developing countries

Chiangmai Mail - Saturday, February 21, 2004

The International Peace Foundation (IPF) sponsored another of its keynote speeches at Chiang Mau University's Faculty of Medicine last week.
The Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace invite everybody to cross borders and build bridges by listening to and opening up other viewpoints, generating new ideas and developing innovative forms of co-operation.

Uwe Morawetz, the Chairman of IPF arranged more than 100 lectures, seminars, workshops, conferences and major public events all over Thailand in the past six months.

The Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace aim at achieving a better co-operation for the promotion of peace, freedom and security, promoting Thailand as a pioneering center for peace, diplomacy and non-violent conflict resolution at an international level and establishing creative solutions for the growing threats of war and international terrorism.

However, with the ongoing problems in the south, Thailand can no longer be held up as a role model. Funds which are raised from these dialogues will be donated to peace, education and development programs of already existing organizations and institutions in Thailand.

A globalized world needs broad strategies for change to secure a sustainable future for us and the next generations. Dr. Richard J. Roberts was the latest keynote speaker brought to Chiang Mai by the IPF.

He is a Nobel Laureate for Medicine and a Research Director at New England Biolabs, Beverly, Massachusetts. He began his address saying, "Science is an inherently peaceful activity, one in which disputes are solved, not by violence, but by the exercise of logic and reason. It is a universal discipline, being practiced in essentially the same form in every country of the world. There is no room for the fervent fundamentalism that characterizes many other social and religious activities. Disagreements are resolved by peaceful meetings of the antagonists, debate among them and the application of logical reasoning. The practice of science transcends the national boundaries of the political systems and the cultural bounds of religions."

He explained the importance of dialogue between colleagues from the west and east. How the discovery of DNA produced a whole new industry of biotechnology. But he also added his concern saying, "of course one will also need to consider carefully the whole question of intellectual property in these areas, to be certain that the benefits of technology do not outweigh its disadvantages.

It should not be forgotten that the genetic heritage of the developing world is every bit as important a natural resource as minerals, timber or oil that we traditionally think of as the key to prosperity."

He spoke of his work in the biological field, of supporting laboratories in developing countries and regarding finding treatment for the top six tropical diseases targeted by the World Health Organization.

Diseases, caused by parasitic worms, mostly in third world countries, where research results have had many spin-off activities and products that have arisen solely because scientists chose to study these diseases.

Dr. Roberts closed with the words, "By practicing science and staying aware of commercial possibilities, I believe that the cause of peace can be promoted. Ultimately, if we are all citizens of a world in which the logic and reason of science prevails and there is sufficient commerce to ensure prosperity, the chances of that world being peaceful are greatly increased."

Marion Vogt