Building Bridges to Peace

VIet Nam News on the 17th of October 2012.

What are the goals of the ASEAN Bridges event series?

“Bridges- Dialogue Toward the Culture of Peace” has the aim to bring people who won the Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, economics and peace to Southeast Asia to build long-term bridges with the universities here in the region.

We are a non-political, non-religious foundation and we believe that the basis for peace is education and the first step toward peace is dialogue. Peace cannot be achieved over a short period of time.

We also think that peace cannot be reached only by politicians, economists or scientists, by religions or the media alone, but by working together. All of these different groups in our society speak different languages.

“Bridges” wants to create an independent platform for dialogue. It also wants to connect people who won the Nobel prizes, who mainly come from the US or Europe, with universities here in the region. We invite these Nobel laureates on a one-on-one basis. “Bridges” always take place for about six months. It’s not just a three-day conference. It’s a process. Peace is also a process which needs time. We therefore try to have these Nobel laureates stay in the country as long as possible and to learn more about that country, if possible, to fall in love with that country and in the future return on a regular basis.

Why was Việt Nam chosen to co-host the series this time?

It started in 2003 in Thailand. We have worked with more than 50 organizations in Thailand.
There were about 250 events, attracting 70,000 participants in Thailand from 2003-2005.

After the success of the Bridges program in Thailand, we have been approached by the ambassadors of different countries in Southeast Asia who are stationed in Bangkok if we could do such programs in the future in their countries. All the ASEAN countries will host the event at one place.

We have chosen the ASEAN countries in the row of how we have been invited by these countries. We have been invited first by Thailand, then the Philippines and Malaysia, Cambodia and now Việt Nam for which Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng has accepted our invitation to become the honorary chairman of “Bridges” this year.

What are the key messages that the foundation wants to get across for the program in Việt Nam?

In “Bridges” we have invited Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry, economics, peace and other keynote speakers to come here and approach peace from different angles.

Dialogue is not a one-way thing. Dialogue starts with listening. It’s not only that we invite the Nobel laureates to talk but also we invite them here to listen and learn more about the country and to see how they can contribute to the development of the country in the long run.

We’re placing high emphasis on education as a basis for peace. When the Nobel laureates visit, they speak at universities and schools in different parts of the country.

They’re not addressing technical issues. In these events, which are open to and free for the public, they’re addressing topics which are easy to understand also for a non-scientist. In addition to the public events, there are smaller events with scientists from Việt Nam, which talk about research in science.

We also want the speakers to learn more about Việt Nam, to fall in love with the country and to establish long-term bridges with the universities and with the Ministry of Education and Training. They will come back and somehow become Việt Nam’s good-will ambassadors and inspire other Nobel laureates to visit the country in the future.

We want to foster dialogue. We want to support education with the knowledge and the wisdom of Nobel laureates and bring them into dialogue with students and policy makers.

How were these Nobel laureates chosen?

We have chosen them also because they have chosen Việt Nam. We have worked with more than 600 speakers over the past 23 years. They have always come without any honorarium, which means they wholeheartedly support our programs. We have gotten a lot of recommendations of whom to invite. We also work with other Nobel laureates to advise us on the Nobel laureates we don’t know yet.

The Nobel laureates also choose a specific country to go to because of their interest in that country. It was the case also with these speakers. They all want to come to Việt Nam and learn more and hopefully come back in the future. – VNS