Prague Dialogue on Europe in the XXI Century

sponsored by

World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” and Klub Rusko

 Speech by the President of the International Progress Organization

Prof. Dr. Hans Köchler

at the opening session

 Prague, 14 May 2009, 11 a.m.

(unofficial transcript)

See also statement in Panel 1 on the economic crisis:

The Collapse of Neoliberal Globalization and the Quest for a Just World Order


International Progress Organization, A-1010 Vienna, Kohlmarkt 4, Austria

 © International Progress Organization, 2009

Mr. Vladimir Yakunin, President of the World Public Forum,

Mr. Miloš Zeman, former Prime Minister of the Czech Republic,

Ladies and gentlemen!

Since its meetings on the New International Economic Order (1979) and on the challenges of Globalization (1999), the International Progress Organization has devoted special attention to questions of a just and sustainable system of international economic relations. In an era of global crisis such as the one at the beginning of the 21st century, the doctrine of “globalization” is up for review and the complex relationship between economy and civilization requires further analysis.

The present crisis constitutes a major challenge to the unity of Europe. The future of Europe – as transnational project of a comprehensive and sustainable order of peace and stability – is at stake; that future will essentially depend on how the continent will deal with a situation of global instability, perceived as “unintended consequence” of globalized markets, and whether it will be able to develop a kind of “transnational crisis management.”

It is here where the dialogue of civilizations comes into play. Dialogue requires basic respect for one another’s perception of the world and system of values, including the social sphere. The “other” must be accepted as partner on an equal level and, thus, must not be made a mere object of one’s self-realization, whether in cultural, social or economic terms.

Though this may appear far-fetched, the rationale of dialogue is intrinsically linked to the economy: a system that is based on the “glorification of greed” and on profit maximization as the only criterion of economic activity, is not only incompatible with dialogue and peaceful co-existence, but is not effective even in pure economic terms. As has been proven by now, the 21st century model of “globalization” is not sustainable; to the contrary: it has destabilized and shaken the very foundations of the global system at all levels, not only in regard to economy and finance. This specific model of the economy has triggered a process that has led to new inequalities between the industrialized and the developing worlds, and it threatens peace domestically (undermining the social cohesion in many countries) as well as at the regional and global levels.

 Furthermore, the practices associated with “neoliberal” globalization – as propagated e.g. by the World Economic Forum – have led to a situation in which the predominant political and military power at the beginning of the 21st century has been proven to be at the origin of global economic instability, being unable and lacking the moral authority to lead the world out of the crisis.

What is required in this state of unprecedented “global emergency” – indeed of a multidimensional crisis of the credibility and legitimacy of all the dogmata of the prematurely declared era of globalization and the free markets –, is the development of a set of clearly defined ethical norms by which international economic and financial exchanges have to be governed.

I would like to emphasize here the eminent role of civilizations – with their rich religious and metaphysical heritage – in presenting an alternative vision for a way out of the impasse into which the collapse of neoliberal globalization has led the world. More than ever, the world needs an “Alliance of Civilizations” that will agree on and promote a Declaration of Universal Ethical Values as the basis of a sustainable system of international economic exchange in the service of mankind, not merely of a multitude of vested interests.

While imposing, in the name of progress, a dogmatic neoliberal model of economy and finance would be in total contradiction to dialogue, making use of the genuine moral and social teachings of the world’s great civilizations for the drafting of a declaration on the core values of economic activity will be an imperative that follows from the very logic of dialogue and peace. These civilizational values transcend the economy and are the only basis of a sustainable and legitimate world order.

I thank you for your attention.