By Jolyon Naegele and Jeremy Bransten
Prague, 4 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - A three-day conference of leading world thinkers opened at Prague Castle today with speakers calling for the world to take a new approach to solving major global problems.
Czech President Vaclav Havel, one of the organizers of the conference, told the assembled guests, who include nine Nobel laureates, that what is needed today is thinking on a global scale, a new outlook not limited to one's family or workplace.
"It is not enough to invent new laws, institutions or machines, one must understand the true purpose of our existence on earth and how we fit in," he said.
Havel says he hopes the conference participants will try to answer his question about whether a global crisis of responsibility stems from the loss of certainty that nature and our lives have a purpose.
Israeli Labour Party leader and former foreign minister Shimon Peres told participants at the Forum 2000 conference today that although the 21st century is upon us, mankind insists on remaining stuck in the 20th century.
But Peres said this will soon have to change, adding that he believes the 21st century "will not be a continuation of history but a divorce from it."
Peres said it is time to give up old ways of thinking and realize that formerly important things, such as the size of one's country or its natural resources or its armies have little significance. What matters today and will matter in the future, according to Peres, is investment in education and science, as well as how open one is to new technologies.
Peres pointed out that "technology doesn't need a visa" and neither do missiles, so there is no sense in trying to put up physical barriers against outsiders, and even less sense in propping up those barriers by large armies. As he noted, "the silver screen of television became more powerful than the Iron Curtain of Communism."
Another participant, Bosnia-Herzegovina's Co-Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic barely mentioned Bosnia in his speech, which he admitted was idealistic and optimistic. He says Bosnia will be taken as a projection of our future, adding that Bosnia is a test case for the world, an electric fuse that pops whenever tension develops.
In his brief address, Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, told participants today he believes that basic human nature is good, although human beings have developed into what he termed the most destructive of all animals on earth. Unlike other animals, he noted, we are the only ones who can analyze a situation and have the capacity "to develop infinite altruism."
Tomorrow's discussion is to deal with the state of the world today while Saturday's concluding session will deal with the outlook for the next millenium.