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RFE Teams With Forum 2000 Conference In Prague


Oldrich Cerny, Executive Director of "Forum 2000"

Oldrich Cerny, Executive Director of "Forum 2000"

The 14th annual Forum 2000 conference kicks off in Prague on Sunday, October 10. The three-day conference, titled, "The World We Want to Live In", will feature appearances by Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, noted author and commentator Fareed Zakaria, journalist Edward Lucas, and former Czech President Vaclav Havel.

Three RFE colleagues will take part in this year's conference. Daud Khattak of RFE's Pakistan Service (Radio Mashaal) will appear on a panel titled, ''The World We Want To Live In: The Asian Perspective''. RFE North Caucasus Service Director Aslan Doukaev, and RFE Senior Correspondent Gregory Feifer will discuss Chechnya in a session titled, ''The 'Normalization' in Chechnya''.

The conference features more than 20 different discussion panels, keynote addresses, and other events.

RFE correspondent Charles Recknagel spoke with Oldrich Cerny, executive director of Forum 2000, about the agenda.

RFE: Forum 2000 has chosen "The World We Want to Live In" as the theme for this year's conference. But it is not the only subject to be discussed. Can you give a brief summary of the many things the conference hopes to cover?

Oldrich Cerny: I would describe this conference as having four themes, with the main theme as "The World You Want to Live In." Then, as always, there is a very strongly represented "Interface Dialog" and then we will have several business panels and we also will have a section which we call "In Focus" and this is a series of round tables, lectures, and debates which we organize with our natural partners like 'People In Need" or this radio station and the main emphasis there is on human rights.

RFE: Discussing "the world we want to live in" – in its many facets – is an intriguing idea. How did the conference choose this topic?
The conference will touch on such themes as poverty and social exclusion, on urbanization, or let's say chaotic urbanization, but also on aesthetics, and on the search for harmony and beauty, which is slowly but inevitably disappearing from this world.


Cerny : (Former Czech President and Forum 2000 co-founder) Vaclav Havel chose it for us, because at the close of last year's conference he announced that this year we will devote the conference to the state of human settlements, to the state of this planet, to chaotic urbanization and environmental decay.

RFE: What are some of the highlights we can expect from the upcoming sessions?

Cerny: Let me just describe some of the key panels. The first panel which is called "The World We Live In" is a kind of stock-taking of the present world with the keynote address delivered by conservative British philosopher Roger Scruton. Then the second panel is on the future of freedom and democracy with the keynote hopefully delivered by Fareed Zakaria (editor-at-large of Time Magazine, USA), and on this panel we also have Shirin Ebadi, who is the well-known Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate. And then we like to keep Asia as part of the Forum 2000 conference, so we will discuss the world we want to live in from the Asian perspective.

Cerny: The conference will touch on such themes as poverty and social exclusion, on urbanization, or let's say chaotic urbanization, but also on aesthetics, and on the search for harmony and beauty, which is slowly but inevitably disappearing from this world.

RFE: it is interesting that among the participants there will be not just people who are professionally concerned with public policy questions but also architects and other business leaders. What do these people – with such diverse backgrounds – bring in common to the discussions?

Cerny: A sort of common denominator of these people is that they would be people who really care about this world and the way it is going and the way it is developing. So, it doesn't really depend upon professions but upon the way of thinking. So that's why we are inviting journalists, sociologists, philosophers, but also architects and urban planners and also business men and so on, so it is a very rich mix and this is what the Forum 2000 conference is quite well known for.

RFE: As you say, it is a rich mix of participants. Do you expect to hear some sharp disagreements as the speakers look for a common way forward?

Cerny: I wouldn't call it sharp disagreements, but I am pretty sure that these people will not be nodding to each other.
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