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Forum 2000: Havel Says Conference Should Serve As Inspiration

Prague, 16 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The Second Forum 2000 conference ended in Prague Castle on Wednesday (Oct.14). Closing the conference, Czech President Vaclav Havel told participants that he hoped the spirit of understanding which he said dominated the three-day event would reach beyond the castle's walls. Havel, the gathering's creator and host, said it had provided a forum for dialogue and should serve as an inspiration.

Last year's conference -- the first of four planned through the year 2000 -- was focused on "contemporary dilemmas" and was seen by some observers as too esoteric and abstract. But it attracted such well-known personalities as the Dalai Lama, former Israeli Prime Minister Simon Perez, the Jewish-American writer on the Holocaust Elie Wiesel, the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and others.

This year's conference was on problems of globalization. Among participants were U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, exiled Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, and Polish Justice Minister (and former Prime Minister) Hanna Suchocka.

Another participant, Polish journalist and ex-dissident Adam Michnik, noted yesterday that globalization works in many ways, affecting culture as well as economy and politics.

Russian human rights activist Lev Kovalev argued that humanity lives in a world affected by many related problems, and to solve them one should develop general rules of conduct:

"If we want to coexist, we have to play by the rules. We cannot play by a collection of commands..."

But Kovalev said that not even the United Nations has succeeded in creating unified norms on its own since individual member countries do not defend rights and justice, but are concerned with their own national interests. Kovalev said that "justice and law should be above politics".

Kovalev said this year's forum in comparison to last year's was "more factual." He regarded Havel's initiative to organize the conference as "remarkable". Kovalev said the world's problems are increasingly interdependent and getting more serious with every passing year.

Some critics have suggested that this year's discussion might have been out of touch with reality, and that the Czech public paid little notice of the event. But such international forums rarely provoke immediate public discussion. And Prague is a good venue for such a gathering. Globalization has affected the city in numerous ways in the nearly nine years since the collapse of communist rule.

Havel, speaking at the opening of the conference on Sunday, said that it made sense that Prague, which had long been at the crossroads of various interests and power ambitions, should be at the crossroads of ideas now that it is free.

Next year's Forum 2000 is to be concerned with models for future world economic, political and technological integration.