Response to an Article in Washington Post

The article by Anne Applebaum (October 16) was unexpected.  We at the WPF are surprised and gratified that the Washington Post should pay attention to our fledgling organization which is barely 13 years old.  However, while appreciating the attention, we are also chagrined by the reductive character of the treatment.  Basically, all our efforts and activities are compressed into the narrow tunnel vision of the Cold War between America and Russia.  In this fashion, the global horizon of our endeavor is elided in favor of partial ideological formulas.

A responsible journalist, we believe, would have wanted to inquire into the background, the meaning and purpose of our organization.  There is a statement—readily available on our website—titled “Who Are We?  What is World Public Forum – Dialogue of Civilizations?”  There we state as our overriding aim the pursuit of justice and peace among all peoples in the world, an aim which we promote through the means of collaboration, discussion or dialogue.  The article also states the overriding obstacles to peace with justice:  namely, warmongering and fascism (the letter defined as aggressive unilateralism).  Basically, we seek to provide a forum or public arena where global crises and pressing problems can be discussed fully and analytically with the hope of suggesting to policy makers promising ways of resolving crises.

As an international non-governmental organization (INGO), we place ourselves at an angle to established governments.  Although attentive to geopolitical (and geo-economic and geo-cultural) issues, we try to approach these issues in a free spirit not subservient to reigning ideologies and the powers that be.  Basically, our inspiration derives not from partisan ideologies but from scriptures and from classical philosophical teachings (especially the insight that “peace is the fruit of justice” where justice means to give to each his or her due).  In modern times we count among our mentors St. Francis of Assissi, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Dalai Lama.  All these teachers prompt us to take a stand against warmongering and against the kind of aggressive unilateralism that is the death of justice and peace.

With regard to world politics today, we find such unilateralism present in all kinds of extremism and terrorism, but also in the pretense of a unipolar world order which is not willing to recognize the intrinsic diversity of political and cultural traditions and agendas.  The article by Anne Applebaum is full of invectives against Russian and some East European leaders denouncing them for pursuing their own political agendas.  But this is deeply contradictory.  It is generally recognized that Washington always pursues in its policies the American national interest (whether this is done prudently or not).  But the same leeway has to be accorded to political leaders elsewhere; clearly they have been selected by their populations precisely for this purpose.  No national leader anywhere pursues the “global interest” of humankind.  To make such a claim is a sign precisely of the hegemonic unipolarity which we criticize.  For us, international politics means the constant effort to balance, negotiate and accommodate different interests and agendas in the global arena.  We call this “dialogue among civilizations.”

We in the WPF are “friends” of the world, not one political power.  We urge political leaders everywhere to renounce the policies of unilateralism and Cold War polarization or demonization—before it is too late.

Vladimir Yakunin, Founding President, WPF "Dialogue of Civilizations"; Head, Department of State Politics, Faculty of Political Sciences, Lomonosov Moscow State University
Fred Dallmayr, Co-Chairman, WPF "Dialogue of Civilizations"; Packey J. Dee Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science at the University of Notre Dame
Walter Schwimmer, Co-Chairman, WPF "Dialogue of Civilizations"; Former Secretary General of the Council of Europe (1999-2004)
Vladimir Kulikov, Executive Director, WPF "Dialogue of Civilizations"