Dr. Charles S. Yang, Chairman of UPF, spoke at the opening session about a vision of Europe and Eurasia coming together in closer understanding and exploring ways of partnering. The opening session featured the former Director-General of UNESCO (1987-1999) H.E. Dr Federico Mayor, who is world famous for his advocacy of "The Culture of Peace" which he promoted while he was Director-General. He spoke by video as he was unable to attend in person.
Issues of Eurasia-Europe cooperation were timely. The former President of Ukraine (1992-1994), H.E. Leonid Kravchuk, was prevented from attending due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine about its relationships with Russia and the European Union, but he sent his press secretary to read his speech for him.
In an interview with his nation’s news agency after the conference, Dr. Rafig Aliyev, former minister of religion of Azerbaijan, commented: "Relations between Europe and Eurasia are so bad and the cultural and other differences are so complicated that no one really wants to undertake a real dialogue or make an attempt for a real cooperation between the two. I was truly moved by the group assembled in Paris by UPF which genuinely wants to build dialogue and understanding.”
The program included eight panel sessions exploring aspects of the conference theme such as women’s role, cultural cooperation, character education, volunteerism, intercultural and interreligious exchange, and the family as a vehicle for building bridges between cultures. Approximately 200 people attended the sessions including high-level representatives from Eurasia and many European nations. There was also an excellent spirit of dialogue and exploring ways to cooperate among the participants.
Professor Veniamin Popov, a former ambassador of Russia to various nations and now head of the Russian government's office for inter-civilizational dialogue and social integration, expressed interest in further gatherings on the theme.
There was also appreciation for speakers who emphasized the importance of strengthening marriage and family ties, including Mr. Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation in London and Mrs. Maria Hildingsson, Secretary General of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe.
The conference as co-organized by UPF and the Women’s Federation for World Peace in partnership with the Permanent Mission of Tajikistan to the European Union, the permanent delegation of the republic of Tajikistan to UNESCO, la Fundacion Cultura de Paz, L’Academie Geopolitique de Paris, ASILEC, FORIM, Cercle de Reflexion des Nations, and the Geneva Interfaith Intercultural Alliance.
In support of the UN International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures launched in August 2013 in Kazakhstan, the conference explored ways to develop and strengthen a culture of peace as the source of cohesion between individuals, communities, ethnicities, races and nations. It is hoped that the conference will help foster and secure peace and development for all on the foundation of shared values and good practice and generate proposals and commitments for the promotion of the rapprochement of cultures and a society of lasting peace.
This conference was the latest in a series that began in 2012, when UPF’s Ambassadors for Peace in Europe and Eurasia began to cooperate closely to raise awareness of the potential for partnership and cooperation between their two regions in place of the friction and, at times, open antagonism of the past. In April 2012 an initial joint conference entitled Russia-Europe Dialogue: Peace and Security in Multicultural Societies at a Time of Global Crisis was held in Moscow with the participation of high-level representatives from both regions. In October 2012, a further conference entitled Europe and Russia - Partners in a Globalized World was held at the UN headquarters in Vienna and brought together former heads of state and government from a number of nations as well as other leading figures from the areas of politics, religion, business, academe and diplomacy to deliberate on that theme.
This conference was part of a wider series of European Leadership Conferences on topics of pressing concern for Europe and the world, held at such venues as the UN in Geneva and in Vienna, UNESCO in Paris, national parliaments in the United Kingdom and Norway, and in the Presidential Palace in Malta, over the past few years.