Keynote speakers include Walter Schwimmer, former Secretary General of the Council of Europe
The “Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative” (GCGI) has details of its second joint conference with the School of Economic Science, due to take place at the SES’s Oxford headquarters in September and entitled “The Value of Values: Spiritual Wisdom in Everyday Life”:
This year, we expect over 100 leaders from business, government, academia, civil society, international organisations, youth forums, media and religions to join us at the Conference. Together we will analyse the current state of globalisation and define a more harmonious and peaceful path towards the common good. Please consider joining us, either by submitting your abstract for consideration to present, or by just coming to the Conference, to share your vision and insight with us all.
There seems to be something of a network of international conflabs and publications based around themes of religion or spirituality in global context, and quite often there seems to be an association with Russia or Kazakhstan. I’ve blogged about it on a number of occasions; in the case of GCGI, in 2012 I noted that the organisation had given an award to Vladimir Yakunin, a close associate of Vladimir Putin who is now currently under sanctions in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. In turn, GCGI founder Kamran Mofid is a member of the International Coordinating Committee of Yakunin’s World Public Forum.
The award to Yakunin was the GCGI’s first; the think-tank followed up a year later with an award for Ian Mason, the School of Economic Science’s principal. It’s a link that’s also of interest: the SES is perhaps best-known for is posters on the London Underground, displaying quotes from philosophers. A 2007 leaflet from INFORM is a useful primer that explains the group’s Advaita Vedanta context, and gives an even-handed account of past controversies:
In 1984, two journalists wrote an “exposé” of the group entitled Secret Cult. Rather than respond to the criticisms publicly, the School reviewed the attack internally, which reinforced the opinion of the critics that the School was a secretive organisation. However, much has changed in the last twenty years, particularly since the death of the founder Leon MacLaren in 1994. Current leaders acknowledge some of the criticisms of the past and claim that they have sought to make the necessary adjustments… In particular, complaints focused on Leon MacLaren’s authority, which some described as absolute or totalitarian. It is claimed that those who displeased him were dealt with severely and that there was not room for any differences of opinion…
One ex-member who grew up within the group in the 1970s gave her account to the Daily Mail at the end of 2012; inevitably, the c-word (“cult”) appears a few times throughout. An anonymous account by someone who suffered abuse at an SES school can be read here.
One of the conference’s keynote speakers – speaking on “The spiritual heritage as a source of wisdom in the age of globalization” – is Walter Schwimmer, who from 1999 to 2004 was the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Schwimmer is one of the WFP’s current co-chairs, and he is also close to Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been President of Kazakhstan since the end of the break up of the USSR: in February 2012, Schwimmer gushed that Nazarbayev (who was in the process of cracking down on opposition movements) is a “a real politician and a wise leader of his nation”. This is not the only WPF link with Nazarbayev: in the run-up to elections in 2011, Yakunin personally gave him a WPF award, and another Austrian WPF member, former Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer is an official consultant” The GCGI’s own links with Kazakhstan were highlighted in May, when Mofid participated in the VII Astana Economic Forum.
Schwimmer has also helped to build links between the WPF and the Universal Peace Federation, founded by the late Reverend Moon (and discussed on this blog from time to time, e.g. here). Vision 2020, the “Japan Unification Movement Newsletter”, reported in April:
Dr. Schwimmer… is currently engaged in the World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations, a non-government organization endorsed by the United Nations, as its co-chair. Dr. Yong Cheon Song, UPF-Japan’s Regional Chair, met with Dr. Schwimmer while Dr. Song was responsible for the UPF Europe. Moved by Dr. Schwimmer’s passion for one Europe, Dr. Song read carefully Dr. Schwimmer’s book entitled ‘The European Dream’. Dr. Schwimmer later helped UPF organize the Europe-Urasia [sic] Dialogue. This time, he came over to Japan at the invitation of Dr. Song.
In Tokyo, Japan-Europe Leadership Forum on April 3rd was attended by 26 current members of the Diet, Japan’s national parliament, 5 foreign ambassadors as well as some 90 scholars, journalists and religious figures. In the following two days, Japan-Europe Special Seminar Program brought 540 guests in Osaka and 650 guests in Sapporo respectively.
We’ve also recently seen a WPF figure linking up with a “World Civilizations” event in China.
UPDATE: I see that Mofid and Mason were also recently involved in an event in Russia called the Altai Forum 2014 (tagline: “A Better Path to a Better World”), although ill-health prevented Mofid’s personal attendance. This was another WPF event.