The Global Policy Forum “The Modern State: Standards of Democracy and Criteria of Efficiency” has kicked off in the Russian city of Yaroslavl.
The event is being held under the patronage of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev. Celebrating its millennium anniversary in 2010, Yaroslavl has become a meeting place for heads of states and ministers, authoritative politicians, representatives of the business community, scientists, scholars and experts in various fields from around the world.
Natalya Timakova, press attaché of Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, said this year’s forum has attracted a lot of attention from Russian and foreign politicians and analysts.
“During the forum, President Medvedev will meet his foreign colleagues and make an address, but he will also meet separately with Russian and foreign political experts to discuss the problems and achievements during the year,” Timakova told RT.
In his speech during the opening session, former NATO Secretary General George Robertson noted that the forum could help to bridge a communication gap between Russia and the rest of the world.
“Russia is a hugely important influence in Europe and in the world. It has a right to be heard and has important things to say. It is, however, too often misunderstood, suspected and ignorantly written off. That is a mistake. So this Global Policy Forum is a chance for Russia,” Robertson said.
Reflecting on Robertson’s words, political scientist Adrian Pabst said the former was correct to note that the world is at an important stage of international debate.
“It is no longer about east and west or north and south. There are now so many common challenges: economic, environmental, also political,” Pabst said. “And it is very clear that countries like Russia, with a long cultural and intellectual tradition, have a lot to offer in terms of trying to understand the problems and find common solutions.”
Politics, however, will not be the only issue on the agenda, as talks are also expected to focus on factors needed for a successful economy. Speaking to RT ahead of the forum’s meetings, Sver-Thore Holm, CEO of Lundavision AB, suggested innovation and technology were two such prerequisites.
“I think that competition around the world is so hard that a nation without a true innovation system is almost gone,” said Holm, one of the creators of the first science park in Sweden. “By turning your investment to in research and development to new companies, new products, global ones hopefully, is a way of building your economy and that is a future.”
Economic historian, Robert Skidelski, shared some of the issues discussed during the forum, particularly regarding the relationship between economic prosperity and democratization.
Asked whether economic modernization prompts democratic reform or vice versa, Skidelski said that even empirical evidence provides no concrete answers.
“It is a very interesting question. Do societies need democracy to become economically efficient, or does economic efficiency make them more democratic? It’s a chicken and egg problem,” Skidelski said. “Empirically, there is a lot of conflict about this. Some countries seem to have established democratic institutions before they became rich and others become rich and then they establish democratic institutions.”
While the forum in Yaroslavl is in full swing, a terrorist attack hit the southern Russian city of Vladikavkaz, provoking comments from the conference’s participants.
The blast in Vladikavkaz is undoubtedly not a spontaneous local outburst of terror, but part of international terrorist networks, says Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Polity Foundation.
According to Nikonov, the attack is a reaction to the successful battle against terrorism that Russia has been leading.
“Russia, in fact, was quite successful during last year in fighting terror. And this is, of course, a response,” he said. “Now it is a sort of spread of terrorism in the areas which were, at least for the time being, free from terrorism.”
International security is one of the major topics to be discussed at the forum. Richard Woolcott, founding director of the Asia Society Australasia Centre, says steps towards better regional security could lead the world towards better global security.
“President Medvedev introduced this concept of need for better regional security arrangements in Europe and the Atlantic. He did that in Germany in June 2008. Our former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, also launched this idea of a need for an Asia-Pacific sort of community to deal with security issues, also in 2008. This is, I think, a very important concept,” Woolcott said.
Global Policy Forum will focus on four sections:
– New Challenges and the Concept of International Law;
– The State as an Instrument of Technological Modernization;
– Regional Systems of Global Security;
– Standards of Democracy and the Diversity of Democratic Experiences.
The languages of Global Policy Forum are Russian, English, German, Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese, Korean and Japanese.
The first day of the Forum opened with an hour-long plenary session, after which the sections’ meetings began. The second day will be dedicated to scheduled plenary meetings as well as to an intersectional meeting on the European security treaty.
The main organizations behind the event are the Institute for Public Planning, the Institute of Contemporary Development and Yaroslavl Demidov State University.