Bled Strategic Forum 2017
4 – 5 September 2017
The world is rapidly changing, with globalisation and digitalisation significantly increasing the pace of our lives and bringing us closer together than ever before, as well as presenting profound challenges to our self-perception, politics, economy, security, and society. The annual Bled Strategic Forum will address the “New Reality” we live in and seek for the answers to the pressing issues of today’s globalised world.
Providing a high-level platform for discussions, the 12th Bled Strategic Forum will take place on 4 and 5 September 2017. As a leading strategic conference in Central and South East Europe it will offer the room for exchange of ideas and concepts through the panels, round tables and one-on-one interviews in the idyllic environment of Bled, Slovenia.
The world is rapidly changing, with globalisation and digitalisation significantly increasing the pace of our lives and bringing us closer together than ever before, as well as presenting profound challenges to our self-perception, politics, the economy, security, and society.
Established political, economic and social elites are losing ground. Populist, nationalist and extremist movements are on the rise. It is difficult to keep up with the vast amount of information that bombards us daily, let alone evaluate its true value or meaning and put it in a proper context.
Wars and conflicts in Europe’s immediate neighbourhood and in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia challenge our views on morality, norms, and values. Terrorist attacks fuel fear in our lives and societies, and the fact that there are millions of refugees worldwide deepens our sense of insecurity.
With the world order possibly at breaking point, we need a strategic vision, strong democratic leadership, and perseverance. We need to adapt to the new reality, but always remember the foundations on which our modern societies were built. It is vital to ensure that human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law continue to be respected, as well as everything else we have built through the decades.
The future according to Tanja Fajon, Ivan Krastev and Jacques Rupnik
What drives Europe and the world in the 21st century? Can we overcome the current atmosphere of fear, helplessness and hopelessness?
In an informal chat with the three thinkers we will ‘pick their brain’ about big societal issues that are the EU’s key challenges for the next decade. We will ask them how the move towards a society of change and innovation is reshaping Europe’s economic model. Will everything in the future really be completely digital? On the issues of global social and democratic revolution, how can Europe deal with growing economic (and political) inequalities within the EU and beyond, and how can we restore trust in democracy, especially among the younger generation? Also, we will tackle issues of global geopolitical revolution, and ask them how they see the role of Europe in the new fragile and unpredictable world order.
The European Union in a changed world
The economic and financial crisis, unstable eastern and southern neighbourhoods, migration pressures, and a generally deteriorating security situation, combined with an upsurge in terrorist acts in Europe, have in recent years eroded trust between the Member States and caused a shift in relations between EU institutions. Such developments are occurring at a time when major global players are turning away from multilateralism and considering economic protectionism.
Some Member States advocate the full implementation of the single market, while others shy away from the liberalisation of the single market in services. Developments accompanying the conclusion of agreements with the United States and Canada (i.e. TTIP and CETA, respectively) have spotlighted a plethora of reservations among politicians and the public in various Member States alike.
The world is on the brink of rampant protectionism. Will the European Union be able to consolidate from within and re-establish itself on the global stage as a bastion of multilateralism and free and fair trade?
Global nuclear governance: Quo vadis?
The global security situation is more unstable and unpredictable than at the end of the Cold War. The increased tensions are further aggravated by public statements about the possible use and modernisation of nuclear weapons, as well as military exercises that simulate their deployment, including unannounced drills. Developments in other regions around the globe are also a cause for concern.
This new reality calls for more attention to global nuclear governance, and highlights the importance of preserving the integrity of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and achieving its universality and full implementation. It also shows the need for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-TestBan Treaty (CTBT) as an important pillar of global security.
Furthermore, efforts to make the world safer and more protected from the nuclear threat are important for the continued peaceful use of atomic energy, while global governance should also be strengthened to keep pace with evolving challenges and threats, including the possibility of cyber attacks against nuclear installations.
Human rights in times of change
Changes, rising insecurity, or the heightened perception of insecurity, coupled with the fear of the unknown, often give rise to human rights violations. History teaches us that protecting human rights and dignity helps prevent conflict, dispel ignorance, instil respect for others, and build better societies that are more resilient to threats from within and from without. So in times of change and insecurity, we should seek to strengthen respect for human rights, not the opposite.
What is the role of human rights in today’s society, why do we need them, and how they can help us face the insecurities of modern times? These questions will be answered in a conversation with the person responsible for human rights protection at the global level, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
Southern Mediterranean and the promise of regional integration
Countries on all the shores of the Mediterranean today face the same serious challenges: external pressures, internal divisions, economic uncertainty, a lack of prospects for young people, migration, extremism and radicalisation. In this context of global instability, and yet of immense regional opportunities, the value of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership is at its highest.
There is scope and a need for more multilateralism and, even more importantly, for more integration in the South. At the moment, for example, only 1% of trade in the Euro-Mediterranean region flows between the Southern partners. How can meaningful regional cooperation be bolstered? Which good practices can we build on? And, above all, is the South ready?
There is growing consensus that security and stability – prerequisites of progress – can only be dealt with by addressing ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ security issues in parallel: a positive agenda for youth; intercultural and interfaith dialogue; human rights education; academic mobility, joint research, and job creation. Which lessons learned could be applied and what are their limitations?
Water for peace and security
The uneven distribution of freshwater in the world, its vital importance for life and development, as well as factors such as population growth, urbanisation, and climate change, all determine the relationship between water and peace, as well as increase its relevance. Some states have already demonstrated their commitment to preserving this vital natural resource for future generations; nevertheless, global awareness of the importance of the nexus between water and peace still lags behind current pressing trends.
The protection of water in armed conflict, the mechanisms of hydro-diplomacy, and the role of water as an instrument in reconstruction and reconciliation processes in post-conflict situations have not been extensively explored. International institutions lack effective instruments to prevent water-related armed conflict and to use water-related mechanisms for maintaining sustainable peace.
The success of international initiatives will depend on continued and comprehensive awareness of the urgent need to address the challenges that water poses for peace and security. Furthermore, commitment and progress in dealing with security-related questions regarding water scarcity will also help address other water challenges, including the Sustainable Development Goals.
Western Balkans: EU enlargement – Is pretending the name of the game?
It should have been clear by now that it is in the EU’s strategic interest that the enlargement process has no alternative, as the Western Balkan countries are surrounded by EU Member States. The European Union must be the actor in the region, setting an example, offering opportunities, cooperation, connectivity, support and, when necessary, facilitation.
Last December, the Union failed to agree on the Council’s traditional conclusions on enlargement. Additionally, this year, the European Commission will not publish its annual enlargement reports. Such inaction could easily be interpreted as a reflection of the lack of the EU’s interest in continuing the enlargement dynamics.
Despite the engagement of many experts and many regional processes and initiatives, we are witnessing a lack of implementation of agreements. This may be a consequence of the fractured relations in the region, the internal political situation in individual countries, the situation in the EU, and the slow pace of the enlargement process.
Realistic hope – How transformation happens faster than one thinks
We are polluting our water; robots will take our jobs; we are eating ourselves to an early death; the old-age pension and health systems are making governments bankrupt, and the immigration crisis is affecting the European integration project. A growing list of nightmares, perfect storms, and global catastrophes fuel fear of the future.
But there is another way of looking at the future. We do not have to be pessimistic or optimistic; we can simply have realistic hope, like future-oriented thinkers and doers who do not ignore reality, but take these challenges into account when exploring the possibility of making a better future for many more generations.
Digital diplomacy in the 21st century: To Tweet or not to Tweet in foreign affairs?
Never before in the history of foreign affairs or diplomacy have heads of state had a method of such immediate and uncensored communication at their disposal as they have today with social media tools such as Twitter.
We saw social media play an important part in the Arab Spring, and recently in Turkey during an attempted coup. However, political leaders nowadays bypass traditional forms of communication and conduct foreign policy in 140 characters or less via Twitter, without reflecting on their action or its consequences.
Some argue that foreign policy should not be conducted via Twitter, while others feel that Twitter and the vast array of social media tools available today could launch a new form of public diplomacy, called Public Diplomacy 2.0. To Tweet or not to Tweet in foreign affairs, that is the question.
This panel discussion will be held in cooperation with the Global Diplomacy Lab (GDL), an initiative by the German Federal Foreign Office and several private foundations and an international cross-sectoral platform for exploring a more inclusive diplomacy which goes beyond traditional politics.
Night Owl Session – Fake news, and do the media still need editors?
The growing use of the Internet and social media platforms, where anyone can share their version of the truth and spread misinformation, has fragmented the commonly agreed basis for reality and led to the polarisation of public opinion.
While the ‘fake news’ phenomenon is not at all new, the alternative facts phenomenon, along with media hacking, the changed rules of the political game, and the role of the media, is now in the forefront of mainstream debates.
Until we find an effective way of detecting manipulated versions of the same content and protecting ourselves from them, the truth, contrary to public interest, will continue to be tailor-made for and by every user, every company, and every government.