International students gather in Prague for Students' Forum 2000
The fourth annual Students' Forum took place this weekend at Prague Castle. The event drew young people from 54 countries around the world, to discuss globalisation and human rights issues. Students' Forum 2000 is the precursor to Forum 2000, an annual event that attracts world leaders to discuss similar international concerns. The Students' Forum was founded in 1998 by Czech President Vaclav Havel, who wanted to give the youth of the world an opportunity to have their voices heard. Helen Belmont has more.
Students' Forum 2000 consists of workshops and panel discussions to foster discourse on current affairs. This year's ambitious topics were globalisation and human rights, and included keynote speeches by experts in both fields. The Forum's moderator, Martin Stransky, told me what it was trying to achieve:
"I think this student forum is simply all about getting people from all different parts of the world together to discuss common issues. The topic this time is human rights in the context of globalisation type issues. I think on the one hand this might sound very simple and perhaps blatantly obvious, but on the other hand I think we can all appreciate that these really are topics of the day. The best way to be prepared for change is to anticipate it, and that's what these Forums are geared towards doing."
Mr. Stransky told me that revolutions were essentially the agenda of the young, and several other speakers emphasised the need for tolerance and plurality in such future revolutions. The goal of the Students' Forum is to foster understanding among students. As one of the speakers eloquently put it, "action without understanding is at best futile and at worst dangerous." One of the participants, Jelena Panza, originally from Yugoslavia, explained how those goals were materialised.
"We're going to be working in workshops, trying to figure out some things; what exactly what globalisation means and human rights mean for future generations and the youth today. And how we can synthesise human rights on a global scale, what it means for different cultures, and what it means for my culture personally, as opposed to other people I will be working with."
There may not be many opportunities for young people to be active in politics in the Czech Republic today, but the Students' Forum is growing larger and more successful every year. Students' Forum 2000 was also host to an interactive internet conference, an impressive example of activism in the digital age.