Public diplomacy for global peace: TRT World Forum 2018

Published 06.10.2018 00:50

Representing a successful case of public diplomacy through media, the TRT World Forum achieved its aim of synthesizing and showcasing expert views, balanced analysis and human conscience by bringing key issues to the attention of international public opinion

The international system and global political economy are undergoing a profound process of structural transformation from the relative sense of stability during the Cold War and the post-Cold War years to an almost chaotic future under diffused multipolarity. The U.S. is rapidly withdrawing from its previous position as the global hegemon and is obviously reluctant to undertake the substantial costs associated with the maintenance of hegemonic stability. China offers a limited vision of regional and international integration based on transport, energy, communications and infrastructure linkages; but is still very far away from emerging as an alternative hegemonic power that could provide stability in critical conflict hotspots. Leading global powers have a tendency to avoid involvement in conflict resolution while ethnic, sectarian, territorial and resource-based conflicts rage in different geographies. Failed states, weakening regional and international regimes, political and economic crises, human rights abuses, xenophobia, racism, climate change and economic protectionism constitute major challenges for the future of humanity.

In this volatile world of intensifying direct and proxy conflicts, rising tensions, fragmented identities and humanitarian calamities, every effort aimed at envisioning new avenues of peace and security is extremely valuable.

This week, I had the privilege of taking part in and following the proceedings of the TRT World Forum 2018, a major two-day event organized by the public international broadcasting channel of Turkey, TRT World. The forum comprised of eight open and 12 closed sessions focusing on critical issues related with global peace and security including the rise of the global south, leadership of women, regional players in the Middle East, the EU and its discontents, social media and trust formation, international collaboration against terrorism, China's strategy toward the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, national defense industries and changing parameters of foreign policy making.

In only its second year running, the forum has already established itself as a major international gathering of leading policy makers, diplomats, journalists, business actors, activists and social media figures from around the world.

From Queen Rania Al Abdallah of Jordan to Jack Straw, from Borge Brende of the World Economic Forum to Hamid Karzai, several well-known figures from among the international political and economic elite were notably present in the forum. There was also a strong presence from the academic communities, think tanks, media outlets, nongovernmental organizations and opinion formers from around the world. The closed sessions of the forum witnessed lively debates among prominent experts of technical issues which might have an impact on the formation of peace and security in a fragmented world such as empowering endogenous national defense industries of developing states; empowering foreign policy networks and institutions; assessing the political and economic effects of global projects such as China's "Belt and Road" initiative; new ways of conflict resolution in Syria, Palestine, Myanmar, Yemen and Libya and fighting Islamophobia and extremism.

As an invited speaker in the special session on China's relations with the Middle East, I had the chance to exchange views with a distinguished panel of international experts which was truly enlightening.

Representing a successful case of public diplomacy through media, the TRT World Forum achieved to synthesize and express expert views, balanced analysis and human conscience to the attention of international public opinion.

The World Citizen Awards, which were presented for the first time to individuals with outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes across the world, was especially a crucial initiative designed to support virtue, honesty, noble ethical conduct and human to human interaction.

The award winners, from Mohammed Bzeek, who cares for children with terminal illnesses abandoned by their parents and looked after them until their last days in the U.S., to Hawa Diblawee who as a gynecologist provided free medical care to thousands of refugee women in Somalia, were representing the virtuous face of humanity.

The awards presented to these exemplary individuals provided courage and moral support for their good deeds and set them as role models for the coming generations.

All in all, the forum proved a great success both as an initiative of public diplomacy for Turkey during a difficult political and economic conjuncture, as well as a major international platform stimulating productive debate for global peace and security. The Director General of public broadcaster TRT, İbrahim Eren, and his young team deserve deep appreciation for their great effort which perfectly reflected Turkey's stance in the global system as a principled and virtuous power. Unconventional channels of diplomacy like these provide strong support for formal and institutional endeavors.

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