World Expos and the promotion of Peace, Interview of Pr. Federico Mayor

World Expo Shanghai 2010

The participating countries' flags at Expo Shanghai 2010

Promoting cooperation between countries is one of the core missions of Expos. The idea behind these global events is not only to entertain millions of visitors, it is first and foremost to provide a neutral discussion platform where the international community, companies, NGOs and citizens can figure out together solutions for a better world. The BIE believes it is the only way of solving the most important issues of humanity.

Behind this objective of fostering cooperation, lies the intrinsic ambition of promoting peace between nations. On the occasion of the International Day of Peace celebrated last Sunday all over the world, we have asked Peace advocate Federico Mayor Zaragoza about the challenges ahead to reach global peace and how Expos can contribute.

BIE: Mr Federico Mayor Zaragoza, you were Director General of UNESCO for 12 years before launching in 2000 the Foundation for a Culture of Peace (Fundacion para una cultura de Paz). What has led you to build this foundation?

Federico Mayor Zaragoza: I wanted to continue promoting the fundamental mission of UNESCO: facilitate the transition from an ancestral culture of domination, violence and war towards a culture of conversation, exchange, alliance and peace.

What is the main obstacle to achieving global peace and how can Expos help make the transition?

What has united all regions of the world for as long as I can remember is the culture of war. Based on the adage "Si vis pacem, para bellum"- if you want peace prepare for war- the absolute power of men has always organized war. It is unacceptable that over 3 000 million dollars are invested every day in weapons and military expenses, while 50 000 people die of hunger, a majority of which being children between 1 and 5 years old. We have to invest in what is truly important, like stopping the spread of Ebola virus or facilitating access to AIDS treatments. Expos can help in raising awareness and changing consciousness.

In recent years, the Civil Society has become increasingly present in World and International Specialized Expos. In light of your diplomatic experience, and your current position of director of an NGO, how would you analyse this evolution?

Citizens have gone from being scared and silent spectators to becoming true protagonists working towards a global consciousness. In a few years, with information and communication technologies, the power of citizens could become decisive. The increasing role women play in our societies is also crucial. Women have an inherent respect for life and are generally less inclined towards violence; they can greatly contribute to the promotion of peace. That's part of why I think the switch from force to dialogue is not that far away.

World Expos and your foundation share a common objective of education. According to you, in what way is education essential in building a fairer and more solidary world?

Education, according to the 1st Article of the UNESCO Constitution, means making sure all human beings are "free and responsible". This is fundamental to brighten a dark future and bring "unprecedented" solutions to "unprecedented" situations, to borrow the words of Amin Maalouf.

You have written about ocean protection, women's rights, death penalty, climate change and many other issues. What global challenges do you think future Expos should address?

I think that the most interesting challenges for Expos to address should be linked to the major global priorities: nutrition, water, health, environment, education and peace. These challenges won't be solved by an economy based on speculation, offshoring and war, but on an economy of global human sustainable development. Expos can, without a doubt, greatly contribute to this transition.