World worthies gather in Sweden to debate global issues

Politicians, artists and business leaders from around the world will meet in Sweden this weekend for a brainstorming session on humanistic approaches to tackling issues such as terrorism, climate change, globalization and world poverty, organisers said.

The Tällberg Forum, named after the picturesque lakeside town 270 kilometres north of Stockholm where the event will be held, is aimed at giving delegates a chance to “spend a few days beyond their ordinary pressures and specific responsibilities and instead take a step back and look at the whole,” a statement from the Tällberg Foundation said.

The five-day conference, called “How on Earth Can we Live Together? Exploring Frameworks for Sustainable Global Interdependence”, opens Friday and will see, among other things, a panel discussion on humanism amid rising fundamentalism featuring EU Commission vice president Margot Wallström, internationally acclaimed opera singer Barbara Hendricks and Jordanian Prince El Hassan bin Talal.

Another panel made up of former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq Hans Blix, UN undersecretary general Shashi Tharoor and senior Shell oil executive Koosum Kalyan will debate the role of the nation state and the need for reform.

Other delegates include Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka, Chinese poet Bei Dao, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, former Irish president Mary Robinson and Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan.

South African hip hop group Black Noise is also scheduled to attend, as are Volvo Car president Hans-Olov Olsson, human rights activists, researchers, environmentalists and senior executives from Morgan Stanley, Johnson and Johnson, Unilever and AT+T Wireless.

Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia will inaugurate the meeting, and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who had initially been due to take part, will address the conference by a video link-up.

“The world is becoming a complex integrated system, with supply chains, markets and finance, information, migration flows etc not confined by any borders,” organisers said.

“Issues such as poverty, stability and security, and environmental threats cannot meaningfully be dealt with separately as independent issues,” the statement said, adding that numerous concerts and performances would be part of the event as “culture and the arts make up an integral part of the process”.

No formal decisions are expected to come from the panel discussions, plenary sessions and workshops.

The Tällberg Foundation, a non-profit organisation set up to promote understanding of transformational leadership, values and institutional change, has hosted the event since 1981 but this year’s edition is much larger than usual.