Eurasian Media Forum: How the World is Changing and How the World Changes us?
A swan drifts in the water, its plumage glowing under the pale moonlight; it is the dance of a woman, arms fluttering in the air, her long white dress a body of feathers. With this fine sample of the national Kazakh dance, the XV Eurasian Media Forum, EAMF, was inaugurated in Almaty on Thursday May 22nd, 2018. Hundreds of journalists from different parts of the world have come to the beautiful city in central Asia to discuss topics ranging from Fake Reporting on Social Media, Overall Global Cooling in Diplomatic Relations, to the Future of the Europe Union, Gender Equality in Media, and Global Warming.
“The role of media is crucial in our times,” said Dauren Abayev, Minister of Information of Communications of the Republic of Kazakhstan. “The information delivered by media can trigger the escalation of a conflict, or it can promote its conciliation, provide insight over the issues at stake. We want to continue creating a space where the journalistic community from East and West can find a dialogue on how to best deliver information.”
After a few years of being held in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, the Forum has returned to the city of Almaty, where it was first created. One of the conference’s aims is to have high level discussions on several critical subjects and the organizers have convened world leaders and decision makers such as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kairat Abdrakhmanov, Italy’s former Primer Minister, Matteo Renzi, Member of the House of Lords, Michael Dobbs, journalist and Member of the Italian Parliament, Deborah Bergamini, among many others. “During the Forum the world’s eyes are set on Kazakhstan and and for us it is of great symbolic significance that it takes place during the holy month of Ramadan,” said Dariga Nazarbayeva, Chairperson of the EAMF Organizing Committee. “It is a reminder of the values of forgiveness, honesty and self-examination, caring for others, that we want to foster in the world through these dialogues.”
During the first session, Evolutions of International Relations: Global Cooling, the topics discussed ranged from the rise of populism across the world and the civil war in Syria, to globalization and automation, the diplomacy challenges faced in Iran and North Korea. “We believe North Korea can see Kazakhstan as an example,” said Mr. Abdrakhmanov. “It is possible to give up nuclear aspirations, have a safer world, and at the same time become a prosperous nation.”
As for the challenges Europe is facing, namely the trust between the people and their political institutions, Matteo Renzi emphasized the need for a stronger will of the political elite to address the growing disconnect with the citizens. “The moment when I understood the situation in Europe was right after the Charlie Hebdo attacks,” he said. “In 2015, several politicians had come to Paris to express words of support and the cars were stuck amid the hundreds of thousands of people in the streets. It was symbolic to me because we politicians were nothing there. The real force was the people.”
Automation, artificial intelligence and globalization were mentioned as perpendicular factors affecting jobs, a shift in skills required in the marketplace, and the fears that could lead up to forms of nationalism and trade wars. “President Donald Trump resonates with a segment of the population because he’s promised people he could bring them back to the past,” Gary Locke, former US Ambassador to China said. “McKinsey estimates that in 12 years time, roughly 800 million jobs will be displaced due to automation. It’s not outsourcing, it’s not globalization or the undocumented migrants. It’s the advances on technology that are causing the changes in the job market. We need to face those facts instead of scapegoating people or countries just because it’s easier.”
Migration and the refugee influx remain high on the agenda and from different points of view across EU member states. “The decision by Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015 had a strong economic rationale,” said Sam Wilkin, Senior Advisor to Oxford Economics. “By 2021 Germany’s population on working age will not be enough to fulfill all the jobs required and the country will suffer an economic penalty. In Italy and Greece, however, the situation is different. There’s unemployment and so the perception among the people there will be different.”
Regarding the implications linked to Brexit, one of the concerns has become defense and security. “The UK’s and France’s armies are the largest ones in the EU so with UK leaving, the Commission’s latest budget proposal reveals an increase in military spending,” said Eli Hadzhieva, Director at Dialogue for Europe, an NGO and Think Tank in Brussels. Some worrying parallels could be drawn with the results in Italy’s recent elections. “Ten years ago, Italians were the most pro-European citizens,” said Deborah Begamini, Member of the Italian Parliament. “Now the situation has changed dramatically. Many people in Italy, specially young people are asking themselves: Where do we stand in Europe’s vision? What happened to our dreams?”
In the following session, From Facts to Fake News, one of the most active discussions revolved around the dissemination of fake news, how it can affect politics, business, and personal lives. “It is important to find out why fake news, in so many occasions spread like fire, they go viral, much more so than verified news. Why is that? We need to find the root, psychological cause,” said Harlem Desir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. “In Norway they have created an independent fact-checking entity called Faktisk. This is one of the first steps being taken at a national level to deal with these problems.”
Information delivery is being confronted with two opposing forces: Speed versus Accuracy. In the current information and technology-driven era, society as a whole has developed an urge for instant gratification where emails, messages, pictures, are expected to arrive every second. Speed appears to be winning the battle over accuracy. But for some specialists the issue ought to be looked with a different yet known perspective. “Some people put a lot of attention to what they eat. They want to know how much sugar, fat, gluten, there is in every food they buy,” said Roger Fisk, Political Strategist at New Day Strategy. “People should put the same level of attention to the information they consume. It’s of the same level of importance.”