Thursday, 27 November 2014 | News today: 8

Ivo Slaus president of the World Academy of Art & Science

I strongly disagree with Samuel Huntington

What is the overall influence of the WAAS on the global trends? The brain collected within the organization is astonishing, but is it enough to change the world or the politics will remain the main factor for a long period of time?

WAAS has been founded more than 50 years ago by outstanding scientists, scholars and artists. Among WAAS founding fathers are: Albert Einstein, Lord Bertrand Russell and Robert Oppenheimer and Nobel laureates Lord John Boyd Orr (Academy’s first president), H. Muller, H. Urey, and outstanding political leaders Harlan Cleveland (also president of WAAS from 1990 to 1998) and Robert McNamara. Now WAAS has about 650 fellows from almost 100 countries throughout the world. WAAS is focused on global human welfare, human capital and global human security realizing that our world is dramatically different from what it was even hundred years ago and therefore, our current socio-economic-political paradigm has to be changed. While paradigmatic changes in physical sciences: quantum physics and theory of relativity were accomplished by a rather small group of scientists, change of our socio-economic-political paradigm is a great task that requires a coordinated creative endeavour: ideas, actions, implementations. WAAS has just initiated a harmonious effort including Club de Madrid (organization composed of former heads of states and prime ministers until recently chaired by former prime minister of the Netherlands, and now by former prime minister of Latvia), the Club of Rome (world renowned for its Limits to Growth, and now chaired by Ernst von Weizsaecker and A. Wijkman), Pugwash Movement (organization initiated by the famous Russell-Einstein Manifesto and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995), European Leadership Network, Library of Alexandria, and several other organizations and academies. Many fellows of WAAS are also members and leaders of some of these organizations. Strategy for new paradigm development requires not only new ideas and proposed actions, but also realization of the implementation of the new paradigm and therefore, besides the elite it is necessary to engage as many persons as possible and in many countries.

What are the main challenges for the future of the world, is it the energy, the drinking water, or maybe les material issues as egoism and religious differences.

Contemporary world is faced with numerous threats and most of them are human-caused, but humans have also achieved significant progress. The opening sentence of Ch. Dickens novel The tale of two cities “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times” (he was writing about the period of the French Revolution, but let me stress that French Revolution, as well as all other revolutions are insignificant when compared to the depth and breadth of the present paradigmatic change. Present socio-economic-political paradigm is destroying natural capital: the ecological footprint is already 30% larger that our Earth can tolerate, we have overshot the natural barriers for biodiversity, nitrogen balance and climate balance, and if we continue as we are doing, disaster is imminent. Similarly, this paradigm is threatening human capital – the most precious capital, and we are faced with weapons of mass destruction so powerful that they can destroy the Earth, and many of them are on hair trigger alert thereby, our world is very vulnerable to various human mistakes and accidents. On the other hand, scientific progress continues enlarging human capital, and in parallel education: lifelong and for all is opening new advances.

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During the visit of Belgrade, with the Serbian PM Dacic you have discussed the possibility of creating a plan for resolution of the economic crisis in Serbia. What is the development in this regards, can Macedonia use your know – how in case of need.

Low employment rate is one of the most serious problems of the current economic paradigm. EU and neighbouring countries have quite low employment rate, typically less than 70%, and two groups are especially threatened: young persons and those above about 50 years of age. Unemployment and underemployment are attacking human dignity and therefore, destroying human capital. WAAS has initiated a project on achieving full employment two years ago and this was one of the topics of our discussion with Serbian PM Dacic, and previously with EC president J.M. Barroso, and ILO representatives. Low employment afflicts adversely all European countries, of course, including Macedonia and Croatia. Employment is at the centre of economic issues and a conference in Brisbane organized by the Club de Madrid just a week ago was devoted to the employment issue. The Club of Rome is also engaged in solving the employment rate problem. Employment issue is intertwined with the very measurement of economic activity and progress, and – as stated by leading economists Jan Tinbergen, Kuznets, Stiglitz, Sen and many others, and also by Bobby Kennedy – GDP is an inappropriate measure and many policies in economy currently are adversely influenced by depending exclusively on GDP.

The word academy is consisted of 650 members from 86 countries. What are the criteria for becoming part of this distinguished organization?

Criteria for election in any academy are in many ways similar, but there are two distinctions that make WAAS different. For most of the academies the most important criteria are outstanding achievements in scientific, scholarly and/or artistic domains. Frequently members of the academies are elected when they are already full professors at universities and that is typically when they are older than 55. Nobody is asked to leave the academy if and/or when one stops being active. WAAS insists on present activity and commitment to actively engage in global issues and that is the second difference. Global issues are e.g. employment and security, though both of these contain local and regional aspects as well.

 Earlier you have been invited as a lecturer on the School for young leaders initiated by  President Ivanov. Do you see enough potential among the young leaders to lead the country in the future?

As our knowledge increases, as our creative capacity increases, our ability to solve or at least to approach solutions of difficult problems, e.g. governance, also increases. Children today, young people today know more that we did when we were their age. If we think that they are less capable than we were, something is quite rotten in our society. Though a world we are leaving to our children is not perfect, actually it is in quite a bad shape, we are leaving them some remarkable potentials, some tools for solving even difficult problems. I am confident our future leaders can and will succeed in assuring global human security and global welfare and that is why I strongly believe that the initiative of President Ivanov to establish the School for young leaders is an excellent idea and it is now being successfully realized. Contemporary world is faced with major changes in education. It has to enable all persons to study and to continue their studies throughout their lives, since knowledge increases exponentially with the doubling time of less than ten years. Therefore, WAAS has recently founded the World University Consortium and this endeavour has received an enthusiastic support of leading universities throughout the world. 

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Acad.Prof.Slaus, what is the purpose of your visit to Macedonia this time?

President Gj. Ivanov has been recently elected fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS) and it is my honour to come to Skopje to personally give on behalf of the WAAS the fellowship certificate to President Ivanov.

I believe you have not discussed the irrational Greek veto for Macedonian membership to EU and NATO within the WAAS, however what is your opinion on the problem that tackles not only international laws and UN charter but also individual rights of a whole nation?

I was asked to speak about EU on the occasion of EU receiving Nobel peace prize. Actually, as Board member of the Global Round Table I was one of nominators of EU for the Nobel Peace Prize. Yes, definitely EU deserves the Nobel Peace Prize and the very foundation of the EU, the methodology and all its early history deserves an excellent grade. The ideas of Monnet, Spineli, Schuman and other EU founding fathers are remarkable. Since foundation of the European Physical Society in which I actively participated as representative of the Yugoslav physical society, I often said that we – physicists did it better and continue to do it better, as can be seen by an enormous impact and contribution that e.g. CERN did. Science, and physics in particular are still the major engine of human progress. Of course, I should stress that while physics is very simple, human society is much more complex and slow progress and lack of ideas characterize it all. Unfortunately, there is also suppression of new ideas, narrow parochial interests destroying human capital everywhere. Governance is one of the most important areas of WAAS and it interconnects all our projects and activities. Though humankind achieved remarkable successes, there are many shortcomings. International and regional associations of sovereign states is the only form of global governance, and that is not adequate and much more is needed. Our recent history has been plagued by many mistakes we did, and we should learned from them. A general guiding principle should be the paramount value of individual human beings (now about seven billion, to increase to about nine billions in less than hundred years, and then to decrease to half that value in another hundred years), of diversity of cultures (currently about few thousands, and threatened to decrease to half that number, but we need to maintain this diversity and to enrich it) and the realization that we are all strongly interconnected – that we are citizens of a single global world. Of course, my strong opinion is that Macedonia should have become member of both NATO and EU as soon as it applied for membership.

You are a distinguished member of many organizations such as the Club of Rome which is sometimes mentioned as one of the structures that influence some of the global movements. What is your response on that?

It is human responsibility to contribute to global human welfare and all organizations you mentioned, as well as national academies and universities are contributing to human welfare and are influencing human future.

You have been part of the ex Yu science elite, after all we faced what is your opinion why the ex country dissolved, was It the influence from abroad or pure domestic frustrations and lack of understanding?

This question demands extensive historical analysis and that is beyond my capacity and obviously beyond this short interview, but you are quite right that – as a member of the scientific elite of SFR Yugoslavia – I share the responsibility. Of course, many inside and outside agents are also responsible. Let me address few aspects: a) could violence, aggression and loss of time have been avoided? Absolutely yes! There is no historical and cultural hatred among nationalities of SFR Yugoslavia inevitably leading to violence, war and conflict. This is a general statement valid in all cases since it is imperative that we maintain and enrich cultural diversity. We are not doomed to war and violence – this is clearly demonstrated by numerous studies and it is the foundation of the Culture of Peace project by former director general of UNESCO Federico Mayor, fellow of WAAS, and it is the conclusion of many scientists: biologists and psychologists in particular formulating in the Sevilla Declaration on Violence, a project led by J. Martin Ramirez, also fellow of WAAS. Many opportunities were missed, e.g. in my opinion Yugoslavia should have tried to become “EU” member in late 60ties. b) During one of Pugwash conferences I delivered a paper entitled “Duty to interfere and peril of intervention” where I emphasized that countries, and not only our neighbours should have interfered in our internal affairs when it became obvious that one form of totalitarian regime is being replaced by an even more malignant totalitarian regime. Intervention coming too late enlarges suffering and destruction of human capital. Interference require understanding and unfortunately many outside interferences in our tragedy in early 90ties, as are similarly repeated throughout many cases in the world even today, are based on very superficial understanding and on ill conceived prejudices.  

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Western Balkans remains the last part of European continent that is still not fuly part of EU , what do you expect when the process of euro-integration will finish in the region?

The example of the foundation of the European Physical Society I gave earlier expresses my strong opinion that the process of all European countries being members of EU should have been much faster. (We have included in European Physical Society physicists from the USA of European origin and even physical societies of Israel and Magreb) I fail to understand why gradual – country by country – enlargement is necessary or useful. Looking at the beginning of the EU, one can see gradual process from Coal and Steel, i.e. from economic integration to a more political, albeit still unfinished integration (and actually interrupted integration). One could mention the history of the USA going from 13 original states to now 50, but many of these were not states in early 19th century, while most of European now sovereign states have long history of statehood.  

Many believe that the “clash of civilizations” as Huntington envisaged will happen in the worst form here on the Balkans. Is it too pessimistic observation or there are good reason to be careful about this theory?

I had a privilege of discussing with Prof. S. Huntington his theory when he introduced it in early 90ties and from the very beginning I strongly disagreed with him. Churchill’s statement that Balkan produces more history than it can digest, is just a convenient phrase to express nothing. World has to preserve many different cultures, and contemporary world is incompatible with war and violence. It is prejudices we base our actions on, inadequate governance and inappropriate socio-economic-political paradigm that is in conflict with the contemporary world which is very different from the paradigm developed centuries ago.

By: Goran Momiroski