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Reports on Speech/Lecture

Name of Event: 
"Round Table Discussion with Mr. Richard Burge, CEO, Wilton Park, the UK
'Perspectives on Europe, Central Asia and Africa: Building Convergence'
1 May 2013

Venue:  Sapru House, New Delhi

         The Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) organized a Round Table Discussion on 'Perspectives on Europe, Central Asia and Africa: Building Convergence' with Mr. Richard Burge, CEO, Wilton Park, the United Kingdom at Sapru House, New Delhi on 1 May, 2013. The discussion was chaired by Ambassador Rajiv K. Bhatia, Director General of ICWA. Ambassador Bhatia welcomed Mr. Burge and the audience comprising researcher fellows and academicians.

         In his opening remarks, Ambassador Bhatia stated that 21st century was marked by the shift of power from west to east. He noted that current financial crisis had eroded European influence in the world affairs, but values and norms created by Europe still hold much relevance in contemporary world politics. Europe still plays significant role in shaping policies and outcomes of multilateral institutions. He highlighted the geo-strategic and geo-economic importance of Central Asia, and the rising profile of Africa. Central Asia's vast reserve of energy resources and strategic location too had gained prominence in Indian foreign policy. He expressed that ICWA and Wilton Park should collaboration in research and outreach activities in future.

         In his presentation, Richard Burge analyzed several issues mainly security and prosperity that build convergence in Africa, Central Asia and Europe. He pointed out that economic growth and IT success had played a critical role in the rise of Asia. While discussing the various aspects of security, prosperity and welfare of people in the three regions, he noted that non-traditional aspects of security had become more important than the conventional concept of state-centric security. He argued that war or armed conflicts between countries had substantially declined in the post cold war era, but threats from non-state actors had risen phenomenally resulting in terrorism, insurgency and organized crime and their transnational linkages. He emphasized on the concept of human security that promotes social prosperity and welfare of people. He said that energy, food and water security were crucial for welfare of people and society. He highlighted problem of water and food in Central Asia and Africa; hunger and food insecurity are widespread in Africa. He cautioned that the scramble for water resources can potentially lead to conflict among the Central Asian Republics. In this context, resource security is the key to the process of addressing the large human security concerns.

         Richard Burge also discussed the democratization, governance, and development. He opined that knowledge would constitute the core of international trade in the future. Therefore, research and development, advance technology, protection of intellectual prosperity rights (IPR) should be promoted. Although protection of IPRs is essential for innovation and research, social concerns against exclusive distribution of its benefits should also be taken into consideration. Access to advanced technology and medicine to people at affordable price is needed for social welfare in Asia and Africa. He said that trade of counterfeit medicines should be effectively tackled. He suggested that institutional setup and legal framework at the global level should be conducive for facilitating transfer of technology and benefits of research and development and technological innovations. Mr. Burge emphasized on the issue of 'rule of law'. He argued that 'rule of law' was integral to ensure virtues of governance i.e. transparency, accountability in political system and business. Effective and efficient governance would not only facilitate business but also is instrumental in conflict resolutions in the restive regions.

         His presentation was followed by the Q & A session. Various issues such as water security and ethnic problems in Central Asia, arms and drugs trafficking in Africa, natural resources in Arctic, transformation of NATO, and divergent positions of Asia and Europe on climate change and energy security and their linkages were discussed. Mr. Burge said that effective and efficient management of water is quintessential for livelihoods and agriculture. He believed Asia and Europe should cooperate on climate change and energy, particularly renewable energy. He agreed that transformation of NATO was crucial for addressing non-traditional security threats. Ambassador Bhatia, in his concluding remarks, stated that discussions were enlightening. He reiterated that ICWA and Wilton Park should explore new avenues for cooperation in the future.

Report by:     Dr. Dinoj K Upadhyay, Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs