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Key idea: preserving peace

International Nobel Congress in Dnipro
20 вересня, 11:09
BORYS KHOLOD

Alfred Nobel University in Dnipro will host the International Nobel Congress September 20-24. This regular biennial event has served to promote science and the Nobel Movement across the world. This year’s congress will deal with works submitted by scientists from Ukraine, Sweden, Spain, UK, Austria, and US. Among the actual and online participants will be also politicians, diplomats, and world known public figures. The initiative has already been supported by prominent figures such as Roald Hoffmann (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1981, USA), Mario Vargas Llosa (Nobel Prize in Literature, 2010, Peru-Spain), Dr. Michael Nobel, entrepreneur, philanthropist, longtime head of the Nobel Family Society (Sweden), Yoel Edelstein, Speaker of the Knesset (Israel), leadership of the European Council for Business Education, and leading Ukrainian scientists and politicians.

The main topic on the agenda will be Nobel Prize winners’ peacemaking and educational mission in modern global conditions. In the following interview Alfred Nobel University President Borys Kholod comments on congress history.

How was the idea of holding the Nobel Congress in Dnipro conceived?

“Our university is the only one in the world named after Alfred Nobel. At one time I corresponded with the [Board of the] Nobel Foundation in Stockholm. I wanted to know if they thought a higher school could be named after Nobel, considering that it was not run by the government. They said it could and that, in fact, they welcomed the idea of a university bearing his name, no matter where, so long as it would attract the attention of the younger generation and society to Alfred Nobel’s ideas set forth in his will in 1895. I told them we didn’t as yet have such fundamental disciplines as physics, chemistry or mathematics, but that we had something enough and to spare, the ardent desire of the teaching staff and student body to promote Alfred Nobel’s ideas, preservation of world peace topping the list. Amazingly, writing his will, Nobel was well aware that the best developments in science, the best literary creations would make sense only when peace reigned supreme. I found an interesting note Nobel had made, concerning world politics. He wrote that he’d give anything so there would be no wars fought on this planet. He put it so well – and to think that this was written by the man who had invented dynamite! When I held the post of first deputy minister of education and science in Kyiv and later, as chairman of the National Council on Radio and Television, I planned to have a beautiful monument to Alfred Nobel in the Ukrainian capital, for example, on European Square. No one was interested ‘upstairs.’ After I returned to Dnipro, I decided to implement the idea. In 2007, I was invited to attend the World Economic Congress in Istanbul. I saw that Nobel’s ideas were very popular with the international community. I met and spoke with Nobel Prize Winner Joseph Stiglitz and it was then I decided to hold the first International Nobel Congress in Ukraine, precisely in Dnipropetrovsk. I thought that discussing prospects for world economy at a university was a good idea. In 2008, we unveiled a memorial entitled ‘Planet Alfred Nobel’ on the campus. It portrays the Nobel Prize winners in all standings, from all countries. During the unveiling ceremony, I once again became convinced that scientists and envoys from all countries hold his name in esteem. The university’s Academic Council supported the idea of holding the International Nobel Congress once every two years.”

What subjects are discussed during the congress? What are the objectives?

“Each congress is meant to help develop sciences and understanding of the surrounding world, what this world should be like, how it can benefit the rising generation. Four congresses have been held in 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014, all focusing on economics. The topic of peace appeared on the agenda after Nobel Literature Prize Winner Mario Vargas Llosa visited the university in 2014 (the visit was organized with the help of the ambassador of Kingdom of Spain to Ukraine). He met with lecturers and students and I told him that we had been holding congresses dealing with economics, but that we were concerned about the destinies of Ukraine, Europe, and human civilization. At the turn of the 21st century, we had confronted problems we could not have predicted at the end of the 20th century. It transpired that we had failed to take into account all those global changes, even though information and other technologies had made such progress. I asked Llosa what he thought of the Nobel Prize winners’ peacemaking, educational mission under current conditions. He said it was a great idea. Not only because Ukraine was fighting a war. Peace is a pressing topic for many countries, on various continents, including the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. He was echoed by Nobel Chemistry Prize Winner Roald Hoffmann with whom we met in Lviv last year. This will be the fifth such congress, but the first dedicated to peace. Young people must see the direction in which humankind will be moving. Our students will carry the peacemaking idea further. This is our main objective. Alfred Nobel University will work on winning popular support for this idea. We’ve sent letters to the Presidential Administration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and Science, Academy of Sciences, and other agencies in Ukraine and abroad, also to all Nobel Peace Prize winners. The replies we have received show that this congress agenda is quite topical.”

Which of the noted personalities will attend this congress?

“Previous congresses were attended by many scientists from various countries, mostly heads of academic institutions. There were also ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary who sent reports on the congress to their ministries. Up to 150 in all. This year we sent invitations to many Nobel Prize winners, but the domestic situation remains tense, so they replied frankly that they would not attend in person because of what’s happening in the east of Ukraine, but that they will keep cooperating with our university along these and other lines. Michael Nobel, Alfred Nobel’s grandnephew, wrote that he would attend. In fact, he had meant to attend the previous congress, but couldn’t. He will address the plenary meeting on September 21 and meet with our students.”

What about the students? What is their role during this congress?

“Traditionally, university and even Dnipro senior high school students will attend the congress on a par with noted scientists. This congress will witness the launch, on September 21, of the student movement ‘For Peace and Security in the World and Ukraine,’ initiated by the university’s Students Council. It will be dedicated to the International Day of Peace marked on that date. The congress scenario has two panel discussions for students with Michael Nobel and Spanish Ambassador Gerardo Angel Bugallo Ottone acting as speakers. English and Spanish will be the working languages. At present, we have 100 foreign students from 34 countries. This year we have received student contract proposals for 2017 and 2018 from countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. During the First Bell, one of the foreign graduates took the floor. He had two BA’s with Nobel University and University of Wales. Now he was offered top-level jobs in Nigeria. When asked if he would visit Ukraine after becoming president, he replied that he certainly would, together with high school and lyceum graduates he would recommend for enrolment in Ukraine. This continuity is very important for us.”

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