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The Second China-Europa Forum Inspired from the Alliance Methodology

The second China-Europa Forum was held last October in 23 European cities of 7 different countries. Pierre Calame, General Manager of the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind (FPH) tells us here how the forum started out from the major findings of the World Citizens Assembly of Lille: the need to build a global community and no longer rely on state-to-state relations. The entire conception of the forum was derived from Alliance learning: the idea of combining the three dimensions of diversity – geocultural, socioprofessional and thematic; the requirement of reflecting this threefold diversity through a quota system for choosing the participants; the facilitation procedures of the workshops and the "real time" restitution of the workshop summaries thanks to conceptual mapping; finally, the role played by the Web site to provide an overall view. This forum is thus the illustration of the strategy adopted in 2003 for the new stage of the Alliance: using the experience of the first stage to feed a multitude of more autonomous initiatives inspired by its objectives and its methods.

The second China-Europa Forum was held last October in 23 European cities of 7 different countries, then in Brussels. It was an unprecedented initiative to bring European society and the Chinese society into a dialog on the main challenges of the contemporary world. In all, 1,000 participants were involved in the forum: from all walks of life, from all the member states of the European Union, and from the four corners of China.
The opening plenary session held in Brussels on October 6, 2007 was presided by Jacques Delors, a true European Union icon with a vision and open to the world. There is good reason that everywhere in Brussels you hear people say "We need a new Delors!" Top representatives of all the European institutions spoke at this opening session to express their support for this dialog between societies. The Chinese authorities expressed the same support through their ambassador.
But these plenary sessions were preceded by 46 workshops of about 20 persons each, organized on October 4 and 5 in 23 different cities of 7 European countries of the Schengen zone, often with the support of the local communities involved. Nineteen of these workshops were "socioprofessional"; twenty-seven were "thematic"… Does this ring a bell?

Every workshop was in addition held to using for each of the four sessions the same format to write the summaries, which made it possible, thanks to desmographic (conceptual mapping) tools, to present to the plenary, barely 24 hours after the completion of the 46 workshop reports, a provisional summary along with a document showing how the summary had been built from the workshop contributions. Does this ring a bell?

Disinterested European media vs. a huge Chinese coverage

As in Lille, the silence of the European media regarding this event was deafening while the most important and most diverse Chinese media – TV, newspapers and magazines, Web sites and blogs – gave it exceptional coverage.
The history of the China-Europa Forum is in itself instructive. The first forum was held in October 2005 in China, in Nansha close to Canton. Its objective was specific and it was not intended, at the start, to turn into a permanent process. At the time, the idea was to respond to the wish of Chinese society to deepen their understanding of the construction process of the European Union, to learn of the lessons drawn by the Europeans themselves, and to consider the lessons that China on its part could draw from it. For instance, one of the questions that the Chinese wonder about is that regarding French-German reconciliation and the role played in this reconciliation by the European construction, because, after World War II, no equivalent process took place between China and Japan.
This first forum led the actors and witnesses of the European construction to tell the best of their experience. It was so interesting that it gave birth, in French, to a book, L’Europe c’est pas du chinois, published by the Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer. You can download it for free at the ECLM Web site.
As often happens, the success of the first forum transformed its very nature: it was a pity to stop when the going was so good, and the idea of a biennial forum held alternately in China and in Europe became evident.

A project completely in keeping with the new stage of the Alliance

When it came to designing in the fall of 2006 the second forum to be held in October 2007, things became more intense.
This was not going to be about "presenting China to the Europeans." For better and for worse, China is in vogue in Europe and there are now innumerable symposia on China. The objective here was necessarily more ambitious: to start a society-to-society dialog on the common challenges. The FPH financed this second forum massively, for an amount probably comparable to that provided to the Alliance World Citizens Assembly of Lille, because it perfectly reflected its guidelines for 2003-2010: contribute to the emergence of a world community. But in fact, these guidelines are simply the findings of the Alliance and the World Citizens Assembly: build a world community, build international citizens alliances, work jointly on a number of major common challenges.
The Constituent Charter of the China-Europa Forum is itself directly inspired from the Constituent Charter of the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World for its 2004-2010 stage: common objectives; a common ethics; and common working procedures. This was the tripod that we used to invent the Alliance governance. The idea was precisely that in the phase that was opening up, the inspiration of the Alliance should irrigate a large diversity of initiatives, each of them autonomous.
If you go to the China-Europa Forum Web site and you look at the philosophy of the second China-Europa Forum, for its facilitation methods, its production and restitution of summaries, you will find at all points all the ingredients that we acquired in the framework of the Alliance and the preparation of the World Citizens Assembly.
This is first true for the general conception and the idea that the diversity of the world can be expressed in three dimensions: geographical diversity (geocultural workshops of the Alliance); socioprofessional diversity (socioprofessional networks of the Alliance); thematic diversity (thematic workshops). This is what led us to conceiving the forum as decentralized, distributed throughout the European territory with on the one hand, socioprofessional workshops, and on the other, thematic ones.
The first worked on the question of the responsibility of a socioprofessional sector to the rest of society (the question, familiar to Allies, of the new social contract). The second aimed to understand how behind different realities stood common questions, from population ageing to sustainable development. Socioprofessional workshops and thematic workshops were grouped according to the methodology of the four Alliance workgroups.

A quasi-obsession with the diversity requirement

We also took from the preparation of the Assembly 2000, the quasi-obsessive requirement of participant diversity. Longstanding Allies may remember the discussions and controversies at the time, regarding the selection of the participants for the World Citizens Assembly. Some thought that it should above all be an Assembly of the Allies. But an Assembly of Allies would have been infinitely far from reflecting the socioprofessional and geocultural diversity of the world. We therefore imposed upon ourselves to prepare the Lille assembly on the basis of quotas per socioprofessional sphere and per geographical zone. These quotas were frowned upon and denounced at the time by Allies who saw us desperately seeking such and such a woman from Central Asia or such and such a company manager from India, but in the end, that was what gave Lille its quite extraordinary symbolic force and, for those who experienced the opening event of the World Citizens Assembly, induced that feeling that for once, "the world was there."
Selection of the participants for the second China-Europa Forum benefited from the learning of Lille: the constitution of networks of informants to help us enlarge the dialog and a participant selection procedure privileging diversity. Even if we were not able, as in Lille in fact, to comply completely with the criteria of geographical and socioprofessional diversity that we had set, in particular because in China it was the universities that organized the selection of participants, thus privileging the academic world, these requirements of diversity impregnated the whole symposium.
The facilitation of the workshops and restitution of their work was also traced from that used at the World Citizens Assembly. We kept the idea that the summaries should be produced in the form of short statements, which are the describers of our desmography software. The collective discipline was almost miraculously applied by everyone and this is what had made it possible for us to present summary elements at the Lille plenary.
Finally, inspired by the Alliance, was the idea that the only way to move forward in the construction of a world community and a prospective vision of the world of tomorrow, is to respect the twofold imperative of diversity and autonomy on the one hand, and that of a consistent unity and a cross-cutting view on the other.
The idea that we got from the Alliance experience is that this unity is to be obtained not through a "central government" but through common working procedures and a common ethics. Besides the restitution method for the workshop results, the Web site of the forum is another perfect illustration. Like that of the Alliance, it is organized by workshops. For each, there are issue statements, Chinese and European, to set the stage, and various contributions to feed the thinking.

Now, to pursue the dialog … with the Alliance methodology

The success of the second China-Europa Forum has in turn produced a mutation of its very nature. After the first forum, we went from a specific event to a dialog process marked by biennial meetings. The success of the second has transformed it into a continuous dialog process, in which the biennial meetings are merely stages.
For this to be, the dialog initiated in every workshop will have to be prolonged and the Web site completed with interactive discussion forums. And, of course, we will once again benefit from the experience of the Alliance by leaning on the e-Forum Facilitation Guide, with the contribution of the human resources that have been constituted over the years.


Pierre Calame
Chairman, Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for (...)
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