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Back from the St. Gallen Symposium

May 22, 2011

I have just returned from the renowned St. Gallen Symposium, otherwise known as the “3 days in May” at St. Gallen inSwitzerland. See the awesome promo video here.

Now St. Gallen is one of those cities that has a Chinese restaurant obligatorily named “Chinatown” – across the street from the Moroccan restaurant named “Sahara”.

and as much as they may try to convince me it’s a large city – “the center of Eastern Switzerland”, they said – the city smells like cow shit. I kid you not. I pointed that out to my friend Frederic – and he responds “well of course, you’re in a village here!”

Village or not, the University of St.Gallen is a renowned business university – one of the best in region assuredly, and attracts a large number of foreign students, mostly Germans.

Back to the Symposium then – I was invited as a faculty member and a “Leader of Tomorrow” (har, har),[see my silly introductory interview which is unrelated to the title they gave it] and my contribution to the conference proceedings was two-fold:

– First, a public interview with Ribal Al-Assad, who happens to be Bashar Al-Assad’s first cousin and a political opponent to the regime, based in London. That was on the opening session, and the full video is actually available online. I had fun grilling him a bit!

– The second was a panel discussion titled “the media, a sword. But who carries it?” and I was opposing aUSarmy major. That was quite fun, too. (no video though – Chatham House rules).

Overall, I had a great time in St. Gallen. I am blown away by the quality of the organization – all students, all the way down to the waiters during dinner, impressively – which seriously beats many ministerial and presidential receptions and conferences (not that I’m a regular, but the few I’ve been to don’t hold a candle to the St. Gallen crew). I’ve also greatly enjoyed meeting other participants from around the globe, as well as the delightful organizing team.

The topic, “Just Power”, was also quite interesting – split into 5 streams or ‘clusters’ addressing different types of power (Politics and arms; Money and ownership; Voice; Leadership and Authority; and Values and Ideas), you were never out of an interesting session to attend!

Pretty good speaker line-up, too, which included a couple of ministers, as well as international heavyweights such as Nasser El Saidi, Johan Galtung, Martin Wolf, etc..

I am mostly disappointed that a hateful individual like Hirsi Ali was invited to give a plenary talk, but she’s obviously learned to conceal her anti-Muslim vitriol behind prettier words – the “open society” is the keyword she’s been repeating. (Actually I think she’s been refining this theme since I first saw her speak in 2006).

Bottom line – an excellent conference! Will definitely consider going again next year.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Khaled permalink
    May 22, 2011 7:57 am

    I just wanted to say that your new website design rocks! I like it very much !

  2. Mario permalink
    April 17, 2014 1:27 am

    Thank you a lot, very interesting.
    Still I can’t get your sarcasm about such a great hero of human rights as Hirsi Ali. You should be ashamed of your thoughts.

    • April 17, 2014 7:59 am

      Hi Mario, thanks for your comment. Hirsi Ali is the antithesis of a human rights defender. Rather than support freedom she wants Muslims surveilled, harassed, jailed, bombed on account of their faith. HR are quintessentially global. She seeks to restrict them to those who agree with her. She spreads hate, defames entire communities. If she is a hero of human rights, then I’m the Queen of England.

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