The Words of the Tokuno Family
Tallinn, Estonia -- UPF-Estonia convened a leadership conference on the theme of "Peace Building in Multicultural Societies -- The Baltic Dialogue Initiative" in Tallinn on June 2.
The event was part of a series of UPF conferences on a similar theme in Moscow (April 6-7), in Baku, Azerbaijan (May 29) and in Tbilisi, Georgia (May 31). The Tallin Forum brought together 70 participants from five nations: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, and Finland. Begun by UPF-Eurasia in 2011, the Baltic Dialogue Initiative aims at overcoming the consequences of the Soviet past and moving on to a new type of cooperation and integration among Baltic nations and Russia.
The first session began with opening remarks from the UPF-Eurasia Regional Chair Eiji Tokuno, and Professor Anton Raukas, a member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences. It was followed by a report on the ethnic dialogue experienced in the city of Kondopoga, Russia by Mrs. Olga Meshkova, head of the city's NGO council. Then Dr. Thomas Walsh, President of UPF International, gave some remarks on the issue of multiculturalism and a report on recent UPF projects around the world.
The second session began with a presentation on the UPF philosophy of education by UPF-Eurasia Secretary General Jacques Marion. He was followed by Dr. Liidia Kõlvart, President of the LÜÜRA NGO, who told about the 20-year history of her organization regrouping more than 50 local NGOs of ethnic minorities in Estonia. Mrs. Tatyana Krasnosumova, head of UPF-Northwest Russia, spoke about Baltic Dialogue projects sponsored by UPF in cooperation with Finland and Sweden and educational programs for Youth Peace Ambassadors in the St. Petersburg region. Mr. Roland Rand, Founder of the Estonian NGO "Diverse Faith Alliance." gave a report on the controversy surrounding the bronze soldier statue in Tallinn that caused clashes between Estonian and ethnic Russians three years ago. Finally, Mrs. Ilvi Joe-Cannon spoke about the historical struggles and the evolving attitudes regarding abuse of women in multi-ethnic Estonia.
Final reflections were given by Prof. Toomas Alatalu from Tallinn University and Dr. Rony Smolar from the Helsinki Jewish community. Both affirmed the relevance of the multicultural issue and the need to continue promoting dialogue among Baltic nations. After brief comments by representatives from Lithuania and Latvia, Dr. Walsh concluded the event with a reflection on the converging trends toward globalization and the claims of ethnic identity that underlie multiculturalism in the world today. He encouraged Ambassadors for Peace in the Baltic region and Russia to continue their dialogue.