“The views represented in this opinion piece do not necessarily represent those of the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy.”
In the opening ceremony of the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS), in the arena of the Grand Ice Palace in Sochi´s Olympic Park, the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, urged youth to “strive to change the world and make it a better place”. In this edition of the festival, the focus switched from politics to technology, perhaps acknowledging it as the main enabler of the change that Putin strived for. In all the questions concerning the future that were raised during the event, technology was almost ubiquitous. Not only the technical but also the social and cultural aspects related to technological developments were discussed.
The WFYS is an international event organized by the World Federation of Democratic Youth and constituted to promote peace, friendship, and solidarity while struggling against imperialism. This edition of the WFYS took place last October from the 14th until the 22nd, in Sochi, a city located in the southwest of the Russian Federation. A total of more than 25000 participants from 185 countries could benefit from a wide spectrum of activities, ranging from discussions, cultural, scientific and educational, to sporting events. Just in the discussion program participated 1325 speakers, e. g. the Russian astronaut, world record-holder for the total time spent in space, Sergei Krikaliev, or the Nobel laureate, American astrophysicist and cosmologist George Fitzgerald Smoot III.
The participants were mainly students or representatives from political institutions or civil society, ultimately sharing the concern on how to improve human lives or at least the well-being of their communities. Given their so diverse backgrounds, the interaction with other participants was one of the most rewarding outcomes from the festival. Being able to share ideas on how to contribute to global issues at a local level, as well as to learn from different cultures and life conceptions, was profoundly enriching.
In addition, the festival offered a great opportunity to exercise discernment so as to dissect the dogmatic from the arguable components of the different political ideologies, and to train the communication skills in order to be able to conduct a constructive dialogue. Moreover, it was very interesting to analyze and to dig into the interstice of the immense deployment of Russian propaganda that the festival itself was. Being proficient in these skills is not only critical for becoming a competent policymaker but also to develop and to train intellectual honesty.
Being as it might have been, the festival was indeed very successful in one thing: promoting friendship. In the current times of unprecedented global challenges, the struggle for existence, borrowing the term from evolutionary biology, has switched its focus from people fighting against people for limited resources to people fighting against the environment. This circumstance, according to the great American paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, leads to the emergence of cooperation as a mean for survival. It is precisely through the promotion of friendship that cooperation can be attained, and it is only through cooperation that we will be able to come out triumphant from the challenges of our time.
Photos from the event are available at http://wfys2017.tassphoto.com/