The Aspen Institute Prague is a regional non-ideological platform for policy innovation and inclusive dialogue. Through its programs, the Institute facilitates the exchange of ideas, fosters open society, and promotes values-based leadership. It also serves as a venue where all parts of society, public or private, can meet, talk, and act. In this way, the Aspen Institute enlivens public debate while providing a more informed background for making decisions that will affect us all. Aspen Prague will create opportunities to connect ideas and interests of participants with diverse backgrounds: political, economic, non-governmental, academic, and cultural. It brings together people who otherwise would have limited opportunities to meet and create synergies on an independent basis.
The idea, long in gestation, of a non-partisan Central European institution with American links which would be dedicated to promoting values of good society and conducting a dialogue, both Central European and trans-Atlantic, seemed a natural continuation of a strong Central European-American link. Aspen Institute Prague started some two years ago as a dream held by Americans with Central European roots like Madeleine Albright, Leonard Lauder, and Fred Malek. The concept was quickly endorsed by key members of the Aspen Institute Board of Directors, especially Michael Žantovský and Tomáš Klvaňa, and moved from concept to reality in little more than a year thanks to Executive Director Radek Špicar and his team.
A number of factors lead to the establishment of an Aspen Institute branch in Prague, the heart of Central Europe. During a quarter century of sometimes bumpy democratic transformation, the societies used up most of their initial enthusiasm. Political representatives face the dramatically decreasing confidence of their populaces in their ability to change anything, and societies are fragmented into hermetic interest groups. Hence, there is a need to generate innovative and morally responsible leaders who emphasize civic responsibility, international engagement, and universal values. As such, Aspen Prague intends to assist in fostering the broader participation of the Czech Republic and Central Europe in the global society by sending future and current leaders abroad to take part in seminars and conferences, and also by inviting renowned personalities to share their experience and knowledge.
The Aspen Institute Prague activities are divided into three core areas, Public, Policy, and Leadership, all reflecting its mission to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. In their implementation, Aspen Prague focuses primarily on Central European issues and the support of leadership in this region, so as to promote responsible strategic thinking that goes beyond the local and regional environment.
Public programs include conferences and other larger-scale events that are open to wide public participation and provide a common forum for people to share and air new ideas. Through Policy programs the Aspen Institute Prague will support policy discussions on various levels among key leaders and experts. Events under the Policy program serve as nonpartisan forums for analysis, consensus building, and problem solving on a wide variety of issues.
Leadership programs are set to create new opportunities for development of leadership skills. Events will be offered to young professionals – emerging experts and leaders from the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, representing a broad range of professions in politics, administration, business, science, charity, and culture. Seminars are designed to help participants reflect on what they think makes a good society, thereby deepening knowledge, broadening perspectives, and enhancing capacity to solve the problems leaders face.
Aspen Prague also has given birth to the Aspen Review, a quarterly journal, the aspiration of which is to explain, interpret, and critique global affairs from the Central European perspective. The journal’s main goal is to present the most inspiring thoughts as well as a wide spectrum of opinions to both professionals and a public audience in Central Europe and globally. It covers a broad range of topics in four sections: Cover Story, Politics, Economy and, Culture, intersected with three Op-eds and an interview with a prominent personality.
After its official launch ceremony in July, attended by Madeleine Albright and over twenty former foreign ministers from all over the world, the Institute is now putting down roots in Central Europe with a series of events. An October panel at the Forum 2000 Foundation Conference, devoted to the changes in media environment in the region, will be followed in November by a Policy Makers Seminar on cooperation between the Visegrad Group and Germany. The first issue of the Aspen Review will feature security challenges as its lead topic.
The establishment of Aspen Institute Prague would not be possible without the invaluable support of a number of people in the Aspen family, like Walter Isaacson and Fred Malek, who passed the Aspen baton to the Czech team, an eminent group of renowned personalities coming from various paths of life such as diplomacy (Michael Žantovský, the President of the AIP), business (Radek Špicar, Executive Director), and politics (Karel Schwarzenberg, Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs). Aspen Institute Prague is sustained by donations, corporate partnerships, and individual memberships, and the support of all stakeholders is critical to sustaining the Institute work and promoting its mission.
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