The goal of the Night of Ideas ('La Nuit des idées') has been since 2016 to celebrate the stream of ideas between countries, cultures, topics, and generations. For the 3rd edition of the night of ideas, the “Institutfrançais” has proposed a general theme dedicated to “power to the imagination”.
Let me first thank Institutfrançais, chaired by Ambassador Pierre Buhler, who again has allowed this panel to take place with a substantial contribution. Thanks also to Alliance française de Katmandou and Nepal Economic Forum who, along with the French Embassy, co-organized the event.
From now on and all night long, panel discussions are organized in150 locations in more than 60 countries on all continents. This year again, Kathmandu is on the global map, along with Dakar, Los Angeles, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Kathmandu, Marseille, and Paris, among others!
Power to imagination echoes a slogan which popped up in May 1968, when students and other young people in France as in many Western countries stood up against old powers, old ideas, old ways of life.
Certainly, in the last half-century, the world has been moving fast. New technologies including digital medias, new concepts have found their place in our societies. Globalization has almost everywhere replaced the cold war, but there are still a lot of conflicts between ideologies and Samuel Huntington in the late 90s’ forecast a “clash of civilizations”.
Globalization of information interacts with the globalization of political issues and a global economy is gradually throwing down former barriers to trade and services.
In 2018, provided you can afford the cost, it is possible almost anywhere to use the same smartphones to get the same information about similar facts and ideas from the whole world.
But globalization doesn’t lead to uniformity; on the contrary, it allows for more diversity in the way people think, looks, eats, dream, love… On that fertile ground, imagination in all arts, from movies to music has thrived. In literature as well as in political debate, many more people today have access to many more ideas than 50 years ago. To take just that example, the Weinstein case has to lead to a heated debate about gender equality everywhere, including between our distinguished panelists yesterday at my Residence!
Despite a lot of setbacks, freedoms of expression, of religion, of publishing and overall democracy have progressed along with higher standards in education. A higher life expectancy means more people are apt to think and discuss, come up with new ideas.
In the social and economic areas, although big companies, big groups tend to suppress smaller actors, there is room for original initiatives.
To quote another slogan which appeared in the 70s, “small is beautiful” is still valid. More people want to act on their own and create, in small organizations, products, and services which could not have been imagined in the big traditional corporations. The early 20th-century Fordist concept of mass production is pushed aside by Silicon Valley dreamers. That is allowed by progress in information technology. We no longer necessarily need to gather thousands of people in the same place to do the same thing; on the opposite, to tap into various talents in diverse locations allows for more innovation and competitiveness.
With all these potential changes, our societies need more than an ever social link, empathy, collective dedication. Like in 1968 in the Sorbonne, it is the backbone of politics and social interaction everywhere.
So the question I ask today to the panel is: how do new concepts and ideas in the fields of politics, economy, media have changed the face of Nepali society, and how far does it resound with global trends?
Before leaving them the floor, my very warm thanks to the moderator and the panelists who are on stage. Some are old friends, like Richard Werly whom I met in 2001 in Tokyo where he was a correspondent for “Liberation” and I was the spokesperson for the French Embassy, and we stayed friends!
Yves Carmona is a French Ambassador to Nepal. Excerpts of the statement delivered at the program.