Inside The Hegra Conference of Nobel Laureates 2020
The Hegra Conference of Nobel Laureates attracted a diverse group of over 100 global leaders for a two-day conference of debates and discussions around the the importance of shared heritage.
The event took place in the ancient Nabataen civilization’s city of Hegra in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a fitting location, as Hegra has long-been a place that encourages the transmission of ideas and traditions.
The conference provided an opportunity to foster dialogue and explore how the future can be built innovatively and sustainably by building new partnerships, and cementing existing ones, across countries, sectors, and organizations.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture and The Royal Commission of AlUla Governor His Highness Prince Badr bin Adbullah bin Farhan al Saud, the host of the conference, opened events by highlighting Hegra’s reputation as a place for open dialogue, trade, and debate, setting the stage for the central theme of the conference: the sustainable sharing of historical and cultural heritage with future generations.
Following His Highness Prince Badr bin Adbullah bin Farhan al Saud’s inspiring speech, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, spoke to the importance of heritage in general:
“It is imperative for us to recognize [that] the various aspects of history and heritage can be a solution that can help tackle climate change and create diversity of ideas,” said Azoulay. “Today there is a clear role for heritage in peaceful discourse.”
Richard Attias, Conference Curator, then introduced the impressive Nobel Laureate speakers who each led individual town halls designed to provoke thought and promote engagement.
The world-class experts discussed a wide range of topics, including: new economic models for shared prosperity, the challenge of addressing climate change and its impact on our collective heritage, the role women play as drivers of positive change, and a shared vision for the future.
In a discussion about the impact of technology on shared prosperity, Sir Christopher Pissarides, 2010 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences, said “In the decade ahead there is the opportunity to use technology for good — in medical care; the environment; cutting urban congestion and reducing the unauthorized trade in antiquities, among many others.”
During the Debating the Theoretical Principles of Sustainable Development event, some challenging questions were posed:
Who is really accountable for making our world more sustainable?
Is it possible to change the habits and minds of global citizens towards more sustainable behaviours without any coercion?
And, How is environmental sustainability linked with fighting inequality and exclusion?
In addressing these questions Sir Martin Sorrell, Executive Chairman, S4 Capital, remarked, “Big institutions are not moving quickly enough to satisfy the desire for change seen in the younger generations.”
Contributing to the discussion, Professor Muhammed Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, posited, “When you talk about cost, you talk about money. When I talk about cost, I talk about lives. What’s the point of saving money if you/we all die?”.
Leymah Roberta Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, had strong words for the conference at the The Inclusion Imperative Spotlight about women as catalysts for positive change:
“Cover one eye. Can you see the whole picture?” asked Gbowee. “This is how our world is operating. Without women, you can’t see the whole problem.”
During the closing town hall, Rigoberta Menchu, 1992 Peace Prize, spoke about the global vision for the future. “We need to create a shared voice that impacts human consciousness,” said Menchu. “Learn from our heritage, as you have here in AlUla, and take its energy and channel it together for the future of the 7 billion [people] on the planet.”
Among the other speakers were President Lech Walesa (1983 Nobel Peace Prize), Dr. Robert C. Merton (1997 Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences), Lord David Trimble (1998 Nobel Peace Prize), and Mrs. Ouided Bouchamaoui (2015 Nobel Peace Prize).
The conference concluded with a pledge to support the Charter of AlUla, which is a series of guiding principles intended to protect the region’s distinctive, storied heritage, the natural and cultural landscape, and the ecosystems and wildlife that thrive within its boundaries.
By the end of the conference those in attendance felt optimistic about the challenges they are gearing up to face.
“I leave Hegra more positive than when I arrive,” said Marc Waters, Managing Director, UK, Middle East and Ireland, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “Looking ahead to a shared future together, as there is much more that brings us together than divides us.”