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The Foundation believes that meeting on a non-political level can lubricate the wheels of diplomacy. All who participate are determined to act through an unofficial network creating forums for people of opposing sides. The sole aim of the Foundation is to apply a solvent for the fear, insecurity and lack of trust that have so often bedevilled more public exchanges.
FROM WAR TO PEACE
The Next Century Foundation was conceived fourteen years ago in a black moment in history. New thought was needed to change the stalemate in the Middle East arena. The situation was desperate. There had been the long Iraq-Iran war, the decimation of Lebanon and the seemingly endless tragedy of Palestine. Moderate Arabs and moderate Jews were being pushed aside. Every attempt to bring together Palestinians and Israelis who believed in compromise had failed. The first members agreed that a fresh approach should be made. They felt that private diplomacy might get further than public diplomacy. Meetings of the new Foundation began and continue to be held without publicity, in total confidence, in a spirit of candor and absolute frankness.
What has happened since then? In Madrid and Washington, the first steps toward peace were made. Since then progress has been hard won. But there is a defiant spirit of hope and reconciliation about. In the recent months that progress, despite colossal setbacks, has been inexorable. Just to mention a few of the many steps that have recently been taken:
The Arab World has been moving closer to democracy. The battle to promote votes for all in Iraq is a tough fight, gradually but inexorably being won, despite the long history of Western opposition to democracy in Iraq. It is a battle which this Foundation supports.
A number of channels have opened for dialogue between Israel and the Arab World.Kuwait, Japan, Egypt, Qatar and Bahrain have made major steps, working toward peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.
One crucial stumbling block in the way of a permanent peace between Israel and Palestine, that of the Status of Jerusalem, is beginning to be addressed more rationally. Jerusalem is one of the key focuses of the work of this Foundation.
A move towards linkage with Syria and Iran has begun. The new Middle East envisioned by many is becoming a reality.
The Foundation will take a lead, not only on conflict resolution, but also on preventive diplomacy, by strengthening the capacity of the international community to identify incipient conflicts and to take action before they escalate into armed hostilities. The Foundation will also take a lead in dealing with other conflict situations, both in the Middle East and further afield, building on the Foundation's recent work in Yugoslavia and Kashmir.
An executive committee (and Advisory Board) numbering 12 is centred in London and meets every quarter. The committee consists of former diplomats, businessmen, politicians, bankers and editors. The committee will be augmented by coopted working groups of specialists in the region being reported on.
An alarm system is set up according to information received by the committee; the work of the committee focuses on conflict prevention and disputes resolution.
The deliberations and conclusions of the committee will be conveyed to the Foreign Ministers or Foreign Office concerned in various capitals as and when necessary.