Co-hosted by The Elie Wiesel Foundation and His Majesty King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Conferences bring together Nobel Laureates of Peace, Economics, Literature, Physics, Chemistry, Physiology & Medicine with distinguished social and political leaders. The ancient stone-carved city of Petra, a powerful expression of human creativity and ingenuity, serves as a dramatic and inspiring setting for the Conferences.
The first Petra Conference focused on the role of education in combating global injustice. Among the accomplishments of the Conference was the development of The Nobel Laureates Initiative, a collaboration of Nobel Laureates working together to fight indifference, intolerance and injustice.
As Elie Wiesel noted, "We must harness our rich human potential in service of peace, progress and prosperity. To these ends, peoples must realize that no one is superior to another. No nation is worthier than another. No religion is holier than another. Racism, ethnic discrimination and religious fanaticism lead to antagonism, not salvation. I fear that humankind is on a train hurtling towards an abyss. Unless we pull the alarm, it may be too late. It is time to show the world that we can restore humankind's dignity, its hope and future."
The historic first meeting of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas took place at the Foundation’s second annual Conference of Nobel Laureates in Petra on June 22, 2006. Olmert and Abbas addressed the conference and also met privately, after which they announced plans for a formal summit.
Petra II provided a forum to reflect on both old and new problems and proposed novel strategies for transforming challenges into opportunities. Plenaries and parallel breakout sessions focused on non-proliferation, education, health, Middle East peace, poverty and economic empowerment.
The non-proliferation plenary focused on the need for more effective measures to control nuclear stockpiles and create disincentives to uranium enrichment and reprocessing of weapons grade material.
The education plenary centered on developing greater access to universal primary education and better quality education. Discussions focused on gender parity and internet access as top priorities to closing the knowledge gap between developed and developing countries.
The health sessions targeted infant mortality and the vulnerability of women in the developing world. Many children die from inadequate sanitation and water borne diseases, lack of clean drinking water and because they do not have access to vaccinations. The resulting public health crisis devastates lives, productivity and creates fertile ground for civil conflict.
Poverty and economic empowerment plenaries and discussions focused on not only the human suffering aspect of poverty, but also poverty as a source of instability creating potential breeding grounds for violent political expression and fanaticism.
Thirty-four Nobel Laureates participated in Petra III: Building a Better World, the third annual conference of Nobel Laureates convened by The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity and the King Abdullah II Fund for Development in Petra, Jordan, on May 15-16, 2007.
In his address, Elie Wiesel framed Petra III’s mission. “Is it possible,” he asked, “to transcend religious beliefs for the sake of peace? Can national loyalty and ethnic allegiance become creative links rather than instruments of suspicion, hatred and death? What is the role of culture, economy and science, and above all education, in today’s and tomorrow’s society? How are we to survive and flourish at the very edge of the abyss?”
At the previous two Petra conferences, the participants mapped issues and explored possibilities. Petra III was different in that it was more results-oriented. Regional representatives and other distinguished political, corporate and cultural personalities joined with the Laureates in working groups to explore ways of engaging and harnessing their vast expertise in practical ways in the areas of education, economy, health and environment.
Petra III also focused on youth in the Middle East. Students from Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia attended the conference. The youth participants discussed their hopes and dreams for the future, the benefits of regular interaction between students from the region, and challenges they face.
The conference endorsed the Middle East Science Fund, established by The Elie Wiesel Foundation and the King Abdullah II Fund, in order to support (i) science education activities, (ii) meetings of scientists, (iii) joint scientific research, and scientific exchanges/scholarships that transcend national borders to foster shared benefits in order to improve human welfare and, in the process, reduce distrust.
Petra IV: Reaching for New Economic, Scientific and Educational Horizons, took place on June 17-19, 2008 under the auspices of The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity and the King Abdullah II Fund for Development. Leading figures in international finance, science, media, culture and education joined 29 Nobel Laureates to explore some of the most pressing issues confronting the Middle East and the world.
A major session of Petra IV, featuring Nobel Peace Laureates the Dalai Lama, David Trimble, and Elie Wiesel focused on the topic "The Hunger Crisis – Securing the World’s Food." “Those of us who were never hungry will never understand hunger,” declared Elie Wiesel. “Hunger brings humiliation. The hungry person thinks of bread and nothing else. Hunger fills his or her universe. His prayer, his aspiration, his hope, his ideal are not lofty: they are a piece of bread. To accept another person’s hunger is to condone his or her tragic condition of helplessness, despair and death.”
The two other plenary sessions at Petra IV were "Transforming the Global Economy – Bridging the Gap", in which participants focused on the ever increasing globalization of the world’s economy, the continuing gap between developing and developed countries, and the challenges facing poorer nations; and "Media – A Force for Change", in which prominent journalists from the United States, Israel, and the Arab world discussed changing media trends and the challenges inherent in the responsible presentation of the news. The Conference participants also took part in brainstorming sessions on education; medicine, science and technology; arts and culture; energy; and economic development.
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