On 10th and 11th October 2013, around 100 representatives from the realms of education, culture, sports, media, politics, and diplomacy gathered in London for the annual Belgo-British Conference. This Conference focused on “History and Reconciliation: Engaging a New Generation.”
The annual meeting is a long-standing and valuable partnership between the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the British Council, and EGMONT – the Royal Institute for International Relations.
At a time when states involved in the First World War are preparing to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its outbreak, the Belgo-British Conference discussed how to engage the new generation to keep history alive and reflect on lessons learned from past conflicts.
British Ambassador to Belgium Jonathan Brenton said:
The Conference is an important contribution to UK-Belgium relations, bringing together Ministers from our two countries. It is an important theme in the context of the First World War Centenary with a fascinating range of speakers. And we want the conference to engage the new generation directly, for example through social media.
British Minister for Europe David Lidington:
In almost all villages in the UK you can find a memorial paying tribute to those who fought in the First World War. The War and its consequences are anchored in our collective memory. The Belgo-British Conference must allow us to reflect together about how to involve young people, how to make them aware, how to inspire them so that we continue to remember and will still commemorate this War in 100 years from now.
The Belgian and British Co-Chairmen of the Conference Lode Willems and Sir Stephen Wall said:
Reconciliation is key to peace building, but our European experience shows that it is a very complex and slow process. We must have a sense of history if we want to have a sense of the future. When we think of conflicts in our present world, it is useful to record that for so long Europe was also a continent of permanent conflict. Have we forgotten? This year’s Conference therefore focused on engaging new generations to reflect on past conflicts in order to work towards peace in the future.