The international Prague Forum 2000 conference (held at Prague Castle from the 3rd to the 6th of September 1997) brought together many political thinkers of international standing. Among those visiting Prague for the occasion, and invited by the conference organizers Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, and Elie Wiesel, were Jordanian Crown Prince Hasan bin Talal, the former Israeli President Simon Peres and the Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. Another guest, from Japan, was Iohey Sasakawa, President of the Sasakawa Foundation which sponsors a generous programme for the education of those members of the younger generation who will be taking on the future leadership of their societies and their international relations. In July 1995 Charles University became one of the almost sixty universities taking part in the Sasakawa programme, and now outstanding students at CU also have the chance to gain a grant from the foundation and so devote themselves to projects that would otherwise be financially impossible. On the 3rd of September 1997, before the start of the international conference at the Prague Castle, Iohey Sasakawa visited Charles University for a meeting with the CU Rector and members of his collegium. During an hour-long reception in the Carolinum the CU Pro-Rector Prof. PhDr. Jaroslav Panek spoke of the opportunities that the "benefactors" of the Sasakawa Foundation provided for CU students. He said that both Iohey Sasakawa and his father, who established the foundation, "had built an intellectual highway between the Far East and distant countries and had thus made an important contribution to the world of the 21st century." Afterwards the CU Rector Prof. JUDr. Karel Maly presented Mr. Sasakawa with a Gold Medal and diploma "for his care for a happy future of humanity and his support for the education of young students in the field of the social sciences".
In a speech of thanks the Japanese guest said that his foundation was currently trying to extend its activities by the establishment of a new fund aimed at supporting the basis of activity study and research. Large financial resources could also be made available for the teaching of Japanese and Japanese studies.
From the 30th September to the 6th of October 1997, Charles University was visited by representatives of the Universidad Michoacana in Morelia - Pro-Rector M. C. Jose Napoleon Guzman Avila and Chief Administrative Officer lic. Javier Arroyo Nunez. Prague was the first stop on their tour of Central European university cities. At a meeting with the CU Rector Prof. Karel Maly, both sides agreed on the usefulness of mutual visits by staff and student study stays. Afterwards, in a lecture on the study of history at the University of Morelia, the guests informed students of the CU Philosophical Faculty about the research priorities of their historical institutes and their university in general. Later they visited the Centre for Iberian American Studies at the Philosophical Faculty and and donated several publications to its library. In a conversation with the Chief Finance Officer of the Prague Economics University they discussed the possibilities of co-operation between his institution and the University in Morelia.
Ten years ago Charles University took up the idea of providing the older generation with intellectual stimulation. This was not an idea especially widespread in European countries. Although efforts to put it into practice immediately met with disfavour from the previous regime, the first courses were nevertheless introduced at the then Faculty of General Medicine (now Charles University's First Medical Faculty). As many as three hundred people signed up for the first cycle of courses, and today, a decade later, there are programmes for "seniors" at more than half of CU's faculties. Ten years of the existence of the "University of the Third Age" (UTA) were celebrated last year at a special meeting held on the 22nd of September, 1997 in the Great Hall of the Carolinum. The morning programme was opened by CU Pro-Rector Prof. PhDr. Miloslav Petrusek CSc. In his address he welcomed the fact that "today a brilliant community of brilliant people is working at half the faculties of CU". "Today", he said, "we face the challenge of activating other faculties and expanding the current range of lectures for seniors." Dr. Petrusek emphasized that this way of stimulating older people was one opportunity to "cheat time". Charles University offers students "of the third age" the chance to fill their days with new events and knowledge that goes beyond the ephemera of news and magazine articles.
The special meeting in the Great Hall of the Carolinum was attended both by graduates and students of the UTA and by representatives of Charles University and its individual faculties, other guests, organizers and teachers.
During a three-day state visit to the Czech Republic, the President of the Hungarian People's Republic Arpad Goncz also visited the Centre of Hungarian Studies at the CU Philosophical Faculty's Institute of Linguistics and Ugro-Finnic Studies. On the 15th of October, 1997 the President, who had lively discussions with teachers and students, was welcomed to the Faculty by the Dean of the CU Philosophical Faculty, doc. PhDr. Frantisek Vrhel, CSc, the Director of the Centre for Hungarian Studies Prof. Petr Rakos and PhDr. Evzen Gal.
On her first visit to the Czech Republic the Deputy of the General Secretary of the UN and the Executive Director of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) Elizabeth Dowdeswell was also given a warm welcome at Charles University. On the 3rd of October she was presented with a Commemorative Medal of Charles University by the CU Rector Prof. Karel Maly for her contribution to the protection of the environment on a global scale. Elizabeth Dowdeswell can take much of the credit for the fact that ecological education has become an essential part of educational programmes in every state, since as a university teacher, government representative or, as currently, one of the highest officials of the UN, she has devoted great efforts to development in this field. Her work has consolidated the leading position of UNEP in the co-ordination of global and regional programmes for environmental protection. In the Czech Republic a contact centre for the Info-terra system-UNEP information centre has been set up at the Ministry of the Environment in collaboration with the UNEP, which Mrs. Dowdeswell heads. Among those who recommended Ms. Dowdeswell for the award of a Commemorative Medal was Ing. Jiri Skalicky, Vice-Chairman of the Czech Government and Minister of the Environment.
On the 1st of September 1997 Charles University received a visit from Li Yih-yuan, Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the National Taiwan University in Taipei, member of the Akademia Sinica and President of the most important Taiwanese Foundation for the support of study of Chinese culture throughout the world. This foundation is named after the former President of the Republic of China, Chian Ching-kuo, who took a leading role in its establishment. The Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange was set up in 1989 and has since given an annual total of 6 million USD for the support of Chinese studies and research in the USA, Europe, Asia and the Pacific and the Chinese Republic of Taiwan. The President of the Foundation had a meeting with the CU Rector for their joint signing of a document confirming the establishment of an International Sinological Centre at Charles University. This centre will become a permanent basis for the support of the development of Chinese studies throughout the European region. The signed document is also, as CU Rector Prof. Karel Maly put it, "an expression of the necessity to react to problems of the globalization of today's world by the deepening of mutual understanding and recognition of the past and present values of different civilizations".
Last year at the beginning of October, the Philip Morris corporation, represented by the firm Tabak a.s., and Kraft Jacobs Suchards, announced the donation of the first 50,000 dollars out of a total of 250,000 dollars to be gradually given over the next five years to the Centre for Economic Research and Graduate Education (CERGE at Charles University). At a press conference held on the 10th of October 1997 in Prague's Renaissance Hotel, Ian Fergusson, Managing Director of Philip Morris (in our photo) presented the Director of CERGE, doc. RNDr. Ing. Frantisek Turnovec, CSc., with the first cheque. As Dr. Turnovec emphasized in his speech, CERGE provides doctoral studies at the highest level of education in economics. Since its foundation in 1991 it has provided education to students both from the Czech Republic and abroad; currently it has hundreds of external and regular students, seventy percent of whom are from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
Graduates leave the institute as experts in national economy, and their names are often to be found in top financial circles. CERGE-EI will be using the generous donations not just for scholarships for its students, but also to create its infrastructure, and improve its library system and computer networks.
The programme, "Thuringian Days", was held in Prague from the 9th of September 1997 to the 13th of January this year. Its aim was to contribute to the deepening of Czech-German relations especially in the field of culture and education. Part of the programme consisted in events held on the basis of an inter-university agreement between Charles University and the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena (1992). The results of research and teaching collaboration between the two institutions were presented at an exhibition opened on the 3rd of October 1997 in the presence of the rectors of both universities - Prof. Karel Maly and Prof. Georg Machnik.