Yaroslavl ‘thinkfest’ talks Afghanistan, multiculturalism

The Central Russian city of Yaroslavl is turning into a global think tank this week, with the third global policy forum inviting the world’s best minds to come up with solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems.

­This year it is multiculturalism that will be among the main focal points – a concept that has recently suffered severe blows in Europe.

Global security is traditionally on the table, with debate on Syria and Libya and the question of how to keep the region safe after the coalition withdraws from Afghanistan.

Debates on Syria are expected to focus primarily on sanctions, and this is where Russia’s stance goes against the tough approach prevailing in the West. Moscow says sanctions are not the solution and will only make the civilian population suffer.

When it comes to Libya, the main discussion is expected to center around the post-Gaddafi settlement and the ways to avoid further violence amid widespread expectations of various rebel groups eventually turning against each other.

The way NATO treated the UN resolution on Libya is also on the forum’s agenda. Russia has repeatedly expressed its anger after an ostensibly humanitarian mission, backed by the UN go-ahead for maintaining a “no-fly zone”, was turned by the alliance into a full-scale military campaign.

The role of Collective Security Treaty Organization is set to be brought up as well. The CSTO is a regional security alliance that unites a number of former Soviet republics, namely Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Possible widening of the organization, as well as its role in the region where it borders Afghanistan, will be discussed. Security issues surrounding the US and its allies’ plan to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014 are of major concern for all CSTO members, and are sure to be one of focal points in Yaroslavl.

­Multiculturalism

­Another major part of the forum is being dedicated to problems in multiethnic societies, and many European cities have already seen a good deal of unrest in 2011 alone. The crisis in the eurozone has only aggravated the situation.

Politicians, activists and many others are more commonly saying now that multiculturalism is simply not working and something needs to be done. Tightening immigration rules is seen as one possible solution, particularly given the instability throughout the Middle East and North Africa, with even more immigrants and refugees expected to show up in Europe as a result.