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Events are a place for dialogue and democracy

IMEX has recently announced that Russian exhibitors have been banned from attending this year’s tradeshow. BEA Award followed up with their announcement two days later. Expert associations, including ICCA and PCMA, also condemned Russia’s acts. They were followed by the Events Industry Council (EIC) and Meetings Professionals International (MPI). Russian projects will also be excluded from this year’s Cannes Lions. The organisers of the renowned awards have announced a large donation to humanitarian organisations in Ukraine. Representatives of the creative industry in Ukraine will have free access to the festival. Messe Frankfurt is building an aid centre for refugees, and similar good deeds have been seen across Europe and the world.

The meetings industry made a rightful choice to stand up for lives, dignity, freedom and peace. However, it is not just about issuing statements. Above all, we should not act for economic or political benefits. We should make a joint effort to do something for the victims of unprecedented political greed. I hope the isolation of Putin and his accomplices will help stop this bloodshed. The dirty war in Ukraine has attacked the democracy and freedom of the entire world. It seems that there will be no free Europe without an independent Ukraine.

In such times, the time component is of utmost importance. Solidarity should be prioritised, and we should hurry with our aid. We all must respond. Relativisation that we cannot aid Ukraine is disgraceful. When events such as this arise, we must all activate ourselves. Our events can, ultimately, affect public opinion. Madness such as this war must end, and it seems we have come to the point where resolute politicians are gaining too much power again. Yet, as we are interconnected, we can stand together and help bring a stop to this war.

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Political, activist, humanitarian and other forms of active aid are imperative. I remember well how, in 1991, as Slovenia was gaining independence, we desired help from others. We must not look the other way, and I believe every individual should strive for peace. I am against any war or other form of violence. Anyone can do their best to help, not least, by offering humanitarian aid. I am appealing to all my colleagues from the industry to help those who have found themselves amid a terrible crisis.

I want to highlight another aspect of the current situation. The pandemic had not even ended when we had already turned from corona experts into experts on war and history. As individuals, we are divided as never before. Everyone has a history with colleagues on both sides. Does that mean we should boycott Russian art or stop reading Dostoyevsky and Čehov? We will have to decide for ourselves, try to believe in inner human goodness and not fall into general hysteria. We should not divide people based on their passports; we can only judge them based on their actions. I am sure my Russian colleagues are equally against the war as myself.

It is crucial that we do not forget about the essence of events – they are a place for dialogue and democracy. They are, in a way, a safe haven, where one will find empathy, understanding, sympathy and advancement. Society has improved in science, art and culture, in general, partly due to events. Everyone could attend events in the past, even those who thought differently. We should not let political magnates take that away from us. We need to say no to war and strive for peace worldwide.

Power to the meetings!

In my opinion, the best statement on the situation in Ukraine was given by a Slovenian expert on communicology, Dr Dejan Verčič, who said: “There is no excuse for Russia’s attack on Ukraine and their crimes against civilians. Period. The stronger neighbour is violating its weaker neighbour. Any discussion about Ukraine bringing this upon itself is outrageous.”

Article by Gorazd Čad