WITH virtually no advance publicity, an International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security opened in Madrid yesterday. It has been arranged by the Club of Madrid, an organisation which brings together former presidents and prime ministers, and other prominent international figures, to pool their wisdom on major world problems. The current president of the Club is Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil, and its secretary-general is Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada. Kofi Annan, UN secretary-general, will address the summit tomorrow, its third and last day. The permanent headquarters of the Club are in Madrid and, according to a press release , the summit meeting is being held under the patronage of King Juan Carlos, however, the involvement of the Spanish government, if any, is not made clear. The timing of this meeting was chosen with Friday's first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings in mind; another press release speaks of the summit as a way of honouring the courageous people of Madrid who have suffered immeasurable grief since the 11 March attacks, one of the most devastating terrorist attacks in Europe.
Some 200 academics, politicians, writers and security experts have been preparing reports for the meeting under four main headings: the underlying causes of terrorism; how to confront the problem of terrorism, democratic answers to terrorism, the role of civil society. The hope of the organisers is that conclusions from the discussion of these reports will be worked into a Madrid Agenda which could provide guidelines for a democratic response to terrorism. It sounds a tall order for a three-day meeting but, on the other hand, something of this kind could serve as a useful antidote to the kneejerk reaction to terrorism which so often characterises current responses.