It gives me great pleasure to be here with you this evening. In supporting this conference, the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung intended to provide a platform to the Tibet Support Groups to come together, to discuss and exchange experiences and to draw out new, international campaigns which will ensure a better future for Tibet. This is the third conference that we are privileged to co-host along with our partner, the Department of Information and International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration.

With each conference we have tried to offer a better and more professionally organized and managed meeting. At the preparatory meeting held in New Delhi last November, it was decided to have professional moderators who would guide the discussion process at this conference.

Since such an approach is followed within our foundation as well, we supported the idea and hired the services of Patrick Nash, Lois Graessle, Hildegard Dumper and Philip Rudge. They have worked really hard with the participants throughout the conference. The workshop method adopted focused on discussions in small groups. This approach was more participatory, allowing for a much greater exchange of opinions and experiences than we have had at previous conferences. As a consequence, it has brought out a wealth of new ideas – so much so that at times it also threatened to overwhelm the faithful recording by the organisers!

Although the tight schedule that was necessary for this conference process has, at times, been a bit hard on the participants, it has helped to arrive at a much more result-oriented and imaginative menu of actionable ideas. Many people who have been in the movement for a long time have expressed their pleasant surprise at the degree of new aspiration that they have received, while many who are here for the first time felt enriched by the many opportunities presented to learn from those with more experience. We would therefore like to thank the moderators very much for their extremely hard work and focused energy through intense days and long nights to ensure that such a creative and result-oriented conference could become a reality.

I would like to thank you, the participants, for your hard work, patience and flexible attitude during these days. Having 260 creative, energetic participants gathered in one place and working on issues that they all feel passionately about is a formidable challenge for any conference organiser. The success of such a meeting depends on the co-operation of all, and you have made this conference a success both through your ideas, your generosity with each other and your willingness to work within a rigorous structure. I was especially impressed by the regional plenary where speakers spoke with both heart and precision, helped by the excellent moderation by Tsering Jampa. It provided an indispensable bridge between the broad range of ideas and hopes brought up by the conference and the focused work back home.

I have had a brief look at the plan of action, which has generated many excellent new ideas to strengthen the movement for Tibet. Such an action plan will only be useful when it becomes a working document for each TSG and inspires the work in the years to come.

The themes discussed during the conference are also those which are of deep concern to the Stiftung. The Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung, as some of you might know, is a Foundation that bases its work on the philosophy of Liberalism. Its values, we believe, are intrinsic in most cultures. They are aimed at securing freedom in every sphere of life, including respect for universal human rights and the rule of law, the protection of minorities and the development of democratic institutions. These inspire the work of the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung worldwide.

It is therefore our objective to support out Tibetan partners in their efforts to realise their goals of the Middle Way Approach as envisaged by His Holiness. We are doing this in two ways: first, by supporting the cause of Tibet in the international arena of which this conference is one example. Second, we help to strengthen the democratic institutions that the Tibetans have built in exile. In this, a special focus is training young Tibetan leaders. The desire of every Tibetan to return to a democratic Tibet has been kept alive in exile by His Holiness. He has strongly supported the development of democratic institutions of parliamentary self-government not only for themselves in exile, but as a model for their homeland, while the process of empowering his people to run their own affairs in a democratic manner has been made a necessity.

I strongly believe that only few communities in exile have so consciously pursued the process of democratisation as the Tibetans. The direct election of Kalon Tripa has further strengthened this process of empowering Tibetans to manage their affairs more democratically. On the other hand, the suggestions put forth by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, namely, to grant Tibet genuine autonomy within China, are both moderate and realistic approaches to solve the conflict, in that they take into consideration core Chinese concerns. Furthermore, the movement for Tibet has strictly adhered to the path of non-violence. Thus, with its legitimate cause, its moderate demands and its non-violent approach, the movement is indeed exemplary, and we wholeheartedly support it. We think the best way to fight terrorism is to support the approach of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

As supporters of Tibet, our role is to contribute to the policies decided upon by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan leadership, namely, the policy of the Middle Way Approach. The Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung offers advice and a platform to its partners. It is not the task of the Stiftung to take decisions on behalf of its partners. Ultimately Tibetans have to make their own choices to determine their own future. We are here as supporters and facilitators to help them reach their goal.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are minutes away from the end of this Fourth International Conference of Tibet Support Groups. Each one of us has worked hard to make this conference happen, and have looked forward to it with great anticipation. However, this conference would not have been possible without the support of the Senate of the Czech Republic, in particular the support of Dr..Petr.Pithard and Mr. Jan Ruml; I would also like to mention the moral support provided by the Czech Government which reacted firmly in the face of Chinese pressure. Yesterday, Count Lambsdorff had the opportunity to personally thank the former President of the Czech Republic, Dr. Vaclav Havel, for this. We also thank President Havel’s Forum 2000 Foundation, represented here by our Oldrich Cemy; the organisers of the conference at the Department of Information and International Relations, members of Tibet Support Groups present here as well as the International Tibet Support Network, and offices of the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung in Prague and New Delhi.

Before I end I would like to specially thank my dear friend Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, for his blessings and support for this conference. His presence amongst us is always most inspiring.

Speaking of inspiration, let me share a dream inspired by the almost miraculous history witness by our Czech friends: the dream that the process of contact which has been established between Dharamsala and Beijing will lead to a new relationship between the Chinese and the Tibetans and that they will be no need for us to come together for a Fifth Tibet Support Group Meeting; I hope instead that we will be able to meet under new circumstances in Tibet. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolution in Prague have taught us that dreams of freedom can come true with unexpected speed. Let us work together so that this dream of freedom and human rights can also become a reality.