Federico Mayor Zaragoza: on the 20 years of the City of Knowledge

At the old Fort Clayton, the dream for which Ascanio Arosemena gave his life has taken place: Transforming barracks into classrooms, having students instead of soldiers and books instead of weapons.

When in 1999, in compliance with the Torrijos-Carter treaties of 1977, the canal and the U.S. military bases were handed over to Panama; it was Jorge Arosemena who led the City of Knowledge Foundation.

Twenty years have gone by and Panama has proven its capacity for transformation and preparation to face challenges, some potentially irreversible, that currently linger over humanity. It is clear that in the Anthropocene, we must not give way to apathy and continue applying past formulas to the present. Pending evolution urgently requires knowledge and wisdom for the correct course of action and in a timely manner. It is up to “We, the peoples” – as the premature but lucid United Nations Charter established in 1945 – to take into our hands the reigns of a common destiny, those that were inappropriately handed over by a globalizing neoliberalism to inefficient short term plutocratic groups that now need to be replaced by a democratic multilateralism equipped with the personal, financial, technical, and defensive means that are appropriate for their enormous task.

Citizens of the world, actors and never again indifferent and bewildered spectators. The City of Knowledge represents a role model on a global scale. In this historical journey of these 20 years that are not only commemorated but also celebrated, we reflect on the actions of true protagonists who were at the forefront of the turnover efforts and the subsequent transformation from a utopia into a reality.An economy based on the knowledge for a global, sustainable, and human development is necessary, one that can shift the current system of speculation, productive relocation, and war, which continues to allow an increase over the $4 billion that are invested every day on weapons and military expenses while thousands of human beings die of starvation and extreme poverty, most of them children between one and five years old.

Panama looks to the future today, operating on the front line of science, culture, and international cooperation. It is necessary to invent the future. That which is to come and to-do and every human being capable of creating is our hope. Many Cities of Knowledge are necessary for everyone to fully engage in the distinctive abilities of the human race: reflect, imagine, anticipate, innovate, and create!

Congratulations on these 20 years and the best wishes for an enlightened tomorrow. Today, thanks to a large extent to digital technology, we can know what is happening and express ourselves freely. Today, for the first time in history, “the peoples” are now men and women.

The City of Knowledge will always bear in mind what Prof. Hans Krebs said to me once at Oxford: “Innovating consists of seeing what others also see and thinking what no one has thought before.”

I sincerely wish that just as it was done at the beginning and in the two decades that we now celebrate, the City of Knowledge continues to think what no one else had thought before and that Panama’s wings are strong for the high flight that it deserves.