Research & Studies

UNESCO MOST Winter School – Resilience in the Age of Uncertainity – Insights of the program

Re-Writing Future Scenarios in Times of War, Climate Crisis, and AI Revolutions


The 5th UNESCO MOST Winter School titled Resilience in the Age of Uncertainty: Building Peace Through Culture and Education, was held in Veszprém, Hungary, which is also the 2023 European Capital of Culture. The event brought together more than 100 participants and speakers from over 50 countries to engage in cultural events, workshops, and panel discussions addressing pressing issues such as the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis, and social, economic, and cultural transformations in the age of AI and social media. The 5-day event was organized by the Institute of Advanced Studies Kőszeg (iASK), the Institute for Social and European Studies (ISES), the University of Pannonia, and the UNESCO Chair for Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainability Kőszeg.

This Winter School boasted a distinguished line-up of speakers including Sir Richard Shirreff (UK), a renowned author and former NATO general, George Tilesch (US), President of the PHI Institute for Augmented Intelligence, Ernesto Ottone-Ramirez (Chile), Assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO, Xiaomeng Shen (China), Vice-Rector in Europe of the United Nations University and Director of the UNU-EHS, and Kat Schrier (US), Director of the Games and Emerging Media Program at Marist College. They addressed the pressing challenges of our time, including war escalation, climate change, resource depletion, economic crises, and the potential impact of automation on human work and decision-making. Through open discussions, they explored alternative future scenarios and proposed innovative solutions such as redefined responsibilities, education reforms, humanized computer games, and building supportive human-cantered technologies.

The main topic was the concept of resilience explored in relation to traditional and human security, climate change, war, energy crisis, and the rapid development of artificial intelligence. Ernesto Ottone-Ramirez, Assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO, Xiaomeng Shen, UNU Vice-Rector in Europe and Director of the UNU-EHS, András Gelencsér, Director of the University of Pannonia, Miklós Réthelyi, President of the Hungarian National Commission for UNESCO, and Ferenc Miszlivetz, Director of iASK and UNESCO Chair for Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainability, highlighted the significance of collaboration, shared culture, mutual understanding, global responsibilities, and resilience building during times of war, interlinked crises, and uncertainties.


Reversing the Doomsday Clock: Scenarios for Achieving Peace with Russia

“The world is at a tipping point, with only 90 seconds to midnight. We are living in a Chaordic Age, a moment of interregnum between the collapse of one world order and the emergence of a new one,” said Jody Jensen, Director of the Polanyi Centre at iASK, during the opening panel of the 5th UNESCO MOST Winter School on the war in Ukraine. Jensen posed critical questions on establishing peace and the emergence of a new world order in the aftermath of the war.

Sir Richard Shirreff, author of the bestseller “War with Russia” and former NATO general, discussed the armed conflict in Ukraine and its potential causes and future directions. He argued that Russia’s desire for expansion and restoration of its borders was matched by NATO’s desire to expand eastwards. “It takes two to tango,” he noted, suggesting that NATO and the West could have acted differently to avoid the conflict. Sir Richard Shirreff also stressed the importance of strategies for establishing peace, particularly the military strategy of deterrence, and highlighted the need for quick mobilization, training, and deployment of troops. His warning that “there will be no peace in Europe while Putin is in the Kremlin” suggests that the worst-case scenario must be considered. He concluded his speech with the Latin phrase “Si vis bellum para pacem” – If you want peace, prepare for war.

Sean Cleary, a member of the iASK Advisory Board and Chairman of Strategic Concepts, discussed potential post-war scenarios, focusing on Europe’s future security architecture and international legal framework redefinitions. The speeches of Ferenc Miszlivetz, Director of iASK, Emil Brix, Director of the Diplomatische Akedemie in Vienna, and Daniela Jelinčić, Senior Research Adviser at the Culture and Communications Department of the Institute for Development and International Relations in Zagreb, reflected ideas of peaceful co-existence with Russia and criticisms of the “cultural wars” and cancel culture that marginalize and annihilate Russian heritage. Moshe Caine, Senior Lecturer at the Hadassah Academic College in Israel, outlined the concept of cultural reconciliation and peacebuilding through preserving cultural heritage, emphasizing the importance of rebuilding cultural monuments to promote interethnic relations. He highlighted the example of iASK’s renovation of the 19th-century synagogue in Kőszeg, wondering if this could be a formula for restoring peace in Ukraine.

Sensing the Environment: Seeking Global Solutions for Ecological Challenges

The panel on ecology addressed the complex challenges of sustainability and climate change in the context of armed conflicts, economic crises, and rapid technological development. Zita Sebesvári, Deputy Director of UNU-EHS, emphasized the need for holistic solutions to interlinked challenges and highlighted the global responsibility for natural disasters that are often human-induced. András Gelencsér, Rector of the University of Pannonia, also stressed global responsibility for global problems, noting that sustainable development may seem like an oxymoron due to the limited resources of the world. Zsófia Szonja Illés, a Research Fellow at iASK and MOME, led a sensory walk workshop that highlighted the importance of sensory experiences in understanding complex ecological issues. Her project, which blends artistic and scientific methodologies, offered new ways to raise awareness about climate change, transformation of the natural environment, pollution, and man-made disasters.

Transcultural Memories and Gamified Wars: Processing Trauma, Understanding the Past and Reimagining the Future

One of the main takeaways from the 5th UNESCO MOST Winter School is the understanding that wars are not just armed conflicts, as military strategies are accompanied by soft power tactics, cultural battles, and wars of narratives. This creates a ripple effect on society and impacts all aspects of public and private life, leaving lasting traumas. Two interlinked panels on transcultural memory and gaming showcased innovative ways to process war traumas. Research Fellow at iASK and Associate Professor at the University of Milton Friedman, Tímea Jablonczay, highlighted the role of linguistic mediation and translation in expressing trauma. Erzsébet Hosszu, also a research fellow at iASK and MOME, revealed how everyday objects can be used to process the trauma of immigrants. Zala Pavšič, a research fellow at the Democracy Institute at CEU in Budapest, discussed board games as objects of nostalgia in the post-Yugoslav space traumatised by the wars in the 1990s.

Anna Menyhért, a research fellow at iASK and Professor at Budapest University of Jewish Studies, explored representations of war traumas in video games together with Assistant Professor at the Charles University’s Faculty of Arts in Prague, Vit Šisler, who hosted a workshop to show how video games can improve history education in schools. Associate Professor, Director of the Play Innovation Lab and Director of the Games and Emerging Media Program at Marist College, Kat Schrier, also discussed the potential for compassion and empathy in war games and their positive educational impact. Lobna Hassan, Associate Professor at Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, emphasised the importance of recognising computer games as online communities, new social spaces, and educational tools and reflected on representations of disabilities in war games. The speakers also discussed the concept of the “metaverse” as a new virtual reality social space, examining both the ethical considerations and negative implications of immersion in technology, as well as the optimistic prospects of interconnectedness in digital worlds.

Confronting Digital Utopias and Dystopias: The Future of Work, Education and Cultural Production

As armed conflicts spill over into the digital realm with cyber-attacks, fake news, cancel culture, and war-themed online games, two panels at the winter school focused on social media, platform algorithms, and artificial intelligence. Juan Carmach, Project Officer at the Partnership for the Advancement of Digital Anthropology at UNESCO, and iASK researcher Ivana Stepanovic discussed the role of digital anthropology in understanding new social spaces and transnational communities within the online realm. Alfred Lendeker Lecturer at the Institute of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Bern, Mykola Makhortykh, talked about the algorithmic curation of the internet, particularly with regard to holocaust memories. Katalin Fehér, Associate Professor and science strategy expert at the University of Public Service in Budapest, outlined key challenges in the development of AI technologies, including misinformation and biases coded into artificial intelligence.

President of the PHI Institute for Augmented Intelligence, George A. Tilesch, Research Fellow at the Institute for Computer Science and Control (SZTAKI), Mihály Héder, and Permanent Research Fellow at iASK, László Z. Karvalics, participated in a roundtable discussion on the dominant narratives surrounding artificial intelligence. They discussed both optimistic and dystopian scenarios of the rapid development of these technologies and their predictions about the future role of AI systems across all platforms and communication technologies, forthcoming legal regulations, and the potentially devastating consequences of job automation. Tilesch stated that humanity is at a crossroads and the future scenario is not yet set. “Over the next few years, we will be looking for our place in the machine-human equation”, he said.