On March 11th, 2005 the Varsavsky Foundation will host the Atocha Workshop on global terrorism, an interactive brainstorm and policy forum that takes place at the Atocha train station on the first anniversary of the Atocha massacre. This workshop will include selected participants from the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security, as well as other creative individuals. This is an independent event organized by the Varsavsky Foundation.

At the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security participants will engage in drafting the Madrid Agenda, the culmination of months of collaboration between key policymakers, leading scholars, and international experts. The Atocha Workshop will have a different objective. While the Madrid Agenda is about building a bridge among democracies for coordinated action vis a vis global terrorism, the Atocha workshop is less about consensus as much as it is more of a forum to promote diverse thinking in the fight against terrorism. The objective is to create a repository of original thinking on global terrorism that will start on March 11th and will continue to be fed daily in the form of a blog by creative thinkers from around the world. The innovative format of the Atocha Workshop will be especially stimulating with small, focused, group debates on challenging topics. This will be combined with the use of a large group Policy Forum open to the public. The results of the Atocha Workshop will be published in blog format on the Atocha Workshop web site (AtochaWorkshop.org) for all interested people around the world to see and comment on.

The Atocha Workshop will develop an innovative work environment, but most importantly will honor the victims of terrorism. As we reflect on the tragedy of this day, we must draw inspiration from the site of the attack and work constructively towards a safer future. The greatest honor that can be bestowed upon the victims of terrorism is the creation of a world where M11 and acts of terror will never happen again.

Preliminary Program

The Atocha Workshop will take place at the Atocha Train Station on March 11th, 2005. It will begin at 12:30pm at the Samarkanda Restaurant, and continue until 8:00pm. Here, an atmosphere that encourages creative content production will be developed.

The workshop will consist of seven events. Six will be open to the public while the creative debate is for invited participants only. Altogether around 120 participants and 230 members of the public are expected to attend the Workshop.


Opening Plenary (Creative Debate Participants & Public): A diverse group of seven participants will engage in a discussion open to the public.


Creative Debate (Creative Debate Participants Only): In 10 groups of 12, including a moderator and a rapporteur, members will have a timed debate on a specific topic under discussion. The rapporteur will be equipped with a laptop and will contribute the groups original thinking live to a blog set up specifically for the workshop. Feedback received on the blog from participants around the world will be shared with the group. At the end of this debate, the group must develop a minimum of one creative proposal that they will present in the Policy Forum that takes places 45 minutes after the end of the Creative Debate.


Plenary Session I (Selected Creative Debate Participants and Public. The two plenary sessions and rapid fire panel will run parallel to the Creative Debate.)
Topic: TBA
This plenary session will consist of 5 speakers and 1 moderator.


Plenary Session II: (Selected Creative Debate Participants and Public)
Topic: TBA
This plenary session will consist of 5 speakers and 1 moderator.


Rapid Fire Panel: (Selected Creative Debate Participants and Public)
In this format, 6 panellists will have 5 minutes each, to make a presentation of their creative and innovative idea. After each presentation there will be a 5 minute Q & A session.




Policy Forum (Creative Debate Participants and Public): The innovative ideas and proposals developed in the Creative Debates will be presented to the public in a unique format. Each creative debate group will be assigned to a designated area of the conference hall. As the public walks among these groups, the Creative Debate teams will stand with flip charts and try to gain support for their ideas in brief presentations to the public. Members of the public will then endorse the policies they believe to be constructive with their signature. This exercise will serve two purposes. It will give feedback to policy sponsors as to the general acceptance of their ideas, and will give the public a way to transform concern into action.


Remembrance of March 11th victims: (Creative Debate Participants and Public):
Directly following the Policy Forum there will be a remembrance of the victims of March 11, 2004. This will consist of a presentation by Dr. Yael Danieli, a leading psychologist, and former Senior Representative to the United Nations of the World Federation for Mental Health and of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. She will present her new book entitled The Trauma of Terrorism, focusing on an aspect of the War on Terror that all too often is overlooked.

In addition, Samarkanda Restaurant will be the host to a surrounding photo exhibit from Madrid in Memoriam. This organization has complied a presentation of amateur and professional photos that capture the impact of March 11, 2004.

Proposed topics for Creative Debate

  1. Nationalism and Religion: Their Effects on Terrorism:
    Nationalism alone as in the case of ETA seems to be enough to inspire terrorism. But the most lethal terrorist acts seem to be carried out by terrorists who blend both, nationalism and religion. The same appears to be true of the responses to terrorism as the 100,000 estimated dead in Iraq show. Nations that combine a heavy dosage of nationalism and religion, as the United States seem to have a tendency to be more ready to accept the use of force. What is it about this combination of nationalism and religion that makes actors feel more entitled to violence? Can anything be done to deflate it?
  2. The Ethics of Bombing and Placing Bombs:
    Why is bombing acceptable while placing bombs is not? Can democracies continue to justify bombing civilians from the air and ground as a valid terrorist fighting tactic? When does bombing unarmed civilian populations become a crime? How can democracies put together an ethical response to terrorism?
  3. Why did Progressives Divide Over Iraqi Policy:
    Why did people as different in political backgrounds as Dick Cheney and Tony Blair fight the Iraqi war together?
  4. Russia and the War on Terror:
    How can Western democracies validly criticize the responses of Putin to Islamic terrorism while at the same time invade Iraq? Taking into account that the biggest terrorist threat is nuclear terrorism, shouldn’t the United States either change its own policies or else go all the way and ally itself with Russia in the war against Islamic Terrorism?
  5. Terrorism as an Enterprise:
    Is terrorism a political movement or a political enterprise created by power entrepreneurs whose access to power is otherwise blocked? Establish a psychological profile of terrorist leaders: what really motivates people like Osama Bin Laden?
  6. Muslim Society’s Latent and Explicit Support of Terrorism:
    What percentage of sympathizers do terrorists need to succeed within a society? What is the support that Al Qaida has in Islamic countries?
  7. Allocating Resources in the Fight against Global Terror:
    Was the $200 bn spent by the US in the invasion of Iraq wisely spent? How much money is reasonable for the US to devote to fighting terrorism? Should some funds be spent in different initiatives? What could these initiatives be and how much could they cost?
  8. America’s War on Terror and the Fall of the US dollar:
    Are there any links between the invasion of Iraq and the fall of the dollar? Has the war on terror affected the ability of US multinationals to do business around the world and sell their products and services?
  9. The Impact of the War on Terror on American Multinationals:
  10. Nuclear Weapons in the Arab World:
    Why does the United States accept that Pakistan be the only Islamic nuclear power while fighting so hard against Iran’s development of atomic weapons? How can this be explained to the Iranian people? Isn´t it reasonable that Iran surrounded by 4 atomic powers already, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel would want to own atomic weapons? Should we try to stop Iran or disarm others?
  11. Rallying Moderate Muslims in the Western World:
    Are Muslim citizens of Europe and the United States potential terrorists or contrarily potenial allies in the fight against terrorism? Have the US policies in Iraq made these citizens more likely to sympathize and even collaborate with global terrorism? Now that Muslims make up 5% of the electorate in some western democracies, should policy towards the Muslim world in western democracies be made with Muslim voters in mind?
  12. Possible US Responses to a Nuclear Terrorist Attack:
    If the next Al Qaeda attack is an atomic car bomb exploding in Manhattan with over 100,000 people dead, how should the United States retaliate?
  13. Terrorism Finance 101:
    How much does it cost to start and maintain an Al Qaeda cell? How much money does it take to run Al Qaeda? How cost effective is suicide bombing as a form of warfare? It is estimated that it costs Hamas only around $150 per suicide bombing. Is this one of the reasons for its success as a terrorist practice?
  14. Debating Terrorists:
    Knowing what we know about terrorists, what are the 10 most effective ways to convince a terrorist to give up violence? Do they center around carrots or sticks?
  15. Empowering Muslim Women:
    If Muslim women are denied basic rights that are common to them in Democracies, is there a way to work through women’s groups to promote democracy and fight terrorism in Islamic countries?
  16. Sex and The War on Terror:
    Muslim terrorists criticize Western sexual values and yet endorse practices such as polygamy that Westerners find as unacceptable. Do these differences in sexual values come up in episodes of sexual violence such as Abu Ghraib? How do sexual views in general of Westerners and Muslims affect the conflict?
  17. Crime and Punishment in the Muslim World:
    Other than terrorism, do Muslim societies suffer a generally high, medium or low common crime rate? How does their definition and punishment for crime differ from those of Western Democracies?
  18. Freedom Fighters or Terrorists? How to Shape the Debate:
    Is violence by Iraqis against US Troops terrorism or a war of national liberation? Does terrorism refer to a method of fighting or to the targeting of civilians?
  19. Madrasas, Islam, and the Education Gap in the Arab World:
    Is education effective in preventing terrorism? Is Israeli education proof of this? Of the over one million Israeli citizens of Palestine descent, few have committed terrorists acts yet 25% of Palestinian Youths educated in the occupied territories between age 12 to 17 responded in surveys that they would like to become suicide bombers. Is this proof that Palestinians educated by Israelis behave very differently from Palestinians educated by Palestinians under occupation? Should the US and Europe invest resources in education in the Middle East? Would Middle East countries accept this intervention?
  20. The PR War: Al Qaeda vs. U.S:
    Who is winning the PR battle? The US or the Islamic Extremists? How does each side manipulate the Internet, mass media, and use key personalities for their cause? Who would be the most effective spokesman for the American war on terror? Is Bush the US’s most effective spokesman? Is Bin Laden the most effect spokesman on the other side? Is the right measure of PR effectiveness the “conversion rate”?
  21. The Arms Race Version 2.0: Muslims vs. Christians Proselytizing:
    In the post cold-war era, are we entering a different type of an arms race? What are cultures from around the world doing to finish at the top in the race for disciples? From Evangelical Christians to Islam Fundamentalists, who is winning this war?
  22. The Unholy Alliance Between Red States and the Muslim world:
    Do we have an unholy alliance between people from the Red States and the Muslim world as these individuals are driven more by religion than other values? Are the people in the Blue States and Europe their hostages?
  23. The Leftist Attack on the IMF and World Bank and the Rightist Attacks on the UN and their Effect on Multilateralism :
    Is the attack of the UN by the right and the IMF and World Bank from the left denigrating international institutions to the point that the general public doesn’t believe they can effectively deal with problems such as global terrorism?
  24. The Presence of Infidels:
    Western democracies accept Muslim citizens, allowing them to freely practice their religion. Yet, many Muslims believe that infidels should not get the same treatment in their countries. Is this differential treatment acceptable? Is the problem that Al Qaeda raises of having American bases in Saudi Arabia that the soldiers are not Muslim or that they are foreigners?
  25. The Use of Force:
    Other than the some fierce pacifists most citizens of democratic countries believe that democracies need to be armed and be ready to use military power in order to preserve themselves. But what should the guidelines be for its use?
  26. Violence and Religion:
    Is religion itself a terrorist hostage? To what extent are religions violent or very violent people religious?
  27. The UN: Under Funded Expectations:
    Can the UN do all that we expect from it including leading military intervention with a budget that is 3 times smaller than that of the State of Colorado? How can international institutions help in the conflict of global terrorism if they are so under funded?
  28. The Race for Nuclear Weapons:
    Is having nuclear weapons the only way for LDCs to get the attention of the USA? Isn’t the USA providing an incentive to despots to seek them?
  29. US Troops in Iraq:
    Will the US troops leave Iraq in the next 3 years? Are the US troops in Iraq to safeguard democracy, oil supplies, or both?
  30. Democracies and the War on Terror:
    What is the most effective anti-terrorist plan that democracies can put together that does not make military intervention a part of the strategy? What can be done at the grassroots level in the Muslim world to improve the average Muslim’s view of Western Democracies?
  31. Democracy and Terrorism:
    If the whole world was a democracy, would there still be terrorism? If the Millenium Goals are achieved, would there still be terrorism?
  32. The Likelihood of Another 9/11:
    Was Osama Bin Laden unusually lucky on 9/11 as he himself seemed to believe? Can a reasonable argument be made that the fight against terrorism has been effective and that it is very unlikely that we will ever see something like 9/11 again?
  33. Victims of the War on Terror:
    How many deaths have occurred since 9 11? How many of the dead are Christian, Jews or Muslims? Why?
  34. Death Penalty in the Islamic World:
    Is there a relationship between terrorism and the punishment by death that conversion to another religion carries in many Muslim countries? If most Muslims approve of extremely harsh penalties for people who convert, does that make death of non-Muslims easier to tolerate in general? Is there a correlation
    in the fact that USA and the Muslim world both have death penalty and the Middle East conflict?
  35. The State of Open Society and the War on Terror:
    What are reasonable measures that democracies can take to protect themselves against terrorism? Are the US air travel security procedures reasonable? Why are the securities procedures at European airports so different? Is terrorism effective when it forces open societies to become “less open?”
  36. Is Saudi Arabia Osama Bin Laden’s real target?

See also the Atocha Workshop Confirmed Participants

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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