BBC to host World Questions at University of Chile in Santiago

The British Broadcasting Corporation is set to host a public debate on April 4 at the University of Chile. BBC presenter and royal correspondent Jonny Dymond will host the World Questions event that will feature a panel of Chilean politicians and scholars. The event takes place in partnership with the British Council.

BBC World Questions, a series of international events, is coming to Chile for the first time. BBC Presenter and Royal Correspondent Jonny Dymond will host the debate with questions from the audience. The participants are journalist Alejandra Matus, former Central Bank head José de Gregorio, former Finance Minister Ignacio Briones, and lawmaker Lorena Fries.

Ahead of the event, Chile Today talked to Dymond about the program and Chile’s unique situation. Dymond’s answers are edited for clarity and brevity.

Why did the program choose to come to Chile now?

The 50th anniversary of the coup is obviously an important moment for the country and something we want to explore. What is left of the dictatorship and what has changed since those times. It’s a fascinating time to be here. To have a chance to examine the legacy of the dictatorship and to see how the country has prospered in the last 30 years has been really interesting. But also, what is new about the country, and what challenges and opportunities await.

What does the program hope people get out of its debates?

We need to go to places which tell a story of their own, but also tell a wider story about what brings us all together. We have gone to rich countries and to very poor countries. We hope that our audience understands and tries to understand. The core of what the BBC does remains the same, which is to educate, to entertain, and to inform. And I hope that the debates do all three things. That people can learn both about the individual country, but also that of their own problems, their own issues are mirrored around the world with all kinds of different solutions that there are. It’s easy to get pompous about these things. But I do think that through debate and discussion, people get to understand a little more of the world around them, and a little more about their own country.

On Monday, Dymond and producer Helen Towner visited the University of Chile:

Wherever we go, we get questions about climate change and the economy. It’s surprising how such questions bring the world together. Each country brings a different set of ideas and a different set of solutions. It’s both the unique challenges and opportunities of Chile. But it’s also the things in Chile that remind the world that we are in a common struggle against common problems.

How’s the debate preparation in Chile going?

Your readers will have to forgive my ignorance. The level of development in Chile was something of a surprise. I don’t know Latin America as well as I know Europe or North America. Chile is sadly best known for the coup and for Augusto Pinochet, and to learn that was very much an exception to Chile’s history and development has been really interesting. But to also understand that there is a fair degree of turmoil here and very lively debate about what the country should be has been fascinating. To see a country trying to work out a new political settlement is fascinating. The energy and excitement surrounding the new constitution, working out how you want to go forward, how much of the past you want to cast off, and how you want to declare the country’s future is really, really interesting.

As the program’s host, which country that you’ve been to was the most memorable one?

They’re all fascinating in their own way. We were in Iraq for the 20th anniversary of the US-led invasion. The passion of the audience was really astonishing. The last few decades have been extraordinarily difficult for Iraq, but the optimism and desire of the audience to see a brighter future was really interesting.

I was in Malawi a few months ago. It’s probably one of the poorest places I’ve ever been. And it’s on the frontline of climate change. The country is suffering as a result of things entirely beyond its control. That was eye opening as well. I’m very lucky to get to see the variety of an astonishing world, but also seeing the same kind of questions come up — the cost of living, climate change, and crime — that’s been the most interesting thing. So it’s not necessarily one country, it’s seeing the things that bind the world together, which is part of what we hope the BBC World Service does.

The English-language event will open at 6:30 p.m. for the public to submit questions, and the debate will start at 7:30 p.m. in the Honorary Hall of the University of Chile. 


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