I was lucky to witness the blue sky and clear city skyline of Hong Kong during my first visit last month. There was no smog enveloping the city, contrary to what the international media often reports. But that luck has not stopped me from reflecting on the challenges facing Hong Kong. The issue of reducing pollution while maintaining economic growth is an area of interest to the Salzburg Seminar, which is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to cross-cultural dialogue seeking solutions to issues of pressing global concern. We face challenges that can only be solved through greater international understanding and co-operation. Our organisation is hoping to foster creative interchanges among people from different regions of the world about methods of channelling growth to curb pollution. Some earnings from growth should be reinvested in research to replace current technologies with methods that generate lower levels of carbon emissions. Among the problems I have heard about in Hong Kong is how to allow wider public participation in urban planning. This is a question of how you take into account, in a meaningful, way the views of citizens, not just the powerful citizens or those who have strong economic and governmental interests. Those ordinary citizens who may feel they are living in flats that are too small, or do not have all the amenities they believe should be available in a very prosperous economy, must be heard. My limited knowledge does not allow me to talk about what specific steps should be taken in Hong Kong. What I can say is that governments across the world are realising methods must be found to include ordinary citizens in urban planning. I hope that the Salzburg Seminar can contribute ideas for the consideration of governments on how to balance the needs of development and for efficient decision-making, against the importance of citizen participation. Founded in 1947, the Salzburg Seminar was created to engage young leaders in building post-war understanding and problem-solving across cultural borders. It was founded by Clemens Heller, a Vienna-born student at Harvard University and the son of Sigmund Freud's publisher. Over the past 49 years, we have brought more than 25,000 participants from 150 countries to our seminars or programmes in Salzburg and other venues around the world. We have 75 fellows from Hong Kong. One of our missions is to identify current and future leaders from different parts of the world. I look forward to bringing more aspiring young talents from Hong Kong to join their counterparts from around the world in devising strategies to solve global problems. I am impressed to see Hong Kong maintaining its role as a financial centre and its economic vitality. I believe Hong Kong will continue to play an extremely important role in the world economy, even with rapid development on the mainland. Hong Kong needs to develop an even stronger position as an international city that is open to ideas from all places. Greater participation in international seminars, like the kind we have been arranging, would give Hong Kong people the chance to build networks with their counterparts from different parts of the world, including those from the government, media and non-governmental organisations. Hong Kong can certainly play a more active role in training leaders and young talent on the mainland. Stephen Salyer is president of the Austria-based Salzburg Seminar.