When institutions are young, they are inescapably guided more by their future than their history. Guidance by an undefined future demands inquisitive imagination about the landscape of time, a stoic resolve to move forward despite the uncertainty and a cautiously adventurous attitude toward unexplored paths. GRF is very much in this phase of its institutional growth.
Imagining the century that unfolds before us and preparing the institution for its expectations is not an easy task. GRF set out to contribute to the shaping of a fast integrating global order with widely shared rights, responsibilities, gains and sacrifices.
The world, however, appears to have paused on that path. The youthful yearning for rights, freedoms and prosperity in the Arab world has turned into the resigned search for order and security. The relations between the Transatlantic community and the Russian Federation have hit a new low, undermining order today and the rules of order for tomorrow. Global trade growth has stalled, arguments for fragmenting cybserpace across national lines to serve security interests are gaining ground, negative spillover effects of national monetary policy across borders are leading to a reconsideration of unfettered financial flows. Concern with and fear of disorder appear to be gaining the upper hand over the promises of a vibrant, free, integrating globe. This may prove to be an aberration but may well be a harbinger of a new context for international relations and humanity’s trajectory in the coming decades.
GRF’s Task Forces are the institution’s core platform for synthesis, prognosis and prescription on such critical structural questions of our time, with a view to reconciling the global concerns with national interests. The Forum published its energy task force report in 2013, imagining and probing the open-ended landscape of the future while advocating the narrow path of resilient globalisation. The report highlighted the significance of globally integrated energy markets and warned against adverse discontinuities that could upend structures the world takes for granted. Task Forces on national security and global trade continued their deliberations in an intellectual climate of intensifying national or regional reflexes in both of those domains.
Simply diagnosing or decrying the fragmentation of the world along national or regional lines is a muted response to a potentially paradigm shifting change. Institutions like GRF have a critical role to play- arguably their raison d’etre rather than a role- in expanding, deepening and enriching the context and horizon of bilateral and multilateral cooperation around the globe. As an institution committed to global cooperation from its inception, the Forum is now at the stage where it has the institutional confidence and competence to build and deepen a much-needed institutional web of relations around the globe. It continues to invest in institutional channels of substantive dialogue with counterparts around the world, from the US to Europe, from the Russian Federation to India. The efforts with Carnegie Moscow and RIAC in the Russian Federation lead to structured dialogues in 2012-2013. Of course, unbeknownst to us and our partners at the beginning, the dire developments in the Ukraine ended up rendering this work very topical, contentious but ultimately worthwhile. High level dialogues or track-II’s certainly have value in periods of peace and quiet but they prove their true worth in times of crises. Ultimately the web of these structures around the world will underpin and ensure the resilience of a sustainably cooperative global order.
GRF continued to build its community programs for young minds as the source of its institutional imagination and audacious intellect to position itself for the expectations of the future. The newly launched Young Academics program brings together a group of post-docs and final year PhD students in a variety of disciplines from around the world to probe and provoke each other as they push the boundaries of global policy debates. Developing these vibrant communities of policy thinking on global issues around the world is a key step to the shared ownership of global threats across societies. The other new program is geared towards the young professionals which reflects the Forum’s continued commitment to synthesizing analytical policy work with thoughtful practical considerations. Together with GRF’s continuing Young Scholars program, these initiatives now ensure a constant flow of motivated, informed and well-trained young associates to the Forum’s ranks.
Institutions, like individuals, have their developmental stages. Plasticity is high when they are young and the choices made have long-lasting implications. That is why the dedication and values of the early founders have an impact that go well beyond the early years. GRF’s Board, staff and members have been exceptionally forthcoming and generous in sharing their time, vision and wisdom with the institution. I can only hope that the Forum remains the beneficiary of such generosity for decades to come and builds on that good fortune to serve as a fertile venue for new ideas in pursuit of the global common good.
GRF Vice-Chairman & President