The Initiative

The Richard C. Holbrooke Forum was conceived by the American Academy in Berlin as a special remembrance of its founder and his lifelong commitment to applying the tools of diplomacy and statecraft for solving the protracted challenges to the well-being of humanity. It will be guided by his determination to reframe conventional wisdom, redefine the task at hand, and stimulate the intellectual courage needed to deal with seemingly insoluble conflicts.

The Forum will address the most intractable issues of global statecraft and subject them to the broad, inclusive, and rigorous approach characteristic of Ambassador Holbrooke. Its goal will be to render his method into a searching exercise that can produce the sort of startling insights for which he was known. Its compass will be the first principles of democracy and the moral imperatives of a humanitarian world.

An important tool will be the moderated dialogue, in which a strong chairperson forcefully challenges participants to reexamine assumptions, justify their conclusions, and break out of intellectual and emotional comfort zones that can hinder both careful listening and the creative search for solutions. Although the Forum is an initiative of the American Academy in Berlin, its ambitions are global, conceived in the spirit of Richard Holbrooke’s wide-ranging approach to diplomacy.

The Approach

In this spirit, the moderators will be able to leverage the intellectual capital of the American Academy in Berlin to form interdisciplinary working groups among persons from backgrounds who might not otherwise have come together. The task of the groups will be to share expertise, test assumptions while questioning existing methods, and push towards new insights about the issue under examination. The moderator will be expected to push discussion into seeking new ways of defining and dealing with the issues. Results will be published and circulated on multiple media platforms as well as through a variety of activities in the United States and in Europe. The Holbrooke Forum will focus on three areas of global concern:

The Topics

1. Statecraft, Norms, and Ideals

What methods are available to the international community in establishing democratic stability, especially in countries mired in internal conflict? What are the roles of international law, military intervention, and efforts to establish global norms such as the “responsibility to protect?” How is globalization changing the authority of the Western moral tradition?

2. The Enduring Crisis of Governance

What are the foundations for global governance in a multipolar world? Why have autocratic structures been so resilient in a world defined by openness and personal empowerment?

3. Securing the Peace, Transformation, and Reconciliation

What are the lessons of the first decades following the Cold War about ending conflicts and building stable law-based societies?