Authoritarianism in a Global Context

Dates: June 21-July 11, 2015

Chair: Martin K. Dimitrov

Location: The American Academy in Berlin

Despite the impressive gains made by democracy in the last several decades, more than half of the world’s population still lives in autocracies today. A few years ago, Freedom House called attention to an important trend: the global retreat of democracy, which was expressed as a net decline in the number of policies classified as “free.” More than a year after the Arab Spring, democracy has yet to take root in the Middle East. The events of 2o11 resulted only in Tunisia’s elevation from “not free” to “partly free,” a category that also includes autocracies like Kuwait, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine. What explains this persistence of authoritarianism? Why is it that momentous changes such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Arab Spring have resulted in the emergence of democracy in some countries and the persistence of autocracy in others? And, finally, why has a cluster of countries—key among them China—survived the fall of communism in Europe, the breakup of the Soviet Union, Color revolutions in the post-Soviet republics, and the Arab Spring without experiencing regime collapse?

Despite their theoretical importance and clear relevance to policymakers, these questions have not been answered by the existing social science literature. There are three reasons for this gap in our knowledge. The first is that because of disciplinary boundaries, scholars work on authoritarianism in isolation; this prevents, for example, political scientists from engaging with the work of historians, and vice versa. Second, the world of autocracies is regionally divided: scholars work on authoritarianism in the Middle East, East Asia, or the post-Soviet space, but they do not engage in cross-regional research that can identify the commonalities and differences across these regions and provide a more comprehensive and theoretically rigorous answer to the question of the global persistence of authoritarianism. And third, there are linguistic and geographical divisions that prevent American scholars from learning about the exciting new research on authoritarianism taking place in Europe.


Germany, the United States and the Emerging International Order

Dates: May 11-14, 2015

Chairs: Michael Ignatieff and Harold Hongju Koh

Location: The American Academy in Berlin

The long-running crisis in Ukraine has exposed fissures in German and American approaches to maintaining international order in a world marked by increasing antagonism between liberal democracies and authoritarian capitalist regimes. For Americans, the new authoritarian capitalist regimes in Russia and China are global geostrategic rivals; for the Germans, the overwhelming priority is different: to maintain the peace in Europe and prevent the alteration of borders by force. While both Germany and the United States share a common commitment to a rules-based international order, each interprets this commitment differently, in the light of its particular history, geography and legal tradition.

How to understand the new international order and how to maintain alliance cohesion as both Germany and the US respond to new challenges in Ukraine, Eastern Europe and East Asia are perfect subjects for the Holbrooke Forum at the American Academy, Berlin. It was founded to honor the achievements of Richard C. Holbrooke, who founded the Academy while serving as American Ambassador to Germany.   His diplomacy—including the 1995 Dayton Accord—was inspired by multilateralist assumptions: that American power was most likely to succeed in stabilizing the international order if the Europeans, especially the Germans, played a central role and if the Russians were brought in as participants and not marginalized as spoilers.

These assumptions are being challenged in Europe by events in Ukraine and in East Asia by the rise of China. So it is an opportune moment to revisit these Holbrookian assumptions and ask whether they need to be discarded or renewed in the light of the new international situation.


Peace and Justice

Dates: December 18-21, 2014

Chairs: Harold Hongju Koh and Michael Ignatieff

Location: The American Academy in Berlin

A critical element of the “Holbrooke Formula” was “No Peace Without Justice.” This normative commitment, which formed a backdrop to Dayton, was later reiterated by Richard Holbrooke with respect to Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. During the Obama Administration, it formed the basis for his support for international criminal justice, for prosecutions at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (ICTY/ICTR), and for reversing US hostility to the International Criminal Court (ICC) under Secretary Hillary Clinton. The second meeting of the Forum will be held at the Academy Thursday, December 18 through Sunday, December 21, 2014, under the chairmanship of Harold Hongju Koh of Yale Law School and Michael Ignatieff of Harvard Kennedy School, and will address the ways in which the sequencing of peace and justice has become more complex as the number of situations under international criminal investigation have multiplied, as normative maxims (“don’t deal with indicted war criminals”) have proliferated, and as the ICC has evolved as an institution with a second-generation prosecutor, set of judges, and leadership of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP). An unaddressed crisis now looms with respect to the Crime of Aggression, which the ICC States Parties propose to fully implement by 2017. Improperly implemented, that crime could ironically deter states parties from humanitarian intervention to prevent the very atrocity crimes –war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide–that the ICC was institutionalized to punish. In the adolescence of the implementation phase of “No Peace without Justice,” how should we think about the challenges of sequencing, reconciling competing demands, and using law to restrain abusive uses of force?


Statecraft and Responsibility

Dates: June 5-8, 2014

Co-Chairs: Michael Ignatieff and Harold Hongju Koh.

Location: American Academy in Berlin

The overarching theme of the Holbrooke Forum is responsibility and statecraft in the twenty-first century: how responsibility for managing critical problems—from conflict, civil war, financial crisis, and climate change—is being redistributed in a multipolar world. In our June 2014 meeting, our focus will be on what policy outcomes in Bosnia and Syria tell us about the responsibility for stopping civil war and massacre in the twenty-first century.

In 1995, Richard Holbrooke and the Clinton Administration brought the Bosnian war to an end, at Dayton. In 2014, the great powers have failed their responsibilities in Syria. What lessons need to be drawn from the Syrian catastrophe? What does it teach us about the emerging global balance of power? Who must shoulder responsibility to protect civilians from massacre and civil war in the twenty-first century? How must international law and international institutions evolve to regain authority and legitimacy?

Photo credit: Don McCullin