Aspen Strategy Group
Aspen Strategy Group
Past meetings of the Aspen Ministers Forum
Regional Security in MENA: Engaging Stakeholders and Sharing Responsibility, Session XV of the Aspen Ministers Forum (March 2013)
Set in Marrakech, Morocco, the 15th session of the Aspen Ministers Forum drew together twenty-five former foreign ministers in March 2013 to examine the most pressing issues of regional security in North Africa and the Middle East and to identify the stakeholders that can play a role in bringing peace and stability to the region. The discussion began with a timely assessment of the situation in Mali and then shifted to look at the realities on the ground in Morocco, Egypt, Syria, and Iran. On Iran, the group wrestled with the status of the current negotiations, questioned the efficacy of the sanctions policy, and brainstormed new strategies to ensure a peaceful and diplomatic resolution. On Syria, the group heard from keynote speaker Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and League of Arab States for Syria, on the urgency of the Syrian crisis. To read ASG Director Nicholas Burns’ corresponding op-ed on Syria, click here.
Transitions: Lessons from the Arab World, Session XIV of the Aspen Ministers Forum (July 2012)
In July, 2012, the Aspen Ministers Forum convened to discuss the remarkable transitions underway in the Arab world, in Prague, a city which served as an apposite backdrop for the topic at hand, and its lessons for democratic transition were both well-incorporated into the discussions and much appreciated by the Forum. The Forum held three days of thoughtful and candid discussions on the nature of the Arab uprisings, their trajectories, and opportunities for the international community to enable peaceful paths forward for states in transition. With the additional counsel of preeminent experts in Political Islam, the Arab world, and conflict and stability, the Forum was able to conclude with several strong points of agreement and opportunities for action. The meeting also coincided with the launch of Aspen Institute's newest international partner, Aspen Institute Prague.
Translating Priorities Into Action: A Blueprint for Peace & Security, Session XIII of the Aspen Ministers Forum (January 2012)
Following on the previous meeting in The Hague that examined the loss of faith in international institutions, the Ministers met in Copenhagen to narrow their focus and produce meaningful ideas on ways to strengthen these institutions and increase their effectiveness, specifically in the areas of peace and security. The sessions explored United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s vision for his second term at the helm of the UN and looked at key operations including peacekeeping, collective security, economic stabilization, and the UN’s role in climate change policy making. Acknowledging the lack of faith in established international organizations, the group asked whether states should be seeking answers outside this framework and whether that would help or harm the international community’s ongoing efforts in achieving a more peaceful and secure world. Instrumental to the group’s three-day deliberations about this overarching and difficult question was the participation of key outside experts such as NATO SACEUR Admiral James Stavridis, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Jane Holl Lute, and President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy Hernando de Soto, and visits by Danish officials such as Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Minister for Economics and the Interior Margrethe Vestager. One of the important outcomes of the meeting was a joint decision to prepare and present a detailed letter to the Secretary-General as he begins his second term to lay out possible areas for cooperation on the Secretary-General’s Action Plan priorities and offer concrete suggestions on how to achieve maximal UN effectiveness. This meeting also produced an Arctic working group, to be chaired by Niels Helveg Petersen, and ideas for a series of op-eds that will be published throughout the year, around important international events, to optimize the reach and impact of the ministers’ collective voice.
The Indispensable Institution: Restoring Faith in International Organizations, Session XII of the Aspen Ministers Forum (June 2011)
The twelfth meeting of the Aspen Ministers Forum convened in The Hague, The Netherlands, gathering 19 former Foreign Ministers and 20 expert participants for the purpose of assessing the fitness of international organizations to address contemporary challenges and identifying the way forward in improving their accountability, transparency, and legitimacy. The meeting began with a historical examination of the rise of international organizations, which followed two debilitating world wars that necessitated institutionalized international cooperation. Subsequently, the meeting shifted focus to the 21st century, whose developments relating to globalization, the emergence of new powers and non-state actors, and proliferation of transnational conflicts and challenges have placed a greater burden on international organizations. Several critical questions were raised: should the UN and the World Bank be reformed to better reflect the modern international landscape? Can international organizations serve states' interests as a tool of foreign policy? What is the role of international organizations in carrying out the Responsibility to Protect? How do these organizations compare to alternative mechanisms for international cooperation, namely informal governance structures such as the G-20 and public-private partnerships? Also, the group spent time assessing the mission, role, and current capabilities of international organizations to address the peace, security, and democracy challenges in North Africa and the Middle East. Of particular concern was the ongoing violence in Syria and the possibility of using new tools to stop the bloodshed. As a culmination of this meeting, the Ministers jointly wrote an op-ed in the Financial Times. The idea of using the International Criminal Court to launch an investigation into the events in Syria was conceived within the context of our discussions on confidence in and the capabilities of international institutions today. You can read the op-ed on Syria from the group here and a piece by Lloyd Axworthy here.
Identifying Bridges: Discerning Areas for Mutual Engagement and Cooperation with the Muslim World, Session XI of the Aspen Ministers Forum (October 2010)
From October 1-3, twenty-one former foreign ministers met in Madrid to conduct an open dialogue on the relationship between the West and the “Muslim World” and seek areas of common ground, cooperation, and mutual engagement to confront collectively the global challenges ahead. In both the United States and Europe this ongoing discussion is critically important and has been acknowledged at the highest levels. President Obama has laid out his vision for a new beginning between the U.S. and the Muslim World in the Cairo Speech and through initiatives such as Partners for a New Beginning. Across Europe, governments are grappling with immigration principles and integration strategies along with wider policy ideas such as the European Neighborhood Policy. Representing a wide range of countries and concerns, the ministers covered a myriad of issues including historical legacies in the relationship, the differing experiences of immigration, integration, and assimilation in North America and Europe, misperceptions held by both communities, the role of media, and how public-private partnerships might help build mutual trust going forward. After the conference, the ministers committed themselves to a set of principles (published in the Huffington Post) that can and should be taken into consideration to strengthen the foundation for intercultural understanding, and then outlined a number of tools that can be used by political, religious, business and academic leaders to generate progress. Further information about the ministers' statement on Islam and the West can be found here.
Building A New Framework: The West’s Relationship with Afghanistan and Pakistan, Session X of the Aspen Atlantic Group (December 2009)
Only two days after the Obama administration announced its new strategy for moving forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan on December 1, the AAG convened in Washington, D.C. during December 4-6, for its tenth meeting since 2003. Given the timing of the administration’s announcement, as well as the importance of this issue to American national security and the transatlantic relationship, no other topic seemed more appropriate for this group of former foreign ministers to discuss. During these sessions, a group of 20 ministers engaged in a high-level examination of U.S.-NATO policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The ministers met with several government officials, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, Central Commander General David Petraeus, Senator Richard Lugar, Senator Jack Reed, and the State Department’s Senior Advisor to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Vali Nasr to discuss a more effective international strategy. Sessions on Afghanistan included a review of the new NATO strategy, a discussion on striking a balance between civil and military cooperation in attempts to rebuild the country, and an analysis of Afghanistan’s economy. The sessions on Pakistan examined the country’s internal stability, U.S. & European efforts to assist Pakistan, and the ways in which public opinion affects our policy options. As part of this strategic partnership, the minister’s published a consensus editorial in the Daily Beast on the critical importance of a civilian surge. This editorial was distributed to the press through The Aspen Institute in the United States and the Bertelsmann Foundation in Europe, and further information can be found here. The meeting and subsequent editorial inspired additional editorials by AAG member Lloyd Axworthy in the Canadian daily The Globe and Mail, as well as conference participant and former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Karl Inderfurth, in The New York Times. Moreover, for this meeting, the AAG commissioned papers to lead the discussions. A list of the paper authors and titles along with links to their works are below:
- U.S.-European Cooperation in Afghanistan (Jim Dobbins)
- Applying Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan: Key Issues and Challenges for the United States and NATO (Nate Fick and John Nagl)
- Pakistan: Why It Must Have Help and How to Provide It (Sir Hilary Synnott)
Turkey: Forging a Common Agenda for a Defining Moment, Session IX of the Aspen Atlantic Group (April 2009)
From April 23-26, The Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB), hosted the Aspen Atlantic Group for its ninth session in Ankara, Turkey to discuss Turkey’s growing role in the region and throughout the world. The group, comprised of sixteen former foreign ministers, met with experts in Turkish domestic and international politics to try and illuminate the advantages and obstacles facing Turkey’s accession into the European Union. Topics for the sessions ranged from Turkey’s unique role in the Middle East, European and Turkish perspectives on the accession process, the financial crisis and its impact on foreign policy, and forging a path toward greater transnational cooperation.
After the conference, the ministers committed themselves to a set of principles outlining a general approach to Turkey and its actions as an increasingly influential actor on the world stage. Signatories included: Madeleine Albright (United States), Halldór Ásgrímsson (Iceland), Lloyd Axworthy (Canada), Lamberto Dini (Italy), Jan Eliasson (Sweden), Joschka Fischer (Germany), Rosario Green (Mexico), Igor Ivanov (Russia), Janos Martonyi (Hungary), Donald McKinnon (New Zealand), Ana Palacio (Spain), Niels Helveg Petersen (Denmark), Lydie Polfer (Luxembourg), Malcolm Rifkind (United Kingdom), and Jozias Van Aartsen (The Netherlands).
The Political Implications of Climate Change, Session VIII of the Aspen Atlantic Group (March 2008)
The potential impact of climate change creates an opportunity for both sides of the Atlantic to establish a shared agenda addressing this imminent threat, while enhancing the economic, strategic, and global development relationship. The Aspen Atlantic Group (AAG), comprising former Foreign Ministers from North America, Europe, and Russia, met in Copenhagen, Denmark from March 6 to 9, 2008, with experts in the areas of national security, economics, and legislation to discuss global climate change. Deliberations covered a range of topics, including U.S. movement to address climate change, the integration of emerging countries, the national security implications of a climate shift, the prospects of a global deal during the Copenhagen 2009 summit, and European and American approaches for dealing with this issue.
AAG Ministers unanimously signed on to a post-conference op-ed published in The Boston Globe, April 8, 2008. The article challenges world policy leaders to collectively employ their resources, garnered during their time in government service, towards a new strategy to confront this defining issue of our time. Signatories included: Madeleine Albright (United States), Halldór Ásgrímsson (Iceland), Lloyd Axworthy (Canada), Erik Derycke (Belgium), Jan Eliasson (Sweden), Bronislaw Geremek (Poland), Rosario Green (Mexico), Igor Ivanov (Russia), Ana Palacio (Spain), Niels Helveg Petersen (Denmark), Surin Pitsuwan (Thailand), Lydie Polfer (Luxembourg), Hubert Védrine (France), Knut Vollebaek (Norway), Lamberto Dini (Italy), Gareth Evans (Australia), Joschka Fischer (Germany), Malcolm Rifkind (United Kingdom), and Jozias Van Aartsen (The Netherlands).
Africa at Risk or Rising? The Role of Europe, North America and China on the Continent, Session VII of the Aspen Atlantic Group (May 2007)
The Aspen Atlantic Group in Berlin convened 14 former foreign ministers and an array of experts from Europe, North America, and China to discuss the evolving relationships that the major powers are pursuing with Africa. Enriched by the presentations of several German government officials, the workshop explored such issues as energy as a new driver for engagement, the impact of international development assistance, the future of mass conflict on the continent, transnational challenges such as health and environmental degradation, and the status of democracy and human rights. Drawing together diverse perspectives, this meeting served as an important platform for participants to consider a common vision for effective cooperation on the continent.
The Crisis in Darfur: What is to be Done?, Session VI of the Aspen Atlantic Group (December 2006)
For the sixth session of the Aspen Atlantic Group, 14 former foreign ministers, as well as a number of UN and U.S. government officials and experts, gathered in Washington D.C. December 7-10, 2006 to discuss an end to the crisis in Darfur. Keynote speakers included UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, Special Presidential Envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios, and UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs & Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland. The meeting focused on policy options for the international community while integrating local perspectives from Sudan. The resulting proposal for action appeared on the December 17th Financial Times and was discussed and reprinted in major publications worldwide. Signatories included Madeleine Albright (the United States), Joschka Fischer (Germany), Ismail Cem (Turkey), Lloyd Axworthy (Canada); Erik Derycke (Belguim); Lamberto Dini (Italy); Gareth Evans (Australia); Bronislaw Geremek (Poland); Rosario Green (Mexico); Niels Helveg Petersen (Denmark); Surin Pitsuwan (Thailand); Ana Palacio (Spain); Lydie Polfer (Luxembourg); and Jozias van Aartsen (Netherlands); Hubert Vedrine (France).
Russia: Prospects for a Common Transatlantic Agenda, Session V of the Aspen Atlantic Group (April 2006)
The Aspen Atlantic Group assembled several former foreign ministers, along with experts from Europe, the United States and Russia, at Wilton Park, England to explore the opportunity for future cooperation between North America and Europe in crafting policies toward Russia. Amid Russia's recent retreat from democratic practices, the workshop was guided by presentations on Russia's relationship with its neighbors, the health of the free-market economy in the country, Russia's dependability as an energy superpower, the West's views on Russia's strategy and tactics in Chechnya, the state of Russia's nuclear security in a post-9/11 world and Russia's role in the global war against terrorism. These conferences allowed for participants to develop and build strong personal relationships with each other and ultimately, create a strong foundation for promoting enlightened policy. Some notable attendees included former American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is the Aspen Atlantic Group's founder and director, and Igor Ivanov, Secretary of the Russian Security Council.
A Year of Opportunities for the International Communication: Transatlantic Roles and Implications, Session IV of the Aspen Atlantic Group (May 2005)
During a four-day workshop in Vancouver, Canada, the members of the Aspen Atlantic Group, as well as experts and policy makers from both sides of the Atlantic, discussed their recommendations for a package of United Nations reforms, a long-term agenda for recovery and reconstruction in Southeast Asia, and strategies to counter threats from nuclear proliferation while bolstering the non-proliferation regime. Themes such as the "Responsibility to Protect" and the need for democratic nations to take a leading role at the UN were possible areas of consensus which the group examined. Allan Rock, Canada's Ambassador to the UN, and Jane Holl Lute, Assistant Secretary General, UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, were among the keynote speakers.
Please find below the meeting briefing papers which guided the group's discussion in Vancouver:
- Additional Approaches to Non-Proliferation: The Proliferation Security Initiative, Michael Byers
- Rebels without a Cause? North Korea’s and Iran's Challenges to the NPT, Wade L. Huntley
- The Tsunami Disaster: Aid Effectiveness and Sustainable Solutions, Ray Offenheiser
- The Security Council: Should It Be Expanded? If So, How?, Paul Heinbecker
- Responsibility to Prevent: UN Reform, the Commission on Human Rights and the International Criminal Court, William A. Schabas
- Towards a New Transatlantic Consensus on the 'Collective Responsibility to Protect', Nicholas J. Wheeler
Iran: Prospects for A Common Transatlantic Agenda, Session III of the Aspen Atlantic Group (July 2004)
Building on the momentum of the 2003 sessions, the third workshop in the Aspen Atlantic Group series focused on crafting a common transatlantic agenda for Iran. Key strategic thinkers and senior statesmen spent three days in the Netherlands examining a variety of international and domestic issues that will shape Irans future relationship with the transatlantic partners. This workshop also included a special keynote presentation by General James L. Jones, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe who briefed participants on the recent NATO Summit in Istanbul.
- Ali Ansari, Recent Iranian Political Developments, Meeting Briefing Paper
- Robert J. Einhorn, The Iran Nuclear Issue, Meeting Briefing Paper
Crossing the Atlantic, Session II of the Aspen Atlantic Group (August 2003)
The second workshop in the Aspen Atlantic Group series centered on specific areas of transatlantic collaboration, including homeland security, Middle East peace, and humanitarian intervention. Members of the Aspen Atlantic Group present at this session in Aspen included Robin Cook, Britains former foreign secretary and current Member of Parliament, and Ismail Cem, former Turkish foreign minister and current president of the New Turkey Party. This workshop also featured a young leader component, and the rising generation of transatlantic experts, of which several representatives were present, infused dynamism and new ideas to the dialogue. While in Aspen, several former foreign ministers released a joint statement giving suggestions to the governments of North America and Europe on how to work together and with the strengths of the United Nations in rebuilding Iraq.
Transatlantic Relationship at the Crossroads, Session I of the Aspen Atlantic Group (June 2003)
In the spring of 2003, the Aspen Strategy Group and Secretary Madeleine Albright initiated a new meeting series in response to the crisis in transatlantic relations. The ASG and Secretary Albright convened senior statesmen from North America and Europe as well as Members of Congress, transatlantic experts, and representatives from the ASG membership. The pillars of the series, approximately a dozen former foreign ministers, present at the first meeting included former French foreign minister Hubert Vdrine and former foreign minister of Italy and current vice president of the Italian Senate, Lamberto Dini. Coming together at the Wye River campus of the Aspen Institute, the group conducted frank diagnosis of core commonalities and differences in North America and Europes needs and values. Participants debated possible changes in the transatlantic architecture, including recommendations for invigorating NATO and defining its role, creating better mechanisms for EU-U.S. dialogue and cooperation, undertaking UN reform, assessing the role of the OSCE, and revamping the G8.