H.E. Heinz Fischer,
President of the Republic of Austria

H.E. Josef Ostermayer
Minister of Culture, Media and Constitution
H.E. sebastian Kurz
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Integration

Joel Bell
Chairman, Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership

Manfred Matzka
Director General, Chancellery of Austria

Professor Oliver Rathkolb


Congress Welcome Note Joel Bell

Like its predecessor of two centuries ago, this is a gathering of knowledgeable individuals convened to consider ways to promote international cooperation on matters important for stability and peace. Today’s Congress differs from its predecessor in that we wish to add the issue of fairness to our deliberations; and we gather a global group of decision-influencers with the latitude to explore new ideas and processes.

Achieving international cooperation is no easy task. Shared interests are often overshadowed by rivalries. Genuine dialogue, essential for cooperation, is impeded by divisive nationalist, ethnic, religious, and political narratives. At the same time, we must address the greater real diversity of interacting states and philosophies in an interdependent modern world. However, the opportunity for leaders to spend the kind of personal time with one another that might develop understanding, trust, and cooperation is lacking.

Principles—or, more ambitiously, rules—meant to govern international conduct have become increasingly difficult to agree upon and sustain in periods of stress. The Congress is meant to be a safe venue for candid dialogue in search of ideas for resolving current conflicts and mitigating the risk of future conflict. We wish to find durable means to these ends—despite foreseeable demographic, climate, economic, technological, and political changes—among the major powers: the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, Japan, and India. Major power relationships matter most because of their impact. But smaller states, particularly if they were to find ways to collaborate, could exercise more influence. Many issues need to be addressed, among them:

  • power shifts of importance among states, posing accommodation challenges and leading to friction;
  • new forms of interstate rivalries and hostilities;
  • more issues of a global nature, beyond the capacity of any individual state to resolve;
  • greater interdependence, resulting in shared interests but also the increased risk of conditions in one country causing disruption in, and even conflict with, another;
  • regional trade and investment agreements that exclude potential participants on geopolitical grounds, which may lead to future confrontations between resulting blocs;
  • the increased influence of the numerous and diverse non-state actors at the expense of state actors, some of this change occurring as a result of domestic political choices and government inaction;
  • the visibility, mobilizing capacities, and abbreviated messaging of modern media;
  • greater diffusion of power and points of potential disruption; and
  • the significant erosion of public trust in governments and leaders, which undermines decision making—both domestic and international—that might relieve tensions.

We will ask you to consider: Is more cooperation possible on such global challenges as climate change, terrorism, disruption of the global economic system, forced migration, and economic inequality? Might a path be found for major states to address more general security issues and risks of conflict cooperatively?

On behalf of the many individuals and organizations acknowledged elsewhere in this program, I welcome you to what we hope will be an open and frank dialogue on the differences we face. Our aim is to stimulate the search for practical ideas for achieving a durably peaceful, stable, and fair world order.

I would like to express my personal appreciation to the many people and organizations that have been involved in this project to date, whose names you will find in the pages of this program. My thanks to:

  • the distinguished delegates, participants, and international observers who are dedicating time to this initiative, and on whom the success of this project ultimately depends;
  • the authors of papers guiding us in areas of their specialties;
  • the participants in and co-sponsors of the pre-Congress workshops that reviewed those papers;
  • the International Advisory Committee members for their time, ideas, and encouragement;
  • the partnering organizations for their ideas and support; and
  • the research and logistics staff for their dedication to the preparations that have gone into the realization of this dialogue.

Most particularly, I want to say for all of us that we greatly appreciate the kind and helpful reception we have had from our hosts, the Government of Austria and particularly its Chancellery; and the generosity of the donors that have helped make these activities possible. Our commitment as the organizers is to do what we can to facilitate open-minded, informed, and respectful dialogue among a broad and engaged public, as well as among leaders, to arrive at outcomes for a better global community.


Joel Bell