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Reality, Risk, and Potential: Managing Today's Conflicts

Foreign Affairs

Monday, October 26, 2015 from 8:15 AM to 3:40 PM (EDT)

Reality, Risk, and Potential: Managing Today's...

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For information on academic and NGO rates, please contact Monique Gaynor at

This high-level, day-long forum will bring together experts from the public and private sectors and from NGOs to examine major conflict flashpoints. Participants will go beyond the headlines and explore solutions to some of the world’s most pressing crises and to meet informally with an exclusive peer group.



8:15 - 9:00 am | Registration and Breakfast

9:00 - 10:00 am | 21st Century Disorder?

Armed conflict is on the rise, with major wars tripling since 2008. More people are displaced now than at any point in the past century. Geopolitical tensions are rising -- between major powers, particularly Russia and the West, and between increasingly influencial regional powers, especially in the Middle East. International law and institutions are contested and norms that once appeared to be headed towards broader acceptance – democracy, international justice and multilateralism among them – appear under strain. The world’s gravest challenges – whether war, displacement, climate change, resources scarcity or nuclear proliferation – require collective solutions at a time when many governments are pulling up the drawbridges. Are these trends temporary, or is the world entering a protracted period of disorder? If the latter, how can the traditional tools of conflict prevention and management keep up?

Jean-Marie Guéhenno, President and Chief Executive Officer, International Crisis Group
Emma Bonino, Former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Italy 
Riina Ruth Kionka, Chief Foreign Policy Advisor, European Council President  
Javier Solana, President, ESADE Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics; Distinguished Fellow, The Brookings Institution

Moderator: Jonathan Tepperman, Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs

10:15-11:15 am | The Middle East: An End in Sight?  

The Middle East faces its worst turmoil for decades. The Syrian war, now in its fifth year, has torn the country apart and displaced more than half its population. The Islamic State has consolidated its grip on a large swathe of Iraq and Syria. The war in Yemen appears to be still escalating. Libya teeters on a knife-edge. These wars could redefine each country and the region. Some of the trends underlying them are deepening. Major Sunni powers and Iran are locked in a fierce struggle for influence. The nuclear deal with Iran is positive but its implications across the region less so. As nation-states collapse, many citizens turn to older forms of identity – sect, religion, clan, tribe -- for protection. Extremist groups have proliferated. What prospects are there for ending the chaos, or at least mitigating its consequences and protecting as best possible those affected?

Ali Vaez, Senior Analyst for Iran, International Crisis Group
Ali Al Shihabi, Author; Founder and Former Chairman, Rasmala Investment Bank
Joost Hiltermann, MENA Program Director, International Crisis Group
Denise Natali, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS)

Moderator: Suzanne DiMaggio, Senior Fellow and Director, New America


11:30 - 12:30 pm | Africa: Growth and Conflict

According to the economists, Africa is rising. Some of the fastest growing economies are in Africa, presenting enormous opportunities for investors. Political scientists, however, paint a gloomier picture. Growth is often uneven. In places whole communities are left behind. Conflict still wracks parts of the continent, often now with violent extremists among the main protagonists. Transitions of power from one party to another are still comparatively rare, notwithstanding Nigeria’s peaceful transition earlier this year. Some leaders, including Africa's longest-serving rulers, appear reluctant to leave office. Regional institutions aspire to a more assertive role but still respond more forcefully to the threat from rebels than to bad behavior by incumbents. The panel discussion will examine the continent’s positive and negative trends. Do overall trends lie closer to the positive economic story or the more troubling political one?

Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Founder, Celtel International 
Comfort Ero, Africa Program Director, International Crisis Group
Howard French, Associate Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Moderator: Meredith Ogilve-Thompson, Managing Director, Aldwych Capital Partners

12:30 - 1:30 pm | Networking lunch

1:30 - 2:30 pm | Concurrent Breakout Sessions

(a)  Violent Extremism and Modern Warfare

The nature of war is changing. One change is the resurgence of “violent extremist” movements – the Islamic State, Boko Haram and various al-Qaeda-linked groups -- in many of the world’s deadliest crises. Although each is unique and rooted in its own local context, these groups share some characteristics. They combine extreme ideology and terrorist attacks with insurgency or even conventional warfare. Some govern territory while claiming to want to overturn the state system. Some trace their roots to local conditions and grievances, often initially related to access to power and resources. What has driven the increasing prominence of extremist groups in today’s warzones? What do they want? How are they pursuing it? And how should Western and other states respond?

Issandr El Amrani, North Africa Project Director, International Crisis Group 
Claudia Gazzini, Senior Analyst, Libya, International Crisis Group
Wadah Khanfar, Co-founder, Al Sharq Forum and Former Director General of Al Jazeera  

Moderator: Richard Atwood, Director of Multilateral Affairs & Head, New York Office, International Crisis Group

(b)   Hydra-Headed: Conflict Risk in Asia

Asia’s diverse conflicts and stress points show no signs of abating.  Afghanistan’s continuing – even intensifying --  conflict, the spectre of violent extremism in south and east Asia, the challenges of democratization and stability in Myanmar and Thailand, and the bogeyman of nuclear faultlines – whether Indo-Pakistani or Korean – all present unique and very real challenges.  Add to this the steady rise of great power rivalry; and the threat of contagion from China’s economic volatility, and there is plenty to preoccupy.  Navigating these challenges will require a deft touch.

Tim Johnston, Asia Program Director, International Crisis Group 
Yanmei Xie, Senior Analyst of Northeast Asia, International Crisis Group

Moderator: Jonathan Prentice, Director of London Office and Senior Advocacy Adviser, International Crisis Group

2:40-3:40 | Drug Policy: Time for a Re-Think?

As next year’s UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS 2016) on drugs approaches, this panel will examine the global impact of the drugs trade and, sometimes too, existing war on drugs—both on the supply and on the demand side. Across parts of Latin America, Africa and South Asia, drug production and trafficking can impact security, increasing violent crime, political corruption and human rights. The drugs trade has sustained armed groups, prolonging conflicts, while often driving corruption and corroding democratic institutions, making societies more vulnerable to violence. Tackling this problem cannot be confined to national policies, but must raise a serious debate on available alternatives, both in those countries that are traditionally consumers as well as those that are producer or transit countries. Is there a need for a rethink? What would a different approach look like? 

Richard Branson, 
Founder, Virgin Group 
Javier Ciurlizza, Program Director, Latin America, International Crisis Group
Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, Director, Global Drug Policy Program, Open Society
David Mansfield, Author, A State Built on Sand: How Opium Undermined Afghanistan

Moderator: Dorothy Parvaz, Senior Human Rights Producer, Al Jazeera America

Have questions about Reality, Risk, and Potential: Managing Today's Conflicts? Contact Foreign Affairs

When & Where

Council on Foreign Relations
58 E 68th St
New York, NY 10065

Monday, October 26, 2015 from 8:15 AM to 3:40 PM (EDT)

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