The Richard C. Holbrooke Forum

The Iniative and Approach 

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

An important tool is 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.

In this spirit, the moderators are 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 is that of sharing expertise, testing assumptions while questioning existing methods, and pushing towards new insights about the issue under examination. The moderator is expected to push discussions to find new ways of defining and dealing with the issues.

The Holbrooke Forum focuses on three areas of global concern:

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?

The Enduring Crisis of Governance
What are the foundations for global governance in a multi-polar world? Why have autocratic structures been so resilient in a world defined by openness and personal empowerment?

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?

The first two working groups, convened in 2014, were “Statecraft and Responsibility," held in June, and "Peace and Justice," held in December. They were both co-chaired by Professor Michael Ignatieff of the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor Harold Hongju Koh of Yale University Law School. “Statecraft and Responsibility" explored the consequences of globalization for the reallocation of responsibility in a “post-Western” world order. "Peace and Justice" looked at the critical role that establishing justice plays in the return to peace.

In May 2015, a third working group was held, entitled "Germany, the United States and the Emerging International Order," again chaired by Professors Ignatieff and Koh. The session looked at the crisis in Ukraine to identify fissures in German and American approaches to maintaining international order.

For more information, please visit the website of the Richard C. Holbrooke Forum,

Click here to download the brochure of the Richard C. Holbrooke Forum.