On February 22-26, 2016 we hosted a meeting to discuss the role of ethics in international affairs at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Bellagio, Italy. The meeting featured scholars and policy-makers from 14 nationalities and a wide range of disciplines including medicine, anthropology, sociology, international relations, economics and law. Participants included Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food; Shaden Khallaf, Senior Policy Officer, Office of the Director, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Middle East North Africa Bureau; Jennifer Welsh, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General for the Responsibility to Protect; Stephen Krasner, former Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. Department of State; and Karim Haggag, Deputy Director, Academy of Diplomatic Studies, Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Participants discussed the main international ethical questions: Under what conditions, if any, are nuclear weapons morally acceptable? Should the international community think about the unintended consequences of intervention before interfering to protect civilians in genocide? Can societies fragmented by deep-seated ethic and religious violence ever be brought together again? Can reconciliation be attained or is stability just the best option? What are the indispensable traits of moral leadership?
The meeting brought to life critical moral dilemmas of our time: Should the international community strive for idealism and moral imagination or — given the immense constraints and rising geopolitical confrontation — just aim for pragmatic solutions to violence? How can the international community find new moral imagination in an era of ethical mediocrity?
Some of the participants at Bellagio had already been invited to join the Academy’s current Global Security projects; other participants will serve as advisers in the development of new ideas.
Bellagio marks a significant shift in how the Academy intends to approach and explore global issues moving forward. That is to say: our approach is increasingly becoming cosmopolitan and multi-disciplinary.
In the past few months, we have been hard at work to set up an international committee that will provide the Academy's leadership with guidance on how to diversify the current fellowship by nominating exceptional individuals from various parts of the world. In addition, during the past five months the Academy has been working to develop new Global Security projects that, while exploring security issues, also encompass fundamental questions related to principles, values, and ethics.
In December 2015, the Committee on Studies and Publications approved the project on Civil Wars and International Order. The project seeks to explore current international crises and to articulate ways for the international community to address and solve these crises. Last week, the Committee on Studies also approved a new project on Understanding the New Nuclear Age, which analyzes the ongoing changes in the relationships among nuclear weapons states as well as between the nuclear weapons states and the rest of the international community.
These meetings and initiatives place the Academy at the interface of ethics, security, and global governance and well position the Academy to produce cutting-edge studies and analysis on currently relevant issues with important and critical reverberations in the future.