My involvement in the field of foreign policy spans more than four decades, including fifteen years as president of the Council on Foreign Relations. This is the most precarious moment I can recall.
This moment is in many ways reminiscent of the period that led to the Council’s founding in 1921. Formed in the aftermath of World War I amid a growing tide of isolationism, the Council emerged as a rare voice championing greater U.S. involvement in the world. This internationalism is built into our institutional DNA. It stems from the reality that the fate of this country and its citizens is inextricably linked to the fate of the world.
Rising to the challenge of the current moment will require the Council to continue to evolve. For its first eighty-five years or so, the Council’s focus was relatively narrow. It sought to be a resource for elites and specialists—primarily its members, but also the executive branch, Congress, mainstream media, Fortune 500 leaders, and international relations students and professors—and it did that through mostly closed meetings, Foreign Affairs, and study groups of experts.
About ten years ago, we made the strategic decision to continue doing what we always did but also to take on a larger role in this society. We decided the Council would be a resource not only for its members, but also for nonmembers and non-elites who traditionally have been only peripherally involved in foreign policy discussions. These include religious leaders, state and local officials, students and teachers from a wide range of fields at the high school and college levels, journalists from smaller outlets, and everyday citizens who just want to stay informed. The Council’s mission was revised to reflect this change, to be an independent, nonpartisan resource to help people everywhere better understand the world and the foreign policy choices the United States faces.
Going forward, we intend to maintain this duality. We will continue to serve our usual audience (and do even more in our traditional areas), and we will ramp up our broader outreach efforts. As a hybrid institution—a membership organization, a venue for meetings, a think tank, a publisher, and an educational organization and public resource—the Council is well positioned to serve multiple constituencies.
The Council is at its core a membership organization. We now have more than five thousand members of increasing professional, gender, racial, and ethnic diversity. A plurality of our members now resides outside New York and Washington, DC. Our Term Member Program has brought more young people into our ranks, ensuring that the next generation of foreign policy leaders is better prepared. The Council also has about 150 corporate members that add a valuable private-sector perspective to foreign policy discussions.
The Council is also a venue for meetings. The Meetings Program routinely draws dozens of heads of state, senior foreign officials, and members of Congress every year. We have sought to enhance our offerings by hosting more multi-session symposia, holding more conference calls for our members who reside outside New York and Washington, and launching new meetings series, from the Lessons From History and HBO What to Do About . . . series to the ever-popular, member-driven salon dinner discussions.
The Council is in the ideas business. Our aim is to be more policy relevant than most universities and more rigorous than many think tanks and advocacy groups. The output of the David Rockefeller Studies Program is unmatched. Over the last ten years, CFR experts have published eighty-five books—a remarkable number and the result of the emphasis we have placed on in-depth research and analysis—in addition to thousands of discussion papers, policy briefs, reports, and op-eds. In recent years, we have expanded our coverage of global health, climate change, cyberspace, women and foreign policy, and immigration, among other issues. Our continued commitment to not accept government funding ensures our work remains independent and is seen to be so.
The Council is the publisher of Foreign Affairs magazine, the most thoughtful, read, and influential journal in the field. It complements all else that we do by providing a space for more long-form commentary and analysis from a broader pool of expert voices. Foreign Affairs has grown significantly over the years from a quarterly print publication to the multi-platform media organization it is today, offering a bimonthly print magazine and a website that is updated daily.
These activities remain a significant part of what the Council does. Over the last decade, however, we have also branched out to constituencies that have more influence over the direction of public policy than is often realized. Reaching them is critical to ensuring an informed citizenry that can better hold public officials accountable and advocate for sound policies.
Our Religion and Foreign Policy program features a conference call and roundtable series, and we regularly provide members of the religious community with Council reports and other resources. Each year, we also host a workshop that brings together high-level congregational and lay leaders, scholars of religion, and representatives of faith-based organizations from across the country to discuss the broader foreign policy outlook and specific issues most important to the religious community.
We restarted our State and Local Officials initiative to be a resource for governors and mayors around the country as they grapple with climate change, trade issues, and public health concerns. We will also soon convene a workshop for journalists covering foreign policy issues for local outlets to introduce them to CFR’s resources and help strengthen their reporting of the world.
Another new dimension is our digital presence. In the late 1990s, the Council launched its first website. Now, it is much more than a site about CFR. In addition to curating content from multiple sources, the website also features fifteen blogs, backgrounders, and explainers on issues ranging from the national debt to Brexit, multimedia InfoGuides and other interactives, videos, live events, podcasts, and more. CFR has won four Emmy Awards for digital interactive guides on Darfur, the global economy, Iran, and deforestation in the Amazon. For this and more, CFR.org has become the leading online source for what is going on in the world, why it matters, and how to make sense of it.
In more recent years, the Council has added another pillar: an educational initiative. Our effort in this space stems from the recognition that too many Americans are insufficiently aware of the global forces and issues affecting their lives, and which they in turn can affect through their choices and actions. Schools and universities simply are not teaching most students about these global issues, because they are either not offering courses or not requiring them if they do. This shortfall makes it difficult, if not impossible, for students to meet their obligations as citizens and to meet the challenges of competing in a global world. Our goal at CFR is to ensure that every student, not just international relations majors, is globally literate and possesses the skills and knowledge about the world to prepare for a wide range of careers and ensure an informed citizenry.
To this end, in 2016, we launched Model Diplomacy, our National Security Council simulation program that aims to teach students about the issues, institutions, and processes that determine how American foreign policy is made, as well as to reinforce the fundamentals of a liberal arts education, including critical thinking and reading, effective verbal and written communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. In addition to Model Diplomacy, we will soon be launching World101, a library of multimedia explainers focusing on the fundamental concepts of international relations and American foreign policy. We also convene two major academic workshops each year for college and university presidents and professors, hold a dedicated conference call series, and produce Teaching Notes, complete with discussion questions, essay prompts, classroom activities, and supplemental readings, to facilitate the incorporation of CFR resources into academic courses.
All these activities are undertaken with the goal of having impact. The first way is through the generation and dissemination of ideas. Measuring the impact of ideas is notoriously difficult. Measuring output, including op-eds and congressional testimony along with book sales and citations and media appearances, may give some sense of the demand for our ideas, but not necessarily their impact. The Council has the potential for influence, but not power. The Council can and should be judged on the quality of what it produces, and how well it disseminates that work and connects with its target constituencies.
Another way the Council has impact is by developing talent. One way we do so is through our fellowship programs. The International Affairs Fellowship (IAF), established in 1967, aims to create more scholar-practitioners by giving those in academia or the private sector the opportunity to spend a year in government, and those in government the chance to spend a year in a scholarly atmosphere. The IAF program has grown tremendously over its fifty-one years. Twenty-one years ago, we launched an IAF in Japan, which has now sent more than seventy scholars to Japan. In 2011, we established an IAF in Nuclear Security for younger scholars. Last year, we launched three new programs: an IAF in Canada, an IAF in International Economics, and an IAF for Tenured International Relations Scholars. And we are in the final stages of creating an IAF in India.
The Council also has a military fellowship program, which brings an officer from each of the five service branches to CFR for a year; the Edward R. Murrow Press Fellowship for distinguished foreign correspondents or editors; and the National Intelligence Fellowship for senior intelligence officers. The Council has now hosted some 150 Military Fellows, seventy Murrow Fellows, and twenty Intelligence Fellows. Among the Council’s military fellowship alumni, more than half have gone on to be promoted to admiral or general.
Another way we develop talent is through our membership. The Council provides an unrivaled forum for discussion, professional development, and networking for its members. We also develop talent in students through our educational program. Last but not least, we develop talent internally. Every year, CFR staff go on to positions of influence in government, academia, business, and media. Numerous fellows have left the Council for senior positions in government.
A third way the Council has impact is by fostering civil society around the world. In 2012, we launched the Council of Councils, a consortium of twenty-nine policy institutes from twenty-five countries that convene twice a year to discuss major issues in global governance. Every year, the group produces a Report Card on International Cooperation, which evaluates multilateral efforts to address the world’s most pressing global challenges. The seventh annual conference took place in New York in May. The Council of Councils has helped expand CFR’s reach globally and promote the emergence of stronger, more independent institutions around the world.
Looking ahead, we will continue to enhance and improve the “traditional” Council while continuing to take on a larger role. Our commitment is to carry all this out in a manner consistent with our principles of independence and nonpartisanship. This is a critical time for the United States and the world, and the Council intends to rise to the challenge.
Richard N. Haass
The Council on Foreign Relations provides an unrivaled forum for thoughtful and informed foreign policy debate, drawing leaders and experts in government, business, and academia for discussions with members on critical issues in foreign policy and international relations.
This year, CFR welcomed dozens of current and former foreign officials and heads of state. Beginning with the opening of the seventy-second session of the UN General Assembly in September 2017, CFR hosted the presidents of Afghanistan, Chile, and Rwanda; the crown prince of Saudi Arabia; the prime ministers of Pakistan and Singapore; the foreign ministers of Canada, China, France, Iran, Jordan, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates; the finance ministers of Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and the central bank governors of Egypt and Japan. Members also heard from the former prime minister of France, the former president of Liberia, the president of the World Bank, the director general of the International Labor Organization, and the secretary-general of the League of Arab States.
CFR also hosted a number of current and former U.S. officials, including former Vice President Joe Biden; former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter; Senators Richard Burr, Tom Cotton, Jeff Flake, Jack Reed, and Jeanne Shaheen; Representatives Sander Levin, Nita Lowey, Michael McCaul, Scott Peters, Ed Royce, and Adam Schiff; Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats; U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green; Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs David Malpass; former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen; former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano; former Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco; Commander of U.S. Forces Korea Vincent Brooks; Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Raymond Thomas; Commander of U.S. Pacific Command Harry Harris; and former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
CFR held several multi-session symposia this year that offered members a deep dive into topics such as hacked elections and online influence operations, U.S. trade policy and future directions for world trade, the challenges of low global growth, behavioral economics, women and foreign policy, the future of the Middle East, and America’s growing federal debt. Keynote speakers at these events included Director General of the World Trade Organization Roberto Azevedo, Yale Chief Investment Officer David Swensen, Google Chief Economist Hal Varian, and Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda.
In April, CFR hosted the five military service chiefs as part of the annual Robert B. McKeon Endowed Series on Military Strategy and Leadership. The HBO-sponsored What to Do About . . . series focused on the crises in Afghanistan, northern Syria, and Venezuela. The Lessons From History series, funded by David M. Rubenstein, looked at the fiftieth anniversary of the Tet Offensive and the lasting impact of the Vietnam War, the Northern Ireland peace process twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement, and the foreign policy legacy of the founding fathers. The CEO Speaker series brought BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink and Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden to CFR. As part of its Daughters and Sons series, which invites members to bring their high school– and college-age children to experience a CFR meeting, the Council hosted former Chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen, journalists Nicholas Kristof and Evan Osnos, President of the International Rescue Committee David Miliband, and a panel of refugee aid workers.
More than three hundred term members gathered in New York in November for the twenty-second annual Term Member Conference, which featured conversations with then CIA Director Mike Pompeo and futurist Ray Kurzweil. CFR also organized term member trips to the National Security Council and to Seattle. In addition, term members joined life members for trips to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Finally, CFR hosted the sixth annual Conference on Diversity in International Affairs in April. The conference, a collaborative effort by CFR, the Global Access Pipeline, and the International Career Advancement Program, brings together students and professionals from diverse backgrounds for seminars on foreign policy, professional development, global skills–building, and career opportunities in international affairs. Former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson gave the keynote address.
The National Program connects CFR members who live outside New York and Washington, DC, with CFR and its resources. This year, the National Program hosted roundtable and salon discussions across the United States and around the world on topics including U.S. immigration policy, security in the Middle East and Europe, U.S.-Russia relations, and the North Korean nuclear threat. CFR also held interactive conference calls and offered livestreams and teleconferences of meetings in New York and Washington, DC.
In December, more than two hundred participants from across the country and around the world attended the third annual National Symposium in Menlo Park, California, to discuss issues at the intersection of foreign policy and technology. Sessions addressed geopolitical risk, California as a global actor, blockchain technology, and the U.S.-Russia relationship and cybersecurity.
As always, the year ended with the National Conference in New York, which convened more than four hundred participants for three days of panels and discussions, including a keynote conversation with Senator Lindsey Graham. Sessions covered global perspectives on the future of work; the geopolitics of Asia, featuring State Department Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook; social and economic inequality in a divided America; and the future of U.S. diplomacy.
CFR’s Corporate Program provides member companies from across the globe access to CFR’s experts, research, and meetings to help them better understand the international issues that affect their businesses. This year, the program held meetings and roundtables on issues including global antitrust enforcement, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, breakthrough technologies, the future of U.S. immigration policy, and social media regulation. CFR also held conference calls to provide executives timely analyses of current events, including the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations, looming trade wars, and the economic outlook for 2018.
The annual Corporate Conference in April featured a keynote conversation with Robert A. Iger, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, and sessions covering disruptive technologies, geopolitical risk, U.S.-China relations, and climate change.
The David Rockefeller Studies Program
The Studies Program, CFR’s think tank, analyzes pressing global challenges and offers recommendations for policymakers in the United States and elsewhere. CFR’s research aims to be more policy relevant than that of most universities and more rigorous than what is produced by many advocacy groups.
CFR fellows and experts published eleven books this year. Books reflect the emphasis CFR places on in-depth research and analysis. In Windfall: How the New Energy Abundance Upends Global Politics and Strengthens America’s Power, Adjunct Senior Fellow Meghan L. O’Sullivan explains how the move from global energy scarcity to energy abundance is shaping the interests and strategies of governments around the world. In Realism and Democracy: American Foreign Policy After the Arab Spring, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies Elliott Abrams tells the story of the development of U.S. human rights policy over the last forty years and argues for supporting the expansion of democracy in the Middle East. In The Sovereignty Wars: Reconciling America with the World, James H. Binger Senior Fellow in Global Governance Stewart M. Patrick challenges the assertion that international cooperation necessarily undermines national sovereignty and argues that cooperation is critical to gain influence and advance U.S. interests on a variety of global issues. In Preventive Engagement: How America Can Avoid War, Stay Strong, and Keep the Peace, General John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention Paul B. Stares proposes a strategy for the United States to avoid overextending itself while still being able to manage emerging security risks before they become dangerous threats requiring costly military responses.
Senior Fellow for Korea Studies Scott A. Snyder’s book, South Korea at the Crossroads: Autonomy and Alliance in an Era of Rival Powers, argues that South Korea’s best strategy to confront a rising China and a nuclear North Korea is a continued alliance with the United States. In The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies Max Boot contends that the United States might have avoided the Vietnam quagmire if Washington had listened to the advice of legendary covert operative Edward Lansdale. In Our Time Has Come: How India is Making Its Place in the World, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia Alyssa Ayres explains that India is emerging as a major power, creating new challenges and opportunities alike for the United States.
Senior Fellow Benn Steil argues in The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War that some of the most dramatic confrontations and accomplishments of the early Cold War can be traced to the birth of the Marshall Plan. In Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet, Philip D. Reed Fellow for Science and Technology Varun Sivaram argues that although solar energy is the world’s cheapest and fastest-growing power source, its rise is in danger of stalling unless the solar industry makes large-scale investments in financial, technological, and systemic innovation. In The China Mission: George Marshall’s Unfinished War, 1945–1947, Foreign Affairs Executive Editor Daniel Kurtz-Phelan examines an oft-overlooked chapter in the career of George Marshall: his thirteen-month (unsuccessful) mission to negotiate peace between China’s Nationalists and Communists. Finally, in The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State, C. V. Starr Senior Fellow Elizabeth C. Economy argues that Chinese President Xi Jinping has dramatically centralized authority under his personal leadership, pursued a more ambitious foreign policy, and in some cases reversed reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping’s Second Revolution by more tightly restricting the flow of ideas, culture, and capital into and out of the country.
In Council Special Reports, CFR experts provide timely responses to developing crises and contributions to current policy dilemmas. In Containing Russia: How to Respond to Moscow’s Intervention in U.S. Democracy and Growing Geopolitical Challenge, Robert D. Blackwill, Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy, and Philip H. Gordon, Mary and David Boies senior fellow in U.S. foreign policy, argue the United States is currently in a second cold war with Russia. Consistent with this assessment, Blackwill and Gordon recommend what would be tantamount to a new containment policy but note that the United States should still cooperate with Russia when in the U.S. national interest. In Keeping the U.S.-Indonesia Relationship Moving Forward, Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia Joshua Kurlantzick argues that Indonesia could be more of a security partner for the United States and proposes that the two countries work together to check China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, combat the expansion of militants linked to the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Southeast Asia, and counter piracy and other transnational crime in the region.
In December, the Center for Preventive Action, which aims to help policymakers devise timely and practical strategies to prevent and mitigate armed conflict around the world, published its Preventive Priorities Survey 2018, an annual survey of U.S. foreign policy experts that assesses the likelihood and impact of thirty potential crises or conflicts in the coming year. Unsurprisingly, a military confrontation with North Korea was widely considered a top-tier (high-impact and moderate-likelihood) threat to watch. Two other possible conflicts were upgraded to the top tier this year: an armed confrontation between Iran and the United States or one of its allies, and an armed confrontation between China and one or more Southeast Asian countries over disputed maritime areas in the South China Sea.
Contingency Planning Memoranda address plausible contingencies abroad that could threaten U.S. interests. In the latest memo, “A Venezuelan Refugee Crisis,” Shannon K. O’Neil, vice president, deputy director of studies, and Nelson and David Rockefeller senior fellow for Latin America Studies, argues that although the United States can do little to prevent Venezuela’s economic and humanitarian crisis from worsening, it should collaborate with its allies and Venezuela’s neighbors to provide humanitarian aid, build necessary infrastructure, and create a broader burden-sharing arrangement to integrate Venezuelan refugees throughout the region. Other memoranda published this year assess the risk of a return to violence and political instability in the Balkans and a renewed confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah.
Cyber Briefs address emerging cybersecurity challenges. In “Sharing Classified Cyber Threat Information With the Private Sector,” Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow Robert K. Knake argues that the U.S. government should share classified cyber threat data with private companies and prioritize cyber threats against companies that are critical to the U.S. economy. In “Cybersecurity and the New Era of Space Activities,” Adjunct Senior Fellow for Cybersecurity and Global Health David P. Fidler explains that governments and companies increasingly rely on space-dependent services that are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Other Cyber Briefs discuss how the United States should reform its approach to data protection and how it can counter Russian information operations in the age of social media. Adam Segal, Ira A. Lipman chair in emerging technologies and national security and director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy program, launched a Cyber Operations Tracker that categorizes publicly known state-sponsored cyber incidents since 2005 and highlights important trends. For example, it reveals that state-sponsored cyber operations have risen tenfold since 2005 and that nineteen governments are suspected of having sponsored cyberattacks.
The think tank welcomed several new fellows this year, including Henri Barkey, Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen professor at Lehigh University, who specializes in Middle East studies; Caroline Bettinger-López, adjunct senior fellow for women and foreign policy and professor of clinical legal education and director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law; Michelle Gavin, former U.S. ambassador to Botswana, who rejoined the Council as a senior fellow for Africa studies focusing on economic development and political transitions; Europe and Russia expert James Goldgeier, who returned to the Council as a visiting senior fellow after serving as dean of American University’s School of International Service; Bruce Hoffman, tenured professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and visiting professor of terrorism studies at St. Andrews University, Scotland, whose work focuses on terrorism and counterterrorism; Amy Myers Jaffe, previously executive director for energy and sustainability at the University of California, Davis, who joined as the David M. Rubenstein senior fellow for energy and the environment and director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change; and Meighan Stone, formerly an entrepreneurship fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center, who joined as senior fellow in CFR’s Women and Foreign Policy program.
Council of Councils
This year, the Council of Councils (CoC), a consortium of twenty-nine leading think tanks from twenty-five countries that convenes biannually to discuss the state of global governance and how to improve it, held meetings in Buenos Aires and New York. UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke on the opening night of the seventh annual conference in New York. The CoC also released its annual Report Card on International Cooperation, which evaluates global efforts on ten issues. The group gave international cooperation an overall grade of C- for 2017, the same as 2016, and rated preventing nuclear proliferation as the most important global priority in 2018.
CFR’s Independent Task Force Program convenes diverse and distinguished groups of experts who offer analysis of and policy prescriptions for major foreign policy issues facing the United States. The Independent Task Force on the Future of the U.S. Workforce, co-chaired by former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and former Governor of Michigan John Engler, sought to identify solutions for the challenges facing the U.S. workforce amid globalization, accelerating technology, and other disruptive forces. The report, The Work Ahead: Machines, Skills, and U.S. Leadership in the Twenty-First Century, argues that the future of U.S. leadership and global competitiveness depends on government, business, educators, and other institutions rebuilding the links among work, opportunity, and economic security for all Americans. The print report was accompanied by an interactive digital version featuring videos, data visualizations, and a quiz.
CFR Campus connects educators and students to CFR’s award-winning publications, innovative digital learning products, and events featuring foreign policy experts to enhance teaching and learning of international affairs.
Model Diplomacy, CFR’s National Security Council simulation program, aims to teach students about the issues, institutions, and processes that determine how American foreign policy is made and to reinforce the fundamentals of a liberal arts education, including critical thinking and reading, effective verbal and written communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. Since the January 2016 launch of Model Diplomacy, more than 25,000 students and instructors at more than 1,500 institutions in the United States and ninety-seven other countries have registered to use the product and its fourteen hypothetical but realistic cases, which range from a government collapse in Venezuela to a cyber clash with China. Model Diplomacy is currently used in universities, community colleges, and high schools across the country.
CFR also serves as a forum for educators and students to interact with CFR experts and one another to discuss a broad range of issues in foreign policy and international relations. This academic year, more than 150 universities and high schools participated in the Academic Conference Call series, a biweekly teleconferenced discussion between students and a CFR expert. Calls covered India’s growing global influence, the economic benefits of women’s participation in the workforce, and the future of U.S. involvement in Iraq.
The annual Higher Education Working Group in February brought more than sixty heads of colleges and universities to CFR for sessions on the future of the U.S. workforce, U.S. and East Asian responses to North Korea, and freedom of speech on campus. In April, educators from more than a hundred public, private, and community colleges gathered for the seventh annual College and University Educators Workshop. Sessions and discussion groups addressed global governance, dealing with a nuclear North Korea, combating disinformation, teaching with CFR and Foreign Affairs resources, and bringing global issues into the classroom.
Religion and Foreign Policy Program
Since 2006, CFR’s Religion and Foreign Policy program has provided a unique forum to examine issues at the nexus of religion and U.S. foreign policy. The initiative aims to involve members of the religious community in foreign policy discussions, given the tremendous influence they have through weekly sermons, service trips, and educating the next generation of spiritual leaders.
This year, the program held roundtables and conference calls on timely issues including Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, religious freedom and religious engagement in U.S. diplomacy, the two-hundredth anniversary of the Baha’i faith, women and faith-based activism, peace-building in the Middle East, and the challenges of building interreligious communities.
In May, the twelfth annual Religion and Foreign Policy Workshop brought together more than 120 congregational and lay leaders, religion scholars, and representatives of faith-based organizations from thirty-seven religious traditions for discussions on religious literacy, global religious demography, religion and society in Russia, and religion and conflict in Southeast Asia.
CFR’s Congress and U.S. Foreign Policy program aims to connect the work of the Council with members of Congress, their staffs, and executive branch officials. The program serves as an essential source of independent, nonpartisan analysis to inform the direction of U.S. foreign policy. It also offers a forum where policymakers from both sides of the aisle can come together for reasoned discussions on foreign policy issues.
This year, CFR fellows were called to testify before Congress fourteen times, and the program held more than 250 roundtables and briefings for members of Congress and their staffs. CFR fellows and staff have also been a resource for the executive branch, briefing officials from the Departments of State, Defense, and the Treasury; the executive office of the president and the National Security Council; the office of the vice president; and the National Intelligence Council.
In November, CFR launched a new program, cohosted with former Representative Vin Weber and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle that brings together representatives and senators for an in-depth examination of a critical foreign policy issue. Discussions this year focused on North Korea, global flash points, and the Saudi-Iranian rivalry.
In addition, members of the Congressional Foreign Policy Study Group, a selective program for senior-level congressional staff, traveled to New York in September to meet with CFR and Foreign Affairs experts.
CFR.org continues to be a leading source of timely analysis of critical foreign policy issues. The website’s most popular pieces of content are backgrounders, which introduce readers to important topics ranging from the U.S. national debt to Brexit. New backgrounders produced this year help explain the relationship between cryptocurrencies and national security, trade dispute settlement mechanisms, U.S. corporate tax reform, and the demographics of the U.S. military, among other issues. The website also offers fifteen blogs authored by senior fellows, interviews, expert briefs, digital interactives, and numerous other resources.
In October, CFR.org’s multimedia InfoGuide on deforestation in the Amazon won a News & Documentary Emmy Award, the fourth Emmy that CFR has won. A new InfoGuide on modern slavery launched in January. The long-form feature offers an immersive look at the roots of a problem afflicting more than forty million people, and includes up-close testimonials of victims from Haiti to North Korea. The guide drew praise from leading human rights officials at the United Nations and across nongovernmental organizations.
In another online interactive report produced this year, “Women’s Participation in Peace Processes,” the Women and Foreign Policy program explores women’s roles in major peace agreements from 1990 to the present. The data shows that although women’s participation in peace processes significantly improves their likelihood of success, women’s representation has lagged. “The Changing Demographics of Global Health,” by Thomas J. Bollyky, senior fellow for global health, economics, and development, reveals that population growth and aging are fueling a significant rise in noncommunicable diseases in poor countries that are ill prepared to handle them. The interactive forecasts that in 2040 the burden of noncommunicable diseases in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Myanmar will be roughly the same as in rich nations such as the United States and Great Britain.
In addition to the website, CFR maintains a significant presence on social media, broadcasting livestreams of CFR meetings and reaching its hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn.