from Council of Councils

International Cooperation in 2015 Deserves a B Grade, Say Global Think Tank Leaders

A new Report Card on International Cooperation from the Council of Councils finds that multilateral action on most of the critical transnational threats has shown progress, but is still inadequate in addressing terrorism and other violent conflicts.

May 18, 2016

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A new Report Card on International Cooperation finds that multilateral action on most of the critical transnational threats has shown progress, but is still inadequate in addressing terrorism and other violent conflicts. The Council of Councils, a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) initiative comprising twenty-six major international policy institutes, surveyed the heads of member think tanks to evaluate the world’s performance on ten of the most important issues of 2015. It offered the following grades:

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  • Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change: A
  • Preventing Nuclear Proliferation: A-
  • Advancing Development: B+
  • Promoting Global Health: B+
  • Expanding Global Trade: B
  • Managing the Global Economic System: B-
  • Managing Cyber Governance: B-
  • Preventing and Responding to Violent Conflict Between States: C
  • Combating Transnational Terrorism: C-
  • Preventing and Responding to Internal Violent Conflict: C-

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Respondents agreed that efforts did not worsen for any of the issues, with grades on nine of ten issues improving since last year’s survey. They awarded overall global cooperation efforts in 2015 a B grade.

Although seven issues received a B- or higher, “these were offset by dismal performance with respect to terrorism and internal conflict,” said CFR President Richard N. Haass. “The inability to end the Syrian war, which caused waves of refugees to stream into Europe from the Middle East, was one of the major failures of international cooperation in 2015.”

Think tank leaders agreed that the three issues that received the lowest grades in 2015—combating transnational terrorism, preventing violent conflict between states, and preventing internal violent conflict—were still the most pressing challenges to tackle in 2016. “The Syria crisis caused huge problems not only in its own region but also in neighboring regions,” noted Chen Dongxiao of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies in his assessment of internal violent conflict.

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Due in large part to the Paris Agreement reached in December 2015, respondents agreed that the challenge of mitigating and adapting to climate change offered the most hope for progress. While the Paris Talks have not resulted in a perfect agreement, “we have seen a breakthrough diplomatic success and the first agreement by all 195 participating states to fight climate change,” said Volker Perthes, head of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

Explore the interactive Council of Councils Report Card on International Cooperation at Learn more about the methodology here.

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This report was made possible by the generous support of the Robina Foundation.


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