Over 30 ambassadors, directors and think tank leaders convened at the Annenberg School for Communication between June 3-5 for Penn’s first G20 think tank summit.
Sponsored by Brazil’s Fundacão Getulio Vargas and Penn’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, the summit brought together representatives from every G20 country to participate in panels, presentations and roundtable discussions concerning global economic problems and foreign policy issues.
“The meeting came in a very pivotal and critical moment in world politics,” TTCSP Director and Assistant Director of International Relations James McGann said, in light of the Syrian genocide and “economic wildfire” in Europe.
“Syria requires demand, an international response. What is the responsibility of the world community to protect Syrians who are being massacred? When will the world community respond and take collective action?”
The conference aimed to foster cooperation by creating a forum for leaders to exchange perspectives on international issues, analyze strategies for foreign policy think tanks and develop lasting relationships between think tanks.
“The development of think tanks is essential in that the world is changing very fast, so we wanted to have a meeting in order to discuss best practices and some approaches that think tanks have to current problems,” FGV President Carlos Ivan Simonsen Leal said.
The summit was an initiation to link the developed and developing worlds. “There are transnational issues that cannot be solved by a single nation and require this notion of collective action,” McGann said.
About 20 interns helped facilitate the conference, and “everyone certainly rose to the occasion,” rising senior at Haverford College and Conference Coordinator Viktoria Lindback wrote in an email.
Jillian Rafferty, rising College senior and conference coordinator, said, “I’ve never before been in a position to truly be in charge and delegate so many responsibilities to other people,” she said. “To gain leadership and management skills on an event … is invaluable.”
Participants agreed the summit was only the beginning of a complicated discussion. “I think we made a good start,” India’s Ambassador Hermant Krishan Singh said. “I think we got a good idea of the range of issues being tackled and the capacity of individual think tanks across the G20.”
The conference was under Chatham House Rule to “facilitate a more open and productive debate between panelists and speakers,” Lindback wrote in an email. “By limiting publicity and not attributing conference contributions to any particular individuals, attendees can be more flexible in their statements and questions and be confident that these would not be taken out of context.”
Singh said although the conference focused on globalizing international issues, “the issue is that there has to be contribution to the extent possible and depending on the capacity of each society, to go beyond their national circumstance and see what regional or global public goods they can bring to the world and they can disseminate.”
Leal said countries should be competing, but not as adversaries. “You may compete in the field of ideas, you may exchange propositions,” but ultimately it is about “competitive cooperation, not competitive non-cooperation,” he said.
“I certainly believe that people with good faith could do what Woodrow Wilson fostered almost 100 years ago,” Leal said. “People, nations, can cooperate. And by doing that, a much better world may arise.”