This spring, following the 70th anniversary of NATO and other organizations created after World War II, the Aspen Ministers Forum (AMF) convened for its 24th session at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri. Please click here for an official summary of the event.
Chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, the AMF assembled former foreign ministers, top diplomats, and thought leaders from around the world to reflect on President Truman’s legacy of leadership in global affairs, and to think critically about how to adapt the international system he helped build to 21st century realities.
No American President did more to shape the world, and the U.S. role in it, than Harry S Truman. By signing the United Nations Charter, launching the Marshall Plan, and establishing NATO, President Truman ushered in an era of U.S. leadership while creating the basic international architecture that helped advance freedom, increase prosperity, and secure peace.
Seven decades later, these global institutions are not working as well as they once did. The advent of new technologies, the rise of new powers, and the relentless pace of globalization are making cooperation more necessary but also more difficult to achieve. Meanwhile, democratic values are under siege and the bipartisan consensus in the United States which favored free trade, support for democracy, and strong alliances has broken down.
The members of the Aspen Ministers Forum represent a variety of political viewpoints, but they are united by a belief in the necessity of finding global solutions to global challenges. In recent years, they have focused their energies on specific regions, such as Africa and Europe, and on specific challenges, such as migration. They used their time at the Truman Library to take a broader look at the changes in international cooperation that are necessary to keep pace with a rapidly changing world.
The Forum included both public and private components – offering the ministers an opportunity to engage in an intimate dialogue and to interact with the broader Kansas City community. The Truman Library’s unique historical resources and educational programming greatly enriched the discussion.
By gathering in President Truman’s hometown, the Aspen Ministers Forum was able to reflect on his legacy and draw upon his example. But like President Truman, the Ministers recognized that the world has been fundamentally transformed and that no amount of nostalgia can bring the old order back. The strategy must evolve, and this Forum arrived at concrete ideas for how these changes should be reflected in the nature of international cooperation.
During the Forum, the Bertelsmann Foundation interviewed participants for their series “How to Fix Democracy.” You can find their interview with Minister Tzipi Livni here and their interview with Secretary Madeleine Albright here.