Congress of Vienna 2015

Congress of Vienna 2015

October 22-25,2015 — Vienna, Austria


Like its predecessor of two centuries ago, the Congress of Vienna 2015 was a gathering of knowledgeable individuals convened to consider ways to promote international cooperation on matters important for stability and peace. The 2015 Congress differs from its predecessor in that the issue of fairness is added to the deliberations; and a global group of decision-influencers with the latitude to explore new ideas and processes has been gathered.

Scope and Agenda

Achieving international cooperation is no easy task. Shared interests are often overshadowed by rivalries. Genuine dialogue, essential for cooperation, is impeded by divisive nationalist, ethnic, religious, and political narratives. At the same time, we must address the greater real diversity of interacting states and philosophies in an interdependent modern world. However, the opportunity for leaders to spend the kind of personal time with one another that might develop understanding, trust, and cooperation is lacking.

Principles—or, more ambitiously, rules—meant to govern international conduct have become increasingly difficult to agree upon and sustain in periods of stress. The Congress is meant to be a safe venue for candid dialogue in search of ideas for resolving current conflicts and mitigating the risk of future conflict. There is a desire to find durable means to these ends—despite foreseeable demographic, climate, economic, technological, and political changes—among the major powers: the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, Japan, and India. Major power relationships matter most because of their impact. But smaller states, particularly if they were to find ways to collaborate, could exercise more influence. Many issues need to be addressed, among them:

  • power shifts of importance among states, posing accommodation challenges and leading to friction;
  • new forms of interstate rivalries and hostilities;
  • more issues of a global nature, beyond the capacity of any individual state to resolve;
  • greater interdependence, resulting in shared interests but also the increased risk of conditions in one country causing disruption in, and even conflict with, another;
  • regional trade and investment agreements that exclude potential participants on geopolitical grounds, which may lead to future confrontations between resulting blocs;
  • the increased influence of the numerous and diverse non-state actors at the expense of state actors, some of this change occurring as a result of domestic political choices and government inaction;
  • the visibility, mobilizing capacities, and abbreviated messaging of modern media;
  • greater diffusion of power and points of potential disruption; and
  • the significant erosion of public trust in governments and leaders, which undermines decision making—both domestic and international—that might relieve tensions.
  • the paradox of significant technological advance with enhanced productivity, slow growth in aggregate national productivity, slow output growth and widening in income and wealth distribution; and
  • historically high numbers – and prospectively larger continuing numbers – of forcibly displaced persons, located predominantly in poorer countries; very limited resettlement or returning populations; and a critical need for gainful employment of the displaced as a precondition of their inclusion as productive members of a community.

Attendees were asked to consider: Is more cooperation possible on such global challenges as climate change, terrorism, disruption of the global economic system, forced migration, and economic inequality? Might a path be found for major states to address more general security issues and risks of conflict cooperatively?

An open-minded, informed, and respectful dialogue among those gathered stimulated the search for practical ideas for achieving a durably peaceful, stable, and fair world order, as well as a broad and engaged public to arrive at outcomes for a better global community.