Fourth Global Baku Forum

Fourth Global Baku Forum

Towards a Multipolar World”

The last year has seen an inten­si­fi­ca­tion of the numer­ous secu­ri­ty and human­i­tar­i­an chal­lenges fac­ing the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, and – per­haps more than ever – region­al crises have pro­voked glob­al reper­cus­sions. 2015 was affect­ed by unique dynam­ics that showed the inter­con­nect­ed­ness of our world, and our help­less­ness in the face of com­plex crises, caus­ing mil­lions to suf­fer. From Syr­ia to Ukraine, glob­al lead­ers have attest­ed to the grow­ing com­plex­i­ty of inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty. At the same time, this com­plex­i­ty has brought rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and vio­lence, and an unprece­dent­ed migra­tion flow that has divid­ed even sta­ble con­ti­nents such as the Euro­pean Union. The world lives in increas­ing inequal­i­ty; much pow­er is no longer in the con­trol of demo­c­ra­t­ic states, but lies else­where.  Clear­ly, 2015 reveals the shift to a mul­ti­po­lar world which we have yet to under­stand.

In Ukraine, where no res­o­lu­tion to its con­flict appears to be in sight in the short term, the prospect of a de fac­to Iron Cur­tain run­ning through the east of the coun­try seems a real pos­si­bil­i­ty. Enter­ing its sec­ond year of war, Ukraine high­lights the grow­ing gap between East­ern and West­ern pow­ers. Sim­i­lar­ly, in Syr­ia, com­pet­ing for­eign inter­ven­tions have com­pound­ed a con­flict which was already fiendish­ly com­plex, fur­ther deep­en­ing the gulf between Rus­sia and the West in the process.

Fol­low­ing the sig­na­ture of its nuclear deal last year, Iran – one of the Syr­i­an government’s clos­est allies, and a sig­nif­i­cant region­al pow­er – may yet play a key role in the res­o­lu­tion of Syria’s war. What will Iran’s return to the world stage mean for the polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic bal­ance of the region? Will it be a suf­fi­cient impulse for a region under­pinned by sec­tar­i­an loy­al­ties? Lead­ers should address the role that inter and intra-reli­gious dia­logue could play in the region’s geopol­i­tics and, fur­ther­more, in the work towards a res­o­lu­tion of the cri­sis.

Much like the con­flict itself, any res­o­lu­tion to the Syr­i­an war will have glob­al dimen­sions, but the inter­na­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ty to Syr­ia does not end with peace talks. Europe con­tin­ues to strug­gle with the arrival of great num­bers of migrants from the war-torn region, and human­i­tar­i­an empa­thy is los­ing ground to reac­tionary xeno­pho­bia. At the same time, a com­mon inter­na­tion­al response is stum­bling amid pop­u­lar scep­ti­cism. What does this reluc­tance – and, at times, hos­til­i­ty – towards migrants mean in the long-term for our val­ues, and what are the prospects for inte­gra­tion in an era of mass migra­tion?

In the wake of numer­ous ter­ror­ist attacks (Paris, Bamako or Beirut are just three exam­ples), migra­tion and secu­ri­ty poli­cies are increas­ing­ly inter­twined with pro­found ques­tions of reli­gion and cul­ture, and – espe­cial­ly in West­ern coun­tries – exist­ing under­ly­ing ten­sions are return­ing to the fore. Extreme right-wing move­ments are on the rise, while it is becom­ing increas­ing­ly clear that “home-grown” reli­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism is a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem. As com­mu­ni­ties divide along tra­di­tion­al lines of iden­ti­ty in times of uncer­tain­ty, can inter­faith dia­logue help build bridges between them? And, giv­en the increas­ing­ly-clear link between socio-eco­nom­ic exclu­sion and extrem­ism of all kinds, what does it take to cre­ate more equal, inclu­sive soci­eties that can serve as a foun­da­tion for a more peace­ful, more equi­table world?

If eco­nom­ic inclu­sion is an answer to social divi­sion, then the empow­er­ment of women must be a top pri­or­i­ty. Encour­ag­ing progress can be seen across the world in this area, but there remains a long way to go. As the glob­al bal­ance of pow­er shifts, the inter­na­tion­al nar­ra­tives of human rights and gen­der equal­i­ty may be at risk of diverg­ing, with states less will­ing to be bound by “West­ern” con­ven­tions. Can new, inno­v­a­tive pow­er struc­tures be the means to cre­ate a more per­for­mant glob­al rights regime, or do they pose a risk to the estab­lished val­ues of glob­al gov­er­nance? More broad­ly, who holds nor­ma­tive pow­er in such uncer­tain times?

While the chal­lenges abound, the last year has also seen sev­er­al sig­nif­i­cant break­throughs which under­score the con­tin­ued impor­tance of diplo­ma­cy and dia­logue, from the Paris cli­mate deal to the inter­na­tion­al agree­ment on Iran’s nuclear pro­gramme. As post-1989 ortho­dox­ies give way to a mul­ti­po­lar world in which nuclear super­pow­ers share the secu­ri­ty agen­da with reli­gious extrem­ists and armed rebels, it is clear that the world is as dis­tant as ever from the “end of his­to­ry”.[1] But what con­crete lessons can the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty draw from cur­rent chal­lenges and break­throughs? In the face of increas­ing divi­sion among peo­ples and gov­ern­ments, can mean­ing­ful coop­er­a­tion ful­fil its promise of peace?

These are com­plex ques­tions for chal­leng­ing times, and com­pet­ing agen­das nat­u­ral­ly lead to very dif­fer­ent answers. Yet a mul­ti­po­lar world need not be a divid­ed one – it can be an oppor­tu­ni­ty for pos­i­tive change, so long as we can achieve greater inclu­sion, gen­uine tol­er­ance and a fair­er bal­ance of pow­er between rich and poor, women and men, and between faiths.

On 10–11 March 2016, lead­ing fig­ures in glob­al pol­i­tics will come togeth­er in Baku to dis­cuss the cur­rent trends in inter­na­tion­al rela­tions and human secu­ri­ty. The meet­ing will pro­vide a forum for cur­rent and for­mer Pres­i­dents, Prime Min­is­ters, Min­is­ters and lead­ing experts in the field to assess the cur­rent state of the world, the most press­ing threats to inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty, and poten­tial routes to the res­o­lu­tion of the issues dis­cussed above. The con­fer­ence in Baku will ini­ti­ate a glob­al dis­cus­sion and iden­ti­fy the nec­es­sary steps to boost trust and joint work among glob­al pow­ers, so that the path to a mul­ti­po­lar world may be one of peace and coop­er­a­tion.


The aim of the Baku Forum is “to pro­mote lead­er­ship for glob­al prob­lem-solv­ing for a more peace­ful, mul­ti­po­lar world.”


To iden­ti­fy the fea­tures of, and prospects for, an increas­ing­ly mul­ti­po­lar world;

  • To make a care­ful assess­ment of the state of key divi­sive issues ham­per­ing glob­al secu­ri­ty;
  • To iden­ti­fy options and steps for glob­al lead­ers to over­come these divi­sions and work towards peace;
  • To give a voice to up-and-com­ing youth lead­ers, so that they may be involved in, and sup­port, a glob­al process of coop­er­a­tion and peace-build­ing;
  • To pro­mote a final, joint state­ment which brings togeth­er the options for avoid­ing con­flicts in the emerg­ing mul­ti­po­lar world of the XXI Cen­tu­ry.


Over 70 for­mer and cur­rent world lead­ers will gath­er in Baku to dis­cuss pri­or­i­ty issues such as the future of East-West rela­tions, rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and extrem­ism, region-spe­cif­ic chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties, ener­gy secu­ri­ty and inter-faith dia­logue, among oth­ers. Day one will focus on spe­cif­ic major geopo­lit­i­cal crises through facil­i­tat­ed dis­cus­sions, where­as day two will fea­ture small­er, more tar­get­ed, par­al­lel “pep-talks,” in addi­tion to con­clud­ing sum­maries and a call for action. The meet­ing will build on the find­ings of the Baku Forum in 2015, which reviewed the main chal­lenges to the cur­rent world order and explored options to over­come them.

In prepa­ra­tion for Baku, the Niza­mi Gan­javi Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter, in coop­er­a­tion with the Ital­ian Soci­ety for Inter­na­tion­al Organisation’s Ini­tia­tive for Glob­al Dia­logue in a Mul­ti­po­lar World, host­ed two days of dis­cus­sions on the use of inter­faith dia­logue to address rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and extrem­ism. The meet­ing, held in Rome in Jan­u­ary, reviewed the prob­lems of a world that is increas­ing­ly inter­con­nect­ed, and explored the options for peace­ful coex­is­tence among reli­gions. The meet­ing in Baku will take the lessons from Rome for­ward to chart the path ahead on using inter­faith dia­logue as a con­struc­tive means to resolv­ing con­flict.

[1] See Fukuya­ma, Fran­cis (1992) The End of His­to­ry and the Last Man. Free Press: New York, and Kagan, Robert (2008) “The End of the End of His­to­ry” in New Repub­lic, 23 April 2008.

4 Baku Forum Final Agen­da