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Transatlantic Leadership facing Tomorrow’s Challenges


Executive summary – 2nd Transatlantic Miami Week (April 26th/30th 2004)


For three days, a hundred participants and speakers coming from throughout the USA and the European Union, and also from Middle East and Africa, have gathered into the superb location of Miami Children’s Museum in order to discuss four key topics (Atlantic Rim, Middle East 2020, International Education, Transatlantic Leadership) defined at the occasion of the first edition of the Transatlantic Miami Week. Those brainstorming seminars were then concluded by a large conference hosted by Barry University which put together hundreds of Miami students and a series of keynote speakers from EU and USA.

The following document is the executive summary of the brainstorming seminars. Its content is a sole responsibility of TIESWEB and expresses TIESWEB vision of the very rich and useful debates which took place for three days. It also describes the concrete outputs of these discussions and outlines future priorities for the next Transatlantic Miami Week (planned in April 2006). Presentations of many speakers are available online at www.tiesweb.org.

I. Transatlantic Leadership facing Tomorrow’s Challenges

The aim

The session sought to identify the challenges that face transatlantic relations on the political, economic, and even psychological/philosophical levels, and then to produce a set of concrete recommendations of how TIESWEB can help improve leadership. What follows is not a summary of the individual speeches as input to this event, but rather the output of the working group constituted by participants.

The challenges

1. Systemic Changes

The end of the Cold War removed the force that compelled Western European and US interests to coincide. Subsequently US economic growth boomed and more recently the US has built up its military considerably. The US now spends more on defense than the next dozen largest countries combined. The result is a ‘systemic’ gap : Europeans are not able to match the US in strength or ‘hard’ power, and hence tend automatically to seek alternative a ‘soft’ diplomatic alternative. One observer, Robert Kagan, has thus affirmed that Europeans and Americans are now “living on different planets” with Americans being from Mars (the proud God of war), and Europeans being from Venus (the debauched Goddess of love).

2. Cultural Values

At one point it seemed obvious that Europeans and Americans had common values grounded in democracy, respect of law and human rights. However, with the collapse of communism, Europeans and Americans have started to ask if they really do share the same values. Secular Europe sometimes stares with fright at religious America, complete with its death penalty and gun carrying obsession. Self-reliant America sometimes stares with fright at state-dependent Europe, with its bureaucracy and obsession with history.

3. Rising Fear

Europeans fear the unilateral exercise of US power. Even for those Europeans who do not challenge America’s motives, there is a worry that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and that unfettered US power will lead us down that road. For Americans, the fear is the inverse. Americans worry that Europeans may seek appeasement with the forces of evil in the world. Americans fear the complete inadequacy of European defense systems leaves them ill-prepared for the problems of the future, putting even more stress on Uncle Sam.

4. Mutual Misconceptions

All the above problems are compounded by misconceptions, often transmitted in the mainstream media. US media in particular is prone to “narcissistic parochialism” : the tendency to look self-gratifyingly at local issues, such as the trials of pop and sports stars, rather than important international news. Moreover, the media on both sides of the Atlantic have shown alarming propensity to show TV images which reinforce the views that their governments hold with regard to major international events, such as the Iraq war. This leads to major miscommunication.

5. Failing Leadership

The European side lacks any form of consistent, serious, or credible leadership. Attempts by Member State leaders to grandstand inevitably results in back-lashes from other leaders in the EU. The US has added to the cacophony with its deliberate and barely hidden attempts at “divide and rule”. In the absence of any leadership Europe remains rudderless and worse still, its population grows increasingly angry and frustrated. This leads to excesses of anti-Americanism.

6. Individual Responsibility

A final challenge faces each and every individual citizen of Europe and North America. That challenge is to analyze all the information being provided and to question its veracity. The exercise of critical thinking is vital not just for transatlantic relations, but in every realm of politics.

The suggested contributions to leadership

Given that TIESWEB is a small non-governmental organization, it does not have the power to address the root-causes of the challenges identified. However, participants came up with a number of initiatives speaking to TIESWEB strengths of ideas, networking and information technologies, which could help palliate them.

1. Realm of Ideas

A. Venus rules OK

It was strongly suggested that TIESWEB could start challenging some received wisdoms in the realm of ideas. Ideas are memes, that once released into a society can have a powerful effect. For instance the Mars and Venus analogy, can be read as implying that obviously Venus is wrong and must change. But if we re-name Mars as ‘male’ or ‘yang’ and Venus as ‘female’ or ‘yin’, it immediately becomes obvious that there is nothing wrong with being Venus. It is time to fight the ideology which demands more Martians and instead for TIESWEB to affirm the need for more love from Venus. This is the biggest contribution in the realm of systemic change.

B. Transatlantic Leadership Curriculum

TIESWEB has developed much material which could be used in a taught course in high schools, colleges and universities. This could be turned into a curriculum package for down-load by relevant teachers for use in their classrooms. In so doing it can address some of the misconceptions that are held and enlarge the number of individuals who can competently engage in discussions on transatlantic issues. Moreover, the curriculum could contain a substantial part on critical thinking skills, which would help build individual responsibility.

C. Scenarios on the EU and US future

The dangers posed by absence of leadership become all the more obvious when we look at how the future could develop. If TIESWEB were to present alternative possible visions of how transatlantic relations could change in the light of good or bad leadership, this could be a spur to change. Indeed one of these scenarios could focus on the benefits of a pragmatic business like approach to relations, which developed win-win solutions.

2. Networking of People and Experiences

A. Lobbying for Exchange Programs

There is a need for ever more Americans to be exposed to Europe and vice-versa. Given that the media does not do this job well, it is better for this to be by actual visits, and preferably long stays. This may be mainly targeted at students or even young professionals. The key is to get more individuals who have experience of the other being brought into the system. TIESWEB could lobby the relevant institutions for new exchange programs to be established, and existing ones to be broadened.

B. Transatlantic Marathon

If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go to the mountain. A team of European and American speakers from TIESWEB could criss-cross both continents, reaching out to local groups to debate and discuss the issues of transatlantic relations. This should seek to identify and pacify fears that both sides may have.

C. Service learning

For those who are not able to leave to visit the other side of the Atlantic, individual responsibility can be substantially developed by service learning at home. Martin Luther King’s notion of the servant of the community also being its leader remains a powerful image, for by becoming engaged in local activities, individuals automatically develop the skills of empathy which are so necessary to understand why others from other countries are thinking differently on international affairs.

3. Media and New Technology

A. Televised debates on Fear

TIESWEB could seek to interest TV channels in the idea of a debate between Europeans and Americans on what they fear about each other, and televise this. It is often true that once fears are uncovered, they become less scary, and this is the first step to better health.

B. Role playing games

There are many role playing computer games on the market already. Why not engage a creative company with a view to creating a role-playing game on transatlantic relations. This is the type of activity which would excite younger generations the most.

C. Deconstructing fear with Images

Given the very different ways the same stories are presented to viewers by TV in different parts of Europe and the US, TIESWEB could gather the different ways that events are shown, and place them side by side on its website.

II. International Education : A key challenge for US society and Transatlantic relations

The improvement of international education should become a priority on both sides of the Atlantic. If the European integration process has very significantly increased the level and scope of international education in Europe ; in the US, international education has progressively been restricted to specialized higher education. Therefore education has been catapulted to the top of the transatlantic agenda due to the pressure generated by a constellation of forces highlighted by recent political friction and the almost inseparable economic connection between the European Union and United States. The EU is no model, but is definitely developing far more advanced and complex processes in this field. Somehow, the “military” unbalance between the US and the EU is reflected in an opposite unbalanced in the field of international education. If the EU should do more in terms of defense spending ; the US should do more in terms of international education spending.

The low level reached by international education in the USA (lack of international education content – such as geography, history, foreign language courses – at primary and secondary schools, lack of teachers training in these fields, restriction of international education as education about international affairs at higher education level, lack of international content in general medias) is contributing to the worsening of conditions as citizens lack the fundamental knowledge and skills to contribute to the forces impacting their lives. Outsourcing of jobs, foreign policy matters, international trade issues, environmental challenges are examples of daily foreign impacts on US and EU citizens lives ; meanwhile international policy issues are more and more dividing EU and US public opinions (Israel-Palestine, Iraq, Kyoto, International Penal Court, ….). Immediate action needs to be taken to address this situation before it deteriorates further. The vitality of the transatlantic relationship is at stake. Therefore international education in the US in particular should become a priority for leaders on both sides of the Atlantic.

International education should seek to develop global citizens who are capable of learning from one another. Toward that end, we propose a “Transatlantic International Education Agenda. “

1. Values should constitute the core of the curriculum by combining three ingredients : knowledge that would enable students to acquire cultural competence and sensitivity ; character development that promotes the qualities of global citizenship ; and skills that mold self-directed learning and adaptability.

2. International educational should be provided at the earliest levels of education to ensure that students are equipped to function successfully in the new global village. This means that teacher training should incorporate the knowledge and skills required of an international educator. Pedagogy should be adapted to a wholistic approach whereby the “whole person” is educated through introduction to other forms of learning, including dance and music.

3. Knowledge should be considered through an interdisciplinary framework to encourage exposure to multiple perspectives. Since the occupations are no longer static, students should be prepared to shift easily into different employment environments.

4. Education should become practical and participatory in orientation. Students need to be equipped for the contemporary job market and, at the same, need to be cognizant of the world outside. This dual mission can be achieved through service learning, critical and applied research, internship experiences, study abroad, and simulations.

5. Education must be considered a life-long process and this demands that the media should take responsibility for educating global citizens.

6. Technology should be embraced as a tool capable of internationalizing the classroom and of facilitating cultural sensitivity.

This agenda should become part of a broader dialogue. Thus we propose a conference in which representatives of civil society discuss with policy-makers, professional associations, and the media to how to implement an education that is genuinely international along the lines of our agenda. As a first modest step, TIESWEB will open a section dedicated to International Education comprising “best practices”, papers, case study. It will be managed by International Volunteer Service. Meanwhile TIESWEB will increase its magazine section and will try to get more partners to disseminate information on EU/US relations.

III. Europeans and Americans facing together global challenges : Atlantic Rim and Middle East

The EU and the USA are the wealthiest and largest democratic political entities in the world. Therefore Americans and Europeans face the common responsibility to actively and constructively contribute to shape up tomorrow’s world. At the occasion of the first Transatlantic Miami Week in November 2002, two very precise challenges were identified as key strategic issues where citizens from both sides of the Atlantic could significantly impact on : Southern Atlantic, the always forgotten side of the Atlantic coin ; and Middle East, the world’s hotspot. Two concepts were developed in order to start a process which could involve a growing number of civil society operators from both sides of the Atlantic : the Atlantic Rim, a vision of Transatlantic relations including Africa and Latin America ; and Middle East 2020, a process aiming at defining common dreams and long term visions for young Arabs and Israelis, in order to give peace a sustainable impetus.

During the second edition of Transatlantic Miami Week, a full day was dedicated to these two concepts with the objective of turning them into projects, which was indeed achieved at the end of the day.

‘Atlantic Rim’ is not an empty shell but a true vision for tomorrow’s Transatlantic relations

Participants of the brainstorming seminar did bring a large number of arguments showing that tomorrow’s Transatlantic relations cannot only be anymore a ‘Northern Atlantic’ story, and that historically it was already the proper dimension for Transatlantic relations.

History is not the past ; it is also the present and the future. Therefore looking at past interactions of Europe, North America, Africa and South America teaches us that the Americas development was in fact made possible thanks to both Europe and Africa. Even if the Africans involvement was made by the use of force, one cannot ignore that they have been a key player in the colonization and exploitation of the Americas. From the beginning onwards, Transatlantic Relations were a 4 parties game. It is the 19th century when the US decided that the Western Hemisphere was its own backyard, and when Europeans (especially English and French) decided that Africa was their own reserved continent, that both South Atlantic components became invisible within Transatlantic Relations. World War II reinforced this trend by focusing all attention from strategic, business, scientific, media communities on the sole Europe/North America relations.

But this new 21st century is obviously gross of old trends coming back to modernity : Africa seems to finally emerge from a century of domination and chaos while Latin Americans are back on the world scene ; meanwhile through immigration, Africans are becoming a significant part of European population while Latinos have become the biggest minority in the USA. On the other hand, former ‘backyards’ are being disrupted, the EU is developing a very pro-active policy in South America (like the future free-trade area with Mercosur for instance), while the US is more and more a major player in Africa.

Definitely all 4 players of the Atlantic Rim game are back and interacting with each other. See from the South of the EU or the South of the USA, Africa and Latin America are definitely part of their future strategies in terms of business, demography, cultural trends and political priorities. And let’s not forget a key cultural dimension, for many years now, young Northern Atlantists are dancing and singing on the sound of African and Latin American music.

Therefore participants to the seminar have decided that the ‘Atlantic rim’ concept was indeed describing an emerging reality which will affect Transatlantic relations, and for which communities and civil society operators are very well equipped to help shaping up.

Four main results were reached :

1. Promote the concept in order to increase awareness of civil society operators, medias, decision makers about the ‘Atlantic rim’ concept

2. Organize a 2 days seminar in Madrid in 2005 in order to identify possible projects involving citizens from all 4 continents ; and to prepare the 1 day conference on this topic during next Transatlantic Miami Week in April 2006

3. Build up a large database of community organizations from all 4 continents which may be interested in setting up collaborations

4. Organize a one day conference together with an ‘Atlantic Rim Cultural Event’ in April 2006 during next Transatlantic Week, in order to launch ‘Atlantic Rim’ ‘ s projects and set up a large 4 continents network.

Middle East 2020 : with the failure of all diplomatic attempts, only way out is by the people, with imagination

During the past 2 years, Americans and Europeans have seen all attempts to ‘solve’ the Middle East crisis fail one after the other. The ‘Road Map’ and the ‘build-up of a democratic Iraq by force’ have both led the whole region, and the whole world to a complete dead-end. Meanwhile the Middle East issue is becoming the strongest single force dividing Europeans from Americans. Therefore it is not only because of ‘generous feelings’ that American and European civil societies should get involved in this issue, it becomes a priority for the sake of Transatlantic relations themselves.

Right now in this region, nobody dreams anymore, especially the young people. Expression of hatred, terrorists and military attacks are daily news. Leaders have failed to propose any credible alternative but fear and force. Participants to the seminar felt very committed to contribute to pave the way for a new process which will not start from the top, which will ignore today’s leaders, which will go beyond existing organizations in the region and which will try to have Americans and Europeans working together with Arabs and Israelis. It is time indeed in this region as well as for Americans & Europeans to start working with “the other”.

In a certain way, this region seem to be in need of ‘postcards from the future’ which will boost energies of its youth, not to destroy, but to build ; not to die, but to live. Dreams are essential to build peace. Memories are sufficient to kill. The Middle East 2020 project will aim at ‘producing dreams’ which then could help build a common road from tomorrow to today.

Concretely the objective will be to adopt one or two ‘Middle East 2020’ scenarios, or scenes at next Transatlantic Miami Week in April 2006 and then to circulate them widely to dozens of thousands of young people in Middle East countries, in the EU and in the USA. Those scenes should be short, and written in words adapted to a public 15/25 years old. They will not have to predict what might happen (“scenarios”) but to depict what should be the future “scene” or picture based on a joint dream. Circulation will be made via Internet (directly and via hundreds of partner organization to gather by this date).

Two brainstorming seminars gathering young Israelis and Palestinians with Europeans and Americans will take place early 2005 in Jerusalem. Their objectives will be to start developing a first set of ‘postcards from the future’ describing how could be the region looking like in 2020. Then, between early 2005 and early 2006, the Middle East 2020 network set up by TIESWEB and its partners will try to develop ‘road maps’ going from these futures to today’s situation, identifying which challenges have to be faced, which means may be available, what choices have to be made now and in coming years, in order to reach those ‘futures’.

Franck Biancheri, Brian Murphy & Adrian Taylor

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