In 2017, I underlined the importance of not taking anything for granted in this increasingly volatile and uncertain world. That seems even more valid today when the only certainty is the continuing spread of uncertainty. Today we see doubts about the reliability of any reported event or view, belief in values sacrificed at the altar of populism, elections won by narrow margins that are dwarfed by the numbers of votes of questionable validity, alliances formed and broken with unprecedented speed and tariff-free trade in retreat. These combine to challenge coherent and consistent policy making. It remains to be seen whether such upheavals signal a descent into a newly dangerous and chaotic world or present a range of opportunities to resolve seemingly intractable long term problems. In either case, the wisdom and experience of former leaders, whose independence of national interest is absolute and whose motivation is benevolent, are priceless assets to assist current leaders who must decide how to find a path for their people. As a result, I am clear that the need for our work will continue unabated.
To date, all of our projects have been in small, developing or neglected countries and yet the context for many of them is the ever changing web of relationships between the major powers and its effect on smaller ones. For that reason, the consideration of those relationships in our Annual Meeting was a very important innovation. Meanwhile, the exploration there of the impact of social media on democracy, and the extent to which regulation of such activity is either possible or desirable, introduced another valuable new dimension to our discussions.
Whilst, as a mark of good practice, the Foundation looks to the future, we must not do so at the expense of the present. Future leaders are likely to need help in the future, but today’s leaders need it now. I am delighted that our distinguished new Members bring to the Foundation both the wisdom of lifetimes in government and the broader perspectives of different generations and professions. This year we have welcomed John Kufuor (Ghana), Ricardo Luna (Peru), Festus Mogae (Botswana), Ana Palacio (Spain), Jean-Pierre Raffarin (France) and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia). All of these have so much to contribute to the scope and span of the Foundation.
One of the less helpful consequences of the prevailing uncertainty is the effect on our International Council of supporters. One of the paradoxes affecting us is that the same uncertainty that increases the need for the assistance that GLF can provide, also reduces the ability of some of our traditional donors to support us. There is a very important role for all in the Foundation to add value to our supporters by analysing and interpreting the world, and then sharing that analysis through, for example, the Annual Meeting which remains a key event in the annual cycle of GLF events and where the quality of discussion on international affairs is as good as any you will find.
I remain very grateful to all those who work so hard on behalf of the Foundation in pursuit of our noble objective which remains as important as ever – to make a difference to the lives of many people around the world by improving the quality of governance and the ability of national leaders to make better decisions in the collective interest of all their people.