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Columbia Global Policy Initiative


In our increasingly globalized world, every local, national, and regional action has external consequences. Serious problems of global significance – whether they be disease, destabilizing economies, atrocities committed in war, a deteriorating environment, public security or the quality of governance – need to be addressed comprehensively, with the highest standards of disciplinary and interdisciplinary expertise and a commitment to finding practical solutions that both work and that respect local accountability.

In our increasingly globalized world, every local, national, and regional action has external consequences. Serious problems of global significance  – whether they be disease, destabilizing economies, atrocities committed in war, a deteriorating environment, public security or the quality of governance – need to be addressed comprehensively, with the highest standards of disciplinary and interdisciplinary expertise and a commitment to finding practical solutions that both work and that respect local accountability. Only a great university can serve as a foundation for this quality of attentive research.

The Columbia Global Policy Initiative, as conceived by President Lee C. Bollinger and led by founding director Professor Michael Doyle, will bring together eminent Columbia faculty members from the widest range of relevant disciplines. They not only will address global problems comprehensively, building on the relevant range of scholarly expertise, but also will find effective ways of influencing global policy by engaging stakeholders and public policymakers. We see this as a unique venture, combining the best of independent, objective academic research with the best policy analysis and all tied closely to the implementation of policy recommendations.

The Columbia Global Policy Initiative will be:

·      Project focused, searching for applied solutions;

·      Research based, drawing on in-depth, rigorous analyses;

·      Multidisciplinary, combining arts and science with the expertise of the professional schools;

·      Multi-university, welcoming co-sponsored projects, nationally and globally;

·      And responsive to the needs and voices of stakeholders.

It will confront the new challenges of global policy making today. Today’s challenges invariably occur in a global context that includes radically increased interdependence, both among countries, and across issues. This globalization, which affects people everywhere, raises expectations that the voices of the people must be heard at all levels. These expectations have only been heightened with the rise of new centers of industrial and financial power, particularly in Asia, whose role has yet to be reflected in global institutions and practices. Unfortunately, much of what passes for global public policy today fails as a generator of norms, underperforms as a mechanism of coordination and collaboration, stalls when it comes to enforcement, and lacks adequate accountability.

The Columbia Global Policy Initiative will be distinctive in its determination to confront all of these challenges, while developing a community of dialogue and genuine deliberation among the principal directors and researchers of the projects it supports. We will also interact with the Columbia Global Centers around the world to ensure that our projects reflect the views and voices of the multiple stakeholders and policymakers affected by global problems. By working on specific problems facing the world, globalization also can bring benefits to university scholarship and teaching. We appreciate that we have as much to learn as to teach. We count upon our colleagues at Columbia and the distinguished advisors, whom we plan to recruit from home and abroad, to help us design and establish an Initiative worthy of the global challenges we all face.

Faculty experts from Columbia and its partner institutions are leading multidisciplinary teams that will address some of the most pressing global policy challenges of today, including civil wars, health threats, global media, sustainable development and extreme economic inequalities. The Global Policy Initiative is currently supporting the following projects:

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger and Project Director and Special Advisor Dr. Agnès Callamard have associated their project to promote international norms and institutions that protect the free flow of information in an increasingly inter-connected global community facing major global challenges. Through a network of legal experts from around the world, Global Freedom of Expression & Information @Columbia surveys laws and jurisprudence to reveal how freedom of speech and the press are handled by legal systems, and to help determine the legal and policy options for common ground. The project’s outputs will include a web platform of analyses of global trends and exemplary cases. The platform will offer a global case law database, comparative law information and analysis related to freedom of expression issues which will highlight progressive legal rulings. With respect to the United States and the first amendment, President Lee C. Bollinger will stimulate renewed conceptualization of free speech and free press in a world shaped by global economic integration, global communications systems, and global dynamics. Seeking widespread dissemination of, and advocacy on progressive norms and jurisprudence relevant to the challenges of the 21st century, both projects aim to provide law and policy makers with legal and policy frameworks and tools best suited to protect the free flow of information.

Law Professor Sarah Cleveland and Visiting Law Professor Sir Daniel Bethlehem have associated their project, Harmonizing Standards in Armed Conflict, with the Initiative. Their particular focus is to raise the standards of protection for both combatants and civilians in conflicts between states and insurgent armed groups, by applying rules developed for armed conflicts between states to all armed conflicts. The project draws upon an international group of experts in the law of armed conflict and human rights from the US, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The project will review the rules of armed conflict, and will propose a model declaration and legal framework that individual states could adopt unilaterally to apply to all armed conflicts. In the coming year, the project will engage in conversations with interested states and other stakeholders regarding refinement and potential adoption of the model regime.   

Led by Wafaa El-Sadr, University Professor and Director of ICAP and the Global Health Initiative (GHI) at the Mailman School of Public Health (MSPH), and Arthur Rubenstein, Professor and former Dean of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the Seminar Series on the intersection between communicable and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) promotes new dialogue and debate among the global community as it mobilizes and responds to ongoing and looming threats from NCDs. Currently the world’s leading killer according to the World Health Organization, NCDs pose the most severe threat to resource poor countries, with 85 percent of NCD-related deaths occurring in such settings. Along with NCDs, there are also other critical global health priorities that the global community faces, including but not limited to communicable disease (i.e. HIV, malaria, tuberculosis), maternal mortality, child mortality, humanitarian emergency response, and urban health contexts, among many others. As such, the seminars seek to examine widely discussed views of NCD topics; reflect on them through the contexts of global public health and public policy; and identify common experiences and shared lessons that may help inform today’s NCD agenda. Learnings from seminar discussions will be shared in the Series’ compendium and other potential publications.

Professor of History Carol Gluck and Dr. Brigitte Sion have linked the policy portions of their transnational research project, The Politics of Memory in Global Context, to the Initiative. Conducted at Columbia under the Committee on Global Thought, this Franco-American collaboration addresses both the scholarly and political aspects of the formation and management of public memory in societies around the world. It brings together scholars in social science, neuroscience, and curators of historical museums from the US, Europe, East and South Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America to identify the commonalities and connections in contemporary memory politics and to develop appropriate and politically practical ways of dealing with national and social pasts, however dark or difficult. Pressing issues in the geopolitics of memory treated by the project include the current tensions among China, Korea, and Japan relating to the public memory of World War II, between the old and new members of the EU concerning conflicting memories of war and communism, within post-conflict societies in the aftermath of civil war, and others. The goal is twofold: to produce a more sophisticated analysis of the processes of memory politics and to generate specific proposals for better political management of the divisive memories within and between countries. Building on interdisciplinary, transnational research that accounts for the impact of global norms, domestic political conditions, and trends in popular memory, the project is focusing in 2014-15 on three cases: 1. Transitional justice in Tunisia since the Jasmine Revolution; 2. Japan’s “history problem” in East Asia regarding World War II; 3. The latest turmoil over the memory of victims of the dictatorship in Argentina.

Professor and former Dean of Journalism Nicholas Lemann has associated his project, Columbia Global Reports, with the Initiative. Columbia Global Reports publishes in depth investigations of pressing global policy problems. Each of the four to six reports per year is meant to function as a major statement on an important issue, something that has the potential to change the conversation, through new information, new analysis, memorable expression, or, in the best cases, all three. Some reports will be by journalists and will be more reportorial and on-the-ground, some will be by scholars, and some will be by partnerships of journalists and scholars.

Carnegie Professor Kenneth Prewitt has connected the Future of Scholarly Knowledge project (FSK) with the Columbia Global Policy Initiative. FSK, funded by Sage Publications, is a four–year effort concerned with how research universities (about 3% of the 14,000 universities and colleges worldwide) are adjusting, in large and small matters, to three forces: globalization, digitization, and commercialization. The task involves identifying key principles – such as free inquiry and publication, intellectual integrity, policing fraud, commitment to the public good – that are put at risk as these forces challenge traditional university practices, and then recommending measures that will help protect those values in a changing academic world. Universities are the immediate focus, but there is also attention to parallel adjustments occurring in institutions that share in the responsibility to produce and disseminate scholarly knowledge: museums, libraries, scholarly societies and publishers. A loose global network of institutions working on issues specific to their missions is linked to the project by a shared analytic framework, for example, the Mercator Foundation (Berlin), the Institute for Human Sciences (Vienna), the Social Science Research Council (New York), the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Stanford). Additional institutions will be added in 2014-15. 

Professor of Sustainable Development and Director of the Earth Institute Jeffrey Sachs is developing the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) under the auspices of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. This “knowledge network” on sustainable development will grow in future years to include hundreds of universities around the world working together to promote cutting-edge solutions to the complex challenges of sustainable development. The Earth Institute houses the secretariat of the SDSN and its scientists play a core role in the global network. The Global Policy Initiative will help support visiting fellows of the SDSN and foster a dialogue between it and the development community here at Columbia.

University Professor of Economics, Business and International Affairs Joseph E. Stiglitz will continue to pursue research on the costs of inequality. Building on his recently published book, The Price of Inequality, he analyzes how inequality leads to economic instability, including the Great Recession and the Great Depression, and to economic inefficiency by, for example, preventing many youth from fulfilling their potential. Highly unequal societies, he shows, invest less in basic public goods (like education and infrastructure) that promote long-term economic prosperity for society. Stiglitz is proposing a broad “equality-growth-efficiency” agenda that reduces the scope for rent-seeking, eliminates the market distortions that contribute to inequality, and increases equality of opportunity.

Professor of International Affairs, Law and Political Science Michael Doyle directs the Global Policy Initiative, coordinate the projects described here and solicit new projects. He is assisting the United Nations in reformulating and renewing some of the UN global development goals (the Millennium Development Goals, which come due in 2015). He and Joseph Stiglitz have undertaken a special project for the Office of the UN Secretary-General to identify the economic, social and political benefits that can be derived from reducing extreme inequalities. They and their team have proposed language for this new goal, suggested appropriate policy targets and identified necessary indicators to measure progress.

Professor Doyle, Mr. Gregory Maniatis and Ms. Maggie Powers are also working with Sir Peter Sutherland, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration and Development, to formulate new rules for migration that can benefit migrants as well as states of origin, transit and destination. Migration makes an intrinsic, transformative contribution to development. It is an immediate form of poverty reduction for migrants and their families, while adding valuable skills, labor and entrepreneurship to countries of destination. Yet despite the positive development outcomes that migration fosters, challenges to quality migration are legion. Poor policies and lack of coordination leave potential development gains on the table. The Columbia Global Policy Initiative and the UN Special Representative for International Migration and Development, Sir Peter Sutherland, will address this policy gap and develop a new migration agenda for the coming decade. The project seeks to ensure that migration is increasingly understood as a process, one whose existing liabilities and inefficiencies can be curbed and whose quality and outcomes can be significantly improved through smarter policies.

Affiliated works 
Columbia Global Policy Initiative 2015 Annual Report

The Columbia Global Policy Initiative is pleased to present our 2015 Annual Report, detailing our progress over the past year. 

Columbia Global Policy Initiative 2013 - 2014 Annual Report

Columbia's new global policy-oriented research initiative has combined the best of independent, objective academic research with the best policy analysis, all tied closely to the implementation of policy recommendations as outline in the first annual report. The Columbia Global Policy Initiative 2013 - 2014 Annual Report details accomplishments from the inaugural year, and the vision and goals for the years to come.

Overcoming Youth Marginalization: Conference Report and Policy Recommendations

On March 24, 2014, the Columbia Global Policy Initiative hosted over forty academics, youth activists, policy-makers, practitioners, and civil society representatives at Columbia University in New York City, USA, for an in-depth discussion on the marginalization and inequality facing youth worldwide. The conference brought together the diverse experiences and research findings of individuals around the world on youth issues, which often do not have a policy space in which to interact. The issues included human rights and justice; political participation and decision-making; gender and health inequalities; and employment, education, and migration opportunities. Conference participants examined the topics in the context of youth development, empowerment, and equality within society.