Global Leaders Discuss Complex Challenges During Annual Columbia Forum
University President Lee C. Bollinger established the World Leaders Forum in 2003 to advance lively, uninhibited dialogue on the large economic, political and social questions of our time. The opening of the forum traditionally coincides with the fall U.N. General Assembly session in New York City.
Leaders visiting Columbia during the week of Sept. 20 included José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, prime minister of Spain; José Sócrates, prime minister of Portugal; Meles Zenawi, prime minister of Ethiopia; José Manuel Ramos-Horta, president of Timor-Leste; and Ivo Josipović, president of the Republic of Croatia.
Beginning this year’s series on Sept. 15, Jigmi Y. Thinley, prime minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan, spoke about his nation’s unusual and complex system of measuring gross national happiness as an alternative to gross national product, or GNP, the common economic indicator that measures the sum of all goods and services produced by a nation. Bhutan is a Buddhist kingdom of about 700,000 nestled in the Himalayas between China and India.
Thinley said gross national happiness is based on the belief that the purpose of development and the role of the state is to create a place where people can pursue what they aspire to most in life. “It is a holistic development paradigm to make human society resilient,” said Thinley. “We are the only country so far that promotes happiness through deliberate public policy and action.”
On Sept. 20, a special World Leaders Forum event co-hosted by the University’s Earth Institute, welcomed East African officials representing Djibouti, Somalia and Uganda, who joined Columbia faculty to discuss the little-known, but complex challenge of drylands—areas marked by parched soil and extremely limited rainfall.
On Sept. 21, José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission (the executive body of the European Union), said Europe and the United States must cooperate to solve problems like the recent global financial crisis, which are characteristic of an increasingly interdependent world. “No country, no matter how powerful it may be, not even the United States, is able to tackle the challenges of the 21st century on its own,” he said. “We either stand together and prosper, or we fall separately.”