The State of the World Forum 1995-1998

Forum discussion panel
The mission of the State of the World Forum is to establish a global network of leaders and change agents who come together for both discussion and action.  It does this in the conviction that it is networks of committed individuals and institutions which are emerging as principal sources of innovation and effectiveness, thereby reframing and invigorating civil society.

The State of the World Forum network is comprised of leaders and activists in business, science, academia, politics, religion and the arts.  The Forum also gives priority to gender parity and the full inclusion of youth.  Combining all these constituencies as equals to address common issues and challenges, the Forum also gives priority to bringing those from the grassroots together with those widely known and acclaimed, as well as with the gatekeepers of capital and power. 

The State of the World Forum's uniqueness has been in the breadth and scope of its interests; the diversity of individuals it has brought to its various gatherings and initiatives; and its willingness to place the issue of spirituality on a par with economic, scientific, cultural and political discussions.

The Forum engages and challenges its network to address critical issues through:

Conversations That Matter

Conversations that matter are important because it is how we think about the world and conceptualize our challenges that determines our priorities and actions. The Forum creates opportunities for deep discussions on global concerns, believing that the greatest challenge in the world today is to promote an increased sense of personal and civic responsibility, by exploring new models of connection among people and by examining alternative mechanisms, both public and private, to create and sustain those connections.

Annual State of the World Forum

Beginning in 1995, the Forum has held annual conferences in San Francisco, which over 2,000 people from all over the world have attended.  The annual conferences in 1998 (October 27-November 1) and 1999 will also convene in San Francisco.  The millennium conference in the year 2000 will be held in New York, in conjunction with a special General Assembly of the United Nations.

Regional Conferences and Meetings

The Forum convenes regional meetings on localized issues that are critically impacting the world.  Regional conferences have been held in Brussels, Moscow, New Delhi, Islamabad and Guanajuato. 

Currently the Forum is planning two regional conferences in Europe.  The first conference, "Should Great Crimes Against Humanity Be Forgiven?  Challenges of Preventing Genocide in the 21st Century," will be held in Vienna, Austria in Spring 2000.  The second conference entitled "Diversity and Community in a Global Context:  Learning from Europe" will be will be convened in Belfast, Northern Ireland on May 4-9, 1999.

The State of the World Forum's International Conferences

The first State of the World Forum gathering took place in San Francisco, September 27-October 1, 1995.  Convened by Mikhail Gorbachev, more than 400 innovative leaders and thinkers from 50 countries came together.  The central question Mr. Gorbachev challenged this gathering to take up was what principles, priorities and values should guide humanity as it moves beyond the strictures of the Cold War into the next phase of development.  This was debated and discussed from the vantage points of science, economics, global security, religion and the arts.

During the 1996 and 1997 Forums, this conversation was continued.  The inclusion of youth and the emphasis on gender parity, combined with people coming from all over the world and representing all manner of constituencies and disciplines, engendered discussions which were both catalytic and transformative.  Issues addressed ranged across the entire spectrum of human interest in the late twentieth century.  All perspectives were welcome, every point of view was heard, and everyone was invited to honor diversity as the key to creativity.

Some of the leading thinkers and leaders participating in past Forums include:
Oscar Arias Sanchez, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, James Baker, Zbigniew Brzezinski, George Bush, Deepak Chopra, Stephen Covey, Walter Cronkite, Sonia Gandhi, Jane Goodall, Thich Nhat Hanh, Dee Hock, Jose Ramos-Horta, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Thabo Mbeki, David Packard, John Naisbitt, Lew Platt, Jehan Sadat, George Shultz, Ted Turner, Margaret Thatcher, Margaret Wheatley, Marianne Williamson, Marian Wright Edelman and Muhammad Yunus. 

The Forum has developed strategic partnerships to broadcast these discussions on a global scale through national and worldwide media including the BBC, CNN, C-Span, and the Forum's website (

Regional Gatherings and Additional Conversations

In addition to its annual gatherings, the Forum convenes conferences around the world to highlight critical local issues with global ramifications.  These conferences include:

Human Development Meetings

In April 1996, the Human Development Center headquartered in Islamabad, Pakistan, worked with the Forum to convene a meeting of thirty-three leading thinkers and policy makers to draft the Bhurban Statement outlining steps to be taken by the global community to improve the condition of the world's poor.  In 1997, the Forum co-sponsored with the Human Development Center a regional conference: "Challenges of Human Development in South Asia" in Islamabad.  The conference discussed the developmental challenges being faced in South Asia and concrete policies which could be devised by governments and civil society to enhance human capabilities in the region.

Latin America Faces Globalization

In November 1996, the first Regional State of the World Forum was convened in Guanajuato, Mexico, to look at the issue of how Latin America could creatively interact with the forces of globalization.  Over 700 people from 20 Latin American countries attended the conference, hosted by Guanajuato Governor Vicente Fox, a member of the Forum network. 

The Challenge of Reconciliation: Diversity and Community in a Global Age

In partnership with the Belfast City Council and Project Planning International, the Forum will hold a European Conference May 4-9, 1999 in Belfast and Dublin.  This regional Forum will draw international attention to the extraordinary achievement of the construction of the European Union and focus on the challenges of coexistence and opportunities for community building.

Should Great Crimes Against Humanity be Forgiven? Challenges of Preventing Genocide in the 21st Century

The Forum, in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League, will convene a conference to explore the possibilities and limits of forgiveness in the face of great crimes against humanity.  The conference will take place in Spring 2000 at the Imperial Palace in Vienna, Austria.

Actions Which Make a Difference

In and through all the conferences convened, the Forum has challenged its participants to transform dialogue into action.  The following Strategic Initiatives and other tangible outputs from the Forum Network are a direct result of the in-depth and interdisciplinary dialogue that takes place at Forum events.  The Forum is responsible for directing and managing these Strategic Initiatives with many committed partners. 


Nuclear Weapons Elimination Initiative

Chaired by former U.S. Senator Alan Cranston, the Initiative first gained significant momentum at the 1996 State of the World Forum when General Lee Butler, former Commander of the U. S. Strategic Air Command, made his first public statement regarding the need to eliminate nuclear weapons.   Follow-up efforts have produced an unprecedented number of declarations by military and civilian leaders alike, giving rise to a new momentum to reduce and ultimately end nuclear dangers.

Chemical Toxics and their Impact on Public Health

During the 1996 and 1997 Forums, prominent international environmental and public health scientists presented and discussed mounting evidence regarding the impact of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on embryonic development and the human body.  As a result, the Initiative on Chemical Toxics and their Impact on Public Health was launched to create an international network of environmentally committed legislators, scientists and activists to influence governmental regulation of toxics around the world.

One example of the Initiative’s success thus far is its impact at the annual meeting of the Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE) in the European Parliament in Brussels in May, 1997.  The Forum organized a delegation of leading scientists that discussed the need to regulate the production and use of EDCs before parliamentary and NGO representatives from twenty-two nations.  As a result, a “Draft Parliamentary Recommendation on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals” is now under consideration by the GLOBE network to focus increased governmental, scientific and industry attention on this serious issue.  In addition, many GLOBE policy makers have invited the Forum to work with them to convene public education campaigns in their respective countries.

Coexistence and Community-Building Initiative

With more than 170 armed conflicts erupting around the world since the end of the Cold War, one of the most powerful and significant recurring questions in the Forum's deliberations has been, "How can we learn to live together?"  Our answer was the inauguration of a strategic initiative on Coexistence and Community Building.

The State of the World Forum Initiative on Coexistence and Community Building is not a new organization nor a one-time event.  The platform built by the core group of approximately forty individuals at the 1998 Forum will be officially launched at the Belfast Conference, "Diversity and Community in a Global Context", to be held on May 4-9, 1999 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  This meeting will bring people together from the network and the world to a region that demonstrates that coexistence and community building is a living, breathing and practical process.

The Whole Child Initiative

Convened by Dr. Jane Goodall, the Whole Child Initiative was established in 1997 as a Forum-sponsored umbrella for working on child-related issues with a wide network of organizations and individuals.  The Initiative seeks to address how the latest knowledge in brain research, child development and learning can be integrated and applied in designing social and educational policies.

The Initiative will focus on work-family challenges and on model programs that support the healthy development of younger children throughout the world.  In collaboration with Ken Jaffe of the International Child Resource Institute, the Initiative will convene leading experts from Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia to compare children policies and successful model programs.

Investing in Women Initiative

The State of the World Forum is developing an initiative to provide a global platform for advancing the status of women by mainstream institutions and policies, and promoting this platform as the most effective leverage point for social progress, peace and prosperity. Women are a strategic link in shaping humanity’s most critical issues  locally and globally   in part, because development often depends on women and their networks. The Initiative will attract and mobilize new resources and partners committed to improving women’s lives on behalf of the well-being and development of humanity irrespective of gender and toward larger social and economic goals.  The Initiative will identify new solutions and significantly expand the pool of resources through the participation and perspective of nontraditional sectors focusing on women’s development, including, but not limited to business, financial institutions, and trade and professional organizations.

The primary goals of this Initiative are:

  • to expand the participation and constituencies educated and active in promoting women’s development through systemic links and nontraditional connections;
  • to significantly increase the existing pool of resources and services dedicated to investments in women worldwide; and
  • to increase the inclusion and integration of women in the decision making process on social, political, economic, and cultural issues in their countries.

Our Common Enterprise

The State of the World Forum, in cooperation with its strategic partners worldwide, seeks to participate in the preparations and celebrations for the advent of the 21st century and the third millennium by offering to the people of the world an opportunity to imagine a world that works for everyone.  The Forum has created a multi-year initiative, 'Our Common Enterprise', which seeks to engage in an inquiry concerning the possibility of an integrated matrix in which human genius and diversity can be celebrated within the context of a shared sense of community and collective destiny.

Our Common Enterprise (OCE) will comprise the primary work of the State of the World Forum over the next two years. The focus of this endeavor will be to develop:

  • A Sustainable, Transcultural Agenda for the 21st Century - to articulate an integrated, ethical and programmatic framework for the future, the cornerstone of which will be the seven major UN conferences, independent commissions, corporate and academic think tanks, and the on-going work of the global interfaith community;

  • Model Programs and Best Practices - to identify model programs and best practices, already in existence, which exemplify and demonstrate the practicality of building a sustainable civilization.

  • State-of-the-art Decision Support System - to establish a permanent, internet-based global research and decision-support capability comprised of an international consortium of leading private and public think tanks and applied research centers worldwide which can serve as an objective reference standard for the provision of critical information, knowledge and wise council as regards the future development of a sustainable human civilization;

  • Civic Leadership Development - to create a Global Leadership Council comprised of innovative leaders from the fields of politics, social activism, business, finance, science, academia, religion and the arts who have participated in and are committed to OCE;

  • Transmedia Communication and Education - to develop television, radio, print and internet presentations and educational packages designed to inform, inspire and involve the interested public and civic institutions;

  • UN 2000 Forum - to conclude in September of the year 2000 in New York to coincide with the special Millennium General Assembly of the United Nations in order to present the findings and recommendations of OCE to the political leaders as they gather for their deliberations as well as commence OCE's outreach and interaction with the global public.

    Emerging Leaders Program

    The Emerging Leaders Program expands youth participation throughout the Forum’s activities and facilitates youth-adult partnerships empowering young people to play an integral role in their communities and in the creation of a new global culture.  Since 1995, youth from all over the world have been integrated into the Forum network and structure and, through the internet, many more youth have been involved.

    The results have been far-ranging and diverse.  Youth have been invited to sit on the Forum’s Board of Directors; an advisory group has been formed for a proposed youth conference in Moscow in 1999; and Forum youth involvement has been sought by other organizations on community issue task forces, conflict resolution initiatives and women’s issues projects.


    In addition to its Strategic Initiatives, there are other tangible outputs of the Forum network.  Many innovative ideas are generated by the conversations at Forum events, and members often self-organize to implement various actions:

    Task Force on Self-Reliance in Tanzania

    At the invitation of Jane Goodall, ten members of the Forum network visited the Gombe Stream Research Center, Tanzania, in June 1997 to witness first-hand the pressures of population, poverty, and war on the human and natural environment.  As a result of their experiences there, the members created the Task Force on Self-Reliance in

    Tanzania. Working with the Jane Goodall Institute, TACARE Reforestation and Education Project, the International Rescue Committee and UNICEF, the Task Force will provide water supplies and sanitation to over 30 villages surrounding Gombe Stream.  Additionally, a Task Force member pledged $500,000 over the next ten years to promote family planning and women’s education.

    Grameen Bank Expands into Mexico

    In November 1996, over 700 people from 20 Latin American countries attended the regional State of the World Forum conference in Guanajuato, Mexico, hosted by Governor Vicénte Fox.  The major outcome of the gathering was the creation of a Grameen-style bank, which has already extended small business loans to 35,000 individuals otherwise unable to obtain credit. 

    Business Leadership Network

    In 1997, over 60 Forum members organized a business network around the vision of “creating business as one of the most responsible institutions in society by the year 2010”.  The purpose of the Business Network is to support selected business initiatives, one of which has been the technology for Micro-Economies Loan Program.