International Cooperation Gets a Slightly Improved Grade From Global Think Tank Leaders

May 7, 2019

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May 7, 2019—The new Report Card on International Cooperation gives a middling C grade to international efforts to solve the world’s most pressing problems in 2018, barely up from a C– given in 2017, but marking the first time the overall grade has improved in the four years that a grade has been assigned.

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The Council of Councils (CoC)—a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) initiative comprising twenty-eight major international policy institutes—surveyed the heads of member think tanks to evaluate the world’s performance on ten transnational challenges of 2018, from countering terrorism to advancing global health.

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Global Governance

“This [grade] reflected in part a recognition that the world could be disorderly but that progress is still possible,” the Report Card notes.

According to CFR President Richard N. Haass, “The United States under President Donald J. Trump continued to abdicate much of its traditional role of upholding the international order, ceding leadership in some areas to its rivals and eschewing partnering with its allies to bolster the order. . . . As a result, the gap between global challenges and responses grew larger.”

The fifth annual Report Card offers the following individual grades:

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—Promoting Global Health: B–

—Advancing Development: C+

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Global Governance

—Combating Transnational Terrorism: C+

—Managing the Global Economy: C+

—Preventing and Responding to Violent Conflict Between States: C+

—Expanding Global Trade: C

—Managing Cyber Governance: C

—Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change: C

—Preventing Nuclear Proliferation: C–

—Preventing and Responding to Internal Violent Conflict: C–

“Climate change and development may not carry the same urgency as an imminent cyber, nuclear, or terrorist attack, or the need to end the humanitarian tragedy in Yemen. But unless these issues are prioritized now they will become urgent in the next few years,” says Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, chief executive of the South African Institute of International Affairs.
The CoC members call on leaders around the world to prioritize human security issues in 2019—specifically, mitigating and adapting to climate change.

As the global balance of power continues to shift, it is “time to consider what the security implications of climate change will be in a multipolar world,” add Chairman Sunjoy Joshi and President Samir Saran of the Observer Research Foundation.

The survey was conducted from December 3, 2018, through January 14, 2019.

The Report Card was made possible by the generous support of the Robina Foundation.

Explore the Council of Councils Report Card on International Cooperation at Learn more about the methodology.

The Council of Councils is a CFR initiative connecting leading foreign policy institutes from around the world in a common conversation on issues of global governance and multilateral cooperation. The Council of Councils draws on the best thinking from around the world to find common ground on shared threats, build support for innovative ideas, and introduce remedies into the public debate and policymaking processes of member countries.

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