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Room with a View

The view from the main Fellows Office at the GCSP is spectacular. A wall of ceiling-high windows reveals a scene of watercolor mountains, vast skyway, treetop greenery and a glimpse of the contemporary and historical architecture that so well defines the City of Geneva.

During my tenure as a Global Fellow and Executive in Residence, I felt energized and awestruck by this view of Europe’s most international city. But as I soon discovered, on the flip side of this windowed wall were views that were just as compelling.

The Global Fellowship Initiative attracts participants from all over the world. In fact, during my stay at the GCSP, my office buddies included people from Burundi, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Palestine, Spain, Sweden and, my place of origin, the United States.

Our fields of expertise were as varied as our passports – aerospace, cyber security, finance, conflict mediation, history, global health, journalism, corporate diplomacy, counter terrorism and intelligence.

So, of course, we were never at a loss for topics of conversation. Whether seated before a backdrop of mountains, around a cafeteria table or on benches outside Geneva’s finest ice creamery, we traded questions, perspectives and intellectual curiosities about each other’s work.

We waxed analytical on the state of the French election, the challenges of climate change and the recent spate of terrorist attacks. We talked of outer space security, global urbanization and leadership styles in the modern age. We shared personal observations of Syrian refugee camps, the plight of the Congo, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And pretty much daily, we pondered the presidency and tweets of Donald J. Trump.

We also joked. And laughed. A lot.

Most of us came to the Centre to speak and teach, research and write, and work on individual projects. Yet despite our assorted citizenships and careers, and by way of our exchanges and work, we also became colleagues and collaborators. After all, GCSP fellows have something important in common.

We share a common desire for a better and safer world.

We hold a common belief that no country, no people, no industry can succeed in isolation.

In an interdependent global society such as ours, we understand that the security and prosperity of one nation depends on the security and prosperity of us all.

We are inextricably linked.

This connectedness can be empowering. But also, as my cohort of fellows and I often discussed, multiple challenges are overwhelming every country’s capacity for global engagement. These include issues such as Brexit, uncertain American leadership, a nuclear North Korea, an encroaching Russia, the human shame of Syria. Extremist violence. A refugee crisis. Deepening famine.

All of these concerns require significant international cooperation – and underscore the importance of relationships in achieving effective and lasting outcomes in security and foreign policy.

How well we engage with one another – across nations and disciplines – is vital to our ability to solve our greatest problems. 

This is a consistent theme at the GCSP.

Throughout the Centre’s innovative courses, debates, forums and exercises, with participants and experts from multiple regions of the world, there is a special emphasis on the power of interaction.

For the other fellows and I, this meant that every subject we explored – from how to lead in turbulent times to the neurophilosophy of global security – came with opportunities to network with people we wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to meet.

It meant that events, faculty and resources facilitated a reciprocal exchange of ideas.

Ultimately, it meant that each course subject, each guest lecture, each moment of coffee and conversation offered fresh insights into the most critical aspect of global security and foreign relations – how to work better together.

This is especially helpful to me now that I’ve returned home to Washington, D.C., a town where the concept of working better together is definitely needed.

I miss the Fellows Office back at the Centre. I miss its windowed panorama from both inside and out. The world is changing, challenging and, indeed, pretty remarkable, and the GCSP provides a view to all of it. I’m grateful for every picturesque memory, every instructive occasion and every new friend it gave me. And I wish every future fellow the same wonderful experience.

 

Ms S. Michele Nix was an Executive-in-Residence at the GCSP from March to June, 2017. She was the former Senior Strategist and Chief Communications Officer at Ridge Global, an international security consultancy led by the first U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge.