2000s: Globalization’s Discontents

The years since 2000 have witnessed rapid and chaotic trends in globalization as well as violent regional conflicts with devastating immediate consequences and far-reaching global effects. The 2001 World Trade Center attacks would fundamentally shape the years to come, manifesting in heightened rhetoric of religious prejudice, two U.S.-led wars, and new attitudes toward civil liberties, security, and civic engagement, all of which were complicated by the increasing sophistication of cyber technologies.

The 2008 financial crisis laid bare the labyrinthine complexities of global capital flows, heightened awareness of the widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, and unsettled twentieth century assumptions about the centrality, power, and authority of nation states. Some began to question the efficacy of democracy.

The physical environment, widely acknowledged for at least three decades as globally interdependent and to some extent heedless of national boundaries, experienced several blows in the 2000s, when climate science was ignored or rejected even as visible evidence of the effects of carbon emissions and other pollutants became more obvious.

The RBF marshaled its historical commitments in a new program design that worked on all these fronts. Domestically, it addressed political polarization, civic disengagement, and the growing influence of money in politics. Internationally, it sought to uncover the true drivers of conflict and foster conditions conducive to durable peace, especially after 2011 with its new Peacebuilding program. It included the Western Balkans in its work in democracy and civil society, viewing that region as the unfinished business of European integration. It re-focused its Asian grantmaking on Southern China. With respect to the environment, it tackled climate change as well as attempted to strengthen the vitality of democracy in global governance and the access and participation of the global South in global problem solving. And it reduced its own carbon footprint through sustainably designed office space and divestment from fossil fuel companies.