New Report Calls for a Paradigm Shift in International Relations

Today, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund released a new report by its president and CEO, Stephen Heintz, urging swift and holistic reform of global governance institutions to respond to urgent transnational challenges. 

A Logic for the Future: International Relations in the Age of Turbulence provides an in-depth analysis of the contemporary hurdles to global problem-solving facing the United Nations and other institutions of multilateral diplomacy. Heintz identifies the core logic underlying global affairs—rooted in the earliest international treaties and enshrined in the U.N. Charter—and finds them insufficient to address today’s unprecedented convergence of political, economic, social, technological, and environmental forces. He then offers a reimagined framework for international relations based on the equitable distribution of power and the primacy of global common interests in peace and security, economic prosperity, and environmental sustainability. 

“From the war in Ukraine to escalating great power tensions, record-breaking climate events to deepening political polarization, the world’s interconnected crises demand fresh thinking and collective action,” said Heintz. “The challenge of designing a better international system may be enormous, but history is replete with examples of hinge moments when human resilience, imagination, and cooperation spurred change once thought impossible.” 

Acknowledging the barriers to change at the United Nations, Heintz offers a series of practical recommendations to animate his proposed logic for the future, including the establishment of a U.S.-China secretariat, new investment in curriculum and training for future generations of diplomats, and codifying the rights of nature. He highlights the U.N. Summit of the Future, scheduled for September 22-23 in New York, as a critical forum for exploring and advancing these ideas and others proposed by the ecosystem of nongovernmental organizations that support and supplement the United Nations. 

“Stephen Heintz has written the best explanation I’ve seen of the depth of the crisis the world faces and of why and how the United States must become the ‘indispensable partner’ in the reshaping of a more balanced global order,” said Roger Cohen, Paris bureau chief for the New York Times and author of An Affirming Flame: Meditations on Life and Politics

A veteran of foreign affairs, Heintz has devoted his career to international engagement focused on strengthening institutions to better serve the people. In the 1990s, he worked as executive vice president for the EastWest Institute in Prague during the region‘s democratic transition. After joining the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in 2001, he reorganized the foundation‘s grantmaking to recognize and respond to the interdependent global challenges of peace, democracy, and sustainability. A year later, Heintz led the initiative to open a Track II dialogue that helped lay the groundwork for the Iran nuclear deal. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and board chair of the Quincy Institute. 

Heintz conducted research for this report as a 2023 Richard von Weizsaecker Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin.

“Heintz’s report provides concrete and visionary suggestions on how to make the rules-based global order more suitable for the challenges of the 21st century,” said Henry Alt-Haaker, senior vice president of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and director of the Robert Bosch Academy. “This report is a perfect example of how the Robert Bosch Academy makes a difference by supporting outstanding international leaders, providing them an opportunity and space to work on the most pressing global issues of our times. We hope that the report will further a discussion on how to make international relations more equitable and inclusive.”

The full report, A Logic for the Future: International Relations in the Age of Turbulence, is available for download here.