The First 30 Years


1 / 10 : Beginnings

A novelist would probably reject the contacts and encounters that led up to the creation of the Club of Rome as too improbable for a good story. An Italian industrialist who has spent much of his working life in China and Latin America meets, via a Russian (although this is at the height of the Cold War), a top international scientific civil servant, Scots by birth and now living in Paris. They find they share similar concerns, become friends, decide to draw others (American, Austrian, British, Danish, French) into their discussions. Unfortunately, the first proper meeting of this group, in Rome in Spring 1968, is a total flop but a handful of die-hards carry on, and within a few years millions of people all round the world are talking about their ideas.

However unlikely, that is roughly the way the Club of Rome began. It could so easily never have happened - because the protagonists might never have met, or they might well have given up after the failure of that first meeting. That the Club was in fact founded and flourished undoubtedly owed much to the personalities and experience of the two main characters in the story. Aurelio Peccei, the Italian, and Alexander King, the Scot, both had excellent - though very different - vantage points in the mid 1960s to observe the problems emerging in the world; both were worried by what they saw but their capacity to act on their knowledge was limited by their positions. Naturally, they were on the look-out for like-minded people and for ways of taking their ideas further.

Aurelio Peccei had trained as an economist and was sent to China by Fiat in 1935. After the war, spent in the resistance and in prison, he returned to Fiat, first helping to get the group back on its feet and then, in 1949, as head of its Latin American operations. He quickly realized that it would make sense to start manufacturing locally and set up the Argentine subsidiary, Fiat-Concord. In 1957 he was delighted to be asked to create and run Italconsult (a para-public joint consultancy venture involving major Italian firms such as Fiat, Innocenti, Montecatini), seeing this as a way of helping to tackle the problems of the Third World which he had come to know first-hand. But Peccei was not content merely with the substantial achievements of Italconsult, or his responsibilities as President of Olivetti, and threw his energies into other organizations as well, including ADELA, an international consortium of bankers aimed at supporting industrialization in Latin America. He was asked to give the keynote speech in Spanish at the group’s first meeting in 1965, which is where the series of coincidences leading to the creation of the Club of Rome began.

Peccei’s speech caught the attention of Dean Rusk, then American Secretary of State, and he had it translated into English and distributed at various meetings in Washington. A Soviet representative at the annual meeting of ACAST (the U.N. Advisory Committee on Science and Technology), Jermen Gvishiani, read the speech and was so taken by it that he decided he should invite the author to come for private discussions, outside Moscow. Gvishiani therefore asked an American colleague on ACAST, Carroll Wilson, about Peccei. Wilson did not know Peccei, but he and Gvishiani both knew Alexander King, by then head of the Scientific Affairs directorate of the OECD in Paris, so Wilson appealed to him for information.

As it happened, King did not know Peccei, but he was equally impressed by the ADELA paper and tracked down its author via the Italian Embassy in Paris. King wrote to Peccei, passing on Gvishiani’s address and wish to invite him to the Soviet Union, but also congratulating him on his paper and suggesting that they might meet some time as they obviously shared similar concerns.

While Aurelio Peccei had been working as an industrial manager in the Third World, Alexander King had been pursuing his career as a national and international civil servant in the very different setting of the industrialized countries. He had studied chemistry at the universities of London and Munich, then taught and carried out some important research at Imperial College, London. The war took him to the United States, where he was scientific attaché at the British Embassy in Washington until 1947, concerned with "everything from penicillin to the bomb". His experience there and in his next jobs - with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in London and then the European Productivity Agency in Paris - gave him the interest in the interactions between science, industry and society as well as the expertise in science policy matters that he was to need in his work at the OECD.

King has described the OECD in the 1960s as "a kind of temple of growth for industrialized countries - growth for growth’s sake was what mattered". This veneration of growth, with little concern for the long-term consequences, worried King and Torkil Kristensen, the Secretary General of the OECD. They both felt that there ought to be some sort of independent body which could ask awkward questions and try to encourage governments to look further ahead than they normally did. As international civil servants, however, they felt limited in what they could do - at which point, Peccei telephoned King and they arranged to have lunch.

The two men got on extremely well from the very outset. They met several times in the latter part of 1967/early 1968, and then decided that they had to do something constructive to encourage longer-range thinking among Western European governments. Peccei accordingly persuaded the Agnelli Foundation to fund a two-day brainstorming meeting of about 30 European economists and scientists at the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome in April 1968.

To launch the discussion, King asked one of his colleagues from the OECD, Erich Jantsch, to present a paper. Unfortunately for the success of the meeting, Jantsch produced a brilliant but far too sophisticated paper on economic and technological forecasting which bewildered rather than stimulated the audience. In addition, the Vietnam war had made people very anti-American and therefore hostile to what were perceived as American techniques, such as systems analysis. The debate degenerated into arguments about semantics, many of the participants were either skeptical about the methodology or simply unwilling to become involved in a shaky joint enterprise, and the meeting ended in fiasco.

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2 / 10 : The Club takes shape 

Half a dozen recalcitrant, however, refused to admit defeat. Peccei, King, Jantsch, Hugo Thiemann, Jean Saint-Geours and Max Kohnstamm had dinner together that night to discuss what had gone wrong and what to do next. King and Peccei agreed at once that they had been "too foolish, naive and impatient" and that they simply did not know enough about the subject they were tackling. The group therefore decided that they should spend the next year or so in mutual education, discussing world problems among themselves and occasionally inviting others to join in.

According to Alexander King, within an hour they had decided to call themselves "The Club of Rome" and had defined the three major concepts that have formed the Club’s thinking ever since: a global perspective, the long term, and the cluster of intertwined problems they called "the problematic". Although the Rome meeting had been convened with just Western Europe in mind, the group realized that they were dealing with problems of much larger scale and complexity: in short, "the predicament of mankind". The notion of problematic excited some because it seemed applicable at a universal level, but worried others, who felt that the approach was valid only for smaller entities such as a city or community. Saint-Geours and Kohnstamm therefore soon dropped out, leaving the others to pursue their informal programme of learning and debate.

The Club initially had no legal form or membership. The group met quite frequently over the following 18 months, often in Geneva, to discuss aspects of the human predicament. Peccei brought in an economist and futurologist named Hasan Ozbekhan, a Turk educated at the London School of Economics and currently running a California think-tank, who shared the group’s concerns and thought he might be able to help them to find some way of looking at the interaction of the various elements in the problematic.

Jantsch and Ozbekhan were invited to the European Summer University at Alpbach in Austria in September 1969 for a seminar on the human predicament, and Peccei and King went along to support them. The Alpbach meeting was significant for two reasons. First, that was where the German Eduard Pestel joined the group. Second, the Austrian Chancellor paid a visit to the ESU and encountered the Club members one evening at dinner, where they were talking about their ideas. He was struck by the fact that these were the sorts of issues his Ministers should be discussing together but were not, so he invited them to come to address the cabinet in Vienna in a month’s time. The aim of "pricking" governments, which had rather fallen into abeyance, was thus revived at the request of a government!

In due course King, Peccei, Jantsch, Thiemann, Kristensen (now retired) and Gvishiani went to Vienna. They met with the Austrian cabinet and later with a group of industrialists and bankers, all of whom urged them to "go public" as they could be useful. This was just the first of many meetings with heads of state during the next couple of years.

Meanwhile, many more members were being recruited and it became clear that a slightly more formal organization was needed. Alexander King, as the "keeper of the ideology" from the outset, was inspired by the model of the Lunar Society of Birmingham: a group of independent-minded people (such as Wedgwood the potter, James Watt, Priestley the discoverer of oxygen, Erasmus Darwin) who dined together once a month towards the end of the 18th century and discussed the promises and problems offered by contemporary developments in science and industry. The Lunatics, as William Blake called them disparagingly, had no political power or ambitions, but they could see the interconnections between all that was happening around them and the potential for changing the nature of society. No bureaucracy, just thinking and doing.

Eventually the Club did have to draw up some statutes and choose a President (Aurelio Peccei), but that was all. It was decided to limit the membership to 100 because it was feared that larger numbers would become unmanageable and would necessitate a paid secretariat, hence all the usual paraphernalia of finance committees, etc. that they hoped to avoid. So that the Club should be seen to be entirely independent, financial support would not be sought or accepted from governments or industry. For the same reason, there should be no political affiliations or appointments - members appointed to political positions were expected to become sleeping members while in office (this happened, for example, for Okita and Pestel). Otherwise the membership should range as widely as possible, in terms of expertise and geography. A concern with the problematic, and the need to delineate it and understand its nature, was the main requirement for membership, irrespective of political ideology.

The Club saw itself, as indeed it still does, as "a group of world citizens, sharing a common concern for the future of humanity and acting as a catalyst to stimulate public debate, to sponsor investigations and analyses of the problematic and to bring these to the attention of decision makers".

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3 / 10 : The search for a methodology 

By the time of the first major meeting of the Club in Berne in June 1970 (at the invitation of the Swiss government), there were about 40 members. Ozbekhan presented a paper proposing a methodology for coming to grips with the predicament of mankind: they should set up a fairly basic model of the global situation; establish empirically a list of "continuing critical problems"; then simulate the interactions within the system under different conditions. The results would provide a more concrete basis for evaluating possible policy options and offering advice to governments. The paper provoked a heated debate, with strongly held views on both sides. The majority ultimately decided that it would take too long and cost too much to develop the Ozbekhan model to the point where it would produce useful results.

Once again, the enterprise might have foundered; but once again, a deus ex machina appeared, this time in the shape of Professor Jay Forrester of MIT, who had been invited to the meeting. For thirty years he had been working on the problem of developing mathematical models that could be applied to complex, dynamic situations such as economic and urban growth. His offer to adapt his well-tried dynamic model to handle global issues was gratefully accepted, and the way ahead suddenly seemed less uncertain. A fortnight later, a group of Club members visited Forrester at MIT and were convinced that the model could be made to work for the kind of global problems which interested the Club. An agreement was signed with a research team at MIT in July 1970, the finance provided by a grant of $200 000 that Pestel had obtained from the Volkswagen Foundation.

The team was made up of 17 researchers from a wide range of disciplines and countries, led by Dennis Meadows. From their base at the Systems Dynamics Group at MIT they assembled vast quantities of data from around the world to feed into the model, focusing on five main variables: investment, population, pollution, natural resources and food. The dynamic model would then examine the interactions among these variables and the trends in the system as a whole over the next 10, 20, 50 years or more if present growth rates were maintained. The global approach was quite deliberate; regional and area studies could come later.

In a remarkably short time, the team produced its report in 1972: The Limits to Growth, written very readably for a non-specialist audience by Donella Meadows. The response to the book - in all 12 million copies have been sold, translated into 37 languages - showed how many people in every continent were concerned about the predicament of mankind. "The Club of Rome" had begun to make its mark, as its founders had hoped, on the whole world.

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4 / 10 : Limits to Growth and other studies 

Before the final publication, Peccei circulated a draft to leading economists and politicians, hoping for some response, but received none. There was no shortage of reactions, however, once the book was out.

When the results were presented to the Club, some members had strong reservations, especially about the lack of an adequate social dimension or of any regional breakdown differentiating between the industrialized countries and developing world. Such disagreement was entirely natural, given the diverse views within the Club. Indeed, this was why Limits to Growth, like the subsequent studies, was a Report to rather than by the Club of Rome, prepared by reputable academics for the very purpose of stimulating debate. It was not meant to be a statement of the Club’s credo, but a first hesitant step towards a new understanding of the world.

Limits to Growth was discussed in hundreds of seminars, round tables, newspaper articles, radio and television programmes. Quite wrongly, the Report tended to be perceived as presenting an inescapable scenario for the future, and the Club was assumed to be in favour of zero economic growth. In fact the projection of trends and the analysis of their cross impacts were intended to highlight the risks of a blind pursuit of growth in the industrialized countries, and to induce changes in prevailing attitudes and policies so that the projected consequences should not materialize.

In general, the main academic criticisms - to simplify complex arguments drastically - came from economists, who felt that the study failed to take sufficient account of the price mechanism, and from scientists, who thought it neglected the capacity of scientific and technological innovation to solve the world’s problems. A particularly thorough critique was undertaken by the recently founded Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex.

The Report broke new ground in a number of ways. For one thing, it was the first time that a global model had been commissioned by an independent body rather than a government or United Nations agency, and its findings were intended to reach a wider public than the usual limited audience of academics. More importantly for the future, it was the first to make an explicit link between economic growth and the consequences for the environment. Whatever its shortcomings, Limits to Growth set the frame of reference for the debate on the pros and cons of growth, as well as for subsequent efforts in global modelling.

Eduard Pestel was one of those deeply concerned about the undifferentiated global approach adopted in Limits to Growth. As a professional systems analyst - he had established his own Institute for Systems Analysis in Hannover in 1971 - he was the obvious person to produce a better one. Accordingly, even before the Meadows Report was published, he and Mihajlo Mesarovic of Case Western Reserve University had begun work on a far more elaborate model (it distinguished ten world regions and involved 200 000 equations compared with 1000 in the Meadows model). The research had the full support of the Club and the final publication, Mankind at the Turning Point, was accepted as an official Report to the Club of Rome in 1974. In addition to providing a more refined regional breakdown, Pestel and Mesarovic had succeeded in integrating social as well as technical data. The Report was less readable than Limits to Growth and did not make the same impact on the general public, but it was well received in Germany and France, in particular.

Several other studies were undertaken in the early 1970s to improve upon Limits to Growth, with varying degrees of support from the Club. Reflecting general criticism from the Third World, a Latin American model was developed by the Bariloche Institute in Argentina; the Club helped to find funding for the project but did not give its imprimatur to the final report (A.O. Herrera et al., Catastrophe or New Society?, 1976). Another regional model, FUGI, was launched by Yoichi Kaya to examine Japan and the Pacific; it was sponsored by MITI and not by the Club.

With the idea of giving greater stress to the human dimension, Peccei approached the Dutch economist Jan Tinbergen and proposed a study of the likely impact of a doubling of the population on the global community. Tinbergen and his colleague Hans Linnemann came to the conclusion, however, that the topic was unmanageably large and decided to focus on the problems of "Food for a Doubling World Population". When this was put to the Club, Peccei and others disagreed strongly, feeling that other aspects such as strains on housing, urban infrastructure, employment, etc. should not be ignored. Ultimately Linnemann and his group pursued their research with funds they had already mobilized in the Netherlands and published their results independently (MOIRA - Model of International Relations in Agriculture, 1979), not as a Report to the Club of Rome.

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5 / 10 : The early 1970s: high visibility 

The immediate consequences of the tremendous public interest in Limits to Growth were that the Club enjoyed excellent coverage in the media and it was much easier to gain access to influential people. Peccei was keen to build on this strong position and initiate further projects. It was a period of great expectations, apparently propitious for influencing both policymakers and public opinion.

The new phase of activities was discussed at the Tokyo Conference in October 1973 on "Toward a Global Vision of Human Problems". Preliminary presentations were made of the Latin American, FUGI, Mesarovic and Pestel, and MOIRA models, as well as reports by a CoR group working on energy, resources and technological change (later published as Beyond the Age of Waste), of a Dutch group on the implications of the findings of Limits to Growth for the Netherlands, and of a group from the Battelle Institute on efforts to apply the Delphi method to macroeconomic decision-making. The Club had come a long way from the disastrous Rome meeting five years before. However, another event in the same month fundamentally altered everyone’s awareness of problems of scarcity and of power relations: the OPEC meeting which heralded the first oil shock. The framework of discussion changed radically, at least for a while, and the Club was to become involved in the UN debate on the New International Economic Order (NIEO).

Lest it appear that the Club was devoting all its energies to academic modelling projects, another series of meetings should be mentioned that reveals the other strand of its activities. Peccei persuaded the Austrian Chancellor, Bruno Kreisky, to host a meeting in February 1974 on North-South problems which brought together six other heads of state or government (from Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Senegal, Sweden and Switzerland), senior representatives of three others (Algeria, the Republic of Ireland and Pakistan) and ten members of the CoR Executive Committee. Peccei deliberately did not invite any of the major European powers, the USA or the USSR so as to prevent the debate turning into a forum for national or ideological position statements. To encourage the participants to speak freely, they were asked to come without accompanying civil servants and assured that nothing they said would be attributed to them. The two-day private brainstorming meeting ended with a press conference for 300 journalists and the CoR Executive Committee members issued their "Salzburg Statement", which emphasized that the oil crisis was simply part of the whole complex of global problems; the nine recommendations related to many of the issues covered in the NIEO.

As a logical extension of the Salzburg meeting, Peccei asked Jan Tinbergen to produce a follow-up report on global food and development policies, exploring these aspects much more thoroughly than the coverage in Limits to Growth. It seemed a propitious moment to promote thinking on the global problematic and international co-operation as the oil crisis made people recognize how interdependent the world had become. Scholars from the First, Second and Third Worlds were invited to participate in the RIO project (Reshaping the International Order), but only Poland and Bulgaria accepted from the Communist bloc. The basic thesis was that the gap between rich and poor countries (with the wealthiest roughly 13 times richer than the poorest) was intolerable and the situation was inherently unstable. What would be required to reduce the gap to 6:1 over 15 to 30 years? (Though still large, this ratio seemed the lowest that could be realistically proposed.) Unlike Limits to Growth the model allowed the developing countries 5% growth per annum, whereas the industrialized countries would have zero or negative growth; all, however, would benefit from more sensible use of energy and other resources and a more equitable distribution of global wealth. The main Report argued that people in the rich countries would have to change their patterns of consumption and accept lower profits, but a dissenting group saw consumption as a symptom rather than a cause of the problems, which stemmed rather from the fundamental power structure.

After numerous working sessions and presentations at CoR and other meetings over an 18-month period, the final results of RIO were presented at a meeting in Algiers in October 1976 and accepted as a Report to the Club of Rome. Despite being stronger on policy than Limits to Growth, it did not have the hoped-for impact, perhaps because the worst effects of the oil shock were over and the First World was much less receptive to appeals for self-denial and greater co-operation.

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6 / 10 : 1976-1984: doldrums 

The response to the RIO study was discouraging, and the other publications that appeared in the 1970s and early 1980s fared little better, achieving respectable but unremarkable sales and publicity. (The possible exception was Microelectronics and Society, which did well especially in Germany.) It became clear that, in the current climate, it would be difficult to attract sponsors for major meetings and research projects, and academics might be less interested in undertaking them for the Club. The whole business of modelling had become far more sophisticated, so that the Club was no longer well placed to make an innovative contribution; in any case, the public had become skeptical since nobody had forecast the oil shock. Consequently the Club’s activities, largely at Peccei’s instigation, entered a more disparate phase, with no overall guiding principle. This does not mean that nothing was happening, as is obvious from the list of Reports to the Club of Rome published during this period (see Annex), but which tended to examine specific aspects of the problematic rather than attempting a global approach. The Annual Conferences, held at venues in four continents every year from 1970 onwards, continued to provide an opportunity not only for all members of the Club to meet, but also to spread its ideas in the countries concerned.

From about 1979 onwards, Peccei devoted his energies increasingly to a new project: the Forum Humanum. He had come to feel that the best hope for the world lay in young people and his aim in Forum Humanum was to build a network of younger scientists in the First, Second and Third Worlds who would work together to tackle the pressing problems of humankind. His colleagues in the Club did not on the whole share his enthusiasm, and he was left to pursue his campaign alone. Peccei travelled and lobbied as tirelessly as ever, and groups of young scientists were established in Rome, Madrid, Geneva, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, but the movement did not take off as he had hoped.

Ever since the early days, the Club had essentially been run by Peccei and two secretaries operating from his office at Italconsult headquarters in Rome. (On paper, CoR also had offices in Geneva and Tokyo, at the Battelle Institute and c/o the Japan Techno Economics Society (JATES) respectively, but these were little more than useful addresses for correspondence or for organizing meetings.) In July 1982, after changes in company leadership, he received a week’s notice to give up this office; in the ensuing upheaval, he salvaged what seemed to him the most important documents, now stored by Umberto Colombo at ENEA in Rome, but much archival material was lost at that time.

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7 / 10 : Renewal

Peccei had been such a dominant force in the Club that when he died, in March 1984, the feasibility and desirability of its continuing existence was put in question. At a meeting in Helsinki in July 1984, however, the majority of members decided in favour of carrying on.

Certain changes were inevitable. Largely thanks to Peccei, the Club had managed to survive as a "non-organization", without a formal structure, a proper secretariat and a budget, but this state of affairs could not continue and new arrangements were needed to make the Club more efficient. Alexander King was appointed President (President Emeritus since 1 January 1991, when he was succeeded by Ricardo Díez-Hochleitner). A more participative mode of operation was adopted, with a Council (12 members) and a small Executive Board (8 members). The Council defines the general framework for the Club’s activities and deals with the issues of substance; the members are chosen so as to reflect a balance of regions and viewpoints. The Executive Board takes decisions relating to the day by day actions of the Club and implements them; for practical reasons, the members need to be easily available by telephone and for meetings. Membership of both bodies is for three years, renewable once, to ensure a rotation.

A major practical problem was to find someone prepared to take on Peccei’s role in the day-to-day running of the Club on a similar voluntary basis. In 1984 Alexander King proposed to the Executive Board that there should be a new position of Secretary General to assist the President, and the task was shouldered by Bertrand Schneider. The Club’s headquarters then shifted to Paris.

Another new development was the decision to invite prominent world figures who share the Club’s concerns to become Honorary Members. Although their positions may prevent them from taking a public stance, as in the case of the Queen of the Netherlands or the King and Queen of Spain, they can and do give valued moral support. Among the others are former President Gorbachev, former President Richard von Weizsäcker of Germany, the first President of newly democratic Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel, President Arpad Göncz of Hungary, President Carlos Menem of Argentina, and the Nobel laureates Ilya Prigogine and Lawrence Klein.

The main strands of activity continued to be part public, part private - part collective (through the Annual Conferences, other meetings and seminars, and the National Associations), part personal initiatives, though these are not seen as separate: the action of the Club is made up of the actions of the individual members. Regular "Activities Reports" several times a year now keep the members informed of each other’s, CoR and National Association projects.

As regards the public actions, there was a deliberate change in emphasis in tackling the "predicament of mankind". Although the distinctively global approach would be maintained, emphasizing the complex interactions within the problematic, the Helsinki meeting felt it would be appropriate to focus on particular aspects, perhaps concentrating on a single major item for the next few years. Possible topics considered for this new phase are set out in Alexander King’s "The Club of Rome - Reaffirmation of a Mission" (1986): governability, peace and disarmament, population growth, human resources and assessment of the consequences of advances in science and technology. The first of these - examining the need for innovation in the ways society and institutions are managed to cope with the demands of a rapidly changing world - was selected as the theme of the Annual Conference in Santander in 1985.

Similarly, the Club had a long-standing interest in development questions, but now examined them in greater depth. Bertrand Schneider’s The Barefoot Revolution, accepted as a Report to the Club in 1985, marked a turning-point. The study examined at first hand the working of 93 development projects, mainly in rural areas, in 19 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The Report highlighted the contribution of the NGOs, but above all stressed the enormous potential of the villagers themselves, once given the chance to speak and act. After this broad overview, the Club focused in turn on different regions of the Third World, starting with a year of special concern with Africa. Under the leadership of the Finnish National Association, a study was undertaken of food and famine in Africa, following on the famines in the Sahel and Ethiopia. In this connection, a meeting was held in June 1986 in Lusaka under the patronage of President Kenneth Kaunda, and the subsequent Report Africa beyond Famine had a considerable impact. A larger conference was then arranged in Yaoundé, in December 1986, bringing together about 80 Africans and 30 members of CoR from other regions, for a frank discussion of the continent’s problems, along with proposals for radical solutions. This concern with development has continued in the 1990s.

In addition to the publications commissioned in relation to these activities, a new "Information Series" of Reports was launched, such as Bertrand Schneider’s Africa Facing its Priorities (1988) and Eduard Pestel’s Beyond the Limits to Growth (1989). As the series title indicates, the main aim was to provide information, with less emphasis on policy recommendations. In general, publications were subjected to more rigorous appraisal.

As to the more private face of the Club, the personal diplomacy always practiced by members was given new impetus by the gradual thaw in East-West relations after 1985. Two examples are particularly striking. Before the Rejkavik Summit in October 1986, Eduard Pestel and Alexander King sent a memo to both President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, suggesting that the United States and the USSR might be induced to work together on reducing arms sales to poorer countries - the superpowers would gain politically, if not economically, from such efforts, and they would benefit from the experience of actually working together. The response from the White House was perfunctory, but Gorbachev immediately reacted very positively, and this led to personal contacts between the Club and the Soviet leadership during the crucial period of glasnost and perestroika. Similar contacts made by Adam Schaff in Poland led to the creation there of a National Association of the Club of Rome, providing a meeting ground for members of the Communist Party, the Roman Catholic church and Solidarity.

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8 / 10 : The evolution of the National Associations 

The network of National Associations has grown largely spontaneously. The first one came into being in the Netherlands as a result of an overwhelming public response to early drafts of Limits to Growth leaked to the Dutch press and presented on television; the book ultimately sold 900,000 copies in a country with a population of 13 million. Frits Boettcher, the head of the Dutch delegation to the OECD Committee on Science and Technology, tried to persuade the Club to build on this response and set up "The Club of Rome Association for the Netherlands" in late 1971. The Club was, however, extremely wary of self-proclaimed Associations which could all too easily misrepresent the Club proper and detract from its global mission. Nevertheless, similar Associations continued to spring up here and there, and eventually gained the blessing of the Club, since they can clearly make a substantial contribution to spreading its ideas within the countries concerned.

Worries about the Associations engaging in activities and propagating views out of line with the Club’s position, but outside its control, have been allayed since a common Charter was worked out, largely based on the model of the Spanish Association. The Charter was adopted in Warsaw in 1987. Only Associations willing to abide by the provisions of the Charter are recognized as official "Associations of the Club of Rome".

Following the collapse of communism, National Associations for the Club of Rome were established across Eastern Europe, in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Rumania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine; National Associations already existed in Poland and Russia. Chapters were also created in Latin America (Argentina, Chile, Puerto Rico and Venezuela). Currently there are 30 National Associations spread across all five continents.

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9 / 10 : The Nineties 

The topic of the Annual Conference in Hannover in 1989 was "Problems of World Industrialization - Panacea or Nightmare?", highlighting the environmental constraints on industrial growth, the problems of industrialization in the developing countries and the essential role of energy in future world development - a complex of interdependent issues that underscores the importance of the problematic concept. Participants were so impressed by the gravity of the situation that, at the suggestion of Ricardo Díez-Hochleitner, it was agreed the Club should spend 1990 re-examining the world situation and re-assess its own mission in the context of turbulent global change. The result was, for the first time, a Report by rather than to the Club of Rome: The First Global Revolution, published in 1991 and now translated into 11 languages. The views of members were sought via a questionnaire, and the Council then had intensive discussions, with two meetings held at the invitation of Jermen Gvishiani in Moscow and of Ricardo Díez-Hochleitner in Santander. These efforts culminated in approval of the Report written by Alexander King and Bertrand Schneider. As the first part of the book makes clear, the concerns that led to the founding of the Club are still highly relevant; the second half concentrates on practical suggestions for ways to tackle the problematic and coins a new term, the "resolutique". The Club then defined itself not only as a thinktank but also as a centre of initiatives and innovation.

This was the occasion for redefining the priority concerns - development, the environment, governance and education - and setting out clearly the aims, strategies and initiatives for the future. The first of these was followed up through a research programme on "Evolving Concepts of International Co-operation for Development", with major meetings in New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur and the Japanese city of Fukuoka. The results were brought together in a Report to the Club of Rome, The Scandal and the Shame, by Bertrand Schneider, which criticizes the waste and failures of development policies in the Third World over the last forty years and makes concrete suggestions, including the transformation of the World Bank and the UN agencies involved. The concern with governance, which had been a commitment of the Club of Rome since its early days, gave rise to a Report by Yehezkel Dror on The Capacity to Govern, and the Hanover Declaration after the 25th Anniversary meeting. This project is now being taken further by Ruud Lubbers, former Prime Minister of the Netherlands. As to the environment, two recent Reports to the Club of Rome looked at different aspects of "green accounting": Factor 4: Target for Sustainable Development by Ernst von Weizsäcker, and Taking Nature into Account: Toward a Sustainable National Income, edited by Wouter van Dieren. One of the topics under consideration for future work is "A New Approach to the Threats to the Environment".

In addition, the Club of Rome made a Statement on Human Rights and Responsibilities at the conference at Punta del Este in 1991.

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10 / 10 : The future 

Much has been achieved in this first quarter-century, but much remains to be done. What, therefore, are the tasks in hand and ahead?

As regards its own membership and organization, the emphasis is on action and producing results. Members are expected to participate actively or else give way to others who are keen to make a contribution, so that there is a constant process of renewal. Since 1984, the membership has changed substantially, and there is a conscious effort to seek more women and younger people to improve the sex and age balance. The members are now drawn from 52 countries on all five continents. A new structure is now in place, consisting of an Executive Committee of around a dozen members. The precarious financial situation is at last being addressed via a Foundation, registered in Geneva, administered by a Board of Governors, who will themselves act as patrons and help guide the Club’s activities. The aim is to constitute a substantial endowment, allowing the Club to finance its more routine activities as well as major programmes of work without constant anxiety about finding the necessary funding.

The programme for the next three years is evaluated and regularly updated. The overall strategy has four interlinked aspects: to take a global view of the fundamental problems of our interdependent world; to examine contemporary problems and policies in a longer term perspective than governments usually do; to try to develop a deeper understanding of the interaction of political, social, cultural, ecological, scientific and technological problems; and to have a constant concern to seek efficient and equitable strategies and find workable solutions.

The Club is engaged in several main areas of action which can only be sketched here. The continuing programme of research and studies is currently focused on "How New Media will Transform Society". A meeting was held in Washington in October 1997, jointly organized with the Smithsonian Institution. Members of the Club of Rome and experts from leading firms and universities from all over the world discussed the impact of the new information technologies on humanity. They stressed the potential contribution of the new technologies to solving global issues through processes such as access to knowledge and lifelong learning, or the prevention of conflicts and environmental pollution. At the same time, governments and businesses need to work to counteract the imbalances created by these technologies - between countries, and within each country. It was decided to create an International Symposium on Information Technology, which will meet annually. A Report on "The Multimedia Society" by Juan Luis Cebrian is in preparation.

In addition, specific projects which illustrate the commitment to the motto "think globally, act locally" and aim to tackle key problems are being undertaken, in each case led by at least one member of the Club. The vast range of expertise and experience within the Club is made available to decision-makers at all levels through its consultancy activities to governments, international institutions and corporate leaders, as well as to the public at large through its media and public awareness efforts to improve knowledge and understanding of the problematic. As well as its programme of publications - the last Reports are on "The Rediscovery of Work" by Orio Giarini, and "Normative Conflicts and Social Cohesion" by Peter Berger - the Club of Rome now has its own web site on the Internet. Many National Associations have major projects planned or under way, and there are interesting possibilities of regional co-operation in Eastern Europe and Latin America.

The thirty years since the Club of Rome was founded have seen astonishing changes in every part of the world and in every aspect of our lives, and there is little sign of an end to the upheavals. It is all too easy to be overwhelmed by the pace of change and to feel powerless to do more than submit to the consequences. The Club has always taken the view that it is better to confront present problems and possible future trends, to try to understand what is happening, and then to mobilize thinking people everywhere to take action to build a saner and more sustainable world.

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