The Lessons of the Pandemic and the New Agenda: How to Turn the World Crisis Into an Opportunity for the World
List of speakers

The 17th Annual Meeting of the Valdai  Discussion Club will be held in Moscow from 20 to 22 October 2020. This year's theme is “The Lessons of the Pandemic and the New Agenda: How to Turn the World Crisis Into an Opportunity for the World.”

The events of 2020 were a shock to the global community. The COVID-19 crisis stalled the global economy, paralysed the lives of billions of people, and put the normally dynamic sphere of international politics on pause. Few could have imagined that people who had been living in such a globalised and interconnected international system could, overnight, close borders, break off contact, and all but abandon joint efforts to combat  new challenges.

The pandemic completely changed nations’ political agendas, overshadowing what had been anticipated to be the main events of this year – the 75th anniversary of Allied victory in WWII and the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the UN. The Valdai Club always tries to be on the cutting edge; it responds to the most important and topical international events. That is why the lessons of the pandemic have become the main leitmotif of this year’s meeting.

The Valdai Club, as one of the leading centres for analysing international affairs, strives to be the first to analyse the current state of the world order, and to calculate the likely scenarios for the development of events: in less than six months, the Club issued two reports, each of which is devoted to the consequences of the pandemic.

Especially for the Annual Meeting, the research team of the Club prepared a report in an unusual genre, titled “History, To Be Continued: The Utopia of a Diverse World”. The presentation, attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, was held on 13 October, exactly one week before the commencement of the Annual Meeting.

The authors are convinced that the pandemic did not turn the universe upside down, but drew a line under the old world order. We are already dealing with a new world order right now, and its main feature is not a monopoly on global power, but competition between development models, and not bipolarity, but a flexible structure.

The possibility of the international system functioning successfully and  without institutions, based only on the reasonable self-restraint of states and their own understanding of the boundaries of what is permissible, is the main hypothesis of the new report. The nations’ indispensable adherence to institutional practices is viewed by the authors as a typical habit after the World War II, rather than a norm.

This work expands on the ideas presented in a  report which was published in May, titled “Staying Sane in a Crumbling World”. In it, the authors showed that the ideas of the crumbling world had existed before, and COVID-19 only exacerbated pre-existing  trends and became a trigger: the emergence of an effective world order based on global governance has subsided, the world is now shifting towards reliance on unilateral action.

One of the general conclusions of the two reports is the following: whatever happens to the world economy after the pandemic, the surplus of resources will be replaced by a deficit, also due to  growing isolationist trends. The toughening of the struggle for resources, which will not be enough for everyone is inevitable. The authors of the report are trying to answer the question: what happens next?

For the first time in the history of the Club, the entire programme of the Annual Valdai meeting will be open to the media and the general public.

For three days of discussions, the main features of the new world order will be discussed:

  • The new state of societies and the role of states

  • The new state of the world economy

  • Foreign policy through the prism of the conflict between Washington and Beijing

  • Technology and artificial intelligence

  • The green economy and climate change: who are the beneficiaries?

This year, over 150 guests from around the world have been invited to participate. The 17th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Club will be attended by representatives of the Russian authorities, regions of the Russian Federation, as well as international officials, prominent political and public figures, leading scholars, foreign and Russian experts in international relations, regional studies, geopolitics and economics.

They include: Amal Abou Zeid, adviser to the President of Lebanon; Samir Saran, President of the Observer Research Foundation; Anatol Lieven, a professor at Georgetown University in Qatar; Richard Sakwa, Professor, Department of Russian and European Politics, University of Kent, Leading Fellow, Royal Institute of International Affairs; Zvi Magen, Senior Fellow, Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University; Robert Legwold, Marshall D. Shulman Professor Emeritus in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University; Alexander Rahr, Research Director of the German-Russian Forum; Nathalie Tocci, Special Adviser to the EU High Representative and Deputy Chairman of the Commission Josep Borrell; Fu Ying, Head of the Center for International Security and Strategy, Tsinghua University; Zhao Huasheng, Professor at the Institute of International Studies, Fudan University; Kim Heung-chong, President of the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP); and many others.

Russian attendees will include: Andrey Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation For Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club; Fyodor Lukyanov, Research Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Affairs journal; Timofei Bordachev, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, Scientific Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, National Research University Higher School of Economics; Sergey Karaganov, Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics,  HSE; Ruslan Yunusov, CEO of the Russian Quantum Centre; Vadim Radaev, the first vice-rector of the Higher School of Economics  and many others.

The Valdai Discussion Club was founded in 2004. During its work, it has become an internationally-recognised platform for the interaction of leading world experts with Russian scientists, politicians and government officials. Today the Club focuses its activities on research in the field of global political and economic processes. Over the past years, more than 1,000 representatives of the global scientific community from 74 countries have taken part in the work of the Club.

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