September 25, 2022




The First 30 Years History

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.

2 / 10 : The Club takes shape 

Half a dozen recalcitrant, however, refused to admit defeat. PecceiKingJantschHugo ThiemannJean 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 KingPecceiJantschThiemannKristensen (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 WattPriestley 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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

DECLARATION of The Club of Rome
Brussels, April 25, 1996


We, the members of the Club of Rome, are convinced that the future of humankind is not determined once and for all, and that it is possible to avoid present and foreseeable catastrophes—when they are the result of human selfishness or of mistakes made in managing world affairs. It is important to emphasize the signs of hope and the progress accomplished. We must also combat the threats to humankind, and be aware that these issues of survival are becoming ever more urgent.

The virtue of optimism that becomes rooted in the human spirit would appear to be an essential requirement of our times. We believe that, in order to counter the current trends towards either arrogant triumphalism or pessimism or resignation, we must adopt an attitude of confidence based on personal commitment and optimism, willingness and perseverance by all responsible citizens.

We believe that every human being can choose to take charge of his or her own future rather than be a victim of events. Imagination and creativity of every individual, combined with a greater sense of social responsibility, can contribute to changing our attitudes and making our societies better suited to cope with the multifaceted crises that trouble the world. We believe that the information society that is evolving, although it involves clear risks and constraints, offers considerable opportunities for building this better future.

The world is undergoing a period of unprecedented upheavals and fluctuations in its evolution into a global society for which people are not mentally prepared. As a result, their reaction is often negative, inspired by fear of the unknown and by unawareness of the global dimension of problems which seem no longer on a human scale. These fears, if not tackled, risk driving people to dangerous extremism, sterile nationalism and major social confrontations.
We do not know what this society will be like or how it will work. We must from now on learn to manage this period of fundamental transition, which may last several decades or become a permanent process, and prepare for a future in which humanity can develop in well-being and prosperity .

The times in which we live demand both individual and collective efforts to build systems and societies in which the human being, respect for others and compassion are key values; “competition” should be directed not to dominate and consume, but to stimulate and participate.

We must move towards a society that honours those who do the most to promote human happiness and well-being, not those who wield the greatest destructive power or indulge in the most profligate forms of consumption. Towards this end, education geared to the whole person, and to developing each individual’s unique potential and abilities for the greater good of the community, acquires an ever more crucial role .

We believe in the need to stimulate general debates on the major issues that have global implications for all aspects of the human condition, taking a holistic approach that covers their moral, material, cultural, social and scientific aspects. To this end, we publish works that will encourage governments, international agencies, business leaders and non-governmental organizations, youth movements and the positive forces in societies throughout the world, to adopt policies and take strategic decisions that are appropriate to constantly changing circumstances. It is clear that public opinion must play an increasingly critical role in this growth of awareness.

We, the members of the Club of Rome, are one hundred individuals, at present drawn from 52 countries and five continents. We represent different educations, philosophies, religions and cultures; we have different professional backgrounds and expertises. Naturally we often have different visions of the future. Yet we are united by a common concern — the future of humankind — and we therefore study the major issues affecting the world which we all share.
For as long as each member of the Club of Rome is able to fulfill his or her responsibilities, each of us undertakes to devote a significant proportion of his or her time and talents to working on behalf of humankind, and in particular helping to build societies that are more humane, more sustainable, more equitable and more peaceful.

With a view to serving humanity, the Club of Rome wishes to strengthen its role as a catalyst of change and as a centre of innovation and initiative; it can do this thanks to its wealth of ideas and energies, to the diversity of its membership and the ability of its members to act acquired as a result of their past or present positions and experience.
We trust in the ultimate capacity of men and women to express and to live in accordance with their ethical and spiritual values, while respecting the diversity of humankind.

We call upon men and women of good will, especially the young people of today, to share with us this work of reflection and action.


The world has undergone drastic changes since the Club of Rome was created in 1968. As a result, we need to rethink our role and reformulate our mission to take account of the new demands arising from the period in which we are living.
As the 21st century approaches, there is a growing sense of uncertainty and anxiety. Faced by increasing complexity, dizzying globalization and a world subject to constant political, economic and social upheavals, human beings today are fearful. We appear to be in the early stages of the formation of a new type of world society.

The population explosion in the South and the ageing of the populations of the North, the risk of major disturbances in world climate, the precarious nature of supplies of food and water in many regions of the world, are all signs of the vast changes taking place.

The rapid growth of new technologies is another major element in the global problematic. At one level, these technologies are tools of progress in areas ranging from space and the environment to education and health care. At another, at least in the short term if not longer, they have an impact on such key sectors as employment and can have adverse effects on human beings, harming rather than helping them. In any case, they have a profound influence on societies, cultures and human psychology. These changes are so massive as to constitute a revolution of values and practices that affects the world as a whole, and will soon affect every individual.

Humanity is therefore confronted with a pressing need to create and develop a vision of the future, of a new civilization, enriched by the diversity of cultures, wisdom and philosophies derived from the various regions of the world. Although until now these ideas have sometimes existed only in the imaginations of certain unusually inspired individuals, we need now to bring them together and make full use of them in our search for a better future for humanity.

So far, the efforts to promote the growing globalization have almost always been perceived in a negative light, as an unfortunate consequence of a crisis of civilization . From now on, the most urgent challenge facing humanity is, on the contrary, to know how to make the most of the positive aspects and the new opportunities offered by the situation now before us; how to take advantage of this crucial opportunity to be imaginative and innovative, to build anew, that this unique historic moment offers to us.

This global revolution has no ideological basis. It is being shaped by an unprecedented mixture of geo-strategic shifts and of social, economic, technological, cultural and ethical factors which combine to generate unpredictable situations. In this transitional period, humanity is therefore facing a double challenge: having to grope its way towards an understanding of the new world with so many as yet hidden facets, and also, in the mists of uncertainty, to learn how to manage the new world and not be dominated by it .

Nothing escapes this tidal wave that carries all before it . Yet the greatest impact is undoubtedly on human hearts and minds. This is why our aim must be essentially normative and action-oriented. We must develop common standards, based on a sense of our shared responsibility towards future generations. The basis of the new order should be an understanding that human initiatives and institutions exist only to serve human needs. Central to it should be values that cannot be imposed from outside but must grow as part of the renewal occurring within every human individual.

From this standpoint, we shall then be able to visualize the sort of world we would like to live in; in order for this vision to be attainable and viable, we must evaluate the resources – human and moral and material – to forge this new global society. We must also devise ways of maintaining a balance between strengthening cultural identities and the requirements of globalization. Part of our efforts must be devoted to stimulating greater understanding of the nature of interdependence, both among human beings and between the human and natural worlds.

Given these conditions, what is the distinctive role of the Club of Rome?

After all, there is now a far greater awareness of the multifarious problems facing humanity. Governments, institutions, political bodies, business and labour organizations, environmentalists, academics, religious groups, victims and visionaries of the developing world and concerned groups of people everywhere are all trying to grapple with the same set of problems, which are so intertwined that those struggling with them have developed a sense of sharing in the difficulties, even if not of triumphing over them. Contributing to this level of awareness has been one of the greatest achievements of the Club of Rome.

Today more than ever we feel the need to address new global imbalances caused by differing speeds of population and economic growth as well as the disruptive effects of globalization in terms of fiercer competition, resulting in unemployment in some countries and miserably low pay in others, and leading to poverty and exclusion. We strongly feel the need for a thorough overhaul of democracy, going far beyond its present organization and functioning, and also to devise a new economic system that avoids the shortcomings of the market economy.

We are vividly aware of the lack of political leadership almost everywhere in the world and the absence of workable institutions for real international cooperation. Governance, destruction of the environment, energy, demography, underdevelopment and increasing poverty, international financial disorder, education, ethical values are some of the global issues that we are studying in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of the interactions within the tangle of contemporary problems, whatever they may be: political, social, economic, technological, environmental, cultural, and psychological.

The essential mission of the Club of Rome is to act as an international, non-official catalyst of change. This role is prompted by the slowness and inadequacy of governments and their institutions to respond to urgent problems, constrained as they are by structures and policies designed for earlier, simpler times and by relatively short electoral cycles. This, in view of the confrontational nature of much of public and international life, the stifling influence of expanding bureaucracies and the growing complexity of issues, suggests that the voice of independent and concerned people having access to the corridors of power around the world, should have a valuable contribution to make towards increasing understanding and, at times, jolting the system into action.

In this regard, we feel that the education of the young, as well as a process of lifelong learning, and the continued search for knowledge, are an essential ingredient in fostering a greater sense of responsibility among the citizens of both developing and industrialized countries.

The information society that is now rapidly developing is creating unique opportunities and methods for eliciting a sense of vigilance and responsibility among individuals and communities. In this area, too, we must stimulate people’s minds and thinking about these new experiences, where speed is all-important: speed of information, speed of travel, speed of change affecting the “global village”, speed in acquiring knowledge and in eroding the social fabric. Let us not ignore any longer the risks of watching the tools of information accentuate the gulf between rich and poor people and countries.

The need for a centre of innovative thinking, especially about social issues, is becoming increasingly urgent – it should be able to identify new global issues before they appear on the international scene and then analyze them, to tackle their root causes, not merely (as so often) their consequences, and to encourage preventive measures rather than belated action. In the past, the Club has proved its competence in this role; it will do its best to continue to do so in future.

We live in a world overflowing with theoretical reports and policy analyses that are often filed without being read. One of our principal concerns must therefore be how we can obtain direct results from our work which will affect and modify the global trends we discuss .The Club is in no position to offer panaceas; however, it has already taken a number of initiatives to provide pathways to solutions with an impact on policy.

Since the creation of the Club of Rome thirty years ago, many useful new bodies have followed in our footsteps and have concerned themselves with individual aspects of the global problematic. But there does not appear to be any other body at the international level concerned with the whole range of problems and so many countries, disciplines and experiences within its membership.

This is what makes the Club of Rome truly unique.


At the time of its foundation, in Rome in April 1968, the Club identified three major needs that justified its creation:

– To adopt a global perspective in examining issues and situations with the awareness that the increasing interdependence of nations, the emergence of world-wide problems and the future needs of all people posed predicaments beyond the capacity of individual countries to solve.

– To think holistically and to seek a deeper understanding of interactions within the tangle of contemporary problems — political, social, economic, technological, environmental, psychological and cultural in every sense — for which we coined the phrase “the world problematic”.

– To take a longer term perspective in studies than is possible for governments preoccupied with day-to-day problems.

We believe that all three needs persist. The present trend is to propose highly differentiated solutions to individual problems with too little recognition of how much the problems interact. Our earlier attempts to identify and analyze the world problematic convince us that we must, on the contrary, work towards comprehensive solutions that involve public participation and negotiation to overcome apathy and confrontation; this is what we call the “resolutique”.

The Club of Rome is governed by an Executive Committee of thirteen members who investigate global issues, then set the priorities and decide on the strategies of the Club. Between its meetings, a Bureau of four members, led by the President and Secretary General of the Club, takes care of implementing the decisions and assuring the day-to-day management of the Club.

The most common methods are publishing Reports or notes, organizing meetings and symposia to which selected members are invited, frequent contacts with decision-makers in both public and private sectors, and a communications policy.

The Reports to the Club of Rome 
The first report The Club of Rome commissioned and published was “The Limits to Growth”, a book which produced a world-wide impact (it sold 12 million copies in 37 languages) Its thesis was interpreted in many different ways. It stressed above all, for the first time, the importance of the environment, and the essential links with population and energy. This was a particularly striking illustration of what is meant by the global problematic.

This Report, a seminal one for the Club, has been followed by 21 others, on problems ranging from education, energy, the impact of micro-electronics on society, to governance, the role of NGOs in development and the environment. Others are now being prepared.

Only one book has been published as a Report by the Executive Committee rather than to the Club of Rome: it was entitled “The First Global Revolution” and was written by Alexander King and Bertrand Schneider. The Report tried to assess what had happened to the world problematic in the 21 years since “The Limits to Growth”, stressing two critical elements — the human dimension and the need always when discussing world problems to consider concrete ways of dealing with them, i. e. the resolutique.

It is important to emphasize that, in addition to their role as information, the preparation and publication of these Reports must also meet two essential functions. First, they represent the starting point of a process and not its culmination. Their publication allows the Club, which has no claim to possessing the truth, to launch wide-ranging debates to discuss the conclusions and so share with a variety of audiences, from governments to universities and the media, its thinking and suggestions for the problems affecting the world. Secondly, they are the starting point for certain initiatives implemented at the highest levels of decision-making, both public and private, with a view to fostering changes to strategic factors.

In principle, the Club of Rome holds a Conference every year, always in a different region of the world. Thus the most recent meetings have been held in Kuala Lumpur, Hanover, Buenos Aires and Puerto Rico. In addition to the working sessions reserved for members of the Club, these meetings bring together personalities from the region or the world who are invited to take part in discussions on a particular aspect of the global problematic. These meetings have established fruitful inter-personal relations with leaders and activists in the region, enabled a better understanding of the region’s specific problems and its perception of global issues and the role it would like to play in them.

Members of the Club also take part in numerous working parties and symposia, such as the ones organized in Denver, Colorado, Toronto or Fukuoka in Japan on the theme of “Global—Local Interaction”. The Club is also frequently invited to participate in meetings, national and international, official and private.

The members of the Executive Committee are frequently consulted by decision-makers in international institutions, governments, the business community and civil society; this has always been an important part of our work.

Aware of the importance of the information society, the Club has adopted a policy of world wide communication, using all the means available, and most recently the Internet, on which we are establishing a web-site.

However, the Club itself tends normally to adopt a low profile, and the passionate debate sparked by “The Limits to Growth”, updated by the authors under the title “Beyond the Limits”, has been the only and unexpected exception to this desire to operate discreetly. We believe that we are sometimes more effective when we work behind the scenes.

In its early years, The Club of Rome adopted as its central project “The Predicament of Mankind” as a comprehensive approach to the world problematic and as an expression of its humanistic objectives. This still remains our essential concern. However, changes in the world situation and the experience gained through our studies and debates suggest that a revision of our emphasis and refinement of our approach are necessary for the new phase of our work.

Accumulated experience suggests that we should be operating within a paradigm of organic growth and holistic development, this means:

–  systematic, interdependent development where no part grows at the expense of others
–  multifaceted development that corresponds to needs and will necessarily differ in different parts of the world
–  harmonious coordination of goals to ensure world-wide compatibility
–  the ability to absorb disruptive influences on the course of development
–  emphasis on quality of development as a recognition that its processes are essentially directed towards the well-being of the human individual, who does not live “by bread alone”
–  constant renewal where new goals emerge as old goals are seen in a new light

The Club of Rome considers it to be its duty to contribute by working out specific proposals that would move the world in the direction of harmonious organic development and by playing its part in mobilizing the intellectual and moral resources to achieve this aim. Whatever our race, religion, philosophy, age and condition, the choice for each one of us is clear: the future can be bleak if we permit it to be bleak; it can be bright if we strive to make it bright. Humanity has enormous untapped resources of understanding and vision, of creative and moral energy which are its most valuable assets.

We believe that, if utilized, these strengths will enable human beings to realize the future they desire.

The Executive Committee:

  • Ricardo Diez Hochleitner President
  • Bertrand Schneider Secretary General
  • Ruth Bamela Engo-Tjega President of African NGO
  • Belisario Betancur ex-President of Colombia
  • Umberto Colombo ex Minister of Research and Universities of Italy
  • Orio Giarini Secretary General of the Geneva Association
  • Bohdan Hawrylyshyn Chairman,Council of Advisors of the Parliament of Ukraine
  • Alexander King co-founder of the Club of Rome
  • Yotaro Kobayashi President of Fuji Xerox
  • Eberhard von Koerber President of ABB Europe
  • Ruud Lubbers ex-Prime Minister of the Netherlands
  • Manfred Max-Neef Rector, Universidad Australe de Chile
  • Samuel Nana Sinkam FAO Director for Congo
  • Ilya Prigogine Nobel Laureate



Worried by the fact that governments were unable to solve their most serious problems or to engage in thinking about the long term, an Italian industrialist, Aurelio Peccei, and a Scots scientist, Alexander King, decided with other likeminded people and citizens of the world to share their concerns, look together for solutions and pursue their ideas further.

Their aim was to tackle problems and future trends at both the local and global levels. They wanted to try to understand what was happening, and then to mobilize thinking people everywhere to take action to build a saner and more sustainable world. Bypassing ideological and political constraints, they appealed directly to the media and public awareness. Thus the overall strategy of the Club of Rome has been to construct its own philosophy gradually around certain strong beliefs.


In April, a two-day brainstorming session involving 36 European economists and scientists was held in Rome and gave the name to the Club. From that moment, each annual gathering, in a different country every year, was to attract new people with complementary areas of competence, such as specialists in social, exact and applied sciences, as well as concerned international decision-makers. A quarter of a century later, it is still constantly bringing in new blood. At present this world-wide think-tank has one hundred coopted participants from 52 countries who have the title “Members of the Club of Rome”.

The following pages outline the main events, publications in several languages, applications of its ideas and consequences that have shaped the Club of Rome’s development.


In October, the Austrian Chancellor Josef Klaus invited the members of the Club to address the government, industrialists and bankers in Vienna. This was to be the first of many meetings of the Club of Rome with heads of state, civil servants, entrepreneurs, businessmen, students, etc.

Aurelio Peccei was appointed President of the Club.


At the invitation of the Swiss government, the Club of Rome defined a methodology and asked Jay Forrester and Dennis Meadows of MIT to create a mathematical model which could be applied to complex situations such as the world economy, the environment and urban growth. The Club of Rome drew up a list of 1000 variables to be included in the equations, focusing on five main topics: investment, population, pollution, natural resources and food.


Under the supervision of Dennis Meadows, a group of 17 researchers in a variety of disciplines from several countries produced a “Report to the Club of Rome”: The Limits to Growth, written by Donella Meadows for a non-specialist audience. In all, 12 million copies have since been sold in 37 languages. The Report broke new ground because it was the first time that a global model on the predicament of mankind had been commissioned by an independent body rather than a government or a United Nations agency. More important for the future, it was the first to make an explicit link between economic growth and the consequences for the environment.

Jermen Gvishiani, a member of the Club of Rome and of the USSR Academy of Science, with the assistance of other members of the Club, presided over the foundation of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria. The IIASA, established by the scientific authorities from 12 countries, including the USSR and the USA, was the first attempt since the start of the Cold War to undertake joint advanced research on complex problems of international importance.


In February, at the initiative of the Club of Rome, Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky hosted a meeting on “North-South Problems” with six other heads of state or government. The two-day private brainstorming session produced the “Salzburg Statement”, which emphasized that the 1973/4 oil crisis was simply part of the whole complex of global problems and not just a political one, as many then believed.

With Mihaijlo Mesarovic of Case Western University, Eduard Pestel, a German systems analyst, established a new global model that distinguished ten world regions and involved 200,000 equations integrating social as well as technical data. Their work, a major contribution to the Club’s progress, was published as a Report to the Club of Rome: Mankind at the Turning Point..


In October, the Club of Rome met in Algiers.

Reshaping the International Order by Jan Tinbergen, Nobel Prizewinner in Economics, was published as a Report to the Club of Rome. It suggested for the first time that the international order should be based on a better balance between rich and poor countries.


Club of Rome member Erwin Laszlo published Goals for Mankind as a Report to the Club. It stressed the human dimension, especially the differing cultural attitudes and values held by individuals, groups and nations. As cultural issues had not previously been included in global analysis, new goals for the Club of Rome were then outlined.


Mehdi ElmandjraMircea Malitza and James Botkin published No Limits to Learning. Their Report to the Club stressed that, although there are “limits” to a certain type of growth, there are no limits to learning and creativity.

Under Dennis Gabor’s supervision, a group on energy sources and technical change produced a Report to the Club under the title Beyond the Age of Waste. It was the first warning at the global level of some of the consequences which have only recently come to be acknowledged.


Adam Schaff and Gunter Friedrichs’ Report to the Club of Rome, Microelectronics and Society, for Better and for Worse was the very first assessment of modern working methods; it called into question computerization and automation, and their psychological, social and cultural consequences.

The Club of Rome helped to set up the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association. The HELMEPA provides training about the environment for Greek sailors and promotes awareness among the international shipping community, especially those concerned with tankers, and children.


March, death of Aurelio Peccei.

At the Helsinki meeting, Alexander King was appointed President. The post of Secretary General to assist the President of the Club was created and Bertrand Schneider nominated to it. The headquarters were moved from Rome to Paris.


Bertrand Schneider published the Club of Rome Report The Barefoot Revolution, which reconsiders the way aid and assistance from the North are given to the South. It emphasized the efficiency of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Third World, where villagers – once given the chance to speak and act – can put their enormous potential to work, thus contributing to their local economic independence and, in addition, to their nation’s development.


The Club decided on a deliberate change of emphasis in tackling “the predicament of mankind”. While maintaining the distinctively global approach, it chose to focus on particular aspects, sometimes even concentrating on a single major one.

Possible topics were then defined by Alexander King in his statement The Club of Rome – Reaffirmation of a Mission. These topics are: governability, peace and disarmament, population growth, human resources, and assessment of the consequences of advances in science and technology.

Club of Rome member Elisabeth Mann-Borgese published The Future of the Oceans as a Report to the Club of Rome. Its statements were to lead to the “International Law of the Sea”.

Before the Rejkavik Summit in October, 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. Mr Gorbachev reacted very positively, and this led to crucial contacts during the period of glasnost and perestroika.

Similar contacts made by Adam Schaff in Poland led to the creation of a Polish Association of the Club of Rome, providing a meeting ground for members of the Communist Party, the Roman Catholic church and Solidarnosc.


At the Club of Rome meeting in Warsaw, a charter was adopted to put the National Associations of the Club of Rome on an official footing. Currently there are 30 National Associations spread across all five continents.


Beyond the Limits to Growth by Eduard Pestel and Africa Facing its Priorities by Bertrand Schneider are published in the Club of Rome’s “Information Series”, which is intended to provide information rather than emphasizing policy recommendations.


The Annual Conference in Hannover on “Problems of World Industrialization” highlighted the environmental constraints on industrial growth, the problem of industrialization in the developing countries, and the essential role of energy in future world development.

Africa beyond Famine by Aklilu Lemma and Pentti Malaska was published as a Report to the Club as a consequence of the impact of the 1986 Club of Rome meeting in Yaoundé and Lusaka.


At the suggestion of the new President, Ricardo Diez Hochleitner, the Club spent the year re-examining the world situation and reassessing its own mission in the context of turbulent global changes.

Following the collapse of communism, National Associations for the Club of Rome were established across Eastern Europe, in Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Rumania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine; National Associations already existed in Poland and Russia. In the course of the 1990s, Chapters were also created in Latin America (Argentina, Chile, Puerto Rico and Venezuela).


Meetings in Buenos Aires, Bogota and Punta del Este. After a one-year review, Alexander King and Bertrand Schneider published the first Report by the Club of Rome, The First Global Revolution, published in 19 countries. The views of members were sought via a questionnaire and were discussed intensively at meetings in Moscow and Santander. The Report redefined the Club’s priority concerns: development, the environment, governance, education and ethical values. It set out clearly the aims, strategies and initiatives for the future of the Club of Rome. In particular, it marked a turning point by putting special emphasis on the “resolutique” – on possible ways of responding to aspects of the predicament of humankind – and hence on action and concrete results, as well as reflection.

“The Black Sea University” was created by the Romanian Association of the Club of Rome. The BSU welcomes all categories of students from former communist countries around the Black Sea to follow courses, share their knowledge, ideas and study projects with professors and experts from the West.

At the instigation of the Netherlands Association of the Club of Rome, a “Declaration of Human Responsibilities and Duties” was proposed to the UN Secretary General as an addition to the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. This insists on the responsibilities and duties toward the different cultures of mankind, children, the disabled, the natural environment, as well as with regard to knowledge and information.


Meetings were held in the Japanese city of Fukuoka on “Global–Local Interaction”; in New Delhi on “The Fight against Underdevelopment and Poverty”, chaired by Dr Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister of the Indian Government; and in Kuala Lumpur, with contributions from Dr Anwar Ibrahim, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia.

The Club of Rome launched a research programme on “Evolving Concepts of International Cooperation for Development”, followed up with working group studies around the world. Among topics for future investigation were “Education for the 21st Century” and “The Capacity to Govern”.


At the end of the 25th Anniversary meeting the Hanover Declaration on “The Capacity to Govern”, arising out of the Report by Yehezkel Dror, returned to one of the early commitments of the Club of Rome: to ask awkward questions and try to encourage governments to look further ahead than their day-to-day concerns. The difference with the initial approach is that the Report proposes a new political philosophy which can serve as the basis for redesigning governance.

The President of Germany, Richard von Weizsäcker, declared to a German newspaper: “The Club of Rome is the conscience of the world”.

For a Better World Order, by Nicole Rosensohn and Bertrand Schneider, focuses on the way that rapid untrammeled growth in South East Asia has made the rich richer and the poor poorer. It also stresses the fact that, despite their new economic might, the voices of powers like Japan are not heard on the international scene.


The Club of Rome conference in Buenos Aires discussed Bertrand Schneider’s Report to the Club of Rome The Scandal and the Shame, 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.


Two Reports to the Club of Rome on key global issues were published: Taking Nature into Account: Toward a Sustainable National Income, edited by Wouter van Dieren, with contributions by 24 experts on “green accounting”, and The Capacity to Govern, by Yehezkel Dror (in German and Spanish).

The annual meeting adopted a different format, involving about 20 members of the Club of Rome and 25 students from a wide range of disciplines selected for the World Leadership Programme at Victoria College, University of Toronto. After preliminary study, essay-writing and panel discussions earlier in the year, the students met with the CoR members for three days at the end of November. Among other things, they all agreed that education must be more than just training, and must be interdisciplinary and humanistic even when it is for technological applications. In addition, work has more than an economic value – it also gives human beings dignity and value, so that we need to redefine society and the possible roles for people within society, rather than simply redefining work.


The Annual Meeting was held in Puerto Rico on “The World at a Turning Point: Signs of Hope, Priority Issues“.

A new Executive Committee was created, composed of Ruth Bamela-Engo, Belisario Betancur, Umberto Colombo, Ricardo Diez-Hochleitner, Orio Giarini, Bohdan Hawrylyshyn, Alexander King, Yotaro Kobayashi, Eberhard von Koerber, Ruud Lubbers, Manfred Max-Neef, Samuel Nana-Sinkam, Bertrand Schneider and Felix Unger. It adopted the Brussels Declaration, which sets out the orientation and actions for the Club of the Rome as we enter the 21st century.

As part of its communications strategy, the Club of Rome set up a web site on the Internet, facilitating access to a much wider audience for the Club’s views and activities than traditional meetings and publications (for example, a discussion paper was made available on “Moral Values in Islam” by Bertrand Schneider). The site received 48,000 visitors in the first three months.

The German edition of a new Report to the Club of Rome, Factor 4: Target for Sustainable Development by Ernst von Weizsäcker, reached the German bestseller list. It has since been published in several other languages.

1997 and after

A Conference was organized jointly with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington on “Will the New Media Transform Society?”

Reports are imminent on “The Rediscovery of Work” by Orio Giarini and Patrick Liedtke, and “Normative Conflicts and Social Cohesion” by Peter Berger; another is in preparation on “The Multimedia Society” by Juan Luis Cebrian. A project on governance is under way, led by Ruud Lubbers. Future meetings are planned in Asia and Russia; among the topics is “A New Approach to the Threats to the Environment”.

The essential mission of the Club of Rome is to act as an international, non-official catalyst of change, contributing to increasing understanding and, at times, jolting the system into action. The need for a centre of innovative thinking, especially about social issues, is becoming increasingly urgent – it should be able to identify new global issues before they appear on the international scene and then analyse them, to tackle their root causes, not merely (as so often) their consequences, and to encourage preventive measures rather than belated action. In the past, the Club has proved its competence in this role; it will do its best to continue to do so in future.

SOURCE: Club of Rome


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