What is the world's greatest challenge in the coming decade?
Dennis Ross is an American diplomat and author. He has served as the Director of Policy Planning in the State Department under President George H. W. Bush, the special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, and is currently a special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia (that includes Iran) to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Ambassador Dennis Ross is The Washington Institute's counselor and Ziegler distinguished fellow. For more than twelve years, Ambassador Ross played a leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process and dealing directly with the parties in negotiations. A highly skilled diplomat, Ambassador Ross was U.S. point man on the peace process in both the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. He was instrumental in assisting Israelis and Palestinians to reach the 1995 Interim Agreement; he also successfully brokered the 1997 Hebron Accord, facilitated the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, and intensively worked to bring Israel and Syria together.
A scholar and diplomat with more than two decades of experience in Soviet and Middle East policy, Ambassador Ross worked closely with Secretaries of State James Baker, Warren Christopher, and Madeleine Albright. Prior to his service as special Middle East coordinator under President Clinton, Ambassador Ross served as director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff in the first Bush administration. In that capacity, he played a prominent role in U.S. policy toward the former Soviet Union, the unification of Germany and its integration into NATO, arms control negotiations, and the 1991 Gulf War coalition. During the Reagan administration, he served as director of Near East and South Asian affairs on the National Security Council staff and deputy director of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment. Ambassador Ross was awarded the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President Clinton, and Secretaries Baker and Albright presented him with the State Department's highest award.
Question: What is the world’s biggest challenge in the coming decade?
Dennis Ross: I do think the larger questions are questions of climate change, which will affect many other things. Climate change will affect poverty because unfortunately, the places that are already the hardest hit are going to suffer more drought. The places least capable of coping with dramatic climatic change are the places that are going to be the hardest hit. It’ll create refugee flows, which has consequences for security. It’ll create more failed states, which has consequences also for security.
So I start with climate change as being something that affects the globe. What is the old imagery that if the world was ever attacked by invaders from out of space, we’d all draw together. And plenty of movies have tried to be built around that kind of theme. But climate change is not an external threat; it’s an internal one. It’s going to affect everything. So number one I would say climate change, which also, as I said, it affects poverty. It affects health. And when I look at the big issues, I think they start with that.
Recorded on: September 12, 2007
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