The Next Generation

On November 5, 2015, AICGS convened its fourth annual symposium at Deutsche Bank in New York, which centered on the millennial generation’s role in the evolution of the German-American relationship. The participants focused in particular on the challenges facing international organizations and the young generation’s perception of those institutions. The first panel explored why the next generation must adapt international institutions to deal both with present day challenges and the emerging global order. The second panel described Millennials and how they might change society’s approach toward cyber security, energy and climate change, and the future of education.

The event was divided into two panel discussions, the first of which included Frank Kelly, Head of Communications at Deutsche Bank; Julianne Smith, Senior Vice President at Beacon Global Strategies; and Ambassador Heiko Thoms, Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations. AICGS President Jackson Janes moderated. Discussants on the second panel were Tim Maurer, Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; David Livingston, also an Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Nakisha Evans, Director of the Office of Workforce Partnerships at City University of New York. The panel was moderated by AICGS Senior Research Associate Parke Nicholson.

Challenges Ahead for the United States and Europe

This panel focused on present and future challenges for the United States and Europe. Dr. Janes opened the discussion by asking a provocative question: “How are the United States and Germany relevant to each other today?” He added that the relationship is still strong, but difficult discussions over privacy and the impact of communication technologies are examples of how it is evolving in a complex environment.

Ambassador Thoms noted that the center of gravity in Europe has shifted toward Germany, as the country has been dealing with a host of international issues under Chancellor Merkel’s leadership. At the United Nations, the United States and Germany share a similar perspective about the need to preserve and adapt the institutions of the liberal order. While the United States and Germany still retain influence, they must work together to include the perspectives of emerging powers and set global norms. Julianne Smith explained how it has become more difficult for the United States to get things done by itself in the world, which makes the alliance with Germany even more important. The driving question for the future of the relationship will be: “How can we put our power to use to generate better outcomes?”

The panelists concluded the discussion by stressing the importance of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).  Each emphasized how a successful agreement could help ensure a strong relationship between the United States and Germany. The countries are reaching a critical point in their discussions over TTIP and, as Frank Kelly argued, an agreement could potentially give both greater leverage in their economic relations with other countries.

Solutions from the Digital Generation

The second panel focused on the young generation’s perspectives on several policy challenges relevant to German-American relations, including cyber security, education, and energy.

Parke Nicholson described several prevailing misperceptions of Millennials as “selfish,” “morally inarticulate,” or “excellent sheep.” He argued that these generalizations could hardly apply to all of the 30 percent of U.S. adults born after 1980, who actually now have smaller incomes than the previous generation and take an active role in changing society. Millennials are now dissatisfied with old approaches to education, poverty, the environment, and technology. For the first time, a majority now claim themselves to be “politically independent.” He concluded by describing how AICGS is actively building a platform to engage both young minorities and future transatlantic leaders.

Tim Maurer described how the internet is affecting our daily lives. Over one-third of the world is connected to the internet; connecting even more devices will lead to more opportunities, but also more vulnerabilities. In the West, cyber security is thought of in terms of protecting critical infrastructure from external threats while countries like China and Russia are focused on internal challenges—for example, citizens posting a tweet that is critical of the government. Technology is evolving at such a drastic pace, outpacing the deteriorating security environment, and institutions are not set up to deal with the pace of technology. This presents an opportunity for cooperation on a global level because the U.S., Germany, and China are all in the same boat. Maurer added that Millennials who have grown up with such technology will be an important voice in addressing this relatively new subject and reconciling different countries’ perspectives.

David Livingston suggested that cyber and climate change issues are related in that they are both common public goods (e.g., the rise of greenhouse gasses being stored in the atmosphere and the rising number of internet users engaging in commercial activity online). Governments have not kept up with either of these trends. Climate change, Livingston argued, is the defining challenge of the millennial generation, as solving the problem requires people who are able and willing to work across disciplines or geographic boundaries. There is a concern that the energy sector is ossified and there are few minorities and women at high-level positions, a diversity problem that Millennials may change when they come into leadership and manage companies that better reflect the customers they serve. Livingston suggested Americans and Germans, in particular, must continue to work together on energy and climate change not only because of their dominant position in global order, but also because they are willing to step in where there is uncertainty.  He was optimistic that the U.S and Germany over time will be able to innovate their way out of these energy challenges.

Nakisha Evans addressed the future of education from the perspective of Millennials. When looking at the importance of energy and cyber security to the economy, it is critical that we are able to train future generations to work in these fields. As a young generation enters the workforce, she described why the knowledge economy still needs specialists who can build and fix things when they break. Millennials will be part of the discussion about what education should be and the purpose of a college education. For example, are colleges obligated to train students to be able to work, and not just award a degree? Is the education sector too rigid to give students the opportunity to choose quality apprenticeships and will the cultural disdain for vocational education change?  Germany and the United States have recently signed an agreement to advance workforce education so there is hope that this will be more than just an academic discussion.

Please contact Ms. Elizabeth Caruth (ecaruth@aicgs.org) with any questions.

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November 5, 2015