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Advance National Interests in a Changing Global Context

The United States must develop new ways to advance its national and global interests within this changing global landscape.

Although the United States remains the world’s most powerful nation, the unipolar moment of the early post-Cold War years has been replaced with a much more diffuse international system and a wider array of complex issues requiring sustained attention, including:

  • Many vulnerable nations are experiencing state breakdown, terrorism, natural disasters, and environmental degradation;
  • The world has the largest population flows and the total number of refugees since the 1940s;
  • Russia has aggressively challenged other countries’ borders and political systems;
  • China’s rise has fueled tensions in the South China Sea; and
  • Nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and Asia could destabilize the regional and global order.

Even as public administration and policy issues cross national boundaries more than ever, many Americans and citizens of allied countries are questioning the value of global engagement. Many people are concerned that globalization has negatively impacted their lives and reduced their nation-state’s ability to provide protection and promote the general welfare. In this context, many of today’s international institutions—established in the aftermath of World War II, before most of the world’s population was born—are under significant stress. Given that major global issues cannot be addressed without effective international collaboration, many international institutions may need to be reformed and modernized.

The United States must develop new ways to advance its national and global interests within this changing global landscape. Key national interests include preventing an attack on the American homeland, deterring great-power Eurasian wars and intense security competitions, preserving access to reasonably priced and secure energy supplies, and maintaining an open international economic order. In addition, America continues to have a strong interest in promoting democracy, protecting human rights, and preserving a clean environment for current and future generations. The country will need to further develop key instruments—development, diplomatic, economic, military, intelligence, homeland security, and international institutions—to more effectively advance these interests.

Public agencies and administrators have a key role to play in addressing global issues. The federal government has whole departments and agencies—from the Defense and State Departments to the U.S. Agency for International Development and the International Trade Commission—dedicated to managing key components of the nation’s foreign affairs. With most issues today having global attributes, many seemingly purely domestic issues such as diseases and environmental pollution are not constrained by national boundaries. Accordingly, a wider array of public departments and agencies now have an international aspect to their mission. States, localities, and communities have direct engagement with other countries and international entities. And many university departments of public administration have expanded their curriculum to address international issues and develop global leaders.

As part of the Grand Challenge to “Advance National Interests in a Changing Global Context,” the Academy will work with stakeholders to determine how to:

  • Sustain America’s role in the world;
  • Make progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Develop international norms for cybersecurity;
  • Strengthen existing international institutions and institutional capacities;
  • Ensure that organizations, processes, and tools both domestically and internationally (including new ones, if needed) are available for managing current global challenges;
  • Foster global innovation and sharing leading practices in addressing public issues;
  • Develop leaders with a global perspective;
  • Work with non-governmental organizations as major actors; and
  • Align teaching, research, and lessons learned to the changing reality of globalization.

This is an illustrative list of topics. As the Grand Challenges campaign kicks off and progresses, other issues can and will be addressed based on stakeholder feedback about critical needs and opportunities.