On January 8, 2009, the United States Institute of Peace convened Passing the Baton 2009, a remarkable full-day public conference that convened high-level, bipartisan U.S. foreign policy leaders to speak on crucial foreign policy and security issues facing the Obama administration as it transitions into power. 

Passing the Baton Conference, US Institute of Peace, Wash DC, 1/8/09

Passing the Baton convened almost 50 high-level speakers, and nearly 1900 people attended the event. Topics ranged from the future of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan to nuclear nonproliferation to genocide prevention to online media’s role in conflict prevention. The event helped the Institute fulfill its educational mandate from Congress to explore with the public the most pressing issues of war and peace.

Some of the most notable of the day’s speakers were General David Petraeus, World Bank President Robert Zoellick, USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, General Tony Zinni, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Former Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General Lakhdar Brahimi, Chairman of the Institute for State Effectiveness Ashraf Ghani, Special European Union Representative for Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell and Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA).

Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) were among those who spoke in support of the Institute's work at the conference's closing reception.

Passing the Baton 2009 was a follow up to an event by the same name that USIP sponsored eight years ago as the country made the transition from the Clinton to the Bush administration. Today, our country is in another leadership transition, but in evermore challenging international and domestic circumstances.

By all accounts, Passing the Baton was a remarkable success.  In terms of attendance alone, it was nearly three times larger than its 2001 predecessor.  Yet the Institute would be remiss if it didn’t make the conference proceedings available to a larger audience. 

The Institute has created these web pages for that reason.  These pages provide a truly comprehensive archive of Passing the Baton’s offerings.  Here you will find video and audio archives of each of the conference’s 16 sessions in their entirety, as well as supplementary documents, session reports, a photo library and other helpful items.

It is the Institute’s hope that by providing these analyses to the public as the Obama administration begins its tenure, we will help policymakers and citizens alike understand the depth and complexity of the foreign policy challenges the country faces.  The Institute does so not in an effort to overwhelm its audience with the scale of the effort needed, but rather to demonstrate that conflict is both natural and manageable. 

It is the Institute’s purpose to find nonviolent solutions to managing or resolving international conflicts. Hopefully, conflicts can be prevented from reaching a violent stage, but if not, there are techniques of managing crises and promoting post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction. That is the fundamental purpose of the work of the United States Institute of Peace and the focus of Passing the Baton 2009.

Schedule of Events

8:45-8:50 AM
Welcome & Introduction to Passing the Baton: Foreign Policy Challenges and Opportunities Facing the New Administration
With Richard H. Solomon

Schedule of Events

8:45-8:50 AM
Welcome & Introduction to Passing the Baton: Foreign Policy Challenges and Opportunities Facing the New Administration
With Richard H. Solomon

8:55-9:10 AM
"Today's World, Tomorrow's Challenges"
With Henrietta Fore

9:10-9:25 AM
"Proliferation, Catastrophic Terrorism and a New Security Paradigm"
With William Perry

9:25-10:10 AM
Questions & Answers on Countering Proliferation
With Eric Edelman, Daniel Poneman, Robert Joseph, Wendy Sherman, and Chester Crocker (Moderator)

10:10-11:00 AM
"Preventing Genocide: A Blueprint for U.S. Policymakers"
With Madeleine K. Albright and General (ret.) Tony Zinni

11:15-12:15 PM
Panel 1: "Blogs & Bullets: The Power of Online Media in Preventing or Igniting Violent Conflict"
With John Kelly, Ivan Sigal, Duncan MacInnes, Linton Wells and Sheldon Himelfarb (Moderator)

Modern conflict is a struggle for influence on public opinion in addition to territory and sovereign power – influence that runs increasingly over paths in a digital, networked world. This panel will review how the internet has been used in this struggle and offer recommendations for channeling online social networks towards conflict management.

Panel 2: "Reinvigorating Prospects for Arab-Israeli Peacemaking"
With Daniel Kurtzer, Ziad Asali, David Makovsky, and Samuel Lewis (Moderator)

On January 20, President Obama will be stepping in at a time when Arab-Israeli peace efforts have stalled.  Are there "best practices" from prior negotiations that should be adopted by the new Administration?  Has the U.S. "no contact" policy with Hamas proved effective? If not, should it be altered? With elections coming in Israel, what impact will the new Israeli leadership have on peacemaking efforts? How have the Israeli-Syrian "proximity" talks affected progress towards peace, and what are likely outcomes of continuing these efforts. Given realities on the ground, and the leadership on both sides, what kind of progress in peacemaking is possible over the next 6-24 months?  Would a renewed American diplomatic effort improve America's overall position in the region?

Panel 3: "Stabilizing War-Torn States: Goals and Guidance for a New Administration"
With Brigadier General Ed Cardon, Beth Ellen Cole, and Janine Davidson (Moderator)

Seven years after entering Afghanistan, we are still in search of a winning strategy.  Decision makers and foot soldiers  - civilian and military - have lacked a basic framework to guide strategy and execution in these challenging missions.  Now at the dawn of a new Administration, two new manuals, both unprecedented in scope - the Army's new Stability Operations doctrine and USIP's Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Conflict Transformation - help fill that gap.  What are we trying to achieve?  What is the vision? How we do leverage all the capabilities of our citizens to win the peace?

Panel 4: "Confronting or Engaging Iran?"
With Daniel Brumberg, Qamar-ul Huda, Suzanne Maloney, Avner Cohen, Bill Luers, and Frank Wisner (Moderator)

This panel will address what domestic, regional and global factors are creating obstacles, as well as opportunities for US-European engagement of Iran on range of issues including nuclear proliferation, the Arab-Israeli peace process and regional security.

12:30-1:30 PM
Luncheon and conversation on Securing Development
With Robert B. Zoellick and J. Robinson West (Moderator)

1:45-3:00 PM
"Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan: Identifying Priorities, Linkages, and Trade-offs"
With Zbigniew Brzezinski, Mowaffak al Rubaie, Lakhdar Brahimi, and Daniel Serwer (Moderator)

The new Administration will face extraordinary demands on American military and civilian resources in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The linkages and trade-offs among the three countries will require deft balance, clear decisions and difficult compromises. What are the causes of instability in each? Which deserve priority? What functions can be left to the host governments? What must the US due to ensure its own security? How can limited resources be deployed and used most effectively?

3:15-4:15 PM
Panel 1: "Security and Political Reform in the Greater Middle East"
With Mona Yacoubian, Samer Shehata, Shuja Nawaz, and Daniel Brumberg (Moderator)

This panel will consider the future of U.S. efforts to promote political reform in the Middle East and wider Islamic world against a backdrop of escalating domestic, regional and global security challenges. Highlighting the findings and recommendations of USIP’s Study Group on Reform and Security in the Muslim World, the panel will set out a range of possible strategies for avoiding vicious cycles.

Panel 2: "Building Civilian Capacity to Meet 21st Century Challenges"
With Jean-Marie Guehenno, Jim Dobbins, Nancy Lindborg, and Chester Crocker (Moderator)

Building civilian capacity is one of the critical elements of conflict management, especially now. For over a dozen years, many key conflict management institutions - both in the US and abroad - have recognized this need and developed courses and programs to prepare civilians to operate effectively in a conflict zone. After a decade of effort, what have we learned about increasing civilian capacity? The costs of failing to increase civilian capacity may be very high.  Without better capacity, civilians may be at a higher risk and/or peace processes could be in jeopardy. Why haven’t we done better in preparing civilians? Most importantly, what must we do now to prepare civilians for the difficult work of preventing, ending, and settling conflicts?

Panel 3: "New Strategies for International Cooperation"
With Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bob Orr, Richard Armitage, and Abiodun Williams (Moderator)

As President Barack Obama takes office, expectations for a change in the United States’ international role and posture are high.  How should the new administration seek global support needed to address key global threats and challenges such as nuclear proliferation, terrorism, climate change, energy security, poverty, and disease? Is there a special strategy for pursuing cooperation of major powers, such as Russia and China, that will improve burden sharing?  How can the Obama team continue to develop strategic partnerships with India, Brazil and other emerging powers?  What will be the role of international institutions and the relationship between the United States and the United Nations?

Panel 4: "Economic Development and State Building"
with Henrietta Fore, Steve Radelet, David Litt, John D. Sullivan, and Raymond Gilpin (Moderator)

The multifaceted nature of current and emerging global security challenges requires a judicious and balanced use of development, diplomacy and defense --- the 3Ds. United States' leadership in ensuring the success of global efforts to address poverty, protect the environment and safeguard human rights is critical. Enhanced living standards and freedom from fear are necessary conditions for the creation of secure and prosperous societies. This panel will evaluate U.S. programs to promote economic development in fragile environments, analyze policy options for sustainable outcomes and examine institutional mechanisms that could bolster coordination and improve effectiveness.

4:30-5:30 PM
"The Way Forward in Afghanistan"
With General David H. Petraeus, Ashraf Ghani, Francesc Vendrell, Congressman Tom Perriello, and J Alexander Thier (Moderator)

More than seven years after the US invasion of Afghanistan, the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan remains one of the highest national security challenge for the US. Afghanistan has entered a downward spiral in the last three years as security has seriously deteriorated and Afghans are increasingly losing confidence in the Afghan government and the international community. This panel discussion will explore what critical steps must be taken in the areas of security, governance, rule of law, political reconciliation, and development to put Afghanistan back on the path to peace and stability.

5:30-6:30 PM
Reception - "Celebrating 25 Years of Building Peace"
With remarks by J. Robinson West, Richard Solomon, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), William Perry, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Admiral Michael Mullen, Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA), Henrietta Fore, Richard Danzig and George Moose.

Latest Publications

Sudan Remains at a Stalemate After the Military’s Crackdown

Sudan Remains at a Stalemate After the Military’s Crackdown

Thursday, June 20, 2019

By: Elizabeth Murray

It’s been over two months since Sudan’s longtime dictator, Omar al-Bashir, was overthrown by the country’s military following months of popular protests. On June 3, the Transitional Military Council (TMC)—which has been ruling since Bashir’s ouster—escalated its lethal crackdown on peaceful protesters in Khartoum and other cities. The protesters say that their demand is the same as before—a transition to civilian rule—but that they will not negotiate with the TMC unless it first meets certain conditions. What’s happening in Sudan? When will negotiations on the country’s transition resume? How can the international community help? USIP’s Elizabeth Murray discusses the latest on the situation in Sudan.

Democracy & Governance

Frank Aum on North Korea Nuclear Negotiations

Frank Aum on North Korea Nuclear Negotiations

Thursday, June 20, 2019

By: Frank Aum

A year after the first summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, “both sides are very much committed to diplomacy and trying to reach an agreement,” says Frank Aum. Despite the stalled talks, Aum says that Chinese President Xi’s visit to North Korea will likely encourage Kim to continue along the path of diplomacy.

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

The Religious Landscape in South Sudan: Challenges and Opportunities for Engagement

The Religious Landscape in South Sudan: Challenges and Opportunities for Engagement

Thursday, June 20, 2019

By: Jacqueline Wilson

Since the beginning of South Sudan's civil war in 2013, the country's religious actors have sought to play an active role in turning the tide from war and violence to peace and reconciliation. Drawing on interviews, focus groups, and consultations, this report maps the religious landscape of South Sudan and showcases the legitimate and influential religious actors and institutions, highlights challenges impeding their peace work, and provides recommendations for policymakers and practitioners to better engage with religious actors for peace.


The Need for a New U.S. Information Strategy for North Korea

The Need for a New U.S. Information Strategy for North Korea

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

By: Nat Kretchun

Through the successive regimes of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un, North Korea has maintained near-total control over the information that reaches its citizens. Now, as more and more North Koreans use networked devices such as smartphones, the regime is employing modern forms of censorship and surveillance to control information and curtail freedom of expression. This report argues that the United States and its allies need a new information strategy to end the social isolation of the North Korean people and improve their long-term welfare.

Global Policy

Exposure to Violence and Voting in Karachi, Pakistan

Exposure to Violence and Voting in Karachi, Pakistan

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

By: Mashail Malik ; Niloufer Siddiqui

Pakistan’s 2018 elections marked just the second time in history that power transferred peacefully from one civilian government to another after a full term in office. Although the initial months of campaigning were relatively free of violence, the two weeks before polling were dangerous for campaigners and voters alike, and the elections provided a platform for some parties to incite violence, particularly against Pakistan’s minority sects. This report provides a deep examination of how exposure to political violence in Pakistan’s largest city affects political behavior, including willingness to vote and faith in the democratic process.

Electoral Violence

View All Publications