Fred Kempe, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Atlantic Council

March 23, 2023

"We’re known as a think tank. I’ve never liked the term. We’re more of an action tank."

Gaurav Srivastava joins Fred Kempe at the Global Security Forum.

FREDERICK KEMPE: It’s my pleasure today to kick off our first day of programming at the Atlantic Council’s first-ever Global Food Security Forum as an official sideline event of the G20 summit here in Bali.

So the Atlantic Council’s mission for sixty years has been to galvanize constructive US leadership alongside partners and allies to shape the future. The mission is old, but the relationship for us in Indonesia is new.

The Atlantic Council in many ways is a misnomer geographically because we’ve been the global Atlantic Council for some time, with programs and centers that span interests around the globe wherever we have partners and allies working to shape the future.

We’re known as a think tank. I’ve never liked the term. We’re more of an action tank. We like actors, practitioners, scholars like you who want to come here not just to hear speeches, but to come up with ideas, come up with recommendations, come up with solutions for a better world, and in this case particularly with food security.

And so I’m delighted, in that spirit, to convene such an accomplished group of local, regional, and international leaders across government, business, civil society, media for today’s series of roundtable discussions on global food security. For those that are joining us virtually—and this is an on-the-record session; we also have a virtual global audience—this will also be recast for people at sometimes better hour for their region. But we welcome you all, and you can follow along with the hashtag #AtlanticCouncilFoodSecurity. So the hashtag on Twitter, #AtlanticCouncilFoodSecurity. We’re still using Twitter. We’re not sure we’d invest in it.

But the—I’d like to first acknowledge and thank our forum co-hosts, including the Ministry of Defense and Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment of the Republic of Indonesia, for their partnership and hospitality in organizing this conference. So a huge thanks to Minister Prabowo Subianto and Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who will speak to us tomorrow in sessions tomorrow, in keynotes tomorrow.

I most of all want to thank, sitting to my left, my seat next to me and the seat next to him, Gaurav Srivastava of the Gaurav and Sharon Srivastava Foundation, our forum co-host and underwriting partner. So, Gaurav and Sharon, thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your vision. Thank you for your generosity. We quite literally would not be here without you, so thank you so much for that.

I also want to salute someone I’ve just respected for many years for his service to our country and for his intellectual leadership, General Wes Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, of NATO, and member—and the senior member attending this conference of the Atlantic Council Board of Directors. He is here as our board leader and was a driving force between this impressive conference—where are you, Wes? Here we go. General Clark.

I briefly—I’m very briefly going to preview what you expect over the next two days. Today we’ll engage in two roundtable discussions on the state of global food security and challenges involved. These sessions will allow us to delve into the topic deeply and in a little bit more of an expert manner, drilling a little deeper than perhaps we’ll do tomorrow, and lay the groundwork for tomorrow’s programming which will feature a diverse set of keynotes, fireside chats, and panel discussions expanding on the topics we address today. Not only will we have Minister Prabowo and Minister Luhut, we’ll also have the US Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, joining us virtually; a couple of members of Congress, so it’s going to be a very strong day.

And then lastly—and we hope you will all be here for the close tomorrow evening—we’re going to close the conference with an exclusive concert for those who are attending our conference with the celebrated singer/songwriter, John Legend, who has—they call him an EGOT-awarded singer/songwriter. That means he has won the Emmy, he has won the Grammy, he has won the Golden Globe, he has won the Oscar, he has won the Tony. It’s extraordinary that we’ll have him tomorrow playing beside songwriter/singer—Indonesian singer/songwriter Sandhy Sondoro. I think all of you from Indonesia know him well. And the US Air Force Band of the Pacific which you heard up behind us today. So it’s truly an extraordinary way to conclude these two days.

Global food security sits at the nexus of the world’s most pressing challenges as food security rises threatened by near-term shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic, Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, and long-term risks of climate change and sustained conflict. Ending world hunger will require enhanced public-private cooperation and wide-ranging innovation in agriculture, technology, finance, and policy.

Putin’s weaponization of food security in the last year has underscored that food security has got to be discussed together with energy security, with military security, with all aspects of international and national security. One cannot deal with it separately.

Today’s workshop, roundtable serve as a venue for and driver of this cooperation. The goal of these discussions is to allow all of you an opportunity to delve into food security challenges and solutions in this more—in a smaller setting than tomorrow, laying the groundwork for our second day.

At the end of the conference, we will be distilling insights from our meetings and collecting them into a memo and concrete recommendations for leaders of the G20 summit and beyond. So as you make your comments, as you make your statements, as you raise your questions, keep in mind what in there might be a notion that we might want to put a pin in as an idea for action. Our challenge to each of you is to help us identify these concrete solutions and recommendations that we today can turn to policy action, so an action tank; not a think tank.

I want to remind everyone that this session is on the record and is being live-streamed for a public audience. If you wish to speak or provide comments, raise your hand and we will pass you a microphone. And now before we get started, I’d like to turn to Gaurav for a few remarks. And let me thank you once again for your vision and your support of this wonderful gathering.

Learn more about Fred Kempe, President and CEO of the Atlantic Council.