Looking Back at 2012

CIC President Jennifer Jeffs on the year that's been at the CIC and OpenCanada.org, and what's in store for 2013.
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December 21, 2012
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As we look back on the major events of 2012 – the global financial crisis, dramatic changes sparked by the Arab Spring, elections in the U.S., Egypt, France, and Mexico, and a new leader named in China – I urge you to reflect on the importance of Canada’s engagement with the world. This year, thanks to support from our members, volunteers, and donors, the CIC was able to fulfill its mandate of producing and disseminating high-quality research, discussion, and thinking on international affairs.  Your continued support allows the CIC to engage Canadians in discussions about global political and economic matters that affect our future.  

This past year, the CIC undertook a major research project on foreign policy and natural resources, asking how Canadians can be smart about developing our abundant energy, mineral, and forest resources, and extracting maximum current and future value from our unique resource endowments. Madelaine Drohan, The Economist’s Canada correspondent, wrote the report and co-directed the project with me, conducting more than 160 interviews with experts around the world. The report was released in October – complemented by an interactive online release that involved a variety of media outlets – and our findings have already begun to play an important role in shaping policy discussions on this subject. We have been discussing our report widely with government, academic, and business communities, along with members of our OpenCanada.org and CIC communities inside and outside of Canada.

This year, OpenCanada.org has truly become Canada’s hub for international affairs. Building on the CIC’s mandate to promote discussion on international affairs, the platform has become a venue for those discussions. In 2012, we published over 270 articles, produced 90 videos, and hosted 13 live chats. Our articles were re-printed in numerous national publications, including The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s. Our editorial and design team experimented with a wide range of content forms and styles, including infographics and online series, and we led the social media conversation on international affairs in Canada, with an audience of over 20,000 on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube.

This spring, we hosted a series of online discussions in partnership with the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI) on “The Future of Fighting: How the Canadian Military must Adapt.” Experts from government, academia, and Canadian and international think-tanks provided op-ed length pieces to frame the main issues and appeared online to answer questions from the public. This series garnered significant international and Canadian attention, and won a Canadian Online Publishing Award for best online series of articles. More recently, we hosted a second major e-conference with CDFAI titled “Drone Week,” featuring contributions from the Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko, Brooking’s Peter Singer and former U.S. Ambassador on HIV-Aids Jack Chow, as well as American Security Project’s Joshua Foust, and other experts. The topic was controversial and engendered fierce debates through social media channels, particularly on Twitter.

Our 16 volunteer-run branches continue to host speakers and put on programs to educate and inform their local constituents on important issues in international affairs. This year, our branches hosted over 130 events, on topics ranging from food security, to the Arab Spring, to the geopolitics of the Arctic. I encourage you to connect with your local CIC branch to take advantage of the full range of activities and programs our branches have planned for 2013.

Looking ahead to 2012-2013, the CIC is undertaking a rigorous program of OpenCanada.org series and essays, conferences, seminars, workshops, and speaker events, both online and in person, to advance dialogue and debate on foreign policy. We are also in the stages of building a research lab for exploring the intersection between digital technology and international relations. In partnership with the University of British Columbia, we are working to lead a global conversation on how digital technology changes the ways in which we learn about, understand, and act in the world. We plan to launch the first components of this project publicly early in the New Year.

As a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, the success of our programs at the national and branch levels depends on individual and corporate donations. As 2012 draws to a close, I invite you to make a tax-deductible charitable contribution to the CIC. Our mandate to foster discussion and debate of international issues would not be possible without your generous and continued support. Donations can be made online by clicking here, or by phone, credit card, or cheque payable to the Canadian International Council.

Along with the CIC board, staff, and volunteers, I extend my warmest wishes to you and your family for a happy and healthy holiday season. We look forward to engaging with you on international affairs in 2013!