International Security Forum Bonn 2023

October 19 - October 22, 2023

For many years, the International Security Forum Bonn (ISFB) has been serving as a platform to convene distinguished international experts and practitioners of security and foreign policy, and to debate the future of transatlantic relations and key challenges in international politics. The objectives are to identify ways and means for a successful German, European and transatlantic, foreign and security policy, as well as to develop and discuss comprehensive strategic solutions to pressing security challenges.

Under the title "A world out of joint - global power shifts and religious extremism", experts from various countries met in Bonn on the Main Day of the forum to discuss the future of transatlantic relations in the shadow of growing threats from international religious extremism. Among the most important questions were:

What are the security implications of the war between Russia and Ukraine? How has the international world order changed in light of the terrorist attacks of the Hamas on Israel? What does growing antisemitism mean for our societies and how do we fight it as a transnational security alliance? How can we create greater social awareness on the threats posed by religious extremism? What lessons can be learned from the Afghanistan conflict?

The Bonn Future Lab on Strategic Foresight, October 20 to October 22, focused on the critical issue of the Global Energy Transitions. Consisting of an international conference and a two-day Strategic-Foresight workshop, the Bonn Future Labsuccessfully gathered more than 100 participants. The primary objective of this event was to foster connections between young professionals and students from various backgrounds and internationally renowned scientists and policy experts affiliated with prominent national and international institutions. While on the first day, numerous renowned scholars discussed the various dimensions, threats, challenges and strategic opportunities of the ongoing Global Energy Transitions, young thinkers and multipliers from Germany convened in the workshop to explore alternative scenarios of "European Energy Security 2040“ and develop strategic responses for key international players under professional guidance. We thank our new and longtime partners for the very fruitful cooperation and our sponsors for making the second Bonn Future Lab in a row possible.

Our partners:


Main Day: Thursday, October 19, 2023

Opening event of this year's International Security Forum Bonn 2023
"A world out of joint - global powershifts and religious extremism"

hosted by the
Henry Kissinger Professorship for Strategic and Security Studies,
Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies

in cooperation with the
Academy of International Affairs NRW

Opening Remarks

Hendrik Wüst (digital)
Minister President of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Dusseldorf

Prof. Andreas Zimmer
Vice Rector for Research and Early-Career Researchers, University of Bonn

Welcoming Remarks

Nicole Unterseh
First Deputy Mayor, City of Bonn

Introductory Statements

“The role of academic excellence in the transatlantic partnership”

Pauline Kao
Consul General for the United States in North Rhine-Westphalia, Dusseldorf

Prof. Ulrich Schlie
Henry Kissinger Professor for Security and Strategic Studies, Director of CASSIS, University of Bonn

“Israel under attack: a view from our academic partner”

Prof. Assaf Moghadam (digital)
Dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at Reichman University, Tel Aviv

“Turmoil in the Middle East, war in Ukraine, and beyond: two snapshots”

Sir Richard Shirreff
General (ret.) and former Deputy Supreme Commander NATO Europe, London

Prof. Phillips O’Brien
Professor for Strategic Studies, Head of the School of International Relations, University of St Andrews


Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schlie, the host of the Main Day of the International Security Forum in Bonn, welcomed all panelists and guests to the event in his welcome speech. Afterwards, Hendrik Wüst, Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia and patron of the Forum, addressed the audience in a video speech and emphasized the importance of the event as a meeting of science and security policy in view of the current global security situation. In the same tone, Prof. Dr. Andreas Zimmer, Prorector for Research and Young Scientists at the University of Bonn, and Nicole Unterseh, Deputy Mayor of the City of Bonn, underlined the importance of security policy research, as security challenges were taking up an increasing space in social discourses. In her personal address, the US Consul General for North Rhine-Westphalia, Pauline Kao, appealed for international cooperation, diplomacy and democratic values in view of the current war in Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and Hamas, as well as global climate change. Prof. Dr. Assaf Moghadam gave a profound insight into the current political situation in Israel in a live report, with the prospect that the status quo ante in the region would not be regained. Finally, Sir Richard Shirreff and Phillips O'Brien discussed viewpoints on the security implications of the wars between Russia and Ukraine on the one hand and Israel and Hamas on the other.

First Panel: "Global power shifts and the future strategic landscape"

Impulse Statement

Prof. Beatrice de Graaf
Professor for History of International Relations and Global Governance, Utrecht University

Followed by a discussion with

Prof. Phillips O’Brien
Professor for Strategic Studies, Head of the School of International Relations, University of St Andrews

Sir Richard Shirreff
General (ret.) and former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, London


Prof. Ulrich Schlie
Henry Kissinger Professor for Security and Strategic Studies, Director of CASSIS, University of Bonn

Dr. Mayssoun Zein Al Din
Executive Director of the Academy of International Affairs NRW, Bonn


The first panel of ISFB 2023 on the topic of "Global Power Shifts and the Future Strategic Landscape", chaired by Dr. Mayssoun Zein Al Din and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schlie, dealt with the fundamental changes in the international world order under the aspect of the terrorist attacks of the last decades and the emergence of a new global narrative. The panel started with an impulse statement by Professor Beatrice de Graaf on the need for a new redemptive narrative on religion as a dominant and serious factor for radicalization. She used terms like "gamification" to make the path of radicalization more understandable. The panel included contributions from Sir Richard Shirreff and Prof. Phillips O'Brien. The war in the Middle East was omnipresent and raised many questions about the future of international cooperation, regarding security options for the region or economic stabilization.

Second Panel: "Political Islam as a hybrid actor in Europe - activities, means and strategies"

Impulse statements

Marwa Farid
Policy Advisor at the European Foundation for Democracy, Brussels

Prof. Thomas Weber
Professor for History and International Affairs, Director of the Centre for Global
Security and Governance at the University of Aberdeen

Prof. Christine Schirrmacher
Professor for Islamic Studies at the Universities of Bonn and Leuven

Dr. Johann Schmid
Center for Military History and Social Science, Bundeswehr, Potsdam

Followed by a discussion led by

Mag. Lisa Fellhofer
Director, Austrian Fund for the Documentation of Religiously Motivated Political Extremism, Vienna


The second panel looked at the different levels on which Political Islam operates in Europe. In her opening presentation, Prof. Dr. Christine Schirrmacher, Professor for Islamic Studies at the Universities of Bonn and Leuven/Belgium, pointed out the frequent misuse of the term Political Islam and called for a uniform definition. Dr. Johann Schmid, lecturer at the Bundeswehr Center for Military History and Social Science in Potsdam, echoed this, pointing out the risk of sleepwalking, which ignores real dangers. The ensuing discussion, led by Mag. Lisa Fellhofer, Director of the Austrian Fund for the Documentation of Religiously Motivated Political Extremism in Vienna, and Thomas Weber, Professor for History and International Politics at the University of Aberdeen, focused on how to deal with the recognized problem and how to counteract it. There was agreement on the need to create public awareness on the issue.

Third Panel: "Afghanistan and Pakistan in the new geopolitics of Asia"

Peter C. W. Flory
Senior Fellow with SAFE and former NATO Assistant Secretary General, Washington

Jill Long
Former Air Attaché at the Embassy of the United States in Germany, Berlin

Prof. Jochen Prantl
Professor for Strategic and Defence Studies, Australian National University, Canberra

H.E. Syedah Saqlain
Ambassador of the State of Pakistan to Germany, Berlin

Discussion led by

PD Dr. Evelyn Bokler-Völkel
Research Fellow, Centre for Islamic Theology, University of Münster

Concluding remarks

Prof. Ulrich Schlie
Henry Kissinger Professor for Security and Strategic Studies, Director of CASSIS, University of Bonn


In the last panel of the Main Day, the role of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the new geopolitics of Asia was on the agenda. The topic was introduced by an input from Jill Long about her experiences in Afghanistan as a former Air Attaché and by Peter Flory about the relationship between Pakistan and the United States of America. After 9/11 the relationship reached their low point. The statements were followed by a discussion with Jill Long, Peter Flory and Prof. Jochen Prantl which was moderated by PD Dr. Evelyn Bokler-Völkel. It was emphasized that lessons must be learned from the mission in Afghanistan. It was concluded that military strategy alone does not work, states and alliances need to be aware of their cognitive biases in order to strategize. For missions like Afghanistan, the NATO states need to distinguish between their strategic goals and their capabilities in the sense of what they can realistically achieve. It was criticized that that the mission to rebuild Afghanistan was too large and lacks specialized personnel.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Bonn Future Lab on Strategic Foresight 2023

"Global Energy Transitions"

Opening & Welcome

Dr. Enrico Fels 
Managing Director, CASSIS

Prof. Dr. Birgit Münch
Vice Rector for International Affairs, University of Bonn

Keynote 1

"Strategic Pathways for Sustainable Hydrogen Evolution"

Prof. Dr. Detlef Stolten
Forschungszentrum Jülich

The international conference day was opened by a keynote speech "Strategic Pathways for Sustainable Hydrogen Evolution" by Prof. Dr. Detlef Stolten. He provided the valuable ground for further discussions, giving the participants insights in the relevant and practice orientated research on hydrogen at the Forschungszentrum Jülich and their advisory to various political as well as economic actors. Besides numerous future use cases, Prof. Stolten underlined hydrogen’s essential role in the transportation sector’s energy transition in the medium-term time frame.

Keynote 1 - Prof. Dr. Stolten

Input Session 1: "Geopolitics of Energy Transitions"

Dr. Gilles Lepesant 
Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS)

Michael Rühle
Climate and Energy Security Section, NATO, ret.

Prof. Dr. Maria Julia Trombetta
University of Nottingham Ningbo

Dr. Frank Umbach
European Cluster for Climate Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS) at CASSIS


PD Dr. Antje Nötzold
University of Technology Chemnitz


The first panel of the Bonn Future Lab focused especially on the importance of protecting critical infrastructure, like pipelines and cybersecurity. Furthermore, the importance of long-term and reliable energy strategies and partnerships with diversified suppliers were also emphasized. Besides the global geopolitical lens, the green transition in the armed forces was discussed in the panel. Which role can and should armies play? Besides obvious challenges of supply and an emphasis on the military’s capacity to act, opportunities out of new technologies were highlighted. The conclusion of this input session ended with a plea: Keeping the Energy Transition on track, it is important to ensure that key industries remain in Germany and Europe. 

Input Session 2: "Geoeconomics and Energy Transitions"

Prof. Dr. Marc Oliver Bettzüge
Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne (EWI)

Dr. Kevin Dayaratna
Heritage Foundation

Prof. Dr. Stefan Liebing
Conjuncta GmbH


Prof. Dr. Hubertus Bardt
German Economic Institute (IW)


The second discussion focused on the "Geoeconomics and Energy Transitions" The main point was that policy makers have to provide a quick and, above all, realistic schedule for the energy transition for other actors to orientate. While ignoring climate change would cost billions, a number of technologies have to pave the way. Green hydrogen might fill the gaps of our economies in which green electricity will not be able to deliver. The repeated call for a diversification of energy suppliers was complemented by a strategic perspective on resources, as well. Strategic and rare minerals have to be taken into the account of a reliable and responsible energy security.

Keynote 2 - Dr. Ansari

Keynote 2

"Geopolitcs of Hydrogen: Anticipating the Future Energy-Security Nexus"

Dr. Dawud Ansari
German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)

Dr. Dawud Ansari gave insight in his study on "Geopolitics of Hydrogen: Anticipating the Future Energy-Security Nexus" during the second keynote of the day. As Germany’s and Europe’s demand on hydrogen will only rise in the coming years and decades, one may not fall in the same trap again and rely on too few suppliers. Strategic Foresight in Energy Policy and a Security perspective on the diversification of importers will have to play a key role for a secure as well as sustainable transition to Green Hydrogen.

Input Session 3: "Innovation and Technology: Shortcuts to Sustainable Futures?"

Prof. Dr. Kathleen J. Hancock
Colorado School of Mines

Prof. Dr. Stefanie Meilinger
International Centre for Sustainable Development (IZNE), University of Applied Sciences Bonn-Rhein-Sieg

Gilles Le Van
Large Industries and Energy Transition Central Europe, Air Liquide Deutschland GmbH


Dr. Bert Droste-Franke
Institut für qualifizierende Innovationsforschung und -beratung GmbH (IQIB)


During the third input session, a panel of experts spoke about the topic of "Innovation and Technology: Shortcuts to Sustainable Futures?" Meaningful and strategic innovation in pioneering countries as the US might be significantly hampered by public polarization, right wing populism, and voters’ disinterest. This is forming to be a threat to energy transitions in a number of western countries. Political inability for compromise and long-term strategic and stable decisions encounters a – though vibrant – complex and short-lived sphere of research and development. Unfortunately, there is no “silver bullet” for green transitions and hydrogen is only valuable in specific, large scale, energy intensive use cases. Broad spending and venture capital for new and emerging technologies is needed.

Input Session 4: "Beyond Dependence: Energy Cooperation Among Tech Middle Powers"

Mohammed Baharoon
Dubai Public Policy Research Center (b’huth)

Prof. Dr. Jochen Prantl
Australian National University

Dr. Rita Strohmaier
German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS)

Dr. Erick Tambo
Pan African Cooperation and Educational Technologies (PACET), United Nations University


Prof. Dr. Maximilian Mayer
CASSIS, University of Bonn


The conference day concluded with a fourth and final panel, which engaged in a spirited debate on the topic "Beyond Dependence: Energy Cooperation Among Tech Middle Powers”. During the session, it quickly became clear that all participants agreed that global energy demand will increase many times over by 2040. Therefore, energy security will be even more important than it already is. With regard to security of supply, the so-called Middle Power countries can play a special role. While countries today are so closely linked that there will be no complete independence for any actor, coalitions of middle powers can orchestrate and mediate to great reliance on single suppliers or the will of great powers.

Saturday, October 21 - Sunday, October 22

Strategic Foresight Workshop


Wake-Up Call: "Wehrhaft. Resilient. Nachhaltig. Über die außen- und sicherheitspolitische Strategiefähigkeit der Bundesregierung"


Dr. Enrico Fels
CASSIS, University of Bonn


Prof. Dr. René Bantes
Fraunhofer Institute for Technological Trend Analysis INT

Dr. Henning Riecke
Bundesakademie für Sicherheitspolitik (BAKS)

Dr. Olaf Theiler
Future Analysis Branch, Bundeswehr Planning Office


Jessica Nies
Gesellschaft für Sicherheitspolitik e.V. (GSP)


Each of the two (German) Strategic Workshop’s days was opened by an exclusive wake-up call for the participants. The first took place as the panel "Wehrhaft. Resilient. Nachhaltig. Über die außen- und sicherheitspolitische Strategiefähigkeit der Bundesregierung". The experts agreed that the federal government's strategic capability could be improved. After all, in times like these, when many crises are happening at the same time, strategic foresight has become even more important for achieving strategic goals and maintaining security. In addition, it was also discussed that the naming and elaboration of one's own interests is a precondition for a country's strategic capability. According to the experts, the German government is still struggling with this, but it is important that it is being worked on.


Wake-Up Call: "Energiekrise oder -chance? Der Blick aus den Regionen"

Dr. Clemens von Doderer
Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung e.V. Namibia

Birgit Lamm
Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung für die Freiheit Pakistan


Maximilian Schranner
CASSIS, University of Bonn

Wake-Up Call 2


The second Wake-Up Call was dedicated to the topic "Energiekrise oder -chance? Der Blick aus den Regionen". The discussion, chaired by Maximilian Schranner (CASSIS), focused inverse situations of Energy Security in Namibia and Pakistan. The experts on the ground highlighted that Namibia is all in on the opportunities a green transition could offer while Pakistan is restricted by basic challenges of providing reliable energy to its massive population. While Namibia can profit and energy partnerships with Germany are discussed, Pakistan is hurtfully hit by the multiple crises on the world stage – namely Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Islamabad is forced to pay higher prices for energy imports on the world market. This is reinforcing Pakistan's already poor economic situation and preventing sustainable investment in energy infrastructure.

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