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Thought Leader: Louise Arbour

Louise Arbour is president and CEO of International Crisis Group. She served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2004 to 2008.

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Louise Arbour on


  • WHAT’S DISTINCT distinct

    I think what is morally distinct is our consciousness of the disconnect between our values, our aspirations, our capabilities, and our deliverables. We are still very conscious of how much we are falling short of our aspirations.

  • CHALLENGES challenges

    I believe that we have achieved very high levels of universal norms enunciation, in legal instruments, in our literature. I think the normative environment is very impressive. The disconnect is between the norms and their enforcement.

  • GLOBAL ETHICS ethics

    I think global ethics is largely aspirational. Again I refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—a document, frankly, that is still largely aspirational. I think the inability of our institutions, for the most part, and individuals, largely, to deliver on these aspirations is still the moral and ethical challenge of our generation.

  • PEACE peace

    I think the management of conflict is a daily task—conflict within peoples, within families, within communities, and then within broader communities of people who have different cultural aspirations, different religious affiliations. To think that we would eradicate the tensions that come from the sense of belonging to communities, to different cultural groups, I think is extremely unrealistic. The question is to build the tools and the institutions for the peaceful management of conflict, not some idea that conflict altogether would disappear.

  • LEADERSHIP leadership

    I think it means the requirement that people who occupy leadership positions understand that their contribution has to be rooted in, first of all, their concerns for others as opposed to their own personal advancement and their willingness to be guided, not just by narrow conventional rules, but by the profound question, on a daily basis, of what is the right thing to do and the courage to stand by that assessment.

  • FUTURE future

    I think if—and I hope it's not going to take 100 years—women were allowed to take their proper place in their own governance, in the control of their own reproductive rights, to take their proper place on this planet—I think we have fallen short, in a sense, by not capitalizing on the contribution and talent of half of the population of the world. To me, this would be a short-, medium-, and long-term investment that would be truly transformative.