21st Century Council

A forum for dialogue on global governance, with a focus on the G-20 as the governing body of globalization. Members include former heads of state, global entrepreneurs and political thinkers.

Council for the Future of Europe

This Council gathers a small group of the region's most eminent political figures to research and debate ways forward for a united Europe.

Think Long Committee for California

Develops comprehensive approaches to repairing California's broken system of governance while evaluating policies and institutions vital for the state's long-term future.

Nicolas Berggruen

NICOLAS BERGGRUEN is the Chairman of Berggruen Holdings, a private company, which is the direct investment vehicle of the Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Trust.

Berggruen Holdings has operations in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, as well as real estate and financial investments globally. The firm and related entities have made well over 100 direct investments during the last 20 years by committing entirely its own capital across diverse industries, both public and private and focusing on building long-term value. Investments are often socially and culturally driven. The Berggruen Group has offices in New York, Berlin, Istanbul, Tel Aviv and Mumbai.

Through the Berggruen Institute on Governance, an independent, non-partisan think tank, he encourages the study and design of systems of good governance suited for the 21st century. Mr. Berggruen is a board director of Zewail City of Science and Technology, Egypt; a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Committed to leaving a legacy of art and architecture, he sits on the boards of the Museum Berggruen, Berlin, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and is a member of the International Councils for the Tate Museum, London and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He has collaborated on projects with such renowned architects as Richard Meier, Shigeru Ban and David Adjaye.

Mr. Berggruen was born in Paris, where he studied at l’Ecole Alsacienne before attending Le Rosey in Switzerland. He obtained a Bachelor of Science in Finance and International Business from New York University in 1981. Prior to Berggruen Holdings, he worked for Bass Brothers Enterprises on the real estate side of this family-held investment firm, as well as for Jacobson and Co., Inc., a leveraged buyout company. In 1988, Mr. Berggruen co-founded the Alpha Group, a hedge fund operation, which was sold to Safra Bank in 2004. He is a member of the WPO-Angeleno; a board member of Promotora De Informaciones, S.A. (Prisa) and Le Monde.

Member Activity
20 September 2014
Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way Between East and West

For decades, liberal democracy has been extolled as the best system of governance to have emerged out of the long experience of history. Today, such a confident assertion is far from self-evident. Democracy, in crisis across the West, must prove itself.

Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardels' highly timely volume Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century is both a conceptual and practical guide of impressive scope to the challenges of good governance as the world continues to undergo profound transformation in the coming decades. A 2012 Financial Times "Book of the Year."

The book has been translated into many languages, including:

Chinese: zhihuizhili.com

French: gouvernerauxxsiecle.fr

Spanish: gobernanzainteligente.es

Portuguese: governancainteligente.com

German: klugregieren.de

25 January 2013
"Intelligent Governance" in Davos

Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardels gave a talk about their book "Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way Between West and East" while attending the World Economic Forum. Attendees included the presidents of Rwanda and Iceland, journalists John Micklethwait and Thomas Friedman, and many members of the Institute's 21st Century Council and the Council for the Future of Europe.   

 In the photo, George Yeo is speaking as (left to right) Thomas Friedman, Ursula von der Leyen, Paul Kagame and Laura Tyson listen. 

 Below, Nathan Gardels and Nicolas Berggruen (speaking) discuss their book with Michael Elliott (center):

 Afterward, Berggruen and Kagame talk with Kishore Mahbubani:

3 January 2013
Governance Matters -- Change in Mexico

By Nicolas Berggruen

Late last year, Nathan Gardels and I were in Mexico to promote our book "Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century" at the Guadalajara Book Fair and to attend the inauguration of Mexico's new president, Enrique Pena Nieto. The timing was propitious since President Pena Nieto's new administration marks the return of the once autocratic party -- the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) -- that ruled Mexico for 71 years until the year 2000 when open democratic elections ousted it from power.

 The strength of autocracies like China -- or the old PRI -- is their ability to forge consensus and unity of purpose with the institutional capacity to implement long-term policies. But lacking accountability, transparency and free expression they become hidebound and corrupt, giving way to the power of vested interests and eroding what they have been able to accomplish.

 The strength of democracies like the US is that everyone has a voice and can contend for power. But the inability to forge consensus out of cacophony has created gridlock and paralysis. Its adversarial political system has decayed into partisan rancor and divided the public against itself. The short term mentality and special interests have captured the formal accountability mechanism of one person one vote elections.

The central question we pose in our book is how the unity of purpose and long-term institutional capacity usually associated with autocracies can be balanced by transparency and democracy so that governance can both be effective and accountable as well as inclusive.


Mexico today is in the middle of this dilemma of governance. During the PRI rule, the novelist Mario Vargas Llosa once called Mexico the "perfect dictatorship" because it had the trappings of democracy, but was in fact ruled harshly by one party. The challenge of the PRI under Pena Nieto is to perfect democracy -- and still address the daunting challenges the country faces today.


In spite of the bloody drug war that drags on, Mexico is poised to join the ranks of the fastest growing world economies. It grew over 4 per cent last year, and Pena Nieto promises to get it up to 7 per cent. As China's wages rise, the manufacturing the once fled Mexico is coming back. Mexico's average hourly wage is $2.10 while in China it is now $1.63. The costs of fuel and transportation to get goods from China to the United States means that Mexico now has the upper hand in producing for trade with the world's largest market just north of their border.


Mexico also has a strong skill base in engineering, which has led to the establishment and expansion of large manufacturing operations in Mexico from General Electric to Bombardier, creating hundreds of thousands of high-wage jobs. 


While the US has been endlessly debating Obamacare, Mexico, under President Calderon who just left office, has established a model of universal health care -- Seguro Popular -- that covers nearly everyone in the country, whether they have a job or not.


It is no surprise that a recent Economist cover was titled "The Rise of Mexico." American consumers will soon be seeing "Hecho in Mexico" as much as they are used to seeing "Made in China" labels on the goods they purchase.


To take advantage of Mexico's new opportunity, Pena Nieto must make some tough reforms and take on many of the vested interests that have historically been the very pillars of the PRI -- the teacher's union, the state oil company (PEMEX) bureaucracy and the various monopolies in telecommunications and television.


It is surely a good sign that in his inaugural speech, admirable in both its scope and specificity,  the new president frontally raised all these issues -- with the head of the powerful teacher's union and the Mexican monopolists all sitting right there in the audience a few feet away. He appointed Emilio Lozoya, a long term advocate of modernizing PEMEX by opening it up to outside investment as the head of PEMEX itself. The loudest applause Pena Nieto received in his speech was when he said he would end the practices of the teacher's unions that allows them to sell jobs and appoint teachers themselves.


Whether Pena Nieto succeeds or not in taking on his own political base will tell us whether this is the new PRI or the old PRI. He clearly understands that the Mexican president today is not longer all powerful, but only as powerful as his party -- which got only 38 per cent of the vote and holds only that many seats in the Congress. For this reason, the day after his inauguration he announced a "compacto" -- a long list of policy agreements with the other left and right parties in the Congress -- they promise to pursue together. He also announced he would form an independent citizen's commission on corruption.


Such a "consensus building" and transparent approach is precisely what is needed to move toward good governance. Transparency is key to balancing autocratic tendencies; "consensus building" is what is needed to balance the adversarial contention, discord and diversity that democracy inevitably generates.

24 October 2012
Governance Matters
By Nicolas Berggruen

Governance matters in whether societies move forward -- or backward. That has never been a more true, or more complex, proposition than in today's world. Because of the interdependence wrought by globalization, how we govern ourselves is inextricably linked to to how others govern themselves. Read more