World Affairs Council and The Right Honourable Tony Blair Encourage Greater Philadelphia Region to Become Citizens of the World

Hayley Boyle, World Affairs Council, for GPA -- On April 17th the Right Honourable Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, joined members of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia and other distinguished guests at the Hyatt at the Bellevue. Mr. Blair was the recipient of the Council’s International Statesman Award, which is presented to global leaders whose endeavors have enhanced the goals of peace and human freedom and whose work has resulted in a significant positive impact in the world.

The night buzzed with excitement as Mr. Blair graciously met with guests during a pre-program photo reception, and the excitement only escalated as Mr. Blair arrived on stage to accept the International Statesman Award and present his remarks. His presence was unforgettable as he both inspired and amused the audience. Mr. Blair’s joke that it could be easier to achieve peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians than between the Flyers and the Penguins gave way to a serious discussion of his utmost desire to aid in the peace processes in the Middle East (and elsewhere) and his analyses that the security of the West depends upon this heretofore elusive stability.

Mr. Blair specifically addressed issues in the Middle East, and shared his belief that it is imperative that the West not forget about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially given its larger significance as a lynchpin to regional stability. Mr. Blair also discussed the Arab Spring and the continuing revolutions, security in the region through the West’s engagement with and economic support of the countries undergoing revolution, and his belief that Syria, Iran, and their relationship be watched closely. He was hopeful for the emergence of a stable constitutional government in Syria, but suggested it will be a challenging goal primarily due to the destabilizing influence of Iran.

Mr. Blair also spent time discussing the topic of globalization in the 21st century, cautioning the West to adapt and change, and to do so with humility and confidence, as other emerging powers take their places on the world stage. China was the main focus during his remarks on globalization. He gave several examples of China’s progress, stating that its infrastructure development in Africa surpasses that of the World Bank; its domestic development plans include over seventy international and two hundred regional airports and dwarfs London’s debate on whether to build one more runway at Heathrow. He was clear as to how consequential the unfolding of an even mightier China will be as the world moves deeper into the 21st century.

Visits such as Mr. Blair’s encourage residents of our region to be engaged in the world’s most significant issues and to be informed of foreign policies developed by western leaders. The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia prides itself on providing experts and leaders to address its constituencies, and this event was a prime example. Over the next few seasons, the Council looks forward to welcoming other guest speakers to its podium, including Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and Tom Friedman, foreign affairs columnist at The New York Times and sought-after commentator on global issues.

For more photos of this distinguished event, visit the World Affairs Council Flickr Photostream.