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A Taste of Big-Time Diplomacy

June 14, 2012

Booth student participates in young leaders program at May NATO Summit

When the NATO Summit took place in Chicago in late May, first-year Full-Time MBA Program student Enrico Biasiolo, experienced some of the weekend’s excitement by participating in a related diplomacy program for the next generation of global leaders. Biasiolo, who also is working toward a master’s degree in international relations at the University of Chicago and is a native of Milan, Italy, represented his country at the Young Atlanticist Summit, where he discussed diplomacy with 50 young leaders from 28 NATO countries and met NATO delegates attending the May 20-21 Summit. Chicago Booth asked Biasiolo about how the summit works, the future of Afghanistan, and why a younger generation of leaders is so important.

CB: How did you get selected for the Young Atlanticist Summit?

Enrico Biasiolo: The university was notified that the Atlantic Council in Washington DC and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs were investing a lot in this program. To be selected, I had to take part in a competition with 250 participants where we had to define solutions to solve some of the challenges in Afghanistan, the main focus of the NATO Summit. I wrote about NATO countries partnering with non-NATO countries—Australia, Japan, Russia—to promote security in Afghanistan and about some of the post-conflict issues to address. And I was selected.

CB: What is the purpose of the Young Atlanticist Summit?

EB: The Atlantic Council and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs were trying to identify professionals interested in global issues and bring them together. Most of the people now in senior roles in NATO lived through the Cold War and bring that perspective to their decisions. This younger generation has a different perspective, and the Young Atlanticist Summit was about making that perspective emerge.

CB: Why were you interested in participating in the summit?

EB: Besides being a dual-degree MBA and international relations student, I previously worked in infrastructure investing in emerging markets. Working within a small team, I helped raise $1 billion from global sovereign wealth investors interested in investing in emerging markets. I am interested in how the combination of calibrated military action, policy improvements, and private-sector investments can improve stability in unstable nations.

CB: Is there a social justice element to this type of investing?

EB: It is essential to remember that the social component is a result, not a criteria, for investing. We may be doing something for the good of a country, but it’s not charity. Only a sound investment decision is financially sustainable. The social benefit comes as a plus.

CB: How did the summit work?

EB: We simulated discussion at the NATO Summit. We were in McCormick Place at the same time as the NATO leaders, and we each represented our country. We were discussing the future of Afghanistan, just like the NATO officials. We then presented the result of our negotiations to the actual decision makers at the NATO Summit, promoting our views and learning from their perspectives.

CB: What conclusions did you reach?

EB: We reached agreement on some of the most promising ways to secure Afghanistan from a military standpoint. We outlined how private-sector development and infrastructure investment can improve stability once the country becomes secure. Afghanistan is a very poor country. The assumption is that through economic development, you can improve the lives of the people, and the better off they are, the more they will marginalize extremism.

CB: What was a highlight of the summit?

EB: I had the opportunity to discuss in person infrastructure investment with [Chicago mayor] Rahm Emanuel. He recently introduced the concept in Chicago to make infrastructure improvements in the city. It involves public-private partnerships to raise money to repair roads, bridges, and other projects. Europe has been using public-private partnerships for years to build airports and toll roads. It’s a relatively new concept here.

CB: Do you envision yourself being a future NATO leader?

EB: I can’t think of myself taking a leading role without developing a track record of good results before. My focus now is finishing my coursework at Booth and getting involved in infrastructure investment, maybe in Chicago.

John Slania