Worried by the fact that governments were unable to solve their most serious problems or to engage in thinking about the long term, an Italian industrialist, Aurelio Peccei, and a Scottish scientist, Alexander King, decided with other likeminded people and citizens of the world to share their concerns, look together for solutions and pursue their ideas further.
In April, a two-day brainstorming session involving 36 European scientists was held in Rome and gave the name to the Club. From that moment, each annual gathering, in a different country every year, was to attract new people with complementary areas of competence, such as specialists in social, exact and applied sciences, as well as concerned international decision-makers.
Under the supervision of Dennis Meadows, a group of 17 researchers in a variety of disciplines from several countries produced the first Report to the Club of Rome, The Limits to Growth, written by Donella Meadows for a non-specialist audience. Millions of copies have since been sold in over 20 languages. The Report broke new ground as it was the first to make an explicit link between economic growth and the consequences for the environment.
In February, at the initiative of the Club of Rome, Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky hosted a meeting on “North-South Problems” with six other heads of state or government. The two-day private brainstorming session produced the “Salzburg Statement”, which emphasised that the oil crisis was simply part of the whole complex of global problems and not just a political one, as many then believed.
An annual meeting which unexpectedly became crucial to the Club, was held in Helsinki according to the preparations made with Aurelio Peccei, and organised by Pentti Malaska and the Finnish Association for the Club of Rome (FICOR). At the Helsinki meeting, Alexander King was appointed President. The post of Secretary General to assist the President of the Club was created, and Bertrand Schneider was chosen to assume the role. The headquarters were moved from Rome to Paris.
The Club decided on a deliberate change of emphasis in tackling “the predicament of mankind”. While maintaining the distinctively global approach, it chose to focus on particular aspects, sometimes even concentrating on a single major one.
Alexander King then defined possible topics in his statement The Club of Rome — Reaffirmation of a Mission. These topics were: governability, peace and disarmament, population growth, human resources, and assessment of the consequences of advances in science and technology.
Before the Reykjavik Summit in October, Eduard Pestel and Alexander King sent a memo to both President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, suggesting that the United States and the USSR might be induced to work together on reducing arms sales to poorer countries. Mr Gorbachev reacted very positively, and this led to crucial contacts during the period of glasnost and perestroika.
At the Club of Rome meeting in Warsaw, a charter was adopted to put the National Associations of the Club of Rome on an official footing.
At the suggestion of the new President, Ricardo Díez-Hochleitner, the Club spent the year re- examining the world situation and reassessing its own mission in the context of turbulent global changes.
Following the collapse of communism, National Associations for the Club of Rome were established across Eastern Europe, in Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine; National Associations already existed in Poland and Russia. In the course of the 1990s, Chapters were also created in Latin America (Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela).
Meetings were held in Buenos Aires, Bogotà and Punta del Este throughout 1991. After a one-year review, Alexander King and Bertrand Schneider published The First Global Revolution, published in 19 countries. The views of members were sought via a questionnaire and were discussed intensively at meetings in Moscow and Santander. The Report redefined the Club’s priority concerns: development, the environment, governance, education and ethical values. It clearly set out the aims, strategies and initiatives for the future of the Club of Rome. In particular, it marked a turning point by putting special emphasis on the “resolutique” — on possible ways of responding to aspects of the predicament of humankind — and hence on action and concrete results, as well as reflection.
The President of Germany, Richard von Weizsäcker, declared to a German newspaper: “The Club of Rome is the conscience of the world”.
The Club of Rome was heavily involved in EXPO 2000 in Hanover. The President of the Club of Rome, Ricardo Díez-Hochleitner, chaired EXPO’s International Advisory Board and was also in charge of the Global Dialogue, the philosophy of which had been developed by the Club of Rome’s “Beyond 2000 – Which Kind of Society Do We Want?”
In November 2000, on the occasion of a meeting in Madrid, also attended by Juan Carlos, King of Spain, and Queen Sofía (Honorary Members of The Club of Rome), HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan was appointed President of the Club and Ricardo Díez-Hochleitner Honorary President.
On the initiative of Raoul Weiler and other individuals in the EU, the Brussels-EU Chapter of The Club of Rome was founded. Since then it has developed a variety of initiatives and activities, including the monthly Aurelio Peccei Lectures which welcomes distinguished speakers to talk about topics of particular concern to the Club.
Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker published his second Report to the Club of Rome: “Limits to Privatisation: How to Avoid too Much of a Good Thing”. The Report critically reviewed world- wide privatisation efforts, examining more than 50 cases. It provided guidance on the balance power and responsibilities of the public and the private sector, as well as the increasingly important role of civil society.
Dennis Meadows published his book Limits to Growth — The 30 Year Update expressing his concern for a lack of action following warnings in Limits to Growth (1972): Humankind continues to “overshoot” the carrying capacity of our planet and has gone beyond the limits of our globe. A soft landing cannot be expected any longer.
Ashok Khosla, Chairman of the Development Alternatives Group, India, and Eberhard von Koerber, Chairman & CEO, Eberhard von Koerber AG, Switzerland, were appointed Co- Presidents.
Martin Lees of Great Britain, former Rector of the United Nations University for Peace (Costa Rica), was named Secretary-General to assume his mandate on 1 January 2008 and to succeed Uwe Möller.
In November, the Club of Rome, on the invitation of H. E. Dr. Horst Köhler, German Federal President, hosted a day-long international conference on “Policy Challenges in the Next Phase of Globalisation”. The meeting provided a platform for an exchange of views between the President, Members of the Club of Rome and other distinguished experts from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. The 30 participants came from 17 countries on five continents. The meeting took place in Schloss Bellevue, the official residence of the President.
With the support of Swiss businessman and Club of Rome supporter Robert Heuberger, the Club established its international secretariat in Winterthur, Switzerland. The city council welcomed the decision and remains supportive.
Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, a German leading expert in resources efficiency, and Anders Wijkman, a Swedish politician and former member of the European parliament, were appointed co-Presidents.
In cooperation with more than 30 members from the Club of Rome, co-presidents Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Anders Wijkman, published Come On! Capitalism, Short-termism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet. The book proposed an overhaul in the way that governments, businesses, financial systems, innovators and families interact with our planet.
On April 7th 2018, exactly 50 years after the founding date of the Club of Rome, 100 members, friends and guests came together in Winterthur, Switzerland, to celebrate this special occasion.
In October that year, more than 400 international thought leaders and dignitaries from all over the world came together in Rome to discuss the most pressing challenges and solutions facing humanity and the planet.
The Club of Rome appointed two women for the first time in its history to co-lead the organization. Mamphela Ramphele (South Africa) and Sandrine Dixson Declève (Belgium) were appointed Co-Presidents.
The Club of Rome has committed itself to, and is developing practical programs in partnership with collaborators and possible sponsors on the following five themes: Climate-Planetary Emergency, Reclaiming and Reframing Economics, Rethinking Finance, Emergence of a New Civilization, Youth Leadership. A satellite office, focusing on Rethinking Finance, was opened in Brussels.