History of the Forum

Howard BrembeckIn 1982, Howard S. Brembeck founded the Forum to advance the ideal that we can preserve and defend our national security more effectively by working together through commerce and diplomacy to uphold international laws, rather than depending on weapons of mass destruction.

Drawing his inspiration from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 Annual Message to Congress (now known as the State of the Union Address) where the president outlined his vision for four essential freedoms that all people deserve–freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear of war–Brembeck named this new foundation the Fourth Freedom Forum. From the beginning, the purpose of the Forum was to promote freedom from fear of violent conflict through the development of economic power, not military power, as the force that rules the world.

Initial Focus on Reducing Nuclear Dangers

Initially, during the Cold War, the Forum brought together U.S. military leadership and nuclear policy experts to discuss alternative solutions to nuclear armaments. In the early 1990s, as the United States and other countries were imposing sanctions to disarm Iraq and end the wars in former Yugoslavia, the Forum launched a major program to evaluate and improve the use of sanctions to enhance international security.

Sanctions and Security Research Program Is Established

In 1992 the Forum established a partnership with the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, to create what is now called the Sanctions and Security Research Program. The Sanctions and Security Research Program remains engaged in this project and continues to produce innovative research and policy recommendations on sanctions and security issues that help international policymakers use sanctions more effectively to halt the spread of nuclear weapons and prevent armed conflict and terrorism.

The Forum’s sanctions work also provided significant opportunities to lend our expertise on nuclear dangers as the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals were reaching their peak in the early 1990s. Over the last two decades, the Forum has conducted extensive research on pragmatic ways to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons and produced dozens of reports used by the U.S. and foreign government officials, the United Nations, and other organizations to advance the policies to reduce that threat.

Global Center on Cooperative Security

After the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, as the international community turned its attention to countering al-Qaida, the Forum contributed its expertise to advancing global counterterrorism cooperation. As the demand for counterterrorism initiatives increased, the Forum was already positioned to conduct critical research for ways to enhance global counterterrorism capacity. In 2004 the Forum established the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation, renamed the Global Center on Cooperative Security in 2014. It has become the Forum’s largest and most far-reaching international program with offices in Washington, DC, New York, and London. The Global Center on Cooperative Security works with governments, international organizations, and civil society to develop and implement comprehensive and sustainable responses to complex international security challenges through collaborative policy research, context-sensitive programming, and capacity development. In collaboration with a global network of expert practitioners and partner organizations, the Global Center fosters stronger multilateral partnerships and convenes key stakeholders to support integrated and inclusive security policies across national, regional, and global levels.

Howard Brembeck passed away on December 5, 2010, at age 100, but his legacy will live on through the work of the Forum.

Photo: Paul Brembeck, Howard’s father, standing in front of his hardware store in Urbana, Indiana