About the Fourth Freedom Forum

The Fourth Freedom - Our Primary Mission

For nearly forty years the Fourth Freedom Forum has conducted research and produced policy relevant recommendations for governments, non-governmental organizations, and multilateral institutions on a number of international peace and security issues. We focus on sanctions, incentives, and diplomacy; nuclear nonproliferation; counterterrorism and countering violent extremism; human rights and the rule of law; and international cooperation.

Our Mission

The Forum’s mission is to carry forward the Fourth Freedom, “Freedom from Fear” in today’s world. To do that we encourage discussion, development, and dissemination of practical, policy-relevant ideas that will help to free humanity from the fear of terrorism and war. We think globally, promoting security that is inclusive, civilian-led, and consistent with the rule of law, including human rights. We believe that international cooperation and the use of incentives and proportionate, targeted sanctions, rather than overreliance on military force, is essential for the progress of a secure, civilized society in every country.

Our History

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

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.

Our Work

For over thirty years the Fourth Freedom Forum has conducted research and produced policy relevant recommendations for governments, non-governmental organizations, and multilateral institutions on a number of international peace and security issues. We focus on sanctions, incentives, and diplomacy; nuclear nonproliferation; counterterrorism and countering violent extremism; human rights and the rule of law; and international cooperation.

Our most recent work includes working with over 20 countries to develop their national action plans to counter violent extremism; developing a framework for assessing UN sanctions on nonproliferation and counterterrorism; and bringing medical professionals and other experts together to develop a toolkit for assisting countries’ efforts to provide care to rehabilitate and reintegrate families of violent extremists returning from Syria and Iraq.

About Our Work

Sanctions, Incentives, and Diplomacy

The use of tools of statecraft to strengthen international norms without resort to war is at the heart of the Forum’s mission. Our research and policy-prescriptive recommendations have yielded groundbreaking results. We have developed a set of criteria for assessing the full economic, political, and humanitarian impact of sanctions. Our data and case studies have helped policymakers to take concrete steps to make sanctions smarter by combining them with incentives and diplomacy to encourage and sustain positive outcomes, such as nuclear disarmament and the prevention of terrorism. Working closely with the University of Notre Dame, the Forum has produced dozens of books, articles, and policy reports.

The Forum’s sanctions work has 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 course of two decades, the Forum 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.

In 1992 the Forum established a partnership with the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, to create the Sanctions and Security Research Program. The Sanctions and Security Research Program produced 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.

Preventing Violent Extremism

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. The Forum continued to provide support for the Global Center on Cooperative Security until 2020, after it became an independent non-profit organization.

We have also helped countries develop their own national action plans to prevent violent extremism and we continue to conduct research and develop recommendations to promote civilian-led approaches to strengthen community resilience as a bulwark against violent extremism.

Reducing Nuclear Dangers

The Forum has brought together U.S. military leadership and nuclear policy experts to discuss alternative solutions to nuclear armaments. We have convened experts from around the world, including former secretaries of defense, commanders of strategic weapons, and diplomats to develop and implement initiatives focused on promoting arms control and disarmament. 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. We remain deeply concerned about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and efforts that are underway to fund and develop newer types of nuclear weapons by the United States, China, Russia, and other nuclear weapons states.