Biden Administration Shows Interest in Swiss Project Aimed at Preventing 'New Cold War'

The Biden administration is showing interest in a new Swiss think tank that hopes to address concerns about a "new Cold War" over science and technology, a project that would look out for future advances and development in the interest of a more inclusive global stage.

Iganzio Cassis, Switzerland's foreign minister, presented the project in a video message for the inaugural "summit" on Thursday and Friday of the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator, or GESDA. Backed by the Swiss government, GESDA aims to join government policy and science in the international city.

GESDA would serve as an "honest broker" to spread advances in science to countries across the economic spectrum, bringing together hundreds of global scientists and policymakers.

"There is a growing feeling that a new Cold War is about to be fought over science and technology, and the power they confer to the states that master them," he said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Swiss Foreign Minister
The Biden administration has shown interest in a Swiss think tank's concerns over a "new Cold War." Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis delivers a speech during a night debate of the Swiss parliament on a contribution to the EU Cohesion Fund after the government rejected the framework agreement deal with EU in Bern on September 30. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

"What we are trying to achieve with GESDA is new, and hence, difficult: To link anticipation that looks far ahead, with action that is immediate is a major challenge in itself," Cassis said.

While conceived in 2019, GESDA has started to look prescient during the COVID-19 pandemic that caught many governments off guard, drew an uncertain or unclear response by health policymakers like the Geneva-based World Health Organization, and has exposed gaping inequality between the rich countries that have wide access to vaccines—and poor countries that don't.

Alondra Nelson, deputy director for science and society for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, noted U.S. President Joe Biden has spoken about today's moment "of great peril and great promise," and she said governments should be bold about both innovation and partnership.

"I think that the Anticipator—anticipatory frame—is a fantastic possibility for working this through," she said by videoconference from Washington on Thursday. "Anticipation is filled, of course, with both enthusiasm and yet unease."

Dr. Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust charity and a key player in international health policy, has lined up with GESDA and told reporters on Thursday that while science has made great strides, action must be taken because otherwise "scientific advances will increasingly be available to a small elite in the world—and not to everybody."

Last week, GESDA and XPrize announced the creation of a prize for developments in quantum computing. But GESDA, a self-dubbed "do tank," has far broader ambitions such as helping set up a global court for scientific disputes and a Manhattan Project-style effort to rid excess carbon from the atmosphere.

It brings together hundreds of U.N. officials, Nobel laureates, academics, diplomats, advocacy group representatives and members of the public. Backers include Swiss universities and Geneva-based CERN—home to a lab with the world's largest atom smasher.