Anheier on Germany’s Uncertain Stance on the Russia-Ukraine War

Helmut Anheier, adjunct professor of social welfare and public policy, wrote an opinion article for Project Syndicate regarding Germany’s indecision about the role it should play in the Russia-Ukraine war. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Germans were split on what action to take, with some advocating for more military support for Ukraine and others favoring a settlement to prevent the war from extending to other European countries. Anheier stressed the importance of NATO working with China, India and midsize powers such as Brazil and Saudi Arabia to improve communication and security. By doing so, nations would understand how conditions in Ukraine could easily worsen if action is not taken soon. “This is no time for fence-sitting and free-riding. Everyone will lose out from a broader conflict. If Germans want the fighting to end, they should demand that their government do its part to bring other governments to the table,” he said.


Anheier on Challenge Ahead for Germany’s Leaders

Helmut Anheier, adjunct professor of social welfare and public policy, wrote a Project Syndicate article on the debate in Germany about the nation’s place in a changing geopolitical landscape. The decision to furnish Ukraine with powerful tanks in its war with Russia is part of a broader national reorientation that would make Germany one of Europe’s largest military powers — yet German society remains basically pacifist. Many citizens are grappling with how to uphold the values they hold dear while becoming more assertive on the international stage. Some good can come from a divided society if a country’s leaders can provide pragmatic fresh thinking, Anheier writes. “Some tensions are good for society, because they can provide the impetus for innovation and progress. But for that to happen, political leaders need to understand the nature of the problem and offer a clear and coherent vision for ameliorating it.”


To Hold Governments Accountable, Researchers Take Some Heat

By Stan Paul and Les Dunseith

In June 2022, UCLA Luskin announced the results of a groundbreaking analysis of the effectiveness of governments in more than 140 nations known as the Berggruen Governance Index, a collaborative project with the Los Angeles-based Berggruen Institute.

Four months later, an international who’s who of governance scholars came to UCLA or weighed in remotely to point out every possible flaw and shortcoming of the index they could find.

And that was exactly the point.

“The Berggruen Governance Index is an ambitious new approach that involves complex data structures and analyses,” said principal investigator Helmut Anheier, UCLA adjunct professor of social welfare and public policy, as well as the former president of the Hertie School in Germany, which also played a role in the report. “Therefore, it was important to invite leading experts on global data systems to come to the Luskin School to review and discuss the index.”

Joining other UCLA, Hertie School and Berggruen Institute representatives at the conference were scholars and data experts from global locations like Austria, Switzerland, Japan, Ghana and Great Britain, and U.S. institutions like Yale, Princeton, Notre Dame and Columbia. Over two days of presentations and panel discussions, they dissected the study methodology. They pondered whether a nation-level perspective is inherently superficial. And they discussed, sometimes in spirited language, whether the whole idea unfairly reflects a pro-democracy, pro-wealthy-nation Western bias.

“It was a very productive meeting that generated many important ideas,” Anheier said. “This was the first time that such a large and diverse groups of experts on global data and indicator systems met to explore how they can work together. The 2022 conference will certainly go down as a landmark event.”

The idea of measuring governance on a global scale is not new to academia, but the specific approach of the index is rooted in efforts at the Berggruen Institute that originated during a “chaotic and concerning time” for democracy in the U.S. and other parts of the world, said Dawn Nakagawa, executive vice president of the Berggruen Institute.

When the institute “began about a dozen years ago, it was with the idea that we will work on issues of governance, because governance matters,” said investor and philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen during a Q&A with UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura during the conference.

“I grew up in Europe, then I came to America, and I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been able to travel the world,” Berggruen said. “One of the things that I learned is culture and governance really make a difference to how countries progress and how citizens fare within the countries.”

Berggruen, Nakagawa, Anheier and others directly involved in the project have come to realize that trusting the data can challenge preconceptions.

For example, one might presume the United States and other pro-democracy countries would do well in the analysis. And some do. But the index found a dramatic drop in the quality of government and quality of democracy in the United States over the past 20 years.

At the same time, some nations with less-democratic approaches showed measurable improvements in their provision of public goods like education, health care and environmental protection, particularly in Africa.

After reading the report and exploring the data in an online platform built expressly for that purpose, Berggruen saw that reality does not always match expectations.

“At the end of the day, we almost have to take our ideological hats off and say, ‘Let’s look at the reality of the data and whether governments deliver for citizens as a service.’ And you’ve seen that, in some countries, well, they’ve done better than we would suspect from simply an ideological standpoint.”

Berggruen told the 30 invited attendees to keep in mind that “governance is not just an idea, an ideology or a system of government. We’ve learned through the index how important it is not just to have principles of governance, but also the ability to translate that into reality. That means bringing the resources to a country to execute. That means administration. It means people. It means laws. And it means a culture
at the end.”

Berggruen thanked the assembled scholars for their diligence and their sometimes-blunt analysis. “Perfecting the index is a way we can, hopefully, help countries and governments better serve their citizens.”

Watch a video highlighting the conference and its purpose

Berggruen 2022 Conference at UCLA from UCLA Luskin on Vimeo.

Anheier Analyzes Feasibility of Germany’s New Foreign Policy

Helmut Anheier, adjunct professor of social welfare and public policy, wrote an opinion article for Project Syndicate about Germany’s new plan to adopt epochal change in order to engage in foreign policy in a more active manner. The country has signaled that it will focus on a more feminist foreign policy and take a less ambiguous position in regard to doing business with autocrats. However, the likelihood of Germany following through with this plan is in question, Anheier said, pointing to the country’s past record of falling short on similar aspirations. Earlier this year, Germany announced support for Ukraine but has not yet delivered all the aid it promised, and it has also been slow in supporting the women-led protests in Iran. Furthermore, the country’s coalition government has frustrated German voters because of differing political goals within the alliance.


Anheier on Charitable Giving for 2023

Helmut Anheier, adjunct professor of social welfare and public policy, provided insights for a WalletHub feature on charitable giving for 2023. One of the biggest mistakes people make when donating to charity is “not having enough knowledge about the charity, its governance and track record, and assuming that having very low overheads is a good sign in terms of impact,” said Anheier, whose research interests include nonprofits and philanthropy. On red flags to watch out for before donating, Anheier highlighted three: websites that are not transparent, blatant overpromising on results and not having diverse boards. The article cites data showing that while giving in the U.S. increased by 4% from 2020 to 2021, current donation increases are competing with higher inflation. “People donate less during crises, foundations have less to spend, and public budgets are tight,” Anheier said. “Hopefully, charities were able to build up financial reserves to serve as a buffer during hard times.”

Anheier on Long Road Back to a Stable Democracy

A front-page New York Times story on international allies’ concern that the United States is sliding away from its core democratic values cited Helmut Anheier, adjunct professor of social welfare and public policy. Scholars, officials and voters from both longstanding and emerging democracies expressed alarm about America’s direction, pointing to some citizens’ rejection of a peaceful transfer of power, attempts to block access to the ballot box and a Supreme Court that appears to be swayed by party politics. “It’s like watching a family member, for whom you have enormous affection, engage in self-harm,” one foreign leader said. Anheier, a principal investigator for the Berggruen Governance Index, a study of 134 countries in which America sits below Poland in quality of life, noted, “The United States did not get into the position where it is now overnight. It took a while to get there, and it will take a while to get out.”


Germany as Defender of the Liberal International Order

A Project Syndicate commentary by Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier assessed Germany’s effectiveness in managing an array of crises made urgent by Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. “Germany faces no shortage of challenges, from the Russian security threat and political instability among Western allies to democratic backsliding and a looming economic crisis within the European Union,” Anheier wrote. Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced some of the most drastic policy reversals in postwar German history, including increased investment in the military, a radical overhaul of the nation’s energy policy and a review of trade policies with autocratic regimes, especially China. Progress has been halting but, overall, the current government has proven surprisingly adept at managing the situation, Anheier wrote. “With a relatively sound economy, a strong commitment to the liberal order and the EU, and a functioning government, Germany may be Europe’s best hope in the current crises, provided that American support for Ukraine remains strong.”

Assessing the Health of American Democracy

A Washington Post article on different assessments of the stability of American democracy cited the 2022 Berggruen Governance Index, which tracks quality of life, governance and democracy in countries around the world. The article noted that the U.S. political status quo has triggered pessimism and despair, yet several countries still regard the United States as a bulwark of liberal democratic values. The recently released Berggruen Governance Index, a collaborative project of UCLA Luskin and the Los Angeles-based Berggruen Institute, identified significant declines in U.S. “state capacity” and “democratic accountability” over the past 20 years. “The steepness of the U.S.’s drop is unusual: Its path parallels Brazil, Hungary and Poland much more closely than that of Western Europe or the other wealthy Anglophone countries,” according to Markus Lang and Edward Knudsen, researchers who work with the governance index’s principal investigator, Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier.


Conference: 2022 Berggruen Governance Index

In partnership with the Berggruen Institute. 

About this event

It is our pleasure to invite you to an international conference that looks at the newly developed Berggruen Governance Index (BGI) in the context of wide range of indicator and global data systems, from Varieties of Democracy to the Quality of Government, and from the World Value Survey to indicators developed by the World Bank and other international organizations.

The BGI is the centerpiece of a multi-year project jointly run by the Berggruen Institute and UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs.  It examines the relationship between quality of democracy, state capacity, and quality of life in over 140 countries over an extended period. We have invited an international group of academics and experts from leading indicator projects and data systems to explore opportunities for future research and cooperation.

The executive summary of the Index is here, and a fuller report can be accessed here.

View the conference agenda

View bios of the participants in the conference.

To register for the event, please follow this link or click the button below.



Faculty, please register as an “Observer.”

Staff and Students, please register under “General Admission.”

Download and read two recent draft scholarly articles:

UCLA Luskin Scholars on Strengthening Democracy in the Americas

A June 8 conference on how to strengthen the collective defense of democracy in the Americas featured several scholars from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The hybrid in-person discussion and webinar was a companion event to the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. The webinar focused on strengthening the Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted in 2001 by 34 countries of the Organization of American States. The goal is to generate and advance realistic policy recommendations to improve the charter’s application by OAS member states. President Gabriel Boric of Chile offered the keynote address . In addition to Dean Gary Segura, participating UCLA Luskin faculty included Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier, Professor of Urban Planning Susanna Hecht, Associate Professor of Urban Planning Veronica Herrera and Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Planning Paavo Monkkonen. The webinar is sponsored by the UCLA Burkle Center for International RelationsUCLA Latin American Institute and UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and co-sponsored by the Latin American Program at the Wilson CenterThe Carter Center and the Community of Democracies


View photos from the event on Flickr:

Defense of Democracy