01 September 2020

Interview with Marie-Laure Salles, New Director of the Graduate Institute

Marie-Laure Salles comes to the Institute after a vibrant career at both Sciences Po Paris and ESSEC Business School in Paris. 

You assumed the responsibilities as Director of the Institute on 1 September 2020. What motivated you to accept this position?

I have always admired the Graduate Institute for the excellence of its faculty, the relevance of the scholarship it produces and the unique role and position it has occupied historically. When I spent some months at the Institute a few years ago, I was also very impressed by the exceptional professionalism of its administrative team. I feel intellectually very much at home at the Institute, having built my scholarly career on the exploration of themes and challenges that resonate with its focal points – the transnational dynamics of economic organisation and regulation, and their socio-political implications.

For a few years now, I have been convinced that in the context of our increasingly complex and uncertain world, we need to rethink the way we train the next generations of decision makers – whether in the private, public or not-for-profit sectors, or at the national or inter/transnational levels. This has been my project over the last four years in building the School of Management and Innovation at Sciences Po Paris.

I feel honoured and privileged to be able to work with the entire team and partners of the Institute on the development of a common project: a new energy and momentum to help us navigate the rough waves of contemporary challenges with the ever-increasing need for the reinvention of international collaboration. 

You are already familiar with the Institute, having spent a year here as a visiting professor as well as a visiting fellow at the Global Governance Centre. What are the strengths of the Institute, in your opinion?

The Graduate Institute has many strengths to build on. As I mentioned already, I am particularly impressed by the excellence of the faculty and the contemporary relevance of the scholarship being produced. I would also like to mention the exceptional professionalism of the entire administrative team, which contributes to making the Institute a Boutique academic institution, where quality is a shared culture. The network of partners – academic, philanthropic, professional – is also extremely impressive. Finally, the unique position of the Institute as a key hub for the international and transnational community and nevertheless still strongly inscribed in its local (Geneva and Switzerland) context, remains an exceptional asset of the Institute. 

You are a specialist in corporate governance, ethics and corporate social responsibility. How can an institute like ours innovate in these areas?

In our contemporary world, the boundaries between political, economic and social spheres have become increasingly blurred. Multinational corporations are not only producing economic goods and services, they have also become, and very much so, powerful political actors, strongly involved in the transnational/international dynamics of governance.

The Institute is intellectually well-equipped to explore the nature and consequences of this evolution. Corporate governance, ethics and corporate social responsibility are important new frontiers for international relations. If we are to understand, and, perhaps more importantly, find solutions to the many challenges that confront our world, we will need to reinvent forms of international collaboration. In that context, economic actors will definitely be key players, with a strong responsibility in the development of more sustainable and inclusive dynamics. 

Sustainable development is present in the teaching and research carried out at the Institute. How should we continue our efforts in this area?

The acute nature of the challenges our world is facing – from climate change to environmental risks and global health threats, from the social and political consequences of inequalities to the return of illiberal politics, from the weakening of international institutions of collaboration to the return of authoritarian dynamics often with a technological edge – means that we need to move to a new stage. Whereas sustainability has for long been a side issue, an add-on, it should become today a core focus. And sustainability naturally implies inclusiveness.

International relations and organisations need to enter and foster a new phase – where an inclusive and sustainable world becomes the core target and not just an afterthought. If not, they are likely to fall into irrelevance!