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Meeting for a peaceful world

Each year, the Munich Security Conference brings together leading figures to discuss crisis prevention and security: facts about the MSC. 

Christoph Heusgen, chairman of the Munich Security Conference
Christoph Heusgen, chairman of the Munich Security Conference © picture alliance/dpa

The Munich Security Conference (MSC) takes place each year in the capital of the German state of Bavaria. The conference is attended by high-ranking representatives of politics, business, academia and civil society, who come to Germany from all over the world – despite the fact that it is not hosted by the German government, but is in fact a private event. We answer key questions about the MSC. 

What is the Munich Security Conference? 

The MSC is the world’s most important informal forum for discussing questions of security policy. It is also the largest conference of its kind. Heads of state, government ministers, decision-makers and experts from the fields of research and industry join NGOs in discussing foreign and security policy challenges. The MSC is also a platform for diplomatic initiatives and private meetings, providing an opportunity to talk about the most pressing security concerns. More than 100 side events are associated with the MSC; these are organised in cooperation with NGOs such as Transparency International, Greenpeace or Amnesty International.  

What are the objectives of the MSC? 

“The MSC’s objective is to build trust and to contribute to the peaceful resolution of conflicts,” is how the conference itself describes its mission. To this end, it promotes dialogue, where dialogue would not otherwise be possible, by enabling officials to engage in informal exchange. It wishes to provide a platform for ideas, new intellectual approaches and initiatives. Each year, more than “450 high-profile and senior decision-makers as well as thought-leaders from around the world” come to Munich for this purpose. The MSC embraces a comprehensive definition of security that also has an economic, environmental and human dimension.  

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Who organises the MSC?  

The MSC is privately organised and hosted by the Munich Security Conference Foundation. It was established in December 2018 to lastingly ensure the MSC’s independence. In the meantime, not only the German government but also the Bavarian state government, the Robert Bosch Foundation and EnBW AG have been amongst those that have donated money to the foundation. 

Who is the chairman of the Munich Security Conference? 

Since the beginning of 2022, Ambassador Christoph Heusgen has been the chairman of the MSC and thus the host and face of the conference. From 2005, the diplomat had been the foreign and security policy adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and, between 2017 and 2021, was the German ambassador to the UN. He succeeded Wolfgang Ischinger, who had been the conference chairman since 2008. Ischinger had previously been Germany’s ambassador in Washington and London. 

When was the MSC founded? 

The security conference was the follow-up to the Internationale Wehrkundetagung, which had been initiated as a private meeting in 1963 by Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist, a former member of the resistance member. His aim was to counter the threat posed by military conflicts. The guests at the first meeting included the later German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and the later US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.  

Are special MSC conferences held? 

Besides the meeting in Munich, the MSC regularly organises special events on specific topics and regions. In 2023, for example, it hosted the Munich Leaders Meetings in Nairobi and Tokyo. The Munich Young Leaders attend a joint conference with the MSC in Munich. In Germany, a series of events entitled “Zeitenwende on tour” provides an opportunity for German security policy to be discussed in citizens’ forums. 

Why is the Chatham House Rule important? 

Most MSC events are public or held under the Chatham House Rule. Named after the former Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, the rule was first defined in 1927 and stipulates that information from discussions can be used without identifying who it came from or who took part in the discussions. The aim of the rule is to be able to publicly use as much information as possible that otherwise might not have been disclosed.