Creativity, Community & Commerce in the Indo-Pacific

2 – 3 February, 2021

Reset, Resilience and Recovery

The Observer Research Foundation and the Government of Maharashtra are delighted to announce the launch of ‘Colaba Conversation’ – Mumbai’s signature forum for discussing international policy issues affecting the city, the nation, and the world.

This year’s inaugural conference to take place on February 2nd and 3rd, 2021, will invite policymakers, business leaders, experts, and community leaders to discuss global cooperation in a deeply critical and contested world. We will see over 70 speakers from 20 countries converge virtually at Mumbai, the bustling port city and economic capital of India.

The pandemic is radically transforming the way we live, work, and interact; a ‘new normal’ is crystallising. This transition will require an equal reengineering of the global economy, policy-making institutions, and governance processes. Rethinking a new global governance architecture needs room for short-term responses guided by the evolving nature of the pandemic and long-term responses guided by the fundamental shifts in global affairs.

The Indo-Pacific has now replaced the Asia-Pacific as the world’s primary theatre of geopolitics and geoeconomics, making India a primary stakeholder on strategic issues of the region. The rise of state-led capitalism evangelised by China and the diminished influence of the post-war security arrangements is forcing nations to cement new defence and economic alliances.

Within national boundaries, a new contract between markets, states and society is appearing. Sub-national governments and leaders are collaborating with their peers globally to respond to climate change, pandemics, and inequality, and to the needs of globalised youth. A new governance paradigm is emerging as technological advances are being leveraged to improve governance and economic opportunity.

Mumbai’s thriving international business centre, creative ecosystem and diverse communities makes it an ideal place to discuss emerging governance issues afflicting the world.

Named after ‘Kulaba’, one of the seven islands that created the archipelago of Mumbai, the Colaba Conversation will serve as a medium for multi-stakeholder consultations and dialogue on the emerging role of commerce, community, and creativity in the Indo-Pacific.  In order to interrogate these evolving global dynamics with purpose and foresight, there are four convictions that will guide the forum namely: ‘Para-diplomacy’, ‘Globalised cities’, ‘Digital Futures’,  and the ‘New Green Deal’.

First, sub-national leaders and governments are playing an integral role in global affairs. Globally fluent cities are setting the norms of the unfamiliar order. The current volatility in the world calls for a virtual shrinking of geographies and building from both within and beyond. It is the moment to look for the commons. ‘Para-diplomacy’ can complement federal policies, create healthy competition for investment and lead to allocative efficiency, where states and city governments are able to accelerate the process of attracting investment and technical know-how into areas where they enjoy a comparative advantage.

Second, building an economically vibrant, interconnected and prosperous Asia is unlikely without a dynamic and reinvigorated Mumbai. Or indeed, without Asia’s other megacities. In addition to being hubs of innovation, commerce and culture, cities are the biggest source of economic activity. In a world where the nation state has often failed to address the root causes of populism and economic nationalism – the need for cities to engage with global conversations is magnified. Urban communities must adapt to the confluence of culture and technology to create a new “globalism”. This is where the conviction of ‘Globalised Cities’ emerges.

Third, as the disruptions of the 4IR and economy interconnectedness play out more aggressively in the post-pandemic New Normal, the social and cultural ecosystems will necessitate forging digital communities sensitive to cross-cultural diversities. Responding to demographic transformations through large scale investment in human capital, education and skilling are key to capitalise on the dividends of the 4th industrial revolution. ‘Digital Futures’ will look at seeking answers for the next six billion and the challenges of the future of work and the gig-economy.

Fourth, addressing climate change will require a multidimensional approach, one that focuses on new clean technologies, green financial instruments like muni-bonds, carbon-neutral business practices, and reinvesting in nature – simultaneously and seriously. The transition towards the ‘New Green Deal’ for India and the world will therefore need to promote a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder, multidimensional response to climate change.

The Colaba conversation will bring together a global network of leaders from government, industry, media, the youth and civil society to deconstruct, debate, and shape the politics, perceptions and policies which will be vital to the emergence of a new global order.

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Abha Lambah (India)
Conservation Architect
Aditya Thackeray (India)
Minister, Environment and Climate Change, Tourism, Government of Maharashtra
Amandeep S. Gill (Switzerland)
CEO and Project Director, The International Digital Health and AI Research Collaborative (I-DAIR)
Almut Möller (Germany)
State Councillor, Hamburg, Germany
Anil Sooklal (South Africa)
Deputy Director-General Asia and Middle East, Department of International Relations and Cooperation, South Africa
Ashwini Bhide (India)
Additional Municipal Commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai
Chris Painter (United States)
President, Global Forum Cyber Expertise Foundation Board
Claudia Warning (Germany)
Director General Asia, Middle East, Latin America, Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development
Darshan Hiranandani
Managing Director and CEO, Hiranandani Group
David Rasquinha (India)
Managing Director, EXIM Bank, India
Ebtesam Al Ketbi (UAE)
President,Emirates Policy Center, UAE/ Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Advisory Board
Eleni Kounalakis (United States)
Lieutenant Governor, California
Ephraim Percy Kenyanito (Kenya)
Senior Programme Officer, Article 19, Kenya
Fahad Al-Turki (Saudi Arabia)
Vice-President, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre, T20 Chair 2020
Geraldine Ang (France)
Senior Analyst, Green Finance and Investment, OECD
Ian Klaus (United States)
Senior Fellow, Global Cities, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Iverna McGowan (Belgium)
Europe Director, Centre for Democracy and Technology, Belgium
Jay Kotak (India)
Associate Vice President, Kotak Mahindra Bank
Joachim von Amsberg
Vice President, Policy and Strategy, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
Julia Pomares (Argentina)
Executive Director at Centre for the Implementation of Public Policies for Equity and Growth – T20 Co-Chair 2018
Julie Becker (Luxembourg)
Deputy CEO, LuxSE and Founder, Luxembourg Green Exchange
Kate Hampton (United Kingdom)
CEO, Children's Investment Fund Foundation
Kate Klonick (United States)
Assistant Professor of Law, St. John's University Law School
Kurihara Toshihiko (Japan)
New Delhi Representative, Japan Bank for International Cooperation
Kwame Owino (Kenya)
CEO, Institute of Economic Affairs, Kenya
Lianne Dalziel (New Zealand)
Mayor, Christchurch
Maitreyi Bordia Das (United States)
Manager, Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice, The World Bank
Margaret Beazley (Australia)
Governor, New South Wales
Marina Kaljurand (Estonia)
Member of European Parliament, Estonia
Mohamed El Dahshan (United Kingdom)
Managing Director, OXCON Frontier Markets and Fragile States, Associate Fellow, Chatham House
Nadia Schadlow (United States)
Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute and Former US Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy
Nicholas Brooke (Hong Kong)
Chairman, Urban Land Institute Asia Pacific
Oluwatosin Durotoye (Nigera)
Founder, The Bloom Africa and CEO, Conselia Advisory Practice
Paolo Magri (Italy)
Executive Vice-President and Director, Italian Institute for International Political Studies, T20 Chair 2021, Italy
Peter N. Varghese (Australia)
Chancellor, University of Queensland, and Former Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia
Priyanka Chaturvedi (India)
Member of Parliament, India
Peter Rimmele (Germany)
Resident-Representative to India, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung
Radhika Gupta (India)
Managing Director and CEO, Edelweiss Asset Management Limited
Rafiq Dossani (United States)
Director, RAND Center for Asia Pacific Policy
Rajesh Shah (India)
Co-Chairman and Managing Director, Mukand Company Limited and Member, Board of Trustees, Observer Research Foundation
Ram Sidis (Israel)
Deputy Director-General, Federation of Local Authorities, Israel
Regina Ramos (United States)
Deputy Director, Pilots and Innovation, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Rohinton Medhora (Canada)
President, Centre for International Governance Innovation
Shaina NC (India)
National Spokesperson, Bharatiya Janata Party
Shirley Rodrigues (United Kingdom)
Deputy Mayor, Environment and Energy, Greater London Authority
Shloka Nath (India)
Acting-Director, India Climate Collaborative and Head of Sustainability and Special Projects, Tata Trusts
Shruti Narayan (India)
Regional Director, South and West Asia Regions, C40 Cities, India
Sumant Sinha (India)
Chairman and Managing Director, ReNew Power
Ted Baillieu (Australia)
Enterprise Professor, Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, The University of Melbourne and Former Premier, Victoria, Australia
Terri Chapman (United States)
Urban Analyst, The World Bank
Theresa Schopper (Germany)
Minister of State, Ministry of Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Shri Uddhav Thackeray (India)
Chief Minister, Government of Maharashtra, India
Yashomati Thakur (India)
Minister of Women and Child Development, Government of Maharashtra
Zhiwu Chen (Hong Kong)
Director, Asia Global Institute
Aditi Ratho (India)
Associate Fellow, Observer Research Foundation Mumbai
Akshay Mathur (India)
Director, Observer Research Foundation Mumbai, and Head of ORF Geoeconomics Programme
Dhaval Desai (India)
Vice-President at Observer Research Foundation Mumbai
Dhruva Jaishankar (United States)
Executive Director, ORF America, United States
Maya Mirchandani (India)
Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation
Mitali Mukherjee (India)
Fellow, Observer Research Foundation
Mihir Sharma (India)
Senior Fellow and Head, Economy and Growth Programme, Observer Research Foundation
Navdeep Suri (India)
Distinguished Fellow and Director of the Centre for New Economic Diplomacy, Observer Research Foundation
Rajeswari Pillai Rajgopalan (India)
Distinguished Fellow and Head Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative, Observer Research Foundation
Sayli Mankikar (India)
Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation Mumbai
Sunjoy Joshi (India)
Chairman, Observer Research Foundation
Trisha Ray (India)
Associate Fellow, Observer Research Foundation



Aditi Ratho
Associate Fellow
Akshay Mathur
Director ORF Mumbai and Head of ORF Geoeconomics Studies Programme
Dhaval Desai
Vice President and Senior Fellow
Sayli Udas-Mankikar
Senior Fellow
Ameya Mondkar
Associate Fellow and Programme Coordinator
Ami Pandya
Associate Fellow and New Media Manager
Shashidhar K.J
Associate Fellow
Shruti Jain
Junior Fellow