The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is a global affairs think tank, describing itself as "an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues."
The Council was formed on February 20, 1922. Originally named The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, the organization was established as a neutral forum for discussing foreign affairs during a period of isolationism in the United States after World War I.
Adlai Stevenson served as president of The Chicago Council from 1935 to 1937. The Council launched World Spotlight in 1955, a weekly television series airing on WTTW. The series aired for about 5 years and featured Council Director Carter Davidson and guests, who discussed world events. In 1971, John E. Rielly became executive director of the Council, and in 1974, became president, serving the leadership position until 2001. Under Rielly, the Council began releasing annual surveys of American public opinion on United States foreign policy.
In September 2006, the Council changed its name from the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Former United States NATO Ambassador Ivo Daalder became president of the Council in July 2013. In 2016 it was ranked No. 1 "Think Tank to Watch" by the University of Pennsylvania's Think Tank and Civil Societies Program.
The Council hosts public events with international speakers, policymakers, business executives, journalists, and other experts. In 2014–15, the Council disclosed that it held more than 200 public and private programs with approximately 41,600 attendees in person and online.
Notable speakers at the Council have included Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Viktor Yushchenko, Tony Blair, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, King Abdullah II, Jon Stewart, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, Robert Gates, and Hillary Clinton. Several past or current United States presidents have also spoken at the Council, including Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama.
In May 2015, the Council partnered with the Financial Times to host the Chicago Forum on Global Cities, a three-day international event exploring how global cities can address issues like education, inequality, security, and climate change.