2022 College and University Educators Workshop
The 2022 College and University Educators Workshop is part of the CFR Academic initiative. The goal of the Educators Workshop is to find new ways for professors to encourage their students to learn about the world and the role of the United States in it. Every year, CFR invites professors from colleges and universities across the country to participate in substantive briefings with experts, explore the wide array of CFR and Foreign Affairs teaching and research resources available to the academic community, and share best practices and educational tools for bringing global issues into the classroom.
The full agenda is available here.
This workshop was made possible in part through the generosity of David M. Rubenstein.
HAASS: Wow. People in person. (Laughter, applause.) Fantastic. You brave, hearty souls. It’s great to have you.
Welcome, one and all, to the Council on Foreign Relations. I also want to welcome those who are not with us in person—those who are with us virtually rather than physically. You are all equal, though I do have a slight bias toward those of you in the room.
Seriously, welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations. This is the tenth annual College and University Educators Workshop. I am Richard Haass. I am president of the Council, and I will be presiding over the conversation. It is great to have so many of you in the room—as I said, also people around the United States and the world. David Rubenstein, who is our chairman, has made this possible with his support.
For those of you who don’t know who we are an independent membership organization. We’re a think tank, we’re a publisher, and we’re in the same business you are—we’re an educational institution. And we’re nonpartisan, we’re independent, and our whole mission is to provide analysis and to help people better understand the world and foreign policy choices.
We’re going to do this tonight, and then tomorrow, you’re going to learn a lot about some of our educational offerings and, hopefully, when you leave here you’ll take some of those with you. We’ve made this a major priority for the Council.
It wasn’t always such. This is our hundred and first year, and starting about a decade or so ago we decided to make education a priority and we’re now one of the leading producers and disseminators of educational materials, teaching Americans and others about the world, and so this is increasingly what we are about.
I also hope you look at our magazine, Foreign Affairs, and the website, ForeignAffairs.com. Hope you look at CFR.org. I could go on, but I won’t. Bottom line, though, is we’re here to be a resource for you, not just while you’re in this room or on the internet but more broadly, and if you have ideas about what more we could do or how we could do things differently and better, don’t hold back. Shyness is an overrated virtue, if it’s a virtue at all.
Okay. There is no shortage of issues to cover, in case you hadn’t noticed. A lot is going on. Well, I don’t know about you but I am working—I’m drinking from the fire hose. It’s a lot going on, and what we’ve got tonight are four experts—Dr., Dr., Dr., and Dr.—who can talk about four different aspects of things and we’re going to do that.
I’m going to filibuster for a while with them in the spirit of American politics and I’ll ask them a few questions, and then we’ll open it up to you all here in the room and in virtual land and you can ask the serious questions.
Let me just quickly introduce them. To my immediate left is Luciana Borio, a senior fellow here at the Council on global health and she served—she has, like, one of the coolest bios—as director for medical and biodefense preparedness at the National Security Council and she was also acting chief scientist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
If you want to know—I mean, I think the first several questions should be whether you should take boosters, wear masks, and all that. She’s your person. She’s your person to do that.
Next to—oh, you’re out of order here. Ebenezer Obadare. Ebenezer is the Douglas Dillon senior fellow here for Africa studies, and before being here, he was a professor of sociology—which I was once told is the queen of the social sciences—at the University of Kansas.
To his left is Steven Cook, who is the Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for the Middle East and Africa. More important, Steven is this country’s, I think, on the shortlist of leading experts both on Turkey and on the Middle East— above all, Egypt.
Plus, most important, he’s a New York Giants football fan—(laughter)—and one of the reasons this meeting will not go over tonight is there’s an important event tonight, which is called the NFL draft. The Giants have the fifth and seventh choices—
COOK: The reason I have to run to a TV.
HAASS: —and some of us have a major stake in the outcome of that. (Laughter.) Last but not least, if I haven’t lost her already, Angela Stent, on the screen. She’s senior advisor at the Brookings Institution. She’s a professor emerita. Is that the right—is that the right thing?
HAASS: —I think so, emerita—(laughter)—of government and foreign service at Georgetown. She spent several years as the national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia on the National Intelligence Council and she is, quite simply, one of this country’s real resources and real treasures when it comes to understanding Russia.
So we have an abundance of riches here so we’re going to talk about a few issues, and, like I said, we’ll open it up to you.
Angela, I’m going to start with you because you win the competition for the most immediate, sexy, pressing topic, which is, obviously, all things Ukraine and Russia. So let’s start with that and then we’ll extend out.
So I got all sorts of questions for you. So if Mr.—someone’s pointing at me. Am I doing something wrong already? Julissa, do you want me to do something differently?
STAFF: (Off mic.)
HAASS: Oh, okay. It’s okay, I can—Angela, so if Mr. Putin had known two months ago that he’d be where he is today would he have started this war?
STENT: Well, thank you, Richard. It’s a great question, and thank you for inviting me to be on this panel and talking to all the educators.
Yeah. Putin made a number of serious miscalculations. He thought that the Ukrainian army was weak, that the Ukrainian people would surrender, and that Russia could take Ukraine in seventy-two hours. He thought his own army would perform in a stellar fashion and we’ve seen that it really has performed at a subpar level.
The corruption that pervades Russian society pervades the army, too, and so a lot of money that should have gone to modernizing the army, training people, and new equipment went into someone’s pockets.
And then he also miscalculated the extent to which the United States, its European and its Asian allies would come together unified to prevent—try and prevent Putin from doing what he wanted to do and to impose—
HAASS: But other than that he got it—he got it exactly right.
STENT: Right—(laughs)—and impose—yeah. The only part he got right, and maybe we’ll come back to that, is that China, India, many countries in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, don’t take the same view and they haven’t condemned Russia.
But having said all that, I think he would have done it because he has been chafing at the bit to try and absorb Ukraine. He, apparently, really believes that Ukrainians and Russians are one people, and that when the Soviet Union collapsed he called it the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century and that was because twenty-five million Russians found themselves outside of Russia and twelve million of those Russians were in Ukraine.
So he’s been so determined to reverse the Soviet collapse and to reengage and reabsorb as many of the former Soviet republics as he can that he probably would have gone ahead with this because he would have still believed somehow that the Russian army could prevail.
HAASS: The reason that he got so many of his judgments wrong about Europe, the United States, Ukraine, as well as his own army is why? Because I actually—tell me where I’m wrong here. I actually said he wasn’t crazy.
To make poor judgments doesn’t mean that. It just sometimes means either you’re fed bad information or you have a bad processing system. What’s your reading on why this guy, who’s been running the place for two decades plus, why he got so many things—why is his batting average so low?
STENT: He’s been president of Russia for twenty-two years. He’s become increasingly authoritarian. I think he’s become increasingly self-confident and believing that he doesn’t need other people’s advice, and removed, really, from reality.
So I think his assessment of Ukraine is probably twenty years old when Ukraine was much weaker, it was corrupt, and there wasn’t a strong national identity.
His assessment of the transatlantic alliance, probably he’s still in the Trump era, when he saw a weak alliance and he looked at what happened when we withdrew from Afghanistan. And in terms of his own military, I think he was just ill-informed.
So I think it’s a combination of excessive self-confidence, if you like, and then being fed information by a few people around him. And don’t forget he’s been in isolation since COVID began, and even when he met the secretary-general of the UN two days ago they’re still at the long tables.
So it’s isolation and having, I would say, filtered information given to him by people who do not want to tell him something that they know that he doesn’t want to hear.
HAASS: I could go on for about an hour about the long table but I will show uncharacteristic restraint.
So, in Russia, his numbers seem pretty strong. Is that because people don’t speak truth to pollsters or is it because he’s so successfully managed information that it actually reflects that most people in Russia think this was, to use language I would like, a war of necessity rather than a war of choice and think this is—it’s going okay and that he’s fighting for the motherland? What’s your sense or your reading of the internal situation and whether it, in a sense, enables him or pressures him?
STENT: Well, at least since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and began the war in the Donbas, the Russian population has been fed a steady diet of extreme anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism, criticizing the Ukrainians for being Russophobic. And so and this—it’s got worse since 2014. So that if you watch any state-run media, it’s by now completely hysterical and they’re now describing this as a kind of holy war against the decadent un-Christian West.
And so if you’ve been fed this for so long, on some level, you come to believe it. And then I think there is something in the way that he’s communicating to the Russian people, harking back to World War II, saying, we’re fighting the Nazis. So you dehumanize the Ukrainians, you liken them to the Germans in World War II, and then you can sort of arouse in people this kind of good-feeling patriotic fervor.
You know, COVID may be awful. Their economic situation may be awful. But, yes, we’re fighting the good fight and we’re going to prevail against the West and against the Nazis. And I think that does account for some of the popularity.
Now, of course, people may not be telling the truth to the pollsters. I mean, if someone calls you on an open line in Russia and asks you these questions about how you feel about Putin and the war, you’re going to think twice about saying anything that’s critical. But I think we shouldn’t underestimate the extent to which this kind of war fervor now and fighting the, quote/unquote, “Nazis” really can appeal to people and rouse them.
HAASS: What’s going on with the sound something? OK. Oh, somebody’s phone. OK. If it’s for me I’m not in.
So when the—over the weekend, you had the secretary of defense of the United States talk about our strategic goal is to weaken Russia. You heard the secretary of state saying our—talking about achieving success and so forth. Is this feeding into Putin’s efforts to change this narrative into a Russia versus the U.S., Russia versus NATO—an existential threat, in a sense? Is what I have described—I’ll just be honest—as a lack of message discipline on our side, is that actually helping Putin?
STENT: Yeah. I, certainly, read your comments, Richard, on what Secretary Austin said. You see, on the one hand, I would say to you Putin has believed for years, A, that the U.S. wants regime change in Russia, and B, that the U.S. is trying to weaken Russia.
And, of course, Russia and Putin have for many years tried to weaken the West, sow divisions between the Europeans and the Americans, sow divisions within the U.S. and within Europe with all their election interference.
So part of me would say, these people are just saying the obvious and we shouldn’t get so excited about it. But I do agree with you sort of on the international stage probably one does have to be a little bit more prudent about what one says because this then, of course, immediately feeds into yet another threat from—I guess it was Lavrov, the latest one—of the possibility of nuclear war.
So this escalatory rhetoric that we get from Russia and the concerns that people have that this could really mean—could lead to some kind of nuclear incident. So probably it’s more prudent to be a little bit more tempered in the way one expresses things.
HAASS: Last question in this round. Then I want to—you just broached the question of the nuclear comments by Lavrov and the rest. There is a—there’s something of a debate going on about that, about whether when the Russians talk about things nuclear it’s simply to deter us from doing things nonnuclear, or whether when they talk about things nuclear that’s a real possibility, that if, for example, Ukraine gained the military momentum, was pushing Russian forces out of the Donbas, a desperate Putin might decide that his least bad option at that point is nuclear weapons.
What is your sense of when the Russians talk nuclear is that just rhetoric aimed to, essentially, scare us and get us to back off? Or can you imagine circumstances where Putin, if he wanted to use nuclear weapons, would have the ability to do so, that there’s, simply, the constraints don’t exist in contemporary Russia to prevent him from doing so?
STENT: So, I mean, as someone who has always believed that deterrence has worked—it, certainly, worked during the Cold War—I would like to think that it’s the former, that this is just something to try and warn off the West, to try and scare the West and deter more U.S. heavy—and from other countries—heavy weaponry getting to Ukraine. One would like to think that that’s the purpose of this.
But, I think, where we are now, I don’t think many people really thought that Putin would suddenly undertake this unprovoked invasion. I know our intelligence agencies looked at it and thought that he would, but I think most other people didn’t think that this was possible in the year 2022. And, again, I don’t think that Putin is unhinged or crazy. But it seems that he does feel increasingly cornered probably by the lack of success of this invasion so far.
So, unfortunately, you can’t completely rule this out even though this would fly in the face of everything that’s happened since the Soviet Union first detonated its first atomic weapon in 1949 and that we have abided by the rules of mutually assured destruction.
HAASS: OK. On that happy note, I want to now segue to some of your colleagues. It gets worse from here, by the way. (Laughter.) This is serious stuff. I’m actually—I’m not going to go to you, Lu, yet. I’m going to go to Steven first.
So, Steven, you know, people—if we had had this conversation here a couple of years ago, we would have started with you because you were cool then. (Laughter.) The Middle East was cool, but less so now.
But talk for a second—I mean, the Middle East is a big importer of grain. Two biggest—two of the biggest exporters in the world of grain happen to be Russia and Ukraine. It’s a decade since the Arab Spring. People aren’t drawing connections. Is it possible that what’s going on here with Russia-Ukraine could have all sorts of implications for life, stability, you name it, in the Middle East? What’s going on?
COOK: That’s a—it’s a great question, Richard. First of all, I just want to say thanks for having me. It’s only my second trip to New York in two and a half years so it’s really nice, and it’s really nice to be in the same room with all of you as well.
HAASS: This is part of the policy of reducing travel budgets. (Laughter.) It’s been phenomenally successful.
COOK: Let me just start out with a brief factoid. A number of weeks ago, the Qataris, the United Arab Emirates, and the Saudis committed $12 billion to the Egyptian treasury. Clearly, people are worried about the stability of nonoil-producing states in the region. Egypt is the largest importer of wheat in the world and 80 percent to 85 percent of that wheat comes from a combination of Russia and Ukraine.
And it’s not just Egypt that is food insecure as a result of this—as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Iraq, Algeria, which supplies 25 percent of Spain’s gas—Tunisia is a tiny little country that doesn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things but also produced an overwhelming number of ISIS fighters. Even Israel, which doesn’t really have food insecurity, imports a tremendous amount of wheat and grain from Russia and Ukraine.
So if people think that, after the coup in Egypt in July 2013 and this kind of resurgence of authoritarian and these authoritarian leaders had really gained control over and established political control in a way that has made what happened in 2011 impossible, I think if you look and you dig deep down, all the things that contributed to the kind of vast reservoir of unhappiness and anger that led to these uprisings, uprisings that happened in every single country except for Qatar and the UAE, all continue to exist, and on many, many dimensions are even worse than they were before. And the only answer many of these authoritarian leaders have is to use more force and more coercion against their populations and that, of course, is the most expensive and most dangerous way—place for them to be.
So, there are tremendously risky—it puts these countries and the stability of these countries at risk. Egypt has a history of bread riots. There are now longer and longer lines in Egypt—a quarter of the Arab world—for bread at subsidized bakeries, not because the prices have come up but because the government is running out of wheat and has had to reduce the flow of flour to state-subsidized bakeries. It’s a huge problem for a country where the vast majority of people live on less than $2 a day. So there is—
HAASS: We’re talking about a hundred million people.
COOK: A hundred and ten million people, at least that we know about, and, of course, the Egyptian statistics agency always lies about everything. So it’s a real problem. And so, in a way, if you look at it that way you can understand sort of the delicate balancing act some of these countries have sought to pursue after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
HAASS: I got lots of questions. A couple more.
HAASS: So one of the issues for U.S. foreign policy is to find ways to get lots of oil out there and gas out there because it substitutes for Russian oil and gas. It reduces price pressures and so forth. It ain’t working so well. As we used to say in Brooklyn, how come?
COOK: Yeah. It’s a good question. A barrel of oil at a hundred, a hundred-plus dollars a barrel is really good for the Saudis. They can—the crown prince can build his NEOM, the city that he wants to build on the Red Sea, with technologies and all kinds of things that don’t actually even exist.
So the price spike has been good for the bottom line for these countries. They also don’t want to bust the agreement that they have with the Russians because they’ve been hedging with the Russians. There is—I was just in the Gulf—there is a profound distrust of the United States in the Gulf, going back now two administrations and then going forward with this administration, that the United States will remain an anchor of stability and security in the region and, as a result, they’ve been hedging with the Russians. They’ve been hedging with the Chinese.
And so they don’t want to undermine the relationship with the Russians if they don’t believe that the United States is going to be around and going to be around at the moment of truth. So you have the question of price and you have the question of hedging, and then there’s also just the kind of personal difficulties.
When President Biden, essentially, declared this Saudi crown prince persona non grata in the United States when he said, “I won’t deal with him,” the Saudi attitude was just you wait and see. You will need us at some point. And now the crown prince—if you’ve read the big Atlantic article—is, basically, saying, now you need me and I have other options.
So this—these kinds of things are the kinds of things that are playing into why the Saudis and Emiratis don’t want to play ball.
HAASS: I’d like to follow up. This is—it’s going to seem like an odd question but work with me here. So when the national security adviser shows up in Saudi Arabia and the crown prince, the most powerful person in the country, greets him and meets with him wearing shorts, which has never happened to me in my decades of our diplomacy, how does one interpret—that could be seen as a sign of casual friendship or that could be seen as a sign of contempt and disrespect. I’m curious, how do you see that?
COOK: (Laughs.) I think—it’s tempting to say—everything that we think we know about the crown prince it’s tempting to say that he was, basically, sending a message to the national security adviser that he doesn’t take him very seriously.
But the other things that we know about the crown prince is that he wants people to see Saudi Arabia as different from what it once was. He wants them to see him as a—someone who’s in his thirties, open to the world, more casual than the kind of very, very kind of protocol heavy, difficult way in which you previously had to negotiate your way in Saudi Arabia, particularly for American diplomats, and I think he wanted to signal a certain openness to the conversation.
That doesn’t necessarily wash away the long list of difficulties between the two of them. But I tend to believe that that was, let’s—you’re a young guy, Mr. Sullivan. I’m a young guy. Let’s try to have a relationship here. Let’s be open with each other and talk to each other.
HAASS: So I want to make a—since you’re all academics, I am going to make a recommendation. There’s a doctoral thesis on this—(laughter)—which is the interpretation of shorts and whether it’s a sign of a friendship or disrespect, and I take—take your side.
Steven, what else is going on? I mean, we don’t hear a lot about Syria. We don’t hear a lot about Yemen. We don’t hear anything, really, about Libya. There’s nothing—there’s been nothing new with the so-called Abraham Accords, Palestinian issues. We’re seeing more violence. Is there anything good going on in the Middle East right now or is the Middle East, in a sense, reverting to form and, once again, we’re seeing, essentially, a region defined by—essentially, by problems rather than progress?
COOK: Well, I mean, it is a—and this is one of the things—I’m not cool anymore but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t multiple layers of problems in the Middle East. But I will say two things. One, there’s a ceasefire in Yemen, which is a good thing. It was—it began at the beginning of Ramadan and it has held.
Nobody believed it would last more than forty-eight hours, and it has held. And the Saudis have helped establish a new governing council, which may make it easier to negotiate their way out of Yemen, which would be very good for everybody.
The second thing is the Abraham Accords—an extraordinary thing. I was in—when I was in the Gulf, I then did an extraordinary thing. In Dubai, I got on an El Al airliner and I crossed Saudi Arabian airspace and landed in Ben Gurion Airport in a plane with three hundred crazy Israelis, because they just been partying in Dubai for as long as they’ve been there, and you can’t get in an elevator in Dubai or Abu Dhabi without hearing the sing-song of Hebrew. It’s rather extraordinary.
But that wasn’t even the most extraordinary thing about this visit. As I was leaving Israel—I was there for about a week—was the big Negev Summit that included the secretary of state and the foreign ministers from Israel, obviously, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, and United Arab Emirates in which they talked about regional cooperation and they committed to making this an annual meeting in Sde Boker, the final resting place of David Ben Gurion, the founder of Israel. That’s extraordinary.
Now, the Abraham Accords, obviously, there are problems with them. They’ve left the Palestinians behind. There is no real solution to that conflict. There is no real evidence that Moroccans or Bahrainis or Emiratis, if you can find them, actually support the Abraham Accords. But there was a lot of activity. There was signing of scientific agreements, health care agreements, alternative energy agreements. Obviously, the tourism is quite important.
So there are things that are going on, and Saudi Arabia, in a way, is a virtual member—virtual signatory to the Abraham Accords. I could not have done what I had done without the Saudis saying that was OK. So there is something to build on. If it has been a goal of American foreign policy over many years to widen the circle of peace, as peace processors say, this has been so far in the early going actually pretty successful.
HAASS: Since we got a lot to cover, I didn’t get to Iran and I didn’t get to Turkey, and the Turkish leader was in Saudi Arabia today. So lots of material for you all—to ask.
Ebenezer, Steven’s description of the implications of this war and grain shipment—you know, supply chain, all that, does that pretty much characterize Africa as well, that Africa also feels, in some ways, as a mutilé de guerre of this—of this conflict in Europe? Is there a lot of, if you will, distributed suffering because of it?
OBADARE: Thank you for having me. Good to be here. It’s my first time in New York in the last, since—
COOK: Good to have you here.
OBADARE: —(inaudible)—as well. So, OK.
So the situation in Africa is, actually, very interesting. That’s a—it’s a great place to start. But the background to that, I think, is even more interesting, which is how we got here, which is how Africans and African countries think about the Ukrainian conflict.
So, for many outsiders, the African reaction has been a complete surprise. But if you are a student of African politics and if you’ve been looking at things from a Russian point of view, there is absolutely no surprise here.
I think, for the most part, people have paid attention to the Chinese influence in Africa, and flying under the radar, relatively undisturbed, Russia has been doing its thing. And I’m actually one of those people who believe that, I think, as far back as the Sochi Summit, about three or four years ago when forty-seven African leaders showed up in Russia, for—it was like, he’s planning something. So when this happened, that was confirmation for me that they have been plowing those furrows and they have been nourishing all those relationships.
So some of the consequences, and what you’ve just said about with scarcity and all of that, that, truly is being felt. But I think the situation in Africa is slightly different because before the Ukrainian conflict, before the fallout over the lack of importation of food and wheat, there was an economic crisis. I think we’ve forgotten that there was COVID, and COVID caused considerable distress across Africa, most of it untold. The statistics we are still not sure of. The data remains uncertain.
So, for many people—and this is the direct—the answer to your question—the distress over COVID has been rolled over into the distress over Ukraine. And in a nutshell, life has become even more difficult for a majority—for most people.
HAASS: So I’m not an expert, as you’ve already figured out, about Africa. One of the two most critical countries, though, in Africa south of the Sahara is, clearly, South Africa. I was reading the other day that unemployment there is approximately 35 percent.
HAASS: That is an unsustainable level for any society.
HAASS: What is going on and where does that take us? If that continues, how does South Africa survive?
OBADARE: You could say: How does Nigeria survive? How does Egypt survive? It’s a question that, I think, is relevant not just to South Africa but to majority of African countries.
Here is your—here is your get out. Real unemployment is not captured by the data, and this is what I mean. It does not figure—it does not account for the fact that a majority of the people live and earn their keep and hack out a living outside the formal sector, right? So you have to think about that.
The other thing is the networks of distribution that exist. So let me give myself—am I allowed to give myself as an example? (Laughs.) So—
HAASS: Even better, you could footnote yourself.
OBADARE: So, as an immigrant, I do the monthly ritual of sending money home, right? If you convert a dollar to the local currency in Nigeria, it’s a lot of money. I’m sure people from Latin America, from Asia, they do the same thing.
I’m bringing it up, though, because the extent to which that figures into people’s everyday calculations and how it helps people to fill the [inaudible] of everyday life. So it’s possible to have somebody who went to university who has never been employed but who is able to run a family.
So, on the one hand, your concrete data tells you this country is going to blow in another five years. But when you really look at what’s going on under the surface, that doesn’t happen because of all these other things that people tap into that don’t normally show up on the kind of data that we’re talking about. That’s how South Africa survives. That’s how Nigeria gets along. And that’s what all these other countries do.
HAASS: Let me ask you one more question, and I might ask Angela to respond to it as well. Why is it that so many African countries are so reticent to side with Ukraine and the West here in this crisis?
We think it’s such a good versus evil black versus white thing, and then you look at countries around the world, but, particularly, in Africa, and you’ve got, what, fifty-plus countries south of the Sahara and you look at the votes in the General Assembly, it’s quite—it’s sobering or revealing. You know, choose your adjective but it’s something. Is it because—is it just people, like India, they’re worried about Soviet—Russian-supplied weapons? Is it economic? Is it something more? Is it not, simply, narrow self-interest? Is there some other reason that explains the reticence?
OBADARE: There’s so many layers to it, and I’ve tried to explore some of the questions. I will encourage you to read—I think I’ve done three postings now on Ukraine and Africa. The last one came out this afternoon. Please read it because I try to sort of give the backdrop, give a little background to the African reaction.
One thing that I think has been missing from most conversations is something that has been happening, and I’m glad that there are—we’re all educators here. Over the last several years, if you read the literature on African politics, there is one term that you are going to come across, that’s—has gained currency: the colonial—the colonization.
In a nutshell, it’s about—I don’t want to tell you what I feel about the discourse, but it’s about supplanting Western epistemologies with African epistemologies. The underlying idea is that the West needs to be, as they say, decentered and African ways of knowing, African ideas, indigenous ways of knowing have to be brought onboard.
Now, in this situation of that intellectual ferment, you then have a war, apparently, between two European countries, right? And then what do people do? Oh, see, let them fight themselves. Let them duke it out. This is not our problem. Oh, I remember what they did in South Africa when they said, oh, the same moral clarity that applies to Ukraine does no longer apply—no longer applies. Oh, do you remember what they did to Gadhafi in Libya? Oh, do you remember what they did in—so a lot of history that has been bubbling under the surface has come up, and has been brought to the front burner in the context of—in this conflict. So, in a way, one is sort of glad that Russia has invaded Ukraine because, otherwise, there will have been no opportunity for some of these tensions that we’re now just witnessing to come out.
I think the basic thing that African countries are saying is they feel that they’ve been treated as juveniles in international politics. They feel that their agency is not respected and taken seriously. They think that when the West—they feel that when the West says jump they should jump; when the West says sit down they should sit down. They feel that there has been a lack of commensurability between Western rhetoric and Western action, and for many of these countries this is the right opportunity for them to be able to air their grievances.
HAASS: Before I turn to Lu, Angela, was this really a concerted thing for Russian foreign policy to, basically, I guess I’d use the word generously, invest in relationships in Africa and other parts of the world so if and when push came to shove, whether it was Ukraine or something else, Russia would have this enormous international cushion diplomatically but also when it comes to nonparticipation in sanctions?
STENT: So in September of 2019, just a week before the Africa summit, I was in Sochi with the Valdai Club, the annual meeting we had with President Putin and other people, and there were a lot of African delegates. That was the first time they’d ever invited any Africans there, and this started in 2004.
And so I talked to some of the African delegates privately. I happen to have written my master’s thesis—I won’t tell you when—on Soviet policy toward West Africa, particularly the Nigerian civil war. So I’ve always had an interest in this. And they said to me things that made sense to me, that, first of all, the Soviet Union was seen, you know, as their backer, as their supporter against colonialism and imperialism, particularly, South Africans, the ANC. You know, they were very much supported by the Soviet Union in their struggle against apartheid.
So there is a perception of Russia as the heir of the Soviet Union as being the anti-colonial power. And then the other thing they said, and it’s already been mentioned, we don’t like the fact that the Chinese are so heavy handed in Africa. We want Russia to balance them out. So there’s that.
I agree completely with the kind of narratives about part of this is skepticism about the United States, saying double standards that, the U.S. and its allies are so upset about what’s happening in Ukraine and then it’s Iraq, it’s Vietnam, you name it. I think that’s part of it.
So I think this has been conscious, and I mentioned at the beginning, the Wagner Mercenary Group, right, owned by the very versatile Mr. Prigozhin, the Putin chef who also runs the Internet Research Agency that’s responsible for disinformation.
His mercenaries have been in Africa and the Central African Republic, now in Mali, in other places, where they support leaders there who are involved in power struggles or civil wars, and they provide logistical support, intelligence support.
So this has been a conscious, I think, policy going on for a number of years now, and I’m sure it’s because Russia now can look out at the rest of the world and say, we may have antagonistic relations with the West but there are a lot of other countries out there that view us quite favorably. So I think it’s a mixture of all these things.
HAASS: Really interesting.
So, Lu, you know you’re in trouble when you turn to the COVID expert and this is the good news. But let’s talk about it. When history is written about COVID-19 what will be the take? Will it be seen—to what extent will it be seen as a success for reasons of vaccines or whatever?
I mean, the most—we were talking about it before but the unofficial numbers are something on the order of twenty million people have died globally if you look at not narrowly attributed statistics but look at so-called excess deaths.
What are historians going to make of how the world met this massive challenge?
BORIO: First, thank you for having me. It’s great to be here. Second, I’m only going last because the pandemic is over. (Laughter.)
But, in seriousness, I think that we will look back with significant sadness because I think the vast majority of deaths could have been prevented, and even the successes, which, I think, the mRNA vaccines are a tremendous success. Even the development of Paxlovid, within a little bit over a year from scratch is a tremendous success.
But even the mRNA vaccines, which is, like, this life-saving miracle platform vaccines, are now getting a bad rap. People think that they don’t work. They don’t last as long as they should have. There is scrutiny in Congress about whether we should expand our industrial capacity to continue to manufacture them and all that.
So I don’t think we’ll look even at the success stories very favorably, and I think the biggest point of shame, really, has been this inability to distribute countermeasures early on in a more equitable way.
HAASS: And just to drill down on that, in this country we’ve had an abundance of a supply and, at times, inadequate demand. That’s, rather, a contrast with the rest of the world. I mean, the number—why don’t you give just some sense of the statistical portrait of the world when it comes to availability of vaccines, for example?
BORIO: Sure. So where we stand today, about—a little bit over eleven billion doses have been distributed globally, and in high and middle high income countries about 75 percent, on average, of the population have been vaccinated, and in the poorest countries less than 10 percent, and—including health-care workers and all. And in contrast to the early phases where there was—supply was more constrained, now their supply is ample but these countries have moved on. They have other public health priorities and they can’t—they can’t do the COVID vaccination program, vaccination communications, information, without resources.
So even as countries have donated vaccines to these resource-constrained countries, they haven’t really given the whole ecosystem that is required to be able to conduct a vaccination campaign and—and it’s real public health issues. Just measles—the number of measles in the last year has gone up by 80 percent.
HAASS: Is that—just out of curiosity, is that because vaccine resistance has carried over or public health systems just can’t do two things at once?
BORIO: The public health systems haven’t been able to do two things at once, although I do expect that, globally, we’ll see an erosion in confidence in vaccines, given the opportunity that those intend to share misinformation have honed their skills in the last two years.
HAASS: So COVID-19 is called COVID-19 because it was first discovered in 2019. This suggests to me that someday we will have COVID-26 or -28 or whatever happens, or something else. When you look at the global health machinery, how satisfied—what’s your satisfaction versus frustration index?
BORIO: (Laughs.) I’m very patient.
HAASS: I’m trying to be—I’m trying to be data rich here.
BORIO: I think that this is, like—I look at—we talked about this, that I’m an optimist so I look at the positives, and, first of all, this is here to stay. It’s not going to go away. So for people that are still living in their spacesuits, I mean, it’s just—you can’t avoid it. And it’s understandable for the most vulnerable. But, there’s a lot that can be done, including vaccines, treatments. We need to improve access to health care. That’s the state of the individuals.
Globally, we see this proliferation of new technologies, whether it’s—wastewater surveillance has been around for a long time but now it’s coming to, really, being accepted globally. Improved surveillance—a lot of research going on in spillover—(inaudible). Improvements in how we manage indoor spaces so that it’s safe for everybody, including without a mask, whether it’s—
HAASS: Including here, by the way. These buildings have over four dozen air-filtering systems. Every one of them has been modernized in order to make it a safe space, and it just—and it turns out it’s just the kind of thing that we and other institutions have had to do.
BORIO: And there are even other technologies that will augment those like Far-UVC. There are ability to produce vaccines and therapeutics very quickly. The idea that people can now test at home. This is—mini laboratories, at times, like, a mini lab, they never—until recently, we couldn’t do that at home and now we have these amazing tests, and I think that’s going to also spill over to other types of infectious diseases and I think, eventually, going to disintermediate the health-care provider.
As a health-care provider, I want to be disintermediated. I want to be forgotten. I want to be—allow the patient-centered care so they can test and seek the therapy they need immediately without having to go through this whole, hours and days, sometimes, long delay in accessing life-saving therapies.
HAASS: I, clearly, don’t have a lot of discipline so I can’t resist asking you this. What is your sense of what is going on in China, the lessons of what—because when this crisis began, China, for the first six months or a year, was kind of running around saying, we’ve got the answer. We’re ahead of the curve. This shows the superiority of our social and political model. It’s not looking that way so much nowadays. What is your take about what the lessons are of the Chinese approach?
BORIO: Yeah. I mean, I was really surprised early on when people were, like, enamored by the idea that they haven’t—and I never agreed with that and I think that I never thought that—really that was a way to contain a pandemic, and now it’s not only a way because it’s just not how you treat people, but it’s not effective. We can see that it’s just not effective, and they have—
HAASS: And it’s not effective because you’re not getting natural immunities growing up in the population because people are so isolated or what?
BORIO: We can’t contain—we can’t contain, through these types of measures—the nonpharmaceutical interventions—a respiratory virus that is as contagious as SARS-CoV-2 and that transmits before people develop symptoms. So it’s transmissible before people know they’re sick. There’s a long tail. A lot of people continue to shed for a while, even though we say the five days and you’re out but—and we know that from data that people continue to shed.
So it’s just not physically possible to contain it unless you completely stop society, bring it to a halt, and that’s not sustainable.
HAASS: And while we’re focused on this one thing of infectious disease with this, what are we missing? Give you an example. Here at the Council, before this hit the biggest priority we had on our health program was not infectious disease but was noninfectious disease, essentially, diseases of lifestyle—smoking, alcoholism, drug abuse, things—people living sedentary lives, what have you. Those haven’t gone away. So my own sense is that for good reason we’re focused on this one infectious disease. But my overall sense is that the state of public health globally ain’t great.
BORIO: That’s right. (Laughter.) It’s the most vital resource we have and we sometimes take it for granted until it’s no longer there. So, I was talking to Zeke Emanuel not long ago—we know Zeke—and he said, if we had a program where we can just do over-the-counter medicines for hypertension, put everybody on a diuretic—and that will likely save more lives than almost any other public health program.
There’s so many opportunities, but we have to really think—we have to redesign how we deliver health care and how we conceive of public health not only here but globally. And I can’t stress enough this important thing about access. Access is huge. And, since—and I’m not going to use myself as an example but, perhaps, the audience can consider that if they were to go home today, get tested because they have a little symptom, find out they have—they’re positive for COVID, how many would have an ability to call a doctor right away and get a prescription right away to get filled right away for the Paxlovid? Because, you know, it really works best when it’s given within five days of symptoms. How many would really be able to muster that? And I’m sure there are many who would not. That’s my bet. And that’s even—imagine what happens then in a more socioeconomically depressed—
HAASS: Because we had this whole debate about supply, and access is a different issue. It’s access to supply.
BORIO: So the test to treat will not be successful without improving access and that’s—
Angela, just to say there’s a sign in front of your face saying your battery is running low. I hope that refers to your monitor and not to something more intrinsic to your well-being.
STENT: Whoops. (Laughter.)
HAASS: My batteries run low every day late in the afternoon, but that’s a different issue. OK. So when you had a sense—I always love doing these, I’ll be honest with you—I am stunned by the talent. I’m going to brag for a second. But there’s just an amazing—there’s amazing talent here and you’ve heard four truly, just world-class experts.
So now it’s your chance to take advantage of them. So anything that we’ve either mentioned or haven’t mentioned. We got microphones in the room. I’ll also go—do a little bit of ping pong between people in the room and people virtually.
So, again, any subjects that you’ve heard, feel free to raise. If you want to raise subjects that you haven’t heard, you can be free to do that and I’m, basically, the designated pinch hitter on things.
I see someone in the back with—it looks like yellow, if my color coding is correct. And by the way, when people introduce themselves, let us know who you are and where you’re from.
Q: Yes. Will do. Thank you all so much. That was fantastic. Hello, everyone. I’m Charlotte Hulme. I teach grand strategy at West Point, and it’s a great joy to be in the room with you today.
I actually have a question for Mr. Pinch Hitter—(laughs)—and my question is this. In 2020, you gave a very interesting interview on NPR. I know that sounds a little funny, but it was actually very important as I was going about writing my doctoral dissertation, which was about climate change, and—
HAASS: Did you get your doctorate?
Q: Yep. Yep.
Q: Last spring. Yes. (Laughter.) Rearview mirror. So in that interview, you said—you projected that this era of history will, ultimately, be defined much more by unconventional challenges like climate and pandemics than the much more familiar great power competition, and I’m wondering if you will give us your strongest argument for why you still stand by that projection, if you can. Thank you.
HAASS: I will. But, first, I just want to point out how unfair it is for people to quote you against yourself. (Laughter.) We invite you here to the Council. We give you food. We give you this. And that’s the way you reciprocate. I’m just saying it’s a little bit mean-spirited. (Laughter.)
Yeah, it’s funny. I’ve been thinking about this because I’m actually writing an article about where the world is in the context of this crisis, and it’s tempting to say what this crisis shows—and I’m thinking this through, but let me just think out loud for thirty seconds. I don’t want—there’s too much talent here for me to go on.
It shows, yes, the reemergence of geopolitics. So the temptation for a lot of people in the field is going to be this is kind of—once again, geopolitics dominates all else and my view is, yes, geopolitics have resurfaced, not that they ever disappeared totally, with Russia, with China, North Korea, Iran, what have you.
But it doesn’t mean that climate change is any less pressing. It doesn’t mean that infectious diseases are any less pressing. Plus, to me, what’s really interesting about geopolitics is we not only have to worry about geopolitics as geopolitics, we have to worry about the capacity and potential and likelihood of geopolitical divisions and rivalry to further impede the willingness and ability of the world to work together to deal with global challenges.
So my guess is, going forward, we’re going to have a world increasingly informed by a revival of things geopolitical and we already—we’re seeing that with China and all that. But I think the global issues are even more pressing, and the thought experiment I ran separately from the interview you mentioned was imagine the United States and China were able to manage their relationship pretty well. We didn’t have a crisis in Taiwan. We didn’t have a crisis in the South China Sea, yada, yada, yada.
But, still, if the United States and China couldn’t find ways to collaborate to deal with infectious disease or climate or other issues, I don’t think history would judge things to be terribly successful.
So I, actually, still believe that we have to—the potential for global issues to be defining is still there and then, I think, on top of it all, and I’d probably add to the analysis, is what’s going on internally in lots of countries, whether in Russia as a result of what Angela was talking about and, sooner or later you’re going to have a post-Putin transition. What’s that going to look like? We’ll even have a post-Xi transition in China, with the domestic politics, the future of democracy here, and so forth.
So I think this combination of geopolitical revival, deteriorating global realities, and domestic pressures, I think, is a pretty toxic brew. So I think, all of the above. But I still worry that, ultimately, probably short of nuclear weapons use on a large scale, the most game-defining challenge in the world could be either infectious disease or climate change before the century is over.
So I’m going to stubbornly stand by what I said a couple of years, and the good news is if I’m wrong none of us will be around to know it. (Laughter.) Let’s get a—yes, sir? We’ll get one more in the room, and then we’ll go—yeah.
Q: Hi. Joe Klesner. I teach political science at Kenyon College.
So this is a question, I think, mostly directed at Lu but it kind of follows on this last comment that you made, which has to do with infectious disease as a possible challenge to humankind going forward, and I’m wondering whether you could comment at all on how you feel the response to the pandemic has affected the institutional structures that we’ve set up for global public health, WHO as well as the agencies within the countries, CDC, in particular, but whether there are similar consequences for those agencies in other countries.
BORIO: So I’ll comment mostly on the U.S., and I think it’s remarkable that we are still experiencing very fragile agencies, that there was a very strong erosion that began around 2017 and—but it’s persisted, and these agents are still struggling to come back. I’m talking about FDA, the CDC, and the NIH. We still don’t have key permanent leaders in many of these, including huge priorities for the president like ARPA-H and the NIH.
So, and, globally, a lot of the global health institutions are under tremendous pressure because of lack of confidence in their work and lack of confidence that their work has been free of political interference. So it’s going to take—it worries me tremendously and I don’t know when is it that we’re going to begin to recover from this.
HAASS: How much has the WHO been severely injured by the continuing saga, shall we say, of the origins of COVID?
BORIO: Well, they may—they, I think, have done a nice job pivoting away from that by commissioning second reviews and moving the narrative to other areas, and I think the U.S. helped when it issued its own report that it’s a very—we may not have certainty on the matter. So I think they were able to navigate that, actually, very well. And they couldn’t do any worse now than they did, you know, maybe five years ago when they were—they’d lost their funding. Remember?
HAASS: That’s what passes for optimism at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Laughter.) Why don’t we get a virtual question?
OPERATOR: We’ll take a virtual question from Steven Jones.
Q: Hello, everybody. Thank you. This is Steve Jones. I’m a political scientist at Georgia Gwinnett College.
My question is for anybody on the panel. I mean, the situation in Ukraine notwithstanding, we know that the United Nations has a lot of programs. Many of them are very effective. But the inability of the Security Council, given its current composition, demonstrates, at least to me, that it isn’t an effective institution within the United Nations.
So what, if anything, can be done about that?
HAASS: I’m going to make what could be a long answer short. Very little. It’s, basically, contradictory or just unrealistic to ask participants in an institution to believe they benefit from the current set of arrangements, to voluntarily agree to an alternative set of arrangements where they wouldn’t feel as advantaged, which is another way of saying there’s zero chance on God’s green earth that any of the five people—permanent members with a permanent veto are going to give it up, including the United States.
It’s also, I think, highly unlikely that any of the permanent members of the Security Council will agree to the addition or subtraction of members in a way that they believe would work against their interests and influence.
So China will have those countries that might be welcome—be open to but, clearly, those that would not and that would, again, go to others. So, I think the potential for Security Council reform is—in a meaningful way is nil. And what you have had, have, and will have, they’re all workarounds. It’s not an end to multilateralism, but you will have contact groups, you will have alliances, you will have coalitions of the willing and able. You will have ways of—that multilateralism will happen, but it’ll be more selective; it’ll be issue by issue; it’ll be participant by participant. And you’re going to have the formal machinery, including in the public health space, and virtually every domain of international relations, you will have formal machinery, and then you will have, coexisting with it, informal and other arrangements, that will supplement it for a time, substitute for it.
So again, it’s not the end of multilateralism. But I think it’s a—it’s an intellectual and policy mistake to, in any way, associate or see as synonymous U.N.-ism with multilateralism.
Q: Bob Press. I teach political science at the University of Southern Mississippi.
This question is for Dr. Obadare. Africa very often gets left out of some of the major discussions on rural politics. I’m wondering if you see any particularly useful examples of issues—there have been some coups that have been—happened, but sometimes, they’ve been resisted without violence. Are there any issues that you think are worth sharing tonight, that would be helpful in some of these larger discussions internationally?
OBADARE: Can you repeat the latter part of the question, please? I didn’t get the latter part.
Q: I don’t know exactly which area you’re focusing on at the moment. But—and—if you—if you—if you’re looking at the question of human rights, I think there have been some good things happening, as well as the usual bad stuff. If you’re looking at international relations, I see less happening that’s effective in a global sense. But I do see, if you look at how governments are tackling some of the very serious problems, in terms of hunger—some of the secondary issues, you might say—peace and negotiations.
So, I’m interested in anything you have to say that might be of use in other parts of the—of the world.
OBADARE: Thank you. Great question.
I think that the thing that agitates people the most—it’s simple, but it’s also the—one of the most difficult issues—is the rule of law. For the most part, the average African believes that what applies to A, if he or she is in a position of advantage, never applies to B; that people don’t get punished because of their connections to power, and that they want an even playing field. That’s one thing there, because if we look at the Afrobarometer surveys, for instance, about public confidence in the government, that always comes up. And it’s tied also to the issue of corruption. People believe that if you are in power you basically live effectively above the law. So people want a situation where everybody can relate to—people can relate as equals under the law.
And the interesting thing, which I think is a positive thing, is that for the most part people continue to look up to the West, especially the United States, as a model. And, for the most part they think that countries in the West should be able to offer help with support for the judiciary, for judicial reforms, strengthening civil society, making the media more effective, help with social justice issues. So I think it’s—the most important thing is the rule of law.
Q: (Off mic.)
Q: (Off mic.)
OBADARE: Yeah. So one of the more recent pieces that I did for the Africa in Transition blog—I’m not plugging myself; I encourage you to read it—is on what happened in Burkina Faso, the trial and conviction of Blaise Compaoré. So, Blaise Compaoré was the leader of—the military leader of Burkina Faso for twenty-seven years. He was removed, is now hiding in—somewhere in Côte d’Ivoire. There was a trial. The trial actually ended successfully, so there is a conviction. So he’s basically on the run now.
So, it’s a—it’s a very positive thing. And it shows that for all the recent—the spate of coups and military takeovers and attempted coups d’état, there is this other positive—this silver lining that we tend to miss.
But don’t forget that it doesn’t then mean that we should be negligent of the larger concern that people still continue to have that the rule of law that is applied in a—in a discriminatory manner, and that if you have money you can purchase influence, and if you are poor you are basically—you are on your own.
Irina, by the way, could we go on for five more minutes longer? Do we have time to do that? Could we go to 7:20? Angela, are you OK with that, because I know I want to ask you one last question. I want to—I—we’re going to do a lightning round, towards the end.
But go ahead, sir.
Q: Steve Jackson, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
This is the tenth event of the educators conference. A year from now, I assume that we’re going to have an eleventh. Are we going to be talking about Ukraine at that one, as well? Does Ukraine have the sustaining power? Does the United States have the sustaining power of attention? Does the West have the unity that we have now, a year from now, or two years from now? What are we going to be talking about Ukraine in 2023?
HAASS: Angela, I’ve got strong views on that, but I’d rather hear yours than mine. Well what do you think? Is the potential for Ukraine to stay front and center, to be a long war? What’s your—what’s your reading of things?
STENT: Well, I think this will probably be a long war, unfortunately, as I said. But I don’t think that—I do not think that there’s a potential there for it to stay front and center. I mean, you can already see—although you have some of the media, like CNN, are still very focused on it. But of course, people also get inured. If you see these horrible pictures of atrocities and you hear all the stories, at some point your mind becomes numb, or you don’t want to hear them anymore. So, I think it would slowly fade away.
And then I think also the impact on that is going to be increasingly also, as the impact of sanctions are felt, particularly in Europe, more so than in the U.S. But—and we’ve already heard about the impact in the Middle East. But, there’ll be—the food shortages, and grain shortages, and supply chain problems, and very high fuel prices for instance, in Europe—when all of that’s felt, you’ll also probably have, increasingly, people questioning, is it—is it really in our interest to be putting all these resources into supporting a country which is fighting a very difficult battle against a larger and a more brutal opponent?
So, I think the answer is, in 2023, the war may still be going on in Ukraine, but I think it will have faded from the kind of front-page news that we have nowadays.
HAASS: Yeah, I thought it was interesting—along those lines—that there was a story in the Washington Post about a week or two ago, how on the campaign trail running up to the midterms, this was not a major story. Candidates were not being asked a lot about this at forums, and so I thought—I thought it was just—people were asking about southern border, about inflation, crime in cities—essentially, a different set of issues.
But I would actually agree with Angela. I do think it’s going to—there will be a long war. I think the prospects for diplomacy and peace are exceedingly modest. But you—but there are long wars, and long wars. And this could be quite low level, with occasional flare ups. I mean, this could become, if you will, another version of a frozen conflict, because—and that’s likely simply because I have a tremendous difficulty imagining an outcome that the various protagonists could sign onto. It’s easier to continue with the war and open-ended possibilities sometimes, than it is to sign off on a peace, which closes out—closes off certain outcomes.
So, my betting is, when we meet next year, this will still be the backdrop, but I think what Angela said is right.
Do we have another virtual question, or are we OK? No?
Sir. Oh, whatever. OK. We have time.
Q: Thank you very much. Thank you again for an excellent panel.
So one question, which—
HAASS: You have to introduce yourself.
Q: I’m W.P.S. Sidhu. I teach at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. I teach on global affairs and the United Nations.
So one of the things we try to do is transdisciplinary, so it’s a question both for Dr. Borio and Dr. Obadare. We talked about Russia. We talked about the influence of Russia in Africa. To what extent is this also playing out in the vaccine diplomacy? So, for example, who is the largest supplier of the CoV vaccines in African countries? And to what extent is that likely to play a kind of role in the outlook of these countries, as well?
And I cannot—and I cannot resist a question to Dr. Haass as well. And I’m going to quote back to you from earlier this evening: wars of choice and wars of necessity. This is probably the second round of a P5 country doing that in, say, the last—in the twenty-first century. Is this the last war of choice that we’re likely to see? Are there lessons to be learned from this war?
HAASS: Sure, no, I got it. Why don’t you answer the first question?
HAASS: Go ahead.
BORIO: OK. So very briefly, I think that early on, sure, there was a—Russia got there ahead and the U.S. allowed this to happen because it was—it dragged its feet. But I think that it’s no longer the case, and I think that there is—people disillusioned with the—with the quality and efficacy of the Russian vaccines, even in Russia, of course.
OBADARE: So, there are—I’m going to take my example from Nigeria. If you want to know how seriously people take anything, just look on social media the jokes that people exchange about that thing.
So, when people compare Pfizer as the Western vaccine with the Chinese vaccine, they say, oh, it’s made in China. So there is a story there. So, in the 1950s and 1960s, when China was the old CCCP China and not this China, there was a—people would look at a particular product and say, oh, is it good or bad? They would say, look under the—you know, on the back—if it says made in China? Eh.
So, now, when they talk about the vaccine, they say, which one did you get? Said, I got Pfizer. And then, what did you get? Oh, I got made in China. So, basically, say the Chinese vaccine does not work; the Western vaccine does work.
HAASS: So, Steven, I want to get you in a question, which as I mentioned Turkey before, we haven’t heard about it. Talk about Turkey’s kind of new role in the greater Middle East. What are—what are we to—because they’re—we’ve—the West was estranged from Turkey under—for both domestic and political reasons, given all the jailing of journalists, the purchase of Russian air defense systems. And suddenly, Turkey seems to be slightly realigning and reinterpreting the Montreux Convention in ways that are—so, what’s going on?
COOK: Well, what’s going on? First of all, thank you, Richard, because I was feeling really uncool here for a while. (Laughter.)
HAASS: Steven, you are uncool. We didn’t want to be—we didn’t want to be impolite, that’s all.
COOK: I have two teenage daughters; I know that very, very well. (Laughter.)
I think with Turkey there’s a—there’s a couple of things that are going on. And there—one, in the relationship with the West and the United States, President Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party have actually gotten quite lucky with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Suddenly, the Turks can be useful in a variety of ways in the Western effort.
It was no secret, then, when President Biden came into office, the Turks were very, very interested in a reset with the United States. But they couldn’t figure out what it was that they could reset. There were a whole host of issues that carried over from the Obama administration and the Trump administration, including the purchase of the Russian air defense system called the S-400, that prompted the United States to kick the Turks out of the Joint Strike Fighter Program—pretty extraordinary for a NATO ally, and part of the—and a member of the manufacturing consortium of the plane.
So, what’s happened is that President Erdogan has done two things. One, he has been very vocal in his support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. They have supplied—the Turks have supplied the Ukrainians with TB2 drones, which are these really quite effective drones that Turkey has developed as it has emphasized over the last twenty years, the development of drone defense industrial base—while at the same time, maintaining robust lines of communication with Putin, so that kind of the natural mediator is President Erdogan.
Now, that’s not going to bring peace. I think Angela would agree that’s not going to bring peace. But there’s at least an opportunity here for Erdogan, who has done business with Putin, who has a relationship with Putin, who hasn’t sanctioned Putin—if Turkey put—sanctioned Russia, Turkey’s economy would collapse. So there’s a real opportunity here for Erdogan to at least try to push the needle in terms of humanitarian assistance and a variety of other things, while bolstering his relations with the West.
Then, there’s the whole Turkish effort to repair its relations with the Middle East. And just very quickly, you had this extraordinary picture today of President Erdogan shaking hands with a smiling Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. The jailer of journalists, who positioned himself as a defender of journalists after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, has gone essentially hat in hand to Riyadh, because Turkey needs financing, it needs currency swaps, and it needs to sell drones to Saudi Arabia, because we won’t sell the drones to Saudi Arabia.
HAASS: So Angela, I want to have a question for you. If there is a long war, as you and I both think is likely, how is it that you would advise, or how is it you think the United States—which has described Mr. Putin as a war criminal, has talked about his desire for regime change, is arming forces that are killing Russian soldiers in large numbers—how is it we maintain a relationship with Russia? What does that look like? We—Russia still has thousands of nuclear weapons. It’s a participant in the Iran nuclear talks and North Korean diplomacy. How is it we manage relations with Russia, against the backdrop of a long war and sanctions?
STENT: So I think you just have to go back to the Cold War, and remember that at least after 1972, at the height of the Cold War, we were still—we had arms control agreements with the Soviets, and there were other areas, regional conflicts, where we talked to them. So, it’s never—I mean, the U.S.—Russian and Soviet—Russia relationship has never just been straightforward cooperation. It’s always been cooperation and competition.
I think if Putin is still at the helm of power, it’s going to be very difficult in terms of any U.S. president meeting with him. But I think below that, I think there are areas where we do have to talk to the Russians. I think we will at some point have to resume the strategic stability talks, which we’ve now suspended because of the war, because we do have a responsibility as the world’s two nuclear superpowers. There are other areas—you mentioned Iran—by the way, we’re still talking to the Russians on the Iran deal. We’re still cooperating with them in space. And, we have talked to them, at least, about climate issues.
So, I think what you would see, again, as long as Putin’s in the Kremlin, it’ll still be a much more distant relationship, and as long as this—the war continues in Ukraine. But at some point, we will have to resume contacts that are in our interest, which are in the U.S. interest, because you can’t isolate Russia. I know President Biden, at the beginning of this war, said Russia was going to be a pariah. Well, for all the reasons we’ve just talked about, with the rest of the world, it won’t be a pariah. Putin will always be welcome in Beijing, and in a number of other places. So, I think that—we just have to go back to Cold War lessons, and we haven’t unlearned them yet.
HAASS: Ebenezer, let’s take a longer view of Africa. But I was going to talk about the principal dynamic. As a non-expert, I would say it would be demographic increase. So much of the rest of the world is facing demographic decline or aging, and Africa has got a totally, or very different, dynamic. Is it—is it—to the extent that what I said is remotely accurate, is it a blessing or a burden?
OBADARE: What you’ve said is accurate. The problem is when you talk about population in raw numbers it always depends on the quality, right? So numbers can be a problem if you can’t feed your population, if the physical infrastructure is decrepit. If the best of your talents are leaving your country and taking refuge and looking for opportunities that are not available at home in other parts of the world, then it’s a problem. If you are able to nourish human capital, if you are able to provide infrastructure, if young people feel invested emotionally and psychically in the country, and when they think of their immediate and long-term future they see those futures unfolding in the country, then it’s a good thing.
So, Africa has a role to play in the sense that the next ten, fifteen, twenty years are going to be extremely important. Right now, every other young person you talk to wants out because the politics is mostly corrupt, people don’t feel safe, and people feel that there are opportunities outside the continent. The best way to harness these huge numbers that you’ve spoken about—and that are continuing to increase—is to do exactly some of the things that I mentioned in my response to Dr. Press earlier, which is secure the rule of law, have infrastructure, make people trust government more. And the more you increase public confidence in the state, the more you are able to retain human capital, and the more you stand a chance of building a just, peaceful, and prosperous society.
HAASS: Dr. Borio, you get the last question, which is: If one were to make a real difference in global health going forward, what is your entry point? Do you spend time thinking about revising the WHO? Do you invent new global institutions? Do you invent regional institutions? Do you forget all that and just do various entries at the country level? What is it you do?
BORIO: All of the above. (Laughter.)
HAASS: That’s a cop out, come on. (Laughs.)
BORIO: But I would focus—but I would focus on chronic medical conditions, infectious diseases, and mental health. That’s something that we—I don’t want to introduce this at the last minute—
HAASS: Say some more. No, do.
BORIO: —but I think there would be an omission if I didn’t talk about this crisis that we have globally, and unprecedented, where we have demographics of all ages actually having significant increases in suicides—(inaudible)—and depression, and treatable. So it used to be a rare thing when we were growing up to have a child commit suicide, and now it has become something quite common in most schools across the U.S. So it’s a tragedy.
HAASS: Is this is an American problem or a global problem?
BORIO: It’s a global problem. It’s a global problem. And they are—I just read an article, like, not long ago. It was actually in the Times, covered very nicely how Sierra Leone has modernized their mental health delivery in the last twenty years. It was really inspiring to see how countries in Africa have been able to transform within two decades how they deliver mental health. So we have to pay attention to that. So we can’t have—think about global health without considering that.
HAASS: Thank you all. I want to thank Angela Stent—I’m glad you got re-plugged—(applause)—Steven, Ebenezer, and Lu Borio. Again, real talent here.
Thank you for coming here physically or virtually. I hope you take away not just whatever it is you hear over these couple of days, but also we make you more frequent users of our various resources, from Foreign Affairs, to World101, to Model Diplomacy, to CFR.org, to ForeignAffairs.com, to the books these people produce. Your reward, in addition to all that psychic income, is dinner here tonight. Your subsequent reward is breakfast tomorrow morning, if my notes are correct.
Irina, anything else I need to add?
FASKIANOS: Breakfast at eight, and the first session is at nine.
HAASS: Breakfast at eight, first session at nine. And I want to thank Irina Faskianos and her team for making it all happen. (Applause.)
KOPPELL: Good morning, everyone. I’m Carla Koppell.
It’s a great pleasure to be here with all of you this morning and to be here with this marvelous group of people to talk about how we better reflect diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in education. And I can’t think of a better group of folks to have this conversation with because they really come at it from a whole range of different perspectives, so the whole ecosystem. You have their bios in your materials for the conference, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time introducing them.
For the session this morning we’ll talk as a group for about half an hour and then we’ll open up for questions and comments, both from those of you here in the audience with us this morning and those of you who are attending virtually. I know there are many virtual attendees as well. We will not forget you.
And this is an issue that is close to my heart. I came to Georgetown University several years ago specifically to work on how we bring issues of equity and inclusion into international affairs education, and I’ve been excited to see how much the attention has increasingly been focused on this critical need. And hopefully we can talk more about why that is and how we’re approaching it in our conversation, but suffice it to say, I’m thrilled to be here with all of you today.
I’m going to start with a couple of rounds of questions and then some discussion. And I am honored to have next to me—and I’m going to start with her—the inaugural ambassador for diversity, equity, and inclusion issues at the State Department.
Madame Ambassador, congratulations on creating such an important role.
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: Thank you.
KOPPELL: And maybe we could start—because obviously we’re educating the experts of the next generation, the leaders of the next generation, but they also need jobs and roles in society.
And so I would love if you could share with us a little bit the amazing innovations that you’re bringing to the State Department that are really creating a demand signal and at the same time really transforming the way we think about these issues in the international affairs space.
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: I love that framing. Thank you.
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: (Laughs.) Good morning, everyone.
I’ve been at this for one year and fourteen days, so it has been a whirlwind. I think all of you know when you’re a start-up it is crazy, so we’re building as we fly in the department.
We’ve had a discussion about the importance of diversity and inclusion for a very long while, and this administration, the secretary decided he was putting his money where our—our money where his mouth was, as it were—(laughter)—taxpayer’s and all of that.
KOPPELL: Our collective money. (Laughter.)
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: Yes, indeed our collective money.
So setting up the office, sending a very clear signal to the workforce and beyond by having me report directly to him, by having a regularly scheduled set of meetings to talk about what I’m doing, what I need from him to help move it forward. I will tell you he hasn’t missed a meeting since we began—in fact, he calls them a little sooner sometimes than I want, but anyway he’s committed.
A crackerjack staff, budget, an office—if any of you know the Department of State, it’s on the seventh floor. So that’s where all the people who are leaders in the building sit, so he was sending the signal to the workforce immediately—immediately by putting me on the committees that select chiefs of missions, deputy chiefs of mission, deputy assistant secretaries, principal officers. So that got the attention of leadership in the building because if you want to be selected for leadership, if you want to continue to have positions of leadership, then you’re going to show that commitment to diversity and inclusion.
We changed the way we look at leaders. Our vetting process, communicating that we want to make sure that people are setting up work atmospheres that don’t allow or contribute toxicity. We set up a data working group—one of the first things I did—because nobody believes anything unless they can see the numbers. So trying to find data scientists and getting the numbers.
And I thought my challenge would happen when I got in the department and got all the numbers and scrubbed them, and looked at where, you know, women were being stopped or African Americans or Hispanics et cetera—made my recommendations and started telling people things we needed to change, and I thought I’d get big resistance then. I got resistance asking for the numbers. (Laughter.)
That can be a challenge in many organizations, and I will tell you not only did we get the numbers, but we have put them on our website so that the entire workforce can see who we are and where we are and hold us accountable. Accountability, transparency, intentionality—we’re not playing, and we are communicating. Join us. Join us if you want to remain successful in this organization.
We have put in our precepts for the Foreign Service starting in the 2022-2023 cycle for promotion that if you want to get promoted, if you want to seriously be considered for a position higher than the one that you are in right now, you need to be able to put down in black and white not only how you are supporting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, but what is the impact of what you say that you are doing? And it’s got to be in black and white.
And just as we hold people accountable for leadership and management and judgment and substantive knowledge et cetera, DNI is on there, too. We negotiated it with our union. So this is something. It’s not going away. Regardless of what happens in 2022, it’s in black and white. We’ve added it to the Civil Service. We are working now to add it to the work requirements for our locally engaged staff, and so, again, this is where the rubber hits the road if you want to be promoted. We’re trying to reward people for that good behavior and hold folks accountable as well.
And in these ways, and many others that I’ve got ahead of me, we are making sure that the playing field is indeed level, that transparency helps everyone—everyone.
And I’ll stop there.
KOPPELL: That’s wonderful. And I really appreciate the emphasis you’re placing both on the composition of the workforce and who’s there and the climate for that workforce to thrive. Because I will admit, when I first started working on this—these issues, I thought, oh, we just go into universities and we change what’s taught, and it’ll all work itself out.
And what you realize is that the ecosystem involves who’s there and what it is they’re saying and the atmosphere they’re creating, what that atmosphere is like—whether it creates space for the kinds of discussions about equity and inclusion we need to have and whether it creates an atmosphere where everybody can thrive—and also the content and the nature of the discussions.
And so, Dawn, I would love for you—I know you’ve been an incredible innovator around how we—how we imbue our educational system, higher education, with global awareness, with a focus on international affairs. Talk a little bit about what the strategies are for doing that and for advancing that sort of across the educational ecosystem.
WHITEHEAD: Thank you for that question. And I think the big thing is thinking about how do we provide opportunities for all students to even be touched by global perspectives, global initiatives? Because we won’t have that pathway into international affairs if we have a large number of students that don’t even know about the concept.
Some of us come from institutions that have Title VI funding, so you’ve got area studies programs. I’m a beneficiary. I went through African studies. But even at those institutions there’s a percentage of students who aren’t involved. Then you think about the institutions that don’t have that kind of support for area studies, language study, global and international studies, and how do you get those institutions and students from those institutions involved in this kind of work? And it comes from curricular change.
And what we have been doing is working with institutions across the country, including some that are represented here, to look at how do we integrate international perspectives, global perspectives, into the curriculum for all students. As institutions are developing institutional learning outcomes, is global learning a part of those outcomes beyond your mission statement saying we’re an institution for the world? But what are the actual outcomes? Do you have something about global perspectives? Do you have something about learning across differences and acting and working across differences?
And until we can embed that in the curriculum so that all students have access, those pathways won’t be clear for all students to participate. And so that’s been our main function is looking at how can we impact all students?
And I was so happy to hear you mention the data, and that’s one thing that we encourage institutions to do. When they’re taking this sort of perspective, when you look at what you have currently and you can say, OK, who is participating in our global studies programs? Who’s participating in international relations? Who’s participating in study abroad?
And then you see those gaps, it reminds you OK what can we do to make sure all the students can be touched by it and then they can learn and be exposed to another pathway to go a bit further. So that’s our strategy, and as I’ve said, we’ve been working with a lot of institutions who have embedded this into their framing.
KOPPELL: That’s really helpful, and I want to just draw you out for a second because I appreciated when we talked beforehand, you were talking about the roles of study abroad, the roles of both the integration of these issues into core curricula as well as dedicated classes. Could you talk just a little bit about that? Because I think it’s important.
WHITEHEAD: Absolutely. And I think one of the challenges that we have had in some spaces is a core study abroad. When you look at who participates, there are a large number of students who are underrepresented. And so what has happened over the years is we have been looking at, how can we make sure that study abroad is embedded into the curriculum? How can we make sure that there are global learning outcomes that are part of education abroad? How can we look at themes that are relevant globally with education abroad?
So, for example—and I’ll use a personal anecdote—for me, I used to take students to Ghana. You know, my background is in African studies. And one of the things the students—one time I thought I had really failed. We were traveling to the north after being in Accra for a while, and one of the students said, oh, we’re finally going to see the real Ghana. (Laughter.)
And before I could correct her—(laughs)—the other students said, what do you meant the real Ghana? There are urban and rural issues all around the world. There are—we can look at these issues at home, and so it just opened up a broader conversation.
And that’s what we’re talking about having these types of experiences abroad where students are thinking about poverty in different spaces, and they’re able to understand when they’re thinking about racism in global contexts and how that’s very different. What you may experience at home is very different than what you may be experiencing abroad.
So it’s helping students connect not just the topic that they’re working at in the country where they’re studying, but to these broader global themes that will continue to be with them as they go into their professional careers and continue to be lifelong learners.
KOPPELL: That’s great. And I love that idea of how you tie global themes to whatever it is you’re talking about.
Miguel, you and I have been working together for several years. Miguel is part of a group of deans that I’ve been convening for about four years now to talk about how to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion issues into international affairs and public policy education. And I know we spend a lot of time talking about what needs to happen, where the gaps are, and what will make change.
Tell the group a little bit about that.
CENTENO: Do you have a couple of hours? (Laughter.) Good morning, everybody. Thanks for the invite.
Let’s see what needs to change. The first—the one thing that we’ve had some success in is representation in the student body. You now have, for example, at elite universities it’s usually 9 percent African American, 9 to 10 percent Latino. It’s higher Latino, obviously, in Texas, in California, in Florida.
So now that’s not parity by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a lot better than certainly when I was in school. That’s one area of progress. We’ve done much better with the curriculum. There is much more awareness of difference, of diversity, of attitudes, of histories, of cultures. I think that has also changed in the last thirty or forty years.
We still have—and I think this is true of most of the social science disciplines—there is still—the universality of the United States is assumed. If you find—the standard joke is, if you write about gender in Iowa, you’re writing about gender. If you write about gender in Ghana, you’re writing about Ghana. And that continues to be a problem.
And we get a lot of students who say, look, I didn’t come here to learn the OECD catechism. I came to explore other things. So that’s a problem.
The biggest one, the one that concerns me the most, is the almost total lack of progress on diversity of the faculty. When I got to Princeton—me and the stegosauruses—there was maybe 3—3 ½ percent Latino, maybe 3 to 4 percent African American. The numbers today are 3 ½ percent Latino, 3, 4 percent African American. And if you take out African American studies and if you take out the Spanish and Portuguese Departments, those go down to about 2 percent.
And this is—everybody talks about the pipeline, but it’s really significant that nobody takes responsibility for the pipeline. They just go, well, we just don’t have any, and I go, well, make some. (Laughter.) We have the funding. We have the will. That—and I think that remains a big problem, not just because of the—not just because of the difference in an appearance, let’s say—it’s important to have a Black woman, for example, with a blackboard of calculus behind her. I think those kinds of symbols are really important.
It’s also perspectives. It’s just awareness that there is a different way of doing things, that there are different assumptions being made, particularly when it comes to—and you can’t perfectly correlate class with ethnic identity, but pretty close in this country.
One of the other things is the absence of working-class faculty in elite institutions, which also creates a problem because they don’t understand the problems that students have. They come from very privileged and all of a sudden a student says, I can’t afford to buy a book, and you don’t quite get it.
So the biggest—I think the biggest frontier is that diversity in the faculty, the diversity in the administration—actually in the administration we’ve done pretty well. It’s in the faculty. Just in the core faculty that the students are going to see every day, you don’t see that many people who don’t look like a particular type.
KOPPELL: Thanks so much.
So really I think you’ve done collectively a terrific job of laying out these issues that relate to the—sort of the content and approach and pedagogy of learning, the climate within institutions—whether those are professional institutions or educational institutions—and the composition of the folks who are in those institutions, and whether they bring their perspectives and their expertise in to create a fulsome ecosystem.
Let me—I want to pivot us now to talk a little bit about the tools that are becoming available and strategies that are becoming available that we know begin to advance the conversation and make it easier for us to move this agenda forward.
Madame Ambassador, I mean maybe you could—I know there was a great new announcement on the changes in the Foreign Service Exam, for example. Maybe you could talk a little bit about that.
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: Yeah. Yeah. As our union pointed out, we’ve had a written exam as the gateway for people joining the Foreign Service, and then it’s been tinkered with essays in between or just going straight to an oral examination.
I, in fact, was on the board of examiners, so I administered the oral examination for a year so I’m very familiar with it and stand by the fact that it does a very good job of asking questions about the sort of issues you are going to come up against as a diplomat. It’s a good exam.
The written exam, like so many, is a way of winnowing the number of people that you actually have to interview in person. But it also was highly effective at keeping out women and minorities. That is the reality.
And so we have announced a change in the last couple of days of no longer using the written exam as that gateway, so that we are able to look at the whole person. So people will get a score on the exam, but also will continue with the essays, and that way we believe we are going to have a more meritorious entryway as well.
Because more men pass the written exam, but the reality is more women pass the oral exam. So they’re being blocked—people who, in fact, are able to do extremely well in what we need from diplomats are being blocked by that standard test. So we are making that change, and we’re making others that’ll be announced in the coming days.
The issue on the pipeline is one that we, too, have struggled with and recognize that those numbers that we have at the bottom hadn’t changed. And I think ours was from 2008 and 2020 that the percentage of women of competing for promotion is exactly the same. Or that, in fact, numbers of African Americans have, in fact, gone down since the year that I came into the Foreign Service.
So it’s also retention in our business—not just getting people in but keeping them in—and so we have to do a lot of barrier analyses. And then with the results of that analyses say to people we’ve got to do things a different way. Do not say to me, but we have always done it this way. That will make me smack you or put you out of the room—one or the other.
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: That you—what is it? The insanity?
KOPPELL: It’s a little undiplomatic.
KOPPELL: (Laughs.) (Laughter.)
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: —yes. Yeah. Well, we’re in a hurry. You know we keep saying we’re the best, we’re the brightest, we’re brilliant—we are. We can solve this. If we’re serious about it, we can solve this. So—OK.
KOPPELL: That’s great.
No, and I was thrilled to see you all announce paid internships as well.
KOPPELL: That was a great development.
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: Yes. Yes. That is a great beginning. We have more to do. Write your congress people—(laughs)—because we have to keep it going.
KOPPELL: Yeah, no, seriously, write.
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: Yeah. (Laughter.) Yeah.
KOPPELL: You’ve been an incredible innovator in developing materials for teaching and learning and enabling faculty and instructors to move this agenda forward.
Talk a little bit about the things you’ve developed and the other things you like that you see out there that you would recommend to people who are with us today.
ABERCROMBIE-WISTANLEY: I think one thing I would start with, there’s a tool that we use—and there are colleagues here from Stockton University who can speak to this—is our global learning value rubric.
Our value rubrics are rubrics to assess student learning, and the one about global learning integrates diversity, equity, and inclusion, and global learning, because it forces you to look at power and privilege. It forces you to look at hierarchies, both at home and in the community in which you’re working. And I think that’s one of the most powerful tools that we’ve developed, and institutions have used it in many, many different ways.
With a similar framing—I know there are also some folks here from Florida International University—the way that global learning has been defined at Florida International University is related to diverse people collaborating and analyzing problems that transcend boundaries. That—for some that—you may say, oh, yeah, that’s it—that was not the norm—(laughs)—five to ten years ago in the ways that people thought about global learning for all students.
And so I think that type of framing, coupled with the value rubrics and the work that Jay White and others have done at Stockton, that has helped move this conversation forward and beyond those that are just in area studies or those, as I said before, that are in the specialized programs, to something that all students can see.
And I think the other thing for us is going back to this pathway or pipeline, however you want to describe it—again, if we don’t have more students who are participating in these activities and get these perspectives, we’re not going to get more students involved. I believe it was in early 2021, a few colleagues and I—the president of Benedict College, the president of Elon, and a few others—wrote a white paper looking at the importance of engaging students in this work—and diverse students.
And two of the things we’ve said—and one you’ve talked about—are the gaps. Who is participating, and why aren’t we seeing more students? But we also talked about the harm that it can do in terms of other countries understanding the U.S., and when we’re not sending a reflection of who we are in the United States, it plays into harmful stereotypes and other factors that can be damaging.
And yes, people say, oh, well, we have people of color in the media. I remember that because everyone—I’m from Indiana, and I was in China many years ago, people said, oh, you know, Reggie Miller—that was the person of color that they knew—(laughter)—because of the NBA. But when they’re seeing students engaged in these study abroad programs in other places, that makes a huge difference. But I think the key is the framing and how we are broadening it and those resources that you can apply to any discipline or any setting.
The last thing I would say is the work that we’ve done partnering with professional schools, and looking at how you can again integrate these perspectives into professional programs. So you are studying nursing. You look at the accreditation standards, and there are standards that are related to cultural competency, cultural humility, but how do you build in these global perspectives so that whether you’re going to practice in Accra, as we said, or I guess I can say Lagos, or in Indianapolis, you need to have those skills.
KOPPELL: That’s great.
I think—when I first came, as I said I was really focused on sort of what is being taught and learned by students, and what I realized was that while there was a lot of material out there related to this, it wasn’t necessarily so easy to find. And so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we launched this year from Georgetown a database of material on international affairs that is all either by diverse authors—so authors of a wide range of backgrounds—or material that is relating diversity, equity, and inclusion issues to the range of subfields in international affairs.
And there’s some flyers and you can get information about it outside, but it really was an attempt to say it’s not so hard. We can consolidate this information. You as instructors can make a choice as to what makes sense within a syllabus or curriculum that you’re putting together. But the material is out there, and we’re able to move this forward.
I also just worked on this edited volume that came out from Oxford University Press this year that was an attempt to provide something that can create a foundation for teaching and learning simply because there was nothing out there. And really we need to make it easier for folks to embrace this agenda and to move teaching and learning forward, and so I really appreciate the excellent work that you all have been doing.
So, Miguel, from your perspective, either as faculty or as dean, what do you think are the most useful tools that exist and strategies for either addressing issues of composition or issues related to the curriculum or, I guess, also culture?
CENTENO: So the curriculum, I think the most important is—it’s hard. It’s not just about making a curriculum available. It’s getting the horse to drink the water, and that has been a real problem.
If you look at many international courses, if you look at anything remotely dealing with DEI, if you look at anything dealing with gender, what do you find? Classrooms mostly of women; in the DEI people of color. And that has been the biggest challenge I see at Princeton is, how do we get the folks who are not already converted into thinking about this?
And we have run into quite a bit of opposition the last couple of years because the minute you start using—you talk about power and identity—then a part of the student body and yes, a part of the faculty—starts saying, now you’re preaching, now you’re doing an ideology, you’re not really sticking to the facts. I say, OK, we’re a public policy school, we’re not allowed to talk about power? (Laughter.) Is this the one “P” word that we’re not allowed to use? Like the economists who don’t recognize power?
Sorry, I always have to have the dig at economists. They make too much money. (Laughter.)
So the biggest problem I think is just getting the word out and getting people to take courses that they wouldn’t take—getting people to take courses that might push them form their comfort zone. That’s the next frontier.
We’ve got all the courses. We’ve got the departments. We’ve got the representation. But we have to move out of those walls. So one of the things—one of the courses that I teach is a big lecture course on war, and what really strikes me is the amount of ignorance on the part of the students about what the world looks like.
During the last couple of months, obviously, everybody’s attention has been on Ukraine, and students say to me, wow, I didn’t know war was going around. I said, no, no, no. What’s new in Ukraine is that White Europeans are killing White Europeans. There’s lots of wars going on throughout the world. I mean, have you ever heard of Yemen? Have you heard of Ethiopia? Have you heard of the Great Lakes? And yet they see this—they see the world through a very upper class—globally upper-class lens. There is no conflict. There is no problem. And if you try to—how do you push that on them without them getting so resistant to it that you actually lost the battle?
KOPPELL: And I think it’s a really important point, both from the substance—there’s too much ignorance of the research that you add value to your organization or to your policymaking when you have diverse perspectives that are brought in. So you see that conflict is resolved more durably, more quickly, and more successfully when you have diverse voices at a negotiating table, that your organization functions better when you have diverse voices involved. And people just don’t know this research is out there, which is incredibly frustrating.
CENTENO: But it just—this becomes really a problem when you’ve got representatives of the United States saying things. I remember when—I did my dissertation on Mexico, and I remember going to an event. And the American ambassador to Mexico said is one of the reasons we have this great relationship is we’ve never been at war with each other. (Laughter, Laughs.)
KOPPELL: (Laughs.) Wow.
CENTENO: You know, it would have been great if he was from Arizona or Texas or something like that, but—(laughter)—
CENTENO: —but he wasn’t. And you see that—the last twenty years certainly—some of the foreign policy choices that have been made. People who didn’t understand. There were people—I’ve read too many accounts of the Iraq War and elite going into the Iraq War. There were people making decisions about Iraq that did not know there’s a difference between Shia and Sunni. That is—that is not just a question of representation, that’s a question of stupidity, and we have to fight against that.
KOPPELL: So how are you selling this? (Laughter.)
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: First of all, I would like to ask this at a political appointee, not a career person for the ambassador to Mexico—(laughter)—just to clarify—
CENTENO: Yeah. Yeah.
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY:—at that time, yeah.
KOPPELL: No, I mean, part of it is, right, getting this message across. So how you—
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: Yeah. Well, I mean, I’m nodding. You know, I—that description of what rooms look like when these issues come up. We are all glad to be here, but I certainly have been at Council events that don’t look like this room. So, hello, everyone.
We certainly are addressing it and indeed for every young person in here we want you to join the Foreign Service. Let me be clear about that.
And we’re working hard so when you get to our organization it is going to be an organization that you know from day one values you, and your opinion, and the knowledge you bring, and the experiences that you bring, because we recognize we need you around the table. So that is why this work is being done now.
But indeed, before I came back to the Department of State, I began to resist joining panels on diversity and inclusion because it looked like panels of brown people, and I have said, while it may be our burden, as women and people with disabilities and brown people, it is European Americans’ problem, and therefore, we need you on these panels as well.
We are getting after it by putting it in our precepts. You don’t get promoted unless you take the class. Meaningful initiation—when I was a student, we had to take certain courses to make sure that we were well aware of the world, and I don’t know why a course on history and making sure it’s a full course on history is not required for every student.
I mean, so that’s how we’re getting after it. I think other agencies are looking at what we’re doing at State. I must admit some envy among my colleagues when I tell them that we put it in the precepts for promotion because it does concentrate the mind very quickly, I assure you.
We do have our—I say our resistance at the mid-level, and I say they came by it honestly. We’ve been talking about this for a long time.
So to be skeptical about our commitment is to be reasonable, quite frankly, but I wouldn’t have taken this job if I did not feel this was the time to make a sustained change and commitment, and a lot of people are depending on us to get this right now.
So all the students that you all are educating, we want them. Yeah.
KOPPELL: Do you have any advice for Miguel about how you integrate this and bring along this sort of majority population and get everybody convinced?
CENTENO: Let me take this down. (Laughter.)
KOPPELL: Right. I’m ready.
WHITEHEAD: Yeah, no, no, no, I think you touched on it because I think one thing is the perception versus the reality and looking at the history.
And so I know some of the institutions I’ve been working with—in particular looking at the inclusion of Black students in this type of work—and some students don’t have any knowledge that Black folks—American Black folks have been working around the world in many different contexts as far back as Frederick Douglass when he was in the U.K. for the anti-slavery movement. Ida B. Wells, collecting funds for anti-lynchings. John Lewis, Stokely Carmichael, Kwame Ture—in the 1950s when Ghana was gaining its independence from other countries. Marian Wright Edelman in her memoir talks about how significant it was when she spent time in Russia.
And so we—some institutions have focused on OK, if we just tell the Black students about that legacy or the book, African American Foreign Correspondents, then they’ll see that they’re a part of it. But I’d argue all the students need to see that so they realize that it—it’s not just a certain type that you see going, but we all need to be a part of it.
The other piece—and I think you hit on it—is it comes from faculty development and how it connects to your discipline, and helping people see that it actually is meaningful and means something in your field.
We’ve made the most progress I think working with some colleagues in engineering where they used to have a requirement from ABET that said you had to think about international engagement. You had to think about how culture impacted what you were building and creating.
Social work, another discipline where you could say looking at the accreditors and that has helped. But the key has to be when it comes from the faculty, we’re saying we want to prepare students for life, work, and citizenship, and these are skills that they need for all three areas. And I think that has helped in some cases.
KOPPELL: One thing that’s been interesting and effective I’ve seen in schools is also when you create these courses on equity and inclusion issues, diversity issues, as electives you only get the converted. But if you have them qualify either as part of the core for a given concentration or major, or as something that counts towards a distribution requirement, then you begin to bring in a wider swath of the student body and can be really helpful in bringing in folks who may not want to grow up to be a gender advisor or social inclusion advisor but are interested in this material and willing to engage.
WHITEHEAD: And I can I add one thing to it?
WHITEHEAD: And I think you touched on this—and if you don’t only have the faculty of color teaching it. (Laughter.)
WHITEHEAD: So they’re hearing it and seeing it from a wide range of folks, not just those who say, well, you have a vested interest in pushing this, you know. No, we all do because it’s something that we all need for society.
I’m going to open up the floor to questions, and we’ll start, maybe, in the room. I could keep—good, a gentleman with his hand up, several. I’ll start here and then we’ll turn to folks who are online so we make sure that they’re included as well. There are two people towards the back of the room, and if you could maybe stand and say who you are and your affiliation, that would be great.
Q: Thank you. I’m Dan Whitman at George Washington University, which is across the street from—what was the name of the place? (Laughter.)
And Ambassador, I also work at the board of examiners. And your announcement—I think it was earlier this week—it was HR, right, about changes in the—in the exam.
As you know, this—
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: In case this is a critical question, yes, HR. (Laughter.)
Q: Don’t you.
Q: APSA went ballistic, and Eric Rubin, who’s on the record many times for being totally in favor of diversity, inclusion, was furious at what’s going on.
Is it that they—simply that they were not involved in the discussion? Because I can’t imagine they would oppose what you’ve actually done.
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: Yes. All right, well, I won’t tell you about my private conversations with the head of APSA. However, their objections, I believe, are largely centered on the fact that they were not consulted, and he made clear in his statement—I think two statements said that was the lead concern. And I think the second statement they released did—say that they didn’t object to the changes being made.
In all private honesty, it was a button—it was released before it should have been released because we do, of course, consult with APSA, and they have been briefed in the meanwhile.
So you should see more positive statements on the content on it. They’re still mad about not being consulted before it was done, so I would say that’s right.
KOPPELL: A second question here, and then we’ll go online. Maybe—or the two, and then we’ll go online.
Q: Thank you. My name is Mark Mooney. I’m with the Florida International University. I teach foreign policy and national security, and a lot of students apply for the Pickering and Rangel internships.
And so I wanted to—I think this might apply to everyone—if you could tell us where it stands. Because I know from the students I’ve seen there’s been a good mix of diversity and inclusion, but I don’t know if that’s more of a national situation. And will it change, and how will it change, so that I can advise these great students? Thank you.
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: Yeah. Keep ‘em coming. It is an extraordinary program. We are bringing in brilliant people with degrees. Although I remind everyone you do not need a bachelor’s degree to come into the Foreign Service. You only need to pass the test. There is no college requirement.
But they’re great, and they are very successful. I will say that the department has had a spotty record on providing them the support and recognition that they deserve, and we are changing that.
So it’s a great program. Both of them are great programs, and I think we’re expanding them. They’re good.
KOPPELL: Great. We’ll take one question online.
OPERATOR: We will take a virtual question from Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome.
Q: Good morning, I’m a professor of political science at Brooklyn College.
And my college, actually, has similar problems with the elite institutions—or the private institutions that have money—in terms of the composition of the faculty body and also the people teaching in, I would say, international affairs sort of courses. The whole discipline of political science has a problem with diversity.
And in my graduate student years at Columbia University, it was really—it was traumatic the absence, and then the assumption that it’s because of some sort of meritocracy. I’m not—I wasn’t born in the U.S. I was born in Nigeria, so it was really very strange to me, and it remains strange because we are leading in a concocted sort of reality where structurally some things are made impossible. And then we kind of refine the categories that we have created.
But that being said, I love all the good intentions and the aspirations, but I’m very frustrated because I’ve lived here for forty-one years, and diversity remains a huge challenge and the pipelines seem to, like I said, refine the differences that we love to say are relevant because it’s merit-based.
So many of my students are first generation to go to college. They are working while going to school. They have sometimes families and a lot of challenges. And I dare say, there doesn’t seem to be room for many of such students around the places that are doing these things. They can’t even afford to do study abroad because it’s expensive, and we don’t have scholarships for them.
So what really concretely is going to be done to include such populations? And then also to make skeptical people believe that we’re committed to change? Because for me, I have become very cynical, and it’s not because I am not—I left the APSA, because it’s a hostile space. They’re not interested in anything other than looking at America’s role in the world.
So is that what international—interest in international studies should be? Even when we hire, people always want to hire people who focus on the U.S. So it’s a really—it’s a conundrum as far as I’m concerned, and I’d like to be enlightened to see if I’m wrong. (Laughter.)
KOPPELL: Thank you so much.
Dawn, do you want to comment a little bit on the tactics and strategies that can work in such an institution?
WHITEHEAD: Yeah, I think I would like to. I think one thing in particular that stands out immediately is that although at some institutions study abroad is seen as the best practice for global learning, there are many other ways for students to have global experiences that don’t involve leaving the country and don’t involve mobility. We’ve seen them especially over the last two years. But many of them are already being developed in the process.
So the key is developing quality experiences for students. This could be community-engaged ethical learning. So you’re working with a community that’s culturally different—or it could be from your own community group—and students are learning and they’re demonstrating those skills about what it’s like to work with people who are different from you, solve problems with people who are different from you.
This could be working with a nonprofit, it could be working in a corporation, but that’s one strategy that a number of institutions have done. And I’m not here to defend APSA; I’m not a political scientist. But I was a co-editor of an APSA publication called Teaching Civic Engagement Globally. In that publication, you will see some examples of ways that you can work ethically in your communities that are more diverse, perhaps, than your own institution. Some people say, oh, my institution’s not diverse.
The other thing is what types of experiences and what are you having students do on campus? Are you really having students engage with other students in significant ways? A lot of institutions like this say, oh, we have students from over fifty different countries. Well, how are they engaging? Is it beyond sort of the tokenization where you say, oh, today we’re going to have you talk to today about what it’s like being in Nigeria, speak for everyone? No. (Laughter.) Are we going to have the nuanced conversations and understandings of what it may be? So I think that’s another strategy.
You mentioned—and I was so happy you mentioned this earlier—the paid internships. What types of paid internship opportunities are there for students? We’ve seen a number of institutions—from SUNY, to University of Wisconsin, to many others—that during the pandemic they have set up virtual paid internships with institutions and colleagues around the world. So students were working on web design for nonprofits in East Asia or other parts of the world. So that’s another way that you can have students have these meaningful global experiences if they cannot study abroad. And, yes, it takes funding from the university to offer professional development for faculty if you want them to do this work. And that, I think, is the biggest key. So I think I will stop with those examples.
KOPPELL: Do you want to add anything?
CENTENO: Sure. I have this speech that I like to give to the students and to the faculty. You may all be worthy, but you’re very lucky. And the recognition—to ask a person whose entire personality, professional ideal, is based on their own merit to start questioning it is very, very hard. (Laughs.) The things I have seen in faculty hiring meetings, things I have heard, it would blow your mind. Or maybe not. (Laughter.) Maybe you’ve heard them before. Especially in the academy, the ladder begins so early. If you don’t get into the right college at eighteen, you’re not going to get into the right graduate program at twenty-five, and you’re not going to get an assistant professorship at thirty, or whatever it is, and you’re probably not going to get tenure.
So we’ve created this system where only—we believe that decisions that are being made by emissions officers about seventeen-year-olds are absolute meritocratic and absolute versions of the truth, as opposed to recognizing, well, luck is one thing. But if you start seeing an overrepresentation of one group among the lucky, you should start wondering if it’s really luck, or it’s something else. Now, this is not attacking somebody’s right to be in a position. This is not attacking—this is what we have to be very careful with, that we—that we approach it in a way that people do not feel threatened. But unfortunately, many of my colleagues still feel very threatened the minute you mention diversity, the minute you start mentioning—you start saying, well, why don’t we look at this candidate?
And not even that. Even if you take the meritocracy seriously, the meritocracy is built in such a way that it tends to pick only a few lucky. The whole—I’m always picking on economists—but the entire culture of academic economics is not exactly gender neutral. It’s very male, if you will, or masculine, or alpha, whatever you want to call it. The same thing in political science. We have to start changing the culture, not just in terms of different viewpoints, et cetera, but just so it doesn’t reflect one single cultural set of standards, and that that is what is acceptable and that is what is appropriate.
KOPPELL: I really appreciate those perspectives. I would also add I think that in a world that is increasingly diverse, where the range of identities in the workforce, in every area of the workforce, is increasing, the need for that cultural competency, the need to be able to navigate whether or not you’re working permanently in one location or another, or traveling the world in the international capacity, is growing. And that diversity becomes part—navigating that successfully becomes part of professional success, writ large.
We could take another one online.
OPERATOR: We will take our next virtual question from Jin In.
Q: Good morning. My name is Jin In. I’m the assistant vice president at—of diversity and inclusion at Boston University.
I tell people in my school, in my university, that diversity and inclusion is the remarketed, repackaged version of something we did not do well nearly four hundred years ago, and that’s the United States Constitution motto, e pluribus unum. We were not able to make many of one, and so now this is the repackaged version. And I know that in this field they’ve also added the J and the B, which is “justice” and “belonging” to the DE&I. I’m wondering if you have some examples from the panelists how we’ve done well in the justice and belonging.
CENTENO: Well, one thing. There is—I am a product of financial aid. I think that financial aid—the scholarships and the financial aid assumptions of higher education is the best thing we do. The American dream is alive and well in universities. There is social mobility through universities. And I think we have to recognize, we—65 percent of our students are pretty much on full financial aid. Now, that also means you’ve got 35 percent whose parents can afford $70 thousand a year. (Laughs.) So that gives you some idea. But I think we—American universities should be very proud. I don’t know of any other country where their universities serve as a social mobility device as they—as they serve in the United States. And that’s something to be proud of.
KOPPELL: A great example. Other thoughts? Things that folks want to add?
WHITEHEAD: One thing I would say, and I think this has come out of the global racial reckoning over the past two years, is we’re seeing institutions—similarly to what you described about changing criteria. We’re seeing a change, whereas at some institutions the criteria for studying abroad sometimes didn’t really align with what was really required for studying abroad. So to participate in the study abroad program you had to have a 3.5 GPA. And some said, was that really necessary? And were you blocking certain students from participating? So we’re seeing some institutions that are loosening that. Again, they’re saying that we’re going to look at the letters of reference more. We’re going to do a more holistic approach.
Also not being so rigid in terms of if a student has a history of being on academic probation saying you automatically can’t participate. To go back and say, OK, why was that? Oh, this student was a STEM major, and they took three STEM classes in the semester. They should have taken two. They didn’t have proper advising. We don’t have enough advisors to advise the students. So I’m seeing that’s a little bit—a little of the J—(laughs)—coming around, as we’re trying to be more expansive. So that’s just one example that I’ve seen at more institutions over the past year.
KOPPELL: Do you want to add something?
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: I don’t know that I do.
KOPPELL: OK. Well, I have one, and it gives you credit, so there. (Laughter.) I think we’re playing a lot of catch-up. But I think the fact that this administration has at least 50 percent female political appointees in the international affairs space is important progress. I don’t know, you’ll have a better handle on the data overall, but it’s the first time. And it’s a little bit more broad-based than just saying, oh, we have the first female secretary of state in Madeleine Albright, who just passed away. But that kind of progress is important. And there are more people of color as well being appointed.
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: Yes. It is important, an important first step. And then the equity part of making sure that the voices and views are valued and welcomed, and anyone who is a minority, or underrepresented, or female in the national security sphere certainly knows the feeling of walking into the room and feeling like, wow, because I’m the only one here. I tell people, travel with a posse if you can because it’s lonely out there. I have had parents in my neighborhood, as we grapple with using the local school, and having parents, European American, tell me they don’t want to send their children to the local school because they don’t want their children to be a minority, or they don’t want their children to be the only one.
And this is an experience that Hispanics, African Americans, women in the national security field, and too many others, grapple with on a daily basis. It’s lonely when you’re walking into the room and the expectation is not for your success. I mean, I have to walk in recognizing that people are going to question me immediately, whether I should be in the room, or at the table, or opening my mouth—as a diplomat for thirty-plus years. Do I know about the Middle East? Et cetera. So that—it’s not enough to get them into an institution. It’s not enough to get them into the administration even, when they’re still walking into these rooms and meeting skepticism, polite curiosity if they’re lucky, and hostility because people are still not expecting us to be in these spaces, and don’t believe that we should be. That is very much the reality. The president has done a good job. The administration is trying. But that’s reality. So watch this space.
KOPPELL: All right. We have a number of questions in the room. I know you had had your hand up, right behind you. Do you still have a question you want to pose, or no? No, not you, but there’s one more behind you. There’s one behind you. Sorry, you’ll go second? OK. And I know you had a question as well.
Q: Thank you. So I’m Jill Humphries and I’m at the University of Toledo. And I’m also the ICAP fellow, class of 1997—(inaudible)—Madam Ambassador, one of my—one of our—
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANELY: First year, first year. (Laughter.)
Q: We were parts of the pipeline program, the International Careers Advancement Program for women and people of color, started by Dr. Tom Rowe at the University of Denver.
So my question is this: My concern is that the use of difference in an instrumental way, so that if you have a multicultural foreign policy establishment, as Dr. Ernie Wilson talks about, that we’re just there to sort of present the U.S. as saying that it’s truly met its racial democracy. Sort of like what South Africa’s going through, right? But that our actual input doesn’t change the actual outcomes. So my interest is, as someone who’s been doing applied-based social science as a boundary spanner for thirty years—having worked in southern Africa at age twenty-two, thirty years later still doing Africa-based work—is to what extent does having this diverse body actually change the outcomes of foreign policy?
Hence the Horn of Africa, where I just came back from visiting the impacted conflict war areas/regions in Ethiopia. So my Ethiopian colleagues, immigrants that are here, who I worked with and who I actually advise—(laughs)—which I find interesting—how to find the access points to influence U.S. foreign policy, are disillusioned because they actually say there’s Ambassador Linda Thomas at the United Nations. There’s Madam Ambassador at Department of State. There’s my former colleague and friend Dr. Cindy Courville—Ambassador Cindy Courville of the African Union—the first ambassador to the African Union. However, the outcomes of U.S. foreign policy still very much, right, is disadvantages, and I’ll just say this in context, Africa.
So I’m fundamentally more interested in not so much that the M&Ms in the room, right, but to more extent: How do we change the structural and institutional outcomes of this diverse body? One point I will make is that the African Americans—early African Americans that entered our foreign policy establishment were part of a larger movement, a civil rights movement or the larger Black freedom movement, and also the national liberation struggles, right? And so they were part of a global movement. Those of us post these movements are very much liberal individualism, and not connected. Hence, Dr. Susan Rice.
So that’s my question. I would also say academia’s somewhat different. I’ve actually seen, since I’m partly in academia, that we have been able to change some of the outcomes, right, by diversifying. Because of the creation of ethnic studies centers, gender studies, LGBTQ. But is that possible in these other institutions? Thank you.
KOPPELL: Go for it.
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: Hmm. (Laughs.) OK, all right, so real talk. Yeah. Yeah. I would say that many would say that the outcomes have not been sufficiently impacted, certainly with regard to Africa. And perhaps that’s changing under this administration. I think that’s why it is important to have a posse, that you can’t be the sole voice in a room. You cannot be the sole voice in a room and expect to change anything. You need more. If not to share your views, but to amplify and welcome. And I tell people that I mentor, the women in particular who don’t speak up as often as the men do, even if you don’t have the next brilliant idea, if you hear it, support it. Support it and speak out to help people feel comfortable sharing their views. It’s hard to disagree with the majority the way the flow is going in negotiations or foreign policy discussions, and be that lone voice saying, hmm, I don’t think so. Have we considered?
And, I have often thought in my career, as we’ve talked about great power interplay, et cetera—and this is Council on Foreign Relations—what about the people in these countries, where the elephants are grappling on top of and having impact on the people? And that we don’t have enough discussion of that. Or it is women and brown people who are having this discussion among ourselves and not changing the outcomes. More of us are needed in the spaces. Those of us who are in the spaces have to speak out. The amount of courage that is required is extraordinary. It is exhausting, as I mentioned earlier. But it is a requirement if we’re going to be there. So again, we need more—we need more. We need more voices. They’re not sufficient yet. That is the reality.
Q: Casey McNeill from Fordham University. First, thanks to all of the panelists for this great conversation.
I guess I just have a comment I want to throw on the table. One thing I was thinking of during this panel was, I guess, contra to what Miguel was saying, I think there’s been recent research suggesting that higher ed in the U.S. is, over the last couple of decades, contributing to more inequality rather than less. And I think thinking about hiring and tenure and promotion norms is really important here. And particularly the fact that we don’t get any pedagogical training really as part of our PhD training.
We’re not professionally rewarded for putting our time into thinking deeply about how to instruct students from diverse backgrounds. We kind of reproduce the things that worked for us. And we’re PhDs, we’re not the typical student that’s experiencing these things. So just kind of wanted to put that on the table as things that we all need to be discussing in our departments, because it seems like diversifying the student body, for example, if then we don’t know how to successfully teach students from diverse backgrounds. It’s not surprising to me that the outcomes are not changing. So wondering if panelists have thoughts about that.
CENTENO: Yeah. What struck me is the absence of pedagogy for pedagogues is really incredible. I mean, I was given responsibility for 112—or, I forget what the exact—120 or so eighteen, nineteen-year-olds. And I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just making it up as I go along. We’ve gotten a little bit better on that. On the inequality, I agree that the American university system does play a role in inequality. But given the last thirty years, universities have been better—(laughs)—at diversifying and democratizing than a lot of the society has been. (Inaudible)—a role in inequality. I think a lot of it has to – a lot of it has to do with just a general culture. And I’m sorry to keep talking about culture, but the culture of promotions. There is a culture of tenure.
There is a set of expectations that it’s a little bit like the Foreign Service exam, which I took many, many years ago, by the way. And I passed. (Laughter.) But a certain person became president, and I couldn’t serve. How do we—how do we create ways of basically judging hierarchy people, ranking people that are not as exclusive as these are? I mean, look, there’s going to be a process. You can’t give everybody tenure. You can’t give every single first-year PhD tenure. There simply is not—but we can make the process a little bit more humane. We can make the process take into account things in people’s lives.
It shouldn’t be—I have been—I have been shot down at promotion meetings when I point out that somebody is a single mom that has two kids, and one of them has got health issues. And they go, well, that’s not relevant. And I go, well, wait a minute. Why isn’t that relevant? That is what has to change. How to do it systematically, I wish I knew. (Laughs.)
KOPPELL: Yeah, one of the things the deans that we have been working with have struggled with is how do you begin to value, I mean, teaching in general more in the tenure and promotion process, but also mentoring and mentorship? And often because we have this issue with the composition of faculty and instructors, the folks who are there and of diverse backgrounds are overwhelmed by the number of students who are seeking them out for advice and mentorship. And yet, there is no reward to the instructor for mentoring that individual.
And so it’s a—the schools have been—some schools have been really trying to figure out, how do you start to recognize the mentoring that’s being done, because it’s so essential to these—to these students in helping them chart their future? So I think it’s an unfinished story, but at least there’s growing awareness that this is a real challenge. And you see it in the attrition rates among students and faculty, that the burdens are too much, that the ability to thrive is limited in the absence of guidance and assistance.
WHITEHEAD: I think I’d add just one other thing. And I think this is one thing that’s helpful working for an association that spans highly selective, open access, state, liberal arts colleges. We have all—a wide range of institutional members. And that is looking at other institution types. Because, of course, for research ones, for elite institutions, yes, teaching is not as valued. But when you look at some other institution types, you can see sort of what are they doing? What can we take from them through the promotion and tenure process that might be applicable?
That’s helped in the area of community-engaged learning. There are some institutions that are now recognizing that as part of the promotion and tenure process. That came from some smaller liberal arts colleges and is now moving to other institution types. And the last thing, I think, is looking at preparing future faculty in those types of programs, where they’re focusing on pedagogy while students are in graduate school to sort of change the structure and the culture that we’ve talked about.
KOPPELL: That’s great. Sir.
Q: Thank you very much. W.P.S. Sidhu from the Center for Global Affairs at NYU.
I wanted to connect the discussion of this panel with yesterday’s opening panel. DEI, I don’t think, is a luxury anymore. It’s a necessity. And I think that became very clear last night, because if the U.S. does not understand or know why there’s this lack of support on some perspectives—and I know that’s the next panel—that’s one of the reasons why we need to be more diverse, to understand the different perspectives which are coming too. And here, I really want to commend Madam Moderator for the initiative that you’ve taken for diversifying the curricula. I know a colleague of mine is also there on that panel.
But it comes back to the—the question that I have is this is almost like a chicken and egg situation of the curricula and the faculty. Which comes first? You’re not going to have diversity in curricula if you don’t have diverse faculty, to some extent. So in that sense, I think—and really kind of a shoutout to U.S. academia here—is there a space here to try and create a global IR? How might we go about that? What comes first, the faculty or the curricula, or research, in some ways, to move forward? Rather than just an American kind of IR. Thank you.
KOPPELL: Want to give thoughts on that?
CENTENO: Sure. Yeah. What comes first? (Laughs.) I think—I think the curriculum has to come first. I think expecting folks—as the ambassador was saying—folks who are junior in a department to then take on the burden of diversifying the curriculum—they’re not going to do it. They’re going to be stricter than the strict, because that’s what pays off. So I think we do have to change the curriculum. And if we change the curriculum in such a way that we cannot be a real political science department without X, Y, or Z, that will then lead to openings for diversity. So I would put the—absolutely the curriculum first.
And there’s remarkably little attention paid to curriculum. I mean, the number—the number of times that Princeton University has asked itself, why are we here and what are we teaching? It’s not that common of a conversation. (Laughs.) And it should be. It should be a conversation every day about what—why are we doing this? What are we trying to create? Are we simply trying to create an elite? Are we simply trying to reproduce ourselves? Or are we trying to create a different kind of human being? So we’re trying. We’re trying.
KOPPELL: I would—I just want to add—and I’m going to come back for a question on a slightly different perspective. Because I’ve been working with—at Georgetown doing faculty workshops with all of the different programs and the school of foreign service, to help people reimagine their courses, to think about these diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, how they can weave them into any sub-field in IR because, you’re right, I mean, people teach what they were taught. So getting them to think differently about the entire way they’re teaching and what needs to be taught requires some work.
And it’s—I mean, there are those who are sort of, like, talk to the hand, I’m not interested in changing. But a lot of them are really interested in that—in that exchange, in learning about the research that’s out there that shows how important this is, and why it’s becoming more important to engage. And they welcome the intellectual exchange. So I think they have to go in tandem, often because curricular changes are big, bureaucratic changes that are required. And so you need to move incrementally forward. And faculty turn over, as we all know, over decades, right? Your most senior faculty are around for a long time. So you have to—you have to work with the faculty assembly as configured, even as you try to make the more transformational changes.
WHITEHEAD: I’ll say one thing, really quickly. Also I think, again, you’ll say I’m one-note Dawn. But looking at the type of institution. Because some of our institutions are—their curriculum is under high scrutiny by the state and by others. And so I think you are seeing, in certain areas and in certain types of institutions, where they’re getting that external emphasis and that magnifier is going on, on folks there.
KOPPELL: I’m going to go way back there, just because I want to make sure since I’m angled this way that I’m covering the whole room.
Q: Thank you. Colette Mazzucelli, New York University.
I’d like to follow up on what my colleague just commented on and go to curriculum and faculty both. In my mind, if you’re at an institution like NYU, which is by definition a global network university, then you really have the need to reach deep into a local area to diversify. And that, in my mind, suggests that it really cannot be the curriculum that comes first, with all due respect. I think it has to be the initiative of the person to reach out. And that’s why I think the faculty workshops—I agree with you on that. But I think there needs to be more of a coordination in terms of how colleagues talk about what they’re teaching and learning, and how they cooperate in what they do. I mean, the collaboration, I think, is essential.
And that’s hard, because you do have differences in terms of levels of faculty members, who’s coming in when. And depending on when they’re coming in that kind of, in a sense, influences the pedagogy, the way they approach a curriculum. And now with all this digitalization it’s a brave new world. So I think for those coming up, there’s that added layer. And I think how we address that is going to be particularly important, because I think diversity and inclusion comes from how you’re also addressing the technological innovations. And there, I think State’s been very proactive in having these opportunities to bring members of the State Department into our classrooms with the technologies, I know that my students love. Because they’re interacting directly with professionals. They enjoy it. They learn about how they could see themselves in that type of a career.
And the diversity and the inclusion is built right in. So you have a kind of seamless approach in the learning. And that, I think, is something that I would say State continues, and we piggyback off of that. And it becomes, again, a collaborative type of effort. So I just—I mean, I understand what you’re saying about curriculum. But from my perspective I think it goes the other way. It’s the person, and then the curriculum is influenced through the collaboration. Thank you.
KOPPELL: Thanks for that comment. And I want to actually pivot and ask you, from a preset standpoint, what would you have students come in knowing and learning? Because that can, in some ways, guide all of these educators?
ABERCROMBIE-WINSTANLEY: Yeah. Well, I think we spend—we have spent a great deal of focus in our examination looking at how candidates might deal with different cultures. When you get into different situations around the world that are not American, how do you get done what you’ve come to do in a respectful, open-minded fashion? And that’s what we’ve been judging. But we also are now expecting our candidates to know more about America. That—I remember someone explaining to me how much I know about majority America, and how little majority America knew about my role, my part of the culture that is America. And our exam did not test that. But there are certainly increased questions, so that when you are representing the United States, you can represent all of it—all of it.
And so knowing our history. People are suddenly discovering Tulsa, or they’re suddenly discovering—there’s a wonderful documentary on PBS. You can find it at PBS.org, on—called The American Diplomat. And I love the title of it. All the diplomats discussed are African American from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. And I cried when I saw it, because I didn’t know about them. And these are people that—one was still alive and working in the Foreign Service when I joined, and I did not know about him, even though he had the second-highest number of ambassadorships in the Department of State. And I didn’t even know he existed. And that’s the Department of State’s error in not showing us, as diplomats, our full history.
So we’re working to correct that, to expand that knowledge. And so what the definitions of excellence is for someone graduating, for someone coming into the international relations field, means you’ve got to know all of it—all of it, to be able to say that you’re truly an expert, or you have an expertise, or a specialty. You’ve got to know all of it, so.
KOPPELL: Well, that will be our final word for this session. Please, we will have a—join me, first of all, in thanking our panel for a great conversation. (Applause.)
ROBBINS: On to a really fabulous panel here and we’re going to be talking what I hope is not a totally depressing topic about the future of democracy.
And you all have the bios of our participants here, so I’m just going to go through it very, very quickly, and I’m going to start with Catherine, who is in the middle here. She’s an associate professor of public administration and international affairs at Syracuse’s Maxwell School, and her first book, Delta Democracy: Pathways to Incremental Civic Revolution in Egypt and Beyond, published by Oxford—way cool—won the 2021 Virginia A. Hodgkinson Research Book Prize from the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, and she is—recently was a CFR international affairs fellow at USAID. So welcome home.
And Yascha Mounk is a senior fellow here at CFR and a professor of the practice of international affairs at Johns Hopkins University—I have to take a breath when I go through all the things you do.
ROBBINS: —a contributing editor at the Atlantic and the founder of “Persuasion.” His most recent book is The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure. I hope we can have a little bit of enduring here today.
ROBBINS: And immediately to my left here is Moira Whelan, who’s the director for democracy and technology at the National Democratic Institute and she regularly works with nonprofits in training government and civil society leaders on developing strategies for integrating new technologies into practice for citizen engagement. She also has quite the career in U.S. government. She was at the State Department as deputy assistant secretary for digital strategy and deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at USAID, and you also served at DHS, at Homeland Security.
So what we’re going to do is we’re going to chat up here for about thirty-five minutes and then we’re going to throw it open to you all, and so let’s—why don’t we start here?
Yascha, you’re outnumbered, so I think we’ll start with you.
ROBBINS: (Laughs.) So can we start off by talking about the threats to democracy in the wealthier countries, like the U.S. and Europe? These are the places until recently where we took this all for granted. How bad is it?
MOUNK: It’s pretty bad. And first of all, it’s so nice to be in a room full of people. (Laughter.) And I’ve given a couple of talks since the end of the pandemic in person but I’ve never been, like, on a panel of other humans, everybody on stage, so I’m really looking forward to this. So now I’ve cheered everybody up, now I’m going to depress everybody.
It’s pretty bad. We’re seeing the rise of authoritarian populists over the course of the last few years. It started as a shock that in countries like the United States those kinds of candidates might be able to win, something that many people thought was impossible, and this point we’ve sort of become inured to it. We assume that it’s possible, and in fact, some of the biggest democracies in the world, some of the most powerful democracies in the world, are ruled by political figures who don’t respect the basic rules and norms of a political system, who try to concentrate power in their own hands, who try to undermine the free media, who try to undermine independent institutions like courts. We’re seeing this in Brazil, in India, in Turkey in an extreme way, and I do think we saw that in the last years in the United States as well.
And so, one important question to ask is why this is happening. My last book, The People Vs. Democracy, I argued that it’s to do with a number of structural factors that we have to tackle; it has to do with the national living standards for ordinary citizens; it has to do, of course, with the rise of internet and of social media. But the more I thought about it the more I thought about a third kind of reason was also especially important and that’s what my new book, The Great Experiment, is about, and that is we’re doing something really historically unprecedented in most democracies in the world, which is to have these deeply ethnically and religiously diverse democracies that actually try to treat their citizens as equals.
So what we had before was pretty homogeneous democracies that worked relatively well. What we had before was countries like the United States at its founding which were diverse but which didn’t give full rights—in fact, subjugated in terrible ways—some ethnic and religious groups. And so I think that one of the keys to fighting back against the rise of these authoritarian populists, one of the keys to actually making our democracies work is to find recipes that make people more optimistic about the ability to sustain these deeply ethnic and religiously diverse democracies, so that’s what the latest book is about.
ROBBINS: So, Catherine, we’re much more accustomed to talking about how democracy is struggling and certainly falling backwards in the Global South and the areas that you work in. How bad is it there, and are the threats the same as the threats that Yascha’s talking about here?
HERROLD: First, Carla, thank you. And thanks to the Council. Thanks to all of you, and special thanks to Irina and Claire, Sarah, Sidney, Rachel for coordinating this great event—(applause)—this great in-person event.
I know that my colleagues won’t like this question based on our conversation just earlier, but I would first pose the question, what do we mean when we talk about democracy, but more importantly, who decides, right? Who decides? When thinking about the Global South, I see the threats aligning with what Yascha mentioned. Let me call out four primary threats that I see, just to frame this conversation, or to frame my contribution.
The first is economic. The second is in the civic realm. The third relates to the rise of China and global great-power competition. And the fourth and most controversially is the United States itself.
In the economic realm, every year I teach a course on global governance and civil society, and about five years ago—in that course we talk a lot about the role of democracy—or the role of civil society in bolstering democracy. And about five years ago a Palestinian student in that class raised her hand and she said, you know, in Palestine we don’t have democracy but we also don’t allow our poor people to live on the streets like I see when I walk to class every day. And she was getting to two key economic issues: first, the fact that we often prioritize economics at least as much as political democracy but, second, that democracy doesn’t necessarily deliver on economic justice and human security. And we see this playing out; we’ve seen it after the Arab Spring; we see it in the United States with our yawning inequality. The issue was touched upon last night with the current threats of Ukraine and COVID-19.
In the civic realm, we see governments increasingly cracking down on civil society, both imprisoning individual activists, the latest a philanthropist in Turkey this week, but also tightening restrictions on nongovernmental organizations systematically through NGO laws that restrict not only activities but also fundraising and the ability to bring in external funds for democracy building.
With the rise of China, we see attempts to export an authoritarian ideology, especially through the Belt and Road Initiative that uses high-profile infrastructure projects to project the idea that China can deliver on economic development and human security without pesky conditions on democratic political reform, yet simultaneously suggesting—arguing, in fact, in a white paper—that China’s own version of democracy is superior to Western democracies, right, so usurping the language of democracy.
And finally, the United States, and here I’m not referring to the potential loss of standing that the U.S. might have suffered as a result of the January 6 events of 2021. Instead what I’m referring to is what I dare to call, with all respect and admiration for my colleagues in the democracy-promotion establishment, a dysfunctional democracy promotion strategy, and what I mean is that attempts to export the institutions of U.S. democracy abroad, through technical projects related to electoral reform, legislative, judicial reform, fail to understand the fact that people who are taking to the streets around the world to call for democracy are not calling for necessarily those institutions of democracy but rather for the values of political freedom, social justice, and equality of economic opportunity on which those institutions rest. But they are calling to imagine and create democracy on their own terms and that, moreover, our efforts to promote democracy in the ways that we traditionally have can be harmful in that they tag recipient organizations as promoting Western agendas and actually give autocrats an easy out. Oh, we’re accepting democracy assistance, we must be democratizing, while on the other hand we continue to govern undemocratically.
But let me just wrap this up by saying I see all of these threats as presenting a real opportunity for the U.S. to adopt—including the January 6 events as an opportunity to adopt a more humble stance and work with our friends around the world to reimagine and co-create a democracy for the twenty-first century.
So I’ll end on an optimistic note, and I know that Moira will—(laughter)—be optimistic from here.
ROBBINS: So, Moira, Catherine has, obviously, thrown down the gauntlet here, so I’m going to pose two questions for you here. I’m not going to let Catherine totally hijack the agenda here. Can you start by discussing what you think the culprits are here and how much technology, as Yascha mentioned, is part of the culprit of what’s going on and what you see out there, both in the United States and in the developing world, the Global South? And then we can go onto the challenges of it.
WHELAN: Thank you very much. And again, it’s great to be here with all of you. And just so you all know, NDI—I don’t know how many of you are familiar—is probably the number one implementer of everything that Catherine was talking about, but being as democratic as we are, I don’t disagree with you at all. (Laughter.)
MOUNK: I’m just glad I’m sitting on this side of the stage. (Laughter.)
ROBBINS: Oh, well, you’ll have your chance, believe me. (Laughter.)
WHELAN: It’s funny—as you said, I tweeted something the other day about how, Ranking Digital Rights just came out, which is my colleagues at the New America sort of rank tech companies for how they’re doing in the human rights space and I said something about—that technology could be good for democracy and someone responded to me and said, actually, I think tech could use a little—I think you should reverse it. Technology could use a little democracy right now. And I think that that’s right.
Ultimately—I’ve been asked recently about, like, Elon Musk, some of these developments, and ultimately the problem is: is that six white dudes are making the decisions for public discourse in the world, and that is fundamentally antidemocratic. So, we have the very hard task of sort of bringing this, at least my team does, to the table in the democratic space. And I think one of the big dynamics we notice is that unlike economics, which often in the agenda of a country when they are striving for democracy, which inherently is always imperfect, is—they tend to think of technology as something that’s just happening to them. It doesn’t—economics is something they can control, they can lean into, they can adjust to deliver for democracy, or deliver for people. But, when we have the conversations about surveillance or we have the conversations about cybersecurity or disinformation, especially about disinformation, it’s just this thing that is happening to them and they don’t view it as something they can control or address fundamentally, unlike dictators, unlike Russia and China which very much see it as the first tool in the tool chest is to shut down the internet before an election. And I think we have a long way to go in terms of how we view traditional assistance, traditional methods of delivering on democracy. And I think we’re beginning to see signs of that.
Obviously, I’m sure everyone in the room is familiar with this Summit for Democracy, the Year of Action, the activities that the Biden administration is doing. It’s met with mixed results globally. People are like, OK, it’s fine, but there are signs where we see, like even yesterday, the White House just launched—I’m going to—I think it was a declaration is finally the word we landed on for the future internet, and you had fifty countries signing on to an agreement. Interestingly, you had the likes of Marshall Islands and Taiwan, all great, signing on, but you didn’t have India, you didn’t have—I think there were some other very large democracies—Indonesia—missing from that framework, where ultimately what it is is a recommitment to the promise of the internet, the human rights access, full participation. And I think ultimately what that shows me is that we’re not—our scope isn’t big enough in terms of democracy and—so there’s the need to deliver, but there’s also the need to broaden the aperture of what it’s supposed to do, what it can do.
And I will say, just to end on a positive note, I know we were both at Madeleine Albright’s funeral, which was a festival of democracy in terms of the speakers who were there—
ROBBINS: And women.
WHELAN: And women, which is central to democracy. But I was struck and I was sharing, where—NDI was created by Madeleine Albright—one of my favorite sayings of hers, which is, we have to love democracy because it’s the only one that loves you back. And, that is really telling, right? Like, it goes back to it’s imperfect and terrible except for all the other ones. But getting to what you said, we also have to not just have a better narrative and a better argument against China and Russia and authoritarian tendencies, but we have to deliver. And I think that’s really the work that we have before us.
ROBBINS: So I want to get to Yascha, and then I do want to get back to—you say that you—part of your work is that you have an optimistic—so I’m not feeling really optimistic about the United States right now and I really do want to feel optimistic about the United States. I mean, I have so many of my students—I have a majority minority program, so many of them are immigrants. I mean, they come here because they believe in the United States. I believe in the project. Tell us how we fix it.
MOUNK: Yeah. Well, let me say two things. I mean, first is that I’m just amazed by how quickly the public consensus can switch by 180 degrees about certain topics. So I remember starting to teach a class about the internet called democracy in the digital age at Harvard in, I think, 2013, and as late as that I saw my whole task as a teacher to get my students to see that there might be some negative sides to the internet, that it could have certain risks. And today we talk about the internet as though it’s completely obvious that it’s already going to destroy things and things are going to be really terrible. I think the answer was a little bit more gray on gray then and the answer’s a little bit more gray on gray now. I think the same is true about the future of democracy.
So when I was in graduate school not that many years ago, the consensus of the field was, look, there are obviously many democracies in the world that are in relatively poor countries or that haven’t had established democratic institutions for a long time, and we know that those can be very brittle. But when it comes to a country like the United States, like France, like Germany, like Australia, you don’t have to worry about democracy ever, right? No single example in the history of a world of—a country that had already changed governments with free and fair elections at least twice and that had a GDP per capita of more than about $14 thousand in today’s terms, probably about $15 thousand now with inflation, that has collapsed, and so in the United States and all those countries, you don’t have to worry at all. Now suddenly the consensus—and, obviously, a lot of things have happened in the last five years; I don’t want to underplay that—but now the consensus is that American democracy is doomed and we know we’re going to go off the rails. I think, again, the truth is somewhere more in the middle; it’s a little bit more gray on gray. I absolutely worry about the ability of the authoritarian populists to win elections. I very much worry about the 2024 election and what it might mean. I’m worried about 2028 and 2032.
And by the way, if Donald Trump does get reelected or manages to install himself in power through his control of secretaries of state around the country and all the other kind of shenanigans—(inaudible)—happening, it’s going to be a lot worse than the first time, because the first time he was in, we got lucky. He did not have political experience, he was still semi at war with his own political party, he did not have smart and competent loyalists to put into all of those key positions in the federal bureaucracy, and he didn’t understand that he needed to undermine certain institutions of democracy to get his way. All of that has changed. This time, if he comes back, he has the full backing of the Republican Party, he has a cohort of people who gained real experience in the federal bureaucracy who are very loyal to him, he himself understands how the levers of power much better than he did on January 20 of 2017, and he’s going to have a determination to take control that actually goes beyond the first time. So I absolutely have reasons to worry, but there are also many scenarios in which we somehow get through this in a relatively good way and we shouldn’t underestimate that possibility either. We might be able to avoid Donald Trump winning the 2024 election. We might somehow be able to get a Republican who I personally probably won’t particularly like but who’s respectful of the basic institutions in 2024, 2028. He might come into power and not manage to undermine the institutions. So that’s one reason for optimism.
But the other I want to talk about is the subject of my new book, of The Great Experiment, and that’s of the state of our multiethnic, multireligious democracies, because that’s actually where I think we are most in danger of overshooting the pessimism, and I think there’s a sort of paradoxical reason for that, which is that many people start from a weird naïveté about the difficulty of this project, and that naïveté leads to pessimism. So most people say, hey, how difficult can it be to build these diverse democracies? How difficult is it to respect your neighbor even if he looks differently from you? How difficult is it not to be a bigot or a racist? And then we look at the state of our society and say there’s lots of injustices and lots of problems, and so that must mean that there’s something uniquely wrong with us, and then how can we possibly have hope for the future?
In this book my argument has a very different structure which is to start to recognize by looking at the history of the world and looking at many different countries in the world today how incredibly difficult it is to build these deeply diverse democracies, because of human psychology, because we all have this deep instinct to build groups and discriminate in favor of the in group and against the out group; that’s something which is baked into human psychology that we see in all of these different contexts, because of the history of a world in which not all but many of the most terrible and violent conflicts have been fought between different ethnic, racial, religious groups. Most of the worst wars and civil wars and instances of genocide and ethnic cleansing came along those lines. And because democratic institutions can sometimes exacerbate those problems because democracy is always a search for majority, which gives you reason to think, hang on a second; if I used to be in the majority and now you have more kids and there’s more immigrants come into your group than mine, I might lose control, and that’s really threatening. So what we’re trying to do is really, really dangerous, but that then allows us to look back at the current state of our society and agree with some of those great immigrant kids that you’re teaching and say, hey, there is a promise here because actually, for all of the real problems today, life in the United States has significantly improved, especially for minority groups over the last hundred, fifty, even twenty-five years.
So let me just mention a couple of points. Within my lifetime, a majority of Americans thought that interracial marriage was immoral, that it was immoral for a white and a Black or a white and Asian American to marry. Today that number is down to single digits, and we know that that’s not just people responding differently to pollsters, it’s an actual sociological change because the number of interracial newborns used to be about one in thirty-three and now it’s one in seven or one in six. That’s one indication of real change in society.
When it comes to immigration, there’s this weird pessimism that’s shared by the right and the left. So the right is going to say, look, Italian and Irish immigrants succeeded a hundred years ago because they’re culturally more similar and they were Christians and they were white, and these immigrants who are coming in today, these people are going to say, are from El Salvador and Vietnam and Kenya—they won’t succeed because they’re somehow supposedly inferior, culturally, perhaps even genetically. Now, my friends in the center and on the left rightly reject that attribution of blame, but they actually echo the story in weird ways. They say, it’s true that immigrants today aren’t succeeding like they did a hundred years ago; just the reason for that is the discrimination, the injustice in our society.
Now, there is real discrimination, there is real injustice, and that’s absolutely clear, but, again, the sociological evidence runs completely counter to this narrative. It turns out that the first generation, especially people who come from poorer countries, do often struggle, don’t make on average median income, sometimes struggle to learn the language if they come here as adults. But children and grandchildren obviously acquire the language at native levels, actually rise up the socioeconomic rung much more rapidly than children and grandchildren of similarly situated nonimmigrant Americans, and as a result, the best studies we have indicate that the progress that these immigrants are making today is at about the same speed as the progress made by Italian and Irish immigrants a hundred years ago.
Now, that, obviously, shows that the far-right narrative about this is deeply wrong and there’s nothing inferior about today’s crops of immigrant. But it also shows that some of the self-flagellating pessimism of my friends, that the injustice and the racism is so extreme that immigrants don’t stand a chance, is also wrong because despite real obstacles, they are succeeding at about the same rate as people did a hundred years ago. And so I’m very worried about the political level, I’m very worried about the 2024 and 2028 elections, I continue to be very worried about authoritarian populists and how they can undermine our political system, but I do also think that when you look at the heart of our society, we have made real progress on how to build diverse democracies in the last decades and we can continue to build on that progress. And having a little bit of optimism about that is actually a precondition for beating people like Donald Trump at the ballot box. And now I feel like I’ve been far too positive for the Council and Richard Haass is going to tell me off. (Laughter.)
ROBBINS: So, Catherine, you threw down the gauntlet. Can you—and we have a limited amount of time here so I want you to, if you can, if you were to fix NDI—(laughs)—can you give us three things that you would like them to do differently? And then I’m going to have—Moira, you don’t have to respond to those three things—
WHELAN: I hope my boss isn’t watching. (Laughter.)
ROBBINS: Right. Moira, you can either respond to them and say they’re—gee, I like those but I think you don’t get it, or if you were going to fix NDI or you think that you, that you—you think that Catherine’s assessment is wrong.
HERROLD: OK, so can I just add—
ROBBINS: No, you can’t—we have a limited—
HERROLD: —a strategic, which is—
ROBBINS: No, no, no. Catherine, we have a limited amount of time here. (Laughter.)
HERROLD: —a humble stance. My three tactical suggestions for the reform of democracy assistance are, first, to de-silo—and this may be more for State and USAID—to de-silo grantmaking, to respect the fact that economics and politics are deeply intertwined, and to somehow bust down some of these silos that sequester democracy from economic development and humanitarian assistance, so that’s number one. Number two, seek out new grantees and local partners. So much of democracy and development assistance goes to international NGOs and a small cadre of very elite human rights organizations, when many grassroots organizations that may be seemingly operating far from the political field are cultivating democracy at grassroots level, so try to find a way to connect with them without bureaucratizing them, and just bringing them into the establishment. And then—I wish I got four. (Laughter.)
ROBBINS: You can have four if you do them fast.
HERROLD: OK, so number three, then, thank you, would be so that we don’t bring these organizations into the establishment, let’s reform our application, reporting, and evaluation requirements, make these far more accessible to local groups, and transform evaluation so that organizations aren’t just submitting reports telling us what we want to hear about how they impacted democracy in the one-year span of their grant but—
HERROLD: —rather, how can we, again, use evaluations to act as co-learners? And then, finally, we were talking about this earlier: capacity building. Promoting democracy is not about the money. The money can often be detrimental. When we talk about localizing assistance, we often talk about sending money to local actors. That’s often not what local actors need. But when we talk about capacity building, can we talk about capacity not, as we were discussing earlier, the capacity to apply for a USAID grant or the capacity to work with NDI, but the capacity to mobilize people on the ground for democratic political reform. So that’s my four.
ROBBINS: I’m not sure I would define that’s what they think capacity building is; I don’t think that capacity building is a perpetual motion machine, but I’ll leave it to—
HERROLD: Fair enough.
ROBBINS: I’ll leave it to Moira.
WHELAN: Well, I think this will kind of bring together a couple of the things we talked about. One, I would say, I don’t disagree, but I think we need to go a—level it up, in a sense, and look at things with a sense of urgency that we really haven’t before.
You mentioned 2024 in the United States. I look at 2024 and I see India, the United States, the EU, and Indonesia all voting that year, and if you think Facebook, which has the largest number of content moderators—if you think Facebook’s fifty people that manage elections are going to be able to handle even one of those properly, and you look at the largest democracies, more people in the world voting in one year. It’s sort of what we would call a super-election year. But forget about smaller countries, forget about the countries where they don’t think the market’s big enough, with the likes of a Zambia or Myanmar, when we know what has resulted in some of these countries that they just—that don’t get on their radar. So, number one, is the sense of urgency and we really do need to put this front and center. Two are new partners and really getting—in my case it’s technology but I don’t think it’s—I think the private sector has a major role here in a lot of fronts, realizing that they have a role in preserving a democratic space, and they simply don’t.
We did a program on 5G, just looking at 5G technologies, where it’s scaling in the countries where we work, who has spectrum auctions, things like that. Through the course of that, we wanted to talk to parliaments—two parliaments dissolved that we wanted to talk about so that’s not good, but I did the first ever panel discussion at the 5G summit in Prague on democracy. It was the first time they’d ever had this conversation. So here they are, the leaders in the multi-stakeholder system, the Swedes, the United States, democratic systems countering China. They’d never talked about democracy; they don’t see themselves as having a role. It’s strictly national security and economic. So we don’t put it front and center. So I do think there is value in the Biden administration having prioritized it.
But I think the other thing—and it gets back to sort of the reform that you talked about—we don’t have the right mechanisms to seize the openings that we see. If we see protests, if we see action, it takes about six months for the money to, like, show up at USAID, another six months for us at NDI to write the papers and the grant proposals. I was actually at a conference where they were like, what would your first response be to a group, and they were like, we would write a grant proposal—(laughter)—right? Like, I mean, we don’t have the mechanisms to seize those openings, and we also don’t have the mechanisms of democracy to harness them, and the example I always use is youth and digital. So you all remember when a bunch of American students bought tickets to the Trump rally in Oklahoma and then—on TikTok—they all believed that they were going to have a giant rally, and no one showed up. Young people today believe that they can impact their community through the internet. They can click it, they can like it, they can share it. Political parties still require you to go meet and write a platform and get in a small group and only care about your little community before you can care about the broader community. So our systems aren’t welcoming that kind of, like, change agent that is there. We can, but we have to be willing to adjust. So when we talk about capacity building, I think democracy also has to “revision” what we’re doing to harness those things and motivate them.
HERROLD: Can I add on to that?
ROBBINS: Three minutes—one minute for each of you. (Laughter.)
HERROLD: To add on to this?
HERROLD: OK, thanks.
As I was listening to you, Moira, talk about seizing the opportunity, for example, presented by protests or presented by grassroots organizations or grassroots organizing, that may be going on very covertly behind the scenes. The one question that comes—I wholeheartedly agree, but then the question that comes to my mind is, as we’re thinking about the mechanisms to support that, which we don’t have right now for all of the reasons you mentioned, how do we develop those mechanisms in ways that are—going back to an earlier theme that I mentioned—helpful and not harmful? Because I find when I speak with local activists that they want U.S. support but that there’s a real ambivalence about the U.S. almost—they don’t—they want to be careful that the U.S. isn’t claiming any responsibility for their movements, that they are responsible, that they are the ones making the change, and also very wary of receiving funding from the U.S., either because, as I said, it sort of alienates them from local citizens or tends to bureaucratize them. So I don’t have the answer here, but how do we meaningfully support what we see as a movement of social change actors and youth especially outside of NGOs, outside of the foreign aid regime? How do we support them in ways that are meaningful?
ROBBINS: So I’m going to do something and I’m sure people will come up with questions but I’ve got one minute left and I’m going to do something. I’m going to throw this back to Yascha because how do we support local communities in the United States with this same question?
MOUNK: Let me punt this—
ROBBINS: You have a minute.
MOUNK: —because I do want to speak to a debate that’s ongoing about democracy promotion and perhaps I’ll find something to say about local communities at the very end of my one minute; you can set your time.
We’ve been talking for fifteen or twenty years about democratic recession and we think of it as these democracies under threat internally because of the kind of transformations we’ve been talking about, and that is a big part of the picture. But I think we’ve actually left out the piece of authoritarian resurgence, that dictators around the world are much more self-confident and much more—(inaudible)—than they used to be. And one of the things I worry about with the very term of democracy promotion, the very framework in which actually all of us have been talking about this on the panel so far, is that we’re thinking we’re still in this moment where democracy’s expanding around the world and what can we do to facilitate that process and to make sure that more countries come into the democratic fold and we’ve learned over the last decades how hard it is to do that. Certainly, it’s a mistake to try to do so by military means but also how ineffective it often is to try and expand the zone of democracy through those kind of democracy promotion mechanisms that you’ve been discussing the details of.
So I actually think that we should have a paradigm shift towards democracy protection. In this moment in which democracy is on the defense, the first thing we should be doing is to think about, how do we make sure that democracy in India and Poland and Indonesia and all of those important places doesn’t go kaput? And then we can think about all right, if the moment shifts, how do we push towards democracy promotion? In terms of normative values, I’m absolutely in favor of doing what we can to ensure that as many citizens around the world get to be self-governing. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong or imperial about that project. But in this historical moment, I think our first priority should actually be democracy protection rather than democracy promotion. And now I’m going to make some kind of wild connection to the actual question—
ROBBINS: No, you don’t have to. You just knocked it out of the park with that one.
ROBBINS: That was great. (Laughs.)
So I’m going to throw it open to the group. So just want to remind you to please raise your hand, stand, wait for the mic, and state your name and affiliation. We also have people on Zoom, so we’re going to be calling on them as well. So right here.
Why don’t you wait for the mic and then tell us who you are?
Q: My name is Bob Press from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Going back to your point, Catherine, I think you’re raising some very good points about how do you help democratic—promote democracy. I think the push through NGOs is terribly overrated. They’re bureaucratic, they tend to live in the suburbs, they’re not connected to the grassroots, and I’ll give Kenya as an example. Right now extrajudicial killings is a major issue, as it has always been in Kenya but the difference is that young people are standing up and risking as they promote against—they live in the informal settlements and they’re risking their lives a little bit, and they think of the NGOs as maybe can help them a little bit with money but they don’t actually get much money. And I don’t think that—I think the focus on institution building through democracy—promotion of democracy needs to get a little bit lower ground, closer to the ground, because that’s where some of the action is taking place, not just career building in NGOs. Anyway, that’s probably said enough.
ROBBINS: That’s more of a statement than a question so why don’t we—Moira.
WHELAN: I would say, I don’t disagree with you and I think one of the things we’ve talked about is the protection of democracies and then, to your point about local capacity building, the gap we see is that—these are discussions we have in NDI. We tell the donors, they come back to us ten years later with brilliant programs to address such things because they move at the speed of democratic government, but I think we are seeing that. I think we’re seeing that we have to move beyond the national systems into local systems, and that’s where we’re going to see democratic change grow. That’s—and I think it’s about protecting those systems and seeing it. But there’s also a positive side of that which is that’s where people are going to see it deliver, where they were involved in their community, they can see a positive outcome, that they just can’t see when it’s like congratulations, country X, you’re in the U.N., you have a vote. Like, they don’t feel that, but they feel a new road, they feel a school that is responsive, they see—and we haven’t really talked about it, but COVID-19, they see vaccines for their kids. That’s—we have to meet them where they are and we have to meet the democratic moments where they can—when we first see them, and it happens very much at a local level. It is unfortunate to say but the most successful elements of democracy are—there is a kind of throw spaghetti at the wall, when you really get down to it, because not everybody’s going to thrive, not every political system or political party is going to get elected, and that is, I think, for all of your students, important to remember. What we’re talking about is democracy promotion, which is different than regime change. We are talking about everybody being included in multi-stakeholder systems and full participation versus wanting to see a bad government and a good government come in place—come in its place. But I don’t disagree with you on the local—the need to go more local. It just—the problem is the systems don’t move fast enough.
HERROLD: Can I add a quick two-finger? I 110 percent agree with all that Moira just said and I’m going to play devil’s advocate to the arguments that I typically make because I would agree, Bob. NGOs constitute, typically, a very lucrative industry, a very elite and lucrative industry. And I fully agree that the exciting action is happening at local levels in grassroots communities in the ways that you describe. And yet I’m also going to ask the question that my students and I’m sure all of your students ask, is what is the best way to effect change? Is it at that local level or do I enter the belly of the beast and try to make change from within the NGO sector? And when we talk about international organizations and even national governments, who has the—who currently has the power to make change at the margins in these areas? It’s probably the NGOs and not the little grassroots groups. So let’s—before I throw all NGOs under the bus, I just want to acknowledge that often they’re the ones with access to the halls where decisions are made.
ROBBINS: Next question. Yeah, right there. Please. Your name and your affiliation, please.
Q: Malia Du Mont. I’m with Bard College.
So the title of this panel, advancing democracy around the world, it’s something that we are not just bystanders to, we are not standing outside of that and studying and observing it; it is a natural outcome of what we do as educators. And so I want to ask some questions about that. I mean, it’s just by virtue of the fact that we are capacity builders; we are helping create the next generation of independent thinkers, making it harder for authoritarianism to flourish around the world.
And my question is about how we interact with and how we get the support and recognition of our government for that, so higher education in America continues to be an enduring and important element of American soft power, and as I just said, we’re helping advance democracy around the world, not in a political sense but it’s just what we do. And I just want to use the experience of Bard College as the way to ask my question.
So at Bard we helped over two hundred Afghan refugees escape Afghanistan; we placed them all in degree programs around the world, including thirty-five at our main campus here and we’ve just admitted thirty-five more who will be joining us in the fall and we just announced ten new scholarships for Ukrainians. And this attracted the attention of the White House because no other institution had brought that many out, which was really great. They came to Bard; they had a roundtable; some of your institutions probably participated in that. And that was very nice but then there hasn’t been any sort of enduring institutional support for this. So we asked our congressman to write to USAID, which he did, and say, look, institutions of higher education have a really important role and they are playing a really important role in resettling refugees because we have unique capabilities and we can help these students stay in a stable location for years; we give them an education, which makes it easier for them to integrate into the local society; we have housing, health care, all these things that we can provide these students. And so we asked for USAID to create some kind of mechanism to help coordinate the role of American institutions of higher education in resettling refugees. Last week we got back a nice form letter from USAID through our congressman basically saying, great job—(laughs)—institutions of higher education, thank you for your work. And then Department of State announced a new grant program this week that explicitly excludes institutions of higher education from this new grant program that started helping to resettle refugees.
So my question—I guess it’s mainly for Moira—is, how can we, as institutions of higher education, like, really recognize the role that we’re playing and get the government to understand that and support what we’re doing? Because it’s great for our institutions, it’s great for our democracy, and it’s great for other countries around the world. Thank you.
WHELAN: Well, and thank you for that. And thank you, I will say, on behalf of someone who spent quite a bit of time concerned for my own colleagues in Afghanistan and Ukraine. Thank you very much for your work and your efforts.
Catherine will probably have comments on this too because I think it speaks to the problem of foreign assistance and the fact that we say, oh, I’m sorry, we can’t give you that money because it has to go overseas and local. That’s where we have to put it, so, unfortunately, you can’t do it, or you can’t apply for it as a means of foreign assistance. There are some programs at the State Department that you mentioned—a friend of mine runs the University of Texas System, which did something very similar. University of Michigan System also resettled a number of refugees. But the enduring support is a problem.
The other element that I will say where I see you all, as small-D democrats, right, is the—is the idea of what you’re facing when you enter the classroom in terms of disinformation. And the belief systems that many of your students are coming to you with that are authoritarian. They are based on a belief system that’s just false. And I think there’s another element there where we’re not doing enough to help you all bridge that gap of trying to get to critical thinking. Trying to—we’re—you never want to break someone, but sometimes you got to break them, right? Like, they’re coming in with crazy ideas. And are against the very institution that you’re teaching at. They’re against the idea of liberal—again, small-L liberal—(laughs)—liberal arts and liberal thought.
And I think we don’t—it’s something, I will say, I know colleagues at Homeland Security are talking about because there is an element here where it’s very easy for us to look at another country and say, OK, what can we do to support their academic institutions to prevent extremism from growing on college campuses in X, Y, Z country. We’re not doing it here. And we don’t have that humility and that ability yet to say there’s extremism on our college campuses and we need to equip the people who are on our side to address that. And I think the mechanisms don’t move fast enough.
So I don’t have a great answer for you, beyond to say it gets back to the silos of what’s foreign, domestic—
ROBBINS: Democracy and not.
ROBBINS: I have an answer.
WHELAN: You do?
ROBBINS: I get to answer, OK? (Laughter.) As the former deputy editorial page editor of the New York Times, make noise.
WHELAN: Yeah, be democratic.
ROBBINS: Op-eds, reach out to—reach out to editorial pages. Shame them. Get your senator, get your members of Congress, shake the tree here. This is the sort of thing that you would think that Samantha Power would care about. This is the sort of thing that the Biden administration would care about if you raise it. Now, they have limited bandwidth right now. Afghanistan’s certainly not something they’d want to spend a lot of time thinking about. It’s an embarrassment for them. But what you were doing is exactly the sort of thing they should be proud of. And certainly the shame potential’s pretty high here. So if—Ukraine may be better at getting their attention right now, but a mixture of shame and pride in Ukraine—I think there’s an op-ed, I think there’s an editorial, I think there’s a news story in this that, you know what Washington’s like. They respond to that sort of thing. So I think, make noise.
MOUNK: I’d like to jump in on a broader aspect of the question. So first of all, I think what Bard is doing is incredible. But I do think the fact that Bard thinks of itself as having the goal of educating its citizens in democracy and being part of soft power or those democratic values is actually more unusual than it is usual among democracies. And it has to do with Leon Botstein at Bard. I’m lucky to be at an institution, Johns Hopkins, where we also have a visionary president who cares about those values, Ron Daniels. But I can tell you, in my university he is trying to get a democracy requirement into the undergraduate curriculum, and the resistance from every department is extremely strong. They don’t want this.
I had a discussion with the president of an Ivy League university—a rather well-known Ivy League university.
ROBBINS: Can you tell us what letter it starts with? (Laughter.)
MOUNK: I’m going through the list to figure out whether there’s two of them. No, I can’t, though you can imagine which one it might be. This was after—after 2016. And I said, what is this university, whose letter I won’t tell you, trying to do to actually make sure that students understand the basis of our democratic system, and they come to understand why, despite its real flaws, it is in fact a system that’s worth defending and worth fighting for. Said, I don’t think that’s our role at all. I mean, if they come out thinking the Chinese system is better, that’s just fine for me.
And so I think that—I agree with everything you said, and admire your efforts at Bard. But one piece I disagreed with was that universities are a strong force for soft power among the international students we attract. I don’t think that’s the case. I think that students—hundreds of thousands of students enter the United States every year from China and other places, who come and acquire wonderful technical skills, take courses in which they’re taught how terrible American democracy is, and go home with their views not very much changed. And so I think we should all be a little bit self-critical about how we can have the open academic debates and work on the flaws of our country, which of course is part of a free society, but how we can also design an undergraduate education which actually educates people about the ideals on which our political system is built, and which I think are worth defending. And I don’t think we’re there.
HERROLD: And as educators, as faculty, we might ask: are our universities democratic? But I’m not going to go there. (Laughter.)
ROBBINS: From Zoom, yes?
OPERATOR: We’ll take our next question from Ismael Muvingi.
Q: Hi. Thank you. I’m Ismael Muvingi from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.
And, first, I assume we’re talking liberal democracy here. And I think it was Yascha—I’m probably messing up your name, I have to apologize—but when you started your remarks you indicated democracies simply were working when there were uniform identities. And that’s gotten me baffled, because when you look at the U.S., there were Black people and there were indigenous people during those times when the democracies were supposed to be working. And as for Europe, let’s not even go there. They were halfway—they held half the world under an iron fist called colonization. So what democracy are we talking about that worked, and for who?
To borrow from the realists, isn’t the real problem here, the real crisis, one of power? Who holds power and how do they maintain power? And democracy was useful, acceptable, when it ensured the monopoly of power by the Caucasian group. Now that’s under threat, and so democracy’s not seen as working anymore, especially internally in the so-called rich or advanced countries. So democracy be damned, is what we are seeing. And so the question is, what democracy are we promoting or seeking to promote when it’s this—it's a system which is being utilized for redistricting and excluding elections? How do we promote that anywhere else? And can we get our foundation of power—
ROBBINS: Thank you.
MOUNK: So, look, so this is exactly what I said, right? That at the origin of these democracies—you have two kinds of origins of contemporary democracies. You had them in countries like West Germany, where I grew up, where after the founding of a successful German democracy, the Federal Republic of Germany, the country had become very homogeneous, as a result of all of the cruelties and injustices of the first half of the twentieth century, as a result of the Holocaust, and expulsions, and all of those other kinds of things. And so as a result, in 1950 the German population was more homogeneous than it had been for centuries. That’s one kind of case.
The other case, as I said, is the United States, which of course was an incredibly diverse society at the moment of its founding, but it wasn’t a diverse democracy at the moment of its founding, for the exact reasons that you outline. In that one group held power, and was treated as equal, and was included in democratic institutions, but other groups, to various extents—up to the extreme extent of chattel slavery—were excluded, were not treated as citizens, were not included in these democracies.
And so what’s unprecedented about this moment is not that not everybody is white in the United States. That’s been the case always. It’s that we are trying, at least, to treat all members of the society, or citizens of the countries, as equals, irrespective of their ethnic and religious group. And so what’s why it’s the greatest challenge. That’s why it’s a new point of departure. So I agree exactly with your description of what American democracy was like at the moment of its founding. That’s precisely what makes this moment so difficult and so fraught.
Now, I do think that we would make a mistake to conceptualize American society today as a kind of easy clash, or as being fundamentally defined between whites and people of color. I think this is a way that we’ve become very used to talking about American politics. It is one of the dangers that await our country and that we may end up sliding into if things go wrong in the next decades. But it is not actually a realistic description of where we’re at in society today.
So let me say something briefly about that. The United States Census Bureau assessment, America will be majority minority by something like 2045 or 2042 or 2048. They keep shifting the dates, but something like that. And that’s meant to be a sort of scientific prediction. And then there’s a set of political conclusions that people draw from that. Conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on anything in American like, other than one incredibly ambitious and very damaging and wrong theory: which is that of a rising democratic majority.
The idea that because white voters tend to favor the Republican Party and non-white voters tend to favor the Democratic Party, as the share of the non-white population grows Democrats are going to start winning elections all the time. I think that both of these ideas are actually misconceived. So the first point is that demography is not destiny. If you had looked at voting patterns in the 1960s, you would have said, well, Democrats are always going to draw on Irish-American voters. Well, now Irish-American voters are one of the main constituencies for the Republican Party. So these demographic coalitions really shift.
When you look at the 2020 election, the main reason why Donald Trump was competitive was that he significantly increased the share of the vote among every non-white voter group—among African Americans, among Asian Americans, and particularly among Latinos. And when you look at why Joe Biden won in 2020, it is because he significantly boosted his share of the vote among the white population compared to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
So this idea that you can fast-forward politics and Republicans need to be incredibly scared of these transformations because they won’t ever have a chance to win, or Democrats just need to mobilize their base and they’ll be fine, they don’t have to worry, is just politically empirically wrong. And it’s also normatively unappealing. I don’t want to live in a country where I can look into the audience and know exactly who you’re voting for by looking at the color or your skin. That is not something that we should be aiming for.
And I would go even further than that. I think the idea that America is becoming majority minority is actually a misconception. Because when you look today, people’s identities are much more complicated than that. You have a record growth of mixed-race Americans, whose identities are much more complicated than that. Asian Americans have a complicated place in the United States, in which it’s not obvious that they identify more with African Americans than with white Americans. They have a complicated place in the ecosystem, which is evolving.
You have interesting spits within Black Americans, particularly between descendants of slaves and between more recent immigrants from Kenya, Nigeria, and other countries in Africa, who tend to H-1B immigrants, who tend to actually be quite affluent, who have real cultural divisions within themselves. And you have most importantly, the biggest minority population of Hispanics, many of whom consider themselves white rather than people of color. And so for obvious reasons connected to slavery, the one-drop rule has a particular hold on the American imagination, and it thus drove down to a significant extent how African Americans think of themselves.
But to generalize that in such a way that you think, somebody who has French aristocratic ancestors on one side and Indian Brahman ancestors, who were are the top of their social hierarchy for two thousand years, on the other side, and who was born to two upper-middle-class professionals in the United States naturally is part of the same category as somebody who has ancestors all of whom were brought to the United States in chains and enslaved for hundreds of years, is just a very, very odd way of thinking about reality.
And so I’ve come to the conclusion that unless you use the racialist categories of slave owners and then generalize them to people who have any kind of distant connection to a Spanish or Portuguese-speaking country, America is actually never going to be majority minority in a meaningful sense. And I actually think, to make our democracy work that is a good thing. We should try and build a society that doesn’t—in which political conflict doesn’t neatly revolve around that dividing line between whites and so-called people of color.
WHELAN: Can I jump on that, and back to the question, and just get at one thing I think we should kind of take forward here? In our theory of change, right? When I say—at NDI, our theory of change that we present. One, it is a question of power. Democracy is a question of power. It’s a question of whether power lies with the few and it is difficult or inaccessible to change, or lies with the many and assumes that there are no permanent winners and losers. That, at the heart of it, is the power dynamic that we’re talking about.
And it’s also important to note that in the U.S. democracy assistance system, we don’t export U.S. democracy. Because I don’t know how many of you looked, but it’s a mess. But I mean, back to fundamentals, there’s three thousand election commissions in the United States. In most of the rest of the world there’s one in their country. There are parliamentary systems which, frankly, I think our founding fathers maybe got that one wrong. Like, parliamentary systems might have been pretty good in this country. We seek to promote the system of democracy that is inherent and is local. That said, we also assume that a system of democracy is in of itself an unnatural condition. There’s a video that we have about Taiwan and their election and it’s—like, it recognizes, this is hard. This is constant work. It is unnatural to not just say, you win, you lose, I’m in charge, you’re not. And I think we just need to keep that in mind.
The last thing I would say is one of the reasons that we’re in the condition we’re in, when we see domestic authoritarianism sort of blossoming around the world, we have to admit that we deprioritized democracy promotion for the sake of democracy promotion. Democracy promotion was done in service of a national security agenda, an economic agenda. Versus promoting it as a system and an end to itself. It was, like, oh, democracies are better friends. Democratic base theory, right? Like, all of these dynamics. And we have to recognize that if we’re going to say we are doing democracy promotion, as this administration is, as a means in and of itself, or promote democracy in the United States as an end to itself, that is new. Because we’re just saying we like democracy and we’re going to promote it versus, because it gets us X.
ROBBINS: So I’m going to want to get to at least one or two more questions. We only have six minutes. But, Catherine, you started us off with this question of how do you define democracy and how essential that is if we’re going to support it. So how do you—can you quickly respond to the question that was posed?
HERROLD: I posed a double question there, which is how do we define democracy, but—or, how do we understand or define democracy, but then who decides, right? And I think it’s that second question that’s the real crux. It doesn’t matter what I or we necessarily, as political scientists or democracy promoters, necessarily think. But what do local citizens think? And this gets to context questions, which, again, my colleagues, based on our green room conversation, might push back.
But how do we, as a global community, imagine what democracy means in light of contemporary challenges around migration, diversity, climate change, pandemics, wars, great-power competition? How do we work together to fundamentally align our institutions, our public administration, to—how do we align those with the bedrock values of freedom, justice, and equality of economic opportunity, in light of the—in light of the contemporary crises that we face? So I don’t have the answer of what it means, but those are some of the questions that I think we should be asking.
ROBBINS: And a good set of—and a good set of goals, essential goals. And I think the economic component there seems so essential. Yes, right there. The gentleman there. Yeah.
Q: Hi. Eric Fleury from Connecticut College. Just want to say thank you for a fantastic panel. I learned quite a bit.
So I just wanted to ask what you think the ramifications are of the war in Ukraine for democratic norms and American promotion thereof? I can kind of basically see this shaking out three ways. Kind of from the standpoint of democracy, good, OK, not so good. (Laughter.) So the good way is, the Biden administration has, of course, framed this as the theater of a conflict between democracy and authoritarianism. And then if we want to deflect Russian autocracy, disinformation, whataboutism, that we’re going to have to sort of redouble our efforts to promote democracy abroad and at home. That’s the good way.
The OK way is that this mostly shakes out in terms of further militarizing foreign policy and shipping weapons to the Ukrainians—which is fine, I don’t object to that, but not really a way to promote democracy. And ends up say, for example, really focusing on the defense of Taiwan, or centering U.S. foreign policy with China around the question of defending Taiwan. And so just adding more and more areas in which soldiers do the work that diplomats used to do, or could be doing.
And the bad way, and I’ve seen a little bit of chatter to this effect already, is the argument that, what we’re seeing—those who don’t want to avowedly just repeat Kremlin talking points might say, well, it’s not democracy that’s working in Ukraine. It’s nationalism. The reason that we’re—to the extent Ukrainians are sympathetic, it’s not because they have democratic institutions. It’s because they’re fighting for their territory. And so maybe, the GOP may—beyond a few cranks—may not just want to be avowedly pro-Putin. But the way they can ride that line is to say, oh yeah, Ukraine’s great because they’re nationalists.
So I would just—I’m curious as to what policies and narratives you would recommend to sort of take this obviously terrible event and hopefully construe some sort of positive, normative change from it. Thank you.
ROBBINS: Such a great question. And we have two minutes. (Laughter.) You’re breaking my heart here. It’s a fabulous question. And we have to get your guys to your lunch panels, but quick thoughts?
WHELAN: Quick, on Ukraine. (Laughter.) I hope you have a Ukraine panel as part of this. But, I would argue that the democratic systems within Ukraine are actually what have empowered them to get as far as they’ve gotten. I can say that in just very frontline, the multistakeholder system of their NGOs and their disinformation team that NDI helped build is working hand-in-hand with the government to counter Russian propaganda when it comes through. They’re going straight to companies in a way that it will be a lesson learned for the rest of the world.
I think you mentioned Taiwan. That is another example of where we see that democratic resilience is the mechanism that is making the change on the national security front. So you can have all the guns in the world, but it’s the system, it’s the democratic system, one, that they’re afraid of. That, like, is so—that they’re trying—they’re not after the land. They’re against the system. They’re against the full participation and the democratic system. So, you must have something good going if somebody’s coming after you for it. But, two, that’s what they’re trying to undermine, is the democratic system.
So I agree. I think Ukraine is the, like, we got to win it. They are winning it. They’re winning it for themselves. I would also just differentiate between the idea of nationalism and patriotism. They’re not nationalists. They’re patriots.
HERROLD: My only concern with—well, I don’t know if it’s my only one. The Biden administration isn’t the only one framing this as a war between democracy and autocracy and the world order. My own—my major concern with that framing is that does it mean that the U.S. only intervenes for democracies? And what about the human dignity of the Syrians, of the Yemenis? Why do we—is democracy an elite club? And that’s what I would worry about.
ROBBINS: Yascha, last word for you.
MOUNK: I think that Putin looked at the West and said: you all are decadent, right? You don’t have values anymore. You’re not willing to rise to defend sort of a country if we attack it. You’re probably weak because of your diversity, and all of those things. And I’m going to prove that by the most extreme break in the post-World War II order of really trying to annex the territory of a sovereign nation and make it a part, formally or informally, of the new empire.
And so I think the fact that, to the surprise of many people in Washington and many people in Europe, Ukrainians have with patriotism, but also love of their democratic institutions, have been able to put up such a spirited defense is an inspiration, which proves Putin wrong. But it’s also—I think it takes us by our honor, because we should prove to ourselves that we are similarly willing to make sacrifices for the values of our political system. And that’s a test that we haven’t yet passed.
ROBBINS: Well, thank you for great questions. And I apologize to all the other questions we couldn’t get to. You have a very brief break, and we urge you to make your way to your discussion groups. There’s CFR staff on hand to help you get there. Your assignments can also be found in your folders. And there’ll be lunch available outside your assigned rooms. This has been an incredibly great conversation. (Applause.) And thank you all so much.
GOODMAN: Welcome back, everyone. It’s great to be here with you all, and I hope you’ve had a good session here in this workshop. We’re your closing panel, so we’re going to try to make it fun. I’m Sherri Goodman. I am a long-time member of the Council on Foreign Relations. I just finished chairing a new study on governing solar geoengineering. I’m also at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington and at the Center for Climate Security and the Council on Strategic Risk, and I’m a former deputy undersecretary of defense for environmental security. So, my work’s kind of at the nexus of climate and security and the threat multiplier of climate change.
What we have today—we’re going to have a great discussion about sort of everything climate that you might want to use as educators in your own work. And we have a really great set of panelists to discuss this. They’ve got a wide range of experience. So we’re going to dive right in. You have their backgrounds. I’m very pleased to welcome Rama—he goes by Rama—and he is now at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, on whose board I served for a long time. What he brings is his experience as an international climate negotiator, his deep knowledge of climate diplomacy. And we’re going to start with Rama.
And then we’re going to go to Adil, who has a great deal of depth and experience working with emerging economies and the developing world, that’s going to give us really a great birds-eye view of kind of the view of climate change from the developing world, which is really important in this discussion about climate change. And then we’re very blessed to have Judith Shapiro here, who is a deep expert on China and everything China and climate and environment—as written a number of great books on that. So she’s going to be our third panelist. I’m going to engage in discussion with each of them for about half an hour. And then we’re going to open it up for discussion.
OK. Rama, starting with you, and thank you so much for being here. You’ve been deeply involved in climate diplomacy for many years. Tell us where we are today in terms of meeting the ambitious commitments coming out of Paris and Glasgow, the recent Conferences on the Parties. And what can we expect—what can we expect in terms of the risks of climate change, how well we’re doing meeting them, and what’s on the agenda heading into the next round of climate negotiations? (Laughter.) That’s a whole book right there, but you’ll give us your top three.
RAMAKRISHNA: Thank you very much, Sherri, for that introduction and for that very easy question to answer. You know, many of you teach. And this is not just a one semester question, but probably a one-year question. But let me first go back to the beginnings in terms of dealing with atmospheric issues. And I want to start with, interestingly, the Vienna Convention in 1985 and the Montreal Protocol. The reason I do that is that is the period when there was a lot of action on all issues related to the atmosphere. The scientific community is big on providing information to the policymakers, but it is only until Montreal Protocol negotiations, until the discovery of the ozone hole, that the protocol went through and made rapid progress in terms of phasing out the chlorofluorocarbons.
The reason I say that is there is a link to that and the climate negotiations. The scientific community has been talking about the same thing, the climate warming, about the same time that the Montreal Protocol was being negotiated. The Bellagio conferences come to mind. And these meetings showed that action is needed, but they couldn’t show the ozone hole that resulted in Montreal Protocol negotiations. So one of the first things I want to draw your attention to is the precautionary principle. That we don’t know enough, but we know enough to say that something needs to be done to change the way we use energy, controlling the emissions from the energy.
To a large extent, in the beginning it was just mitigation-focused intent. The General Assembly got into this and passed a resolution like the resolution they passed that resulted in the Law of the Sea negotiations, declaring climate as a common concern of humanity. And from that, the UNEP, the Environment Programme, and the World Meteorological Organization came up with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And the first assessment report was released in 1990. The reason it is important is it is based on what the scientists tell the policymakers about the urgency for action.
So the 1990 assessment resulted in the General Assembly calling for negotiations. The first negotiating session took place in the United States. And that was in early 1991. By 1992, we had adopted the Framework Convention on Climate Change. By negotiating standards, that is a remarkably fast turnaround to come up with an agreement like that. But so the first point I want to leave with you is the link between science and policy. IPCC continues to exist, as you must have seen in recent releases of the Working Group I, II, III policymakers summary. And the final full assessment is going to be released later on in the year.
So we are now in the sixth iteration of the IPCC assessment. The 1992 convention, the big question there was, well, OK, we are willing to admit that this is a global problem. But not all of them contributed equally to creating this problem. So the responsibility of the developing countries and the developed countries varied. So the second point I wanted to leave with you is the common, but differentiated, responsibility. When you start to count emission reductions, the question, of course, is who should do what? And the big question was, if you talked to the industrialized countries, they said: Well, we began negotiations on date X. So we will take whatever emissions that are released at the time.
But many of the developing countries said, no, no, no, no. The climate is the common pool, and then you need to take the historic emissions into account. And then, of course, came the other issues like, for example, do you base this on GDP? Do you base this on geography? Do you base this on per capita emissions? And all those issues. So that became a major part of it. But while that is continuing, the next step in the direction of strengthening the Framework Convention was the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. And that’s where the countries agreed, particularly the industrialized countries, to some legal commitments.
And from there, we moved very rapidly to implementing the Kyoto Protocol. And the main part of implementing Kyoto Protocol is the market mechanisms, the joint implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism. And many of the countries did not know exactly how to go about doing that. So that took a bit of time. And but progress was still made to accommodate that. But the prevailing sentiment across all the countries is—most of the countries is that we cannot have an approach that separates out developed countries and developing countries. And so we need a common global approach.
Because of the time constraints I’m going very rapidly, but if there is opportunity to discuss this later, I would be happy to do that. So from 1997 Kyoto Protocol, I will take you straight to the Copenhagen summit that was in 2009. And the reason I take you there is the progress has been episodic between 1997 and 2009. And the emissions continue to rise. The IPCC assessments continue to tell us how we are moving forward with it. In 2007, the IPCC fourth assessment report pointed out very categorically—this is the ozone hole kind of thing—they said, well, humans are the ones that are changing the atmosphere, are changing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and causing global warming.
And so, that also resulted in IPCC getting the Nobel Peace Prize. And moving from there to 2009, the attempt was that now that we have this evidence that humans are directly responsible, we ought to do something about it. It was a major conference. Lots of heads of state and government came to attend that. From the United States, both President Obama and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went. And for many, that was a major failure because it did not result in what everybody wanted to get out of it. But for me, it was a success in the sense we changed the way science is incorporated into policymaking at that conference.
We have moved from thinking about top-down approach that the convention’s tell what countries ought to be doing, to countries telling the international community that what we can do, became what is called nationally determined commitments. And that was solidified in the Paris agreement in 2015. And so, what we have done with the Paris agreement, Sherri, is really changed the dynamic in terms of how countries approach their ability to act on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There is an equal emphasis by that time on both mitigation and adaptation. And by the time we came to Glasgow—to come to the question that you asked—the main part of Paris agreement to be implemented was the market mechanisms—the so-called Article Six.
So from 2015 to 2021, parties were at work to figure out how to do that. That is the key part in terms of whether we’ll be able to implement effectively the Paris agreement or not. And then they did that. And so Glasgow was considered a success because they’ve agreed to do that. But Glasgow—there is still more work to be done. And we are continuing to move forward with it. The main point I want to leave you with is Paris agreement showed us that 1.5 degrees—keeping the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees is still a goal for the world community, despite the fact that emissions continue to increase and that more action needs to be taken.
What Glasgow did was to say that, before—another IPCC on 1.5 degrees said that how it is possible. And so they tried to keep that in mind as they moved forward with the various types of arrangements. I’m losing out on a lot of detail, but time is not there, but the thing I wanted to leave you with on this particular point is this: The negotiations that began with we want to deal with nothing but climate science and what is required of the policymakers—it moved from that to bringing in every sector, every interest in the society, into the negotiations. Climate negotiations have become probably—not probably—are the largest attended of any international conference ever held anywhere that we know of. And they continue to be that.
And as a result, you have the formal process with formal agenda and formal outcomes. And then there is this pressure from all the various agents that are out there talking about it. And so sometimes it becomes difficult to look at the formal negotiations and the results and say that it succeeded. While the carbon-free agenda, they’ve met all the goals, it is completing their work. But there are lots of other pressures, and then we need to talk about that as well. I would stop there, Sherri, but it is really a lot to take in to answer your question.
GOODMAN: We’re going to come back to a lot of that. And I’ll just add a little footnote on your comment early in your remarks on how we approach risk in climate science, and uncertainty. And when we tackled that with the first group of generals and admirals on the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) military advisory board—because I know we have a number of faculty from the military academies here—General Sullivan, former Army chief of staff, said: If we wait for 100 percent certainty, we know something bad is going to happen on the battlefield. So that’s how we approach risk. We have enough—we know enough to know it’s time to act.
And the Montreal Protocol is such a good example of the role of technology in being able to provide us better solutions. And I was involved in my early days in Department of Defense in the technology programs that led us to find the substitutes that were required under the Montreal Protocol for the ozone-depleting substances, to replace fire retardants and others, that were in widespread use throughout the military. And that was a good example of an industrial partnership to advance technology, which also has relevance to today.
But now we are going to move to Adil, who’s got a great deal of experience working with the IPCC, with developing countries around the world. And he’s going to give us a bird’s-eye view of how we should think about this if we were to put ourselves in the shoes of other countries around the world, where climate change really affects every sector of society, and how we can understand and think about that.
NAJAM: Thank you, Sherri. Thank you very much. And thank you for that kind introduction. My colleagues have been working with the IPCC on various, various ways more than myself. I was, myself, part of the third and fourth assessment as a convening lead author. And I’ll talk about the IPCC maybe later in the Q&A. I’ve become less of a fan of it, and even argued that it should be disbanded because it gives politicians an excuse not to do something. The best way not to do something is to ask for a committee. (Laughter.) And this is the mother of all committees. And that has become a strategy for many countries. But this, in some ways, says what I want to say.
I was looking at the bios of everyone in the room and wondering, why are they listening to me? I want to listen to them and learn from them, and I hope I will get that chance. But that’s my first point. I want to make three points in how the world sees this, and how that has evolved. Just leading on directly from what Rama was saying, I—my first climate meeting was actually the first climate meeting of the process, 1990. I was then at every COP, Conference of the Parties, from the first one until Copenhagen, when I said: This is enough. I have now thrown more hot air myself traveling to these places than these conferences have helped take care of. And I told myself, never again. I broke that promise in Paris, and that was that.
So I wanted to put that perspective of my own learning in this process. I still think IPCC has done a great job. I think COPs have done a great job. But my point here is—the one I want to make is, the climate conversation we are talking about today is totally different—totally different from the one that I entered as a young graduate student in 1990. And that’s an amazing story. It’s not the story of the agreement. Three propositions. First of all, climate is everywhere, right? A, it’s a given. That’s why we choose whether we are going to wear a sweater or not. But it’s literally everywhere. I was looking at your bios and I was thinking, OK, who is here who doesn’t deal with climate? And my answer is, no one. If you’re talking—if you teach international negotiation, you cannot escape the climate diplomacy. If you’re teaching agriculture, international trade, international finance, international health.
And that is a major difference. My first teaching job at Boston University I was the only one—and people were still wondering, why the hell did we hire this guy, right? If you’re teaching security, this is front and center, right? Which doesn’t mean other things have been displaced, but you no longer have to make the case. Your students will make that case, right? And therefore the world where a few people, like myself, were the climate people, has to be now replaced by the world where everyone, no matter what you are teaching in international affairs, will have to know and talk something about climate, because that’s what will be on the front pages.
I’ll just give you one example. Yesterday, as in Thursday, there was one billion people in South Asia—one billion; that’s one with zero, zero, zero—nine zeros—who faced a temperature of over one hundred degrees. Now, this is India and Pakistan, but there is nothing normal about this. There is absolutely nothing normal about the fact that they were doing it in the last week of April. There’s absolutely nothing normal about the fact that they did—they had one hundred-plus temperatures the whole previous week and are going to have it the whole next week, right?
And so the first proposition I’m making is climate has changed for us as educators, as you can’t pass the baton to the climate guy, the one who sits at the back and takes notes. But each one of us are literally frontline in whatever we talk about. Whatever we talk about. And I would like to know where it is not relevant. But I say this not as a climate person, but as an IR person, in how the field has changed from climate being a side issue that some of us are trying to bring in, right? The security people would always push back. You guys just want to be important. That’s why you keep talking about this. And it is one of the few issues that has moved from the periphery to the center of the global conversation, that others have not.
The second one is—I’m going to make this proposition—when I was writing my dissertation, I remember—Rama was on my committee, actually—(laughter)—so what were you thinking to make me pass? What were you thinking? (Laughter.) But I had a whole chapter on high politics/low politics trying to explain why climate politics was different, because it was low politics. I don’t think I would write that chapter today. In fact, in my career very few issues have moved from low politics to high politics the way climate has. It isn’t exactly there with war, but it’s nearly there. Copenhagen, which Rama talked about, there’s this famous picture that I use in my classes—I’m sure you’ve seen it. There’s a table, and around it is Barack Obama, there’s the chancellor of Germany, Merkel, there’s the prime minister of the U.K. All the big players.
I happened to be there. Not in that room, but there at that time, as I’m sure Rama and Judith might also have been. But here’s the thing, that picture was taken at 2:00 a.m.—2:00 a.m.—because the negotiations were failing and these heads of state were doing what our students do, they’re pulling an all-nighter. And what they produced was about as good—actually, as bad as what our students produce, right? (Laughter.) That’s why where we are. But it’s amazing picture, because that’s not now international negotiations work, right? They’re supposed to work with other people going and doing everything and then they come and make nice speeches. There isn’t a place on Earth, I think now, where climate isn’t a high political issue.
Whether leaders believe in it or not is not what I’m saying about it. They cannot escape it. They cannot not pretend that they take it seriously, right? And that makes the politics of climate the center that in some ways what’s happened between Rama’s story and mine is that what started as a science issue has become a political issue, right? This goes to my point about IPCC. In some ways, science is now the distraction. And everyone understands this is a political issue. This is an economic issue. This is a societal divide issue. And that’s why it is taking that high politics. And that is true in developing countries even more so, right? That’s why I mentioned the billion people.
So if you know Pakistan—if any one of you—I’m from Pakistan. If any one of you has been following all the fun stuff we’ve been having, in the middle of that climate is an issue that in my country and some other countries is called a khuda line issue. Khuda line issue is one that no politician wants. No one wants to be the minister of environment. (Laughter.) You get no resources. You do nothing. So it’s kind of a consolation prize, right? Academia also has a few khuda line positions, but I won’t go into that. Right now, with all the massive transformation and things that happened, the second-most important powerful politician in the country, in the new government, who was supposed to become foreign minister, said: I would rather be climate minister. That doesn’t happen. And these are people who are making political calculations. And they’re making people calculations.
And the third is this thing that I’ve been talking about for a few years, which is that we are now living in the age of adaptation. And that’s where the developing countries come in, right? Mitigation, adaptation, two key concepts. Mitigation is what do you do to keep a problem from happening? Adaptation, how do you adapt to the problem when it happens, right? Jacket is an adaptation too. An umbrella is an adaptation too. If it rains, you adapt—take an umbrella, right? The point at Kyoto and Copenhagen was, how do you mitigate? How do you keep the problem from happening? Well, we failed. Right? Adaptation is the failure of mitigation.
Mitigation was entirely about carbon. It was carbon management, right? The way most of us talk about climate is how do we manage the carbon molecule, because the more carbon—I’m simplifying it, but it really is simple in that sense. It’s managing carbon output so that climate doesn’t happen. The world we have now, where 1.5 degrees will not be met, no way, no how, we can do a bet right now. What that means is the world now knows that we will have to adapt. At Boston University, my school is building a new building. We are not making a basement, because our bet is 1.5 degrees is not going to be met. It’s next to the Charles River. I don’t believe in the COP people, therefore I don’t build a basement, right? That is the world of adaptation.
Now, what happens in an adaptation world? And I’ll just end with this. What that means is in an adaptation world as educators we are no longer talking about carbon, because carbon doesn’t adapt. We are talking about everything else that happens before the climate change. And the biggest, biggest chunk of that is going to be water—it is water. But when you will talk about climate, you will essentially be talking water. Think about what happens when climate changes. Much of it is about water. What happens when climate changes? Water rises, sea level rise. Water melts, glaciers. Water disappears, drought. Water falls from the sky like no one’s business, right?
So water is the language of climate impact. And that if where developing countries come in, because in the age of adaptation, if I am half right, the north-south dimension of climate as a common problem comes up much, much more, right? Because then the story is who caused this and who’s going to pay for it? As opposed to let’s all hold hands, hakuna matata, and solve the problem itself. So my argument is we’re going to see the climate conversation in your classes much more similar to the 1990s, where this become a major not only political issue within countries, but issue of confrontation between countries saying: Hey, I didn’t cause this. But now I have to put real money into it. This is not a future issue, right?
You’re already seeing that. If you saw Glasgow, the big thing was about this mythical hundred billion. And that’s what the hundred billion is about. And there are many lessons here also from COVID. And the type of argument we are going to see or are beginning to see are more like the vaccine diplomacy, vaccine justice conversations that are going to be what we are going to see or are beginning to see in the climate arena. So, fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be exciting. (Laughter.)
GOODMAN: Well, thank you. That was a great way of telling us we have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, right? We’ve got to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other—and we have to become resilient. Water, and all those different ways. And no better person to bring that conversation home than Judith, who is a China expert, the world’s largest emitter, but also with the largest resilience either problem or opportunity. So, Judith, over to you. How does China think about climate change?
SHAPIRO: So, hi, everybody. I’m honored to be here with such a distinguished panel. I have never written a chapter of the IPCC report. I’ve never been to a COP. (Laughs.)
NAJAM: You haven’t missed anything. (Laughs.)
SHAPIRO: But I identify with some of the things that the prior speaker said, in that when I became involved with China—I started learning Chinese in 1972 or something. And you couldn’t hear Mandarin on the street. And I thought maybe I should be learning Cantonese because this is not really relevant. And then as I moved through my career and I got involved with China’s environmental issues, particularly during the Mao period, everybody thought, this is kind of obscure, what you’re doing. You know, and now I would make the same case to you that they’re making about climate, which is that the rise of China is so important that I don’t care if you don’t know anything about it, you’ve got to know at least something about it, because your students want to know about it. And it’s an obligation that we have.
So a lot of my work has been intended to put the tools in the hands of teachers who might not have the confidence to bring China into their classrooms, and give you some material. So I hope towards the end, you know, I’ve got resources for you. And I’m happy to come and Zoom into your classes too. So what about—everybody’s asking me these days, especially in the lead-up to Glasgow, what’s China going to do? What’s China going to do? And also, you know the thing when you point the finger at somebody you have three fingers pointing back at yourself? You know that, right? So everybody’s saying, China, the worst emitter, they’re fouling their nest, they’re making all this toxic pollution. It’s just so disgusting what they’re doing.
And yet, it’s so complicated. It’s so complicated. We heard about CBDR. If you’re in the in-group in climate you know CBDR. I always test my students. CBDR is common but differentiated responsibilities, right? So we get into justice issues, right? China may be the biggest emitter, but on a per-capita basis it’s still way below the U.S., right? It’s a quarter of the people in the world. A lot of that pollution and a lot of those emissions have been—we use in our environment classes all the time the concept of displacement of environmental harm. Last time I was in New York I was with some Chinese friends. And we were in Central Park. And they were looking at all of these turtles. And they said, why isn’t anybody eating the turtles? And I said, well, we don’t eat turtles here.
But then they said, how did you get the sky to be so blue? And what’s the honest answer? How did we get the sky to be so blue? We gave you all of our pollution, right? We displaced the environmental harm onto China. And so on the one hand, China by becoming the manufacturing hub of the world, has become also—is probably the world superpower. But at the same time, they’ve borne terrible environmental harm. So much so that ordinary people are starting to question, is this the kind of development that we wanted? Is it right that our—the famous documentary Under the Dome—that our unborn child has a tumor, right? This is the Chai Jing documentary in 2015. Or that you have to check your app before you decide whether to let your children go out and play, right? So there’s this questioning.
And so why does the Chinese—Sherri was saying earlier, people want to know how is China thinking about climate change? China’s complicated. There’s all kinds of amazing forces—civil society forces, ordinary people who are tired of all the pollution, people within the Ministry of Environment and Ecology who sound greener than the greenest Al Gore, greener than the greenest John Kerry, people who are really working for this. But at the same time, COVID, right? They’ve locked down Shanghai. I have a friend in Shanghai. He hasn’t left his house in forty-six days. He’s got two ninety-year-old grandparents that he can’t get food for, right? They’ve locked down Shanghai. They’re ramping up coal production again.
So the Chinese state is pulled in a lot of different directions. They want to build ecological civilization because ultimately, as the Chinese middle class gets rich enough and they’re tired of the pollution, they’re saying we don’t know if we want to keep the party in power anymore because of a legitimacy problem. It’s not that Xi Jinping woke up and hugged a tree, right? It’s really not. But at the same time, what they say is, look, blue waters and green mountains are gold and silver. It’s a very what we call environmental modernization kind of hypothesis. The notion that there can be green growth and everyone can benefit.
So how does the Chinese—I do have a couple more things. I don’t want to go on and on. I tell my students, when you have the material it’s like a gas. They might give you five minutes; they might give you three hours. I think I have more like five minutes. I’m going to try to compress this. But ordinary Chinese people are really upset about air, water, food contamination, soil contamination, those things. The Chinese state is handling climate. The connection with climate seems a little bit arms-length for your ordinary Chinese person. The Chinese state knows that Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou—major coastal cities—are directly threatened by sea-level rise. There’s all this talk about building absorbent cities—sponge cities, they call them. Building more absorbent cities. But it’s still not enough.
Glacial melt. The so-called third pole on the Tibetan Plateau. In the initial phases of glacial melt, you get a lot of flooding, but then the glaciers don’t replenish the aquifers. And the aquifer on the north China plain has been dropping, and dropping, and dropping, and dropping. Yeah, there was some news headline, oh, guess what? We only dropped this much this year. Yay. You know, but it’s dropping. And that north China plain feeds Beijing, right? It supports Beijing. So you could—if you were a risk analyst for the Chinese state, you could be looking ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road and thinking, Beijing might be the biggest set of climate refugees or people displaced because of climate change than we’ve seen in a very long time. So the Chinese state is definitely concerned about that. And also the extreme weather events, and all that.
Let me see. Yeah. So those are my main points. Some of my main points. I could go on and on, but I won’t because Sherri and Rama and Adil have a lot to say too. Thank you.
GOODMAN: OK. Thank you, Judith. That was great. And I’ll contrast what you say from a defense and security perspective. We talk about China as the pacing threat for the U.S. military today in terms of our need for defense capability. And then I have sometimes, and others, framed climate as the shaping threat, the context in which we need to respond to China’s quest for resources and influence, particularly in the Asia-Pacific. As we’ve seen China’s growing alliances with countries, small island countries, whose very existence is threatened by climate change, and where there’s an emerging contest, as there is in the Arctic, for influence and presence in geopolitics—created, in many ways, by the threat multipliers of climate change.
So let me—let’s see. We’re going to take a couple more questions, and then we’re going to go to—go to you. So, Rama, you’ve talked so eloquently about the evolution of the science and policy and climate and how that’s moving us—how that’s moved us forward. What are the most urgent actions that we need to take now over the next—we’ve all agreed we’re not on track to meet the 1.5 degree target. And probably the Ukraine war has put that in the even further distant future at least for the near term, unless we can convert that to a way to accelerate the clean energy transition, which is a big, emerging debate now. But what do you see on the horizon for the upcoming COP in—COP-27 in Egypt and then the follow-on one? How are we going to sort of bring these disparate threats together?
RAMAKRISHNA: Thank you, Sherri. That’s a very important question and also forward-looking question. Before I answer, I want to just say one thing, which is that the climate negotiations over a period of time have become extraordinarily complex. You know, there was a time you could find people who could speak to just about every issue that was there in the convention with great ease. But that is not the case anymore. It has become very complex. And there is entirely groups of people, if not groups of countries, that feel extremely dissatisfied with what was not accomplished. But, I do not want you to think of that as a complete failure of the process, and what we were able to bring together so far. And the point that Adil made, I want to bring back to that. Where heads of state and government, and where environment ministers have become more important than they’ve ever been.
You know, this is all—we’re living in a very complex world, with 193 countries that are parties to the convention and the process that led us so far. So it is a tough one to bring all of them together. And the fact that we have now, the leaders, engaged so intently that they’re willing to stay up all through the night to make something happen, is an indication that there is still some hope. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be spending all that time. But moving forward, where do we go? I place not as much emphasis on the formal process to produce the results that are needed, but the process that the formal process put in place, have generated interest in. And I’ve written just a few things I wanted to share with you. These are the ones that are going to tell us how much progress we’re going to be able to make.
One is the Deforestation Coalition, which was—which met in Glasgow. More than one hundred world leaders came together to talk about putting an end to deforestation and increasing their forestation. Global Methane Pledge, reductions of 30 percent. This is the most potent greenhouse gas, outside of the chlorofluorocarbons, 30 percent by 2030. And the most important one, I think, is the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero. Hundred thirty trillion dollars under management there talked about net zero. Granted, net zero is not zero. But, you know, it is still that kind of money going into that.
And the emphasis on adaptation. That now everybody realizes that focusing on adaptation is not giving up on mitigation. And so that is a huge plus. And the most important thing I would say is, I don’t know exactly how it’s working out in practice, it is called the Transition Coalition. U.S., U.K., EU, France came together—and other countries—came together and agreed on some $8.5 billion movement from the energy—fossil fuel-generated energy to non-renewables in South Africa. And moving forward, I think there is going to be more of those transition arrangements. And I think those are the ones that are going to tell us whether there is really progress, by the way, which survive this impending doom. And, I tend to remain hopeful because I looked at the alternative. It’s not so great.
GOODMAN: OK. So taking it from there, I’m going to ask Adil and Judith, respectively, to share with us a little bit about the energy transition both in developing countries and in China. In the developing world, you have many countries still trying to come out of energy poverty, like parts of India. And now they’re subject to 100-degree heat waves where they desperately need more air conditioning, more energy, right, in order just to basically survive. So that presents a conundrum, particularly since India still buys a lot of coal from Australia and other places around the world. So what do you foresee on the energy transition in the development world, Adil? And then, Judith, talk to us about China and both on the energy transition and if you’d like to add anything in about supply chains and minerals and the rare earth needed for the energy transition—so much of which China supplies to the world today.
NAJAM: Do you want to go first?
SHAPIRO: I don’t care.
NAJAM: Sure, go ahead.
SHAPIRO: (Laughs.) OK, me. Yeah. So oftentimes people who feel optimistic about what’s going on in China point to some of these energy transition policies—like what China is doing with electric vehicles and all of the leadership on solar and wind energy, and the money that the state is putting into innovation and technology in general is kind of exciting. And then it can get really trippy because they’re going to the far side of the Moon to get helium-3—is that it?—or something, you know, to resolve all of our energy problems. So anyway, some of the work that I’ve done lately has been focusing on this concept of environmental authoritarianism. It’s sort of a hot topic.
The question is often: Since the developed world doesn’t seem adequate to the challenge, do we really need a green dictator, right? Somebody who can wave the wand and say: No more single-use plastics. That’s it, right? So the most recent book I did explores that, and finds out what that means at the local level in China. And we decided it was not so pretty, and that oftentimes wrapped in the cloak of green, the Chinese state is actually furthering its goals to forcibly relocate nomads, to intensify its ability to surveil people with iris recognition technology. You know, my friend in Shanghai, they do not—if you leave—there’s a camera on the door. If you leave the door—if you open the door, they send out an alert and the police will come, because—in the name of COVID. But, you know.
So what’s this about energy transition? The other thing is that China is sitting on a mountain of dirty coal. They’ve only recently given up this argument that they’re still a developing country and still, in parts of the country, very, very poor. So it’s a lot sometimes to ask China to turn away from coal. And they’re also importing a lot from Australia, along with India, although now they’re mad at each other, right? So they’re saying, OK, we’re not going to. But, yeah, one more point to make on this, and then Adil.
In the search to achieve a certain quantitative target of renewable energy within the overall portfolio, China has placed a large emphasis on hydropower. And big dams are very problematic, especially when they’re build in seismically active areas. (Laughs.) But they also involve forcible relocations, human rights issues and, more and more, affecting downstream countries along the Mekong and even on the Brahmaputra now they’re talking about. So this is a big issue. And then nuclear is a very big part of China’s plans for the future. And I know we have mixed feelings about it in this group—some people say, well, the newer technologies are a lot safer. But it is a little scary, because most of China is very heavily populated. And so if there were a nuclear accident, it would affect a lot of people. Yeah.
NAJAM: Very briefly, to add on the energy question, I am uncharacteristically optimistic on the energy transition. I’m not optimistic about too many things. (Laughs.) But and this is—but this is qualified optimism. The energy transition is inevitable. It’s happening, right? It’s one of the more amazing things we’ve seen in our lifetime. It’s not going to stop. You can stop everything about climate tomorrow, it will still happen, because Elon Musk is making a lot of money out of it. And so there is a trainer there. The question really is the one that you posed, the one about energy poverty. Because that’s not equal. And about the speed of the transition. I don’t think it’ll happen in 1.5 degrees. I don’t think it’ll happen in 2 degrees. I don’t think we are behind 1.5 degrees. It is an impossibility there at this point. I think 2 degrees is nearly an impossibility. That is hope—the triumph of hope over experience.
But the energy transition, I think, is a technological transition that has benefitted from the type of forces that Rama was talking about, that came from climate, and is now much bigger than that. The energy poverty question is that for about 3.5 billion people in the world, we need to have them use more energy. And in my sort of developing country’s view on this is that the focus has been on production of energy rather than on the consumption of energy. India needs to use more energy. Pakistan needs to use more energy—about three time more energy. And even if it’s from coal, that’s fine. What needs to happen is not my brother in Islamabad losing—consuming less energy. It is me consuming less energy. The problem is not air conditioners in New Delhi or Lahore. The problem is air conditioners in Maine. I’m sorry if there’s anyone in Maine. Right?
And the problem of energy poverty is not an air conditioner problem. It’s a fan problem, right? So those billion people yesterday and all of next week who are going to see 100 degrees, many of them—certainly many of them in Pakistan—are also seeing eight-hour load sharing. Eight hours a day when electricity isn’t there. Also in this case, in the middle of Ramadan, when they are fasting from sunrise to sundown, right? So the energy challenges remains the challenge of giving people enough energy to lead a decent life, right? And no matter how green I am, I would be a hypocrite—and there are too many of my green friends who are—who sort of tell those who are consuming a fraction of what I am, you need to consume less energy, right?
So that’s the challenge. The world needs—there are parts of the world that need to consume more energy. The good news is there’s transitioning happening. Coal will go away because it’s kind of like those cassette tapes in the world of iPhones, right? It’s just a technology whose time has gone away. The cost curves on a lot of energy technologies is coming down. The question is, can policy bring those cost curves further down? Can we encourage that transition? Especially, can we encourage a leapfrogging so that—just like that happened with cellphones, right? There was a reason why cellphones took off, or fintech took off in Africa. Because they didn’t have to jump through a hoop.
The problem for energy transition in this country, for example, is at some point there will be a lot of gas stations that will need to figure out what to do, right? So the cost of removing the old is as much as the cost of putting in the new. I’m making it simple. I know it’s not as simple as that. But when you have a lot of the world, three billion people, who have very little energy, you have an opportunity to leapfrog. The transition is not talking about that leapfrogging. I don’t want to trespass on China because we have real experts here, but let me pretend as if I was one. (Laughs.)
In 2008, I wrote this little paper, got a lot of flack for it. It was called Bend it Like Beijing. (Laughter.) There was a movie at that point that had just come, Bend it Like Beckham. And my point was that developing countries should bend their energy curve, bend it like Beijing. Now, remember, the time I’m talking about, we were all worried that China was putting in a new coal plant every second, third day. Which is true. China is now taking off coal plants faster than anyone ever in history, right? Now, the reason I was saying then bend it like Beijing to developing countries was what was also happening in China was in the history of humanity you could plot all growth of all countries along time and energy use, right? The more energy you use, the more you grow. It’s kind of an iron law.
Who broke the law? Beijing did. And what I was saying that’s the type of law we break. And that brings us to the work that is very difficult to talk about in your classes. I get classes like yours, full of all these well-meaning people. The way to silence the well-meaningness is to start focusing on consumption. To say what you said, whatever those other three fingers think. Because it is very convenient to focus on production, because it’s somewhere else, right? There are a number of very pertinent young-people issues. For example, my daughter is very proud that she went to college and doesn’t have a car. And I remind her that her Uber use is more than my car use. (Laughter.) And just because she is using an Uber to get food, to deliver packages, to go to places, doesn’t make those emissions the emissions of the Uber driver. Just like those China emissions are Walmart emissions, meaning your emissions, or my emissions, right?
And so even if molecules don’t have little flags on them, they go up and do the same thing up in the atmosphere. And those are the interesting energy questions. So short answer to this is, I think the energy transition is inevitable. It’s one of the most exciting things. We are at a lot of breakthrough moments in a lot of places. Unfortunately, A, it won’t happen fast enough. B, unless we tackle the consumption problem we are not going to get out of this mess, certainly in the long term. And to me, especially in the age of adaptation, the energy question is going to be transported into a water question, into a food security question, right? Because what happens when water gets iffy? The immediate thing is food, and so on and so forth.
GOODMAN: Great. OK. Let’s take your questions now. OK. I see I’m going to go just kind of go around the room this way. Woman in the back and then the gentleman here on the left. And you may all know each other, but since we don’t know you, if you wouldn’t mind providing your name and affiliation, please.
Q: Thank you. I’m Jeanie Bukowski from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. And I just want to thank you, first of all, very much for this discussion.
And I would like to take the opportunity to try to bring our students into this a little bit more, and make a couple very brief points, and then ask for your advice. We’ve already talked earlier about, on one of the panels, about students being really subject to a mental health crisis globally. And one of the things, of course, they look at is climate change. You know, why is there any reason for hope? We’ve also talked about the role of the academy in things such as democracy. But we could also argue climate solutions as well. What is the role of the academy? And we’ve talked about siloing, and the need for interdisciplinarity.
One of the things that Bradley was able to do, and actually I know I have a colleague here from Bard College and I would just like, yeah, point out Bard has a program where—it’s the world-wide teach-in on climate and justice. And I think—you know, hopefully some of you have been able to participate in that. But their model is just fantastic. I think this year it was at least three hundred institutions across the world, and we managed to reach, I think, the follow-up meeting said at least ten thousand people. But the real focus is on the students.
And I found that our students, landlocked Illinois, oh those students don’t care about global issues. They were just so passionate. And what they’re saying is: Don’t tell us what the problems are. Tell us how to solve them. Or provide us some space for solutions. And that really is Bard’s model, is saying you don’t have to as a student, regardless of what your discipline is—so this program is very—their model is very interdisciplinary, bringing faculty across campus from all, in our case, five colleges. Students across campus. We had civil engineers doing art projects, for example, which was quite interesting. (Laughs.)
But the issue is it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to wait till you’re twenty years into your career. You can make a difference right now. So it may be as simple as teaching your peers that, no, Uber is not the solution to—(laughs)—clean energy. But if you’re a civil engineering major, or a political science major, or a fashion major. I mean, we had a session on sustainable fashion, right? There are things you can do right now, and also be thinking in those terms as you move out into the world and into your career.
So I guess my question is how do we do more of that? I mean, I would highly recommend the Bard program, the worldwide teach-in. But how do we do more of that in our classes to give these young people incentives to hope?
GOODMAN: OK. Why don’t we take the other—the question here, and then this here. And then we’ll respond to the three.
Q: Thank you very much. W. P. S. Sidhu from the Center for Global Affairs, New York University.
I’m going to try and flip the coin a little bit here. And I want to actually pick up on something, Sherri Goodman, that you’ve been talking about. In terms of pollution—polluters, in terms of countries, China, the U.S. are right up there. But if you’re thinking about organizations—and please correct me if I’m wrong—it’s the militaries of the world, and in particular the U.S. military. If that is indeed correct, what might be the incentives for an organization like the U.S. military—and this is addressed to all the military folks here as well—to actually go on a decarbonized approach? Will it extend the budget? Will it make military sense to have quieter EV vehicles, for example? I mean, what—are there incentives to actually go down that direction? And this is not original at all. This is something that John Kerry has been talking about, that there’s money to be made here.
And with that, I want to sort of address the second question particularly to Adil Najam. In the sense of the environmental ministers of Pakistan, India, and others, right—which is now becoming an important position and lucrative role—is there a possibility of these countries making money in mitigating, according to a Kerry plan? Or are they really only going to be going around with a begging bowl still? Thank you.
GOODMAN: OK. Great set of questions. OK, the gentleman here.
Q: Harris Mylonas from George Washington University.
I was wondering, to what extent do you think a lot of these—in terms of education—to what extent can we integrate what’s going on with the World Bank and its efforts on energy? The energy transition, but also, you know, energy access that I think you touched upon quite a bit, but also gender gaps and other type of gaps in access. How can we integrate more some of the—I don’t want to say real world, but it’s kind of more real world than the theory behind it? So do you have any ideas of how to best do that? You know, we had just a panel on simulations and all that. How can we better integrate, besides internships? Any ideas that you may have how to integrate these real-world situations where, as you said, with your examples, you have people who don’t have electricity to cook, or they don’t have electricity to read. And so how do we do that?
GOODMAN: OK. I’m sure we all have answers. We’ll just go down and maybe just the pick the parts of the questions that you’d like to answer.
RAMA: OK. Lots of answers to questions. And, both Adil and Judith will be better to address some of the other things. The first question about youth, and I think it’s absolutely vital that we as teachers give them hope. Otherwise, they’re going to lose any confidence in the system and in their future. And the United Nations, through the work that Ban Ki-Moon, the former secretary-general, had done had recognized the young people as not only—I mean, it’s commonly said youth is—they’re the leaders of tomorrow. But he said, no, they’re leaders today. And then he created an office in the secretary-general’s office to particularly bring youth concerns to these negotiations.
And out of all the stakeholder groups that the United Nations has, this is the most prominent and powerful group when they come to speak in these meetings. I mean, speaking is only part of it, but their engagement and what they do in their life is going to make a tremendous difference. On the military part of it, interestingly it’s the United States government that asked for an exemption in counting national emissions in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations, that our military actions are to maintain global peace and security so if there are any emissions from that we shouldn’t count them as part of American emissions. You know, this goes back to—
GOODMAN: It’s completely flipped now. It’s completely flipped. And I was there then, and I can explain that.
RAMA: OK. But the point is, the military strategists now around the world are talking about the impact of climate—climate impact on their operations, and how—and why we need to move forward with those issues. And I forgot what your question was.
Q: (Off mic.)
RAMA: Well, what is happening now is you have all the major universities establishing climate schools. And then that is going to be reflected in how this issue is addressed by all the major actors. World Bank Group in particular had taken this issue to heart. You have all the finance ministers—so Finance Ministers for Climate Change—coming together and then talking about this issue. So this is gaining traction, and with the hope that the students would have in finding solutions, and bringing about rapid change. I think this would be reflected in both curricula and in the activities of the intergovernmental organizations.
NAJAM: Thank you for those questions. Those are really good questions. And you know when someone says they’re good questions that means they don’t have the answer, so they’re just looking for time to bring one up. (Laughter.) But your question in particular, which actually your question is the same, is a particularly challenging one because of who’s in this room, what we do. That’s the challenge. And I think we need some honesty in that discussion amongst ourselves and them amongst our students. And I’m not sure we are at a good moment for that. I think, yes, I 100 percent agree we need to be invested with hope. But we also need to be invested with ambition. And I’m not sure we are doing that.
In some ways, part of that ambition has to be—and they have to invested with responsibility. That’s the toughest part. It’s easy to tell me what I am doing wrong. It’s much more difficult to recognize yourself what you are doing wrong. Every—you are exactly right, youth is the most powerful group in the United Nations, or any country, in any politics. There is no evidence whatsoever that this generation of young people is less consumptive than any other generation before it. And there is a lot of evidence that it may be the most consumptive, right? Sustainable fashion is a good one. Sustainable fashion, to me, means less fashion. I may be wrong, right? But we have come to a place where I’m not going to—I need a new shirt every three weeks. I just make that shirt be from better materials. I’m sorry, the math doesn’t work out that way, right?
And that’s a difficult conversation to have in the classroom. The Uber conversation is a difficult one. I teach a class on sustainable development. You have to make a lot of—build a lot of trust in that room before you can bring this thing up. During COVID, you know, deans do wonderful, fun things. One of those was we have to build new places for Uber Eats to deliver food in the dorms. So there has to be—there has to be a tough conversation about that three fingers pointing back, and the responsibility. My generation failed. I’m not always sure that the next generation is poised to do any better. They are exactly right in saying, you failed. But we need to work with them to learn from our failures, right?
And sometimes the easy way out is those sort of feel-good sense of having done something when it is not that. So the responsibility part—the global responsibility part is a tough one. I say this with a lot of humility. I’m not trying to vent here. But what I’m saying is that’s the toughest part of our responsibility as educators. The reason to know what the problems are going to be is not to describe, but to alert ourselves to the type and magnitude of solutions that will be needed, right? And one of those is clearly consumption. You cannot get away from that. I’m sorry. No amount of clean coal or hydro plants is going to take you out unless I am willing to change part of my own habits myself, right? And that’s a conversation to be had with young people.
And that’s where the ambition—the ambition is not just to make my life a little better. The ambition has to be planetary. We live in the time—somehow we have to convey this fact—where there is more money, more food, more knowledge, more ideas—than at any point in human history. Therefore, there has to be more responsibility, to put it well. I won’t go into all of this. In some ways this also goes to your—and it has to be beyond that, in attention to that—really, the magnitude.
But I will take Sidhu’s question on—I am not Chaucer. (Speaks in a foreign language.) (Laughs.) Sorry. But I don’t—I think there is a new importance, because what ministers in developing countries see is they see salience in industrialized countries. So how do you get to talk to Barack Obama? He is interested in environment, so I have to start talking about environment, right? So it elevates. But part of the challenge for developing countries is—the begging bowl scenario—is that international climate politics has been mostly about, can I get additional funds from you, right? This is a developing country point. We have created a politics where we go to these meetings and say: OK, what can I do? What will you pay for?
And what I’m hoping this change in politics from the ground is making it a real domestic issue. Politics will not move until these issues become domestic. Because of that heat, because of that food, because of that agriculture issue they are becoming domestic. And when they become domestic, they become real. Otherwise, it’s simply what will you pay for, and can I get a little aid package here, or aid package there? I think we are seeing movement in that. Not fast enough.
SHAPIRO: I guess I would just add that I don’t think it’s my job to give them hope. I just don’t feel that way. I think it’s my job to help them understand that things are more complicated than they thought. I think it’s my job to help them figure out where they sit as far as their own values and worldview. I think it’s my job to help them empathize with people whom they might not otherwise come in contact with. And I do that through film. And I’m going to stick in my films now, because I’m afraid I’m not going to get to it. So in my classes, I use two films about China that are really effective.
One is a forty-five-minute film that’s available on the Yale 360 website. So it’s perfect for classroom use. And it’s called The Warriors of Qiugang. And I have to spell it for you, because it’s a weird spelling. Q-I-U-G-A-N-G. And it’s about a cancer village in China and how hard it was for them to get a factory shut down. And so you get more of a sense of the nobility of the poor people, and the fact that they’re not literate, and that makes it harder for them. The fact that they’re doing all the right things, but the state is all screwed up. You know, all these things. So you get a much better understanding of what’s called the implementation gap in China. Where it sounds—the law is great, how come it’s not great on the ground?
The other film that I love, and this gets to this consumption question we’ve been talking about, is PLASTIC CHINA. And that’s a little bit more—maybe some of you’ve seen it. The plastic that’s being so-called recycled in China is all stuff that your students will recognize, like Science Diet if they have a dog or a cat, or—you know, it’s great, because it really brings home the fact that when you, “throw something away,” it’s going to poison people halfway around the world. And so that—and you’ll fall in love with the little girl who’s featured in the film. I have to keep renting it on Amazon Prime and then I show it my class that way, so. I mean, I’ve watched that film now ten, fifteen times, and I always see something new in it.
Yeah, so, yeah. I don’t think there’s—I mean, what about the massive mental health crisis among the faculty? I mean, it’s, like—(laughs) it’s not like our job to be their shrink, right? (Laughs.) But one last thought. I do find that my students are very energized when I bring in, say, alumni who are activists, on Zoom or in person. And they get very inspired by connecting with each other on these issues. And I think that’s all I can do. So I don’t have answers.
GOODMAN: OK. Well, I got to throw in on this one. OK, on the defense—the military question first. You know, in my experience—and I’ve been working with the military since the mid-1980s, when I served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and then eight years as the chief environment, safety, and health officer of the Department of Defense. And at that time, we went—and that included the 1997 period, which was really the first time that the military began to think about greenhouse gas emissions at all. We were in that era, of the 1990s, largely focused on cleaning up past contamination at military bases, and the former Soviet Union removing nuclear missiles, nuclear warheads and their contamination, and complying with the environmental laws.
And what’s happened is the military’s gone from being an environmental laggard to really an environmental and clean energy leader. And it’s gone from thinking about greenhouse gas emissions as a constraint—which we did in 1997 till we came up with a scheme where we said, OK, we’ll reduce our emissions from installations and not what we call non-tactical vehicles—i.e., not aircraft—not military aircraft, but a lot of the trucks and vehicles we have. But we will not limit emissions from operational—military operational activities. Now that distinction has gone away. The military, DoD, has put out a very aggressive climate change strategy with net zero goals by—in align with President Biden’s executive order—2050. Microgrids at every military base in the next decade.
Which is really—so now the military’s in a place, because it is the nation’s single largest energy user—but you have to kind of dive deep beneath that, because a lot of that’s in fuel for aircraft and tanks—aircraft and ships, primarily. Mostly aircraft. The military—and this is the first year—this year’s fiscal 2023 defense budget is the first year where you’ve seen very visible, in the budget requests, almost $3 billion, identified as climate initiatives. About half of that is devoted to making military bases more resilient to climate effects—hurricanes that have devastated military bases on the Gulf and in the South, wildfires in the West, flooding in the Midwest, and permafrost thaw in Alaska, for example.
Another half is devoted to the energy transition within the military. And that’s a combination of electrifying the vehicle fleet, putting in chargers, putting in microgrids at every base, and advancing other forms of utility scale, basically baseload power where it’s possible for the military in various locations to do so, and do so in a way that it can secure, provide more energy, and support—they talk about energy supportability and then resilience in contested logistics environments—i.e., when we’re deploying now to Ukraine, or previously in Iraq and Afghanistan. How do you reduce the need to transport logistics fuel and water to the front? So there’s a—and that just touches the surface of what I think the Defense Department can really be an engine and lead by example. But here are some specific areas where it has that ability to do so.
To your question, I have three kids in either college or university right now. One at Middlebury where, Bill McKibben teaches climate activism. And then my very first intern at the Wilson Center, over five years ago now, was studying at Bard College. And so I meet this coming and going. I mean, I had one of my current interns also was a youth delegate in Glasgow, because she applied to do that. So I live this with my interns and my own children. And I see that they are changing completely the way they think about it, and the way we think about it. In a very positive way. And often their engagement helps them overcome what would be an otherwise very challenging mental health situation.
And lastly, I would say we use modeling and simulation and war gaming and scenario techniques, very common, in teaching tools throughout professional military education. But they are not really limited to that. And there are great scenarios to be had and to be used. You know, and you can put your students into role playing different situations. I know we have—I know I have one online question, then we have to wrap up. We’re not taking the online—are we taking the online question?
OPERATOR: Our next online question will be from Jin In.
Q: Good afternoon. My name is Jin In. I’m the assistant vice president of diversity and inclusion at the president’s office at Boston University. Hello, Dean Najam. I look forward to meeting you in person.
So actually, my question is the intersection of the two. I know that earlier we had a session on DE&I, which also includes now justice and belonging, BJ. How have you seen examples of climate change and energy justice and DE&I collaboration of the two? Because obviously I feel that these two issues are really the issues of this generation.
GOODMAN: OK. So in one or two sentences.
NAJAM: Yes. No, thank you, Jin. Good to have you here. This was not planted. (Laughter.) But as I mentioned, you know, justice—as I said, climate is going to be talked about in justice terms domestically, locally, and internationally. And it’s going to be talked about more and more. And that’s going to make the international politics more difficult. And that’s also going to make the domestic conversation much more difficult. This is—this goes back to this net zero idea, for example. And young people are very aware of this.
You know, there’s—I am not—as Rama said, net zero is not zero. And I think there are some fights coming around it. Boston is going to go net zero. How is it going to go net zero? A lot of it is going to be by exporting that pollution elsewhere. You know, you go to any city, there are neighborhoods which are very rich. Deans don’t get paid enough to live in them, but they can sometimes visit them. And you always wonder, how is it that the people who are creating the most waste live in the cleanest places? That’s because their waste goes somewhere else. Now, you extrapolate the same thing globally, and that’s part of—that model tells you what the justice issue here is.
Our footprints within this country, amongst countries, are very different, right? And that’s the J problem. That’s the J problem. In some ways, it is not going to go away. You are exactly right. This set of issues about justice that have come to the fore, climate is and will remain a major part of that. And this is the global-ness of the issue, right? This is one of the most truly global issues of all times, because it can’t be solved on the assumption that if everyone does—every country does what is best for them, that will magically add up to what is best for everyone, right? That’s the conundrum. That formula doesn’t work. And that’s what we learned from COVID. In some ways, we don’t have time, but I will leave you with this question. What did we learn from the COVID experience that should ready us for the climate experience, right? And we did not learn much.
GOODMAN: Well, I’ll say there is a book written by a Council on Foreign Relations scholar, who also happens to be my friend, Alice Hill, The Fight for Climate After COVID. So you can read that book. I would say on this last question that if you go to the New Security Beat on the Wilson Center, which is the daily blog, there are many articles on climate justice and this nexus that the questioner was asking about. And if you want a film on climate and security for your classrooms, The Age of Consequences, which is a film about militaries and the U.S. defense community kind of learning about climate change, that’s a good film too. And there are short excerpts from it. I think it’s still on Netflix, or somewhere online.
OK. And with that, we’re going to wrap it up. And I think some of us will stay—I think there’s a—if you want to continue the conversation in an informal—at the informal reception, some of us will be there. So thank you all very much. Thank you for being here. (Applause.) Thanks to our panel.
CAFARO: Hi. Good afternoon. I’m Cait Cafaro. I’m the director of education at the Council. And it’s so great to be with you here in person today after such a hiatus of being in person with anyone for so long. Speaking of, our vice president, Cari Netchvolodoff was slated to speak with this group today, but after steadfastly avoiding COVID for twenty-six months, she got it this week. Yeah, of course. I know she’s so sorry to be here—or, to not be here to confab with you guys. But I will try my best to convey her enthusiasm. Oh, sorry. OK.
So what I thought I could do today is run through our mission and the products that we’ve created to support that mission, and then really open it up to you for questions, ideas, comments, or views—any direction you’d like to go in. Luckily, I’m joined by my excellent colleagues, Courtney Wood, who’s our director of marketing, and Charlie Hopkins, who is our director of teaching and learning, both of whom can jump—are going to come join me on the stage and can answer any of your questions that fall into their lanes.
OK. So let’s see if I can do this. Uh-oh. My first test failed. (Laughs.) Press this? Thank you. I’ll just start talking. So building the knowledge, the skills, and the perspective—the global literacy, as we call it—needed to navigate today’s connected world has been our mission in the education department since day one. And it really became all but incandescent during the pandemic. That a virus can make its way from Wuhan to Wichita in a couple of plane rides made it clear, if it wasn’t already before, that some of the global challenges billed as on the horizon have already arrived. And students—everyone, really—but students in particular need the tools and the information to understand and deal with these issues right now.
There we go. The pandemic clarified something else too, that foreign and domestic policy are as interconnected as they ever have been, and that neither can be considered in isolation. So on top of the increasing flow of mis- and disinformation, the Capitol riots on January 6 added an urgency to the call for elevating the role that civics education can and should play in protecting our democracy. This public reexamination of civics curricula allowed us to get more vocal about the belief that a twenty-first-century civics education must include a global perspective. It’s an idea that we have championed for years, and it’s something that we call global civics.
So now I feel a bit silly talking to this particular group of people about what it takes to engage young people. After all—(laughs)—you know better than most the hard work required to make complicated and consequential topics resonate. But what I feel confident about, and excited to share and discuss with you here today, are the suite of products that we’ve created to support you, and educators like you, as you do this critical work of building a globally literate citizenry, one capable of upholding our democracy—tall order—and thriving in an interconnected world.
So how exactly are we doing that? With a growing ecosystem of digital products, each tailored to a specific age group, that together create a funnel for students of all ages who are interested in learning about the world. And this funnel also serves as an introduction to the Council and its vast array of resources and expertise. I’m going to start today with our newest product, which is just six weeks old. It’s also one that perfectly encapsulates what we mean by this idea of global civics. And maybe most excitingly, with its launch CFR officially became a gaming company. (Laughter.)
All right. Convene the Council is an educational video game, those exist, designed to teach students as young as twelve about the basics of foreign policy. To bring this project to life, we partnered with iCivics which, as some of you likely know, was founded by Sandra Day O’Connor in 2009 to address what she believed was a lack of access to high quality civics education content in the United States. Our staff worked closely with iCivics to create twenty fictional foreign policy scenarios for students to grapple with as they play the president of the United States. If you’re familiar with Model Diplomacy (MD), which I’ll talk about later, this will sound familiar, because Convene the Council was designed to ladder up to MD.
In Convene the Council, students are introduced to the work of the National Security Council and use game play to navigate the difficult balance between foreign and domestic needs as they determine a course of action that best supports U.S. interests and values, all the while considering how their policy decisions might play out internationally and how the U.S. public might respond. Since its launch, Convene the Council has been played an average of 80,000 times per week. And I don’t know how that compares to Twitch, but it’s a record for a new iCivics game. We’re so proud.
And while I know the intended audience for Convene the Council is younger than the students you likely interact with every day, I believe its success is relevant because it demonstrates this funnel that I was talking about that we’re creating for young people to really grow with the Council and its resources. And I think it also demonstrates the appetite, really, for content like this. And to that point, I’d like to share these two testimonials. These are from eighth graders. I’ll read them for you if you can’t read them in the back. A dramatic reading.
This one says: This game helped me realize that the president is sometimes forced to make hard decisions not based on opinions but out of what’s best for the country. These choices can’t be easy because they never know if it’s going to be the right choice to make. Sage. And then: This game helped me realize that there isn’t always a solution that can solve all the world’s problems. It helps me understand that war cannot always be solved by sending in more troops.
So we have an internal joke in the education department that the meta takeaway from much of our content is, it’s complicated. Black and white issues rarely exist—answers rarely exist, and tradeoffs are inevitable. We found it so heartening then that students—eighth-grade students, after just an afternoon of playing Convene the Council, came away with that—were able to articulate that idea. OK. Onto the next.
So just one week after launching Convene the Council we hit another milestone with the completion of World101, releasing the final modules of the Council’s five-unit online course on the fundamentals of international relations and foreign policy. So World101 is very near and dear to my heart. It’s why I came to the Council. I believe so emphatically in its premise and its value. The platform was created to provide a one-stop shop for folks with little or no background in international relations or foreign policy, a place where they could go to access unbiased, authoritative, accessible explanations about the issues, the forces, the history that really define twenty-first-century global affairs and the world around us.
We created it in response to the reality that most of us struggle with. And that’s a world in which massive amounts of information, including an increasing amount of dis- and misinformation, are available to us on the internet. We all have a shortage of time, and many of us, especially young people, lack the experience to sift through and determine what is accurate and what is high quality. We built World101 to be a solution to this problem, but in fact I believe it’s the solution. There’s really nothing like it on the market.
OK. A little bit more about World101. We designed it to be foundational and evergreen. So our lessons are calibrated to an eleventh-grade level, but are accessible to a spectrum of learners. It’s full of multimedia and videos and jargon-free language that break these topics down into core takeaways. It’s also flexible. We learned during our pilot process and from conversations with a lot of educators like you that flexibility really matters. That’s why we designed World101 to be consumed in pieces by individual lessons, a collection of lessons which we call a module, a series of units or modules, even a full course—really any combination that suits your needs.
And though we’ve completed what we refer to as World101 1.0, we continue to update our lessons with new data, scholarship, trends, fresh case studies, even new topics. Just this week we dropped a new lesson in income inequality and later in May we have a trio of lessons coming out on how artificial intelligence intersects with global issues like climate change.
OK, just some numbers—or, a few facts, rather, to take with you about World101. We have over six hundred lessons covering what we call global era issues, topics like climate change, nonproliferation, global health. We have lessons on each region of the world, on conceptual topics like sovereignty and nationalism and forms of government, on modern history as it relates to international relations, and of course on foreign policy. I’ll share some details—we’ll all share some details later about the work that we’ve done to get World101 into classrooms like yours around the country, but we’ve also seen a lot of organic traffic to World101, the website.
A series of audience surveys that we did earlier this year revealed that 78 percent of World101 visitors are students, and over half of them were referred to the site by an instructor. Hopefully by some of you in the audience here today. But kidding aside, what we’ve learned about World101 during its short life is that its use cases are endless. It’s a homework companion for students, and their parents sometimes. It’s a trusted bank of supplement lessons for teachers. And it’s really a go-to resource for anyone who wants to gain a basic understanding of an important issue, or just how the world works.
So over the past few years, we’ve partnered with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities American Democracy Project to pilot World101 on campuses around the country. And the case studies that have come from this partnership—that this partnership has generated have come from all kinds of classrooms and all kinds of contexts, which we believe validates our assumption that World101 can really flex in any way that you need it to.
Charlie and Courtney are going to speak about this more later, but from a freshman seminar exploring global issues at Lehman College, to an upper-level international security course offered at Western Carolina University, it’s been really fascinating to see all the ways in which educators put World101 to work in the real world. We’ve aggregated a collection of these syllabi to offer some unique roadmaps for those you who are interested in adding World101 to your own syllabi. And they’re available for download in the educators’ section of our website, which any of us would be happy to direct you to later on.
OK, finally, last but certainly not least, I want to make sure that nobody leaves this room without knowing about our third product, Model Diplomacy, but I’m certain it will be an invaluable tool for many of you. Model Diplomacy is a simulation program that invites students to play the roles of National Security Council and UN Security Council members to discuss hypothetical and historical foreign policy scenarios based on real-world issues. We have a library of forty full-length cases suitable for high school, college, and even graduate students. Each case comes with extensive background reading materials, videos with CFR and other subject matter experts, and most are available in basic and advanced versions.
What’s really been exciting over the past few years is the publication of a new series that we call pop-up cases. This growing collection of short-form news-driven scenarios has increased awareness of the MD program and really opened it up to younger learners, instructors from different disciplines, or those with less time to prepare for a full MD simulation. For example, last fall we chased the news cycle into the classroom with two pop-up cases, one on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and another on China’s growing threat to Taiwan. And in the spring, we developed several pop-up cases—I think one just came out this week—for instructors looking to—for ways to add context to the crisis in Ukraine.
So I hope you’re beginning to see how our three products funnel students toward more sophisticated takeaways about how the world works. But the other thing that they do is they provide students with a first-order takeaway that undergirds all we do in the education department. And it’s namely that every person, place, idea, thing is connected. And it’s important to tug at those strings to understand how and why they’re connected. If there’s one thing we try to instill in students, it’s that what happens in our world matters for our country, for our democracy, for our families, for ourselves. We’re all connected and we’re growing more so every day.
So in that spirit, I want to encourage all of you to reach out to us if you have any suggestions or would like to be involved in getting these critically important resources in front of as many eyes and students—students’ eyes as possible. If you don’t already, please follow us on social media. We even have a TikTok channel. And sign up for our newsletters. Please also spread the world about our products to your colleges and universities and make any introductions you think might support our efforts.
I can’t believe I buried the lead here, but one of the most important things about our product—to know about our products is that they’re free. We really consider our work a public service, and we really do strive to learn how we might better support you in the classroom. So we mean it. We want to hear your ideas, your critiques, suggestions, all of it, any of it. And with that, I’ll just say thank you. And I’d like to invite my colleagues, Courtney and Charlie, up to the stage. If you guys have any questions, comments, all of it. Thank you. (Applause.)
This is Courtney Wood. She’s our director of marketing. And Charlie Hopkins, who’s our director of teaching and learning. Anyone? Yes. So should I just—I’ll just call? Yes. Yes, in the yellow. (Laughs.)
Q: Thank you so much. Really appreciate it. I have benefitted at West Point from using Model Diplomacy. We did your historical Korean War decision point case in grand strategy this year. And I was just wondering if you have any pointers or tips for making historical simulations as productive as possible, versus hypothetical cases in Model Diplomacy? So this might seem like a rather specific question but it’s not, I assure you. I think this will be beneficial for the group. So a lot of those products are historical. So when students know how things ended, how do you make it so it doesn’t just feel kind of, like, anticlimactic, maybe? How do you get the most out of the historical cases, is what I’d like to know? So thank you.
CAFARO: Excellent. Charlie, do you want to take that one?
HOPKINS: Yeah, no, it’s a great question. And as you point out, like, it can be tough for students to get out of the kind of mindset of, like, well, we’ll just keep doing—we’ll just do whatever President Truman decided to do, because clearly he knew what he was doing. Yeah, I think, I mean, some of it is just really talking to your students beforehand, really encouraging them. Sort of framing that for them of saying, look, don’t close out the other options. One of the things we really try to do is make good choices about which cases we’ll put in there. Like, a lot of things people are like, oh yeah, you should absolutely do something on this. Well, there weren’t good—other good options.
I think asking students also to think ahead—even if it may not be the position they ultimately adopt—but ask them to spend a little bit of time brainstorming reasons why they might have gone a different way than what happened in history as an exercise, maybe even before you tell them you’re doing a simulation. And then when they get in the simulation, oh, right, I have sort of at my fingertips some of the arguments for why I might go a different way than history went, and sort of scaffold their experience that way. It's definitely tricky. But it’s a great question. Something that takes some thinking, for sure. And I’m sure other folks have encountered this, and maybe something to talk about over wine later this afternoon. (Laughter.)
CAFARO: Anyone else? Great, over here. This gentleman.
Q: Thank you. Dr. Todd J. Barry, Hudson County Community College.
I know that at the George—President George W. Bush Library they have supposedly a video game that’s called Decision Points that is similar to these video games. Did you use those? Or is there any overlap or—with those?
CAFARO: Charlie, do you want to take that one again? I’m sorry to just lean on you, but Charlie’s—
HOPKINS: Yeah. I’m not familiar with the game that the George W. Bush Library has. We certainly—the organization we worked with, iCivics, has a couple dozen games, I think. Their kind of bailiwick is all kinds of civics. So they have, what is the Bill of Rights, and what is the role of the president versus Congress. And this was sort of their first foray into foreign policy, specifically that aspect of civics. But they brought a lot of expertise on that front. But I will have to check out that game at the Bush Library. Thank you for bringing it up.
CAFARO: Yeah. And iCivics is really—is part of a larger group that are really pushing this kind of call to reimagine civics education. So I think we found them as a really ideal partner because CFR in particular really serves that—what we think is an essential part of that civics conversation, that global perspective. So I think it’s—OK, I’ll take this gentleman.
Q: Thank you for this. This is great. Do you have any roleplaying that’s not a game, where you have some written instructions and they kind of invent their own roles?
HOPKINS: Yeah, absolutely. That would be Model Diplomacy. Model Diplomacy is designed as a hybrid experience. So we have the case study that you can read online, or videos you can watch online. But then as originally conceived, students then come and sit around the table and actually talk to each other. You have a student who’s the president, a student who’s secretary of defense, a student who’s secretary of state. And they’re discussing that case study and what they would do. Obviously for the pandemic we put together some suggestions for those of us who had to continue on Zoom. But it is conceived as an in-person activity, so that Model Diplomacy would be the one there. It’s for free on our website, modeldiplomacy.cfr.org.
CAFARO: Yes. I think this gentleman, then we’ll go to the back.
Q: Thank you. My question’s kind of a follow up to the last question about how accessible is this? And you said it’s right on your website. A lot of us would probably want to use these in our syllabi. And so can we just use your—that website indiscriminately?
CAFARO: Yes. Yes. Please do! (Laughter.)
Q: Just wanted to make sure. So thank you very much.
CAFARO: So Model Diplomacy you do sign up. World101 there is no sign up. But it’s just a sign up so we can pepper you with emails about our new products and new cases, yeah. (Laughter.) OK, I know there was a gentleman in the back. OK.
Q: So just like the—sorry, Mark Flowers from Georgia State University, Perimeter College.
Just like there’s the Model United Nations or Model African Union, is there any intention to roll this out—I think this might be for the marketing person—(laughter)—to maybe have some summits or contests or anything between universities and colleges? And the second part of this is, is there any chance we could invite you to come and help us, like, host an event on our campus?
CAFARO: Hmm. (Laughter.)
WOOD: I mean, we have—we have done some talking internally about a Model Diplomacy-type contest, so—or a competition. So that is something that we may possibly think about in the future. And your second question, yes, we will come out there and—(laughter)—facilitate a simulation, yeah.
CAFARO: Yeah. Maybe that’s how we’ll think about it, yeah. (Laughs.) Excellent. Anyone else? I feel like I saw maybe—no? OK. Over here.
Q: Hi. Todd Kushner with NIU.
So I used two of your Model Diplomacy simulations this year. We used the asylum seekers on the southern border and we used the scenario where you have a cyberattack on the stock exchange after that. And the students really loved that one. Some of the observations, though, is that it would be nice if there was a unique role for intelligence. So maybe the person who’s playing the DNI has some unique information that’s not available to the other participants that can be inserted at the right points, or else there isn’t really a justification for that role. I think that would be a useful addition.
It would also be useful if on your website maybe you would have a template or some examples of what some of the policy amendments look like. So when—from previous things, when students are sometimes struggling, you know, what exactly is this supposed to look like, you can say, well, this is what they did in this other one. Make it a little bit look like this then you’ll be—then you’ll be fine.
CAFARO: Definitely. I know Model Diplomacy in particular is a deep well of information. So we do have a couple of samples. And we’ll be happy to share with you. And we’re also—that’s a big project for us this summer, is just to help instructors and students kind of navigate—because there’s several parts to doing a simulation. So we know that that’s a challenge but that it’s really enriching. So we’re creating some support materials to help folks find that stuff.
Q: And then the last thing is—the recommendation is that if there’s something you can do technologically if we want to choose some pieces of this scenario and not others. So for instance, we may not need all of the definitions of what the different bodies are, because our students know that already. So can we skip over that and go to kind of the main body, just to make it a little easier if we want to cut and paste things for our use? It is a great program. I really appreciate your doing it.
CAFARO: Excellent. Thank you. Those are all really great suggestions that we’ll have to get your card and follow up and put you on our product team. (Laughter.) All right, so I think we have a question from the Zoom land. Is that true?
OPERATOR: We will take our next virtual question from Pamela Waldron-Moore.
Q: Thank you so much. I hope you can hear me.
I have been observing this from a distance. I happen to be teaching at the Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. And I am here a semester doing a scholar in residence program at NYU, and love the chance to, of course, participate in this session. I should have let Irina know that I was in town, so maybe I could have come physically. But I am enjoying the workshop these last two days.
I have a question. Because I hear most of these conversations tailored, I think, to suit the large schools, the Ivy League schools, the New York kinds of schools. I teach at an historically Black college. And I do international relations. I am political science and international relations. And I do have simulation exercises where they actually do their own. I give them a theme, and we organize groups, and they make their presentations. And they enjoy it so much. It’s an important part of them learning and understanding how to understand the global world.
But I wonder if you have programs that focus on issues relative to, say, Africa and the Caribbean, and stuff like this, because that is what I most want to focus on, since almost everything they have done to date is European based. And at an historically Black school, I think it’s really important for our students to understand a little bit more about who they are, their ancestry, and how those countries think, and create foreign policy, and so forth. So do you have any suggestions within your portfolio of classes and programs and simulations—is there anything that I might benefit from, more than the regular stuff?
CAFARO: Great question. Do you want to go through MD?
HOPKINS: Yeah, no, terrific question. Thank you so much for raising it. For Model Diplomacy, absolutely I hear you. We try to be as geographically diverse as possible. We have two cases set in Africa—one in Nigeria, one in Sudan. We don’t have any in the Caribbean, but we do have—Venezuela and Colombia both have cases set in them. And we have Middle East, Southeast Asia, East Asia, as well as Europe and North America. So we try our best. I hope you’ll check out Boko Haram—there’s one about Boko Haram in Nigeria and then in South Sudan, on the Model Diplomacy side.
CAFARO: Yeah, and we also—I mentioned when we were talking about World101—we have a unit that covers—I mean, obviously it’s an insurmountable task—but covers each region of the world. So we do have some content localized to the Caribbean, to Africa. But like I said at the end of the presentation, we want your help. So if you see a hole in our content or if you’re in New York for semester—I don’t know where to point, I don’t know where you’re coming from—(laughter)—but come to our office, and let’s have coffee, and let’s figure out how we can create some case studies that really resonate with your students, because that’s very important to us.
Q: (Off mic.)
CAFARO: Oh, yeah. Our email is online. And I’ll come back down here with cards for everybody. And I think I just got the wrap it up, the Oscar music. (Laughter.) OK. All right. Well, it was so lovely to speak with you. I hope you all go check out all of our products. We’ll be around. We have information at the table outside, and we’ll also set our cards down. So please, please get in touch. And have a lovely weekend in New York. (Applause.) Thank you.