Great Decisions Global Discussions

Great Decisions 2022 Speakers and Topics

February 14 
Myanmar and Human Rights

Pratima Narayan, human rights lawyer 

NarayanOngoing human rights abuses in Myanmar have given the world pause when watching this struggling democracy. Now, after a military coup of the country in 2021, what is the situation on the ground? And how might regional and world players respond to this ongoing crisis? Join Pratima Narayan as she discusses developments in the country. Pratima T. Narayan led investigations for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. In 2018, she was one of 18 investigators selected globally to participate in a U.S. Department of State investigation into atrocities allegedly committed against Rohingya communities in Myanmar. She holds a J.D. from Boston University School of Law and a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University.

February 21  (NEW DATE)
The War on Drugs and its Impact on the Environment 
Dr. Jennifer Devine, Texas State University 

DevineThe US-led War on Drugs in Latin America has created a cat and mouse game that pushes drug traffickers into remote areas. Drug traffickers finance illegal cattle ranching and oil palm cultivation in protected areas to legitimize their presence, claim smuggling territory, and to launder money. Dr. Devine’s research team integrates remote sensing, GIS, and ethnographic methods to analyze drug trafficking’s environmental impacts in Central America’s protected areas. Their research reveals that drug trafficking is a key driver of deforestation in Guatemalan and Honduran national parks. In the era of the Drug War Conservation, Indigenous and peasant community-resource management is the most viable conservation strategy: this approach simultaneously achieves environmental sustainability, improves security and governance, and serves as a means of social and environmental justice. Dr. Devine is a critical human geographer and political ecologist who studies human-environmental relations, US - Central American politics, community resource management, grassroots social movements, global drug policy, and tourism and heritage management. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Texas State University.

Thursday, February 24 
Global Cooperation in Space: The Case of Mining and the Role of Law 

Frans von der Dunk , University of Nebraska-Lincoln 

von der Dunk (1)As more countries and private enterprise continue to explore and develop space, it’s imperative to have global cooperation and agreed upon laws. Join Dr. Frans von der Dunk, one of the world’s leading authorities on space policy and law, as he discusses the role of space law in the exploration and commercial utilization of outer space, using space mining as a case in point. Dr. Frans G. von der Dunk is Professor of Space Law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s LL.M. Programme on Space, Cyber, and Telecommunication Law. He is also Director of Black Holes BV, a Consultancy in space law and policy, based in Leiden. Previously, he was Co-Director, then Director of Space Law Research at the International Institute of Air and Space Law at Leiden University. He has served as adviser to the Dutch Government, several foreign Governments, the European Commission, the European Space Agency (ESA), the United Nations (UN), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Dutch National Aerospace Agency (NIVR), the German Space Agency (DLR), the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB), the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), as well as various companies.

February 28 
Russia and the U.S. 

Fiona Hill, former senior director, National Security Council 

HillRussia continues to present a challenge to the U.S. and Europe, evidenced by the worsening situation in Ukraine. How might the U.S. find an effective counter to Russia? And does that mean solving internal divisions within our own country first? Join Fiona Hill, former senior director on the National Security Council, as she discusses the U.S.-Russian relationship and the long-term trends that brought us here. Dr. Fiona Hill is a senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. She recently served as deputy assistant to the president and senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council from 2017 to 2019. From 2006 to 2009, she served as national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at The National Intelligence Council. Her recent book, There is Nothing for you Here, is a memoir that examines the challenges of finding opportunity post-deindustrialization in the West.

LopezMarch 7 People in Transition: Examining Global Demographic Changes 
Mark Hugo Lopez, director, race and ethnicity research, Pew Research Center 

The world experienced remarkable demographic changes in the 20th century that continue today, resulting in far-reaching social, economic, political, and environmental consequences all over the globe. Join demographics and immigration expert Mark Hugo Lopez, of the Pew Research Center, as he discusses population trends and their implications globally and domestically. Dr. Mark Hugo Lopez is director of race and ethnicity research at Pew Research Center. He is an expert on issues of racial and ethnic identity, Latino politics and culture, the U.S. Hispanic and Asian American populations, global and domestic immigration, and the U.S. demographic landscape. Lopez was previously the Center’s director of Global Migration and Demography, and of Hispanic research. 


March 14 
India and the Quad Alliance 

Richard M. Rossow, Center for Strategic and International Studies 


While the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or Quad Alliance) between Japan, Australia, India, and the U.S. has been in place since 2007, there’s been renewed interest in the partnership lately due to escalating tensions with China. How the Quad Alliance will function and what they will achieve remains unknown. But, by focusing on one partner, India, our speaker will highlight the limitations and potential of this arrangement and how it may influence world affairs in the region and domestically. Richard Rossow is a senior adviser and holds the Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at CSIS. In this role he helps frame and shape policies to promote greater business and economic engagement between the two countries. He joined CSIS in 2014, having spent the last 16 years working in a variety of capacities to strengthen the partnership between the United States and India. Mr. Rossow received his B.A. from Grand Valley State University. 

March 21 
Creating a Just Transition in Climate Change Policy 

Vonda Brunsting, Initiative for Responsible Investment, Harvard University 

BrunstingAs the world’s economy responds to climate change and takes steps to pull back from fossil fuel dependency, of particular importance is that any action should work towards just and equitable solutions for citizens, workers, and communities. Join our speaker Vonda Brunsting as she outlines the philosophy of a just climate transition, and the practical steps we can take. Vonda Brunsting is the Program Manager for The Just Transition Project. Before joining the IRI, she was the Director of the Capital Stewardship Program at Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Prior to her time with SEIU, Vonda worked as a community organizer in Chicago, New York, and Boston with the Industrial Areas Foundation. In addition, she co-founded the Trustee Leadership Forum for Retirement Security here at the IRI. She earned her B.A. from Calvin College and A.M. in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

March 28 
Biden’s Foreign Policy Agenda: How it Started and Where it’s Going

Elizabeth Shackelford, Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs 

ShackelfordWhen President Biden came to office in January 2021, he promised a foreign policy that would bring America back to the table, repair our alliances, address global challenges with global cooperation, promote democracy, confront autocracy, and be more responsive to the needs and interests of the American people. It was a daunting agenda. Fourteen months into this administration, how has President Biden’s foreign policy measured up to his administration’s plans and promises? And what should we expect in its second year? Elizabeth Shackelford is a senior fellow in U.S. foreign policy with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. She was a career diplomat with the US Department of State until December 2017. She served in Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan, Poland, and Washington, D.C. For her work in South Sudan during the outbreak of civil war in 2013, she received the Barbara Watson Award for Consular Excellence, the Department’s highest honor for consular work. Shackelford is the author of The Dissent Channel: American Diplomacy in a Dishonest Age, winner of the 2020 Douglas Dillon Book Award.