Great Decisions Global Discussions

Great Decisions 2021 Speakers and Topics

February 8
North Korea: Getting Diplomacy Back on Track
Suzanne DiMaggio, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Suzanne DiMaggio

After a historical summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in 2018, hopes of a change in relations have faded. Now, with a new president entering the White House, landslide legislative victories in South Korea, and rumors of an unwell Kim, do new dynamics have the potential to change a perennially thorny situation? 

Suzanne DiMaggio is one of the foremost experts and practitioners of diplomatic dialogues with countries that have limited or no official relations with the United States, especially Iran and North Korea. She is also the Board Chair of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a new think tank founded in 2019 she co-founded. She is currently directing a U.S.-DPRK dialogue that has included several visits to North Korea. As part of that process, she facilitated the first official discussions between the Trump administration and North Korean government representatives in Oslo in May 2017.

February 15
Have We Learned Anything about this Pandemic?
Andrew Natsios, Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, The Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&MAndrew Natsios

COVID-19 took the world by surprise, but it shouldn’t have been surprising. The question remains how our global health systems can be more responsive and resilient to pandemics. Professor Andrew Natsios will discuss the structural problems in the World Health Organization that have created dysfunctions laid bare by COVID-19; the need for a global pandemic early warning system and how it might be achieved; and next steps in vaccine distribution in the developing world in light of great power competition and larger global health challenges.

Professor Andrew Natsios served as Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development from 2001 to January 2006. He was the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan to deal with the Darfur crisis and the North-South peace agreement. He served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and in state government as the Secretary of Administration and Finance. 

Professor Natsios, with President George H. W. Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., recently edited Transforming Our World: President George H. W. Bush and American Foreign Policy. This book, available in print in December 2020, brings together a distinguished collection of foreign policy practitioners—career and political—who participated in the unfolding of international events as part the Bush administration to provide insider perspective by the people charged with carrying them out. He is also the author of three books: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1997), The Great North Korean Famine (2001), and Sudan, South Sudan, and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know.

February 22
The European Union: The New Agenda Post-Brexit 
Tomas Baert, Head of Trade and Agriculture, European Delegation to the U.S.Tomas Baert

Containing 5.8% of the world population, and accounting for 18% of world GDP, the European Union holds enormous influence in the world, driving economic growth, advancing sustainable development, and championing peace and security by promoting democratic norms. While Brexit has been the focus, other key priorities of the Union remain: stabilizing transatlantic relations, continuing response to the COVID crisis, leading in the climate fight, and transforming the digital economy. 

Prior to his work in the U.S., Tomas Baert was the Head of Unit for Trade Strategy at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade (DG Trade).  From 2014 to 2016, he was an assistant to Director-General for Trade, advising on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and WTO negotiations.  Between 2010 and 2014, Baert was based in Geneva, where he served as a first secretary at the Permanent Mission of the EU to the WTO. 

March 1
The Future of Business and Global Supply Chains
Judy Samuelson, founder, Aspen Institute Business and Society Program
Brian Kraus, Vice President, Global Manufacturing, Amway (Moderator)

Judy Samuelson (1)COVID-19 has amplified worrying business trends, including the fragility of global supply chains. What are the new rules of business? Dr. Judy Samuelson will offer insights on how businesses are changing and the critical role they’ll have in the new global landscape. Moderating discussion will be Brian Kraus, Vice President of Global Manufacturing at Amway.

Dr. Samuelson is founder and executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program and a vice president at the Aspen Institute. She is the author of The Six New Rules of Business: Creating Real Value in a Changing World. She previously worked in legislative affairs in California and banking in New York’s garment center and ran the Ford Foundation’s office of Program-Related Investments. Samuelson writes regularly for Quartz at Work, is a Bellagio Fellow and a director of Financial Health Network.Brian Kraus

Brian Kraus is Vice President, Global Manufacturing at Amway and is responsible for leading 25 manufacturing plants across nine locations employing 2,800 people.  Prior to his current role, Kraus served as Vice President, Global Supply Chain Planning and Project. He also teaches business administration and supply chain management at Aquinas College.


March 8
Sustainable Globalization Post-COVID-19
Julia Luscombe, Managing Director of Strategic Planning, Feeding America

Julia Luscombe

Globalization is under attack. Some argue for national protectionism in response to global crisis such as COVID-19 or economic recession. Some argue that globalization has exacerbated inequality in developed and developing economies. Is there a way forward, where global cooperation and development can tackle challenges like pandemics, climate change, and economic disruption that is sustainable and just and also respects national sovereignty? What would that roadmap look like? 

Julia Luscombe is the Managing Director of Strategic Planning for Feeding America, a non-profit working to end hunger in the United States through a nationwide network of food banks and partners. She facilitates the development of strategies to advance results for people facing hunger and creates systems to drive organizational effectiveness and measure impact.  Luscombe is also a member of the Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum. She Co-Chaired the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in 2019. 


March 15
The Warming Arctic
Kaare Sikuaq Ericson, North Slope Science Liaison, Ukpeagvik Inupiat CorporationKaare Erickson
Bob Hollister, Leader of Arctic Ecology Program (AEP), Grand Valley State University

Because of climate change, the Arctic is warming, disturbing the delicate ecosystem that is felt locally and worldwide. How is the environment changing in the Arctic and what impact will it have on human settlements around the globe? And importantly, can global cooperation provide an answer to this climate challenge? 

Kaare Sikuaq Erickson is the North Slope Science Liaison for the Ukpeaġvik Inupiat Corporation in Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska. As liaison, Erickson represents hundreds of Arctic researchers to thousands of Arctic residents, and vice versa. He also serves as board of director for the Arctic Research CoBob Hollisternsortium of the United States.

Dr. Bob Hollister leads a collaborative multi-disciplinary research project funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the Arctic Observatory Network.  These sites are now among the longest continually monitored vegetation studies in the Arctic.  He is currently co-chair of the ITEX (International Tundra EXperiment) network and he has worked with many research groups from around the world.

March 22
China in Africa and the Case of Ghana
Elizabeth Asiedu, Professor of Economics, University of Kansas

Elizabeth Asiedu

China’s investment in Africa has a long and complicated history, made more so by COVID-19. While the Belt and Road Initiative continues to expand Chinese power, the response to the spread of Covid-19, as well as the African government’s growing debt to China, has seen pushback. 

Dr. Elizabeth Asiedu is Associate Chair and the Director of Graduate Studies of the Economics Department at the University of Kansas and the President and founder of the Association for the Advancement of African Women Economists (AAAWE), former editor of the Journal of African Development (JAD) and former President of the African Finance Economic Association (AFEA). Her research focuses on Foreign Direct Investment, Foreign Aid and Gender and has earned her national and international prominence. She is the recipient of the 2020 Sadie Collective Award for Mentoring and Academic Excellence and is also included in the list of the Top 40,000 Scientists in the World based on citations of publications in 2019. She has consulted for many international organizations, including The World Bank, The African Development Bank and The Global Development Network.

March 29
The Saudi Arabian-U.S. Relationship
Thomas W. Lippman, author, consultant, and lecturer

Thomas W Lippman

The relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has been forged in oil and security interests over more than eight decades, but the alliance has not been without struggle. How might the historical context shape our perceptions of the current challenges the relationship faces: Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen, human rights abuses and the suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as uncertain oil futures in a changing energy economy? 

 Thomas W. Lippman is the author of eight books on Mideast affairs. His most recent book, Crude Oil, Crude Money: Aristotle Onassis, Saudi Arabia, and the CIA, tells the untold story of how American oil companies teamed up with the CIA and Department of State to thwart the plans of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, who almost managed to reshape the Middle East. Lippman is a former Middle East bureau chief of the Washington Post, and also served as that newspaper's oil and energy reporter. He is currently a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, where he serves as the principal media contact on Saudi Arabia and U.S. – Saudi relations.