When it comes to the state of the world right now… it’s complicated.
Fortunately, experts from the School of Global Policy and Strategy have been working on it for three decades. To celebrate the school’s 30th anniversary, we thought to ask them 30 questions.
But one question summed it up. So we asked it 30 times:
What’s Going On?
…in global development?
▶ “When I sensibly take a break from the daily news feed and think about larger trends, I am optimistic. I have spent my career developing tools and nurturing ecosystems to harness science and technology to improve human development and national security, which I see as two sides of the same problem. When I started my career, the threat from countries such as North Korea was top of mind. I think it’s fair to say this problem is no better today than 20 years ago—little progress to show from enormous investments in innovation in counterterrorism technologies. On the other hand, in a similar time frame, modest investments in innovation for human development have seen tremendous progress: in 20 years the world has halved under-5 infant mortality and reduced the number of those living in absolute poverty by a third. Over the next 20 years, imagine if we tilted investments in innovations for security toward innovations for development—this possibility makes me an optimist.”
—Steven Buchsbaum, MS’83, PhD ’90, MPIA ’97, is Deputy Director
of Discovery & Translational Sciences for the Gates Foundation.
…in the U.S. State Department?
▶ “Not many people know that the State plays a significant role in combating terrorism. Since 9/11, the terrorist landscape has grown more complex, fluid and dangerous, with terrorist groups proving themselves resilient, determined and adaptable. Groups such as ISIS, al-Qa’ida and their affiliates have become more dispersed and clandestine, turning to the Internet to inspire attacks by distant followers. As a result, they have made themselves less susceptible to conventional military action. The U.S. response to this threat requires flexibility while also employing a comprehensive, whole-of-government effort. However, we cannot do it alone. We are working with our friends and partners around the world to meet the evolving global terrorist threat—building the political will and counterterrorism capacity of foreign partner governments and engaging regional and multilateral bodies to leverage the international community to counter terrorist travel and violent extremism and strengthen border security and the rule of law.”
—Hillary Batjer-Johnson, MPIA ’99, is Deputy Coordinator for Homeland Security, Screening, and Designations in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism.
▶ “It’s a very interesting and dynamic time in the Republic of Korea (ROK), with inter-Korean Summits and the historic Singapore Summit. The situation is quite different from the summer of 2017 with its heightened provocations and a very tense security situation. In our organization, we continue to conduct security cooperation and assistance
to ensure that the ROK Defense establishment acquires and develops the right capabilities now and in the future.”
—Jason Kim, MAS-IA ’12, is Lieutenant Colonel and U.S. Army Deputy Chief of the Joint-U.S. Military Affairs Group at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea.
…in clean technology?
▶ “What’s exciting in the world of clean technology is that electric grids around the world are adopting greater levels of renewable generation (such as wind and solar) because these technologies have become cheaper than conventional forms of energy generation. However, a major barrier to scaling deployment of renewables is that their energy is available only when the sun shines or when the wind blows, which does not always match when we use energy. To address this challenge, energy storage plays a pivotal role in helping renewables become flexible.”
—Candice Wang Yu ’09, MIA ’10 is Business Development Manager at Stem, Inc., which helps solar companies deploy projects with AI-powered energy storage.
…in global trade?
▶ “Trade has become a hot topic ever since the major powers got into an escalated scuffle. On the surface, the focal issue was the U.S. trade deficit against other countries. However, most economists didn’t believe slapping on a tariff could be a cure. Many even argued that a trade deficit itself was not necessarily a bad thing. So what is all the fuss about?
“Aside from all the nationalistic rhetoric and suspicion of geopolitical conspiracy, it may reflect something more fundamental—
a widespread anxiety that the current global trade regime may not be able to effectively protect the fairness of trade as before. This feeling may eventually stall the freedom of trade. If that is the case, we should be able to find a better approach for a solution. We know we will be better off when a “new normal” of free and fair trade is achieved. We also hope that everybody can be inspired by a positive process as we get there, as expressed by the founding motto of the WTCA half a century ago: “Trade for Peace and Prosperity.”
—Scott Wang, MPIA ’98, is Vice President of Asia Pacific for
the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA).
…in our oceans?
▶ “Farm to table” restaurants and locally sourced food are all the rage right now, but when it comes to seafood, it’s not so easy. Sourcing paths can touch multiple countries, continents and illegal activity like human trafficking and damaging fishing practices. So what’s going on in our oceans? A lot.
Traceability is becoming a powerful weapon to combat illegal fishing, and great strides are being made around the world. Indonesia became the first country to publicly release its vessel monitoring system data, meaning anyone can see where boats are fishing in Indonesian waters. Peru did the same. These are promising examples, but we need to scale solutions.
We started the Seafood Alliance for Legality and Traceability (SALT) to bring together stakeholders from around the world to share their traceability projects and stories in order to learn from each other and identify ways to collaborate. A success with catch documentation technology from South America could catalyze ideas for improvement in Southeast Asia. Partnerships could spark innovation. With this knowledge exchange, we can slowly unpack the complexity of seafood supply chains and paint a clearer picture of how traceability can empower effective fishery management.”
—Tobias Aguirre, MPIA ’05, is CEO of FishWise, an organization that helps the seafood industry support sustainability through environmentally and socially responsible business practices.
…in global health?
▶ “Among today’s global health security experts and watchdogs, the question is not ‘if’ the world will experience a major pandemic, but ‘when.’ The complexity of preventing, monitoring and preparing for global health security threats is difficult to understate. For example, the pandemic of the future might be natural or man-made, and it may be either ameliorated or caused by emerging biotechnology with dual-use potential. Depending on the pathogen, our clinical ability to fight the disease may be impacted by rising human and animal resistance to antimicrobials. And our political ability to conduct effective outbreak response may be jeopardized by conflict, malgovernance and isolated states. It’s important that health security continues to be increasingly prioritized as an issue of national security, as we recognize the unique borderless nature of infectious disease threats.”
—Emily Foecke Munden, MIA ’16, is Associate Fellow, Global Health Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
▶ “Cuba is at the crossroads. The last several years have seen a process of economic reform and social change, which has reshaped the mentality of the country’s youth. Yet conservative forces in government are concerned that private sector growth, foreign investment and open media and telecom policies will result in growing inequality and a push for political change. Obama’s opening to Cuba brought a rush of trade, travel and investment interest, but Trump’s rollback—which was more bark than bite—has scared banks, businesspeople and travelers alike, slowing down the momentum. Even so, that limited opening has given the Cuban people the taste of more efficient economics, faster connections and life outside of Cuba. There are hurdles in the road, but Cuba will continue to open.”
—Collin Laverty, MPIA ’12, is President of Havana-based Cuba Educational Travel and Senior Partner at Havana Strategies.
…in public service?
▶ “After 18 years since starting my career at the Department of Defense, I have traveled the world, participated in meetings with world leaders and worked on issues like non-proliferation regimes, maritime piracy and the training pipeline to produce a special forces soldier. All the while, I went to work each day knowing that each decision and each action I took was based on what I thought was best for U.S. national security. This country needs committed, passionate and thoughtful citizens to join government, and I know GPS will continue to produce people who will thrive and succeed. And, take it from me, it is a wonderfully gratifying ride.”
—Elizabeth Phu, MPIA ’00, is Principal Director, Secretariat for Special Operations in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
▶ “The next wave in sustainability is biomimicry, an approach that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. Nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with: animals, plants and microbes are the consummate engineers. After billions of years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival. It’s an entirely new realm for entrepreneurship to create products, processes and policies—new ways of living—that are well adapted to life on Earth for the long haul.”
—Jacques Chirazi, MPIA ’05, is the Innovation and Commercialization Manager for The Biomimicry Institute and Cleantech Manager for the City of San Diego.
…with Australia at the United Nations?
▶ “Australia is firmly committed to effective global cooperation through the United Nations system. Here in New York, we have a dedicated team that works on a large number of issues, including peacekeeping, climate change, human rights and the advancement of gender equality. We work closely with other Asia-Pacific countries to advocate on issues of importance in our own region, and are proud to serve as a member of the Human Rights Council from 2018 to 2020.”
—Catherine Harris-Konkol, MAS-IA ’11, is the Defence Operations Manager at the Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations, New York.
…in the Middle East?
▶ “My work has given me a firsthand look at some of the most important foreign policy challenges of our time, ranging from the conflict in Syria to the global campaign to defeat ISIS. My team and I determine how our foreign assistance and public diplomacy resources can support policy objectives—for example, the U.S. government has assisted in stabilizing areas in Syria in support of the military campaign to defeat ISIS. And our public diplomacy programs counter extremist messaging to make it more difficult to incite attacks or recruit members. These wide-ranging efforts help make the world safer and more secure.”
—Chris Backemeyer, MPIA ’04, is U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Assistance Coordination and Press and Public Diplomacy.
…in emerging markets?
▶ “Like the rest of the world, emerging markets experience political and economic ups and downs. Yet for all the fluctuation and variety associated with emerging markets, the value and use of digital technology has remained on an upward trajectory over the past few decades. From teeming cities like Bangalore and Nairobi to the most rural areas of Ethiopia, digital technology is changing the foundational systems on which all countries operate. It is creating efficiencies, effectiveness and new levels of expectation for how societies run themselves. However, the magnitude of impact that digital is having through these national systemic changes on the poorest 4 billion around the world is more than life changing—it is lifesaving. From peer-to-peer money transfer systems to digital health information systems, the profound impact of digital information and communication technology has been, and will continue to be, one of most consistent aspects of what is happening in emerging markets.”
—Brooke Partridge, MPIA ’91, is Founder and CEO of Vital Wave, a strategy consulting firm that helps technology companies grow in emerging markets.