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Foreign policy conference offered students a deep dive on global topics

Apr 29, 2024
Hamilton Lugar School Dean John Ciorciari moderates The Importance of Area Studies panel at the 9th annual America's Role in the Wor...
Hamilton Lugar School Dean John Ciorciari and LaNitra Berger, director of African and African American Studies at George Mason University speak on “The Importance of Area Studies” panel at the 9th annual America’s Role in the World conference.

The Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University recently held its 9th annual America’s Role in the World® (ARW) foreign policy conference on April 4-5, 2024. The annual student-centered event convened scholars, diplomats, journalists, and activists to discuss global affairs topics across disciplines.

In addition to conference programming, Hamilton Lugar School students organized networking events with panelists and pre-conference events to help students prepare.

“ARW is an avenue for learning about diverse pressing issues and meeting renowned experts,” said Hamilton Lugar School junior Amangul Hydyrova, “The conference provides an opportunity for students to engage in these issues by asking questions and sharing their perspectives with the speakers and other students during ARW breakfasts, lunch, and in between the panels.”

Indiana University President Pamela Whitten recognized Oleksandra Matviichuk with the Global Voices for Change award at the 9th annual Ameri Indiana University President Pamela Whitten recognized Oleksandra Matviichuk with the Global Voices for Change award at the 9th annual America's Role in the World Conference.Human rights lawyer and 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oleksandra Matviichuk gave the conference keynote address. Matviichuk leads the Centre for Civil Liberties, a human rights organization based in Kyiv, and has extensively documented war crimes against Ukraine.

Six additional panel discussions offered insights on various global topics.

“The Importance of Area Studies” panel underscored the value of gaining a deep understanding of the histories, cultures, and languages of world regions and communities.

“[To approach] wicked problems … problems that are so complicated that one disciplinary approach or one person cannot solve it on their own, like climate change, we need to work collaboratively,” said Brian Edwards, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Tulane University. “Area studies knowledge is much more suited to approaching the [wicked] problems that this generation has not solved, from different angles.”

Brian Edwards, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Tulane University speaks on the many benefits of an area studies education. Brian Edwards, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Tulane University speaks on the many benefits of an area studies education.Panelists said by studying not only world regions, but the history of teaching about world regions, students can learn to read and examine sources more critically — a valuable skill for all disciplines.

“How do we know what we know, and how do we know what we don’t know? That question alone really prompts students to reflect on their entire learning experience,” said LaNitra Berger, director of African and African American Studies at George Mason University.

“When I get students who … think they’ve had a great education and they start taking African Studies classes, they start to wonder, why have I never heard of Great Zimbabwe, for example. Why is that?” said Berger. “Getting students to understand why they know what they know, and how to fill those gaps with our curriculum, is a really crucial part of what we do.”

Governing AI panel at 9th annual America's Role in the World foreign policy conference

The “Governing AI” panel examined the complexities of minimizing risks and maximizing benefits, asking how countries might work together despite geopolitical competition.

Atlantic Council Distinguished Fellow Frances Burwell Frances Burwell, Atlantic Council Distinguished Fellow; Managing Director Europe-Eurasia, McLarty AssociatesAtlantic Council Distinguished Fellow Frances Burwell explained that the European Union’s AI Act importantly distinguishes between high and low risk uses of AI. The model is already being replicated by other countries.

U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney, former chair of the Congressional AI Caucus, said the AI Act could also help guide the U.S. and that different countries have different concerns on regulation.

“President Biden’s executive order [on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence] was incredibly important because it gives our country time to figure out what to do about AI,” said McNerney. “The international aspect is also crucially important … [China] wants AI because they want to be able to control commerce and have an edge in national security … but they’re also afraid if AI will threaten authoritarian rule. They have a different tension than ours.”

Shannon Raj Singh, principal and founder of Athena Tech & Atrocities Advisory, spoke about the danger of AI in discrediting criminal evidence.

Shannon Raj Singh, principal and founder of Athena Tech & Atrocities Advisory. Shannon Raj Singh, principal and founder of Athena Tech & Atrocities Advisory.“Think about the documentation of war crimes. Think how that work is undermined when there is the ability to say, ‘That’s not true, that’s a deep fake.’ With the increase of Gen AI being used on social media, without the guard rails being put in place … we’re going to see even less trust … of what genuinely is actual content on social media,” said Raj Singh.

In response to a student question on who would be held responsible for cyber-crimes, in which no individual person was directly involved, Raj Singh responded.

“We have a legal framework where states and individuals are responsible for respecting human rights, and corporations are responsible for making money, and respecting human rights — if it doesn’t detract from profit. So, I think that’s what’s in need of updating,” she said.

Economic Fragility, International Lenders, and Negotiating Debt Restructuring for Highly Indebted Countries panelists left to right: Yinka “Economic Fragility, International Lenders, and Negotiating Debt Restructuring for Highly Indebted Countries” panelists left to right: Yinka Adegoke, Editor, Semafor Africa; Zongyuan Zoe Liu, Maurice R. Greenberg Fellow for China Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Samantha Custer, Director of Policy Analysis, AidData; Jeremy Mark, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council; Sarah Bauerle Danzman, Associate Professor, International Studies, Hamilton Lugar School

The panel “Economic Fragility, International Lenders, and Negotiating Debt Restructuring for Highly Indebted Countries,” addressed the challenges of negotiating debt relief, including how China’s increasingly prominent role as lender has complicated debt restructuring agreements.

“We should care about this because debt defaults exact human tolls: inflation, austerity, and government instability,” said Sarah Bauerle Danzman, professor of international studies at the IU Hamilton Lugar School.

“Nearly 80 countries around the world today we think are in debt distress or are likely to be in the future,” said Samantha Custer, director of policy analysis at AidData. “In these countries, we see about 40% of their entire domestic budgets are going to service debt. That’s more than they’re paying in education, social protection, and the like, altogether combined.”

Zongyuan Zoe Liu, Maurice R. Greenberg Fellow for China Studies, Council on Foreign Relations Zongyuan Zoe Liu, Maurice R. Greenberg Fellow for China Studies, Council on Foreign RelationsAmong various challenges facing indebted countries, panelists also discussed the relationship between debt and the climate crisis.

“The top line issue is equality. How are you going to say to countries that just discovered their ability to monetize their natural resources — hydrocarbon — that they are going to benefit from climate transition?” said Zongyuan Zoe Liu, Maurice R. Greenberg Fellow for China Studies, Council on Foreign Relations.

The fact that climate change affects commodity exports and developing economies was also a point of discussion in the panel, “Understanding the African Sahel: Past, Present, and Future.”

“We have a lot of climate variability and therefore … agriculture and other modes used to sustain livelihoods seem to be put under severe challenge, forcing some to migrate,” said Samuel Ntewusu, director of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana. “Migration is not only to Europe or to the United States, but it’s also to other parts of Africa, from the Sahel.”

The problem of youth migration from the Sahel was discussed at length. Zachariah Mampilly, Marxe Endowed Chair of International Affairs, City University of New York, explained some of the causes.

Zachariah Mampilly, Marxe Endowed Chair of International Affairs, Marxe School, City University of New York Zachariah Mampilly, Marxe Endowed Chair of International Affairs, Marxe School, City University of New York“Many African countries have above 80% of their economies tied to commodity exports. We know a pattern inherent in commodity production is that a small number of people can capture the vast majority of wealth,” he said. “Commodity sectors don’t rely on highly skilled labor. So, Africa is experiencing what some economists refer to as premature deindustrialization. Meaning that fewer people are able to find good stable jobs in the middle class.”

Mampilly added that there is a need to examine the issue of migration through an international lens.

“In the midst of the Arab Spring, the United States chose to overthrow the government of Libya … so political instability in [the Sahel] has been playing out now for the past decade, which is pushing young people to try to find salvation in Europe or beyond,” he said.

The President's Inbox panel at the 9th annual America's Role in the World foreign policy conference

Conversation on the African Sahel resurfaced in “The President’s Inbox” panel discussion on foreign policy challenges facing the United States in the next four years.

Hamilton Lugar School Founding Dean Amb. Lee Feinstein noted that, “China’s influence in Africa is diminishing and that is a real opportunity for [the U.S.] Making serious investments in countries in Africa and elsewhere to counter Chinese influence can help those countries develop in a more equitable way.”

Lee Feinstein, Founding Dean and Professor of International Studies, Hamilton Lugar School; former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Lee Feinstein, Founding Dean and Professor of International Studies, Hamilton Lugar School; former U.S. Ambassador to PolandIssues that could sway the upcoming Presidential election were also discussed.

“As the Arab American voice in this meeting, I would have to say that the situation in Israel and Gaza will impact how this election will run,” said Merissa Khurma, program director, Wilson Center Middle East program. “I think the next few months are going to be decisive, but I think that America’s global standing in the region has been deeply impacted.”

Panelists also discussed the upcoming NATO summit.

“There’s a lot of talk about … reaffirming a commitment to Article 5, ‘An attack against one is an attack against all,” said Feinstein, who is also IU Hamilton Lugar School professor of international studies. “As Oleksandra Matviichuk stated very powerfully over the course of the conference, Putin is intent on succeeding and not only stopping at Ukraine but going further.”

Indiana and the World: Making the Local Global panel at the 9th annual America's Role in the World foreign policy conference

In the panel, “Indiana and the World,” panelists outlined Indiana’s growing global ties.

“Last year [Indiana] had a record year of committed capital investment of over $28 billion. Nearly 70% of that was from foreign direct investment,” said David Rosenberg, Secretary of Commerce, State of Indiana. “Foreign companies are looking for that secure U.S.-based domestic production supply chain. And that’s what we do really well here in the state.”

John Fernandez, Senior Vice President, Innovation & Strategic Partnerships, The Mill John Fernandez, Senior Vice President, Innovation & Strategic Partnerships, The Mill“One thing we always try to stress to companies and small businesses, is that you are part of the global economy,” said John Fernandez, senior vice president of innovation and strategic partnerships, The Mill. “There are huge growth opportunities … It’s [also] all about talent. Being a welcoming community is a strategic advantage because it takes a lot of people with creative backgrounds to drive innovation.”

Panelists also discussed how Indiana might look at international models to enhance workforce development. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Vanessa Sinders spoke about the strong apprenticeship model she observed on a visit to Switzerland.

Vanessa Sinders, President and CEO, Indiana Chamber of Commerce Vanessa Sinders, President and CEO, Indiana Chamber of Commerce“In Switzerland … 80 or 90% of students do some sort of apprenticeship. There is a lot of talk about how it is a permeable system, as in you can go do an apprenticeship, and then you can go on to university and get your master’s and Ph.D. Or you can go on to another career,” said Sinders. “To me, it’s an opportunity for Indiana to lead on adopting work-based learning in our system, all to support students, businesses, and future economic growth for the state.”

City of Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore noted South Korean company StarPlus Energy’s investment in Indiana as a catalyst for workforce development.

Tyler O. Moore, Mayor, City of Kokomo Tyler O. Moore, Mayor, City of Kokomo“There is already an interest in experiential learning in Kokomo and Howard County, with regard to StarPlus Energy,” said Moore. “IU Kokomo and Ivy Tech have been working with StarPlus on the training. They have come together by offering dual credit courses and micro credentials within the high schools … but [also] to upskill our current workforce.”


Panel discussion videos and conference photos can be viewed on the America’s Role in the World® website.

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Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies

Sarah DeWeese

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