International Relations/Great Decisions Group
NEXT PRESENTATION – On Monday, February 24th, the International Relations Committee with host Dr. Wayne Mikula, CEO and Chairman of RainTree Global Initiative. Dr. Mikula holds a doctorate in International Environmental Health and Development from Tulane University School of Medicine.
RainTree Global Initiative builds partnerships between American universities and local educational institutions to deliver Master’s Degree programs to young, environmental leaders in developing economies. Dr. Mikula will talk about his experiences and challenges implementing a Forestry Management program, conducted by the University of Tennessee for post-graduate students in Ethiopia.
Interested in global issues and foreign policy challenges?
The International Relations committee offers monthly, thought-provoking presentations on areas of global importance. Many League members take this opportunity to research topics of interest, share their findings with others, and lead an often-spirited Q & A session. In addition to League members, the group hosts visiting speakers with relevant and meaningful interests, experience, and expertise.
Each month, we address one far-reaching subject - one with both local and global significance. Subjects range from the financial crisis to ending world hunger, from the war in Afghanistan to the state of our oceans. Knowledgeable individuals share their ideas and insights, often adding personal observations and anecdotes. Meeting participants have an opportunity to gain alternative perspectives, offer ideas, and ask questions.
The committee selects topics from a variety of sources. Many are included in the Great Decision series, a program of the non-partisan Foreign Policy Association (http://www.fpa.org/), America’s largest discussion program on world affairs. Other topics are proposed by friends and colleagues with specialized backgrounds and unique perspectives. For example, Mr. Frank Rettenberg, who recently spoke on Turkey’s Changing World, studied at Istanbul University and spent six years at the American Consulate General in Istanbul.
NEW MEMBERS ARE WELCOME
We invite everyone interested in global events to join us. This informal group consists of people concerned with world affairs who want to become better informed and share their views with others.
Many of our meetings are based on the Great Decision Book, a series of articles published each year by the Foreign Policy Association. (See a complete list of the 2013 Topic Descriptions.) These books provide excellent background information and suggested readings. Interested participants may purchase books or read timely updates at their website http://www.fpa.org/.
If you enjoy our discussion group meetings, we hope you will become a member of the Marin League.
We meet the last Monday of the month at 4340 Redwood Highway, San Rafael, Suite F138
Driving Directions: From the South, turn off Highway 101 at Terra Linda, go north on the frontage road until you see five, tall Palm trees. Turn right into La Plaza office complex.
Meeting Schedule and Structure. Most meetings progress as follows:
11:30-noon Pre-meeting coffee and conversation. If some “hot” foreign issue has emerged, this is a good time to share views. Many members bring a small lunch or snack.
12:00-12:15 Announcements from the group chairperson and others
12:15-12:45 Great Decisions Video. During this segment of the meeting we show one program from the “Great Decisions in Foreign Policy” Video. This program is a part of a televised series, recently recommended by the New York Times. Each program frames the most important foreign policy questions relevant to the topic to be discussed. It then turns to experts and Americans in four cities to address the questions.
12:45-1:30 Individual Presentation on the meeting’s topic. Usually, the focus of the presentation is connected to the Great Decision article which many of us have read as well as the video which we will have just viewed.
Group Discussion. The presenter leads a group discussion on her or his presentation and/or the video and Great Decisions article. We also try to give our views on the policy questions posed by the foreign policy Association. They urge us to send our opinions to them.
On Monday, March 31st, our guest Natasha Singh will speak about her personal journey to better understand gender violence and human trafficking as well as the culture within which these abuses continue to thrive. Ms. Singh teaches English at Branson and has twice received the prestigious Canada Council Grant for Writers.
Recently featured in the IJ’s front page article, “Warrior for Women”, Ms. Singh is building understanding and awareness of both the human stories and political realities associated with sexual violence and forced prostitution. She will share her experiences traveling across India, her interviews with women who had be trafficked, and her harrowing detention and interrogation by local intelligence officers.
Great Decisions 2014 Topics:
Food and Climate
China’s Foreign Policy
U.S. Trade Policy
On Monday, January 27th , the International Relations Committee hosted Dr. Crystal Chang, Lecturer at UC Berkeley and Adjunct Professor at Dominican University of California. Dr. Chang conducted her dissertation field work in China and worked at an IT company in Shanghai for two years. Dr. Chang spoke about China’s foreign policy, as well as potential points of conflict with the U.S. as it “pivots” to Asia. She addressed questions related to changes in the country’s domestic and foreign policies, recent regional activities designed to advance China’s strategic interests, and the role of government-business relationships in China’s increasing economic power.
On Monday, November 25th, the International Relations group hosted Nancy Richards Farese, Founder of PhotoPhilanthropy.org. Photophilanthropy.org is an organization which promotes and connects photographers with non-profits around the world to tell the stories that drive social change. Ms. Farese is a social documentary photographer committed to the use of photography as a social tool, and will be sharing images and stories about non-profit work addressing grassroots issues all over the world.
On Monday, October 28th, the IR committee hosted speaker Tommie Whitener; he presented a talk on modern-day Russia entitled, “Russia: Was Churchill Right?” Events in Russia are often exasperating, frequently seem inexplicable, but are never boring. What are we to make of recent negotiations concerning Syria and chemical weapons? Who is this guy Putin and what is his plan for Russia’s future? The task for the foreign observer attempting to make sense of all this and give it coherence is to try to determine which events have long term significance and which ones are just “Russia being Russia.”
On Monday, September 30, League member Nani Ranken spoke about Humanitarian Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect doctrine. Major foreign policy decisions often involve analysis of whether, when, where and why to intervene on behalf of civilians caught in the crosshairs of war and violence. Drafted by a United Nations blue ribbon commission, The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine has sparked international discussions on limits to state power. In the eyes of legitimate members of the international community, state sovereignty no longer provides a license to permit atrocities or perpetrate abuse. Thought provoking and important questions remain regarding U.S. support of R2P – have we not done enough or have we done too much? Under what circumstances does R2P justify military action?
On Monday, July 29th, League member Donna Bjorn spoke about potential threats to the United States and the American way of life.
This presentation explored a variety of circumstances having the potential to threaten the American way of life. During the last decade, we have seen both our standard of living and our political institutions challenged by a variety of factors, such as economic decline, terrorist attacks, and global warming. For many, these events have altered their sense of security and attitudes towards the future. Ms. Bjorn provided historical examples of events forecasted to be major threats; she led a discussion relating these past predictions to today’s anxieties and fears.
On Monday, June 24, the IR guest speaker Gloria Neumeier presented insights & perspectives on key social and economic challenges facing Southeast Asia, as well as her first-hand accounts of daily life in Myanmar. By introducing the rich history, Buddhist traditions, and contemporary issues of the area, she will help us better understand the importance of Myanmar/Burma in today’s global community.
Ms. Neumeier has taught in several Asian universities during the past 20 years. She recently worked with English instructors at a village school in Cambodia and at a high school in Tamil Nadu in southern India.
On Monday, May 20, the IR group hosted Dr. Gigi Gokcek, Assistant Professor in Dominican University’s Department of Political Science and International Studies. Dr. Gokcek spoke about the difficult and contentious relationship between Iran and the United States.
For over three decades, U.S. –Iranian relations have been mired in suspicion, hostility, and occasional violence. Attempts to change this pattern have failed due to a number of factors, including toxic domestic politics, real or imagined grievances, and a deep reservoir of mistrust on both sides. Each nation has strengthened its belief that they are the reasonable one, the other irrational and arrogant. However, both recognize that this 30 year pattern is not only dysfunctional, but also dangerous. What policy options are available? How might the U.S. and Iran move towards a better and more positive path that serves the interest of both?
On Monday, April 29, the IR group hosted guest speaker Alexa Koenig, a respected scholar in war crimes and international human rights law and Executive Director of the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law.
Ms. Koenig discussed the current work being done by the Human Rights Center, with a particular focus on the work that the center is doing to assist the International Criminal Court in its quest to ensure accountability for the world’s most heinous crimes. She talked about current challenges the court is facing in its efforts to simultaneously meet the needs of victims and witnesses, and gather the evidence it needs to bring perpetrators to justice. In addition, she shared insights from the book she is co-authoring, which identifies the legal, political and operational challenges to—and opportunities for—getting war criminals into custody.
MONDAY, March 25, IR hosted a forum on Immigration policy and practices around the world. League members and guests discussed immigration from the national perspective of four countries: USA, Greece, Germany, and Britain. They addressed questions such as: What is the prevailing public sentiment towards immigrants? Are specific immigrant populations that are welcomed and others that are challenged? How difficult is it to become a legal resident or a citizen? Has asylum been considered or implemented at some point in time? What migration patterns or trends inform public policy? What, if any, social problems exist as a result of immigration? Are there lessons to be learned by policies and/or practices in place?
On Monday, February 25, guest speaker Ted Taylor presented “NATO: Crisis? What Crisis?” Mr. Taylor taught political science at City College of San Francisco, specializing in International Relations and U.S. Foreign Policy.
Since its formation in 1949, the mission and undertakings of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have changed significantly. For the first four decades, the strategy remained focused on threats posed by the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. This alliance of democracies remained strong throughout the cold war, sharing a sense of political community. Over the past 20 years, and despite predictions of a post-cold war collapse, NATO has become an active, globally-minded alliance of 28 members, developing and maintaining capabilities for dealing with a wide range of security challenges. What kind of concerns guide NATO’s mission today? How important is NATO to U.S. foreign policy?
On Monday, January 28, League members reviewed and explored four official public policy positions taken by the League of Women Voters of the United States:
Trade/ Patrice Drew: Support U.S. trade policies that reduce trade barriers, expand international trade and advance the achievement of humanitarian, environmental and social goals. Water Resources /Wendy Buchen: Support measures to reduce pollution in order to protect surface water, groundwater and drinking water. Air Quality/ Sue Beittel: Promote measures to reduce pollution from mobile and stationary sources. Immigration/ Marcia Hagan: Promote reunification of immediate families; meet the economic, business and employment needs of the United States; be responsive to those facing political persecution or humanitarian crises; and provide for student visas. Ensure fair treatment under the law for all persons. In transition to a reformed system, support provisions for unauthorized immigrants already in the country to earn legal status.
On MONDAY, November 26, League members Martha Fleischmann & Marcelle Scholl presented “State of the Oceans: waves of change”.
Oceans play a vital role in climate and weather, in our food supply, and in the global economy. They are home to over half of all species living on our planet, store rich deposits of seabed minerals, and hold much of the world’s remaining oil and gas reserves. However, our oceans are increasingly vulnerable to human activities – deep-sea fishing, resource extraction, and pollution. International efforts to manage resource rights, enforce sustainable fisheries, reduce pollution and decrease climate change continue to face significant territorial and ideological obstacles. Should the U.S. establish a national ocean policy? What priorities should guide the U.S. position? What role should the U.S. play in the development of global policy?
The Great Decisions article, “State of the Oceans: waves of change” by Sara Tjossem, provided excellent background material for this presentation (Foreign Policy Association Publication).
On Monday, October 29, guest speaker Ted Taylor presented “Exit from Afghanistan & Iraq.” Mr. Taylor taught political science at City College of San Francisco, specializing in International Relations and US Foreign Policy.
Resulting in part from the September 11th attacks by al-Qaeda terrorists, for the past decade the United States has been engaged in two major wars. In October, 2001, Special Forces invaded Afghanistan and quickly overthrew the Taliban regime that had been giving refuge to al-Qaeda. Now, after more than 10 years at war, American and coalition forces are preparing to withdraw by the end of 2014. In December, 2011, the U.S. military mission in Iraq was formally ended; however, political turmoil and sectarian conflict challenge prospects for Iraqi security and stability. What factors affect our exit strategies? What are the challenges and risks associated with leaving these countries? What role should the U.S. and NATO continue to play?
On Monday, September 24, League member Sue Beittel presented an overview of Energy Geopolitics.
Sue discussed energy-related policies that continue to have a major impact on economic interests, national security priorities, environmental concerns, and political decisions, both here in the U.S. and throughout the world. She talked about controversial energy projects, such as construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, extraction of natural gas by “fracking”, and subsidization of corn ethanol production. The group reviewed questions such as: What are our key energy-related challenges and how might they be addressed? What realistic policy options are available to promote green energy solutions, such as wind and solar?
On Monday, July 30th, The International Relations Group hosted Dr. Gigi Gokcek, Assistant Professor in Dominican University’s Department of Political Science and International Studies. What are the Policy Options to Restore the Rule of Law?
Dr. Gokcek spoke about the current public security crisis in Mexico and neighboring Central American countries, addressing the growing influence of powerful drug cartels, and the resultant surge in drug-related violence throughout the region. She discussed current and proposed policy options to restore the rule of law, reform social programs, and move towards a stable and secure society. Together, we explored questions such as: What role should the United States play in effecting political change? Is there a connection between gun and/or drug policy in the United States and violence in Mexico? How might the international community work to counter the increasing power of drug cartels?
On Monday, June 25th, the International Relations group hosted guest speaker, Mr. Frank Rettenberg, presenting Turkey’s Changing World. Mr. Rettenberg studied at Istanbul University, worked six years at the American Consulate in Istanbul, and revisits Turkey frequently. He currently chairs the Marin World Affairs Council group.
Mr. Rettenberg discussed Turkish foreign policy, based on the principle: “zero problems on our borders.” But the revolt in Libya, Assad’s increasingly oppressive rule, and tensions over the nuclear issue between Iran and the West have compelled Ankara to abandon principle in favor of pragmatism, and to treat every external situation on its own merits. Meanwhile, on the home front, the government has used widespread evidence of coup plotting to neutralize the military as a political force. For Turkish democracy, this is a positive step, but efforts to find a solution to the long-festering Kurdish issue seem as far from success as ever.
On Monday, May 21st, the IR group hosted a prominent guest speaker. Dr. James McDonald is president of the San Francisco Theological Seminary and has served as Managing Director of Bread for the World, a faith based organization dedicated to ending hunger at home and abroad.
Dr. McDonald has played a major role in significant legislative victories, including debt relief for low-income countries, rapid increases in development assistance, major increases in nutrition assistance for low-income Americans, the continuation of enhanced tax credits for working poor American families, and foreign assistance reform. He has also been instrumental in Bread for the World’s effort to moderate the impact of budget cuts on hungry and poor people.
LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS UNITED STATES (2012)
SUMMARY OF LWVUS PUBLIC POLICY POSITIONS (IR)
Promote peace in an interdependent world by working cooperatively with other nations and strengthening international organizations.
Support a strong, effective United Nations to promote international peace and security and to address the social, economic and humanitarian needs of all people.
Support U.S. trade policies that reduce trade barriers, expand international trade and advance the achievement of humanitarian, environmental and social goals.
U.S. RELATIONS WITH DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Promote U.S. policies that meet long-term social and economic needs of developing countries.
Reduce the risk of war through support of arms control measures.
MILITARY POLICY AND DEFENSE SPENDING
Work to limit reliance on military force. Examine defense spending in the context of total national needs.
NEWSFLASH FROM ELIZABETH MCNAMERA, PRESIDENT OF THE LWVUS
On International Women’s Day (March 8) 2012 we have another testament to that history and hard work. The League of Women Voters has been chosen by the State Department as the only nongovernmental organization to partner on a project that will organize 10 meetings in eight different countries in the Middle East and North Africa over the next 10 months, culminating in the Ninth Forum for the Future of North Africa, Levant and Gulf Countries in December. It is a great honor to receive such an assignment and we look forward to an exciting year on both the global and domestic front.
THE LEAGUE IS READY TO TAKE CENTER STAGE IN DOHA, QATAR
July 03, 2012 | by Zaida Arguedas |
The first regional workshop, one in a series of meetings to be organized on the road to the 9th Forum for the Future, begins in Doha, Qatar on July 10.
The League’s team has been doing a lot of preparatory work, including numerous high level meetings with different players within the US Department of State, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Nazanin Ash in particular; with our Tunisian counterparts, ARFHORGHE, here in Washington; and with other players including the Tunisian Ambassador and the Chief of Mission from the Embassy of the Republic of Tunisia.
The League team will travel to Tunisia on July 5, landing in Doha on July 6. The workshop will begin with an opening reception on the eve of July 10, where the League and ARFORGHE will officially welcome members of civil society organizations from 18 countries in the broader Middle East and North Africa Region.
The official opening will take place in the morning of July 11 with the participation of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, US Chargé d’affaires Mirembe Nantongo and Alina Romanowski, deputy assistant administrator in the Middle East Bureau of the US Department of State.
Over the course of the afternoon, the League and ARFORGHE will lead sessions to facilitate an open dialogue between civil society and their government on political, economic and social issues. The final segment of the workshop will be lead by a representative from the United Kingdom, who will be next year’s co-chair of the 10th Forum for the Future.
THE LEAGUE’S FIRST BMENA REGIONAL MEETING WILL BE IN DOHA, QATAR
May 08, 2012 | by Zaida Arguedas | Qatar, Doha, CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
We’re excited to announce that we have finalized the location for our first meeting of the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative (BMENA) – we’ll be in Doha, Qatar, July 11 and 12!
One recurring theme over the past eight BMENA meetings has been the theme of women’s rights and equal participation in the region. For this reason this first regional workshop will focus on women’s empowerment. In addition to the League staff that will be in attendance, we will be joined by Judy Duffy, LWVUS First Vice President and June Zeitlin, Director of the CEDAW Education Project of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights as subject experts in the areas of advocacy and the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Judy has been chair of the LWVUS Advocacy since 2008 and June has been spearheading the efforts to have CEDAW ratified by the U.S. Senate. We will also be joined by one or two speakers from the BMENA countries – their names will be announced soon.
The implementation of CEDAW and strategies for advocacy are in high demand in the region so the League is delighted to lead the discussions on these important topics.
Participants will include a mix of long-standing BMENA NGOs and some civil society organizations new to the process. In particular, the workshop will include youth-oriented organizations to reach a new generation of civil society activists. Government representatives will also be invited to participate.
Doha which means “the big tree” is the capital city of the state of Qatar located on the Persian Gulf. Doha is Qatar’s largest city and the economic center of the country. Doha also serves as the seat of government which is ruled by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Doha has a subtropical arid climate and temperature in the summer frequently reach or surpass 50 °C or 122° F.
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