2015’s Best Takes on Global Issues

Selected from conversations at the World Affairs Council.

As 2015 comes to a close and we gear up for 2016, our Programs team took a moment to reflect on all of the speakers, topics and issues of the past year. We hope you’ll give a watch or listen, and join us at an upcoming event soon in San Francisco.


Pakistan, the Taliban and Regional Security
Recommended by Jerome Nelson, Program Officer

If you are looking for an expert’s truly honest opinion about the situation in Pakistan, with absolutely nothing held back, then THIS is the conversation you need to watch. Fair was recently blacklisted from entering Pakistan and according to her, if that was meant to silence her, then it actually had the complete opposite effect.


Opportunities and Uncertainties in the Middle East
Recommended by Monica Boardman, Program Associate

Vali Nasr, Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, came to World Affairs to speak to a large crowd on a wide range of issues affecting the Middle East. As a former senior advisor to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, he covered a wide range of topics including the remnants of the Arab Spring, ISIS and the Iran Nuclear Deal. “The more we try to ignore the Middle East the more we encourage circumstances that make it impossible for us to ignore the Middle East.”


Israel, Iran and the US: A Complex Triangle
Recommended by Monica Boardman, Program Associate

Earlier this year, Abbas Milani and Janine Zacharia, both at Stanford University, came to World Affairs to discuss the Iran Nuclear Deal and concerns for stability and security in the Middle East. The negotiations were ongoing, and adding to the complexity, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before the US Congress to the dismay of many. The panel discussed what the future may hold for these three key stakeholders in the region.


America’s Secret Drone Wars
Recommended by Suzi Hiza, Senior Program Officer

Drones are increasingly becoming a standard tool in the United States’ military engagements and changing how we think about a war zone. Investigative journalist Chris Woods asks, “What is the battlefield today? Where is the battlefield today?” For the US, it includes “those places where al Qaeda, the Taliban and other enemies are” and drones make it possible “to take the war to them.”


Dissent in Putin’s Russia
Recommended by Monica Boardman, Program Associate

In Putin’s Russia, acting in opposition to the government is a risky move. Ilya Ponomarev, was the sole dissenting voice on the decision to militarily seize control of Crimea in the Russian parliament, the Duma. “Putin behaves like an abandoned kid who does not receive enough attention from his parents” — Putin’s message to the world is that nothing can happen without Russia, and Russia will try to disrupt what’s going on in the world if Putin is ignored.


The United Nations at 70: A Conversation with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Recommended by Sawako Sonoyama Clarin, Director, Philanthropy Programs

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon came to San Francisco to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the UN. In his remarks, he said that 2015 is the “most important year for humanity,” highlighting the importance of global actors coming together to finalize the Sustainable Develoment Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.


The Informal Economy: Lessons from Pirates, Hackers and Dissidents
Recommended by Julia Sherman, Education Program Officer

Offering unique insight into the informal economy, Alexa Clay, co-founder of the League of Intrapreneurs, discusses discovering innovation from unlikely places. Speaking with hackers, gangsters and misfits, Clay explores how it is possible to bridge between the formal and informal economy, as well as what the mainstream economy might learn from the misfits of the world.


Iran, ISIS and Other Challenges: A View From the House Intelligence Committee
Recommended by Jerome Nelson, Program Officer

This year, 2015, saw its fair share of foreign policy challenges and we were lucky enough to host Congressman Schiff to discuss some of the top issues in depth. As the ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Schiff provides a unique perspective on the ‘Iran Deal’ and how to combat ISIS.”


Inside DARPA: The Pentagon’s Brain
Recommended by Julia Sherman, Education Program Officer

Investigative journalist and author, Annie Jacobsen discusses the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA): “the most powerful and productive, and yet least reported on military science organization.” Founded after the launch of Sputnik, DARPA is responsible for such advances as the Internet and GPS. Explaining that this is the, “agency that makes the future happen,” Jacobsen shares inside information that she gleaned while researching her latest book, The Pentagon’s Brain.


Technology and Innovation in Focus — A Keynote Conversation with Eric Schmidt
Recommended by Julia Sherman, Education Program Officer

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, discusses major trends in technology. From commenting on machine learning, to the transformation of cities and to public-private sector partnerships, Schmidt explores where the technology sector is now and what is to come.


Originally published at www.worldaffairs.org.

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