Great Decisions returns January 15—all virtual—and runs for eight consecutive weeks on Fridays at noon.
One of WorldOregon's favorite events of the year is the annual Great Decisions series —the oldest, largest grassroots, people-powered, foreign policy series in the country, which had its start here in Portland in 1953. The series features eight hard-hitting topics selected by the Foreign Policy Association and across the region people organize discussion groups and attend our 8-week conversation series.
As in previous years, this year's series features some very critical issues that are "ripped from the headlines," as they say, topics that are front-and-center for how the U.S. is and will continue to be engaging on the world stage.
Also note: due to programs being all virtual, we will not be selling Great Decisions books but they may be purchased from the Foreign Policy Association here.
- Series tickets for members: $30
Great Decisions 2021
JANUARY 15: China’s role in Africa
The COVID-19 crisis has put a massive strain on what was growing a positive economic and political relationship between China and the continent of Africa. As Chinese President Xi Jinping’s centerpiece “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. What are some of the growing economic and political issues between China and Africa?
JANUARY 22: Brexit and the European Union
With the “Brexit transition period” coming to an end this year, the United Kingdom will formally leave the European Union at the start of 2021. With negotiations between the two entities continuing to stall, what does the future of Europe and the UK look like? Will the UK survive a possible Scottish vote to leave? Who will step up and take command of Europe now that Angela Merkel is out of the spotlight?
JANUARY 29: The end of globalization?
As the United States enters another election season, the merits and drawbacks of globalization are again being debated by the presidential candidates. With the passing of the Brexit vote and U.S. President Donald Trump’s America First doctrine, protectionist policies have become more prevalent, challenging globalization. What is globalization and how will it be affected by protectionist trade policies? How will the United States and the world be affected by such policies? Is globalization really at an end, or in need of a refresh?
FEBRUARY 5: Global supply chains and national security
The shutdown of global supply chains due to the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore an issue with the high level of global economic interdependence: what happens when one country is the main source for an item, say face masks, and then can no longer supply the item? Countries suddenly unable to meet the demand for certain supplies are faced with growing calls for economic nationalism. What are some of the lasting effects that the pandemic could have on global supply chains and trade? How would this affect national security?
FEBRUARY 12: Struggles over the melting Arctic
U.S. President Donald Trump left many scratching their heads when it was rumored that he was looking to purchase the large island nation of Greenland from Denmark. While any potential deal seems highly unlikely, the event shows the changing opinion within the U.S. government toward engagement with the Arctic region. Because of climate change, large sheets of arctic ice are melting, exposing vast stores of natural gas and oil. With Russia and China already miles ahead with their Arctic strategies, can the U.S. catch up?
Speaker: Zachary D. Hamilla, Executive Director of the Arctic Studio; Portland State University
FEBRUARY 19: Roles of international organizations in a global pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust the World Health Organization (WHO) into the limelight, for better and for worse. While some of the Trump Administration’s criticism of the organization is unfair, the response to the early stages of the pandemic left many experts wanting more from the WHO. What is the WHO’s role in responding to international pandemics? What can be done to improve the WHO’s response to future global health crises?
FEBRUARY 26: Persian Gulf security issues
The Persian Gulf remains tense as the rivalry between the regional powers of Saudi Arabia and Iran continues. Tensions escalated in early 2020 as the United States began to intervene in the Gulf, launching an airstrike that killed two Iranian military commanders. What are the historical influences that have led to these tensions? What role, if any, should the United States play? Is using military force a viable foreign policy option for 2021 and beyond?
MARCH 5: The Korean Peninsula
The Korean Peninsula is facing a defining era. Attempts by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump to repair the rift between North and South have lost any momentum as Pyongyang continues to test long-range missiles for its nuclear weapons program. As the rift between the U.S. and China grows further, South Korea may end up in the middle of the two superpowers. What does the future hold for the U.S. relationship with South Korea?