Across the globe, nation, and state, policymakers are struggling to find solutions to a multitude of challenges both new and old. It is often far easier to diagnose problems than identify answers to vexing questions. Global Perspectives & International Initiatives (GPII) believes it is important to understand the nature of contemporary challenges by looking at history, politics, culture, media, economics, and the application of science. Relying heavily on faculty expertise, we have adopted a comparative approach to examining the world which creates a better understanding of what solutions may work given differing contexts and variables. As the Spring Semester draws to a close, GPII reviews a very busy period looking at a wide range of issues:

China. There is considerable discussion about the growing U.S.-China rivalry, and whether Beijing’s rise in global power inevitably comes at the expense of Washington. Some believe conflict over Taiwan, trade, or influence will inevitably lead to military conflict. Former U.S. Ambassador Max Baucus, who served in the Obama Administration, gave students, faculty, and community partners plenty of food for thought in discussing U.S.-Chinese relations during his recent visit to Orlando. Baucus, who represented Montana in the U.S. Senate for 36 years, clearly stressed the American need to listen and learn about China before jumping to conclusions about the inevitability of conflict. While Baucus noted that we must be vigilant about the legitimate security concerns posed by China, the Middle Kingdom does not have a history of military aggression. As the second most populace nation on the world with the second largest economy, China is not going anywhere. Moreover, the extent to which the American and Chinese economies are interdependent cannot be ignored. Accordingly, perhaps the best path forward is a renewed dedicated to engagement at all levels rather than planning for a superpower military showdown or economic brinksmanship.

Disaster. Last month, GPII and the Hollings Center for International Dialogue co-hosted a conference on disaster response. Held in Istanbul, the conference included participants from 15 nations who shared their experience and knowledge about how nations as diverse as Malaysia, Morocco, Turkey, and the U.S. have responded to disasters. The conference was moderated by GPII Executive Director David Dumke, and the Puerto Rico Research Hub’s Dr. Fernando Rivera led a panel which focused on the lessons learned from Hurricane Maria. Whether due to climate change, natural disasters, military conflict, or poor policymaking, good governance is critical for national, regional, and global stability. Failure to meet the needs and expectations of people threatens governments and leads to unnecessary suffering.

Climate. Similarly, climate change continues to loom large as a critical global issue. Dr. Jorge Duany, Director of Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute, gave multiple presentations about the impact of climate change on Caribbean migration. Duany focused particularly on Puerto Rican population, and how people are responding economically, socially, and politically to climate change and related challenges.

Conflict. GPII continues to work with Belfast-based Rethinking Conflict, the American University in Cairo, and other partners on developing a center on conflict transformation and peace. The center recognizes that no two conflicts are alike, but key ingredients often include disputes over land, identity, and religion. We believe the lessons learned in Northern Ireland, which has maintained a fragile but lasting peace for 25 years, can be applied to other global conflicts. Clashing narratives do not need to lead to violence, and we hope this new initiative can help promote a culture more conducive to peace and coexistence. Look for activities to kick off in earnest later this year.

Culture. While much time and effort is dedicated to focusing on challenges, threats, and adapting to change, we must remind ourselves of the many things that tie humanity together. GPII has been especially busy in the cultural realm, including helping the Puerto Rico Research Hub – with support from Major League Baseball and UCF Athletics – organize the third annual Puerto Rico Baseball Day. Florida has long been served a special role in baseball, as it is home to the Spring Training facilities for 15 MLB teams. Baseball has a longstanding connection to Puerto Rico, and as such the sport connects the state and mainland with Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and the world. As part of UCF Celebrates the Arts, GPII is also happy to sponsor an event looking at the restoration of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, which suffered extensive fire damage in 2019 and will be reopened later this year. Finally, through WUCF’s Global Perspectives, GPII continues to highlight the power and importance of international education partnerships.

We appreciate the incredible support of GPII’s community partners which help make our centers, programs, and initiatives successful. We also thank UCF’s students and faculty for their participation and interest in our work. Indeed, GPII’s success is measured by how effectively we connect with Central Florida – both our campus and larger community.

Posted May 2, 2024