The Santa Fe World Affairs Forum aims to broaden and deepen understanding of world affairs through small, interactive, professionally led sessions on international issues for a membership of informed individuals.

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  • Ambassador Hammer Program

U.S. Policy on the Horn of Africa: Advancing Peace in Northern Ethiopia

May 18, 2023

Ambassador Michael (Mike) A. Hammer 

Ambassador Michael (Mike) A. Hammer was named the United States Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa on June 1, 2022. His most recent assignment abroad was as the U.S. ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 2018-2022.

Ambassador Hammer is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service class of Minister-Counselor.  His over three decades of service include serving as Acting Senior Vice President of the National Defense University (NDU) and Deputy Commandant of NDU’s Eisenhower School. He as U.S. ambassador to Chile from 2014-2016. Prior to his appointment in Chile, Ambassador Hammer served as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs from March 2012 to August 2013.
Before joining the Bureau of Public Affairs, Ambassador Hammer served at the White House as Special Assistant to the President, Senior Director for Press and Communications, and National Security Council Spokesman from January 2009 to January 2011.  He previously served at the National Security Council as Deputy Spokesman from 1999 to 2000 and as the Director of Andean Affairs from 2000 to 2001.

Ambassador Hammer’s overseas postings include Bolivia, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark.  His other State Department assignments include the Operations Center and serving as Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Ambassador Hammer has received several awards, including the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award, the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award, the Department’s Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy, and several Superior Honor awards.

Ambassador Hammer earned a Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.  He also earned Master’s degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and from the National War College at the National Defense University.

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Registration: This SFWAF lunch is $25 for members and $35 for nonmembers. You may pay by check made out to SFWAF and mailed to The Santa Fe World Affairs Forum, Santa Fe, PO Box 31965, NM 87594 or with a credit card using our Paypal account.  Please indicate on your check or if using Paypal please note in “add special instructions to the seller” that your payment is for the Thursday


Thursday April 13 and Friday April 14, 2023

SFWAF - 2023 Symposium

When Ukraine Meets Russia Head-On

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, no one believed that a supposedly weak Ukraine could maintain its independence. As for Vladimir Putin, he expected to topple the Zelenskyy government in a matter of days—or less. And so, flagrantly violating the norms and laws that had promoted world peace and stability for 70 some years, a heavily armored column of Russian troops headed for Kiev. They never got there.

How could Putin have got it so wrong? Hubris, of course, but mostly miscalculation. Putin never expected to confront a brave and fervently patriotic population, a revamped military and the ingenuity and bravery of Ukraine’s civilian and military leadership. Nor did he anticipate a rejuvenation of NATO (Turkey and Hungary excepted) united in support of Ukraine, thus enabling a massive flow of Ukraine-bound weaponry from its arsenals. Or that his invasion would result in neutral Finland’s and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership.

It’s too early to predict the shape of a post-invasion Ukraine. Nor can we be certain that Russia will never again seek to roll back history by invading apparently weak neighbors. But one thing is certain. Putin and his army are being humiliated. He won’t get what he aimed for in Ukraine. Moreover, this conflict’s international ramifications – testing the foundations of the world order – are massive.

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Past Event

Annual Symposium 2018

April 9 – 10, 2018


Rising Authoritarianism: Can Democracy Meet the Challenge?

This year’s symposium on April 11 and 12 will address an issue of especially vital concern to us all: “Rising Authoritarianism: Can Democracy Meet the Challenge?” Taking place on the campus of Santa Fe Community College, the Symposium will bring together six specialists who will speak individually, introducing a global overview of the underlying causes of authoritarianism and of countervailing measures against its rise, followed by sessions focusing on the specific circumstances in Europe, Latin America, and the U.S.

Also included will be a student panel of foreign and dual-national students studying at colleges and universities here in New Mexico. As in the past the Symposium will offer all attendees ample opportunity for questions, discussions, and informal exchanges with speakers.

For more than two centuries, America has advocated for democratic principles starting with its Founding Fathers who proclaimed our nation to be created by and for the people, to joining with the liberal world to fight for our beliefs in two world wars. Following those wars, the United States was in the forefront of international efforts to create global institutions dedicated to peace, prosperity and justice. Our leaders have sometimes badly faltered or made poor decisions in seeking to preserve American leadership and universal values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. But we have for the most part tried to move forward towards such aspirational goals throughout our history. Other nations have not always agreed with our individual policies, but no one doubted the American example of strong democratic institutions, a robust civil society and a desire to build a world based on common values and interests.

Now, as a new era of international strongmen emerges, are America’s traditions and institutions capable of ensuring that democratic principles continue to push back on the tyranny that has threatened every generation? The symposium examines this moment with open eyes, asking tough questions about the global authoritarian threat, its underlying causes, and how it can be, and is being, countered.

When strong democratic institutions and civil society perform their essential functions, society enjoys a good faith debate about the best way to advance global and national interests. However, when rule of law is eroded, nationalism politicized, alliances strained, the press demonized and society fractured by rising hate crimes and attacks on electoral integrity, the norms that promote and preserve a resilient democratic society become frayed. International institutions based on shared democratic values can also be undermined and weakened when the U.S. government appears to question their continuing relevance.

Can the U.S. continue to be a leader that holds others to account when we ourselves falter in meeting these challenges? What causes the authoritarian impulse to break out of the democratic norm, and why do so many here and abroad find these demagogic appeals so attractive? Has a decline in American global leadership inadvertently given other nations permission to erode their own democratic institutions? Will a fractured and divided America be able, or willing, to work with other democracies holding others accountable when we fail to do so at home?

Focusing on Europe, Latin America and the US, the symposium will examine these questions in order to better understand not only the causes and symptoms that bring us to this moment, but just as importantly, to explore what can be done to meet these authoritarian challenges to democracy.

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