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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Greece on the Front Line: The Refugees Keep Coming

December 3, 2019

Jane Abbott

Download Power Point Presentation Here !

Since 2015, desperate refugees mostly from the Middle East and a few from West Africa, have been flooding the Eastern Greek islands of Kos, Samos, Lesbos, Leros, and Chios. The conditions on these islands, especially on Samos, where six times the number that can be accommodated are living in squalor and dangerous conditions, are bleak.

The EU made an agreement with Turkey in March of 2016, offering to pay Turkey to keep refugees in that country. However, few refugees want or are willing to stay in Turkey. Today, refugees try leaving Turkey multiple times, sailing across a three-mile stretch in precarious dinghies, in the hope that they can reach Greece and therefore apply for asylum. A Doctors without Borders spokesperson calls Greece, particularly the Greek islands, a “dumping ground” that has created a refugee emergency. In addition, the more people who try to cross from Turkey to Greece, the more deaths there are in the process.

Jane Abbott’s talk will center on her personal experience with refugees from the Vial Camp on Chios where she spent five weeks working for the NGO CESRT (the Chios Eastern Shore Response Team) which is allied with the German NGO Open Arms. She will explain how volunteers are used there and why Chios, although crowded with refugees and constantly struggling to help them, uses CESRT as a model for how to help those in need. In the past six months, the numbers at Vial have quadrupled, so caring for refugees becomes more and more challenging.

Jane Abbott earned her bachelor’s degree at the American College in Greece (Deree College) in literature and then a master’s degree at the University of Denver in comparative literature while also earning a teacher’s certificate. After teaching at the United States International University for a year, she joined the US Peace Corps teaching in a remote village in Nepal which could only be reached by several days’ walking. The next year, Abbott taught at the University of Nepal in Kathmandu and assisted with writing the Peace Corps Nepali language manual. Abbott lived with her family in Nepal for seven years, working as a teacher and consultant for Peace Corps and USIS.

For the next two years, Abbott lived in Honiara, the Solomon Islands and consulted in Kiribati. She ran training programs in education and business and evaluated posts in the South Pacific for the Peace Corps.

Returning to the US, Abbott taught literature and integrated humanities at various community colleges in Colorado. Simultaneously, she earned her Ph.D. in community college leadership. Subsequently, she worked as a dean in a community college in Colorado with 18,000 students especially with international students.

Abbott has a particular interest in international micro credit projects for women. She was

NEXT SYMPOSIUM 2020

Thursday April 16 and Friday April 17, 2020

 “The Warming World:  Rising Temperatures, Rising Tides, Rising Turbulence”

Scientific study after study demonstrates the enormity of the impact of climate change on earth’s biosphere.  These changes range from the Arctic’s melting icecap, the desertification of parts of Africa to rising sea levels submerging Pacific islands and parts of populous countries like Bangladesh.  The increase and intensity of typhoons in Asia and hurricanes in the Caribbean, changing trade routes and new security threats in the Arctic as well as wildfires in California and Indonesia are all part of this manmade phenomenon.

Some of this story plays out in 24/7 news – but much more does not.  What do we know about the National Security impact of climate change and how US military planners are attempting to prepare for it?  What about its relationship to the increasing flows of migrants uprooting and risking their lives to cross continents, borders, rivers and seas in search of safe havens often to be met by hostility, indifference and uncertain futures?  What about the spread of disease and the possibility of pandemics we have yet to discover?  How can we address technological impediments to climate change mitigation?  Finally, why are even the governments of countries like Germany, which have been on the forefront of climate mitigation, unable to move to a new economy based on alternative energy?

If we’ve known for years about the warming world, why hasn’t more been done to try to slow or deter its worst effects?  Many people now understand that climate change is, foremost, driven by rising carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas levels from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas resulting in changes in our atmosphere leading to warming of the planet.  But are major impediments exclusively from oil and coal companies trying to preserve the bottom-line?  Are infrastructure and unemployment fears also holding us back? Are new technologies available or on the horizon to help mitigate the worst effects of the earth’s rapid warming?

The impact of global warming is not just an issue for scientific researchers, for military planners confronting the next national security threat or for energy company executives preserving short term profits.  It is more critically an issue that directly affects our lives and the future of our children.

Dealing with the New Normal:  Climate change is global.  Rising temperatures respect no national boundaries.  This is the new normal. As such it presents complex transnational problems.  It is an ever shifting calculus. It requires involvement from all levels of government and their citizens.  This includes international organizations to local city councils, large corporations, to small startups, researchers, teachers and students to begin to cope with this heretofore silent crisis.

This symposium will explore the interrelated issues of coping with the warming world from the vantage points of national security, economic viability, health and human welfare.

PAST SYMPOSIUM 2019

Thursday April 11 and Friday April 12, 2019

2019-05-01T14:20:34-07:00

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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