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2024 Discussion Topics

Mideast Upheaval: Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on October 7 appeared intended in part to disrupt the normalizing of diplomatic relations between Israel and neighboring Muslim nations.  It is too soon to know the consequences of the resulting conflict. But even supposing that the war does not widen and that Israel defeats or seriously degrades Hamas militarily, can a sustainable peace be achieved? What should be the next steps? Is there a path to keeping the region free of chaos? What role is there for the major players in the region and the rest of the world, including the United States?

Climate technology and competitionWill the United States and China, with other powerful countries following suit, approach current and future climate initiatives with an increased commitment to trade protectionism and nationalism, by various measures including trade restrictions? Or could a growing spirit of international accord develop to confront the “common enemy” of climate change?

Science across bordersScientific advances benefit from collaboration between researchers, but what happens when material, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is controversial and important to a nation’s national security? Is there a middle ground between sharing information and denying access? How can we regulate cooperation?

U.S.-China trade rivalryChina’s economic rise and its current policies of increasing the role of the state in the economy have led some U.S. policymakers to seek to deny China access to U.S. technology and investment. This is seen as a necessary corrective to decades of predatory Chinese economic policies. Is this a wise strategy, and how effective can it be?

NATO’s futureSince the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has come under increased scrutiny, not because NATO troops are involved in the conflict, but becauseof its role in relations between Russia and its neighbors. Will expanding membership in NATO protect countries, or will it further provoke Russia?

Understanding IndonesiaDespite its large size, Indonesia remains virtually invisible to most Americans. But as one of the world’s largest democracies, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, and as an economic driver of ASEAN, why does it fly below the radar? What are current issues in U.S.-Indonesian relations, and what role can the country play in Asia?

High Seas TreatyAreas of the seas beyond national jurisdiction comprise the high seas, which are facing a degradation of ecosystems due to climate change and the increase in human activities, such as shipping, overfishing, pollution, and deep-sea mining. The recently negotiated High Seas Treaty, also known as the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction treaty, will attempt to address these issues. How difficult will it be to convince nations to participate?

Pandemic preparednessLooking back at the covid-19 pandemic, there are many lessons to take away in terms of domestic and international policies. Although this pandemic seems to have waned, how can we apply these lessons to future pandemics? Will countries cooperate, and will a consensus emerge on how to manage global health challenges?    

Note: The topics for discussion are selected by the Foreign Policy Association (FPA)  after consultation with Great Decisions groups around the country. More information about FPA can be found at Experts on the selected topics write articles that are included in briefing books published by FPA, and are distributed by Great Decisions group leaders in January. Participants are encouraged to supplement FPA's background articles with other resource material, as well as their personal experience, to aid in lively, balanced discussions.

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