On Shifting Ground

The power of ideas is the power to question and to change. Knowing this, repressive regimes, ideologues and fanatics worldwide use every means at their disposal—including intimidation, imprisonment and death—to silence ideas and control what people know and think. Join us for a close-up look at how one organization—Scholars at Risk—is working to defend the power of ideas on one of most prominent contemporary intellectual battlegrounds: the Islamic Republic of Iran. One of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations and once the center of global science and learning, Iran today is marked by internal tensions and external confrontations. What Iran’s future will look like is hotly contested, with the regime’s supporters battling Iranian academics, writers, artists, activists and dissident politicians and clerics for the hearts and minds of the Iranian people. Three distinguished Iranian intellectuals, each of whom has suffered threats for questioning the regime, will discuss how the power of ideas is shaping the future of Iran.

Direct download: 04-28-10_Iran_Scholars.mp3
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China presents a major challenge to the United States. China is not just a strategic partner, or a holder of US debt, or a potential military threat. It is all these and more, according to Stefan Halper, a leading expert in international relations. In his new book, The Beijing Consensus, Halper presents the many sides of the China-US relationship and proposes a framework for how the US can effectively counter China’s authoritarian model. He argues that instead of playing by America’s rules, as did the Soviet Union, China has redefined the rules of the game on its own terms. China doles out money to dictators—with no strings attached. China buys resources from Africa and South America—without forcing transparency or reform. In short, China is showing the world how to achieve economic growth while maintaining an illiberal government, presenting the world’s despots with a viable alternative to the so-called Washington Consensus. Halper joins the Council to discuss China’s foreign policy in all its complexity and how the United States and its allies might counter it.

Direct download: 04-27-10_Stefan_Halper.mp3
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As many have expressed disappointment with the main output, what were the strengths and weaknesses of the process leading to the Copenhagen Accord? Also, what is the likelihood for international action on climate change following this latest round of negotiations? Trevor Houser has served as Senior Advisor to US Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern through the climate change negotiations in the Danish capital last December. Now a partner at RHG, a New York-based economic research firm, and visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC, Houser will discuss the outcome of the Copenhagen summit and the prospect for international cooperation on climate change in the years ahead.

Direct download: 04-26-10_Trevor_Houser.mp3
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Peace and security are international public goods, but have traditionally been the preserve of state actors. This is changing. An increasingly vocal global civil society is emerging, as new challenges and conflicts test conventional, state-based approaches to preventing and resolving war. Civil society actors now play multiple roles in maintaining peace and security – early warning, identifying neglected conflicts, formulating policy responses, mobilizing public opinion, even directly assisting peace talks. Philanthropy has proven indispensable to civil society’s influence and its ability to pursue a global public good. Louise Arbour will examine public interest diplomacy, and the crucial roles of civil society and philanthropy in maintaining peace and security. Before being named President CEO of the International Crisis Group, she served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.

Direct download: 04-15-10_Louise_Arbour.mp3
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Natural resources have the potential either to transform the poorest countries or to tear them apart, while the carbon emissions and agricultural follies of the wealthier world could further impoverish them. The impact of unchecked profiteering and the exploitation of natural resources by various actors has only helped to exacerbate a range of problems--including global warming, food shortages, and violent conflict. Building upon his renowned work on developing countries and teaching the poorest populations to confront the global mismanagement of nature, Paul Collier offers realistic and sustainable solutions to help poor countries rich in natural assets to better manage those resources, proposes policy changes that would raise the world food supply, and offers a clear-headed approach to climate change. The former director of research for the World Bank and current Director of Oxford’s Center for the Study of African Economies, Collier is perhaps best known as the award-winning author of The Bottom Billion, a highly-acclaimed work that The Economist wrote was set to become a classic, and the Financial Times praised it as rich in both analysis and recommendations.

Direct download: 04-04-10_Paul_Collier.mp3
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