VIDEO: WACC Ambassadors Circle Series with H.E. Arun Kumar Singh, the Ambassador of India to the United States

The World Affairs Council of Charlotte hosted His Excellency Arun Kumar Singh, the Ambassador of India to the U.S. on April 8th as part of the WACC Ambassadors Circle Series program.

During his visit to Charlotte, North Carolina, Ambassador Singh spoke about the strategic partnership between both India and the United States and the unique opportunities afforded through the positive relationship between both nations.

WACC Ambassadors Circle Series with H.E. Arun Singh, Ambassador of India to the U.S. – April 8, 2016 from WAC Charlotte on Vimeo.

India and the United States: “A critical global partnership for the 21st century”

WACC Ambassadors Circle Series with H.E. Arun Singh

H.E. Ambassador Arun Singh highlighted the evolving and dynamic relationship between the United States and India during a visit to Charlotte as part of the Ambassadors Circle Series presented by the World Affairs Council of Charlotte.

“At one level this (the U.S and India) is a new relationship that is being developed”, said Singh to a crowd of over 200 people at the Westin Charlotte. “Because we look at the relationship between India and the U.S. in the 1980’s and the 1990’s, it was very different from the relationship we have today.”

This difference in appearance that Singh alluded to is the period that followed India’s first nuclear test in 1974. India was the first country outside of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to declare nuclear capabilities. Subsequent relations with India and the United States would become estranged and no U.S. President after President Carter in 1978 would visit the United States till 2000.

It was the visit of President Bill Clinton to India in 2000 that would signal warming relations with the two countries. “Starting with President Clinton’s visit we were building a new relationship,” said Singh. “This relationship was taken further by President Bush, when he decided to enter into a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with India in 2005.”

Singh said this agreement opened the door for not just partnership in nuclear energy, but also for partnership across a whole range of technology centers and has bolstered bilateral trade significantly.

“Bilateral trade between India and the U.S. has grown five times in the last 15 years to $120 billion,” said Singh. “The United States is India’s largest trading partner and U.S. investment into India is estimated to be about $28 billion.” Investment from the U.S. has also been significantly reciprocated, with Indian companies investing $15 billion in the U.S., creating 100,000 jobs directly in the last five years.

Multicultural democracies

The United States and India both have some of the world’s most diverse populations. The two countries have shown that democracy, with populations of maximum diversity, can be achievable.

The size of the Indian electorate is about 830 million”, said Singh. “So you take the electorate of the U.S., Europe, Indonesia and Brazil, it still does not add up to the size of the Indian electorate.” Managing an election on this scale is unprecedented but Indians have demonstrated a strong willingness to exercise their democratic right to vote. Ambassador Singh said the last general elections of May 2014 had 70 percent of the electorate voting, and results were made available within one day of the completed process due to voting in India being 100 percent electronic.

India’s enormous population has brought a multiculturalism and pluralism that can only be matched by that of United States. “It is this multiculturalism that brings India and the U.S. together”, said Singh. India has 22 official languages and hundreds of dialects. It is the birthplace of four religions and the three primary religions of the world (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) have found a welcoming home in the country.

This level of diversity is often seen as strength for India. “It is in the framework of living in the midst of diversity – diversity of religion, diversity of languages, that we bring our approach to global issues”, explained Singh. This diversity, coupled with the exercise of democracy, has lead the United States and India to become countries with more similarities than one would think.

Written by Jonas Heidenreich, recent graduate of Political Science with a concentration in International and Comparative Politics from Appalachian State (Dec. 2015)

Charlotte Business Journal coverage: Indian ambassador brings message of trade, cooperation to Charlotte








Presentation by French Ambassador Gerard Araud: “French Foreign Policy in an Unstable World”


(Photo L-R: Ljubomir Stambuk, President & CEO of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte; Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts; French Ambassador Gerard Araud; and French Honorary Consul to Charlotte Laura Meyer Wellman)

The World Affairs Council of Charlotte had the pleasure of hosting H.E. Gerard Araud, the Ambassador of France to the U.S. on Tuesday, March 22 at the Hilton Center City in Uptown Charlotte. The event was well-attended by prominent business and political leaders in the Charlotte region, who came to hear Ambassador Araud speak on  international affairs and business over lunch and Amelie’s desserts.

After being introduced by Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, H.E. Araud took the podium and revealed that this was his first trip to Queen City. Discussing the recent bombings in Brussels and talks of unifying efforts with the U.S. to fight terrorism was a topic during his speech. “We’re engaged with a long-term battle with terrorism, but life has to go on” he commented, emphasizing collaboration between Europe and the United States. H.E. Araud talks about the commitment to sharing intelligence-collecting technologies between France and the U.S. in the fight against terrorism. With over 3,000 troops present in Africa and participation in three airstrikes in Syria against ISIS, France is no stranger to developing tactics to take on terrorists.

H.E. Araud recognized that there are some individuals who think the U.S. is not being involved enough. The U.S. has continued government surveillance tactics but has been in the background for the past three years; Araud sees this as a “break in the past”.

“Since 1945, we have never had such crises where the U.S. basically didn’t intervene,” he commented, “I think in [the U.S.], there is a feeling [France] engaged too much, and it didn’t work.” Araud continues to comment on the world becoming more distinctive, with super powers like India and China growing in their economy and population alongside the United States.

His Excellency expressed his thoughts the state of the economy in the West. The surge of nationalism in France and other European countries he feels parallels the uncertainty of the presidential race of the United States, and says he’s worried about the economy and availability of jobs.“[Blue collar workers] are struggling, and I guess that’s part of the attraction of Trump or part of the attraction of our far right. Which means, instead of saying these guys are morons or fascists, we have to worry: If this new economy isn’t creating enough jobs, or the right jobs, what does it mean for the future of our democracy?”

Araud says that Americans have immense strength in the Southeast U.S., primarily French success occurring there. Examples include French company Areva (which is headquartered in Charlotte), and Airbus’ assembly plant located in Alabama. His Excellency remarked on how stable the United States economy has become, and his interest to follow the developing area of our country’s southern area.

At the conclusion, there was a Q&A session with the audience. Questions ranged from asking Araud’s prediction of the European economy and plans to stop ISIS to the work he plans on continuing with the U.S. and how to quell foreign disagreements. His Excellency commended the strength of North Carolina in relation to Southern states. “It’s obvious the Southeast is a vibrant, growing part of the country,” he said. “The Americans are going South. … There is this sort of changing society…There’s a sort of general shifting back to the U.S … and if you want to invest in the U.S., you naturally go to the South.”

Written by Halley Theorin, UNC Charlotte ’16 (WACC Spring 2016 intern)

The Rise of ISIS: Zealous Militants with Uncompromising Brutality

What is the relationship between religion and society? How do you have a healthy society? These two questions and the ways in which people answer them, Dr. Kathryn Johnson explained, is what determines how people decide to live their lives and achieve, what is in their minds, the actualization of truth. As part of the Great Decisions Speaker Series hosted by the Office of International Programs at UNC Charlotte, Dr. Johnson, Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte, posed these two questions to serve as the basis for understanding the rise and motives of the terrorists organization, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

ISIS’ Ideological Basis For a Healthy Society

Most people try to imagine their own version of a virtuous society. Many people would agree that it is a society based off some social contract of human values – what is right and what is wrong. The picture of a virtuous society might look the same across different cultures, but how to achieve that society is a question with many different answers. “For Jews, Christians, and Muslims,” Johnson explained, “there are usually two different versions of how to create a virtuous society…the evolutionary model and the revolutionary model.” Johnson explained that the evolutionary model achieves its virtuous society from the “bottom up”, persuading – heart-by-heart and mind-by-mind – people to live life with good values. On the other side of the spectrum is the revolutionary model, which propagates that hard hearts cannot be won to God’s truth and in such a case there must be a revolution, explained Johnson. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (also known as ISIL, IS, and Daesh) falls into the category of the latter model.

ISIS has dominated the newsreels with its aggression in the Middle East that has enabled it to either control or operate in most of northern Iraq and throughout Syria. As an offspring of al-Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS lives by a philosophy that seeks to establish ultra-fundamental Islamic ideology through the use of extreme violence and intimidation. It is this ultra-fundamental ideology that ISIS believes is the only way to a healthy society. The revolutionary model that ISIS has integrated into its methods has been a characteristic of extremist organizations before it. But ISIS, as the world has seen, has proven to be unlike its predecessors.

ISIS Emerges

Dr. Johnson suggested that the world look to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the political and economic aftermath of that invasion to both understand what separates ISIS from other extremist organizations and to explain its rapid emergence. Looking at this history allows us to recognize the key differences between ISIS’ fundamental goals and that of its predecessors.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq served as a catalyst to the emergence of ISIS in the sense that it created an environment where extremist organizations could thrive and recruit heavily. Operation Iraqi Freedom began in March of 2003 and by the end of the summer, Johnson explained, Iraq was beginning to experience a growing Sunni insurgence. The leader of this insurgency was the Jordanian Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. In 2004 he and his extremist Sunni group, Tawhid and Jihad, declared allegiance to al-Qaeda, establishing al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

It soon became evident that Zarqawi had different tactics than those endorsed by his senior al-Qaeda leadership. Zarqawi began to use violence that produced little gains to al-Qaeda’s overall mission in Iraq and instead created a growing sense of unpopularity among his constituents. Public beheadings and indiscriminate killings of local Iraqis and Shias led the senior leadership of al-Qaeda to distance the organization from Zarqawi, ultimately resulting in a rift. “It wasn’t until June of 2006, after Zarqawi’s death by a U.S. air strike, that the group rebranded itself as the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) in an attempt to ‘nationalize’ its image and completely separate itself from al-Qaeda,” explained Johnson.

The U.S. invasion did a number of things to create the environment for ISI to develop. When U.S. forces toppled Saadam Hussein’s regime, Iraq’s economic and political systems became destabilized. Former Baathist members and military figures became unemployed overnight. Angry, armed, and without a job, many of these individuals decided to direct their frustration towards the people they saw as the source of their misfortune- the United States. Subsequently these individuals would be captured and detained in U.S. prisons throughout Iraq.

During the invasion, U.S. forces managed a number of prisons within Iraq. Following the shutdown of Abu Ghraib, the main US-run prison would become Camp Bucca, located in southern Iraq. It is here that a civilian detainee named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would rise to prominence within the camp as a religious leader and mediator and become well acquainted with al-Qaeda members, former Baathist members of Saadam’s regime, and other militants being held inside the confines of Camp Bucca.

Upon his release in the late 2000’s, Baghdadi joined the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) and quickly rose through the ranks to become the group’s leader. “It is at this point”, Dr. Johnson said, “ that ISI began its international rise.” Baghdadi continued to use the indiscriminate tactics exercised by Zarqawi – conducting beheadings, abductions, and intense suicide bombings. The tactics proved to be so brutal that the group was publicly reprimanded on different occasions by al-Qaeda. By 2010 it was clear that Baghdadi and ISI were now the new dominant terrorist force within the region.

What Separates ISIS

The revolutionary model of Islam used by extremist groups and militants such as al-Qaeda is based on four main pillars. Dr. Johnson described that these four pillars focused on: “(1) creating an Islamic state – but first removing super powers that keep corrupt local regimes in power (2) maintaining minimum civilian deaths (this harms the organization’s international reputation) (3) cooperating with all who share the revolutionary vision, even The main goal is to create an Islamic State, or caliphate, without any involvement from the western world. ISIS’ goals and beliefs are not radically different from al-Qaeda, but their differences are significant for explaining their methods.

ISIS believes that the caliphate has already been established and therefore there is no longer a need to wait. Many analysts and experts believe this is what explains ISIS’s apocalyptic behavior. Dr. Johnson explained that ISIS behaves according to different beliefs in its strategy for achieving an Islamic State. “ISIS believes (1) civilian deaths are a part of the strategy of conquest (2) all who disagree (by word or deed) with ISIS are apostates – someone who turns away from their beliefs – and their lives, families, and property are forfeit, including Sunnis (3) conflict is encouraged as a terror tactic and as a way to purge apostates.” From Zarqawi to Baghdadi, the strategy of ISIS has been based off of brutal undiscriminating violence that seeks to intimidate the populace and motivate those who wish to join its ranks.

ISIS has demonstrated to the rest of the world that its version of a healthy society is achieved through intolerance and violence. It has proven to be dynamic in its utilization of technology and social media. It has created a sophisticated network of marketing materials and has recruited hundreds of individuals through social media platforms. It is an organization made up of fundamental religious practitioners, power-hungry militants, disgruntled former Baathist members, and out-cast individuals looking for purpose.

To address the issue that is ISIS we have to ask ourselves how groups like this gain traction in the world. To answer this the world must look inward into its own communities and systems. How have we created a system in which a group like ISIS thrives in the world? To think that ISIS is merely a product of extreme fundamentalist ideology is both naïve and shortsighted. History has shown us that major events are culmination of many factors, not just one. ISIS does pose a major threat to the region and the world. If anything, its existence should be a red flag for the rest of society, showing us that somewhere along the way we overlooked what was right in front of us.

Written by Jonas Heidenreich, recent graduate of Political Science with a concentration in International and Comparative Politics from Appalachian State (Dec. 2015)








Summary: Zika’s path from Pacific to Brazil

zika-faq-1In 2007, doctors on Yap Island, an island in the Western Pacific, saw an increase in the number of patients with similar symptoms that included rashes, inflamed eyes, and joint pain. Initial considerations for the cause of the symptoms were mosquito spread viruses more common to the area: Dengue or Dengue hemorrhagic fever, and Chikungunya. But, after tests were conducted by the Center for Disease Control in a lab in Fort Collins, Colo., it became evident that something entirely different was occurring: the world’s first significant Zika outbreak.

(Photo credit: Center for Disease Control)

The outbreak in 2007 infected nearly 50 people on the island of Yap and islands nearby in Micronesia, and subsequently became virtually dormant for the next six years. Then in 2013 the virus reappeared in French Polynesia with an estimated 28,000 people, dwarfing the earlier outbreak in 2007. Smaller outbreaks appeared in New Caledonio, the Cook Islands and Easter Islands following the outbreak in French Polynesia.

Flash-forward to present day and the virus has spread in Brazil and adjacent countries to the north, through Central America, and as of recently has recorded 35 travel-associated cases in the United States according to the CDC. Estimations have hovered around 1.5 million people in Brazil, but the Brazilian government still is trying to grapple with determining the exact scale of the virus.

Comparatively the virus has shown more aggression with its transmission in the Americas than in the Oceania region, and has grown at a rate exponentially faster. Experts have attributed this difference to the possibility of a couple factors: the significant difference in population – Brazil alone has a population of approximately 206.1 million compared to the entire Oceania region which has a population of approximately 37.9 million according to the Population Reference Bureau – or the virus itself has mutated and gotten worse, adapting to the environment and becoming more pathogenic.

The above is a summary written by Jonas Heidenreich of the New York Times article: Experts Study Zika’s Path From First Outbreak in Pacific.


Summary: Looming Recession or Booming Economy? Wells Fargo Economist Jay Bryson Reveals Forecast for the 2016 Global Economy


On January 28th, the World Affairs Council of Charlotte has the pleasure of hosting Jay Bryson, the Global Economist for Wells Fargo, as part of our Business Breakfast Series who shared his insights about the U.S. economy and economic trends (and growth) around the world for 2016. 

Displayed for the audience was a timed bar graph showing projections through 2020. His predictions say that the economy will remain strong. Our economy has been growing at an approximate rate of 2-2.5 percent for the past few years. Bryson stated that our economy understates the underlying strength of the U.S. Our country has real growth of almost 3 percent. He starts talking about our manufacturing sector and how it is the division that tends to be struggling while our service sector remains resilient. However, he also acknowledges that our economy isn’t perfect. For instance we are not energy independent yet, and other countries are surpassing us in energy independence and production. Our net exports have been weak. However, he expects growth in this sector in the future.

Bryson also touched on elements that make-up our economy: the government sector, real businesses, and consumer spending. Our government sector is made up of government purchases (which are divided between federal and local governments), where a modest tailwind should be present. Real businesses have become a fixed investment. Businesses are climbing at a slow growth and consumer spending is up 3 percent. Even in 2014, three million jobs became available, which hasn’t happened since 1999. Bryson pointed out that the real per capita net worth has returned to its previous high. Bryson’s overall projection for the U.S.? Just like the tortoise, it will be slow and steady, but growth for the country nonetheless.

Bryson moves onto one of the world’s biggest economies: China. This $10.35 trillion economy is expected to have growth of 6.8 percent in real GDP this year. However China is not expected to have exponential growth in the economy it has had in the past. Predictions by Bryson indicate that China is slowing down, and will continue to slow as it continues to advance its aim to become a developed state). This slowdown has caused Chinese authorities to re-balance the economic growth toward more consumer spending.

Bryson notes that China is a very independent country, and has their own way of doing things. “The Chinese say, ‘we’ll give the global economy growth as long as you don’t question our methods,’” he explained. China may need some help handling their business debt, which is a contributing factor to the decceleration of their economy.

The last market he focuses on is the European market. They have had two recessions in the last 10 years but continue to grow at a steady pace (similar the U.S.– 2 percent for every couple of years). However, they are in an energy crisis and will be buying government bonds again through March 2017. They are also having loan growth (subsidized liquidity provision to the banking system is helping revive their banking system). Finally their demand for auto spending has surged. Last year alone, 17.5 million cars were sold, which hasn’t occurred since 2006.

Concluding his discussion on different geographic economics, he notes his predictions and findings for the global economy. Overall it has grown 3 percent, but predictions show that growth will remain below its long-run average in 2016. Oil prices and the stock market have moved in lockstep recently. Nonetheless, the long-run correlation between the two variables is rather low. He also noted that the for the global economy to take effect on the U.S. economy, it would have to take a sharp downturn for the worst. Over the past three years unemployment has improved and has been structured better. Core inflation will likely to remain steady, and short term interest rates are headed higher. When do we get into trouble? According to Bryson, it’s when the economy goes out of balance and shocks occur that we should really pay attention.

Written by Halley Theorin, UNC Charlotte Class of 2016 (WACC Spring 2016 intern)







Population Growth: A Pressing Issue with an Unlikely Solution



(Photo credit: Population Institute)

In today’s world the most pressing global issues that we see day-in and day-out are the ongoing conflict in Syria and the greater Middle East, the sudden economic uncertainty in China, the rise of Russian power, and the persistent threat of North Korea and its growing nuclear capabilities. In addition to these critical global issues, Robert Walker, President of the Population Institute, suggests that the world direct its attention to one of equal concern, what he calls “the demographic challenge.”

DSC06654(1)As part of the International Speaker Series, presented by the Office of International Programs along with the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, Walker spoke to an audience of students and faculty concerning the pressing issue of population growth. As President of the Population Institute – a non-profit that seeks to promote universal access to family planning information, education, and further services – Walker directs the organization’s advocacy and public education activities, assisting policy makers and foreign countries in bringing global population growth into balance.

The world’s population is projected to increase from 7.3 billion today to 9.6 billion or more by 2050. “A majority of this population growth,” Walker explained, “will be in the developing world.” These countries will potentially face threats of water scarcity, deforestation, and conflict or political instability. Coupled with population growth these issues are potentially intensified. Walker emphasized that, “Correlation is not causation,” but, “in this particular instance there is a high correlation between rapid population growth and a number of the world’s problems.”

The five major global issues, Walker explained, that possess correlations with population growth are: global hunger, poverty, water scarcity, environmental degradation, and conflict and political instability. According to the Population Institute’s Demographic Vulnerability Rankings – a list comprised of countries where population growth poses the greatest challenges – the top twenty countries on this list will have at least a high vulnerability to both poverty and hunger. These countries are primarily located in the African Sahel, part of the Middle East, South and Central Asia, and the Caribbean, and have population sizes that are projected to double by the year 2050, according to the Population Reference Bureau.

Walker emphasized that to address the rapid population growth in these areas, their needs to be a strategy concentrated on curtailing fertility rates by focusing on reducing gender inequality. “It’s about gender,” Walker passionately explained, “it’s about eliminating child marriage, educating girls, and addressing gender norms.” The high fertility rates in countries with rapid population growth were not necessarily due to lack of access to medications, though access is vitally important. Instead, Walker explained, the reasons for women not getting contraception was more likely due to male opposition, religion and societal norms, something that is often overlooked. “We’re not taking fully into account the reasons why women aren’t getting contraception who want it in countries where there is access,” said Walker.

One could easily grow pessimistic towards the challenges explained by Mr. Walker but the Population Institute along with the Population Media Center, based in Vermont, has found an unlikely yet far-reaching solution that has gained traction throughout the world. The two organizations, in a joint effort with in-country personnel, have created a series of serial dramas that have addressed topics relating to sex, abortion, and family planning. Called the Sabido Method after Miguel Sabido, the Mexican television executive who spearheaded the strategy in the 1980’s, has made huge strides in promoting behavioral change in countries where serial dramas are aired. The first drama series, which was aired on Telenuvelo in Mexico and addressed adult literacy issues, sparked a registration in government classes of 1 million people within the first week. The program has sense then been taken to other countries throughout the world including India and Ethiopia. The underlying theory of the program is based off of psychologist Albert Bandura’s “social learning theory, ” which explains that people learn certain behavior from personal observation more so than teaching.

Walker closed his talk reiterating the importance of addressing gender inequality, empowerment of women, and access to contraception. He said, “If we address all the other problems…try to create jobs, try to improve food security, try to improve water scarcity and we do nothing about the other three (gender inequality, women empowerment, access to contraception), there is no way that we are settling those problems.” In the face of such challenges there is great opportunity and the room to “make remarkable progress, ” said Walker.

DSC06682The world has its crises that are constantly covered by news sources and it is our duty as global citizens to address these crises. Rapid population growth might not get the attention Walker says it deserves, but as we are pressed to find sustainable solutions to the issues that occupy our television screens and fill the front pages of our newspapers, we are also equally as pressed to address the “demographic challenge” in a world with finite resources and limited space.

Written by Jonas Heidenreich, recent graduate of Political Science with a concentration in International and Comparative Politics from Appalachian State (Dec. 2015)