Great Decisions

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What is Great Decisions?

Great Decisions is a national program of the Foreign Policy Association (FPA). In North Carolina, the Office of International Programs at UNC Charlotte is the state coordinator. Great Decisions is the largest non-partisan citizen education effort of its kind and has provided quality information and tools for over fifty years.

Each year, the Foreign Policy Association publishes a Great Decisions Briefing Book. The book highlights eight of the year's most significant foreign policy issues. The book provides facts, charts, and nonpartisan analysis of the "great decisions" facing the U.S. public and policy makers. Maps, online services and other resources are available to complement programs. In addition, a DVD series and Teacher's Guide are available for purchase on the Foreign Policy Association's website.

What are the eight FPA topics for 2021?

  1. Global Supply Chains and National Security
  2. Persian Gulf Security Issues
  3. Brexit and the European Union
  4. Struggles Over the Melting Arctic
  5. China’s Role in Africa
  6. The Korean Peninsula
  7. Roles of International Organizations in a Global Pandemic
  8. The End of Globalization?

What is the Charlotte Lecture Series?

The Office of International Programs at UNC Charlotte coordinates a local community lecture series annually. The Charlotte Great Decisions Lecture Series consists of five weekly sessions and is an opportunity for citizens to meet, discuss and learn about some of the issues facing our world.  Each week a local expert from nearby colleges and universities provides additional perspective on the topic of interest and answers questions regarding the information presented in the Briefing Book and through the lecture. A registration form is available below.

Date, Time, and Location

All lectures will be virtual and scheduled from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Please review the list below for 
specific dates and topics. Please also register for the lecture so we may send you the Zoom link (see below for more information). 

Wednesday, February 3, "Struggles Over the Melting Arctic" (Sponsored by the Young Professionals of the International House)
Mark Kelso, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Political Science and Sociology, Queens University

U.S. President Donald Trump left many scratching their heads when it was rumored that he was looking to purchase the large island nation of Greenland from Denmark. While any potential deal seems highly unlikely, the event shows the changing opinion within the U.S. government toward engagement with the Arctic region. Because of climate change, large sheets of arctic ice are melting, exposing vast stores of natural gas and oil. With Russia and China already miles ahead with their Arctic strategies, can the U.S. catch up?

Wednesday, February 10, "China-Africa Relations, the Pandemic, and the Future of the Belt and Road Initiative" (Sponsored by the International House)
Lina Benabdallah, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Politics and International Affairs Department, Wake Forest University 

The Belt and Road Initiative opened up opportunities for African governments to cement their ties to China and transform decades of solidarity and friendship rhetoric into investments and development projects. With several years into the Belt and Road Initiative, what are the challenges and advantages facing Africans in their partnerships with Chinese actors? How has the pandemic influenced China-Africa cooperation and what is the future of the Belt and Road Initiative post-pandemic? 

Wednesday, February 17, "The World Health Organization's Role in a Global Pandemic" (Sponsored by Charlotte Sister Cities)
Michael Thompson, Dr.PH., Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Public Health Sciences, UNC Charlotte

As Dr. Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), father of modern pathology and founder of social medicine noted, “Medicine is a social science, and politics nothing but medicine at a larger scale.” The COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the political climate during which it occurred, has laid bare the fragility of our global health “honor system,” shortcomings whose deadly consequences we now measure in the millions. This talk addresses the historical context of global efforts during pandemics, focusing on the World Health Organization (WHO). We will examine the WHO’s mission and structure and explore the structural and political challenges it faces.

Wednesday, February 24, "The End of Globalization?" (Sponsored by the Young Professionals of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte)
Dale Smith, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Global Studies, UNC Charlotte

Globalization has a direct and profound impact on all our lives. Some see it as enormously positive, leading to healthier and wealthier lives around the world. Others see it as a direct threat to our jobs, and even our planet. In this talk we will explore the origins and impacts of globalization in order to have a better understanding of how it might evolve in the future.

Wednesday, March 3rd, "Brexit and the European Union" (Sponsored by the Charlotte Country Day School)
Joshua Miller, Ph.D., Lecturer, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, UNC Charlotte

Observers across the world were stunned on the morning of June 24th, 2016 to learn that voters in the United Kingdom had, by popular referendum, elected to leave the European Union. We will contextualize the Brexit vote as part of a broader trend toward insurgent populism across established democracies. We will also consider how Britain’s withdraw from the EU will likely affect domestic and European politics more broadly.  

Cost Information

Lectures are free. Great Decisions Briefing Books will NOT be available onsite. If you are interested in purchasing a book, please do so online at the Foreign Policy Association's website.


Please click here to register for the upcoming Great Decisions Lecture series. For more information and inquires contact

The registration form will close at noon on the day of each individual event. 

Evaluation and Feedback

The online evaluation form for the 2021 lectures will be available following the first lecture of 2021.

For further questions or information, please send an email to