Students, faculty, practitioners and community members learned about “Opportunities and Challenges for Human Society and Development” at the 2015 Florida International Summit recently at UCF. Sponsored by the Florida Network for Global Studies (FNGS), which was established in 2003, the summit was co-hosted by UCF and FSU.

The Feb. 26 event included two addresses and three panel discussions. Each presentation provided insights into opportunities and challenges for society and development in different areas of the world. Presenters included academics, practitioners and government officials.

Summit co-hosts John C. Bersia, Special Assistant to the President for Global Perspectives at UCF, and John Mayo, Professor and Dean Emeritus of the College of Communication and Information at FSU, opened the conference. They acknowledged the special international-education role played by FNGS – which, in addition to UCF and FSU includes FIU, UF, UNF and USF – and provided an overview of the day’s program.

David M. Luna, who serves as Senior Director for Anti-Crime Programs in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. Department of State (DOS), gave the opening address. He offered a global assessment on the nature of and U.S. response to organized crime, corruption, money laundering, terrorist financing, cybercrime, drug smuggling, human trafficking and environmental crime. Echoing sentiments of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Luna noted “the world is a mess” but urged the audience to find ways to “fix it together.” He underscored the importance of collaborative partnerships across communities and borders. The transcript of his address can be found here at the DOS website.

A panel discussion was next, with an outlook for Europe. Emek Uçarer, an international relations professor at Bucknell University, discussed human trafficking and institutional responses. Tim Cullen, Commissioner for the Financial Services Commission, Isle of Man, spoke about battling financial corruption. Senior Research Fellow in Terrorism Studies Ted Reynolds, of the UCF Global Perspectives Office, discussed terrorism and politically extreme parties that have emerged and strengthened as a result. He also moderated the panel. Reynolds concluded by indicating that many of the interrelated issues of human trafficking, financial corruption and political violence have created a “pressure-cooker” environment in Europe.

The following panel, moderated by Steve McDowell, John H. Phipps Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at FSU’s College of Communication and Information, focused on South Asia. Persis Khambatta, BowerGroupAsia Senior Director for South Asia, compared the progress of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, noting that “Sri Lanka is in the news for all the right reasons, and Bangladesh is in the news for all of the wrong reasons.” Govind Mohan, Economic Minister for the Embassy of India, discussed the potential for greater economic cooperation between the United States and India. Convergence Center for Policy Resolution co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Aakif Ahmad ended by talking about prospects for Pakistan, underscoring the favorable possibilities for human and economic development during the long term.

Serhii Plokhy, who directs Harvard University’s Ukrainian Research Institute, delivered the luncheon address. Freshly arrived from Ukraine, he offered first-person perspectives on the situation there, and bridged discussions on Europe and South Asia by highlighting Russia’s geographic, military and historical ties to both regions. Drawing lessons from his recent book, “The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union,” Plokhy advised that understanding the histories of Ukraine, Russia and the Crimea region is the key to unraveling the current difficulties.

The final panel, moderated by Jessica Gagnon, Public Affairs Coordinator for the UCF Global Perspectives Office, addressed Latin America and the Caribbean. Janice P. Holness, Executive Director of the Financial Services Commission in Jamaica, shared her experiences collaborating across borders to root out money laundering and drug trafficking. UF anthropology professor Ieva Jusionyte discussed the importance of better understanding the origins of human-trafficking activity. Bruce Wilson, UCF professor of political science, shared his research on corruption and anti-corruption measures in Latin America.

All presenters stressed the need for transparency, accountability, on-going dialogue and cross-border collaboration to respond to the challenges presented to human society and development covered at the summit.

More information about the summit, including presenter biographies and event sponsors, is available here.