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National Security Challenges in the Next Decade

Posted By IRC, Monday, January 21, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Please join us for a luncheon and a fascinating 2019 Berkley Lecture on Monday, February 25, at the Grand Street Café on the Country Club Plaza. The topic  National Security Challenges in the Next Decade: Implications for the U.S.  is extremely timely. How many times each day are we hearing the phrase “national security” on TV/radio and seeing it in print? We’re all recognizing quickly that national security is much more than military defense – it is cyber, economic, alliance, climate, border, epidemic, and even election security.

Our speaker, Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, is currently at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Her career at the State Department as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, the National Security Council, and the U.S. Information Agency has spanned four decades serving five administrations. Ambassador Dobriansky has also participated for the U.S. on several international delegations as an expert on national security matters, including as Deputy Head of the U.S. Delegation to the 1990 Copenhagen Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the 2009 Copenhagen Conference of Parties on climate change, and the 2007 Bali Conference of Parties in which delegates from 187 countries convened in Bali, Indonesia, to try to strike a new global climate treaty. Ambassador Dobriansky has received high-level recognitions and orders of merit from the governments of Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Ukraine and Romania, and is even the recipient of four honorary doctoral degrees.

To learn more about Ambassador Dobriansky and this event, please see the event page » on the IRC website. We hope to see you there.

About the Author
Holly Nielsen is the IRC's 2019 vice president and is chair of the Berkley Lecture Committee.

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Member Spotlight: RSM

Posted By IRC, Monday, January 14, 2019

RSM US LLP is an audit, tax, and consulting organization that focuses on work for middle-market companies. RSM US is the fifth largest accounting firm in the United States and is a member of the global accounting network RSM International. RSM achieves a global approach for their work by incorporating international services for their clients and also providing insights on global policy, foreign operations, and the world economy. One of RSM’s mottos is “local experience, global strength,” and they achieve this by providing country specialists who are familiar with different regulations and cultural nuances in specific countries across the globe.


RSM has had a recent focus on expanding its consulting work and provides an array of different services in the technology sphere including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) implementations, and managed IT services. A component of the consultation work RSM does is from the Global Compliance and Reporting Services (GCRS). The GCRS works with large international companies to ensure compliance for audit, tax, and accounting with 120 countries around the globe. Recently RSM has expanded by launching RSM Canada with offices in Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton.


RSM is excited to be a member of the International Relations Council and hopes that it can continue to build relationships in the Kansas City community. They enjoy connecting with and learning more about the community and hope to share the work they are doing as well. For more information, we invite you to explore their website at or find them via social media as RSM US LLP.


The IRC spotlights our members and their diverse work and interests in the international space. To learn more or to indicate interest in being spotlighted in an upcoming post, please visit: ».

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Top Five Reasons Great Decisions Really Is Great

Posted By IRC, Monday, January 7, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, January 8, 2019

If you subscribe to the IRC’s newsletter, follow the organization on social media, or attend IRC events, you may have heard a lot of buzz the past couple of months on Great Decisions, “America’s largest discussion program on foreign affairs.”

You may have read about it in passing, thought to yourself “Hmm!,” and then moved on with your day. Perhaps you thought you are busy enough, so how could you engage in one more program? Or maybe you thought that joining or starting a group would be too difficult.

To help you learn more about Great Decisions and take the plunge to get involved, we hereby present to you, “Top Five Reasons Great Decisions Really Is Great.”

Reason Number 1: Meet Like-Minded People
One joy of Great Decisions is its ability to bring together people who share an interest in the broader global milieu. If you’ve been struggling to get your friends to share your interest in foreign policy and global affairs, joining Great Decisions is just what you need to broaden your social horizons and find a welcoming platform to discuss all your thoughts on what’s going on in the world today.

Reason Number 2: Meet Not-Like-Minded People
Though all Great Decisions participants share an interest in foreign affairs, the groups are non-partisan and are welcoming of people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs. That said, you are sure to find people with varying beliefs, which will give you the opportunity to hear directly from people with whom you may not have otherwise had an opportunity to converse in a civil and respectful atmosphere.

Reason Number 3: Engage Critically in What Is Going on Around the World
Sometimes it’s easy to get centered on what is going on nationally or locally, and we forget to keep up to date with what’s going on in the broader world. By joining a Great Decisions group, you are sure to stay informed and meaningfully connected to the world around you. 

Reason Number 4: Low Time Commitment
Great Decisions requires significantly less prep time than most reading and discussion-based groups. The briefing books prepared by the Foreign Policy Association provide a concise overview of each topic, generally only 10-15 pages in length. Additionally, if you can’t find time to read the section for the month, many groups will show a brief DVD clip that summarizes the main information, allowing people to participate regardless of their level of preparation.

Reason Number 5: Flexible Meeting Times and Locations
With groups throughout the metro, there are several locations and times to choose from. And if you still can’t find a group that works with your schedule, it’s super easy to start your own group. Just gather a group of friends, order books, and check in with the IRC for guidance on recruitment, advertising, and troubleshooting!

As you can see, there are many reasons to love Great Decisions! With the start of the new year, why not resolve to be more engaged in our global community by joining a group? For more information, see the Great Decisions page of the IRC website, or email IRC’s program coordinator, April Diaz, at

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Reflections of Outgoing Board President Lyn Lakin

Posted By IRC, Monday, December 31, 2018
Updated: Friday, December 28, 2018

Blog. For those of us that are not comfortable or natural writers, "blog" is truly a four-letter word. But when asked to reflect on my experiences as an outgoing IRC board member, I did feel that I could overcome my insecurity. Because, you see, the International Relations Council of Kansas City is a very critical part of my constantly evolving life.

I had been occasionally attending IRC events and presentations since 1988. By 2007, I increased my attendance and participation, leading to board service beginning six years ago. Six challenging and extraordinarily rewarding years. So much can happen in six years. A baby can be born, grow, and enter first grade. A U.S. Senator will have completed a term. And, in the way of healthy organizations, new board members with fresh perspectives, views and enthusiasm will find a place to contribute.

So, my time as a proud member of the board and second term as president is coming to an end. It has been an amazing time of growth thanks to our talented and committed staff and fellow board members. Programming has diversified. New opportunities for student learning and engagement have been launched with Your Global Future and access to visiting foreign policy experts. Challenging and compelling topics presented by non-partisan subject experts have become the new norm for the diverse Greater Kansas City community. It is not coincidental that program attendance and participation is at an all-time high. Adding this to the near doubling of paid memberships, it is no surprise that the World Affairs Councils of America has recognized the IRC as an affiliate on the way up.

However, for me, the greatest IRC gift has been the spectrum of friendships and relationships. We are truly a diverse community, and the IRC has given me the access to this joyful diversity. This I will carry forward as a member and participant. Join me.

About the Author
Lyn Lakin is a semi-retired nonprofit professional. She is the principal of Lyn Lakin Consulting, a results focused consultancy that focuses on the sustainable growth of nonprofits through the integration of best practices and innovation.

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History of the United Nations - Absent Countries

Posted By IRC, Monday, December 17, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2018

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles next year, it is worth taking a look at the paradigm it established and the international order a century on. International organizations, from NATO to the European Union, and from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, play an increasingly significant role in the development and maintenance of international relations as our movement, environment, economy, and culture are ever more globalized.

One of the more important aspects of the Treaty of Versailles was the Covenant of the League of Nations, which created an organization that could arbitrate international disputes. A significant roadblock of any multinational agreement is the absence of key stakeholders. For example, it is often cited that the United States’ refusal to join the League of Nations was a “gap in the bridge” of the organization and may have played a part in its ultimate failure to maintain worldwide peace. The enduring and continuing role of the United Nations may be at least partly due to the fact that nearly every sovereign country is now a member state. For much of the U.N.’s history, however, there were multiple “gaps in the bridge.” The following list explores several nations’ long-term absence from the list of U.N. member states.

While Switzerland was a founding member of the League of Nations, the historically neutral European country did not join the U.N. until 2002, after a majority of its citizens voted to apply for membership. A previous referendum, in 1986, failed to achieve the same outcome. The Guardian reported in 2002, when Switzerland’s membership application was accepted, that “supporters hailed the vote as a decision to accept the responsibilities of international engagement and to end the myth of an Alpine nirvana aloof from the world and its problems,” while opponents “feared that joining the UN would cost money, compromise sovereignty and make neutrality the plaything of the security council's five permanent members, especially the United States.”

Island States of Oceania
Despite becoming independent of their colonizing powers decades before, the Micronesian island states of Kiribati and Nauru joined the U.N. in 1999. They were joined that year by Tonga, in Polynesia, whose status as a British protected state had ended in 1970. Additionally, Tuvalu became the U.N.’s 189th member in 2000, nearly 22 years after its independence from the United Kingdom.

Microstates of Europe
Liechtenstein, a principality situated between Switzerland and Austria, joined the U.N. in 1990. San Marino, a sovereign enclave in Italy, followed in 1992, while Monaco and Andorra, with a combined population approximately equal to that of Independence, Missouri, became U.N. member states in 1993. The Vatican City State, however, shows no signs of applying for full membership anytime soon. It has held permanent observer status at the U.N. since 1964.

Cold War-Era Splits
Three countries split by Cold War tensions did not join the United Nations for several decades after the organization’s establishment. South Korea and North Korea both joined in 1991 and West Germany and East Germany became members in 1973. In Vietnam, however, the country joined in 1977, a year following the reunification of North and South Vietnam.

Except for those states above that were generally thought of as being independent at the time, most of the sovereign countries of the world were members of the U.N. by 1955. Mongolia, considered a “Soviet satellite” almost from its inception as a sovereign state, did not join until 1961. The United States abstained from voting on Mongolia’s membership application and did not recognize the world’s most sparsely populated sovereign state until 1987.

In addition to the notable absences of these states from United Nations membership, several other countries remain on the outside looking in when it comes to the most influential of international organizations. Controversy surrounds nearly all of these states, however, and significant diplomatic negotiations are necessary for any of them to become U.N. members. These countries include Kosovo, Taiwan, and Palestine, all of which are embroiled in significant disputes with current U.N. members regarding status, borders, and even political legitimacy. Nearly a century after the Treaty of Versailles laid out one vision of a “league of nations,” the international community continues its attempt to bring all countries to the table of diplomacy. Sometimes the biggest issue is just who has the right to (or interest in) pulling up a chair.


About the Author
Kit Dawson is the business intelligence analyst at the PKD Foundation.

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Book Review: The White Man's Burden

Posted By IRC, Monday, November 26, 2018

In The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, William Easterly deconstructs the foreign aid system and highlights its flaws. Billions of dollars from the West are poured into developing countries every year, but the impacts are limited. While the states with the fastest-growing economies receive little to no aid, the overwhelming majority of those that receive the most aid have negative 

growth rates.


The world of foreign aid is dominated by optimists who desire a utopian society, whom Easterly calls “planners.” Conversely, “searchers” direct foreign aid to communities from the bottom up, and understand that poverty is a complicated mixture of political, social, historical, and institutional factors. Searchers identify the needs of each area, and listen to feedback in order to maximize effectivity, while planners push the issues they choose. Easterly criticizes the planners, and emphasizes that the success of foreign aid is dependent upon a searcher mentality. The analysis is clear and well thought out, with ample graphs and statistics to support his arguments. Before each chapter, Easterly provides “snapshots,” case studies in developing regions. The snapshots are not only fascinating, but they also give insight into the realities of living in poverty.


While Easterly focuses on the faults of foreign aid, he rarely identifies clear solutions. He does indicate that searchers are the key to transforming the world of foreign aid, but fails to address how to go about invoking a searcher mentality. Easterly educates the reader about the failures of aid from the West, but leaves the reader questioning how to improve the system.



About the Author
Kaiti Carpenter is a pre-med student at Oklahoma University.


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Event Recap: Working Across Countries and Cultures

Posted By IRC, Monday, November 19, 2018
Updated: Friday, November 16, 2018

Every now and then a panel comes along that manages to balance being inspirational with being substantive. Last week’s "Working Across Countries and Cultures: What It Means for Entrepreneurs »" was one of these panels.

Held November 14 at the Westport Plexpod as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week and in collaboration with KCSourceLink, the panel convened amazing people working in diverse entrepreneurial fields.

One panelist, Katie Petty, started her own business at the age of 12, an age when most of her peers’ entrepreneurial aspirations were barely graduated from lemonade stands and strategic lunch swaps. While still in middle school, she was meeting with representatives of large global businesses to build her product, a dog paw-washing tube, which would eventually grow to have overseas factories. She inspired the audience not just with how much she accomplished at such a young age, but also by her stories of overcoming adversity, such as when her warehouse flooded, causing her to lose $90,000 worth of product, which her insurance would not cover. In true entrepreneurial spirit, Katie continued undeterred, and is now in the process of expanding her brand (Wild Heart, LLC ») to include other animal-care products.

Another panelist, Ximena Pacheco, while having tremendous entrepreneurial experience of her own, humbly spoke of Unbound », the 501(c)(3) nonprofit where she currently works as a regional accountant. At Unbound, she works to finance projects around the world to help others realize their entrepreneurial capacities. Ximena spoke of how the support of people here in Kansas City and around the U.S. can directly influence the lives of families in some of the poorest countries in the world by removing barriers that would otherwise thwart economic growth and entrepreneurial activity.

The third panelist, Conner Hazelrigg, like Ximena, was also passionate about using entrepreneurship to meet global needs. Conner’s business, 1773 Innovation Company », creates “Sunshine Boxes,” which are solar-paneled phone chargers. The levels of entrepreneurship don’t stop with Conner – Conner then works with nonprofits in lower-income countries to get these Sunshine Boxes to local entrepreneurs who can take the box, traveling from village to village, to allow people to charge their cell phones for a small fee. The person transporting the boxes makes up to $1,000 a year from their business, and then the people in the villages are well-positioned to connect to the global and local economy through the servicing of their phones.

Moderated by Gary Logan, a seasoned cultural trainer with entrepreneurial experience of his own, the panel engaged in open and casual dialogue with the audience. From helping attendees to navigate the obstacles of choosing overseas partners, to explaining the nuts and bolts of getting started in international business, the information they provided was invaluable and left many people feeling excited and better-equipped to tackle the formidable task of initiating and sustaining a global enterprise.


About the Author
April Diaz is the program coordinator at the International Relations Council.


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Book Review: Tropic of Chaos

Posted By IRC, Monday, November 12, 2018

Christian Parenti’s Tropic of Chaos examines the political, social, and economic effects of climate change around the world. Fossil fuels have long been an ubiquitous part of every day life. In fact, in a recent study done in the U.S., it was found that fossil fuel comprises 81% of the U.S. fuel. Parenti argues that the solution to this is to “decarbonize our economy.” He adds that, “the best way to address the effects of climate change is to tackle the political and economical crisis that have rendered us vulnerable to climate-induced chaos.”


This is an issue that concerns me, as I have learned about the "carbon footprint" that each person inevitably has. This "footprint" represents how much of the earth’s pollution you as a human being are contributing. While each person contributes a small amount, there are over seven billion people in the world, which adds up to contribute to a crisis in the over reliance on fossil fuels. 


In less affluent regions of the world, the effects of this crisis are heightened. For example, many regions experience severe drought as a result of the greenhouse gas emissions that come with the use of fossil fuels. The drought has several local effects on populations, especially those who primarily farm for a living. As the drought continues to hit, people may start to look for new places to farm, and when they find a place that is already occupied by someone else, it can lead to conflict. If they are unable to migrate, this can force families to have lower incomes, which can then ramify into other continued complications to their livelihoods and well-being.


This book was thought-provoking and made me more aware of how my actions as an individual may influence not just my community, but the world at large. I would recommend it to anyone interested in environment and climate.



About the Author
Remy Jacobs is a student at Benedictine College studying biology.


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Member Spotlight: Missouri Western State University

Posted By IRC, Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Missouri Western State University is located in St. Joseph, Missouri, 45 minutes north of Kansas City. The university has over 5,000 students with approximately 100 international students who are recruited by the university through college fairs, U.S. commercial services, high school counselors, Education USA, and other outreach opportunities.

The International Center provides support services to Missouri Western State University’s international students and provides cultural engagement opportunities for the entire campus and broader community. The Center prepares students for their future careers, while at the same time allowing international students a platform to actively facilitate discussion and promote world understanding. The students' participation in internships and other applied-learning opportunities also greatly benefits both the students and the businesses and community members with whom they work. 

The International Center, within the Division of Student Affairs, puts on many events throughout the year, including the free International Fair, which occurs as a part of International Education Week. Last year, the International Fair hosted nearly 600 visitors during the 3-hour event. This year, the week will consist of an International Center Open House on November 12, a movie screening of Crazy Rich Asians on November 13, the International Fair on November 14 (3-6 p.m. in the Fulkerson Center), and the World Harvest Dinner on November 15. All of these events are free and open to the public.

Another upcoming event of the International Center is its annual Alternative Thanksgiving Break, funded largely by the student government association. Last year, students (both domestic and international) went to Chicago, and this year, they will be traveling to Washington, D.C., to learn more about the history of the United States and American culture as well as learning about the various cultures of its participants.

To learn more about the Missouri Western International Center, you can visit their website (, email them at », or call (816) 271-5981. For more information on Missouri Western State University you can visit their website (www.missouriwestern.eduor call (816) 271- 4200.

The IRC spotlights our members and their diverse work and interests in the international space. To learn more or to indicate interest in being spotlighted in an upcoming post, please visit: ».

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Globe-Trotting Career

Posted By IRC, Monday, October 22, 2018

As I come to the end of my six-month stay in Hanoi, I contemplate what led me to embark on my global-trotting career path. Over the past three years since graduation, I’ve lived in five countries. It began with a summer internship with the Naval Heritage Command (National Museum of U.S. Navy) in Washington, D.C. It was July 2013, and this was my first work experience in another country, let alone another continent! Whilst there, I was lucky to meet a number of inspiring young people from across the U.S., Canada, and the UK. Several years later, the achievements of these individuals are truly exceptional; one became a consultant in a top UK firm, another was recently the Assistant Attorney General of Chuuk state, Micronesia.

I’m sharing my experiences now because I don’t think that there has ever been a more important time to promote international ties through exchanges, study abroad programmes, and internships. It sometimes seems as though countries are more intent on closing borders and drawing lines, instead of fostering connections between the individuals in different locations, who together, form international communities. For a British citizen abroad, updates on Brexit and ongoing news of the migrant crisis in Europe remind me that we’re living through both a divisive and decisive time in international relations. As a historian, however, I am reminded that this has often seemed to be case, and previous centuries sought their own solutions to issues which still pose a global risk today.

Cross-cultural exchange exposes us to different mindsets and allows us to develop a sense of world-views which exist beyond the place we consider home. This encounter with the unfamiliar enriches our personal lives in the form of unexpected aspirations, a passion for new things, or even the chance to do activities and make connections which may never have otherwise become available. It also appears that these kinds of exchanges may be particularly beneficial for social mobility, something which both the UK (see Steven Hutt's article from the British Council in China) and the U.S. (the non-profit Project Rosseau is a great example) are striving to increase.

As a microcosm, I’ll illustrate how another internship, in the summer of 2014 - a year after coming to the U.S. for the first time - changed my life. I spent just over two weeks at the Zhuhai campus of Beijing Normal University (on the south coast of the Chinese mainland, just opposite Hong Kong) and worked on a short research project with Chinese students. I became interested in Chinese characters and how different they were from the Roman alphabet. I also started to really think about what it was like to live in a culture which was informed by a history and literature which was completely unknown to me, namely the historic influences of Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.

Fast-forward four years and the effects of these couple of weeks is astounding. My internship in Zhuhai was the first time that I had ever been to Asia, and it gave me the courage to become a teaching assistant with the British Council in Greater Noida, near New Delhi. Whilst there, I realised just how useful it would be for me to learn a foreign language myself, and why not Mandarin Chinese?

This became a reality when I applied for, and was accepted into a British Council scholarship at Shandong Normal University, Jinan (the “normal” here simply emphasises that this university focuses on training teachers). I enjoyed the experience so much that I’ve endeavoured to keep up with my language learning, and have since undertaken Chinese lessons in Bangladesh and Vietnam (where a knowledge of Chinese characters has been useful in understanding Vietnamese history and modern day ancestor-worship).

In short, the effects of my initial international work experience, the confidence gained from subsequent trips, and the skills gained from studying in China have changed the direction of my career. Ultimately, during my time abroad, I developed as a person in ways that academic study at university could only partially achieve. My hope now is to encourage more organisations - and educational institutions especially - to develop international ties and to encourage more people to go beyond what they know in order to realise more clearly what they could be. Ultimately, languages barriers are surmountable, and cultural differences serve only to educate individuals on the values of tolerance, plurality, and strength in diversity.

Studying Mandarin Chinese with my Korean classmates in June 2016.

Has your interest in internationally focused internships increased as a result of Nikita's post? Consider applying for an International Relations Council internship for the spring 2019 semester. Application information is available on the IRC website », and the deadline to apply is Friday, October 26.

About the Author

Nikita Hayward graduated from the University of Oxford where her studies focused on the relationship between history and English literature. She has taught in India with the British Council, and spent a semester learning Mandarin Chinese in Jinan, China. Last year she worked for a semester at the Asian University for Women, in Chittagong, Bangladesh, and has since moved to Hanoi, Vietnam.

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