International Factors: States of the Global Souths progress towards SDG’s

After my groups personal research on Sri Lanka and listening to a few podcasts on countries: El Salvador, Egypt, and Singapore I have determined some similarities in the hindering of SDG goals. To begin, in researching Sri Lanka there was a large portion of information on the states economic default and poor governance. The state suffered from a corrupt system of leadership which contributed to dangerous implications of the economic default. Citizens experienced food and gas shortages and were living in a poverty.

Sri Lankan Citizens waiting in line for gas

Our research also highlighted gender discrepancies in the workplace; specifically the lack of women in the workplace and the discrimination towards them. These are a few examples of the countries regress towards SDG Goal 5- Gender Equality and 8-Decent Work and Economic Growth. The states poor governance ties into SDG Goal 16- Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

A potential contributor to these regressions is a lack of support from outside sources economically and politically. Like the case for most developing countries, improving relations with dominant world powers has been on the agenda since the end of the Cold War. But, because these relationships are not fully established, one can argue that this presents less opportunity to recover from hardships, and in this case, the hindering of SDG progress. This was the case for Sri Lanka and its economic default, as the state is still in a very slow recovery. The country did receive assistance from countries like the U.S and India but unemployment, poverty, and like previously mentioned; gender disparities still largely infect the population.

El Salvador has had similar experiences with poor governance as this country has been overrun with gang activity for many decades. At some points in time the gangs were so rampant they were essentially more powerful than the government.

El Salvador gang

Furthermore, the inhabitants of El Salvador lack educational resources (SDG 4- Quality Education) which contributes to more gang members, as it’s the only option to feel secure. There have been solutions implemented by El Salvador’s current president, Nayib Bukele, to address gang activity. But one solution (proposed as an act) ended up wrongfully incarcerating thousands of the countries inhabitants. Furthermore, Salvadorians have lost their freedom of speech as this act placed strict laws on journalism and forms of addressing news.

It is assumable that developing countries face more discrepancies, injustices, and lack of human rights compared to developed countries. They not only lack assistance from outside sources, but the countries themselves struggle with governance. This could be due to the rapid, continued growth of developed nations as it is extremely difficult to keep up in todays age. To support this claim, Egypts issue of water stability is a prime example of struggling to keep up while also highlighting the regress towards SDG 6- Clean Water and Sanitation. Egypt heavily relies on the Nile River as its main source of water. If we look at dominating countries like the U.S and China, their sourcing of water is much different. The United States water sources are an abundant amount of rivers, lakes, and groundwater, and vary by state. Egypt is much different as the entire country relies on a single source for the majority of its water. China, similarly to the U.S, also sources its water from lakes and rivers. Although this could just be a geographical problem as Egypt is majority dessert and lacks other water outlets, there is a reason why Egypt has struggled and is continuing to struggle with their access to water. This reason could be a lack of resources, no help from the outside, or the building of dams and fights of who is in charge of the Nile.

Nile River dam. The construction of this dam has caused conflict with Ethiopia.

To conclude, the evidence that has been presented to me has highlighted mostly regresses towards Sustainable Development Goals. I believe this regression is due to the lack of aid from developed countries and the poor governance that developing countries entail because they cannot keep up. The international system is a consistent power struggle and the most developed countries sometimes fail to rightfully support their neighbors. Dominant world powers need to address and make developing countries struggles known because theses states cannot adequately rebuild their mishaps on their own.

Clarke Forum: Uncertainty in Climate Change Research

Linda O. Mearns

On November 9th Linda O. Mearns, senior scientist for the National Center of Atmospheric Research, presented uncertainty in climate change.

Radar image of Hurricane Katrina

She began the talk with a memory from hurricane Katrina and the discussion that took place a day after it hit. She met with a panel of scientists who could not stop talking about how “thrilled” they were that their forecast prediction was so accurate. She explained how shocking this was to her that top-notched scientist were only worried about their predictions, rather than the real damage done by the hurricane (lives lost, communities destroyed, etc.). She then questioned, “What good is the most accurate forecast prediction if no one is prepared to cope with it?”

This prompted her research to understand degree of vulnerability through her creation of the “Social Sensitivity to Climate Impacts Index”. This index reflects socioeconomic variables that affect communities sensitivity, vulnerability, and adaptability to potential climate extremes. Climate change typically impacts low-income, minority communities the most. The most vulnerable communities are experiencing extreme weather, exposure to pollution, and live the closest to factories and incinerators. Specifically extreme weather, vulnerable communities have the hardest time with the clean up of aftermath, and getting the healthcare and aid they need. Often times these communities are overlooked, like Mearns experienced when Scientists were discussing the storm.

After Mearns introduction she defined uncertainty and described climate change as a “super wicked problem”. A super wicked problem derives public policy concerns that defy optimal solutions, is characterized by deep uncertainties, and is hard to define. She then discussed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and their release of statements on climate change over the past two decades. From their website- “The IPCC was created to provide policy makers with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options.” Their definitions reflect increasing confidence in the science of climate change. For example in 1990 the IPCC stated, “the observed increase (in temperatures) could be largely due to natural variability; alternatively this variability and other human factors could have offset a still larger man-made greenhouse warning.” In contrast, their more recent statement in 2021 stated “it is indisputable that human activities are causing climate change.” The report requires acceptance by nations that participate in the Panel, which is all 195 countries.

The rest of her presentation consisted of uncertainties about future climate, vulnerability at local scales, and the danger of false certainty. She concluded with, “don’t be afraid of uncertainty.” During the Q&A portion she responded to a question relative to the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty that commits all member states to respond to climate change by keeping the global temperature rise relatively below 1.5 degrees C.

Mearns says, “I don’t think there is a chance in hell that we will stay below 1.5”.


Analysis of Globalization: Liberal Vs. Critical

The Liberal perspective explains globalization through an emphasis on reciprocal interactions. This suggests that development was the result of institution building, technology, comparative advantage, open markets, and specialization. To focus on specialization, the liberal perspective believes that this division of labor contributed to the efficiency of workers and encouraged a more sound system of exchange. This then results in a system of comparative advantage. If your country and its laborers specializes in what they do best (ex: produce, extraction, industrialize), overall, countries end up better off. If countries trade for what others do well the general welfare increases. The liberal perspective believes that comparative advantage is a product of Western ideas, institutions and competition.

Although specialization can produce efficiency, and has in some scenarios, critical theorist define this development as “a consequence of the systematic external exploitation of other countries”. According to critical theorists, exploitation contributes to growth. Growth was not the result of mutual benefit and gain, it was the result of a process in which dominant countries systemically exploited subordinate countries. Thus, comparative advantage was not created positively and the distribution of resources was not a collective agreement that focused on advantages of individual countries. Critical Theorist explain comparative advantage through a pattern of dominant relationships shaped by colonial governments and raw power. This is explained through the dependency theory- poor nations provide resources to wealthy states, which in turn, benefits the developed states and exploits the underdeveloped states. For example, colonial powers converted resources to produce cash crops. Like in Gambia where colonizers replaced rice farming (local consumption) with peanut plantations for (Europe consumption). Furthermore this system of trade pushes less developed countries into a marginalized system, where they cannot make progress and are left behind to provide their resources to countries who continually make progress.

I find the critical theorists explanation of globalization to be the most convincing. Corruption is an underlying factor in almost every institution. The liberal perspective explains concepts like “comparative advantage” as if we are all living in a utopian society. Exploitation occurs on all levels of the international system. The dependency theory feels most relevant to me, especially living in the United States- the largest goods importer in the world. Not only is there a surplus of products available for the average American consumer, but the majority of these products come from exploitation. For example, fast fashion has become increasingly popular in the United States. With the touch of a button, American consumers are able to purchase cheap products from other countries. The affordability attracts buyers while ignoring underlying corruption. This underlying corruption is sweat shops and child labor.

In discussion of globalization I think the Liberal Perspective gives a glossy perception of this phenomenon. The Critical Perspective dives into the corruption and exploitation that developed countries were founded on.  The poor feed the rich, and due to dependency, it is a continuous cycle that traps the vulnerable. Comparative Advantage does not lead to an increase in general welfare. Developed countries continue to make progress while  un-developed countries are exploited for their resources and struggle to progress.

Community and “Others”- Establishing the Difference

Reflecting on my community in my hometown of Bradford, PA, I know many people and I also know of many people. I developed my own personal community through the people I interacted with at high school, sports teams, and my job outside of school. The people I grew close to and now know well, is my community. I associate with them frequently and see these people on a relatively daily basis. My sports team consists of some of my closets friends as I practiced with them my entire childhood and formed lasting relationships because of the history we have. I’ve formed bonds with my coworkers after working the same job for three years, and they have been integrated into my community. My community consists of the people I know, not just “know of”. They know who I am (not surface level), they associate with me daily, and we have lasting connection outside of the places we first met. All of these people I would define as individuals because I know them well and they know me well.

The “others” in my community are those who are not closely associated with me and only know surface level information. They are not integrated into my daily life and I do not have meaningful connections with these people. This could consist of a face I know from school, a neighbor down the street that I wave to, or the mailman that I see consistently, but don’t know anything about. To me, these are the side characters in my life. They coexist with everyone else but I am not connected to them on a meaningful level, nor would I pursue a meaningful connection these “others”. Who I have placed in my community has been apparent only by my own subjection. It’s by my pursuits that the people I know well, also know me well.

For example, being in college I’ve found that I miss the connections I made in my hometown and it is hard for me to want to pursue new meaningful connections. I have all these prior connections with people who I have known for over a decade. I don’t want to go through that process again when I already have my community established back home.

These are a few of my softball teammates from my hometown. I played softball with them since I was 10 years old. I would consider them to be a part of my community as we have a long history and meaningful connections.

This can all be relevant in international affairs. Certain countries have certain bonds with other countries. They have formed a connection through assets and/or prior history. The countries that have little interaction with each other would be consider “outsiders”. In our world, on any scale, the way that we connect to others, places and things is all subjective. Once bonds are formed, we typically like to keep these bonds and eventually stop pursuing new ones. Countries will align with others whom they know well and cooperate with. Comfortability is relevant in international affairs. For example, the United States and the United Kingdom have a long history. Relations were reestablished in 1815, and the relations were strengthen after their alliances in Worlds Wars, Korean conflict, etc. When we have history with an actor, we stick to what’s comfortable and familiar. This is the same in establishing our own community. Anyone that we do not integrate into our space is an outsider.


Differences in Upbringing

I spent my entire childhood in a small town in Northwestern Pennsylvania. It’s not the kind of small town where you know every person that walks by, but the chances of me seeing someone I know at the grocery store are very high. It was not a diverse place to live at all. Predominately white and conservative, the culture was “country”. Personally not my cup of tea, but I lived here and I found the people and places I enjoyed. Most of my city consists of suburban neighborhoods with average looking homes. Skyscrapers, busy traffic, and 4 lane highways were not a part of my everyday life. The poverty rate in my town is roughly 28%, so luxurious standards of living were very rare. The climate in Pennsylvania consists of wide fluctuations in seasonal temperatures. The winters in my hometown were harsh, and the summers at best are 80 degrees. I am grateful though to have grown up in an area where I could truly experience all four seasons.

Winter in Bradford, PA


In contrast, one of my exchange partners grew up in Canada, the other in the UAE. Specifically Montreal, Quebec in Canada is where my exchange partner lived. The climate there is relatively similar to the climate I experienced. All four seasons are present in Quebec and the winters are just as harsh, potentially harsher. My partner described a diverse culture which is something I didn’t experience in my hometown. Another major difference is the Native language. My partners first language was French, while my first and only language (as of right now) is English. A big difference I see in myself and people from other areas of the world is that everyone seems to be bilingual or even multilingual. It’s fascinating to me and also disappointing because I feel left out. I am working on it though.


My second exchange partner grew up in Sharjah/Dubai in the UAE. The weather is drastically different from where I grew up and where my Canadian partner grew up. The climate is high in temperature year round.  Being close to Dubai the culture and environment is much different. The landscape of Dubai consists of massive, modern architecture, and I tend to picture luxury cars on every street. One thing that both my exchange partners mentioned was their love for cars. They both had a particular car they either owned or planned to own. The cars that they described were much different than a car I would prefer, and specifically one was for sand terrain. The only sand I have ever experienced is on a beach. But being from the UAE, deserts are a typical environment for the people living here.


Both of my partners are more accustomed to big cities. Large cities typically result in more diversity and this is something I have lacked exposure to. Now living in Carlisle, PA at Dickinson College, I am surrounded by peers from all areas of the globes. Also, particularly this course is inspiring for me, and being able to interact with students from the American University of Sharjah is a great experience that I look forward to.