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Thinking Global: BYU Political Review January 2016

BYU Political Review, January 2016

BYU Political Review, January 2016

As we kick off a particularly tumultuous presidential election year, we feel a palpable shift toward domestic policy issues and away from international problems (unless they are related to terror or immigration). The recent passing of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will only amplify this trend, with President Obama’s political legacy and America’s sharp partisan divide hanging in the balance.

However, the first 2016 issue of BYU Political Review draws attention to many significant international events that are often glazed over in our 24-hour news cycle. From the editor and senior at BYU, Andrew Jensen, “We’ve dedicated this issue of the Political Review to exploring current events across the world. Our staff writers and student contributors have done an excellent job writing about some of the most essential global developments and events that are shaping humanity’s future.”

The review considers issues from Iranian politics to the implications of both exporting and importing democratic ideals. One student, Soren J. Schmidt, penned his opinion of the Syrian refugee crisis and subsequent potential American policies, while adding compelling statistics about the current refugee screening process.

“Since 9/11, the US has admitted 750,000 refugees from various war-torn regions. Of those, a total of two have ever been associated with terrorist activity, and even then only indirectly,” Schmidt writes. “By any measure, that is a remarkable rate of success—indicative, I think, of both the usually innocent intentions of those fleeing conflict and of the care already being taken to sort out the bad eggs.”

He continues framing the international matter in domestic terms, but broadens from policy discussion to general American ideology. Schmidt draws on what he believes are core American values to dispel the secondary partisan rhetoric of fear.

“This commitment to the protection of the innocent is critical to the core principles of this country, but I’m afraid that fear and the pressures of partisan polarization are causing many to marginalize it. Doing so might produce a short-term political gain, but it is ultimately a long-term loss of the values for which I believe we stand.”

By contrast, contributor Samantha Hawkins explores the Paris Climate Change Conference through a global lens. She acknowledges the significant role of the United States in agreements of this sort, but doesn’t stop at Congressional deadlock. Hawkins orients the reader with a history of both past policies and scientific conversations, and then moves forward with the terms of the agreement.

“Global climate change talks have been going on for decades, but nothing significant has ever come out of them, in part due to opposition from Congress, the lack of legally binding agreements, and the exclusion of developing countries such as India and China. At the Paris Climate Change Conference, the pledges were designed to emphasize participation rather than ambition, and to reflect actual scientific recommendations.”

Whether or not you agree with the contributors, the Review includes powerful assessments of global issues. According to the editor, all BYU students should embrace the university motto, becoming well versed in the events of the world.

“As students of the world we must become globally conscious and refuse to hold on to ignorant or myopic views,” Jensen said. “This world is full of billions of our brothers and sisters, and if we are to go forth and serve, we simply cannot afford to ignore them.”

BYU Political Review is the university’s only political op-ed publication. It began in 2006, and publishes the works of student contributors, staff writers, and even elected officials. If you would like to submit an article to be reviewed for publishing, visit here. To connect online, visit politicalreview.byu.edu.

BYU students representing The WomenStats Project make an impact at UN last week

BYU students represent WomenStats

BYU students represent WomenStats at this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women

BYU students represent WomenStats

WomenStats booth at the UN

BYU students representing WomenStats

At the lobby of the General Assembly Building, we obtained badges that allow us to float between the official proceedings, nation-level events, and NGO-level events.

BYU student with womens's rights activist

This woman leads a 35,000-woman federation of professional women across Europe and Africa. She helped obtain the equal pay law in Germany. She allowed us to interview her for our database!​

Brigham Young University (BYU) students and alumni representing The WomenStats Project participated in the March 2015 UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York, meeting with members of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), diplomats across the world, and UN staff to create a more extensive network for their research.

The UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is an event held for discussion on violence against women and prevention, prosecution, punishment, etc.  Many internationally recognized women’s rights leaders meet to join resources for greater impact in their communities.

“Some [of the delegates] have even dropped their jaw when they heard that we represent the most comprehensive compilation of information on the status of women on the planet,” said Natalie Wright Romeri-Lewis, senior project associate for WomenStats, international development adjunct professor and international consultant and attorney. “The NGOs love that fact that it’s free because many cannot afford the luxury of good data.”

The students and alumni successfully expanded the Expert Bank of The WomanStats Project by 1200 percent.  The Expert Bank is a network of professionals who can help WomenStats with more detailed international research. Some of the new additions to this bank include the President of the International Women’s Health Coalition, several Ministers of Women for countries across the world, the Head of Violence Against Women’s Commission in Mexico, and several other high ranking representatives, including royalty.

In addition to the Expert Bank, the number of people who have signed up to join the WomanStats Listserve increased over the course of the 2 week-long event.  The President of Croatia, Former President Bill Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton walked out of an event holding copies of their brochure.

“We hope [this] will help name recognition and more use of the [WomenStats] site,” said Dr. Donna Lee Bowen, professor of political science at BYU and member of WomenStats’ Board of Directors. “We’ve put much work into our data collection and would like it to be used widely.”

When explaining why the WomenStats project is an important international resource, Wright Romeri-Lewis declared that, “Last, although a government might speak at an official meeting, it may not allow for questions or might prevent civil society from joining the panel.  Audiences see these types of presentations as biased.  The ‘official declaration’ is not the word on the street. We have to look behind the statements and stats the government produces  and remember that they can be biased when collecting or reporting data.”

BYU’s David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies and the Department of Political Science were the key foundational support to help students and alumni participate in the Commission.

The WomenStats website can be found here.

All photos copyright of Natalie Wright Romeri-Lewis. Used with permission.

Former Senator Bennett Speaks on Power and Politics

Photo credit: Andrew Whitmer

Photo credit: Andrew Whitmer

Former Senator Robert F. Bennett addressed political science students and alumni at BYU’s annual G. Durham Lecture, honoring the late Homer Durham, an American academic administrator and general authority for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the in the 1970’s. This year’s Durham lecture focused on reviewing Homer Durham’s personal search on political power, the nature of man and its relation to power, as well as applying those ideas to the 21st century.

Bennett discussed what Durham thought were the two most important questions in politics: 1) what is the nature of man? and 2) what is the nature of the state?

By analyzing different political figures throughout history such as Hitler and Marx, Bennett discussed how one’s definition of the nature of man affects that individual’s definition of state.

Bennett applied Durham’s studies of state power versus federal power by discussing the amendments in the Constitution made after the Civil War. He also made reference to Joseph Smith, who experienced the strength of Missouri state power over federal power and how that balance has changed.
In conclusion, Bennett discussed the LDS church’s definition of man and therefore the state, adding to the conversation about Mormonism today.

Bennett, currently serves as chairman of The Bennett Group. He serves as a senior policy adviser at Arent Fox, Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a member of the Board of Trustees of the German Marshall Fund, Honorary US President of the Transatlantic Policy Network and Resident Scholar at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, where he lectures part time. His newspaper column on politics appears weekly in the Deseret News.

Watch the entire lecture here: