Skip to main content

Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Building Sustainable Futures Webinar Recaps

Northwestern Buffett’s "Building Sustainable Futures: Global Challenges and Possibilities" webinar series spotlights current events and efforts to reach United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), with a focus on a different UN SDG each quarter. 

Find key takeaways in addition to video and audio recordings of each webinar below:


White Sovereignty: The Law of Racial Rule
October 6, 2020

Why do racial injustices, racial inequalities and racial disparities in democracies persist over time without redress? Why has police violence against Black citizens persisted in the post-civil rights era? Northwestern University Associate Professor of African American Studies Dr. Barnor Hesse discussed these questions and more this week in a Northwestern Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs webinar on “White Sovereignty and The Law of Racial Rule.” Hesse highlighted some of the reasons why liberal democracies are the sites and sources of continuous racial injustices, inequalities, and disparities, despite claims to liberty and equality as universal ideas and practices. Read more here.

sdg-webinar-2.jpgEcologies of Crisis and the Proliferation of Violence
October 20, 2020

What does it mean to be living-in-crisis and with constant insecurity?  How do people imagine their futures when they’re trying to survive the present? Northwestern University in Qatar Associate Professor of Anthropology and Acting Liberal Arts Program Director Sami Hermez and Villanova University Associate Professor of Global Interdisciplinary Studies Samer Abboud discussed these questions and more this week in a Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs webinar on “Ecologies of Crisis and the Proliferation of Violence.” Hermez and Abboud highlighted how lasting, transformative change is limited by forms of regional and international intervention that perpetuate, rather than alleviate, insecurity. Read more here.

166718_sm1.jpgCrumbling Institutions: The Erosion of Democracy in the U.S. and Lessons from Ukraine
November 3, 2020

At the same time that the United States is struggling to resist the crumbling of its institutions in the face of polarization and populism, Ukraine struggles to move beyond corruption and foreign domination—including corruption in which wealthy Americans have participated. In some respects, the two countries appear to be converging. Northwestern University Professor of Law Paul Gowder joined Dmytro Vovk, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Rule of Law and Religion Studies at Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University, to discuss what each country can learn from the other in a Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs webinar on “Crumbling Institutions: The Erosion of Democracy in the U.S. and Lessons from Ukraine.”Read more here.

166722_sm.jpgBeyond Religious Discrimination: What Does Islamophobia Tell Us About White Supremacy Today?
November 17, 2020

Islamophobia is commonly understood to be part of the aftershock of 9/11, but surfaced as a category at the beginning of the 20th century at the height of white supremacy. What does the reappearance of Islamophobia tell us about white supremacy now? Northwestern University Associate Professor of African American Studies Barnor Hesse joined Salman Sayyid, Professor of Social Theory and Decolonial Thought at the University of Leeds, to discuss the history and globality of Islamophobia and why it is a form of racism in a Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs webinarRead more here.

166731_sm1.jpgThe Pitfalls and Potential of International Cooperation
December 1, 2020

Many observers are excited that Joe Biden’s presidency promises to bring international cooperation back into American foreign policy, but whose interests are advanced and whose are harmed by international agreements?  While international cooperation is often presented as a smart, pragmatic and progressive approach, a closer look reveals a more complicated reality.  Northwestern University Weinberg College Center for International and Area Studies Director and Political Science Professor Ian Hurd and European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights Program Manager Jonas Grimheden highlighted the potentials and pitfalls of international cooperation during a Northwestern Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs webinar. Read more here.

166738_sm.jpgThe Schematic State: How Nations Create Conditions that Perpetuate Racial Inequalities, and Marginalized Populations
April 21, 2020

How are racial boundaries defined, and who decides where they lie? What aspects of power and privilege are at work in designing the rules that rule race? Why do states make and manipulate racial classification schema, and with what effects? Northwestern University Associate Professor of African American Studies Dr. Barnor Hesse was joined by Dr. Debra Thompson, Associate Professor of Political Science at McGill University, for a dialogue about “the racial state” and the structures that create, shape, and maintain it during a Northwestern Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs webinar. Read more here.


Prospects for U.S. and Global Climate Action with a Biden Administration
January 19, 2021

Many are hopeful that Joe Biden’s presidency will quickly restore federal climate change measures and catalyze substantial new efforts, such as a "green new deal." Many also hope for the United States to play a leadership role in fueling far-reaching international cooperation around climate change. Are those expectations warranted or unrealistic? What can we expect from the new administration?  A panel of Northwestern University political science, environment, and economics experts came together for a Northwestern Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs webinar to discuss these questions and more. Read more here.

168256_sm.jpgCan Environmental Activism Save the World?
March 2, 2021

Can environmental activism save the world? And, if so, how? As the world continues to grapple with the cascading consequences of our global environmental crisis, the urgent need for collective action has never been clearer. Northwestern Professor of Management and Organizations Brayden King joined Illinois Sierra Club Deputy Director Kady McFadden to discuss the future of environmental activism and the role of activism in shaping global environmental outcomes, including combating climate change, in a Northwestern Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs webinar. Read more here.

climate-change-story-250.jpgWhy Storytelling is Key to Climate Action
March 9, 2021

How can we "read" or understand policy responses to climate change? We can "read forwards," drawing on scientific evidence and reasoning to project consequences and dictate policy responses. Or we can "read backwards"; we can look to the human beliefs, values, and goals that impute meaning to the world to understand the many lines of evidence and reasoning leading to policy responses. University of Cambridge professor of human geography Michael Hulme joined deputy director of the Northwestern Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs Klaus Weber to discuss the power of "reading backwards" and the importance of embedding "climate actions" inside human stories, both dominant and marginalized. Read more here.

169175_sm.jpgCentering Indigenous Rights and Perspectives in the Fight Against Climate Change
March 16, 2021

Climate change has disproportionately exacerbated many challenges global Indigenous communities face, including political and economic marginalization, loss of land and resources, human rights violations, discrimination and unemployment. Yet Indigenous voices and perspectives have been marginalized in global climate debates and discourse. Signe Leth, senior advisor at the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs and Indigenous Women & Land Rights, joined Northwestern University assistant professor of political science Kimberly Marion Suiseeya for a conversation on the connections between Indigenous rights and climate change in a Northwestern Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs webinar.  Read more here.


169814_sm.jpgLegacies of Inequality, Myths of Progress
April 6, 2021

Today’s global inequities reflect long legacies of systemically generated and sustained efforts to benefit the few to the serious detriment of the many, often the world’s Black, Brown and Indigenous communities. What historical movements created such drastic disparities? Which social structures continue to uphold or even exacerbate them? What myths of progress abound, and to what ends? Northwestern University assistant professor of history Doug Kiel, School of Education and Social Policy associate professor Simone Ispa-Landa, and assistant professor of sociology Katrina Quisumbing King discussed the imperialist, white supremacist heritage of our existing realities and also highlighted the sparks of possibility for justice in a Northwestern Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs webinar. Read more here.

gettyimages-1255917859-1.jpgDismantling Systems of Inequality and Building Sustainable Systems of Parity
April 20, 2021

In this Northwestern Buffett "Building Sustainable Futures: Global Challenges and Possibilities" webinar, using the advent of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as a backdrop, Dr. Amara Enyia, Managing Director of Diaspora Rising, explored issues related to historically exploitative trade and economic practices in Africa and the Caribbean. Dr. Enyia examines systems being built around the world—in part due to COVID-19 and in part due to skyrocketing inequality—that highlight how those dynamics are shifting, how new post-COVID trade agreements can evolve, and how countries are leaning in to notions of self-sufficiency and self-determination.  Read more here.

narcotrafficking,-statemaking-and-inequality.jpgNarcotrafficking, Statemaking and Inequality: Experiences from Mexico and Colombia
May 4, 2021

Mexico and Colombia have been theaters of the war on drugs for half a century, yet both Latin American countries continue to be two of the largest producers of illegal drugs in the world, where many regions are hellscapes of violence, corruption and inequality. Why do governments keep insisting on a strategy that has consistently failed according to its stated aims?  In this Northwestern Buffett "Building Sustainable Futures: Global Challenges and Possibilities" webinar, Northwestern University associate professor of History Lina Britto was joined by journalist and author of Drug War Capitalism Dawn Marie Paley to break down dominant myths around narcotrafficking and the war on drugs. In their discussion, Britto and Paley illuminated how illegal drug economies in Mexico and Colombia have perpetuated multiple forms of injustice over time.  Read more here.

ghana-village.jpgSocial Protection and Inequality in a Pandemic: Evidence from Ghana
June 1, 2021

Survey evidence from 16 developing countries shows widespread employment loss and declines in income and food security since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. These patterns are apparent in Ghana. In this Northwestern Buffett "Building Sustainable Futures: Global Challenges and Possibilities" webinar, Chris Udry, professor of Economics at Northwestern University, and Robert Darko Osei, vice dean for the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Ghana, discussed the dynamic effects that COVID lockdown policies have had on employment and show how substantial, randomized mobile money transfers to individuals in poor households affected social distancing, food security, and work patterns.  Read more here.

teacher--school.jpgChicago’s Austin Community: A Case Study in Creating Equitable STEM Hyper Local Learning Ecosystems
June 15, 2021

In this Northwestern Buffet "Building Sustainable Futures: Global Challenges and Possibilities" webinar, learning scientist Nichole Pinkard and Chicago Medal of Honor Recipient Natasha Smith-Walker shared examples and frameworks based upon lessons learned in a multi-year collaboration to reimagine partnerships with the community and civic institutions to build pathways and on-roads to STEM in ways that connect to the community. Austin serves as the demonstration community leveraging community value holders (parks, community-based organizations, schools, etc.)  Read more here.