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Tufts Financial Network and the Institute for Business in the Global Context host "Geopolitical Crisis: When the Front Page Converges with the Business Page"

October 25, 2011

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Left to right: Bhaskar Chakravorti, Gideon Rose, Vali Nasr and Daniel Drezner.  (Ira Fox for Tufts University)

In the last days of a month that saw the death of Libya’s ousted leader, the first post-revolution elections in Tunisia, and a deepening crisis in the Eurozone, over 125 members of the Tufts Financial Network gathered at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York for the first in a series of events presented in collaboration with The Fletcher School’s Institute for Business in the Global Context. The
topic of the evening: Geopolitical Crisis: When the Front Page Converges with the Business Page. An enthusiastic audience wanted to know, “What does this near-term political volatility mean for business in the long-run?”

In a lively conversation that extended well into the evening over cocktails, Fletcher professors Vali Nasr and Daniel Drezner, joined by Gideon Rose, Editor of Foreign Affairs, and moderated by Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti, Executive Director of the Institute for Business in the Global Context, took the audience on a journey that touched on the epicenters of global systemic, financial, and political risk. The panelists debated the increasing correlation of financial and political risk worldwide, and shared their vision of how events may unfold in the near future.

Rose set the stage with an optimistic perspective, arguing that today’s crises are best understood in the long-run as being either “productive crises,” such as the Arab Spring, which has laid the groundwork for positive long-term developments, or “crises of wrenching volatility in an ever more globalized system, which at least allows the opportunity for broad-scale economic development.” As a result, the near-term challenges to long-run stability, according to Mr. Rose, are our reactions to short-term crises, not the crises themselves.

In contrast, Prof. Drezner painted a less sanguine picture of the prospects for geopolitical stability, asserting that, “The biggest source of geopolitical risk right now is not actually in the Middle East. It’s in the developed world. It’s in the United States and the European Union. And the last time that was the case was the 1930’s.” He went on, “All the risks now are systemic, they’re not geographic. So you’re in a situation where if, in fact, you have a problem with Italy, that problem is eventually going to come to the United States.” Of the many memorable moments of the evening, the audience is sure to remember Prof. Drezner’s rather prescient statement: “We’re now in a world – and just think about this for a second – where global financial stability depends on whether you trust Silvio Berlusconi to do the right thing.”

Prof. Nasr reflected on the continuing Arab Spring and identified Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran as the three players “circling the Arab world for influence.” He added that although general opinion seems to hold that Turkey is winning this contest for regional power and Iran is losing, right now, “All three are winning and all three are losing. There is no clear winner.”

Dean Chakravorti wrapped up the discussion on a hopeful note by reminding the audience that instability and opportunity go hand-in-hand: “The Eurozone is finally having a conversation on what integration is supposed to mean, and as for the Middle East…What can be better than seeing the entire region exercise its democratic franchise?”

According to Dean Chakravorti, the conversation was a reminder that the uncertainty of current events has a profound impact on global economic and business opportunities. “Business schools rarely train students to consider the overlap between business decisions and the public policy arena through issues like inclusive growth, international trade, and violent conflict,” he said. “But this area of overlap is exactly where Fletcher’s Master of International Business degree trains students to succeed.”

Of course, the true test of an event of this kind is in the quality of the questions it provokes and the connections – intellectual, professional, and personal – that it inspires. On these measures, the first evening of this three part series set the bar quite high for the next event; Economic Crises: Disorder in the United States and the European Union will take place on March 7, 2012 in New York City.  We look forward to seeing you there!

-Ravi Chaturvedi, MIB candidate F12, and Tanya Hoke, MIB candidate F13

Ravi Chaturvedi, MIB 2012 is an Emerging Markets Enterprise Scholar, having worked with organizations such as American Express, Standard Chartered, HSBC and Hewlett Packard in various capacities in the Middle East, North Africa (MENA) and in parts of Asia for nearly a decade prior to joining Fletcher. Most recently, he was the Head of the American Express portfolio and product P&Ls for the MENA region. Ravi has an undergraduate degree in liberal arts from India and an MBA from the Asian Institute of Management, Philippines.

Tanya Hoke, MIB 2013 is a first-year student at the Fletcher School, where she is pursuing a Master of International Business (MIB) with a focus on strategic management and international security. She is a research assistant for the Center for Emerging Market Enterprises’ Country Management project. Prior to coming to Fletcher, Tanya spent four years as a consultant at a political and security risk consulting firm in New York City, where she managed international business intelligence, corruption, and fraud investigations. Tanya received a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies from Swarthmore College.