Have you ever thought about traveling the world, becoming a diplomat, or helping those that are less fortunate than you? If you have, then you should check out the Global Affairs and Human Security Student Association (GAHSSA). GAHSSA is a student run organization at the University of Baltimore that is “dedicated to exploring international affairs related to global health, socio-political events, economic issues, transnational problem solving, global governance, and issues effecting human security.” In order to fulfill this mission, GAHSSA has implemented a guest speaker series that provides international affairs experts, from around the world, with a venue to express ideas and discuss global topics. So far, GAHSSA’s guest speakers have included former US Ambassador to South Africa, Princeton Lyman, and Middle East media commentator Alireza Jafarzadeh.
A few months ago, GAHSSA’s latest guest speaker, Ambassador Lyman, stood in front of a large group of undergraduate and graduate students and explained his many experiences in South Africa and South Sudan. Before providing details about his time in South Africa, Lyman gave some background on the political situation, explaining that the US civil rights movement was occurring at the same time as the South African apartheid movement, which enabled each movement to feed off each other, in turn, creating a “symbiotic” process to promote change. Lyman also explained that, around this same time, the US congress placed economic sanctions on South Africa, in order to punish the South African government. These sanctions were passed after much disagreement and political drama which involved President Ronald Reagan vetoing the proposed bill, against the will of the US State Department, and congress eventually overriding Reagan’s veto.
Lyman went on to explain that these legislative activities going on in the background contributed to a particular atmosphere in South Africa, a distrustful atmosphere that made Lyman’s job a lot harder. This distrust of the US government, among both the ant-apartheid movement and South Africa’s white government, was a result of the US government’s flip flopping on economic sanctions and other foreign policies. Ambassador Lyman explained that due to the atmosphere in South Africa, Lyman and other members of the State Department not only had to help resolve the overarching conflict in South Africa, they also had to resolve these trust issues. Lyman went on to speak about how a transition process was eventually facilitated in South Africa and how this led to an increase in US credibility in the region.
In regards to Lyman’s involvement in South Sudan, Lyman explained that he was sent to South Sudan to ensure that the Sudanese followed through with a peace agreement they made with people in surrounding regions. During this time, Ambassador Lyman and other diplomats had to deal with changing US positions and had to settle several other issues, including setting boundary lines and establishing a currency.
The guest speaker session closed with comments and questions. Students from across the university asked several interesting questions, one of which was why does the US intervene in some international conflicts but not others? Ambassador Lyman answered this question by explaining that the US usually only involves itself in areas where it has a strategic interest.
If you want to learn more about interesting international topics, such as South Africa and South Sudan, or if you just want to get firsthand knowledge from global experts then be sure to check out GAHSSA.
GAHSSA is even expecting to have another guest speaker come to the University of Baltimore this upcoming semester, so be on the lookout for flyers and emails about GAHSSA’s next guest speaker.