Fletcher conference discusses ocean’s role in global affairs

Rocky Weitz (L), director of the maritime studies program at The Fletcher School, and Agnes Hatley (R), assistant director at the Institute for Business in the Global Context at The Fletcher School, are pictured. Courtesy Rocky Weitz and Agnes Hatley

Assistant Director at the Institute for Business in the Global Context at The Fletcher SchoolBusiness leaders, academics and politicians discussed the ocean’s role in global affairs at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy last Friday as a part of the Institute for Business in the Global Context’s (IBGC) bi-annual “Turn?” conference series.

Called The Ocean’s Turn?” this year’s one-day event examined issues of sustainability and geopolitics in relation to the world’s oceans, according to the event websiteThe conference featured presentations from Vice President for Environmental Global Public Policy at the Coca-Cola Company Michael Goltzman (F ’97), former NASA astronaut and Navy SEAL William Shepherd and Director-General of Taipei’s Economic and Cultural Office in Boston, Douglas Hsu.

IBGC, a branch of the Fletcher school that hosted the event, “focuses on the interplay between global business and the key forces that shape the context in which operate,” according to its website.

Bhaskar Chakravorti, executive director of the IBGC and dean of global business at the Fletcher School, said that the mission of the IBGC is closely tied to the mission of the Fletcher School.

“We prepare leaders with a global perspective,” Chakravorti said. “When you think of the leaders you want sitting around a table … you don’t first think of business but these are actors that have a tremendous impact on the world. These are entities that cross borders, and they can cross borders much faster then governments or armies or airplanes loaded with diplomats.”

Chakravorti explained that the conference series looks at a different region of interest each time.

“We go to a part of the world that is going though extreme change, an inflection point. This year we thought we’d go a completely different direction and look at the part of the world that is 71 percent of the earth’s surface,” Chakravorti said.

Rocky Weitz, director of the maritime studies program at The Fletcher School, said the theme for this year’s conference came out of Fletcher’s increasing collaboration with the Taiwanese government.

Hsu echoed Weitz’s statement, pointing to the school’s worldwide reputation for diplomacy as the main reason for pursuing a stronger relationship.

“[We’re] trying to build this bridge with the Fletcher School,” Hsu said. 

Weitz said the Fletcher School had been hoping to hold this conference for over a year, explaining that there was not enough funding to hold the conference last year. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston was one of the sponsors of the event this year.

Professor Rocky [Weitz] told us he wanted to have this conference … this is a very important issue to Taiwan so we wanted to make a contribution” said Hsu.

In his presentation, Hsu discussed geopolitical relevance of the ocean and pointed out that ocean research receives less funding than space research, even though over 70 percent of the Earth is covered by oceans.

“I encourage Tufts students to digest the message of this conference, it covered every different lens from geo-politics to climate change and environmental issues,” Hsu said. “I think a conference like this will start a conversation about more ideas and creative solutions to problems facing the ocean today.”

The conference also covered other topics relating to the oceans, including offshore energy, economics of shipping and plastic pollution.

Toward the end of the event, Chakravorti said that the ocean is a source for opportunities.

“Sometimes the opportunity to do extraordinary new things is right in front of you, the ocean is right there and is such an important part of our lives. Look for extraordinary opportunities in the most ordinary circumstances. The ocean is one of them,” he said.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the Taiwanese government as the sole sponsor of this year’s conference. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston was one of several sponsors. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily regrets this error.