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Conference on World Affairs returns to St. Petersburg

Ashley Morales

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Panels of diplomats, military, media, academic experts and student activists discussed international issues at the annual St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs in 2023. Photo provided.

Those looking to broaden their perspectives on the intersection of global and local issues will soon have the opportunity to gain valuable insights from experts in government, military, technology and academia.

The 2024 St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs returns Feb. 6-8. The annual event was founded in 2013 and is presented by St. Petersburg in the World, Inc., a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. More than 50 speakers will bring their insight and expertise to the annual event through panels, presentations and fireside chats at the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus. The goal of the conference is to ​​offer St. Petersburg a forum for international experts to educate, engage and empower members of the local community in person and worldwide via a live stream of the event.

This year’s conference theme is “Rethinking.” Lynne Platt, the conference board’s vice president, said examining the dichotomy of concern and excitement about artificial intelligence will be the focus of four different panel discussions, as well as a diplomatic discussion and examination of our national and global political climate. 

“Given that ours is a conference on world affairs, we wanted to have some expert panels taking a look at what is at stake in the key regions of the world,” Platt said. “So we’re looking at the convulsions in the Sahel, we’re looking at the Middle East and we’ve got a panel looking at what we call Neighborhood Watch, examining what’s going on in the Western Hemisphere.”

“We’ve also got a panel where we have foreign observers looking at U.S. politics. It’s a way of rethinking our politics and seeing them through the eyes of, particularly in this election year, people from overseas who are covering our politics.”

Platt spent 24 years with the U.S. Foreign Service, retiring in 2018 as a minister-counselor. She expressed excitement for the conference’s keynote speaker, Dr. Barbara J. Stephenson, a distinguished diplomat, former U.S. ambassador, international leader and vice provost for global affairs and chief global officer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“In fact, the title of her talk is ‘Rethinking America’s place in the world.’ It’s timely at the beginning of 2024, which is such a consequential year foreign policy-wise. It’s the 100th anniversary of the modern Foreign Service, which was created through an act of Congress called the Rogers Act of 1924. It’s also the 75th anniversary of NATO.”

This is the 11th year the three-day conference has been held, but the first time it’s being hosted in partnership with USF’s Global and National Security Institute, which works with leaders and experts from external academia, government and the private sector to provide actionable solutions to 21st-century security policy and technology challenges for decision-makers at the local, state, national and global levels.

The St. Petersburg Group, which has an ownership stake in the Catalyst, operates the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs.

For more information on the event, visit the website here.

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