Meridian Exchange | July 2020

As racial injustice, the global health crisis, economic uncertainty and the upcoming presidential election dominate headlines, Meridian provides a space where global leaders can educate, connect and learn from one another. Through more than 50 programs over the last 16 weeks, Meridian has continued to connect government, business and diplomatic leaders to collaborate on these challenges and other global issues. See below for how we've worked over the last month to elevate a diversity of voices and provide a platform for critical conversations that move the needle on necessary systemic change.

Examining racial disparities and reform in the U.S.

The movement to end racial injustice in the United States picked up steam earlier this summer following the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others whose names never made headlines. As an organization with an international audience, we know it is our duty not only to bring awareness to this movement and elevate Black voices, but also to provide a platform for educating ourselves and our network of global leaders. On July 17, the Meridian Center for Diplomatic Engagement hosted Representative Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, alongside Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is a prosecutor on the Floyd case, to explore the police reform measures being proposed both at the national and local levels.Moderated by PBS NewsHour White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, the conversation focused on the importance of cultivating antiracism in our communities, the life and death consequences resulting from the lack of accountability, and the reallocation of funding to community services. His Excellency Barfuor Adjei-Barwuah, Ambassador of Ghana, offered closing remarks on the absence of diversity in all areas of U.S. leadership, including the diplomatic corps. Read more.

Museums spur community resilience

Reopening the economy in the face of COVID-19 remains an obstacle for businesses around the world— but several museums have restructured their operations to engage patrons virtually. On July 9, Heidi Zuckerman, founder of and former CEO and Director of the Aspen Art Museum, moderated a discussion on museums’ innovation amid the pandemic with culture experts Kaywin Feldman, Director of the National Gallery of Art; Chong Siak Ching, CEO of National Gallery Singapore; and Franklin Sirmans, Director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami. When addressing shared challenges and creative solutions, each museum director asserted that exploring digital opportunities expanded accessibility in ways they wouldn’t have previously considered. “Art has always been in the service of something larger—art in service of building community and instructing people how to see others,” Sirmans concluded. Culture has been and remains a tool for global connection, and this health crisis has exemplified the vast need for that connection. Read more.

Global health: New driver of private sector relationships

COVID-19 bumped global health to the top of corporate agendas everywhere and continues to exemplify the importance of private sector collaboration on global matters. On June 23, the Meridian Corporate Council hosted a virtual conversation with H.E. Shinsuke Sugiyama, Ambassador of Japan to the U.S., and Mr. Kabir Nath, CEO and President of Otsuka North America, for a discussion on what COVID-19 means for U.S.-Japan relations and the public health precautions being deployed by Japanese leadership. Nath highlighted the biopharma industry's response to the pandemic, noting Otsuka's move to donate to frontline organizations and provide PPE and medical products to groups in need. Similar to Japan, the Canadian government acted quickly in prioritizing the public's health, which Canadian Ambassador Kirsten Hillman outlined during a virtual conversation on July 7. In late March, the U.S. and Canada came to a swift agreement to close borders and limit all non-essential travel between the two countries. U.S. cooperation with Canada on health security and pandemic response, as well as advances on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), has contributed to strong North American coordination in recent months. Read more.

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