The William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies joined regional security leaders in Colombia, August 22-24, for the 2023 South American Defense Conference (SOUTHDEC). General Helder Fernan Giraldo Bonilla, Commanding General of the Colombian Armed Forces, and General Laura Richardson, Commander of United States Southern Command co-hosted the conference, themed “Strengthening Regional Resiliency through Shared Best Practices.”
Roundtable discussions focused on cyber defense and climate change and environmental defense. Perry Center Professor Dr. Patrick Paterson opened discussion on the latter detailing the current dire effects of climate change in South America and worldwide. Dr. Paterson noted climate change is perhaps the most serious problem humanity has ever faced, but that it is not insurmountable. “We have avoided many serious problems together in the past,” he said. “The international community of nations was able to stop acid rain in the 1970s, the ozone layer problems in the 1980s, and avoid a nuclear confrontation during the tense years of the Cold War. We can solve climate change as well, but we have to recognize what’s happening. We have to take action. We have to be as ambitious about it as we would if we were facing an armed conflict or an invasion of our countries. That’s the level of consequence we face with climate change.”
Perry Center Director Dr. Paul J. Angelo held a number of bilateral meetings with regional partners and signed an academic cooperation agreement with the Colombian Navy. The Perry Center has 16 academic cooperation agreements with institutions in South America, and 55 percent of the Center’s alumni network is comprised of course graduates and seminar participants from that region.