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2021 AAD Sisco Memorial Forum, ‘Preserving Life: Climate Change, Water and Diplomacy’ - UNC Global

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2021 AAD Sisco Memorial Forum, ‘Preserving Life: Climate Change, Water and Diplomacy’

September 9, 2021 at 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

The American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD), in collaboration with the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will host its annual Joseph J. Sisco Memorial Forum in person in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium on Carolina’s campus at 6 p.m. EDT on Sept. 9, 2021. The event will also be livestreamed via Zoom. 

The forum, “Preserving Life: Climate Change, Water and Diplomacy,” will examine large-scale diplomatic approaches to climate and water issues. 

The evening will feature a keynote by Ambassador Catherine Novelli, senior advisor at Shearwater Global and president of Listening for America. Novelli’s former leadership roles include under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment; assistant U.S. trade representative; and vice president for worldwide government affairs at Apple. Ambassador Ronald Neumann, president of the AAD and former U.S. ambassador to Algeria, Bahrain and Afghanistan, and Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, vice provost for global affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill, will provide a joint welcome.

A panel discussion will follow Ambassador Catherine Novelli’s keynote, moderated by UNC-Chapel Hill vice provost for global affairs, Ambassador Barbara Stephenson. Panelists will include:

  • Brian Atwood, former administrator of USAID and former under secretary of state for management;
  • Ambassador Kenneth Brill, former acting assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and former U.S. ambassador to Cyprus, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. Office in Vienna and acting ambassador to India; and
  • Aaron Salzberg, director of the Water Institute, Don and Jennifer Holzworth Distinguished Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and formerly the first special coordinator for water at the U.S. Department of State.

The forum will take place in person at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium in the FedEx Global Education Center. To attend in person, please register in advance.  

The event will also be live-streamed and recorded via Zoom. Please register in advance to receive a Zoom link. 

The Academy is an independent, non-profit association of over 300 former senior U.S. ambassadors and high-level government officials who have served with distinction in international affairs. The Academy’s mission is to strengthen American diplomacy through outreach programs, awards, podcasts, research and public discussions, like the Joseph J. Sisco Memorial Forum. 

This programming is organized by the AAD and the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill. This event is presented with generous support from the Sisco Family Charitable Fund.


Headshot of Novelli. She has short brown hair and is wearing a maroon shirt under a black blazer. There is an American flag behind her.
Ambassador Catherine Novelli

Ambassador Catherine Novelli

Former Ambassador Catherine Novelli is the president of Listening for America, a non-partisan organization dedicated to forging a new vision of U.S. international trade engagement. She served as Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment from 2014 to 2017, reporting directly to the secretary of state. She led the State Department’s efforts to develop and implement economic growth, energy, ocean, environmental and science and technology policies to promote economic prosperity and address global challenges in a transparent, rules-based and sustainable system. She was also the Department of State’s senior coordinator for international information technology diplomacy. Novelli served on the board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation with a portfolio of over $21 billion. 

In addition to her global role on economic engagement and opening markets for U.S. products and services, Novelli launched the Global Connect Initiative, an innovative partnership with governments, multilateral development banks and the private sector to connect 1.5 billion people to the internet. She spearheaded the first-of-its-kind Our Ocean movement which, during her tenure, resulted in $10 billion for ocean conservation from governments, private sector, NGOs and philanthropists and catalyzed governments worldwide to create over 11 million square kilometers of Marine Protected Areas — roughly the size of Africa. Novelli has engaged extensively to promote adoption of renewable energy, including with China, India, and in Africa. She has also elevated international diplomacy on innovation in science and technology. 

Prior to assuming her duties as Under Secretary of State, she spent seven years as vice president for worldwide government affairs at Apple Inc. In that role, Novelli headed a multinational international team responsible for Apple’s federal, international, and state and local government relations and public policy. A key accomplishment includes leading the team that gained first-time approval to market the iPhone in China. 

Prior to her position at Apple, Novelli was a partner in the law firm of Mayer Brown International where she provided legal and policy advice to Fortune 100 companies. 

Formerly assistant U.S. trade representative for Europe and the Mediterranean, Novelli coordinated U.S. trade and investment policy for the over 65 countries of western Europe, central Europe, Russia, the NIS, the Middle East and North Africa. She has taken a leading role in many of the most important U.S. trade negotiations in Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and North Africa. As the point person for the $1 trillion economic relationship between the United States and Europe, Novelli led efforts to ensure access to the European market for U.S. manufactured and agricultural products. 

Novelli was the lead strategist in creating the United States’ free trade agenda with the Middle East. She led free trade agreement negotiations with Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman and United Arab Emirates. She chaired the Trade and Investment Framework Councils with a number of countries in the region, including Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Algeria. As the deputy assistant U.S. trade representative for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, she negotiated most of the bilateral trade and investment agreements that underpin our economic relationship in that region. 

Novelli currently serves on the Board of the National Wildlife Federation and the Board of the Pristine Seas Initiative of the National Geographic Society, which is dedicated to promoting ocean conservation. She was also named an Ocean Elder, an activist dedicated to protecting the ocean, wildlife and nature. 

Novelli is a graduate of Tufts University, holds a law degree from the University of Michigan and a Master of Laws from University of London with concentrations in international and comparative law at the London School of Economics and School of Oriental and Asian Studies.

Headshot of Atwood. He has gray hair and is wearing a black blazer over a white collared shirt and a Carolina blue tie.
Brian Atwood

Brian Atwood

Brian Atwood is the senior fellow for international studies and public affairs at the Thomas Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. 

Atwood served for six years as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) during the administration of former President Bill Clinton. In the Clinton Administration, Atwood led the transition team at the State Department and was Under Secretary of State for Management prior to his appointment as head of USAID. 

In 2001, Atwood served on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s Panel on Peace Operations. He joined the Foreign Service in 1966 and served in the American embassies in Cote d’Ivoire and Spain. He served as legislative advisor for foreign and defense policy to former Sen. Thomas Eagleton from 1972 to 1977. 

During the Carter Administration, Atwood served as Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations. He was dean of professional studies and academic affairs at the Foreign Service Institute in 1981-82. Atwood was the first president of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs from 1986 to 1993. Atwood received the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award in 1999.

Headshot of Ken Brill. He is in a sunlit room and wearing a gray sweater over a blue collared shirt.
Ambassador Kenneth Brill

Ambassador Kenneth Brill

Former Ambassador Kenneth C. Brill was the president of The Fund for Peace from 2010 to 2011. 

Brill completed a 35-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service in 2010. In his final Foreign Service assignment, he was the founding director of the U.S. National Counter-proliferation Center (NCPC), which is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Ambassador Brill served as NCPC’s Director for five years. 

Brill’s overseas assignments with the Department of State included serving as ambassador to the IAEA and the UN Office in Vienna, ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus, acting-ambassador and deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, and political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan. His domestic assignments in the Department of State included service as acting assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, executive secretary of the Department of State and special assistant to the Secretary of State, and director of the Office of Egyptian Affairs. 

Brill has written and spoken about the nuclear nonproliferation regime, countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the challenges of WMD terrorism, the environment as a national security issue and U.S. intelligence reform. 

Brill is a graduate of Ohio University and received his MBA from the University of California at Berkeley.


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Ambassador Ronald Neumann

Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann

Formerly Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Ronald E. Neumann served three times as ambassador to Algeria, Bahrain and finally to Afghanistan from July 2005 to April 2007. Before Afghanistan, Neumann, a career member of the senior foreign service, served in Baghdad from February 2004 with the Coalition Provisional Authority and then as Embassy Baghdad’s political/military liaison with the Multinational Command, where he was deeply involved in coordinating the political part of military actions. 

Prior to working in Iraq, he was ambassador in Manama, Bahrain (2001-2004), deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Near East Affairs (1997-2000) with responsibility for North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and ambassador to Algeria (1994 to 1997). He was director of the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs (Iran and Iraq; 1991 to 1994). Earlier in his career, he was deputy chief of Mission in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and in Sanaa in Yemen, principal officer in Tabriz, Iran and economic/commercial officer in Dakar, Senegal. His previous Washington assignments include service as Jordan desk officer, staff assistant in the Middle East (NEA) Bureau and political officer in the Office of Southern European Affairs. 

Neumann is the author of a memoir, Three Embassies, Four Wars: a personal memoir” (2017) and “The Other War: Winning and Losing in Afghanistan” (Potomac Press, 2009), a book on his time in Afghanistan. He has returned to Afghanistan repeatedly and is the author of a number of monographs, articles and editorials. His writings have focused most heavily on Afghanistan, stabilization and Bahrain. At the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD) he has focused particularly on efforts to maintain adequate State and USAID budgets and staffing and upgrade professional formation to enable these institutions to carry out their responsibilities.  Neumann is on the advisory committee of a nonprofit working in Afghanistan, the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA). He is on the board of the Middle East Policy Council. 

Neumann speaks some Arabic and Dari, as well as French. He received State Department Superior Honor Awards in 1993 and 1990. He was an Army infantry officer in Vietnam and holds a Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal and Combat Infantry Badge. In Baghdad, he was awarded the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal. In 2018, he was awarded the American Foreign Service Association’s award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in political science from the University of California at Riverside.

Headshot of Salzberg. There is a backdrop and he is wearing a black blazer and a buttoned shirt and tie.
Aaron Salzberg

Aaron Salzberg

Aaron Salzberg is the director of the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Before joining UNC-Chapel Hill, Salzberg managed the development and implementation of U.S. foreign policy on drinking water and sanitation, water resources management and transboundary water at the U.S. Department of State. From 2010 to 2017, Salzberg served as the State Department’s first special coordinator for water resources.  In this role, Salzberg was the lead representative or the lead water advisor for the United States at several major international events on water including the G8, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development and the World Water Forums. He also led the Department of State’s engagement on transboundary water issues in many regions throughout the world where water is, or may become, a source of tension or conflict. 

Salzberg currently holds an appointment as a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center and serves as a member of the World Meteorological Organization’s Scientific Research Board. 

Salzberg holds a doctorate in genetic toxicology and a master’s in technology and policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a master’s in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland. He is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions including the Frank E. Loy Award for Environmental Diplomacy from the U.S. Department of State, the Alan Berman Research Publication Award from the Naval Center for Space Science and Technology, the Hugh Hampton Young Award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Young Investigator’s Award from the American Association for Cancer Research. 

Barbara Stephenson. Wearing a blue-green blazer and colorful necklace.
Ambassador Barbara Stephenson

Ambassador Barbara J. Stephenson

Barbara Stephenson is vice provost for global affairs and chief global officer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a distinguished diplomat, former U.S. ambassador, international leader and prior dean of the Leadership and Management School at the Foreign Service Institute. She leads the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs and advances a pan-university global strategy to enhance UNC-Chapel Hill’s global reach, impact and reputation. 

Stephenson is a fierce advocate for the role of higher education in constructively addressing complex global challenges, and she has extensive experience in collaborating across societies and geographies. 

Previously, Stephenson was president of the American Foreign Service Association from 2015-2019 and was a U.S. Foreign Service officer for over 30 years. She was a principal advocate for diplomacy, working closely with Congress, the media and globally engaged strategic partners. 

At the Foreign Service Institute, Stephenson launched the Culture of Leadership Roundtable to improve leadership across the State Department and in U.S. embassies around the world. In 2008, she was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Panama and later became the first woman to serve as deputy ambassador and acting ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in London. 

As deputy senior advisor to the secretary and deputy coordinator for Iraq (2006-2008), she was recognized with the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award for developing and implementing the Civilian Surge, the largest deployment of civilians to a war zone since the Vietnam War. She coordinated across federal agencies and the U.S. Congress to unite stakeholders behind a mission to reverse the spiral into sectarian violence by strengthening governance in Iraq. 

From 2001-2004, as the American Consul General in Belfast, Northern Ireland, she helped renew support for the Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to decades of violence.  As Consul General and Chief of Mission in Curaçao (1998-2001), she won support from local and Dutch officials to establish two U.S. Air Force bases to support Plan Colombia. 

Earlier in her career, Stephenson served as special assistant to Under Secretary for Political Affairs Tom Pickering, covering European affairs, including the war-torn Balkans. Other assignments have included desk officer for the UK, political-military officer in South Africa, and political officer in The Hague, San Salvador, and Panama. 

Stephenson holds a doctorate, master’s and bachelor’s degrees in English literature from the University of Florida, speaks Spanish and Dutch and reads French and Hebrew. 


September 9, 2021
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
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FedEx Global Education Center, Nelson Mandela Auditorium
301 Pittsboro St.
Chapel Hill, NC 27516 United States


Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs