Global Critical Issues

Today’s world is faced with challenges that are exceedingly complex and difficult to solve. Energy crisis, biological weapons, nuclear war, changes in weather patterns, human rights abuse, systemic inequality, environmental degradation — our global challenges cross borders, languages, and cultures, and the path forward isn’t always clear. We believe the best place to start is to build an understanding of global issues as they are lived on the ground.

Our Critical Issues programs involve deep cultural immersion experiences that bring together a group of like-minded peers, spark dialogue, and encourage participants to create positive change. Global problems can be tackled by global solutions.

Problems in the World Today

Aging Population

The world is getting older. Most of the developed world is seeing an increase in the median age and a decrease in birth rate. As our population ages, how does society change? How will we become more inclusive? How will work, housing, labor, transportation and development change? Students today need to be prepared to tackle this tomorrow.

Changing Climate

The industrial age and the ensuing technological age have lifted billions out of poverty. But, the attendant increases in greenhouse gases have led to changes in the global climate: extreme weather, unreliable agricultural yields, increased flooding and droughts and rising sea levels.  Will there be a spirit of global cooperation for a solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions? What efforts do we need to make for more efficient use of the earth’s resources?

How will humans adapt or react in the face of increasing meteorological volatility?

Gender Equality

Women make up half of the world’s population. But around the globe, the availability of education and a better tomorrow is limited by the restrictions placed on women. If the world is going to reach its true potential, we can only do so by empowering everyone. Closing the global gender gap by improving access to learning is a job for all of us and key to future economic growth. How must our belief systems and societal norms shift for the adoption of an equitable economy?

high school student performing community health service in Thailand


Half of the world’s population is not receiving the essential health services they need. They cannot afford healthcare. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has laid bare these deficiencies in access to healthcare around the world. How do we address issues such as the rise of noncommunicable disease, increasing life expectancy, and threats like climate change and antimicrobial resistance? How can we ensure equitable opportunities for quality healthcare and health outcomes? We must be actively involved in promoting and protecting health worldwide.


Global poverty rates have been cut by more than half in the last 20 years. But, one in ten of people living in lower income countries still lives below the international poverty line. Poverty means more than a lack of money and a sustainable livelihood. Poverty gives way to hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and basic services, and social exclusion. Ending extreme poverty has been a goal for years, but inflation and global war have pushed global food prices back upward.

How will we take collective action to support the basic needs of all human beings and guarantee opportunities for learning and skill development?

Rise of Asia, Africa and the Americas

Following the era of imperialism and colonialism, independent nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America have emerged over the last 200 years. The wave of decolonization has changed the face of the planet. How will we continue to move forward as a global community as we set aside our beliefs and biases of the past about which nations hold power on the international stage?

home construction in Dominican bateyes with Rustic Pathways


Conflict or environmental disruption has led to the largest mass migration in recorded world history. A stateless person is someone without any nationality or citizenship anywhere. They are often excluded and don’t have the basic rights of citizens, including socioeconomic, civil and political rights. How will we work to identify and protect stateless persons, and prevent and reduce statelessness?

In developing countries and middle income countries, increasing numbers of our world population face a passportless, stateless existence. How will future generations thrive if they aren’t able to avail themselves of basic services and join the governmental decision making process?


Fresh water is essential for human life and, along with sanitation, for human health. It is at the heart of sustainable development. Water is vital for energy and food production, healthy ecosystems and socio-economic development. Yet, the reality is that over a quarter of the global population does not have access to safely managed drinking water services, and over half lacks safely managed sanitation services. The World Food Programme is reliant on voluntary government support. How do we ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all?


Following the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization coined the word: “infodemic — an overabundance of information and the rapid spread of misleading or fabricated news, images, and videos.” Infodemics have happened in the past, but currently we face the spread of misinformation on a global scale. People are connected through the internet or other technology and share information more quickly. The spread of misinformation can have negative, even fatal, consequences. We must learn how we can identify and stop the spread of disinformation. How will cultural norms change to manage the threat and power of fake information?


Political divisions are intensifying globally. Even in strikingly different democracies, studies have seen that the drivers of polarization have the same roots. Often seen as a divide in ethnicity, ideology, or religion, polarization in the United States uniquely has all three distinctive features. Polarization weakens democratic processes and increases violence. With deep polarization, what can societies do to start healing their divisions? How do we learn from these divisive fractures, overcome, and unify?


Human activities have had devastating effects on the health of the world’s oceans. Unprecedented amounts of plastics have entered our oceans. Overfishing is a serious problem that threatens food security and destroys ecosystems worldwide. Global warming is causing alterations in the ocean’s chemistry – from coral bleaching to sea level rise and higher temperatures, entire marine ecosystems are at risk. How do we conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources?

Access to Education

The world is currently in a learning crisis. Many children face barriers that prevent them from attending school. Across all groups, girls are the most marginalized and have the hardest time accessing education. Even with access, attending school is not the same as learning. Schools lack trained teachers, adequate learning materials or internet access, and proper sanitation facilities, which makes learning difficult. COVID-19 has only exasperated the fragile education system. School closures kept 80% of students out of school and 30% of youth lack technology to participate in digital learning. How do we realize the promise of education for all students, in every village, city and country?