Waiting for Disruption: The Western Sahara Stalemate

A man sits alone near the road between the Dakhla Refugee Camp and Awsaard Refugee Camp, June 24, 2003 (UN photo by Evan Schneider).
The Western Sahara conflict is fast approaching its 40th anniversary with no end in sight. A web of geopolitical interests keeps the conflict in a permanent state of limbo. Therein lies the paradox: The peace process now exists to contain the conflict, but only a crisis will save Western Sahara.
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The Politics of Advocacy: Setting and Vetting the Global Agenda

Campaign to Stop Killer Robots rally in London, April 23, 2013 (Photo by Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).
A U.N. conference this year on fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” raises the question: Why do some issues and not others attract global policy attention? This article explores the channels through which humanitarian concerns are guided from grassroots activism to the highest levels of the international political agenda.
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After the Gold Rush: Peru's Crackdown on Illegal Mining

Men mine for gold using rudimentary equipment in the Madre de Dios region of Peru, May 22, 2014 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

Peru has overseen a comprehensive effort to halt illegal gold mining. But while the environmental risks of illegal mining are serious, some in Peru have raised concerns about the livelihoods of the miners, the struggling communities they support and the political ramifications of the crackdown.

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Al-Shabab: A Close Look at East Africa's Deadliest Radicals

Hundreds of newly trained Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18Km south of Mogadishu on Thursday Feb. 17, 2011 (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh).

More than any other organization, Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahedeen, widely known as al-Shabab, has left its mark on the recent history of Somalia. Political and radical Islam have a long history in the country, but no group has survived longer than al-Shabab, and no group has emerged stronger from challenges and setbacks. Today, the group has emerged from an existential crisis and looks stronger than it has in years. Though al-Shabab is often referred to as simply a “terrorist group,” the term does not accurately describe the range of the group’s activities.

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Nagorno-Karabakh’s Summer of Violence

Nagorno-Karabakh soldiers and tanks return to their positions during military exercises outside Stepanakert in Nagorno-Karabakh, April 19, 2006 (AP photo by Karen Minasian).
This year, while Europe commemorated 100 years since the beginning of World War I, a long-forgotten conflict on the edge of the continent rumbled on. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a contest for control over Nagorno-Karabakh for more than 25 years. Following a particularly dismal stretch of the peace process over the past two years, tensions have come to a head in a summer of violence along the front line. Yet while front-line casualties have dominated the headlines, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has also become a formidable weapon for both Armenia and Azerbaijan to securitize politics, exclude opposition and explain away the absence of domestic reforms.
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The Impact of War: Health, the Environment and Cultural Heritage in Conflict

The destructiveness of armed conflict has been a painful constant throughout human history. And despite efforts to limit its range and impact, the damage resulting from war still extends far beyond the battlefield. David P. Fidler explains how the realities of war challenge the very beliefs underpinning efforts to limit war’s impact on civilian health. Talia Hagerty and Jurgen Brauer argue that efforts to address the environmental damage from war must be integrated with peacebuilding to be effective. And Craig Forrest spotlights the threats war poses to cultural heritage sites and how international law has evolved to mitigate them.

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The Post-Mao Generation: Transforming China From the Bottom Up

The Chinese generation born since 1980 has come of age in a country its parents and grandparents hardly recognize. China’s rise from poor communist state to wealthy global superpower has had wide-ranging implications for how this generation sees itself, China and its place in the world. Robert L. Moore and Zhao Chang examine the cultural attitudes of China’s millenials and its even younger generation of digital natives. Teresa Wright explains why despite the post-Mao generation’s changing political attitudes, the Communist Party has little to fear. And Stanley Rosen examines this generation’s contradictory global outlook, which combines an embrace of Western culture with a renewed nationalism.

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Political Capital: Banking and Finance in Global Politics

Since the global financial crisis, banks and the financial sector have become identified with destabilizing risk-taking and policy capture. But the nefarious influence of banking and finance is often overblown, while their important contributions to growth and development are at times underappreciated. Cornelia Woll explains why the banking lobby is not the monolithic juggernaut, nor the villain, it is often made out to be. Hans Dieter Seibel looks at informal finance and the various ways to integrate it into formal development approaches. And Johannes Linn examines the shifting environment for multilateral and subregional development banks, and the challenges and opportunities it presents.

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Farewell to Arms: Political Approaches to Ending Insurgencies

The ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels have put the process of ending insurgencies in the spotlight. But even in cases when an accord is reached and implemented, a stable peace depends on making sure insurgent groups, commanders and individual combatants do not return to the battlefield. Robert Muggah examines the evolution of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration initiatives and the rise of a new generation of DDR approaches. And Johanna Söderström explains why transforming armed groups into political parties is just one aspect of transforming insurgencies, and insurgents, into democratic political actors.

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Fertile Ground: Agriculture’s Role in Trade and Development

Agriculture has historically played a central role in the expansion of human societies as well as commerce among them, and it continues to do so today. With the advent of new technologies, agricultural development has become more efficient, but not without implications for the environment. Timothy Josling explains agriculture’s outsized role in the global trade agenda. David Zilberman and Scott Kaplan argue that true sustainability in agricultural policy requires balancing economic wellbeing with environmental concerns. And Samuel Benin examines Africa’s agricultural development benchmarks and its progress so far in meeting them.

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