Geography and Resources Articles

Climate Change Driving Farmer-Herder Conflict in Niger River Basin

By Owen McAleer
, , Briefing

West Africa’s Niger River Basin has been the location of many high-profile conflicts in recent years. However, another form of conflict has also gripped the region: violence between farmers and herders. The two have long coexisted through traditional social arrangements for land and water use. But mounting environmental stress and institutional confusion have strained these ties and sparked violence. more

Heavily Invested, China Cannot Escape the Iraq Powder Keg

By Emanuele Scimia
, , Briefing

Like it did with the crisis in Ukraine, China is trying to keep out of the chaos in Iraq. But as Iraq’s government confronts the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, it will be hard for China to preserve a policy of noninterference. This time around, China cannot keep out of another sovereign nation’s internal affairs—until now a cornerstone of its diplomacy—given Beijing’s huge economic interests in Iraq. more

World Citizen

In Venezuela, Party Divisions Are Maduro’s Greatest Challenge Yet

By Frida Ghitis
, , Column

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has struggled from the moment his mentor, Hugo Chavez, named him as his successor. Maduro faced countless crises: an economy circling the drain, crime rates skyrocketing and huge opposition protests. In recent weeks, the most dangerous of all Maduro’s problems has emerged: a fracturing of support among Chavista loyalists. If Maduro loses his party, he will lose power. more

Global Insider

Spain’s Exclaves Prove to Be Security Boon as Well as Risk

By The Editors
, , Trend Lines

Spanish police have recently begun to crack down on Islamist militants in its exclaves Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa. In an email interview, Gerry O’Reilly, senior lecturer in geography and international affairs at St Patrick’s College, Dublin City University, discussed Spanish policy toward both autonomous territories. more

With Eye on Oil, China Raises Security Profile in South Sudan

By Martha Molfetas
, , Briefing

China has agreed to deploy additional peacekeepers to South Sudan, significantly raising its security profile there. With the failure of two cease-fires in South Sudan’s six-month-long conflict, China has committed a brigade of 850 soldiers to the U.N. peacekeeping mission, bringing the force’s total deployment to roughly 20,000. The move reinforces a shift for China, from noninvolvement toward forging peace. more

Agriculture and the Global Trade Agenda

By Timothy Josling
, , Feature

International trade in agricultural commodities is a relatively small component of total trade in goods and services, but it accounts for a disproportionate share of time and effort in trade negotiations and is the topic of many of the most contentious trade disputes. Agriculture’s place on the global trade agenda is now being discussed in a number of bilateral and multilateral venues. The outcome of these talks will determine the regime for agricultural and food trade in the decades to come. more

Development Benchmarks for African Agriculture

By Samuel Benin
, , Feature

Fostering agricultural growth is a core strategy for Africa’s development, particularly for reducing poverty, because the majority of Africa’s poor are dependent on farming. Recent agreements between African heads of state, setting spending and fertilizer consumption targets for agriculture, seem like a recipe for successful African agriculture-led development. But the fundamental questions are how Africa is performing against these commitments and what the policy implications are for honoring the agreements. more

Sustainability in Agricultural Policy Design

By David Zilberman, Scott Kaplan
, , Feature

The introduction of farming was a cornerstone in the establishment of human civilizations. However, farming in its essence is a major modification of the natural landscape. Over time, modification of nature for agricultural purposes has become more effective and efficient. Yet, there is growing realization that some of the human modification of natural systems might have been excessive, which has led to environmental awareness and legislation that aims to introduce care in the expansion of agriculture. more

Global Insider

Oil Rig Crisis Threatens Booming China-Vietnam Ties

By The Editors
, , Trend Lines

Tensions have been running high between China and Vietnam over China’s installation of an oil rig in disputed waters, with anti-China riots erupting in Vietnam in May. In an email interview, Carlyle Thayer, professor emeritus at the University of New South Wales, explained how the maritime dispute threatens the otherwise booming China-Vietnam relationship. more

South Sudan Conflict Destabilizes Ethiopia’s Regional Strategy

By Harry Verhoeven
, , Briefing

Once that of an impoverished, war-torn nation, Ethiopia’s international image is now exemplified by the construction of the Renaissance Dam, Africa’s biggest infrastructure project. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn continues to pursue his predecessor’s dream of establishing Ethiopia as a regional hegemon through energy diplomacy. But South Sudan’s conflict and its regional dimensions now threaten this vision. more

With Solis, Costa Ricans Signal Readiness for Change

By Christine Wade
, , Briefing

On May 9, Guillermo Solis became Costa Rica’s 47th president. Solis succeeds Laura Chinchilla, who departed office with the lowest presidential approval rating in the hemisphere, and whose term was marked by corruption scandals, tensions with Nicaragua and a growing deficit. How Solis will manage Costa Rica’s mounting difficulties remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: Costa Ricans are ready for change. more

Japan's Complicated Regional Dance

By Benjamin Self
, , Feature

For decades Japan has patiently fostered maturity and order in its relationships with its neighbors, expecting that time and deepening interdependence would yield behavior constrained by a set of mutually agreed rules. The past couple of years have been, instead, a period of growing frustration. Japan’s reluctant embrace of realism has reshaped Japanese security policy. Yet Tokyo remains fundamentally oriented toward a decorous and polite style in its relations with China and South Korea. more

The Contrasting Trajectories of China's East Asia Policy

By Tiffany Ma
, , Feature

Nowhere else in Asia is the region’s tectonic realignment more evident than in the China-Japan-South Korea triangle. China is emerging as a new center of geopolitical gravity within the region; South Korea is rising as an influential middle power; and Japan is experiencing relative decline. The three sets of bilateral relationships are branching in different directions, with China’s strategic approach to the other two driven by historical grievances, economic interdependence and geostrategic dynamics. more

Strategic Posture Review: Russia

By Richard Weitz
, , Report

The past few years have seen a remarkable recovery of Russia’s international influence and ambitions. Rejecting an implicit offer of partnership with the West, the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin continues to pursue a separate agenda aimed at making Russia an important and independent pillar of the global order. Moscow may not yet aspire to become a global superpower and peer rival of the U.S. again, but Russian policymakers consistently challenge efforts to relegate Moscow to secondary status in Europe and East Asia. Nonetheless, a number of domestic and foreign factors will impact Russia’s strategic posture. more

Putting Environmental Crimes on the Defense and Security Agenda

Environmental crimes, such as illegal fishing, logging and poaching, are no longer just a conservation and biodiversity problem. They have significant consequences for countries’ development aspirations, in addition to global security implications. With growing awareness of this dynamic, governments around the world are taking action. But they need to sharpen their approach to fighting environmental criminals. more

Global Insider

Peru’s Illegal Mining Metastasizes into Social and Political Problem

By The Editors
, , Trend Lines

Last month, police in Peru destroyed $20 million worth of mining equipment as part of a wider crackdown on illegal mining in the country. In an email interview, Miguel Santillana, an expert on the mining industry at Instituto del Peru, discussed the Peruvian government’s response to illegal mining. more

Cultivating Equality: Land Reform's Potential and Challenges

By Klaus Deininger
, , Feature

The original rationale for redistributive land reform is that, at low levels of capital intensity, large farms operated by wage labor will be less efficient than small owner-operated ones. Colonial powers had often tried to restrict access to land to ensure a supply of cheap labor, despite the associated economic cost. Land reform is an effort to rectify this historical injustice and reverse the pattern whereby high inequality of land is associated with low agricultural productivity and overall economic growth. more

Special Report: The Ukraine Crisis’ Regional Fallout

By The Editors
, , Report

The effects of Russia’s military takeover of Crimea are being felt far beyond Ukraine’s now-disputed borders. The crisis has put a spotlight on NATO, placing it once again at the center of European security discussions. For Russia, the move into Ukraine comes with great risk, as Moscow’s control of European energy supplies has weakened in recent years while a long-running military modernization program has yet to transform Russian forces. And in Washington, next steps depend on an assessment of exactly where U.S. interests lie. This special report reviews the key regional actors in the Ukraine crisis through recently published articles. more

With Eye on China, India Moves to Expand Indian Ocean Maritime Influence

By Saurav Jha
, , Briefing

In March, India announced that Mauritius and Seychelles had expressed an interest in joining the trilateral maritime security cooperation arrangement between India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Should they join, it would help consolidate a maritime domain awareness network in the island states of the Indian Ocean Region where India has historically had influence and seeks to monitor Chinese movements. more

The Realist Prism: On Ukraine, Obama Tethered to Domestic Politics

By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk traveled to Washington on Wednesday to plead for urgent U.S. help for his country. But two newly released public opinion polls will be little comfort to U.S. pundits pushing for vigorous assistance for Ukraine. As midterm congressional elections approach, the Obama administration is highly sensitive to a growing unwillingness to engage in adventures abroad. more

Toxic Mix of Oil and Politics Threatens Libya’s Cohesion

By Thijs Van de Graaf
, , Briefing

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was removed Tuesday after failing to stop a tanker from sailing away with an illicit shipment of Libyan oil. The event underscores the crucial role of the oil industry in the country’s current political instability. Libya is now on the brink of collapse, following a pattern in which the presence of oil in ethnically divided societies spurs secessionist conflicts and civil wars. more