President Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens, in Washington, Nov. 12, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

President Joe Biden took office last year during one of the most turbulent times the United States had experienced in decades. Though his administration has tackled important foreign policy issues, it has also faced multiple domestic crises, so the primary focus of this first year has been on the urgent matters at home. In 2022, though, the world is likely to demand more of Biden’s attention, even as the domestic challenges remain far from resolved. Some of the foreign policy issues are expected and already evident. To start, Biden will have to work to help the entire planet, including poor […]

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam listens to a reporter’s question during a press conference in Beijing, Dec. 22, 2021 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

A record low 30 percent of the Hong Kong electorate voted in Sunday’s legislative elections, the first to be held since Beijing’s overhaul of the city’s electoral system to ensure that only “patriots” can run for public office there. The dramatic drop in voter turnout—as compared with 57 percent in the previous city-wide elections in 2016 and a record 71 percent in district council elections in 2019—reflects the “silent opposition” of the people of Hong Kong to the electoral changes, many activists in exile said. Described by the Hong Kong government as “improvements” over the previous system, the revamped rules curtailed […]

Climate activist Vanessa Nakate, third right, and other activists stage a protest at the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 8, 2021 (AP photo by Alastair Grant).

Though many of us hoped that 2021 would bring some relief after the trials and tribulations of 2020, this year has been a bumpy ride. On Jan. 6, just one week into 2021, supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington—an international beacon of liberal democracy. This seemed to set the tone for the rest of the year. Everywhere, anti-democratic, misogynistic and racist forces made gains; in particular, the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan this summer left many despondent about the country’s future. And all the while, the coronavirus pandemic continued to wreak havoc, especially on the lives of those who are victims of global vaccine inequity. In the middle of all this chaos, though, […]

Illegally cut logs lay on the bank of the Putaya River between the Ashaninka Indigenous communities of Saweto and Puerto Putaya, Peru, March 17, 2015 (AP photo by Martin Mejia).

Peru’s portion of the Amazon jungle accounts for more than half the country’s land area and, at 13 percent of the Amazon’s total territory, the second-largest share of the rainforest after Brazil. While the rate of deforestation of Peru’s Amazon forests lags that of Brazil’s, it is the country’s primary source of greenhouse gas emissions. Growing concerns over both deforestation’s contribution to climate change and its impact on the region’s Indigenous peoples have now led the Peruvian government to increase its focus on combatting the phenomenon.   Though Peru is not a significant producer of greenhouse gases, it is likely to suffer immensely from climate change and has already […]

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, Dec. 11, 2021 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

What is the U.S. up to in the Middle East? How does the granular reality of developments as seen from the region square with Washington’s strategic assessment? Last week, a senior Biden administration official offered some answers to those questions in a briefing for journalists on the White House’s plan for a realistic, downsized Middle East policy. (Though the official remained anonymous, it sounds an awful lot like Brett McGurk ). Whether or not this plan will work—and I’m not so sure that it will—the administration’s description of its own approach sounds accurate, and that’s a welcome change. It does away […]

Several thousand supporters of the party of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili gather to demand his release from prison due to ill health, in Tbilisi, Russia, Oct. 14, 2021 (AP photo by Shakh Aivazov).

TBILISI—On a chilly mid-November evening in Tbilisi, the scene outside of Georgia’s Parliament looked like a bit like rock concert: Huge speakers stood tall on either side of a broad stage; camera crews were lined up and ready to shoot; and spotlights glared out over the thousands of people massing on Rustaveli Avenue. The chants, though, were not for a rock star, but for “Misha”—that is, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who despite living in exile for eight years, was evidently still able to draw a crowd. Saakashvili had returned to Georgia on Oct. 1 and was immediately detained by […]

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers closing remarks to the virtual Summit for Democracy, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Washington, Dec. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

More than a week after U.S. President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy, much of the controversy surrounding the lead-up to the event has fizzled toward ambivalence, or even relief.  Many had feared that, given its own highly visible democratic erosion in recent years, the U.S. would lack the legitimacy to lead such a summit and would come across as hypocritical in doing so. But at the virtual gathering, Biden and other U.S. officials forthrightly acknowledged the shortcomings of the United States’ democracy and the significant domestic challenges the country continues to face.  Others had expected the event to be performative, […]

Afghans wait in front of a bank as they try to withdraw money in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2021 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

As 2021 comes to a close, the international community faces several emerging humanitarian and security catastrophes—even beyond the global pandemic that has gripped the world for two years. Ethiopia is undergoing a complex and multifaceted civil war that has spurred a humanitarian disaster of monumental proportions, with nearly 1 million people now living in conditions approaching famine. Meanwhile, Russia has been building up its military presence on its border with Ukraine, increasing tensions with the West and prompting fears that there will be yet another attack on Ukrainian sovereignty. And in the Taliban’s Afghanistan, more children are expected to die this winter from starvation than […]

A pro-democracy protester flashes the victory sign during a protest against a military coup, Khartoum, Sudan, Oct. 25, 2021 (AP photo by Ashraf Idris).

When I first joined the WPR editorial team and took over Africa Watch, I wrote an inaugural edition introducing myself and my guiding principles, as well as the trends, topics and developments you could expect to see me cover in the newsletter as well as in my other writings for WPR.  It’s now been six months since I began writing these newsletters, an experience that has been as remarkable as it has been exciting. And while the newsletter’s format has since evolved, I would like to believe that the orientation I set out in that edition has largely remained intact.  During […]

A car approaches the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S., Blaine, Wash., June 8, 2021 (AP photo by Elaine Thompson).

In trying to take stock of 2021, it’s hard to draw definitive conclusions, given all the seemingly contradictory trends on display over the past 12 months. The year began with the almost miraculous rollout of coronavirus vaccines, less than a year after the onset of the global pandemic that upended life across the planet. But it ends with huge disparities in access to those vaccines among nations and regions, and a small but significant proportion of people rejecting them even in the wealthy countries that do have easy access to them. Though it opened with scenes of shocking violence in […]

A Chinese honor guard member walks past a poster of Chinese President Xi Jinping near the entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing, Sept. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

China’s “coercive economic policies” took center stage at last weekend’s G-7 foreign ministers’ meeting, after an eventful week that saw Nicaragua break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of Beijing and China upping the ante in its retaliation against Lithuania, after the Baltic country permitted a Taiwanese Representative Office to open in Vilnius last month. Nicaragua announced Friday that it would sever long-standing ties with Taiwan, further reducing the number of countries that still recognize the self-governing democracy as a sovereign nation to 14. (Honduras’ incoming president, Xiomara Castro, had made a similar pledge during her campaign, though she has […]

A protester dressed as as “Lady Justice” poses during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Oct. 26, 2016 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

If you ask young people what they want, the word that comes up most often is justice. Across the world, at all levels of governance, young people are fighting for social, economic and environmental justice—not just in the abstract sense of achieving equity, but also in seeking justice as an everyday, essential government service. But too often, these advocates have been let down by the police, courts and other institutions whose roles in society are to ensure and promote this justice. In part, this is a story of neglect. In every country, justice systems are not equipped to deliver justice […]

Tunisians demonstrate against Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis, Tunisia, Oct. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Hassene Dridi).

Tunisian President Kais Saied announced a timeline for a new constitutional referendum Monday, to be followed by elections to restore the parliament he disbanded in July. But the plan remains silent on the question of who will draft the new constitution, and Saied’s announcement suggests that the country will remain without an elected legislature for at least another year. Saied said in a televised speech that there would be three months of vaguely defined consultations before the constitutional referendum, which is to be held next year on July 25—the one-year anniversary of his seizure of power. Tunisians would then go […]

A Moroccan U.N. peacekeeper patrols Bangassou, Central African Republic, Feb. 14, 2021 (AP photo by Adrienne Surprenant).

2021 has been a dispiriting year for advocates of multilateral conflict management. The ignominious end of the international intervention in Afghanistan was an embarrassment not only for the U.S., but also for those institutions, including NATO and the United Nations, that had supported it. The U.N. Security Council has bickered fruitlessly over how to deal with crises ranging from the coup in Myanmar to the war in Ethiopia. Regional bodies such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, and the African Union have done little better at handling conflicts on their doorsteps. As if that weren’t enough, as […]

A soldier walks past a poster of Thomas Sankara outside a bar that was attacked by al-Qaida-linked extremists in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Jan. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

OUAGADOUDOU, Burkina Faso—Dressed in green leopard-patterned fatigues, Gen. Gilbert Diendere was ready for battle in early November as he stood in the witness dock of a converted court room in Ouagadougou. Lawyers fired questions from all directions about his involvement in the assassination of Burkina Faso’s revolutionary president, Capt. Thomas Sankara, as well as eight of his bodyguards and four civilians on Oct. 15, 1987.  Diendere, who has been accused of complicity in the killings, seemed to have an answer for all of them. He heard gunshots and saw Sankara’s dead body, he claimed, but didn’t see the shooter, echoing […]

An Afghan man walks at the Afghanistan-Iran border crossing of Islam Qala, Nov. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Petros Giannakouris).

More than 22 million Afghans, many of them children, are at risk of starvation and exposure to cold this winter, The New York Times reported this week. Afghanistan was already experiencing food insecurity prior to the United States’ withdrawal, due to drought and harvest failure, but now, according to the United Nations Development Program, more than 8 million are facing famine.  Poor governance by the Taliban and their restrictions on women have contributed to general insecurity. But the country’s dire economic situation—which saw millions of dollars of foreign aid, constituting 43 percent of its gross domestic product, disappear overnight—has also dramatically worsened due to three […]

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the White House during the opening of the Democracy Summit, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, looks on, Washington, Dec. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Leaders from government, civil society, journalism and the private sector in 17 African countries have been invited by U.S. President Joe Biden to join their counterparts from nearly 100 other nations at a two-day virtual summit on democracy. While campaigning for his party’s presidential nomination, Biden made the defense and promotion of democracy at home and abroad a cornerstone of his agenda. In particular, Biden pledged to host a summit for democracy in his first year in office, a promise this gathering fulfills.  Biden administration officials described the summit as offering an “affirmative agenda for democratic renewal” focused on three […]

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