Tunisian demonstrators gather outside the Municipal Theater of Tunis during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied, Sept. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Riadh Dridi).

It’s a bitter irony that the last embers of the Arab Spring may be snuffed out in the same place, Tunisia, where a spark first ignited massive pro-democracy fires across a region filled with dictatorships. Tunisians, at least some of them, seem to be stirring from their jaded acceptance of a presidential coup. Still, the one country that emerged from the Arab uprisings with a semblance of democracy looks like it’s returning to what was the norm before the revolutions it unleashed in 2010. Last Sunday, thousands of people turned out to protest in the Tunisian capital, where President Kais Saied, […]

Guinea’s Junta President Col. Mamady Doumbouya, center, after a meeting with an ECOWAS delegation in Conakry, Guinea, Sept. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

For the past decade and more, the U.S. and other international actors have prioritized a narrowly defined form of stability over democratic accountability in their diplomatic, development and security engagement in West Africa. The only problem is that this approach is not working. West African countries enjoy neither the stability their international partners seek, nor the democracy their citizens desire.  Why, then, is the United States and the rest of the “international community” unwilling or unable to make a course correction in their West Africa engagement? To begin to answer that question, a bit of historical background is necessary. Beginning […]

A police officer patrols alongside a steel wall at Evros river, near the village of Poros, at the Greek-Turkish border, Greece, May 21, 2021 (AP photo by Giannis Papanikos).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Judah Grunstein is filling in this week for Howard French, who will return next week. Has the center held in Europe? The obvious answer would seem to be yes. As has been widely noted, parties on the extremes lost ground in Germany’s election this weekend compared to 2017. And across Europe, far-right and anti-establishment parties similarly seem to be receding in electoral and political relevance. But in other ways, the picture is less heartening, as the impact those parties have had on political discourse has mainstreamed a brand of anti-immigrant, identity-based closure that calls into question […]

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, smiles as she leaves her home in Vancouver, Canada, Sept. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Darryl Dyck).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, China Note, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about China. Subscribe to receive it by email every Wedenesday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. More than 100 million viewers tuned in Saturday to a live state television broadcast of the moment Meng Wanzhou touched down in Shenzhen, where the Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s headquarters is located. After having spent the past three years under house arrest in Canada, Meng—the company’s chief […]

Shoes are placed outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honor the 215 children whose unmarked graves were discovered near the facility, in Kamloops, British Columbia, June 4, 2021 (Photo by Darryl Dyck for the Canadian Press via AP).

Four months ago, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in Canada made international headlines when it announced it had discovered 215 unmarked graves near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. The next month, the Cowessess First Nation announced a similar finding of 751 unmarked graves near Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. A further 160 were soon found at the site of Kuper Island Residential School, near Vancouver, with many more Indigenous communities taking up their own searches for similar sites.  Secwepemc community members, as well as others from communities mounting their own searches, were quick to […]

Chinese President Xi Jinping conducts a press conference at the Belt and Road Forum, at Yanqi Lake on the outskirts of Beijing, April 27, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

The prevailing foreign assistance architecture of today’s world, which prioritizes transparency, inclusion and accountability, was developed and codified in a unipolar system—with significant U.S. leadership and influence. Since the end of the Cold War, Western donors have supported this framework, further developing and codifying it in the Millennium Development Goals of 2000; the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness; the 2008 Accra Agenda, which built on the Paris Declaration; and the 2011 Busan Agreement to standardize good development practice, norms and standards. This architecture is now coming under pressure, largely due to China’s growing interest in and influence over today’s […]

John Ruggie when he was special representative for economy and human rights of the U.N. secretary-general, Berlin, Germany, June 20, 2007 (DPA photo by Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert via AP Images).

On Sept. 16, on the eve of the opening of this year’s United Nations General Assembly, John Ruggie passed away. A giant in the study and practice of world politics, Ruggie’s writings left a lasting impression on a generation of colleagues and students, and his contributions to multilateral cooperation as a U.N. official will reverberate for many more. In a half-century career straddling academia and policymaking, Ruggie enriched our collective understanding of the normative sinews of world order and the endless possibilities of international cooperation.  It is rare for academics to have a direct policy impact, but Ruggie certainly did. […]

Myanmar nationals living in Thailand protest against the military coup in front of the United Nations building in Bangkok, Thailand, March 7, 2021 (AP photo by Nava Sangthong).

In the run-up to this year’s high-level meetings of the United Nations General Assembly, there were almost too many issues to address: a global pandemic, climate change, renewed and continuing conflicts and great power competition, to name a few. But when it came to the crisis in Myanmar, attention focused on a single question: Who should represent the country in New York? The answer would determine how much the international community can do to help Myanmar, a country now teetering on the edge of civil war, in the months ahead. The turmoil began on Feb. 1, when Myanmar’s military, known […]

Argentine president Alberto Fernandez sits next to Vice President Cristina Fernandez as he opens the 2020 session of Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 1, 2020 (AP photo by Marcos Brindicci).

High drama has always been a mainstay of Argentina’s politics. Sadly, although the country’s never-a-dull-moment political machinations provide entertainment value, they almost always unfold against the backdrop of a struggling population.  As political soap operas go, it would be hard to find anything more gripping than what has been unfolding in Buenos Aires in the past few days. Argentines have barely been able to take their eyes away from a pitched battle between President Alberto Fernandez and Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, exploding in full view on social media. As you might recall, Cristina Fernandez, the former president and […]

Col. Assimi Goita, left, head of Mali’s military junta, and retired Col. Maj. Bah N’Daw, right, as N’Daw is sworn into the office of transitional president, Bamako, Mali, Sept. 25, 2020 (AP file photo).

With rising communal and interethnic violence gripping swaths of the country, two coups in less than a year and a deadlocked transition to civilian rule, Mali is arguably facing its most uncertain moment since the 1991 March Revolution, which paved the way for the country’s return to civilian government nearly 30 years ago. Throw in a peace accord with northern insurgent groups on life support, a drawdown of Operation Barkhane—France’s massive counterinsurgency mission across the Sahel—and a rumored deal to deploy Russian private military contractors from the Wagner Group to the country, and it’s fair to say Mali’s immediate and […]

Victor Ruiz Valencia removes his hat during the burial of his cousin, Yaqui Indigenous rights leader Tomas Rojo, who was found dead amid local opposition to construction in the area, in Vicam, Sonora state, Mexico, July 10, 2021 (AP photo/Luis Gutierrez).

According to a report released last week, 2020 was the deadliest year on record for environmental and land rights activists around the world. The human rights organization Global Witness recorded 227 killings of such activists, a tally that it said was almost certainly an undercount.  As the report makes clear, the victims were most often killed while resisting the activities of extractive industries on their land: logging, mining, the clearing of forests for agribusiness and other environmentally destructive activities that fuel the climate crisis. Of the confirmed lethal attacks, the highest number was recorded in Colombia, and nearly three-fourths of […]

Turkish security forces apprehend a group of migrants in an operation aimed at stemming the recent influx of migration, in Van, Turkey, Aug. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

In July, British Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that the U.K. had agreed to pay France roughly $72 million to fund border personnel and equipment that would be used to stop asylum-seekers from crossing the English Channel. The deal came amid a dramatic rise in the number of channel crossings. In the first half of 2021, more than 8,000 asylum-seekers completed the voyage to land on England’s southern shore. The deal with France was controversial, including within Patel’s own Conservative Party. Noting that this was the second such payment to France in the past year, Tim Loughton, a leading Conservative […]

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a news conference in Moscow, Russia, May 12, 2021 (AP pool photo by Maxim Shemetov).

Last September, the United Nations marked its 75th anniversary in somber style, against the backdrop of a once-in-a-century pandemic, a deepening climate crisis, geopolitical tensions and antipathy from its most powerful member. A year on, the United States has returned—for the most part—to the multilateral fold. Otherwise, much remains the same. COVID-19 continues its rampage; global warming and biodiversity loss proceed apace; and great power competition stymies international cooperation. Into this maelstrom steps U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. As world leaders gather in person and virtually for this week’s annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly, Guterres will seek their support […]

A militiaman loyal to Ahmad Massoud, son of the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, stands guard in Panjshir province, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, 2021 (AP photo by Jalaluddin Sekandar).

After a military retreat by Afghanistan’s National Resistance Front last week in the Panjshir Valley, the group’s head of foreign relations, Ali Nazary, appeared in Washington last Friday to vow that it would continue holding out against the Taliban and to seek military assistance for doing so. Yesterday, The New York Times reported that the NRF has hired lobbyist Robert Stryk to seek military and financial support for their ongoing fight against the Taliban.  The NRF has made similar entreaties to the U.K. and France, as well as other countries closer to Afghanistan. They are one of only several militant groups with the potential to muster an […]

A man watches a televised national address by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Managua, Nicaragua, June 23, 2021 (AP photo by Miguel Andres).

The Nicaraguan regime appears to be extending its intensifying wave of repression beyond the country’s borders. Last Saturday, the exiled Nicaraguan pro-democracy activist Joao Maldonado, 34, was nearly killed when a man on a motorcycle fired multiple rounds into the car he was riding in Costa Rica, striking him in the chest and other parts of his body. Maldonado remains in critical condition in a San Jose hospital. And although no perpetrator has been identified, suspicions have fallen on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, whose transformation from independence hero to brutal dictator shows no sign of abating. Maldonado is a well-known leader of the opposition […]

A child using a laptop computer, March 9, 2017 (file photo by Dominic Lipinski for the Press Association via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Kate Jones is filling in this week for Emily Taylor. Ask just about any parent about the impact of technology on their children and they’ll tell you they’re worried, even if most find it near-impossible to identify all the risks, let alone work out how to protect tech-savvy children from them. Online concerns for children include the impact of social media on their mental health; the risks of online grooming of minors by sexual predators; the effect that widespread exposure to pornography has on them; the collection and retention of large amounts of their personal data; and the amount of […]

A U.S. Army doorgunner aboard a Chinook helicopter looks down onto the Afghan landscape enroute to the inauguration ceremony for a Coalition-led Provincial Reconstruction Team outpost in Asadabad, Feb. 19, 2004 (AP photo by Bob Strong).

The 20th anniversary of 9/11 is an opportune moment to reflect on the lessons the United States drew from those horrible events. One of the most problematic was the belief that the main threats to U.S. and international security emanated not from powerful states, as in the past, but from weak and failing ones. This questionable conviction led to a sweeping reorientation of U.S. foreign and national security policy that distracted the country from more important sources of danger and reinforced a militarized approach to the very real development and humanitarian needs of the world’s fragile states.  In late summer […]

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