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 […]

Residents get tested for the coronavirus in a district in Guangzhou, in southern China's Guangdong province, May 30, 2021 (AP photo).

Last weekend, the number of new symptomatic COVID-19 cases in China hit a peak not seen since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The spike was seen as significant enough to warrant locking down Xi’an, a city of more than 13 million people. Here, as a writer, I feel a little ill-equipped to flesh out this news without some kind of dramatic accompaniment, so please imagine a drumroll. The reported new high for daily symptomatic cases in this country of 1.4 billion people was all of 164. Surface appearances make it difficult to assess news like this. Across broad […]

People wearing facemasks to curb the spread of coronavirus walk at the Mayor square in downtown Madrid, Spain, Dec. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced yesterday that theaters and cinemas in the country will close, while stopping short of imposing a  full lockdown, as is now the case in neighboring Netherlands.  Last week’s announcement of the full lockdown by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, just days after he clinched a deal to form a new government, came as a surprise to observers, given that the country generally adopted a more relaxed response in the early phases of the pandemic than its neighbors. Now it is the only country in Europe so far to have locked down in response to concerns over […]

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the media after meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Pretoria, South Africa, Nov. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

If anyone was hoping for a post-pandemic renewal of international cooperation in a world still feeling the aftershocks from Brexit, Donald Trump’s presidency, trade wars and global supply chain disruptions, they would likely be disappointed today. International relations in 2020 were driven primarily by the politics of aid and mask diplomacy. The second year of the coronavirus pandemic has been all about vaccines, geopolitical competition and travel restrictions.  In a July edition of my Africa Watch newsletter, I noted that the rhetoric of renewed multilateralism heard at global summits and other international fora at the onset of the pandemic ultimately […]

An aerial view of the Siachen Glacier, which traverses the Himalayan region dividing India and Pakistan, northwest of Jammu, India, Feb. 1, 2005 (AP photo by Channi Anand).

In 2004, with the aid of a hardy villager who joined me in one of the most arduous physical experiences of my life, I hiked for four hours high in the mountains of Tibet with a group of Chinese scientists who were studying the alarming retreat of glaciers in the Himalayas. At nearly 12,000 feet above sea level, we reached a formidable ice sheet the scientists had been studying for some time. There, at the receding edge of a steep glacier, had formed a river, newborn in geological time, and yet already raging in a ferocious torrent less than 100 […]

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 […]

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 […]

A billboard seeking information on persons involved with the assault at the Capitol is displayed at a bus stop in Washington, Jan. 17, 2021 (AP photo by David Goldman).

As the coronavirus pandemic continued into its second year, its impact on terrorist attacks worldwide was palpable—and positive. In a report on terrorism from July, the United Nations stated that “in non-conflict zones … the threat remains suppressed by limitations on the ability of operatives to travel, meet, fundraise and identify viable targets.”  Nevertheless, though terrorism, like almost every other human activity, has been constrained by the pandemic, it hasn’t stopped evolving in the past year, shaped by several key developments. As more widespread distribution of vaccines allows parts of the world to begin opening up, there is growing concern that counterterrorism practitioners […]

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 group photo of the leaders of EU member states and the Eastern Partnership countries at a summit in Brussels, Dec. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Olivier Matthys).

The European Union’s 27 national leaders are meeting in Brussels for a European Council summit to discuss a coordinated response to Russia’s provocations along its border with Ukraine as well as the new omicron variant of the coronavirus rapidly spreading across Europe. But it appears that internal divisions could hamper both efforts. Ahead of the summit yesterday, the EU leaders met with their five counterparts from the Eastern Partnership countries—Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan—in a show of solidarity with Kyiv. Speaking after the meeting last night, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said there was a “shared concern […]

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 […]

Workers advertise their skills while looking for work outside a hardware store in a Johannesburg suburb, Feb. 26, 2020 (AP photo by Denis Farrell).

As 2021 comes to a close, a wide range of commentators—including international financial organizations, regional development banks, credit agencies, consulting firms and media organizations—have begun rolling out their forecasts for the coming year’s global economic outlook. Figuring centrally in all these projections is how the global economy will recover from the stop-and-start effects of the coronavirus pandemic over the past two years.  But for the approximately 1.4 billion people in Africa’s 54 countries, the overwhelming majority of whom remain unvaccinated, the question isn’t just how to build back better from a pandemic that plunged the continent into its first recession […]

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 […]

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