U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan delivers a speech at Methodist Central Hall in London, Tuesday Jan. 31, 2006 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

Editor’s note: Guest columnist Richard Gowan is filling in for Stewart Patrick, who will return July 12. Some years ago, I wrote a column about the Trump administration’s hapless diplomacy at the United Nations that noted that the U.S. faced “a brace of flash points from Iran to South Sudan.” I did not pause to think what “a brace” was. I must have assumed it meant “a lot.” A few days later, I received a wry email from a gentleman in Oxford pointing out that a brace is in fact a synonym for “a pair.” Trump, he thought, was facing […]

Smoke billows from the chimneys at Lethabo Power Station, a coal fired power station, in Vereeniging, South Africa, Dec. 5, 2018 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

Summer is the time of year when climate change dominates the public conversation, and it came earlier this year than ever before. Hurricanes are battering the Caribbean, and record heat waves—exacerbated by climate change—are scorching Europe and Western North America, with wildfires increasingly encroaching on population centers. This year, over 100,000 more acres have already burned than at the same time last year, though last year’s fire damage was record-breaking as well. Smaller, island nations are in a fight for their very survival. In this context, global efforts to gradually reduce carbon emissions seem paltry at best. The Paris Agreement […]

A new border wall stretches along the landscape near Sasabe, Arizona, May 19, 2021 (AP photo by Ross D. Franklin).

Back in 1990, when the Soviet bloc was crumbling into new nations, Kenichi Ohmae, a Japanese organizational theorist and management consultant, had the audacity to suggest that humankind was on the cusp of a new “borderless world,” in a book of the same name. Ohmae’s goal was mainly to sketch out new ways for businesses to adapt and take advantage of a world that he argued would be increasingly globalized, where nation-states and the borders that help define them would become less and less relevant. For more than two decades, the world seemed to be moving in the direction of […]

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres talks to Syrian refugees in a 4th grade classroom at the U.N.-run Zaatari refugee camp, in northern Jordan, March 28, 2017 (AP photo by Raad Adayleh).

Editor’s note: Guest columnist Richard Gowan is filling in for Emily Taylor, who will return next week. What should people who care about international organizations and conflict management order for their summer reading this year? Closely following the back and forth of day-to-day events can sometimes make it hard to get a clear sense of the health of the international system. The Biden administration has promised that “multilateralism is back,” for instance, but when it comes to handling crises like the coup in Myanmar and challenges like global vaccine distribution, international cooperation still seems distinctly lackluster. With summer here, it’s […]

Protesters take part in a Campaign to Ban Killer Robots demonstration in front of the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin, Germany, March 21, 2019 (Photo by Wolfgang Kumm for dpa via AP Images).

In late May, news broke that a Turkish-made Kargu-2 drone had possibly taken action without the intervention or command of a human operator to hunt down, engage and possibly kill or injure human beings in the Libyan desert last year. The incident, described in a recent United Nations report, spurred a rash of media coverage and commentary along the lines of an Axios article, titled, “The Age of Killer Robots Has Already Begun.” Though some observers argue that what happened, as described by the U.N. report, is less serious than what the media is reporting, the event represents a watershed […]

A Chinese national flag near the surveillance cameras in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, March 15, 2019 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

This week, the 10th anniversary installment of RightsCon, the annual “human rights meets Silicon Valley” jamboree, will take place, with more than 8,500 participants expected to take part in 500 virtual sessions over five days. Ever since Edward Snowden revealed the U.S. government’s mass surveillance programs, the human rights community has perceived Big Tech and Western governments as the two principal “bad guys” in the global tech landscape. But the rise of China and the advent of a multipolar world will bring new human rights challenges associated with technology, including one the human rights community has yet to focus much […]

Herero women sit in a mile-long queue of voters in Katutura, Namibia, Nov. 7, 1989 (AP photo by Billy Paddock).

A decade ago, while researching a book about Chinese migration to Africa, I made an extended stay in Namibia, then one of a small number of African countries I had never visited in a lifetime of writing about the continent. To get to know the place as well as I could, I rented a car and drove with my brother, James, throughout much of the country, a land more than twice the size of Germany. The reference here is appropriate, because it was Germany, a relative latecomer to European imperialism in Africa, that colonized Namibia toward the close of the […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in Menlo Park, Calif., Sept. 27, 2015 (AP photo by Jeff Chiu).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Kate Jones is filling in for Emily Taylor, who will be back next week. Around the world these days, social media’s impact on societies is creating understandable tensions. The way in which social media shapes the public conversation has an unpleasant underbelly, exposing and arguably fostering hate and division, while fueling an explosion of objectionable images ranging from child abuse to revenge porn. The risk is that these tensions will become an excuse for restricting freedom of expression, transforming social media from being platforms that enable limitless voices to reach limitless audiences into platforms that allow […]

Women who lost family members at Srebrenica watch a TV broadcast of the sentencing of Radovan Karadzic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, in Tuzla, Bosnia, March, 24, 2016 (AP photo by Amel Emric).

Editor’s Note: This article contains descriptions of wartime violence and rape. PRISTINA—It’s a cold morning in Rance, a mountainous village east of Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, and Isak Asllani is preparing to pay tribute at a memorial for his fallen family and friends. It is a painful ritual he carries out every Feb. 17 to mark the anniversary of Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008, and the end of decades of conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Asllani was 40 years old in May 1998, when he decided to join the Kosovo Liberation Army, the ethnic Albanian, separatist guerilla group that fought […]