A Bolivian military policeman watches a tanker enter Brazil’s Petrobras refinery a day after then-President Evo Morales ordered soldiers to occupy Bolivia’s natural gas fields, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, May 2, 2006 (AP photo by Victor R. Caivano).

LA PAZ, Bolivia—In the past 15 years, the Bolivian economy tripled in size and poverty was cut in half, achievements built in large part on state spending fueled by the income from natural gas exports. But since 2013 those exports have dwindled, leaving a hole in Bolivia’s public finances that challenges the sustainability of its economic model. On May 1, 2006, then-President Evo Morales marched troops into Bolivia’s gas fields, declaring, “The plunder has ended.” He had recently led the Movement Toward Socialism, or MAS, to power, campaigning on a platform to wrest control of the country’s resources from foreign interests and to spread the wealth […]

Thai activists and Greenpeace activists stand in front of plastic and electronic waste at Foreign Ministry in Bangkok, Thailand, June 20, 2019 (AP photo by Sakchai Lalit).

Plastics, e-waste and other hazardous waste are routinely traded across borders in what amounts to an “out of sight, out of mind” approach for the rich countries that produce them. The story is more complicated for the communities that receive and dispose of the waste. Hazardous waste poses risks to the health of local communities and the environment, spurring attempts to ban its movement across borders. But in countries like Turkey, Vietnam and Ghana, waste is often processed to extract its residual value. The important source of income it provides explains why those efforts have been of limited success and […]

Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga arrives at a rally of his supporters to declare his 2022 presidential bid, Nairobi, Kenya, Dec. 10, 2021 (Sipa photo by Donwilson Odhiambo via AP Images).

Over the course of the next two and a half years, voters in several of Africa’s largest and most populous countries will be going to the polls, with a lot riding on the outcomes. This year, Kenya and Angola will both elect a president and national legislature to five-year terms. In 2023, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, two of Africa’s four most-populous countries, are scheduled to hold general elections that include keenly anticipated presidential races, as are Zimbabwe and Madagascar. The following year, Egyptians, Rwandans and South Africans will cast ballots in elections that will ostensibly determine the […]

A Ukrainian servicemember, seen through a camouflage mesh, stands at a frontline position in the Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, Jan. 29, 2022 (AP photo by Vadim Ghirda).

The terms “deterrence” and “coercive diplomacy” have figured prominently in debates over how the West should respond to the ongoing crisis over a potential Russian incursion into Ukraine. Much of the focus of those debates, however, has been narrow and episodic—how to prevent a Russian attack, for instance, or get Moscow to pull back its forces from the Russian-Ukraine border. While both concepts are necessary to understand the tensions currently on display in Europe between Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and NATO, those tensions must be seen through a broader and more holistic lens, because the current crisis is the result […]

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for an EU-AU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Feb. 17, 2022 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Seventy presidents and prime ministers from Europe and Africa are gathered today in Brussels for a long-awaited European Union-African Union summit, the sixth such summit between the two blocs. But ahead of that gathering, Europe’s 27 leaders huddled together for an emergency meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. The emergency meeting was called by European Council President Charles Michel to brief the bloc’s leaders on the latest developments in the crisis, including a reported shelling of a kindergarten in eastern Ukraine, which occurred as the meeting of EU leaders was taking place. The EU leaders also heard a presentation […]

Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi at the Elysee Palace, Paris, April 27, 2021 (AP photo by Thibault Camus).

Last week, the United Nations’ top court ordered Uganda to pay the sum of $325 million to the Democratic Republic of Congo for the East African country’s role in the brutal war there at the turn of the century. The International Court of Justice, or ICJ, ruled on Feb. 9 that Uganda had violated international norms as an occupying force between 1998 and 2003, and was responsible for the deaths of up to 15,000 people in Congo’s eastern Ituri region. Ugandan troops were also found to have looted precious gold, diamonds and timber from Congo. The case is both an […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in a joint press conference with Fiji’s acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Nadi, Fiji, Feb. 12, 2022 (AP photo by Kevin Lamarque).

With the first visit in four decades by a U.S. secretary of state to Fiji and plans to open an embassy in the Solomon Islands reportedly in the works, Washington officially announced its “return” to the Pacific Islands this past weekend. “It is about building a free and open Indo-Pacific, defending it with democratic institutions, with transparency, with commitment to a rules-based order that we share,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a joint press conference with Acting Fijian Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum on Feb. 12. Blinken spoke after a virtual meeting with 18 Pacific Island leaders meant to […]

A woman buys tomatoes and onions from street-sellers in Lagos, Nigeria, April 13, 2020 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

Given the enormous impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global public finances, it is hardly surprising that cash-strapped governments across Africa—from Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon to Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe—are experimenting with a range of tax increases to broaden state revenues. That, in turn, has put the spotlight on tax collection across Africa more broadly.  A recent Financial Times article discussing Nigeria’s paltry formal revenue collection rates is emblematic of the usual coverage of the issues involved, which are recurring topics of discussion on social media and in other public arenas,  including among prospective candidates in Nigeria’s upcoming presidential election. But while the question of […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping exchange documents during a signing ceremony following their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019 (AP file photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

With the Winter Olympics now underway, all eyes are fixed on the competing athletes as they take to the ice and snow. But amid the dazzling displays of athletic prowess, significant developments have simultaneously taken place on the diplomatic sidelines of the Games. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived in Beijing last Friday ahead of the opening ceremony of the Winter Games, met his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, marking their first in-person encounter in two years, ostensibly due to Xi’s self-imposed travel restriction amid the coronavirus pandemic. The talks, described by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng as “very successful,” ended […]

A worker at a Ukrainian gas station in Volovets, Ukraine, Oct. 7, 2015 (AP file photo by Pavlo Palamarchuk).

The current crisis between Russia and Ukraine has put the United States and its European allies on high alert over the possibility of the first major interstate military conflict in Europe since World War II. Although efforts to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis continue, the room for a mutually acceptable outcome has narrowed now that the U.S. and NATO have rejected Russia's demands that no additional NATO troops be deployed to Eastern Europe, while continuing to provide arms and other aid to Ukraine. Apart from the concerns the crisis has raised over European security and Russian revanchism, Europe […]

Miners watch the rescue efforts for two fellow gold miners at La Solution mine in La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 20, 2010 (AP file photo by Juan Karita).

LA PAZ, Bolivia—In early December, United Nations rapporteurs published a letter of allegations against the Bolivian government, citing the untrammeled import and use of mercury for gold mining, and suggesting that Bolivia had become a gateway for contraband mercury going to other Amazonian countries. It further accused Bolivia of failing to comply with the Minamata Convention that regulates the use of toxic substances. In signing the Minamata Convention along with almost every South American country in 2013, Bolivia committed to curbing and eventually eliminating almost all uses of mercury, including in artisanal gold mining. Bolivia ratified the agreement in 2015, and […]

President Joe Biden, right, shakes hands with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, Jan. 31, 2022 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Just before U.S. President Joe Biden met with Qatar’s emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in the Oval Office on Tuesday, the White House shared a post on Twitter listing the visit’s agenda, which included “security and prosperity in the Middle East, global energy supplies, Afghanistan and more.” It was clear Sheikh Tamim’s visit was not just symbolic. Sheikh Tamim is the first regional leader to meet with Biden since he became president, a sign that Washington views Doha as an important element in confronting urgent U.S. priorities. And as if to underscore that point, Biden announced this week that he had designated […]