Entrance to the summit of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, Lisbon, Portugal, July 24, 2008 (AP Photo by Joao Henriques).

Last week, the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) held its 10th Summit of Heads of State and Government in East Timor. The meeting produced several resolutions regarding scientific and cultural topics, as well as a number of political statements linked to Guinea Bissau’s elections and mutual political support in international institutions. But perhaps the most important decision made at the summit was the acceptance of Equatorial Guinea, currently the third-largest oil exporter in sub-Saharan Africa, as a full member of the CPLP. The four-year process that led to last week’s outcome was far from smooth, as Portugal vetoed Equatorial […]

An often neglected but fundamentally important victim of conflict is the physical manifestations of a community, a people, a nation—their heritage. The cultural heritage of France and Belgium was utterly devastated during World War I, epitomized by the burning of the medieval library at Leuven and destruction of the cathedral of Rheims. A century later conflicts in states such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria continue to be characterized by the destruction of cultural heritage. So how far have we come in protecting cultural heritage from the devastating effects of war? Over the past century, surprisingly far, and at the same […]

For the better part of their existence, the global anti-war and the environmentalist movements have typically existed side by side, each pursuing noble but separate aims. Today, however, a new trend has become apparent: the mutually reinforcing interaction between human violence and planetary change. No longer can peace and the environment be seen as separate issues. Consequently, no longer can the two movements merely work side by side; they must work as one. From Violent Conflict to Environmental Stress Data collection on war-related environmental effects is dangerous, complex and costly, meaning that our understanding of the environmental impact of war […]

French police officers detain a suspected jihadists during a raid in Strasbourg, France, May 13, 2014 (AP photo by Jean Francois Badias).

Europe’s strategic situation is simultaneously precarious and curiously comfortable. From eastern Ukraine to northern Africa, conflicts crowd in on the European Union (EU). Yet the bloc’s security may actually benefit from the ongoing instability in cases such as Ukraine, Mali and even Syria. The longer these conflicts absorb the energies of potential foes, ranging from Russian President Vladimir Putin to various Islamist radical groups, the less likely they are to menace the EU directly. Europeans have little or no appetite to get involved in these wars, leading critics to grumble that they refuse to fight for their interests. But it […]

Senegalese President Macky Sall in Abuja, Nigeria, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 (AP Photo / Sunday Alamba).

In early July, Senegalese President Macky Sall named his third prime minister after his ruling Alliance for the Republic party lost last month’s local elections. In an email interview, Paul Melly, associate fellow in the Africa Programme at Chatham House, discussed Senegalese politics, the party’s future and the effectiveness of Sall’s reform program. WPR: What was behind the ruling Alliance for the Republic party’s loss in last month’s local elections? Paul Melly: The Senegalese are impatient to see real improvements in living standards and basic services such as power supply. When Sall was triumphantly elected in 2012, popular expectations for […]

Sudan People's Liberation Army soldiers move toward frontline positions near Pana Kuach, Unity State, South Sudan, May 11, 2012 photo (AP Photo by Pete Muller).

Seven months after fighting broke out between the government of South Sudan and anti-government forces, the conflict is at a stalemate, both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. Unlike the early days of the conflict, when cities like Bor, Bentiu and Malakal changed hands multiple times, the status quo has largely held since the onset of the rainy season in May. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)—the East African regional organization that spearheaded the peace process between Sudan and now-independent South Sudan in the 1990s—has taken the lead to bring the government, represented by the ruling Sudan People’s […]

Members of Anti-balaka, a Christian militia, Bangui, Central African Republic, Feb. 26, 2014 (AP photo via Kyodo by Tomoaki Nakano).

All sides in Central African Republic’s civil war are looking to a peace conference this week in Brazzaville, the capital of the neighboring Republic of Congo, in the hopes that it could yield a cease-fire agreement. Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso is presiding over the summit, which began yesterday and will run until July 23, under the auspices of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). However, there are already major questions about what the meeting can actually achieve. As of the opening of the summit, it was still unclear who would be representing the main rebel group, Seleka. What’s […]

DRC citizen deported from Brazaville waiting to be transferred from Maluku, Democratic Republic of the Congo, May 23, 2014 (U.N. photo by Sylvain Liechti).

Over 130,000 citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been deported from or otherwise driven out of the neighboring Republic of Congo since April 4. The U.N., backed by multiple human rights groups, has declared these expulsions “an acute humanitarian crisis” and accused security personnel in the Republic of Congo of physically and sexually abusing the deportees. More than 2,400 of these deportees lack the resources to return to their homes and have ended up in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kinshasa, the DRC’s sprawling capital. “This issue of immigration from DRC to Brazzaville is a […]

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at the World Cup soccer match between Ghana and the United States, Natal, Brazil, June 16, 2014 (AP photo by Julio Cortez).

The United States missed out on a rare geopolitical opportunity this past week. Vice President Joe Biden, who has emerged in Barack Obama’s second term as more of an alter ego for the president on both the domestic and international stages, should have taken a short trip to Brazil for the World Cup final. Sure, the U.S. team had already been eliminated, but as the fabled “reassurer” who travels to different parts of the globe to shore up American commitments, Biden still had a plausible excuse to drop in at the close of the tournament: to congratulate Brazil on a […]

Mauritanian troops along the Mali-Mauritania border, August 2010 (photo by Wikimedia user Magharebia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

Western governments mostly welcomed the re-election of Mauritania’s strongman, President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, last month, despite low turnout and an opposition boycott. Mauritania’s growing importance in regional counterterrorism and security efforts against al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other militant groups has shielded Aziz from outside pressure to reform. Yet the West should not confuse Aziz with the entire Mauritanian regime. His authority has limits and largely depends on the backing of the military. Moreover, though Aziz has proven to be a shrewd political operator, he is not immune to internal dissent, including among the military. Strengthening the […]

Healthcare workers from Doctors Without Borders prepare isolation and treatment areas for their Ebola operations, Gueckedou, Guinea, March 28, 2014 (AP photo by Kjell Gunnar Beraas).

An ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, already the deadliest in the history of the disease, continues to spread, with 964 confirmed cases and 603 deaths. In an email interview, Jeremy Youde, associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota Duluth, discussed the international response to the disease, led by the World Health Organization, in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. WPR: What conditions have enabled the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa? Jeremy Youde: Environmentally, deforestation and increased mining activity may have pushed humans into greater contact with bats and monkeys, both of which are suspected vectors of […]

Fishermen on the Niger River, Mali, Jan. 4, 2007 (photo by Flickr user Carsten ten Brink licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license).

West Africa’s Niger River Basin has been the location of many high-profile conflicts in recent years, including the decades-long violence in the river’s delta region and the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, and another Islamist insurgency in neighboring Mali. However, another form of conflict has also gripped the region: Violence between farmers and herders has already killed over 1,000 people this year in Nigeria alone, according to Human Rights Watch, and it is increasing. At the root of many such incidents is the issue of access to land and water resources. In the western Sahel region, climate and demographic changes […]

African Union headquarters, Addis Ababa, February 2012 (photo by Wikimedia user Danmichaelo, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license).

The opening session of last month’s African Union (AU) summit in Equatorial Guinea featured a debut speech from a newly elected African leader: Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, president of Egypt. Less than a year ago, the African bloc had suspended Egypt’s membership in response to the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi by el-Sisi, then head of the armed forces and minister of defense. The African Union was the only major international actor to formally sanction Egypt after Morsi’s overthrow. Its decision was hailed by observers as a sign that the organization was capable of taking a principled stance and applying sanctions […]

Congolese and U.N. forces celebrate after seizing a position from M23 fighters (U.N. photo by Sylvain Liechti).

The Democratic Republic of Congo has changed. Five years ago, the country’s eastern provinces were entering a second decade of low-intensity violence marked by the proliferation of armed groups perpetrating atrocities that had enveloped the region since the collapse of the Zairian state in 1996-1997. The ineffective, grossly undersized United Nations peacekeeping mission struggled to keep track of the chaos around it, and diplomatic efforts to address the conflict had little impact. The national army, known as the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), was useless at best and actively harmed the population at worst. When rebels […]

Multilateral development banks (MDBs) have long played an important role in international development finance. Subregional development banks (SRDBs) have had a more limited function, until the emergence of a few dynamic institutions in recent years. This paper explores the origins of MDBs and SRDBs; considers key issues and trends in their purpose, governance and financing; and explores challenges and opportunities that MDBs and SRDBs face in a changing global development environment. Origins of Multilateral and Subregional Development Banks The current international monetary and development architecture has a long history, going back to the establishment of the International Monetary Fund and […]

Informal finance is ancient. What is it, and does it still have a place in today’s economies? Throughout the first half of the 19th century and into the 1970s, informal finance was studied by anthropologists under the heading of indigenous or traditional organizations. In the 1970s, technical assistance agencies rediscovered these organizations in the context of self-help based on savings, a concept that had been central to the credit cooperative movement founded in the 19th century by the German mayor Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen. In the 1980s, self-help groups (SHGs) came to be known as informal financial institutions, and their reputation […]