A Russia-backed rebel rests after fighting, near Donetsk airport, eastern Ukraine, June 12, 2015 (AP photo by Mstyslav Chernov).

In a speech at last week’s annual conference of the Center for a New American Security, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken described Russia and China as presenting a common challenge to the U.S.-backed “global order,” a characterization that echoes that of various Western think tanks and scholars in recent months. Elaborating, Blinken said, “In both eastern Ukraine and the South China Sea, we’re witnessing efforts to unilaterally and coercively change the status quo . . .” The United States, he said, would counter by “seizing America’s unique capacity to mobilize against common threats and lead the international community to […]

Pro-democracy protesters shout slogans after lawmakers voted against the election reform proposals, Hong Kong, June 18, 2015 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

Earlier this month, Hong Kong’s legislature vetoed an election-reform package that was backed by mainland China but strongly criticized by pro-democracy lawmakers and activists. In an email interview, Michael C. Davis, professor at the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, discussed Hong Kong’s democracy movement. WPR: What do democratic advocates in Hong Kong fear from China’s proposed electoral plan? Michael C. Davis: China’s democratic reform proposal essentially provides for a vetted election for Hong Kong’s chief executive. Under the Aug. 31, 2014, Beijing decision and the Hong Kong legislative bill to carry it out, a heavily pro-Beijing 1,200-member nominating […]

An operator controlled robot is run through an obstacle course in a "robot rodeo" at the New York State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany, NY, June 24, 2015 (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Harley Jelis).

The U.S. Navy and Air Force have begun preliminary work on developing a sixth-generation unmanned fighter. In an email interview, Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and co-author of “Ghost Fleet,” discussed the next generation in U.S. military technology. WPR: What are some of the already operational next-generation U.S. military technologies that emerged from, or were accelerated by, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Peter Singer: In some ways you can think of Iraq and Afghanistan as akin to World War I, where a number of science fiction-like technologies made their bones. Back then it […]

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou announces his South China Sea Peace Initiative during the 2015 ILA-ASIL Asia Pacific Research Forum in Taipei, Taiwan, May 26, 2015 (AP photo by Wally Santana).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the South China Sea territorial disputes and the various claimant countries’ approaches to addressing them. Last month, Taiwan proposed a peace plan to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea and reduce regional tensions. In an email interview, Lynn Kuok, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies and a senior visiting fellow at the Centre for International Law, Singapore, discussed Taiwan’s role in the South China Sea disputes. WPR: What are Taiwan’s claims in the South China Sea, and to what […]

Rohingya migrants sit in their room at a temporary shelter, Bayeun, Aceh Province, Indonesia, June 1, 2015 (AP photo by Binsar Bakkara).

Over the past month, Myanmar’s multiple domestic crises have spilled over its borders and into South and Southeast Asia, setting back the country’s reforms just before Myanmar’s highly anticipated national elections this fall. Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence and discrimination in western Myanmar have attracted the most global news coverage. Their plight in rickety boats with little food or water has sparked international calls for Myanmar’s government to take stronger measures to end discrimination against the Rohingya and address the crisis at its source. But the flight of the Rohingya is just one issue undermining Myanmar’s stability. Fighting has flared again […]

Syrian refugees mass at the Turkish border while they flee intense fighting in northern Syria between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants in Akcakale, southeastern Turkey, June 15, 2015 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

Nearly 60 million people last year were displaced by war, conflict and persecution, the highest number ever on record, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) annual report today. The largest source of refugees is Syria, with 3.9 million Syrian refugees in 107 countries. Syria overtook Afghanistan in the U.N.’s ranking; Afghanistan had previously held that position for more than 30 years. As U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonia Guterres said, “We are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement as well as the response required […]

New Filipino professional nurses take their oaths during a ceremony at a convention center, Manila, Philippines, Sept. 20, 2010 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

The Philippines’ labor export system is a potential model for other developing countries. But there are concerns about how Filipino migrants are treated abroad, as well as the potential effects of a skills drain at home. In the 1970s, in order to address an escalating unemployment rate and balance of payments crisis, the Philippine government adopted a comprehensive range of policies that, among other things, systematically encouraged the export of contract labor from throughout the country. The program, developed during the long military dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, was rationalized as a temporary measure to address the country’s immediate problems. Four […]

Boys take a walk at Azraq refugee camp in Azraq, Jordan, March 10, 2015 (AP photo by Raad Adayleh).

The world is finally waking up to the fact that the international humanitarian system is falling apart. European nations are bickering over how to handle Syrian refugees, while Southeast Asian nations grapple with the outflow of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. Liberal commentators see parallels with the flight of Jews from Germany in the 1930s. “It is clear that the United States and other developed countries must find more room for refugees,” The New York Times editorialized this weekend, adding that United Nations agencies that help those who are suffering should be “amply funded.” U.N. officials reading these lines are likely […]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina witnessing the exchange of agreements between India and Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh, June 6, 2015 (photo from the website of the Indian Prime Minister).

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh earlier this month brought with it the formal ratification of a historic land border agreement that finally settles a four-decades-long dispute. Pocked with enclaves and counter-enclaves, the border between India and Bangladesh was a geographical oddity—and a headache for New Delhi and Dhaka. The land swap that Modi agreed to had been in the works for a while; it was actually signed by both governments in 1974, but never ratified. At the cost of ceding some land to Bangladesh, the deal is in keeping with Modi’s agenda to rebuild strategic trust with […]

Supporters of Pakistani religious parties rally to support the Saudi Arabian government in Karachi, Pakistan, May 8, 2015 (AP photo by Fareed Khan).

Among the many challenges Saudi Arabia has faced in recent months, one has come as a particularly unexpected disappointment: the cooling of relations between the desert kingdom and one of the main recipients of its largesse, Pakistan. For decades Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed a robust friendship with significant strategic and financial ramifications. But suddenly, Islamabad appears to feel much less warmly disposed toward its wealthy Arab friend. The change came as a blast of cold air in April, when the Pakistani parliament voted unanimously to rebuff a Saudi request for troops and equipment to help its war against […]

A man plays an accordion in front of the “lovelocks” left by tourists on the Pont des Artes, Paris, Sept. 6, 2013 (photo by Flickr user Ben Francis, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic).

Tourism and travel are usually seen as what people do when taking time off from real life. An industry built on beach resorts and ski chalets, bus tours of the Eiffel Tower and African safaris doesn’t seem to rise to the same level of concern as burst oil pipelines or illegal logging in the Amazon. Yet considered as an industry, global travel and tourism is the world’s largest employer; would rank as the fifth-largest carbon emitter if it were a country; is second only to energy as the favored strategy for developing nations trying to rise out of poverty; is […]

The foreign ministers of Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia at the Fifth MIKTA foreign ministers meeting, Seoul, South Korea, May 22, 2015 (Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs photo).

Last month, the foreign ministers of Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia met in Seoul for the fifth round of so-called MIKTA foreign ministerial meeting. In an email interview, Günther Maihold, the Guillermo and Alejandro de Humboldt chair at the College of Mexico, discussed the MIKTA grouping. WPR: What was the impetus behind the creation of the MIKTA grouping, and what are the main areas of cooperation between the MIKTA countries? Günther Maihold: When the foreign ministers of Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2013 and […]

A boat loaded with migrants is spotted at sea off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, March 7, 2011 (AP photo by Antonello Nusca).

The plight of migrants and refugees has made headlines around the world in recent months. Despite the globalized economy, governments remain stubborn about the movement of human beings across national borders. This report covers ongoing migration crises from the Mediterranean to Africa to Southeast Asia. For the next two weeks, all of the articles linked below are free for non-subscribers. Europe: Thousands of African and Middle Eastern migrants fleeing to Europe in unsafe boats have drowned in the Mediterranean in high-profile incidents this year. The European Union has drawn much criticism for its inability to prevent these tragedies. Not the […]

Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at Abe’s official residence, Tokyo, May 19, 2015 (Issei Kato, pool photo via AP).

Late last month, Japan hosted the 7th Pacific Islanders Leaders Meeting (PALM) in Fukushima prefecture. The PALM meeting represents the foundation of Japan’s engagement with states from the South Pacific, and has traditionally been a forum dominated by Tokyo’s provision of overseas development assistance to the region. But Japan’s relationship with many of those island states is deepening, as Tokyo looks to incorporate more political and security cooperation amid growing regional competition from China. This year’s PALM meeting was attended by the Forum Island Countries (FIC)—Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, […]

Ethnic Rohingya women and children gather to receive a meal at a temporary shelter, Bayeun, Aceh province, Indonesia, May 23, 2015 (AP photo by Tatan Syuflana).

Over the past month, as many as 8,000 migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh found themselves adrift at sea off the coasts of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia without adequate water, shelter and food. They were primarily Rohingya refugees seeking asylum from persecution in Myanmar and impoverished Bangladeshis searching for economic opportunities. The plight of these men, women and children was the result of a short-lived but dramatic crackdown by Southeast Asian states in early May on the movement of refugees and migrants into their territory by smuggling networks. That resulted in what one observer from the International Organization for Migration described […]

Aerial photo showing China’s alleged reclamation of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, South China Sea, May 11, 2015 (Ritchie B. Tongo, Pool Photo via AP).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the South China Sea territorial disputes and the various claimant countries’ approaches to addressing them. China’s increased pace of island-building in the disputed South China Sea has angered many of its neighbors, but China insists that its land-reclamation activities are no cause for concern. In an email interview, Mira Rapp-Hooper, a fellow with the Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the director of its Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, discussed China’s rights under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. WPR: What […]

A U.S. Navy amphibious assault vehicle with Philippine and U.S. troops on board storms the beach facing one of the contested islands in the Scarborough Shoal, South China Sea, April 21, 2015 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the South China Sea territorial disputes and the various claimant countries’ approaches to addressing them. U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was in Hanoi today, where he and Vietnamese Defense Secretary Phung Quang Thanh signed a “joint vision statement” that outlines expanded military ties and increased maritime security cooperation. Carter also announced plans to give Vietnam $18 million for the purchase of coast guard vessels from the United States. Carter’s visit comes as tensions in the South China Sea are on the rise, given China’s aggressive island-building campaign. […]