The United Nations Headquarters in New York, which is closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, March 10, 2020 (Photo by Anthony Behar for Sipa via AP Images).

On Dec. 30, 2019, the world first learned that a dangerous new coronavirus had emerged weeks before in China’s Wuhan province. Three months, nearly 740,000 infections and 34,000 deaths later, as of this writing, it’s well past time for the United Nations Security Council to declare COVID-19 a threat to international security. Such a designation would carry immediate symbolic and practical weight, signaling to anxious populations around the world that U.N. member states are united in confronting this plague and determined to deploy their entire multilateral arsenal against it. It would also carry the binding force of international law, as […]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, March 9, 2020 (AP Photo by Rahmat Gul).

The peace agreement signed late last month between the United States and the Taliban promised that intra-Afghan negotiations would commence by March 10. Unsurprisingly, that deadline was missed, illustrating the formidable hurdles that remain in the way of a lasting political settlement in Afghanistan. The multiple actors involved in the conflict have widely divergent expectations of the political process. Within the Taliban, there is a divide between the movement’s political leaders—most of whom are based in neighboring Pakistan—on the one hand, and its military commission and commanders in Afghanistan, on the other. Both are pursuing victory, but they differ on […]

An Afghan policeman stands guard at the entrance to a Sikh house of worship that was attacked by an Islamic State gunman, in Kabul, March 25, 2020 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The Islamic State’s deadly assault on one of the last remaining Sikh temples in Afghanistan this week was a grim reminder of how much more devastation lies ahead as the U.S. drawdown continues. Wednesday’s attack by gunmen affiliated with the Afghan branch of the Islamic State, known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, reportedly killed more than 25 people and wounded scores gathered for services at the temple in Kabul. It appeared to be the latest effort by the Islamic State to leverage existing ethnic and religious enmity in order to gain a bigger foothold in Afghanistan, amid widening […]

Fishing boats are moored in the Mekong River, which has changed to an unusual clear blue color, in Nakhon Phanom province, Thailand, Dec. 4, 2019 (AP photo by Chessadaporn Buasai).

As societies around the world focus on containing the spread of the novel coronavirus, millions of people in Southeast Asia have another worry on their minds: How to put food on their table amid a devastating drought. In Thailand, historically low levels of rainfall since last summer have taken a heavy toll on the agriculture sector, which employs 11 million people. Inland fishing communities across the region are reporting drastically smaller catches. And in Vietnam, a state of emergency was declared earlier this month in five provinces in the southern Mekong Delta, which produces more than half of the country’s […]

A member of a Chinese honor guard wears a face mask at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Feb. 4, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

The war of words between Chinese officials and President Donald Trump has been furious in recent days, as each side tries to push its own agenda amid the coronavirus pandemic. It would be a mistake, however, to view this crossfire as mutually retaliatory. These are two separate messaging campaigns, each pursuing different, self-interested objectives. China, where the novel coronavirus outbreak started months ago and spread rapidly before it turned into a global pandemic, is engaged in a multiprong effort to rewrite history and emerge empowered from this global crisis. Draconian lockdown measures in Wuhan and its surrounding province appear to […]

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 10, 2019 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

Almost a year-and-a-half after threatening to sanction Cambodia over Prime Minister Hun Sen’s clampdown on human rights, and a year after beginning the formal process for doing so, the European Union finally made good on its word. Underwhelmed by the Cambodian government’s meager attempts to allow political dissent and media freedoms, the bloc announced in February that it would suspend tariff-free access for more than $1 billion worth of exports from the Southeast Asian nation, starting in August. While the immediate impacts of the new barriers to trade will be limited, they could eventually result in an economic contraction of […]

From left, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Chingiz Aidarbekov, Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Uzbek Foreign Affairs Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Feb. 3, 2020 (AP photo).

The State Department released its updated strategy for Central Asia last month—a relatively short document that is mostly taken up with reiterating traditional U.S. priorities in the region. While it lacks the grand ambitions that fueled earlier U.S. approaches to Central Asia, particularly the aim to reshape its strategic geography through U.S.-backed infrastructure initiatives, the Trump administration’s new approach isn’t without its own ambitions. Given the past gap between aims and results in U.S. policy toward Central Asia, more realism about American capabilities might be welcome. But the policy outlined by the Trump administration is still problematic. It is based […]

President Donald Trump speaks on the coronavirus pandemic at the White House in Washington, March 24, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

With the rapid growth of coronavirus infections in recent days, and likely for the foreseeable future, the United States finds itself in a grave predicament entirely of its own making. No amount of finger-pointing toward China about its lack of transparency early in the outbreak, or the time lost before Beijing finally alerted others about the nature of its epidemic—although both true—can change this harsh reality. The country that seldom tires of reminding others that it is the richest and most powerful nation in the world has completely squandered whatever lead time it had before the virus took firm hold […]

China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, speaks at the White House in Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Steve Helber).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Rare public discord between Chinese officials spilled into the open this week when Cui Tiankai, Beijing’s ambassador to the United States, rebuked Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, for peddling conspiracies on Twitter about the origins of COVID-19. Chinese officials normally adhere closely to the Communist Party line in public remarks, so observers are questioning whether the spat is a sign of disagreements in Beijing over the party’s messaging. Zhao has gained notoriety in recent weeks […]

Traders at the New York Stock Exchange watch President Donald Trump’s televised White House news conference, March 18, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Lennihan).

Editor’s Note: You can find all of our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here. If you would like to help support our work, please consider taking advantage of our subscription offer here. In 1873, Walter Bagehot, a prominent businessman in British high society and a journalist who served for 16 years as editor-in-chief of The Economist, wrote a treatise on banking and finance in which he left his most enduring mark on the world. In “Lombard Street: A Description of the Money Market,” he laid out a playbook for policymakers facing an unfolding economic and financial crisis. When up against […]

Migrants stand outside their makeshift tents on the perimeter of the overcrowded Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, Jan. 28, 2020 (AP photo by Aggelos Barai).

In mid-February, the United Nations issued a statement calling for the immediate evacuation of the Moria refugee camp, on the Greek island of Lesbos. Initially designed to hold fewer than 3,000 people, the camp’s population had increased from 5,000 last July to roughly 20,000. With ships bringing new arrivals every day, medical experts feared a looming public health crisis. Malnutrition was widespread, hygiene impossible to maintain and health care workers completely overwhelmed, leading many residents to die of treatable conditions. A regional government official called Moria “a powder keg ready to explode,” and a volunteer doctor told The Guardian that […]

A large crowd wearing masks commutes through Shinagawa Station in Tokyo, Japan, Mar. 3, 2020 (AP photo by Jae C. Hong).

Editor’s note: The following article is one of 30 that we’ve selected from our archives to celebrate World Politics Review’s 15th anniversary. You can find the full collection here. In just a few months, the tightly connected systems of a globalized world have transformed the novel coronavirus from a handful of cases in China to a global pandemic. But we have yet to see an international response that matches the scale of the threat. The contrast with the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent economic crash is stark. Then, governments vastly upgraded the G-20 from a somewhat obscure forum of finance ministers […]

People walk by a giant TV screen at a shopping mall in Beijing showing China’s leader, Xi Jinping, talking to medical workers as he visited a hospital in Wuhan, March 10, 2020 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. As the rate of domestic coronavirus transmission in China continues to fall, the Chinese government declared last Thursday that the peak of its COVID-19 outbreak has passed. With the epidemic at home largely under control, Beijing is directing its attention to cases imported by infected travelers. It is also seeking to reshape the narrative of a global pandemic that originated in China. Wuhan, the city in central China at the epicenter of the outbreak, remains on lockdown. But the […]

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, March 16, 2020 (AP photo by Craig Ruttle).

The coronavirus pandemic is, first and foremost, a global health emergency. But it is also having major economic effects—sinking stock markets and threatening to send the global economy into recession. The economic shocks outside China, where the outbreak originated, were relatively modest at first, as the authorities there—after initially trying to suppress any news of an epidemic—finally imposed strict containment measures that shut down major parts of the economy and disrupted supply chains globally. But those shocks grew rapidly as the virus spread around the world and countries took drastic steps to try and contain it. In the midst of […]

East Timorese independence hero Xanana Gusmao, center, waves a national flag in Dili, East Timor, March 11, 2018 (AP photo by Valentino Darriel).

After months of political turmoil in East Timor, a new six-party coalition government led by Xanana Gusmao, a former president and independence hero, and his National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction, or CNRT, is set to take office. The previous government, led by Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak, collapsed after failing to pass a budget in January. President Francisco Guterres must now decide whether to accept Ruak’s resignation and install the new government. But even if he does, the new CNRT-led coalition could be difficult to manage, says Michael Leach, an expert on East Timor’s politics at Swinburne University of Technology […]

Bangladeshi children sit on garbage piled up by the Buriganga River in Dhaka, Bangladesh, June 4, 2018 (AP photo by A.M. Ahad).

By 2050, hundreds of millions of people in developing countries will have left their homes as a result of climate change—a mass displacement that will make already-precarious populations more vulnerable and impose heavy burdens on the communities that absorb them. Unfortunately, the world has barely begun to prepare for this impending crisis. Those displaced by climate change are neither true refugees nor traditional migrants, and thus occupy an ambiguous position under international law. The world needs to agree on how to classify environmental migrants, as well as what their rights are. It also needs to strengthen its capacity to manage […]

A member of the Afghan security forces stands guard after an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 6, 2020 (AP photo by Tamana Sarwar).

There have already been many military maneuvers, political pivots and plot twists since the U.S. inked a peace deal with the Taliban late last month. But the one development that could finally bring a measure of clarity to Afghanistan in the long term is the International Criminal Court’s decision on March 5 to approve opening a full investigation into allegations that U.S., Taliban and Afghan government forces committed systematic abuses during the nearly 20-year-long war. For Afghanistan, the ruling issued by the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber reversed the court’s earlier, mystifying decision last April to deny the request of the ICC’s […]

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