The “Wall of Welcome” in front of European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Sept. 14, 2015 (Photo by Wiktor Dabkowski for dpa via AP Images).

In 2015, more than 1 million people, mostly from Syria but also Eritrea, Sudan and other countries wracked by conflict and economic turmoil, found their way to Europe in search of asylum, where they struggled to rebuild their lives, often in the face of xenophobia and exclusion. Those were the lucky ones. Thousands of other refugees and migrants died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, a tragic waste of human life that was symbolized in a photograph of the lifeless body of a four-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, which washed up on the shore of a beach […]

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 […]

People wear masks as they walk over Millennium Bridge near St Paul’s Cathedral, in London, March 22, 2020 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

Editor’s Note: WPR has made this article, as well as a selection of others from our COVID-19 coverage that we consider to be in the public interest, freely available. 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. Bruce Mann is one of the most experienced emergency planners in the world. As the former director of the British Cabinet Office’s Civil Contingencies Secretariat, he was in charge of Britain’s planning for and response to emergencies and disasters. He coordinated […]

A sign at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia warning of the spread of the “Spanish Influenza,” Oct. 19, 1918 (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photo via AP Images).

Crises, whatever their nature, have a way of putting a mirror up to the face of societies. They throw our angels and our demons into sharp relief, and pandemics are no different. All across the world, throughout history, outbreaks of new and mysterious diseases have spurred the creation of narratives that cast blame on a foreign source of the epidemic by persecuting and stigmatizing immigrants, minorities and other vulnerable groups. So it is with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which President Donald Trump and his supporters gleefully refer to as the “Chinese virus.” Given the scale of the current […]

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 […]

U.S. President Donald Trump attends a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 22, 2020 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

President Donald Trump has been pilloried for jeopardizing thousands of American lives through his delayed domestic response to COVID-19. His failure of global leadership, however, has been equally glaring. Rather than rallying other nations in a collective effort, he has doubled down on his “America First” instincts, as if a purely national approach could defeat a global pandemic. The contrast with his immediate predecessors is stark. In the depths of the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama both spearheaded a multilateral response that helped rescue the world economy. Trump’s disastrous unilateralism, […]

A Brazilian soldier puts out fires at the Nova Fronteira region in Novo Progresso, Brazil, Sept. 3, 2019 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

Tensions have simmered for decades between Brazil, which believes the Amazon rainforest is a sovereign resource, and wealthy developed countries concerned with protecting one of the world’s most important carbon sinks. But it wasn’t until last summer that, amid growing international concern over climate change, deforestation in the Amazon provoked a high-level diplomatic spat. As fires raged in the Amazon, most of them set by farmers and ranchers to clear land, French President Emmanuel Macron proclaimed the issue was an international crisis and said he would put it on the agenda of the G-7 summit in Biarritz. German Chancellor Angela […]

Face masks being manufactured at a factory in Shanghai, China, Jan. 31, 2020 (Kyodo photo via AP Images).

There is no drug or vaccine against COVID-19, and it will be at least 12 to 18 months before those remedies could be available. Face masks are next to impossible to find for most consumers, even as public health officials caution that they are not terribly effective against this coronavirus. There is a shortage of ventilators, and President Donald Trump has told America’s governors that they should not rely on the federal government to provide them—even though they are the most effective tool for treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients. In addition to the political, economic and social impacts of the coronavirus […]

A lone person crosses Piazza del Popolo in Rome, March 19, 2020 (AP photo by Andrew Medichini).

Editor’s Note: WPR has made this article, as well as a selection of others from our COVID-19 coverage that we consider to be in the public interest, freely available. 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. PISA, Italy—In Pisa, we are entering our 11th day of full lockdown, following a couple of weeks during which normal life, and the economy, was progressively shut down. While China and some other Asian countries are loosening restrictions on movement, most […]

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 […]

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with tourism industry executives about the COVID-19 pandemic, at the White House, Washington, March 17, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Three months after reports emerged of a novel coronavirus spreading in central China, it is safe to say that our world, and all of our individual worlds, have been transformed by what has become a terrifying pandemic. Governments around the globe are taking unprecedented steps to restrict movement and limit social contact among their populations to contain that virus’s spread. Growing numbers of the world’s inhabitants are now living in either voluntary or imposed isolation, or preparing to do so. The COVID-19 pandemic has been called the first truly global crisis since World War II. Arguably the climate crisis already […]

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 […]

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 […]

People watch a TV showing a live broadcast of U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, March 12, 2020 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic, including President Donald Trump’s surprise decision to close the U.S. border to European travelers. They also discuss government responses to the crisis, the competing narratives that are emerging, and questions of solidarity and resilience—both within countries and among them. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers a free […]

People walk past a banner showing Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman outside a mall in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Mar. 7, 2020 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

With the global economy already teetering as the result of the coronavirus outbreak that is now officially a pandemic, Saudi Arabia’s young and powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has risked pushing the world into recession by firing a shot directly into the oil markets. It was a trademark move by the prince, known as MBS, who has shown he can be brazen and ruthless—and occasionally self-destructive—when he’s determined to get his way. On Sunday night, MBS announced that Saudi Arabia would sharply increase its oil output despite a steep decline in global demand. It was precisely the opposite of […]

Trash collectors pick up plastic bottles in New Delhi, India, Sept. 26, 2019 (AP photo by Altaf Qadri).

In September 2018, after years of modeling and development, the Ocean Cleanup project launched System 001, a floating barrier designed to scoop up plastic debris from an area in the Pacific Ocean that, because of prevailing currents, had become a natural repository of ocean-borne plastic waste. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as the area the size of France became known, was first discovered in 1988, but it gained prominence after a public awareness campaign in 2008. Although System 001 ultimately failed to hold onto the plastic debris it collected, Ocean Cleanup announced late last year that a modified prototype known […]

The Statue of Freedom on top of the Capitol Dome in Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

As Democratic voters in America enter a decisive stage in determining who should face Donald Trump in the November presidential election, Freedom House has issued an alarming report on the status of representative government worldwide. The annual report, titled “Freedom in the World 2020,” makes for sobering reading. For the 14th consecutive year, democracy lost ground to tyranny in 2019. Authoritarian regimes are emboldened. Long-established democracies are slipping. And attacks on religious minorities and other vulnerable populations are surging. The human yearning for freedom remains powerful, as evinced by recent protest movements in Hong Kong, Algiers, Khartoum and Tehran. Unfortunately, […]

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