Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon speaks at U.N. headquarters in New York, Jan. 27, 2020 (AP photo by Seth Wenig).

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. Six months in, it is tempting to think the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is past. Hard-hit cities are breathing easier and many countries are already in the advanced stages of reopening their societies and economies. But even as a second wave looms, COVID-19’s first wave isn’t done. Globally, the contagion is accelerating as the pandemic’s epicenter shifts. The increase from 8 million to 9 million cases took […]

Closed lanes at the Peace Arch border crossing between the U.S. and Canada,  in Blaine, Wash., May 7, 2020 (AP photo by Elaine Thompson).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Edward Alden is filling in for Kimberly Ann Elliott. Along North America’s 49th parallel, where it meets the Pacific Ocean, a huge white stone arch stands on the border between the United States and Canada. Called the Peace Arch, it was built in 1921 to commemorate the resolution of boundary disputes that dated back to the War of 1812. Inside the arch, there is an iron gate attached to both walls, and an inscription that reads, “May these gates never be closed.” Since March 21, in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the […]

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with G-7 leaders during a videoconference on the coronavirus pandemic, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, April 16, 2020 (pool photo by Gonzalo Fuentes via AP Images).

When does a global catastrophe stimulate a revival of international cooperation, rather than accelerate fragmentation and disorder? When does a crisis become a turning point in international relations, rather than just augur more of the same? These questions loom large in the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest shock to world politics and the global economy since 1945. While history provides no definitive answers, it hints at three preconditions for resurrecting international cooperation from the ashes: new thinking, enlightened leadership and a favorable distribution of power. It was in reaction to World War II, and the economic chaos that preceded it, that […]

A youth waits to enter the San Nicolas Tolentino cemetery in Iztapalapa, Mexico City, April 30, 2020 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

While the health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have been primarily endured by elderly populations, there is increasing recognition that young people will disproportionately absorb the economic and social impacts. One study, conducted in April and released last month by the International Labor Organization, found that the pandemic had caused one in six young people to lose their jobs, as well as a 23 percent average reduction in working hours for those still employed. Within this “lockdown generation,” as the ILO calls them, the situation is especially dire for women, ethnic minorities and migrant workers. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general […]

Prisoners stand outside the federal correctional institution in Englewood, Colorado, Feb. 18, 2020 (AP photo by David Zalubowski).

Democratic backsliding and encroachments on the rule of law by autocratic governments have justifiably received significant attention in recent years. Yet troubling and dangerous as these trends are, there is another, often-overlooked threat encroaching on the rule of law in countries around the world: mass incarceration. In many nations, imprisonment has become the default criminal punishment. Pretrial arrest and detention are also commonplace, with millions of people in jail awaiting trial around the world, sometimes for years. A recent report, Global Prison Trends 2020, published by the criminal justice advocacy group Penal Reform International and the Thailand Institute of Justice, […]

Protesters call for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a Victorian imperialist, in Oxford, England, June 9, 2020 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

In the comfort zones of a bygone world, from prosperous and stable societies in Western Europe to Japan and Australia, the three-plus years of Donald Trump’s presidency have led to a prolonged season of worry. Friends and allies there have watched and wondered anxiously about whether the values they admire most about the United States, even with its many deep flaws, will endure. Washington under Trump has appeared to be heading off solo in uncharted directions, abandoning one by one the bedrock ideas long associated with America, like defending democracy, promoting alliances and building international institutions, as well as more […]

Representatives of 50 countries attend the United Nations Conference on International Organization to draw up the U.N. Charter, in San Francisco, California, April 25, 1945 (AP Photo).

Seventy-five years ago this Friday, humanity accomplished something miraculous. On June 26, 1945, while World War II was still raging across the Pacific, 50 nations gathered at San Francisco’s Opera House to sign the Charter of the United Nations.* The culmination of years of planning, the new international organization was intended “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” Although the United Nations would often fall short of that lofty goal, its creation was a monumental achievement, providing the foundation for a rules-based international order. The San Francisco conference had opened to great fanfare on April 25, 1945. Mindful […]

President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He before signing a U.S. China trade agreement, in the East Room of the White House, Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

The global, rules-based trading system that the United States helped to create after World War II is in deep trouble. President Donald Trump had already spent the past three years sparking trade wars and undermining the World Trade Organization. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, hammering economies and sharply reducing trade flows worldwide. Panicked governments, including in Washington, have imposed export restrictions on critical medical supplies and, in some cases, food. To make things even worse, the White House has blocked the normal process for settling trade disputes, just when it is needed most. Because of the concerns about hosting large […]

A fighter from a militia funded by the United Arab Emirates, stands on the frontline of conflict in Yemen’s Dhale province, Aug. 5, 2019 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty). Internationalized civil conflicts increase the chances of war between states.

It is too soon to tell how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect international security. Whether it will provide opportunities for prolonged peace or create conditions for new rivalries and disputes depends on how long the pandemic lasts, how the world moves forward from bungled initial responses and how quickly countries recover from the virus’s societal and economic fallout. But already, the pandemic is exposing and accelerating trends that have made the world more vulnerable to international conflict. That may be surprising, since before the outbreak, most statistics indicated that, on the whole, the world had never been better. People were […]

A Black Lives Matter banner hangs from the AFL-CIO building near Black Lives Matter Plaza, close to the White House, Washington, June 12, 2020 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other black Americans by police, and the sustained protests in their wake, present a test for the United States both at home and abroad. They underscore the structural racism that permeates American society and how far the nation remains from delivering on the Constitution’s promise of equal rights and justice for all. Globally, they threaten America’s longstanding, if uneven, role as the world’s leading champion of universal human rights. The success of the Black Lives Matter movement is critical, not only to achieve a more perfect union at home, but also to […]

The highway leading to Barcelona is empty of cars amid the coronavirus pandemic, March 15, 2020 (AP photo by Emilio Morenatti).

In the months since the coronavirus pandemic effectively shut down large parts of the world, the changes to the environment have become one of the most visible backdrops to life under lockdown. Suddenly blue skies have provided a welcome setting for more varieties of birds, whose songs can now be heard without the roar of airplanes and car traffic. From Istanbul to New Delhi, vistas reappeared that no one alive remembered seeing. Animals started exploring what had once been their usual habitats, with flamingoes venturing in Mumbai, deer clambering through East London, and all manner of animals strolling into cities […]

Then-Deputy Secretary of State William Burns meets with South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 21, 2014 (pool photo by Kim Hong-Ji via AP).

“We are living through a moment in which diplomacy as a tool of promoting American interests … is even more important than ever,” says William J. Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former deputy secretary of state. “And yet, over the three and a half decades that I served as a professional diplomat, I’ve never seen a moment when it’s been more adrift.” Ambassador Burns joined WPR’s Trend Lines podcast this week to discuss the damage President Donald Trump has done to U.S. diplomacy and how to repair it. Over the course of a 45-minute interview, […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to media after the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

Pity the U.S. officials in charge of planning this year’s Group of 7 summit. President Donald Trump initially planned to convene the annual summit at his own private golf resort in Miami. When this bit of self-dealing elicited bipartisan blowback, he shifted the site of the meeting, originally scheduled for this week, to Camp David. Then COVID-19 intervened, and the White House announced plans for a virtual summit, only to have Trump propose on May 20 that the leaders would gather in person after all. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel demurred, the peeved president pivoted again. On May 30, without […]

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, at a press conference in Wellington, New Zealand, May 14, 2020 (pool photo by Hagen Hopkins via AP Images).

In late January, President Donald Trump announced the formation of a Coronavirus Task Force, made up of 12 senior officials who would be responsible for leading the U.S. response to COVID-19. All were men. On Feb. 29, Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the task force, posted a now infamous photo to his Twitter account of a “very productive meeting,” with more than a dozen men and no women sitting around a table in the White House’s Situation Room. By early March, two women had been appointed to the team: Deborah Birx, who took the high-profile role of response […]

President Donald Trump takes questions at a press conference during the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Aug. 26, 2019 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

Long before the upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump’s ideas for hosting this year’s summit of the Group of Seven in the United States had created turmoil and controversy. His plans have only gotten more disruptive and divisive in recent days. The meeting of the club of major industrialized nations was supposed to happen on June 10, but the guest list, date and format of the summit are all still undecided. Instead of a showcase for the president and the country, America’s turn to hold the annual gathering of the G-7 has so far turned into another series […]

Chinese paramilitary police stand guard near Tiananmen Square and the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, May 20, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

One sweltering night some years ago, well after I had finished eating dinner, I received an urgent knock on my front door. I was spending a summer in Hanoi, and had just moved into an apartment in a quiet, residential area. My late-night visitor turned out to be a young Vietnamese police officer in uniform. As I often did in such encounters, I tried to keep the interaction as brief as possible by acting confused and answering his questions in English. But then, a middle-aged woman, whom I recognized from the neighborhood, emerged from the shadows and said, “He speaks […]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends a G-20 virtual summit to discuss the coronavirus outbreak at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, March 26, 2020 (South Korea Presidential Blue House via AP Images).

VIENNA—Multilateral diplomacy is a complex process, and its success depends on interpersonal relationships that are forged during numerous formal and informal gatherings, including conferences, lunches and receptions. During difficult negotiations, the most sensitive sticking points are often ironed out informally, in corridors or lounges. For example, during talks to create a European common market in February 1957, French Prime Minister Guy Mollet and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer made important progress during a walk they took in the gardens of the Hotel Matignon in Paris, where the talks were being held. Their informal discussions paved the way for the signing of […]

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