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

For everyone around the world, in every country and continent, 2020 was dominated by a single story: COVID-19. For all of us, though the date may have varied, there was a definitive before and after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The thirst for thoughtful analysis of such a historic world event—from big picture articles examining the broad sweep of the pandemic’s global impact to more focused pieces detailing its implications for particular countries—is reflected in our list of this year’s most-read stories. Of course, WPR also closely covered the U.S. presidential election, the Black Lives Matter protests that spread […]

A man takes pictures at sunset in Sarajevo, Bosnia, May 6, 2020 (AP photo by Kemal Softic).

Perhaps no activity is more inherently human than the attempt to find meaning, whether in the circumstances of our lives or the broad sweep of history. As Viktor Frankl taught us in his seminal book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” with meaning comes purpose; understanding the “why” often helps us find the “how.” This seemingly hard-wired effort to discern the meaning of the events taking place around us begins with identifying important signposts and determining their significance. For us at WPR, the most obvious one we look for is crisis—whether political, economic or humanitarian; whether caused by social processes, natural phenomena […]

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a joint press conference in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 17, 2020 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

At the end of a tumultuous and disorienting year for the international community, it seems only fair to take stock of where we stand. The answer is clear: We are between storms. COVID-19 and climate change—the first a dramatic gale whipping the globe, the second a far deadlier gathering hurricane—have brought fresh urgency to international cooperation. The first injections of coronavirus vaccines have brought hope that the pandemic can be defeated soon, though we are far from out of the woods. Meanwhile, with the United Nations gearing up to take a bolder leadership role, a new U.S. president pledging a […]

President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He sign “phase one” of a U.S.-China trade agreement, in the White House, Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Steve Helber).

One of the great traditions in U.S. trade policy circles is the semiannual gathering of former U.S. trade representatives. Started two decades ago by Sherman Katz at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and carried on by William Reinsch, who holds the Scholl Chair in International Business at CSIS, the meetings bring together many of the former top U.S. trade officials to share insights on current economic issues. It is a unique event that pools the accumulated wisdom of several decades; there are no similar gatherings of former U.S. secretaries of state or defense. This year’s version—held online, of […]

The Dave Johnson coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the morning sun in Glenrock, Wyo., July 27, 2018 (AP photo by J. David Ake)

Humanity is at war with the living planet, endangering our prosperity and indeed our very survival on Earth. That is the stark message of the 30th Human Development Report, “The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene,” released last week by the United Nations Development Program. For too long, we have pursued an economic model of development based on unsustainable production and consumption, heedless of the impact on the natural world in which we are inextricably embedded. The bill is now coming due. The COVID-19 pandemic, which began as a zoonotic disease, is only the latest example of the pressures […]

Photo by 692 Productions, courtesy of Dambisa Moyo.

“It’s very easy for us to forget that things in the global economy and geopolitically were already somewhat precarious before COVID hit in earnest,” says Dr. Dambisa Moyo. “As we start to think about what a post-pandemic recovery looks like, I think it’s very important to have that context in mind.” This is why, for Dr. Moyo, “COVID is an accelerator to the challenged environment that was already occurring.” Dr. Moyo is a widely acclaimed economist and author of four New York Times bestselling books, most recently, “Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth—and How to […]

A man passes the New York Stock Exchange, Nov. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Lennihan).

In addition to its human toll, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked economic havoc around the world. Entire economies ground to a virtual standstill as governments implemented strict lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus. The impact on individual countries has only been exacerbated by the disruptions to global trade caused by the pandemic, and uncertainty still surrounds the shape of the economic recovery that will come in its aftermath. But even before the pandemic, the developed economies of Western democracies faced structural obstacles to growth that have called into question their models of governance, even as China’s high-growth development […]

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When President Donald Trump entered office under an “America First” banner, it seemed to herald a new era of U.S. isolationism. As he prepares to leave the White House on Jan. 20, though, the shifts in America’s military engagements during his one-term presidency have been less dramatic than anticipated. Though their numbers are down, U.S. troops are still stationed in Afghanistan—for now. And instead of operating around a clear security strategy, Trump’s tenure was marked by its unpredictability—dramatic reversals, erratic interventions and the fraying of long-standing alliances. Trump’s isolationist instincts came into regular tension with his closest advisers, many of […]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators during a news conference to highlight their proposal for a coronavirus stimulus bill, Washington, July 27, 2020 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Early this year, when the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic were beginning to sink in, the governments and monetary authorities of the world’s largest economies were challenged to respond. To prevent the worst from occurring, economic rescue packages needed to meet three key criteria from the time-tested, crisis-fighting playbook: speed, size and sustainability. At the time, the policy responses could only be judged on the first two of those characteristics. On both counts, they scored quite well. Collectively, from the United States to Europe to Japan, policymakers’ efforts to address the economic fallout of the pandemic were impressive and historic […]

Refugees and migrants wait to get on a bus after their arrival at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, May 4, 2020 (AP photo by Petros Giannakouris).

COVID-19 is a global menace, but its impact falls heaviest on the most vulnerable. In the world’s poorest states, the pandemic-induced recession threatens to throw decades of development into reverse and place hundreds of millions in desperate circumstances. Last week, the United Nations released its Global Humanitarian Overview, outlining the additional devastation in store if the multilateral system fails to close the yawning gap between urgent humanitarian needs and funds available to meet them. In other words, the list of global challenges the incoming Biden administration will face just got longer. For the world’s poorest nations, the main threat is […]

Then-Vice President Joe Biden chairs a summit on international peacekeeping operations on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 26, 2014 (AP photo by Jason DeCrow).

Over the past four years, America’s relationship with the United Nations underwent a dramatic shift, as the U.S. undermined, withdrew from or threatened withdrawal from some of the most important multilateral organizations, processes and accords. These include the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate agreement, the U.N. Human Rights Council, the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, to name a few. But it isn’t just America that drew away from multilateralism. Major and middle powers around the world have distanced themselves from multilateral institutions to embrace more naked forms of nationalism. This has led to greater risks of […]

The sun sets behind an idle pump jack near Karnes City, Texas, April 8, 2020 (AP photo by Eric Gay).

The year 2020 may well mark the tipping point for the oil and gas industry. Amid a global pandemic that has slashed oil demand by some 8 million barrels per day, the governments of key countries—China, Japan, South Korea, South Africa and others—have announced that they aim to reach net-zero emissions by the middle of the century. After President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January, he will likely add the United States to the list, and when he does, net-zero targets will apply to more than three-fifths of global CO2 emissions. It seems that the world is about to double […]