President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and others watch as the remains of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, are returned to Dover Air Force Base, Del., Aug. 29, 2021 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

At first glance, the tenacity of vaccine nationalism and the shambolic U.S. departure from Afghanistan appear to be completely unrelated. And yet they both expose the moral costs of a world dominated by sovereign states that consistently place narrow national interest above the ethical imperative of alleviating the suffering of strangers.  This is hardly a news flash. The question of how governments should square their duties to their own citizens with their obligations to those in other countries is an inherent and recurrent ethical quandary in international relations. It is at the heart of debates over humanitarian intervention, foreign aid, […]

President Joe Biden pauses as he listens to a question about the bombings at the Kabul airport that killed at least 13 U.S. service members, Washington, Aug. 26, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. By now, the shock of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has begun to wear off. But the outrage over the Biden administration’s handling of the evacuation of Western civilians and Afghan nationals at risk of Taliban retaliation seems to have only risen this week, even as the airlift gathered pace. That outrage turned to horror Thursday, when […]

An iPhone displays the apps for Facebook and Messenger (AP file photo by Jenny Kane).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Kate Jones is filling in this week for Emily Taylor. Efforts to regulate social media platforms are gathering pace in the United Kingdom. In May, the British government published its draft Online Safety Bill, which will be studied by a Joint Committee of Members of Parliament and the House of Lords chaired by MP Damian Collins this autumn. Collins led parliament’s exposé of the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal and is a leading U.K. voice on disinformation and digital regulation. In parallel, the House of Commons’ Sub-Committee on Online Harms and Disinformation will also lead an enquiry […]

Older residents watching children play with bubbles at a residential compound in Beijing, Oct. 14, 2016 (AP file photo by Andy Wong).

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the world’s population, two of the world’s most powerful countries, China and the United States, have released troubling new census data. Both countries, it seems, are facing national demographic declines that may soon threaten their economic prosperity—though the former will be much more affected than the latter. In April, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the slowest population growth—7.7 percent in a decade—since the 1930s. The nosedive was due to a combination of a declining birth rate, decreased immigration flows and significant mortality amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the […]

Farmers in a drought-stricken field in Changfeng county, Hefei city, Anhui province, China, Oct. 20, 2019 (Imaginechina via AP Images).

This month’s harrowing report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has particularly disquieting implications for the world’s poor. Global warming and associated biodiversity loss will hinder progress toward each of the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, a set of 17 internationally agreed objectives for advancing global prosperity, social welfare and environmental conservation through the end of the decade. COVID-19 has already dealt these aspirations a massive blow. But these pandemic setbacks pale in comparison to the long-term challenges that climate change presents for meeting and exceeding basic human needs, and placing developing countries on the path toward sustained—and sustainable—growth. United Nations member states unanimously endorsed the […]

Afghan security personnel arrive at the site of an explosion targeting a United Nations vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The images of humanitarian chaos and the deteriorating situation for women after the swift Taliban takeover of Kabul have left the international community grasping for options. In the face of Afghan women’s desperate pleas for support, women’s rights NGOs in the United States recently called for a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan. There is no question that such an operation, if mounted earlier, would have been beneficial to Afghan civilians and particularly to women. As David Cortright and I have written before, and as much scholarly research shows, U.N. peacekeeping operations work better than Western counterinsurgencies at maintaining durable peace, […]

The first plane with returnees from Afghanistan arrives in Spain with 53 people, five of them Spanish and the rest Afghans who have collaborated with the Spanish government and their families, Madrid, Spain, Aug. 19, 2021 (Photo by Juan Carlos Rojas for A

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. International attention has remained focused on Afghanistan this week, where the U.S. along with its NATO allies continued efforts to evacuate their nationals as well as Afghan civilians at risk of retribution from the Taliban. Although the situation remains chaotic and volatile, it has so far not deteriorated in the week since the Taliban […]

Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2021 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The swift return of the Taliban to power has sparked panic in Afghanistan and sent shockwaves around the world. With U.S. military forces taking control of the Kabul airport and the evacuation of foreign nationals and thousands of Afghans proceeding, important questions loom about the future of Afghanistan and the impact of the convulsive events that unfolded over the past few days. Here are some of the major unknowns going forward, the answers to which, as they emerge over the coming weeks, months and years, will determine how exactly the radical group’s return will reshape the country, the region and, […]

An oil tanker on fire in the Gulf of Oman (AP file photo).

In recent weeks, a series of attacks on commercial shipping in and near the Persian Gulf have been unofficially attributed to Iran, including a drone attack that killed two mariners in the Gulf and an attempted hijacking of a commercial vessel in the Strait of Hormuz. Along with another suspected attack, in which several ships simultaneously reported difficulties in steering, these incidents highlight both the importance of commercial shipping to the global economy and the sector’s vulnerability to asymmetric tactics, including cyberattacks. They also show how Iran is using cyberattacks to demonstrate its capabilities, and signal what to expect from […]

Work in progress on an outdoor observation deck on the 30 Hudson Yards office building in New York, March 8, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Lennihan).

Ever since the first cities emerged as a form of human settlement, urbanites have pondered their future. Plato’s “Republic,” written 2,400 years ago and still read on college campuses today, put forth a vision of Kallipolis, a beautiful “just” city-state run by a philosopher king who prioritized the “power of knowledge,” but who nevertheless resembles a benevolent dictator. A millennium and a half later, Thomas More’s landmark “Utopia” imagined a peaceful island metropolis where citizens would share goods and meals, learn a given trade and worship freely—albeit while also enslaving people, though many believe the inclusion of slavery was more ironic […]

Flames from the Dixie Fire consume a home in the Indian Falls community of Plumas County, California, July 24, 2021 (AP photo by Noah Berger).

The most recent assessment report on the state of climate science, released last week by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, or IPCC, eliminates any remaining shred of doubt about the anthropogenic origins of global warming, calling the evidence of human activity’s responsibility “unequivocal.” The report also identifies how quickly humanity needs to slash emissions to avoid catastrophe, given the accumulated stock of greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere. Under any conceivable scenario, average temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come. The magnitude of that rise is up to us. Unfortunately, the window to prevent massive dislocation […]

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According to a United Nations report released last month, just under one-tenth of the global population was undernourished in 2020, up from 8.4 percent in 2019. Much of that spike was due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely strained global food systems that were already under pressure due to climate change, population growth, conflict and migration. On the Trend Lines podcast this week, Julie Howard, a senior adviser to the global food security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman to discuss the U.N. report’s findings. Listen to the full conversation here: If you like […]

A man watches as wildfires approach Kochyli beach near Limni village on the island of Evia, about 100 miles north of Athens, Greece, Aug. 6, 2021 (AP photo by Thodoris Nikolaou).

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest, highly anticipated report on the state of Earth’s climate. The report, which updates the previous effort from eight years ago, represents the collective assessment by several hundred scientists from around the world of efforts to keep global temperatures from rising to levels that would trigger catastrophic changes in Earth’s environment and weather conditions. Spoiler alert: It’s bad. The report rules out any possibility of preventing the 1.5-degrees-Celsius rise in global temperatures that was the most ambitious target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. That threshold will be reached by […]

Athing Mu, of the United States, celebrates after winning the gold medal in the women’s 800-meter final, with bronze medalist Raevyn Rogers, right, also of the U.S., at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Aug. 3, 2021 (AP Photo by Matthias Schrader).

During the 17 days of the just-completed Tokyo Olympics, many American publications eschewed counting medals in ways that emphasized the winning of gold, preferring a broader tabulation that emphasized total medals won. In this manner, the United States was able to maintain a healthy lead over its biggest rival, China, throughout the Games. In the final day or two, though, when the United States eked out the slimmest of leads over China in gold medals won as well, the emphasis in many newspaper reports suddenly shifted. Team USA had won the Summer Games by this narrower measure, and suddenly it […]

A man distributes free food outside an eatery in Ahmedabad, India, Jan. 20, 2021 (AP photo by Ajit Solanki).

2020 will forever be known as the plague year, but it was also a year of increased hunger around the world. That’s according to a multiagency United Nations report released last month, which found that the number of undernourished people in the world rose by 118 million, to a total of about 768 million—nearly one-tenth of the global population. Much of that increase was due to COVID-19, a crisis that “continues to expose weaknesses in our food systems,” the report warned. Today on Trend Lines, Julie Howard, a senior adviser to the global food security program at the Center for […]

A demonstrator protesting against the court order requiring Apple to make it easier for the FBI to unlock an encrypted iPhone used by a gunman in the December 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack, Feb. 23, 2016, in New York (AP photo by Julie Jacobson).

Last Friday, Apple announced that it was implementing measures to combat the distribution of child sexual abuse media, or CSAM, on its services. Apple, the company that famously defied the FBI by refusing to provide technical assistance in hacking its own iPhones after a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, surprised commentators in both the tech and human rights communities with this announcement, and there was a predictable torrent of criticism from both ends of the policy spectrum. The electronic distribution of child abuse images has been a perennial and unsolved issue for more than 20 years. The growing popularity […]

Refugees and migrants arrive on an inflatable vessel from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, Dec. 3, 2015 (AP photo by Santi Palacios).

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Refugee Convention, one of the signal moral advances in human history. Negotiated in the wake of World War II and initially limited to Europe, the treaty established the first binding legal protections for individuals forced to flee their countries. These rights and responsibilities, which were made universal in the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1967, remain a cornerstone of the global humanitarian regime. The convention is, however, showing its age. Many governments are failing to fulfil their legal obligations under it, and the convention does little to […]

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