An elderly patient receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Orange Farm, near Johannesburg, South Africa, June 3, 2021 (AP photo by Denis Farrell).

By the late 1990s, an HIV diagnosis was no longer considered a death sentence in the wealthy countries of the Global North. Advances in medical technology had brought new drugs onto the market that could reverse the disease’s progression. However, those life-saving drugs were priced out of the reach of most patients across the Global South, where millions of people continued to die unnecessarily. There are echoes now of that earlier era, as those same regions are largely going without COVID-19 vaccines—even as wealthier countries move on to administer booster shots for their populations. In response to the disparity in […]

A girl wearing Kurdish colors waits with her mother in a queue at a polling station during a vote for Kurdish independence, in Kirkuk, Sept. 25, 2017 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

On Nov. 22, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the Confederation of British Industry, a local business organization, in a speech that was intended to focus on the U.K.’s role in the “green industrial revolution”—the global shift to environmentally friendly energies and technologies. Instead, the talk quickly collapsed into incoherent rambling. At one point, Johnson, having lost his place in his notes, even went on a tangent about his love of Peppa Pig World­, a family theme park based on the well-known children’s cartoon.  This was undoubtedly comedic, but as the country reveled in the prime minister’s latest embarrassment, I couldn’t help […]

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, right, speaks as Vice President Kamala Harris listens, during an event at the Treasury Department in Washington, Sept. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

On Oct. 3, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released 11.9 million confidential files, known as the Pandora Papers, that documented how world leaders, oligarchs and business elites park their wealth in offshore jurisdictions. Like the Panama Papers of 2016, this new leak brought shell companies and offshore jurisdictions under intense public scrutiny for their role in helping the rich and powerful evade taxes and ignore the transparency requirements by which their fellow citizens and competitors must abide. What was perhaps most damning was the inclusion of five U.S. states—South Dakota, Florida, Delaware, Texas and Nevada—among the list of favored offshore […]

The United Nations Security Council meets, New York, Nov. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

Editor’s note: Guest columnists Richard Gowan and Pyotr Kurzin are filling in for Stewart Patrick this week. The United Nations Security Council may be about to pass its first-ever resolution on the implications of climate change for peace and security. The council has talked about climate security since 2007, and it has acknowledged that environmental challenges such as droughts and degradation of farming land can fuel conflicts in regions like the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. But it has not laid out a systematic approach to assessing these risks or responding to them. This could be about to change, as Niger […]

A virtual high-level meeting of the United Nations Security Council is seen on a computer monitor at U.N. headquarters, New York, Sept. 24, 2020 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

As the world gradually distributes COVID-19 vaccinations and starts to reevaluate coronavirus-related restrictions, many in the international community are pushing for societies to go back to “normal.” Leaders at the helm of the international system want to return to the comfort zone of structured interactions in their New York offices; they are tired of days filled with  back-to-back Zoom meetings and the chaotic distractions of working from home. But should we really welcome “normal” back with open arms?  The pandemic has uprooted everyone’s usual work patterns. This has been traumatic, certainly—but also disruptive in positive ways. Much of what I […]

John Kerry, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, speaks with Alok Sharma, president of the COP26 summit, during a stock-taking plenary session at the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 13, 2021 (AP photo Alberto Pezzali).

As former U.S. President Barack Obama once mused, there are times in global diplomacy, as in baseball, when “hitting singles” is adequate. This month’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow was not one of those moments. With the fate of the planet on the line, world leaders should have been swinging for the fences. Instead, they played small ball, chalking up only incremental gains rather than the historic breakthrough the occasion demanded.  Going into the Glasgow summit, the United Nations Environment Program had delivered some blunt news: The world’s emissions reduction pledges before COP26 accounted for only one-seventh of the reduction actually needed to […]

President Joe Biden prepares to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., June 9, 2021 (AP photo by Patrick Semansky).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Mel Pavlik is filling in for Candace Rondeaux. The week before Sudan’s military leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, arrested his country’s prime minister and seized power in a coup d’etat, U.S. President Joe Biden finalized the invitation list for his upcoming Summit for Democracy. The summit, claimed administration officials, aimed to counterbalance powerful autocracies such as Russia and China, and “galvanize democratic renewal worldwide.”  The world is a far cry from anything resembling democratic renewal. To the contrary, democracy is threatened on multiple fronts: not only by illegal seizures of power by military strongmen, as in Sudan, […]

Youth climate activists protest that representatives of the fossil fuel industry have been allowed inside the venue during the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 11, 2021 (AP photo by Alastair Grant).

Lately, leaders of all generations have been referring to the world’s shared obligations toward “future generations.” At the G-20 summit in Rome in late October, for instance, the U.K.’s Prince Charles reminded delegates of their overwhelming responsibility toward “generations yet unborn,” whose health, happiness and prosperity will be determined by the way today’s leaders respond to the climate crisis. More recently, during a Nov. 12 protest in Glasgow, 18-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg called for those attending the nearby COP26 climate summit to listen to the “voices of future generations” that are “drowning” in leaders’ “greenwash and empty words and promises.”  But who […]

Then-Vice President Joe Biden meets with then-Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping at the White House, Washington, Feb. 14, 2012 (AP photo by Charles Dharapak).

If everything goes to plan, U.S. President Joe Biden will hold his first video summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, according to multiple news reports this week. Though the meeting has yet to be officially confirmed, it suggests that Washington and Beijing have managed to reach some sort of modus vivendi, at least on how to manage bilateral relations more productively. If it takes place, the summit would follow closely on the heels of an—admittedly detail-free—agreement to cooperate on climate action announced at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. Although previous meetings between high-level representatives of the Biden […]

Climate protesters demonstrate outside the local government legislature’s offices in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sept. 20, 2019 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

The standard, “flirting with apocalypse” narrative that dominates U.S. media coverage and political debates regarding climate change goes something like this: China, which is the world’s biggest carbon emitter, and India, which is lightly industrialized and still quite substantially poor, currently represent the biggest threats to saving the environment. The supposedly more altruistic West, by contrast, is prepared to make huge investments to forestall disaster. People who cling to this all-too-easy framing correctly say that if the world’s two most-populous countries do not radically constrain their carbon output, nothing the United States or Europe can do, including rapidly attaining net-zero […]

Afghan men wait in line to receive cash at a money distribution organized by the World Food Program in Kabul, Nov. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

After the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan in August, the world watched in horror as Afghans tried to escape the new regime by boarding evacuation flights at the Kabul airport—crossing gunfire, braving suicide bombs and slogging through sewage ditches to do so, and even clinging to airplane landing gear when they failed to board the flights themselves. The horror was compounded by a widely felt sense that international policymakers were unprepared, and that the nightmare scenario unfolding could have been prevented, or at least mitigated.  This winter, however, an even worse catastrophe could unfold: Afghanistan’s economy is in ruins, and […]

Students protest outside the National Assembly to demand a larger budget for university education, Quito, Ecuador, Sept. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Dolores Ochoa).

On Oct. 27, Rishi Sunak, the U.K.’s chancellor of the exchequer, announced the government’s education budget, including additional spending earmarked to help students overcome the disruptions introduced by the coronavirus pandemic. Though billed as a boost to education expenditures, as Sunak himself admitted, the government’s current plans would only return per pupil spending—which was cut drastically as part of broader budgetary austerity imposed in the aftermath of the global financial crisis—to 2010 levels by 2024. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies director Paul Johnson told the Financial Times, Sunak’s spending plan reflects the “remarkable lack of priority” given to education […]

U.S. President Joe Biden, center, speaks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a plenary session at a NATO summit in Brussels, June 14, 2021 (AP photo by Olivier Matthys).

Tensions within NATO over the past two decades have led some to assert that the old military alliances of the 20th century are a thing of the past. Soon, the argument goes, they will give way to looser, ad hoc groupings like the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, comprising Australia, India, Japan and the United States; the AUKUS security pact among Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States; or other “coalitions of the willing” formed to address specific concerns, like those that intervened in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. To be sure, the past 30 years have punched some […]

President Joe Biden leaves after speaking to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in McLean, Va., July 27, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Every day, the gargantuan U.S. intelligence community, with its budget of $84 billion, scans the world looking for threats to the United States. In a landmark report released last month, the National Intelligence Council identified a big one: climate change. The world’s failure to curb greenhouse gas emissions and the brutal impacts of climate change, the assessment warns, are now poised to upend geopolitics over the next two decades as global warming exacerbates diplomatic tensions, cross-border competition and instability in heat-stressed countries. It is hard to overstate the importance of this new report, which is the latest National Intelligence Estimate, the intelligence […]

Delegates attend the opening session of the 33rd African Union Summit, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 9, 2020 (AP photo).

In early August, I watched the frenzied U.S. exit from Afghanistan from my hotel room in Accra, Ghana. I was not the only one in West Africa transfixed by the events in Kabul. Though Ghana is some 7,000 miles from Afghanistan, the chaotic scenes from the Kabul airport played on a loop in hotel lobbies, government buildings, restaurants and homes, broadcast not only by global networks like Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN, but also by local news channels.  The distressing images playing out on the TV came up repeatedly in my conversations with government officials, scholars and friends in Accra […]

Young climate campaigners take part in a protest to coincide with the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, in central London, Nov. 5, 2021 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

There is still a week to go before the scheduled conclusion of COP26, but that has not stopped climate change activist Greta Thunberg from declaring this year’s U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, “a failure.” Thunberg castigated the world’s wealthy countries for “giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets,” while refusing to take the kind of drastic action that scientists agree is necessary to avert a global catastrophe. Earlier this week, WPR’s Elliot Waldman sat down with Stewart Patrick, a WPR columnist and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, to discuss some of this week’s developments from Glasgow, […]

A sign reading “Daniel 2021” next to a picture of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on a public transportation bus, Managua, Nicaragua, June 22, 2021 (DPA photo via AP Images).

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. On Sunday, Nicaraguan voters will go to the polls to choose the country’s next president. In reality, they do not need to wait until those votes are counted to know who the winner will be. The outcome is already a foregone conclusion: President Daniel Ortega will win reelection, with the only uncertainty being the percentage of the […]

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