A Ukrainian soldier in the trench, on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels, Mariupol, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Jan. 21, 2022 (AP photo by Andriy Dubchak).

Beyond its immediate implications for European security, the current crisis at the Ukraine-Russia border highlights the enduring importance of state sovereignty as an ordering principle in world politics, notwithstanding frequent claims that globalization has rendered it obsolete. It also exposes the tendency of governments to invoke, dismiss or reinterpret this bedrock principle to suit their situational needs. In fact, global stability now depends on whether the United States and European Union are able to reaffirm and defend the centrality of state sovereignty against a Russian attempt to dismiss it. On one level, the Ukraine situation would seem to have turned […]

A man lifts a tarp to show a flood inside his covered farm in Zhaoguo village in central China’s Henan province, Oct. 22, 2021 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

For the past 60 years, a series of agricultural innovations have helped feed the world. New varieties of staple crops produced high yields. New fertilizers encouraged crop health. And improved agronomic methods helped farmers make the most of their resources. These new tools and practices became foundational to the production of agriculture in the U.S. and around the world, enabling marked increases in output and important reductions in rural poverty. But that productivity-centric model is no longer meeting global needs. Over the past decade, hunger has once again started to rise, bringing with it doubts about our long-term ability to […]

Matty Nev Luby holds up her phone in front of a ring light she uses to lip-sync with the smartphone app Musical.ly, in Wethersfield, Conn., Feb. 28, 2018 (AP photo by Jessica Hill).

Last week, in a speech outlining his priorities for the year, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sounded the alarm on five pressing global challenges that will require “the full mobilization of every country” to address—namely, COVID-19, global finance, climate action, lawlessness in cyberspace and peace and security.  It is the fourth of these, lawlessness in cyberspace, that most stands out. As Guterres noted, while “outdated … multilateral frameworks” and ineffective global governance are hindering progress on almost all of the international community’s shared goals, in cyberspace, “global governance barely exists at all.” There, structures and norms are not in need of refurbishment, […]

People wait in queues to receive cash at a money distribution organized by the World Food Program in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

International attention has been trained this week on Ukraine, where fears of an imminent outbreak of conflict have many observers worrying about the future of multilateralism in a period of strategic competition between the U.S., Russia and China. Yet an equally troubling bellwether for the future of multilateralism lies in the world’s collective failure to address the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.   Five months after the Taliban’s takeover, the international community appears no closer to an answer on how to manage its strategic interests in Afghanistan, from dealing with the Taliban to addressing the needs of millions of suffering Afghans. […]

A woman holds a photograph during a protest to raise awareness about the situation in Afghanistan, outside EU headquarters in Brussels, Aug. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Francisco Seco).

There was long a truism in political science that democratic states don’t go to war with one another, based on a century of statistical data. This prompted decades of U.S. foreign policy aimed at democracy promotion, culminating in the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The problem was that the prevalence of the term “democratic peace” led policymakers to overlook three key facts.  First, while stable democracies do tend to enjoy pacific relations with one another, emergent democracies often face great risk of civil or interstate war. Second, stable democracies are actually more likely to go to war against nondemocracies, meaning that the drive […]

United Nations peacekeepers from Rwanda wait to escort members of the U.N. Security Council as they arrive at the airport in Juba, South Sudan, Sept. 2, 2016 (AP photo by Justin Lynch).

The United Nations has no standing army, despite its initial plans to create one. Instead, when it launches a peace operation—the best established tool the international community has to address security threats—it relies on member states to voluntarily contribute personnel and troops. These U.N. deployments have grown in number and size throughout the 21st century, reaching a peak around 2014, when more than 100,000 military peacekeepers were stationed around the world. Today, four of the U.N.’s 12 peace operations—in South Sudan, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic—are staffed with more than 10,000 troops each. Along the […]

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson steps out of 10 Downing Street to welcome the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tarik al-Said, in London, Dec. 16, 2021 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

Novak Djokovic, Boris Johnson and Prince Andrew are in the spotlight this week, an unholy trinity dominating headlines around the world. Their stories are discrete and in many ways dissimilar, but all three have, in one way or another, let down the millions of people who looked to them for inspiration and guidance.  As I mentioned in my column last week, top-ranked tennis player and anti-vaxxer Novak Djokovic caused a ruckus after he was allowed into Australia to compete in the Australian Open tennis tournament, despite not being double vaccinated, as is required for entry by the government. He then faced deportation after it […]

Attendees walk past an electronic display showing recent cyberattacks in China at the China Internet Security Conference in Beijing, Sept. 12, 2017 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Davos Man has seen the future, and it is bleak. Last week, the sponsors of the World Economic Forum released their 17th annual “Global Risks” report on the most worrisome threats confronting humanity in 2022 and beyond. Sadly, this latest crystal ball-reading exercise suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic may soon be the least of our worries. Over the next decade, the most pressing task confronting humanity will be ensuring the survival of life on planet Earth—and at the same time, the world’s governments will need to navigate surging economic inequality, rising barriers to migration and growing vulnerabilities in both cyberspace and outer […]

Demonstrators gather during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied, in Tunis, Sept. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Riadh Dridi).

On Wednesday, Tunisia announced that it had restored its pandemic-era restrictions, imposing a 10 p.m. curfew and banning all gatherings for two weeks. According to President Kais Saied’s government, the decision was made in order to combat the recent, rapid spread of the coronavirus’s omicron variant. Yet the timing was suspect. It came merely two days before rival political parties were scheduled to lead a massive demonstration against Saied’s concentration of power in his own hands. The main opposition party, Ennahda, immediately promised to defy the ban and called for its supporters to demonstrate anyway.  Tunisia is not an isolated case. Since the beginning […]

The New Year’s Eve Ball in Times Square, New York, Dec. 30, 2021 (AP photo by Yuki Iwamura).

Around the world in recent years, the enthusiastic embrace of globalization has given way to a backlash against liberalized trade. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, that shift toward a generalized closure, both between and within nations, has become almost a default setting, on display in everything from governments’ rush to close borders in response to new variants to hyperpartisan politics that turns policy debates into trench warfare.  Meanwhile, the pandemic, combined with climate change, has only created added urgency among younger generations to ensure that questions of intergenerational equity are made central to how we address both crises. […]

President Joe Biden meets with the White House COVID-19 Response Team to discuss the omicron variant, Washington, Jan. 4, 2022 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

With the explosive spread of the omicron variant throughout the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, the coronavirus pandemic seems to be entering yet another new phase that is generating as much uncertainty as all the previous ones that have preceded it. Once again, the habits of thought and preventive reflexes acquired over the course of the past two years are being called into question, this time by the new variant’s ability to evade immunity—whether from vaccines or previous infections—as well as its combination of heightened contagiousness and seemingly reduced severity. That combination has raised hopes that COVID-19 is now transitioning from […]

A teacher checks the temperature of a student at Maestro Padilla school, in Madrid, Spain, Sept. 7, 2021 (AP photo by Manu Fernandez).

With the world hitting a record number of new COVID-19 cases in a single week in December, it is unsurprising that the coronavirus pandemic is once again dominating headlines. But one story in particular seems to have captured attention: that of Novak Djokovic, the top-ranked tennis player, whose visa was cancelled last week when he arrived in Melbourne to compete in the Australian Open.  Djokovic was initially granted a medical exemption to enter Australia without proof of vaccination against COVID-19, which is normally required to obtain a visa. The Serbian tennis player now appears to have won an appeal against his […]

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People take part in a demonstration to ban killer robots in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, March 21, 2019 (dpa photo by Wolfgang Kumm via AP Images).

By some media accounts, the recent Convention on Conventional Weapons Review Conference was a colossal disappointment for advocates of a treaty ban on autonomous weapons systems. After 10 years of calls for a ban on so-called killer robots—including powerful arguments against their use from scientists, scholars, engineers, Nobel laureates and a wide-ranging network of civil society organizations—governments at the RevCon, as the conference is known to participants, could come up with little more than an agreement to keep talking. Fortune magazine reported that “the world just blew a major opportunity.” In reality, however, the outcome at the RevCon is neither surprising nor troubling. […]

Seeking information flyers produced by the FBI to identify alleged Capitol rioters, photographed on Dec. 20, 2021 (AP photo by Jon Elswick).

In the months after the storming of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, law enforcement agencies received an avalanche of tips and witness statements claiming to have evidence that might help identify those allegedly involved in the insurrection. Many of these tips from the public were the result of online crowdsourcing and amateur detective e-sleuthing, and with their help, the FBI has arrested over 700 suspects in the year since then. The use of crowdsourced, open-source intelligence, or OSINT, to hold the Capitol rioters accountable highlights the ways in which this technique has rapidly spread in recent […]

Young climate campaigners take part in a U.K. Student Climate Network protest, London, Nov. 5, 2021 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

As ever, the New Year presents an opportunity for reflection and reevaluation. In my last column, I explained that 2021 had been a “rollercoaster” for young activists, who saw their peers “suffering the worst during times of crisis” and “leading the way at moments of breakthrough.” As 2022 kicks off, therefore, young changemakers around the world will be thinking about how they can best make use of the next 12 months. However, progress will only be possible with the support of national and international leaders.  Below is a wish list of the top three things that this young activist would like […]

Villagers attend a campaign meeting for the Spanish far-right party Vox at a bar in Brazatortas, on the edge of the Alcudia valley, central Spain, April 10, 2019 (AP photo by Bernat Armangue).

Regional political parties are springing up across rural Spain and banding together under the platform “Emptied Spain,” in an effort to push the big-city elites who dominate Spanish politics to address the challenges facing rural inhabitants. As rural populations have dwindled in recent decades, so have public services in those regions, causing a vicious cycle of depopulation and decline. Inspired by the success of the tiny political party “Teruel Exists,” which has leveraged a single swing vote in parliament to advocate for rural issues, these parties are preparing to run in the next general election to establish a stronger voice […]

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