Nurses wait in the corridor of a vaccination center where Algerians get the COVID-19 vaccine, Algiers, Feb.3, 2021 (AP photo by Fateh Guidoum).

Many countries across the Middle East and North Africa, or MENA, region have faced critical challenges in ensuring the effective and equitable vaccination of their citizens against COVID-19. With a few exceptions, like Morocco, Israel and several Gulf states, countries in the region have faced difficulties in securing sufficient doses due to logistical constraints, poor planning and vaccine hesitancy. As of mid-August, only 21 percent of the region’s population had received at least one dose, and less than 13 percent were fully vaccinated. This puts the region far behind the developing country average of 36 percent with at least one […]

Mercy Wambua, center, the CEO of the Law Society of Kenya and other lawyers march to protest the Kenyan government’s deportation of an opposition politician, Feb. 15, 2018 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Friday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Last Friday, Kenya’s Court of Appeal upheld a May judgment by the High Court blocking a government bid to make fundamental changes to the country’s constitution. The ruling marks a setback to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy-building project and is certain to shift the political landscape […]

The Kigali Convention Center in Kigali, Rwanda, Jan. 30, 2021 (photo by Reaching the Last Mile, via AP Images).

The extraordinary demographic change currently sweeping Africa is one of the most important challenges facing humankind over the remainder of this century. United Nations projections predict that from its present population of nearly 1.4 billion people, the continent’s population will approach 4.5 billion people by 2100, which is the staggering equivalent in population terms of two Chinas and one India. Other carefully considered efforts to project global population trends, such as a recent study published in the Lancet, predict an even larger African population two generations hence. Demographic growth on such a scale will affect nearly every human question one […]

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 […]

U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, July 26, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Fears of the collapse of the state are growing in Iraq as the Afghanistan debacle deepens, with each passing day revealing more details about the lack of detailed planning and foresight about the consequences of a U.S. pullout for Afghans.  A similar lack of attention to the crucial American role in influencing events in Iraq could result in a pitched struggle among the competing militias and factions there for control of political power and state resources. Simply put, Iraq’s stability risks becoming an afterthought for U.S. policymakers calibrating a global rebalancing, despite the enormous consequence of instability in Iraq for domestic […]

Voters wait to vote at a polling station during Zambia’s presidential election in Lusaka, Zambia, Aug. 12, 2021 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Friday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. In a dramatic rebuke to the tenure of incumbent President Edgar Lungu, Hakainde Hichilema—the leader of Zambia’s main opposition party, the United Party for National Development, or UPND—scored a resounding victory in last week’s presidential election. According to results released by the country’s electoral commission, Hichilema, […]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a military parade, in Nicosia, Cyprus, July 20, 2021 (Turkish Presidency pool photo via AP Images).

Like other foreign powers, Turkey was caught off-guard by the speed of the Taliban’s recent blitz across the country, which has greatly complicated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plans. While most NATO countries were happy to wash their hands of the conflict after a grueling 20-year counterinsurgency and nation-building effort, Erdogan was proposing that Turkey continue to provide security for Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.  Erdogan had discussed this idea with U.S. President Joe Biden during their meeting on the margins of the NATO Summit last month, and negotiations with Washington were reportedly ongoing until last week, despite the Taliban’s fervent […]

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 […]

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar speaks with then-Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 22, 2019 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Iran’s newly minted president, Ebrahim Raisi, declared during a meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar earlier this month that “Iran and India can play a constructive and useful role in ensuring security in the region, especially Afghanistan.” Raisi went on to claim that “Tehran welcomes New Delhi’s role in establishment of security in Afghanistan.” Jaishankar’s two-day visit to Iran to attend Raisi’s inauguration ceremony on Aug. 5  underscored New Delhi’s recent push to deepen engagement with Tehran. This was Jaishankar’s second visit to the country in less than a month. In between the two trips, he also held telephone […]

President Joe Biden, right, meets with former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, left, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, June 25, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it.  The return of Taliban rule to Afghanistan 20 years after the group’s ouster by a U.S.-led coalition came as a great shock, first and foremost to the Afghan population. Its many flaws notwithstanding, the now-dissolved, Western-backed Afghan central government allowed Afghans to live under a considerably less repressive system than […]

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

Qatar will hold elections for its national legislative body, the Shura Council, for the first time in October. However, rare public demonstrations erupted this week in response to restrictive electoral eligibility requirements, demonstrating that the planned polls entail a degree of risk for the country’s rulers. While the provision for national elections was included in Qatar’s 2003 constitution, they had been repeatedly postponed until this year, partly due to concerns about the prospect of social unrest.  Under the election law that was approved last week by Emir Tamim Bin al Thani, certain Qataris will be able to elect 30 of the 45 members […]

People line up for a free, cooked meal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 29, 2021 (AP photo by Bruna Prado).

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 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 […]

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 […]

Families of the victims of the Beirut Port blast demonstrating near the explosion site, in Beirut, exactly one year after famous explosion that killed more than 200 people and wounded thousands, Aug. 4, 2021 (AP photo by Ammar Abd Rabbo).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. On Aug. 4, Lebanon observed a somber one-year anniversary of the massive explosion at the Beirut Port that according to Human Rights Watch killed 218 and wounded 7,000. To mark the occasion, people bravely shared moving stories on social media about the toll the event took on their mental health, […]

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