U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in Kearny, New Jersey, Oct. 25, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Next week, U.S. President Joe Biden will convene his Global Summit for Democracy, a virtual gathering of global leaders that aims to promote human rights, counter corruption and discuss ways to strengthen democracy against a rising tide of authoritarianism across the world. The event fulfils a campaign promise made by then-candidate Biden to organize a summit of democracies during his first year in office. The gathering has been dismissed in some quarters as a hollow performative exercise, rendered meaningless by the inevitable controversy over the guest list. But arguments about the substance of the summit, as well as which countries were […]

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

A number of recent developments, including the civil war in Ethiopia and a spate of military takeovers in Mali, Guinea, Sudan and Chad, have exacerbated longstanding concerns of democratic backsliding, the return of military coups and the viability of the nation-state in Africa. The reactions of regional bodies and the African Union to these developments have been typified by carefully worded diplomatic statements, suspension of erring member states from group activities and weak sanctions, evoking familiar criticisms of those organizations as “dictators’ clubs” beholden to national leaders at the expense of the citizens they ostensibly serve. The inability of these bodies to […]

U.S. soldiers sit in a C-17 aircraft at Sather Air Base in Baghdad as they begin their journey home after a year in Iraq, Nov. 30, 2010 (AP photo by Maya Alleruzzo).

If Washington is as committed as ever to its historical role as security guarantor in the Middle East, why do U.S. officials feel compelled to constantly reassure their regional partners that the U.S. isn’t pulling back from the region? The question speaks to the disconnect between Washington’s strategic interests in the Middle East and the priorities of its regional partners. It also reflects the difficulty U.S. policymakers face in seeking to exert influence in a region beset by poor governance and a multiplicity of state, nonstate and hybrid actors.  But it also reflects a paradox at the heart of U.S. […]

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, […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently on a five-day tour of sub-Saharan Africa, his first to the region since taking office in January. Having already visited Kenya and Nigeria this week, he will conclude his tour Saturday in Senegal. The trip comes amid intensifying challenges for U.S. policy across Africa, including a deadly new crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Sudan following last month’s coup, a persistent civil conflict in Ethiopia, and mounting concerns about instability, democratic regression and the viability of the state in Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation. Washington is also concerned about China’s deepening relationship […]

Saudi Arabian Minster of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud speaks at the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit, Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Alberto Pezzali).

The COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow that wrapped up Saturday was intended to draw the world’s attention to the slow-burning emergency of global warming, as well as create policies for mitigating and adapting to its worst effects. Above all, however, the international gathering illustrated the problems of timing and collective action that frustrate efforts to stop climate change.  At the summit, world leaders, scientists and activists called for urgent action to reduce emissions and slow the rise in average global temperatures before the world crosses a threshold into an unlivable future. Instead, the conference delegates drafted what amounts to […]

Families gather on both sides of the closed Moroccan-Algerian border, near Oujda, Morocco, Nov. 5, 2021 (AP photo by Mosa’ab Elshamy).

Algeria has blamed Morocco for a Nov. 1 bombing that killed three Algerian truckers in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, adding a new layer of uncertainty to ongoing tensions between the two hostile neighbors. While the details remain unclear in part due to Rabat’s complete silence about the incident, the attack marks a potentially dangerous turn of events that raises the likelihood of a broader conflagration between Morocco and Algeria. Rabat has already been engaged in low-level clashes for nearly a year with the pro-independence Polisario Front, which receives support from Algeria. Any further escalation would increase the risk […]

A desolate, semi-arid landscape surrounds the Sahel village of Ndiawagne Fall in Kebemer, Senegal, Nov. 5, 2021 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

At the recently concluded COP26 Climate Change conference in Glasgow, African countries—led by leaders of major continental states including South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya—made the case for firmer commitments on climate funding from rich, more industrialized nations and a longer timeline on the transition away from coal and other fossil fuels.  One of the major announcements to come out of the summit was South Africa’s “watershed” finance agreement with several Western powers to transition off of coal-burning power plants. But despite the triumphalism surrounding that deal, African delegates generally left the Glasgow summit disappointed that their […]

Coffins containing victims of a fuel tanker explosion seen lined up during a mass burial in Freetown, Sierra Leone (SIPA Images via AP).

More than 130 people have been reported killed after a fuel tanker hit a large truck and exploded Nov. 5 in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital. The tragedy occurred in the city’s densely populated Wellington district. The victims included motorbike drivers who reportedly rushed toward the scene to collect leaking fuel, which they presumably hoped to either use or sell, as well as roadside traders and commuters trapped in vehicles along the busy intersection. Many of the victims were burned beyond recognition, and posters of the dead and missing have been stuck on walls and buildings around the site of the […]

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 […]

The high-speed rail Gautrain traveling between Johannesburg and Pretoria, in Pretoria, South Africa, Aug. 2, 2011 (AP Photo by Themba Hadebe).

Africa’s leaders and policymakers have long identified connectivity, tourism and, more broadly, mobility—human, capital and otherwise—as key to the continent’s economic structural transformation. For example, the African Union’s Agenda 2063, through seven key aspirations, has identified several programs and initiatives promoting connectivity and mobility as central to accelerating shared growth and development in Africa, as well as to forging a common identity.  Among its flagship projects intended to realize this ambition, the bloc has identified the need for an integrated high-speed train network connecting the continent’s capitals and commercial centers; a continent-wide free trade area, known today as the African […]

Demonstrators protest the Oct. 10 parliamentary vote outside the heavily fortified Green Zone, Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 31, 2021 (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed).

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. Iraq faces a deadly dilemma: make a deal with the militias that appear to be behind an assassination attempt on the life of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, or face off against them in a fight that is sure to leave the Iraqi state and people worse off. Sunday morning’s drone […]

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 […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, left, attend an official welcome ceremony in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Oct. 15, 2019 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

In a little more than a month, on Dec. 24, Libyan voters will go to the polls to elect a new president, and after a decadelong civil war it is probably stating the obvious to say that they face tough choices. Among the candidates they can vote for are Gen. Khalifa Haftar, an accused war criminal backed by Russia and the United Arab Emirates, and Saif Gadhafi, the son of a murdered dictator and an accused war criminal himself, who has also been courted by Russia and the UAE.  The other three presidential candidates all have foreign backers of their own, including the U.S., […]

Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti speaks during the opening ceremony of the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit, Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 1, 2021 (AP photo by Alberto Pezzali).

The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, currently taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, has brought together a wide array of African leaders, policy specialists, businesspeople and activists focused on one goal: how to square the goal of reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions globally with the continent’s industrialization needs and financial realities. During the first two days of the summit, more than 25 African leaders representing nearly half of the continent’s 54 countries took center stage to make the case for a justice-oriented approach to solving the climate crisis. Speaking Tuesday at an Africa-focused event at the conference, Congolese […]

Activists from Extinction Rebellion take part in a demonstration near the site of the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Alastair Grant).

World leaders are gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, for what many consider the most important climate change talks in global history. COP26, as this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference is known, is the largest diplomatic gathering since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The negotiations are meant to be based on scientific findings and policy proposals—not entirely apolitical, but less politically tinged than, say, discussions concerning transnational migration or human rights violations. That’s because, when it comes to climate change, countries are judged on the merits of their plans, not their political systems or their respect for civil liberties. While […]

Climate activists hold up illuminated placards outside the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum as the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Alastair Grant).

The annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, known this year as COP26, is underway in Glasgow, Scotland. High-profile figures from the private sector and philanthropic organizations, as well as national political leaders, have all gathered to discuss ways to reduce emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases—all while the scientific community warns that the window to avert a global catastrophe is rapidly closing. Today on Trend Lines, Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a weekly columnist for WPR, joins Elliot Waldman to discuss the latest developments from Glasgow and the sticking points that are preventing more […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 181 2 Last