A health worker pauses in the ICU unit for COVID-19 patients at the Hospital das Clinicas in Porto Alegre, Brazil, March 19, 2021 (AP Photo by Jefferson Bernardes).

As COVID-19 starts to loosen its grip on the world, it makes sense to ask what we’ve learned from this punishing experience, so that we can be better prepared when the next pandemic strikes—which it will. Although it will take years to absorb the plague’s many lessons, here are four insights from the past year that should inform multilateral pandemic preparedness in the months and years ahead. The planet is out of balance, endangering human health. This pandemic has been severe, but it should not have come as a surprise. The past half-century has seen a surge in zoonoses, or […]

A map of the United States shows cyberattacks in real time at the headquarters of BitDefender, a leading Romanian cybersecurity company, in Bucharest, Romania, March 5, 2015 (AP Photo by Octav Ganea and Mediafax).

Over the weekend, something extraordinary happened. A working group within the United Nations, comprising all 193 of its member states, adopted a consensus report on norms for responsible state behavior in cyberspace. The report itself represents fairly limited progress, in terms of its contents, although there are some shiny objects for the cyber nerds like me who have been following this process closely. What is most significant is that there is consensus among all U.N. member states in a field that has been wrought with division and contention, especially for the past five years. Most surprisingly, this process originated from […]

The Nancy Foster, a U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship, travels over Gray’s Reef, about 20 miles off the coast of Georgia, Aug. 7, 2019 (AP Photo by Robert F. Bukaty).

As President Joe Biden’s administration moves to restore U.S. global leadership on the environment, it cannot afford to ignore the health of oceans. It must spearhead the successful conclusion of negotiations on a U.N. high seas biodiversity convention, which are currently adrift. To bring this treaty into port, the United States will need to forge global agreement on several contentious issues. It will also need to temper its neuralgic opposition to legally binding multilateral commitments, recognizing that the treaty poses no threat to U.S. sovereignty and is deeply in American interests. Although not entirely lawless, the high seas are poorly […]

Karim Khan in the courtroom of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, the Netherlands, June 4, 2007 (pool photo by Robert Vos via AP Images).

The member states of the International Criminal Court recently appointed British lawyer Karim Khan as the ICC’s next chief prosecutor. He is expected to start his nine-year term in June, replacing Gambian attorney Fatou Bensouda in the role. Khan is a veteran of the international legal world, having served as both prosecutor and defense counsel in a number of prominent cases. He also recently led a special U.N. investigation into crimes committed by the Islamic State group. But his upcoming stint as the ICC’s chief prosecutor will arguably be his most challenging assignment yet, given the many criticisms the court […]

The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Feb. 6, 2020 (AP photo by Peter Dejong).

Last month, after months of jockeying for influence, member states of the International Criminal Court held a secret ballot to determine the court’s next chief prosecutor. The winner was Karim Khan, a British lawyer with extensive experience on both the prosecutorial and defense side of international criminal cases. Khan will be only the third person to hold the job. He will take over from the current chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, at a time when the ICC faces some difficult questions about what kind of institution it will be. This week on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by Kyle […]

A rally near the United Nations Headquarters to protest Sri Lanka’s military offensive against the Tamil Tigers and civilian casualties, New York, April 17, 2009 (AP photo by Seth Wenig).

On a snowy afternoon in January, 24-year-old Thanujan Sellathurai delivered a speech in front of a small crowd of protesters from the Tamil community in Geneva. He called for the United Nations, which has several of its agencies headquartered there, to condemn the “brutal atrocity” that had just taken place in Sri Lanka. Authorities at the University of Jaffna, on the northern tip of Sri Lanka, had ordered the bulldozing of a memorial paying tribute to the victims of the Mullivaikkal massacre, a mass killing of Tamil civilians that took place in May 2009, during the last few days of […]

U.S. President George H. W. Bush, front row center, is seen posing with other heads of state at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 13, 1992 (AP photo).

Nearly three decades after it emerged from the landmark “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro, the Convention on Biological Diversity has been ratified by 196 countries; the United States is the sole remaining holdout. This failure of global leadership is unconscionable and self-defeating, given continued, catastrophic declines in biodiversity that could see roughly 1 million species disappear in the coming decades. America must finally become party to this “Treaty of Life.” The Biden administration should promptly submit the U.N. biodiversity convention to the Senate for its advice and consent, while refuting several misconceptions that continue to underpin political resistance to […]