Abortion rights protesters have a heated discussion with a man who is anti-abortion, outside the Supreme Court in Washington, May 14, 2022 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

In the past few weeks, two ever-divisive issues in U.S. politics have once again reared their heads: abortion and gun control. Debates about the former were sparked in early May by a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion indicating that a majority of the court’s justices are in favor of overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that protects a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government interference. Activists in favor of protecting the right to abortion, as well as those opposed, promptly took to the streets and digital platforms to advocate for their point of view—and condemn the […]

Abortion rights activists protest outside the Constitutional Court where judges review a lawsuit that seeks to decriminalize abortion in Bogota, Colombia, Jan. 20, 2022 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

Across the Americas, abortion rights appear to be heading in very different directions. Looking solely at the U.S., the recent leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion suggests that the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling—which established a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restrictions—could soon be overturned. If so, it would be a symptom of a general assault on reproductive rights as well as civil rights more broadly. However, looking further south, a different story emerges. Throughout Latin America, feminist movements are winning major victories on abortion rights, and their lessons are instructive: Organizing matters, but so […]

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un leads a meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, May 17, 2022 (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service photo via AP).

Reliable and accurate data are supposed to be the bedrock of the global health governance system. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic is demonstrating just how difficult it is to collect such information, and why this failure has so many consequences for national and international responses to infectious disease outbreaks. Let’s use North Korea as an example. How many cases of COVID-19 have there been in the so-called Hermit Kingdom? If you ask North Korean government officials, the answer prior to the middle of May 2022 was zero—despite reports in the South Korean press that nearly 200 North Korean soldiers had died of the disease as early […]

Delegates listen as Malala Yousafzai, not seen, addresses the ‘Malala Day’ Youth Assembly at United Nations headquarters, July 12, 2013 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

Young people have been demanding better representation at the United Nations for many decades, but in the past couple of years, world leaders have seemed to catch on. In 2020, to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, all 193 of the world body’s member states came together to release a declaration committing to “listen to and work with youth.” Since then, it has been near impossible to go to a U.N. meeting aimed at young people without hearing phrases like “intergenerational cooperation” or “intergenerational solidarity.” This is no doubt a step in the right direction. In a 2021 manifesto titled […]

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah speaks during a conference at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, Sept. 22, 2014 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

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 United States’ partners in the Middle East continue to enjoy impunity when it comes to Washington’s responses to their human rights abuses. Witness the ease with which Saudi Arabia escaped accountability for the murder in 2018 of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident journalist who lived in exile in the […]

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to members of the 82nd Airborne Division at the G2A Arena, March 25, 2022, in Jasionka, Poland (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Ukraine wasn’t supposed to stand much of a chance in a military conflict with Russia. It was outgunned and outmanned. In the first months of 2022, as the threat of an invasion loomed, the Russian military was expected to quickly and decisively defeat its much weaker neighbor with ease. Many experts were asking not if Russia could win the coming war, but how far its ambitions stretched within and beyond Ukraine. But as the war grinds on for a fourth month, Ukraine has defied expectations. With external assistance, its military has been able to force Russia’s troops to pull back […]

A firefighter monitors the Caldor Fire burning near structures in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., Aug. 30, 2021 (AP photo by Jae C. Hong).

For decades, market fundamentalists pitted capitalism against environmentalism, as if the global economy could be insulated from shocks to the health and stability of the biosphere. At last, those days are ending, and economists and corporate leaders are recognizing the costs of running down Earth’s natural capital. Last week, the nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs announced that in 2021 alone, “climate change-related natural disasters inflicted nearly $150 billion in damage to America’s economy.” The U.S. plight is part of a broader pattern. On April 26, the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction, or UNDRR, declared that the world as […]

A man waving a Cuban flag in a rally outside the White House in Washington, July 13, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

President Joe Biden has finally learned the lesson that each of his 11 predecessors had to grudgingly accept when it comes to Cuba: Some U.S. interests can only be advanced by engaging with Havana. After a policy review that lasted 15 months, during which former President Donald Trump’s draconian economic sanctions remained in place, the State Department recently announced it will relax the measures that have had the greatest direct impact on the Cuban people. The change comes at a moment when irregular migration from Cuba is aggravating the crisis on the U.S. southern border and Latin American heads of […]

Girls from poor localities wait their turn to show school work to teacher, at a makeshift school in a city park in Islamabad, Pakistan, Nov. 13, 2018 (AP photo by B.K. Bangash).

The Transforming Education Summit is fast approaching. Many in the education community and at the United Nations, as well as impassioned young activists around the world, have begun to mobilize for the event, which is scheduled to coincide with the U.N. General Assembly in September. And according to the world body’s deputy secretary-general, Amina Mohammed, the summit aims at nothing less than “averting a generational disaster” by “rethinking education systems.” However, little attention is being paid to this summit outside of those circles. In many ways, this isn’t surprising: Conferences and summits are an almost daily fixture on the international calendar, and […]

U.S. President Joe Biden meets with business leaders in the White House to discuss the Bipartisan Innovation Act and its provisions for increasing U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, Washington, March 9, 2022 (SIPA photo by Yuri Gripas).

Semiconductors, the tiny chips that power everything from Apple iPhones to F-35 fighter jets, are a true product of globalization. Their technological sophistication is matched only by the logistical complexity of their supply chains, which stretch across the planet. It should be no surprise, then, that these chips are feeling the impact of accelerating deglobalization. Over the past several years, manufacturers of everything from shoes to home appliances have moved to reshore production, encouraged by protectionist governments erecting trade barriers to protect domestic economies from geopolitical forces. Gradually, the “just-in-time” supply chains of the globalized world, which outsourced aspects of […]

Forces loyal to Libya’s U.N.-appointed interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah arrive from Misrata to Tripoli in a show of support, Feb. 12, 2022 (AP photo by Yousef Murad).

By any definition, Libya is a so-called fragile state and a high-priority challenge for international security. Since 2011, it has been wracked by repeated cycles of internal division and proxy warfare. It is a key node of arms smuggling and human trafficking, and a feeder of violence, conflict and human suffering across North Africa and down to the Sahel and the broader West Africa region. In recognition of these challenges, the U.S. recently named it one of the priority countries for the Global Fragility Act, or GFA, a 2019 law designed to change the way the U.S. government approaches conflict-prevention and peacebuilding […]

A Russian soldier looks through a binocular during drills in the Rostov region in southern Russia, Dec. 14, 2021 (AP photo).

International security is inherently a secretive business. Governments and militaries like to hide their capabilities and plans from their rivals. Yet in the post-Cold War years, states began to become more transparent about their military postures, aiming to create a new sense of international cooperation and openness. This process has now gone into reverse, with post-Cold War transparency arrangements in sharp decline. With the war in Ukraine signaling a new era of great power conflict and mistrust, can international organizations like the United Nations do anything to maintain some transparency over security affairs between states? The idea that multilateral bodies […]

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin speaks with the media as she arrives for an EU Africa summit in Brussels, Feb. 18, 2022 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

The challenges we face today are incomparable to those of yesterday. More than ever before, we face threats restricted not just to distinct parts of the world or to particular populations, but to the globe’s collective existence. Global warming is heating up the planet—our shared home—to dangerous levels; apocalyptic nuclear warfare has become an ever-looming possibility; and new technologies, like AI voice cloning, increasingly have the potential to upend life as we know it. Unprecedented challenges call for unprecedented leadership. The world needs policymakers and leaders who can be flexible, incorporating new research and adapting to new crises as they emerge; […]

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Climate change is pushing the world’s oceans toward a mass extinction event, according to a new report published in Science late last month. The authors, Princeton’s Justin Penn and Curtis Deutsch, contend that without swift steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the vast majority of all marine species could vanish over the next three centuries, with dire consequences for the rest of life on Earth. These findings underscore the urgent need to take dramatic action against global warming and to reduce other anthropogenic strains on marine ecosystems. There is still time to limit the damage—but only if the world acts quickly. As a terrestrial species, […]

Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference at the Federal Reserve, May 4, 2022 in Washington (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

It’s a widely acknowledged truth that when the United States’ economy sneezes, many countries catch a cold. And so it is with this week’s interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve in Washington, whose efforts to contain inflation in the U.S. are sure to create new problems for already battered economies and families in less affluent countries. The move will unintentionally pile onto the multiple, interconnected crises and growing challenges already facing developing countries. As I noted a few weeks ago, Russia’s war on Ukraine is sending economic, and therefore political, shockwaves across the planet, from Peru to Sri Lanka. Now comes the […]

A Ukrainian soldier smokes a cigarette outside Kharkiv, Ukraine, Feb. 26, 2022  (AP photo by Andrew Marienko).

A recent investigative report by Reuters detailed the close ties between Philip Morris International and Igor Kesaev, the founder and until recently board chairman of Russia’s largest cigarette distributor, TC Megapolis. Relationships between Big Tobacco companies and wholesale distributors tend to raise eyebrows in the industry-watching community, given their long history of involvement in smuggling. But what sparked Reuters’ interest in Kesaev is that he also happens to own a company that produces arms for the Russian military, for which he was sanctioned by the European Union on April 8 and the United Kingdom on April 13. That, too, is […]

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a virtual “1+6” Round Table Dialogue with the heads of the World Bank, IMF, WTO, International Labor Organization, OECD and Financial Stability Board, in Beijing, Dec. 6, 2021 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

As China leveraged its state capitalist model to become a global superpower, it increasingly challenged the market-oriented basis of the liberal economic order founded by the United States and its allies 75 years ago. When this competition between the Chinese and Western economic systems gained steam in the 2010s, the main battlefield of international relations also began to shift from the classical realm of security to the normally “civilian” fields of trade, investment, technology and finance—in other words, from geopolitics to geoeconomics. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, military force is front and center once again, even before the United States […]

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