Sri Lankan fishermen stand on a fishing vessel as it leaves a fishery harbor in Negombo on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Oct.15, 2014 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

Environmental crime, despite being a more than $200 billion black market industry, has long been viewed as a tree hugger issue. However, an increasing body of evidence suggests that protecting our oceans, forests and wildlife is not only a matter of conservation, but one of global development and even national security. As a result, governments are finally taking more decisive action. Consider the issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Since the 1960s, fish consumption has risen from an annual average of 22 pounds per person to nearly double that today. With the world’s middle class projected to reach […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reaches out to shake hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Meeting, Beijing, Nov 11, 2014 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Japan and China took another step toward thawing relations over access and territorial rights in the East China Sea with the resumption earlier this month of high-level maritime talks in Tokyo. The Jan. 12 meeting focused on creating a crisis-management mechanism that would mitigate any potential flashpoint surrounding the disputed Senkaku Islands, claimed by China as the Diaoyu. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to work toward establishing such a maritime crisis hotline after their brief meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meetings held in Beijing last November. That summit […]

Riot police enter the town of El Tule, Nicaragua after they cleared a roadblock erected by residents to protest against a proposed transoceanic canal, Dec. 24, 2014 (AP photo by Oscar Navarrete).

In late December, nearly 100 years to the day after the Panama Canal first opened for business, Nicaragua broke ground on Central America’s second mega-canal project, the aptly named Nicaragua Grand Canal. Billed as the world’s largest engineering project, it will snake 173 miles across Nicaragua upon its projected completion in 2019, providing a wider, deeper alternate route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans for ships too large to transit the Panama Canal, several hundreds of miles to the southeast. The new canal, which will stretch three times the length of the Panama Canal, promises to not only alter the […]

Newly enthroned King Salman receives dignitaries who arrived to give their condolences for the late King Abdullah in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 25, 2015 (AP Photo/SPA).

The House of Saud proclaims that it stands “in the face of those trying to hijack Islam ‎and present it to the world as a religion of extremism, hatred, and terrorism.” In Saudi Arabia, at least, it has increasingly stuck to its word. Afraid that jihadis will overthrow them, Saudi royals have promulgated strict rules for oversight of waqfs, or religious charities, that hitherto funded Islamists at home and abroad. Last October, Saudi citizens were forbidden by decree from supporting the so-called Islamic State (IS), and the kingdom is building a stout 600-mile security fence along its border with Iraq […]

Nepalese opposition lawmakers shout slogans as they walk out of the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal, Jan. 25, 2015 (AP photo by Niranjan Shrestha).

KATHMANDU, Nepal—As the brawl that broke out in Nepal’s Constituent Assembly last week highlighted, the country’s transition from war to peace, and from monarchy to republic, is at a critical juncture. More than eight years after the end of Nepal’s decade-long civil war, a second Constituent Assembly has failed to promulgate a new constitution within its self-imposed Jan. 22 deadline. As the ruling coalition and Maoist-led opposition struggle to find a way out of the deadlock, instability has sharpened and is likely to continue. In the past month, strikes and protests have crippled main roads and other transportation arteries throughout […]

The flags of Greece and the European Union billow in the wind in front of the ruins of the fifth century B.C. Parthenon temple, Athens, Greece, Jan. 23, 2015 (AP photo by Petros Giannakouris).

This Sunday, Jan. 25, Greeks will go to the polls for snap elections, with the radical left party Syriza currently polling ahead of the governing center-right New Democracy party by a margin of about 5 percent. The elections were called due to a technicality of Greece’s constitution requiring the dissolution of parliament if it is unable to elect a new president, a mostly decorative post in Greece’s parliamentary democracy. When that in fact transpired and parliament was dissolved on Dec. 29, three things became apparent about the course of the country’s politics and fragile economic recovery, even as new questions […]

Vigilante and local hunters armed with locally made guns gather before a patrol to protect their town from Boko Haram gunmen, Yola, Nigeria, Nov. 25, 2014 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

The first weeks of 2015 have already brought repeated, shocking attacks by Boko Haram in and around Nigeria. Within the country’s northeastern state of Borno, the home turf of the proselytizing sect-turned-Islamist-group, militants massacred hundreds of civilians in Baga, site of a multinational military base. Suicide bombers attacked Maiduguri and Potiskum, the latter on three occasions. In a continuation of last year’s trends, Boko Haram’s violence spilled once again into northern Cameroon, where militants kidnapped dozens of children and adults in villages near Mokolo. Some commentators, including Kenan Malik in the New York Times, argue that “jihadists have turned terror […]

A Belgian security officer stands guard near the Palace of Justice, where suspects wanted in Belgium on terrorism-related charges are set to appear before the federal court, Brussels, Jan. 21, 2015 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Following the attack on the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris earlier this month, European leaders have called for more sharing of data and intelligence on national security and counterterrorism among European Union member states. As it stands currently, people and goods can travel freely within the EU but data about travelers cannot. Efforts to share information about air travelers in Europe have been repeatedly blocked by the European Parliament on the grounds that any such data-sharing system would violate Europeans’ right to privacy. “Cooperation between EU member states is a very important dimension of European counterterrorism […]

Cuban President Raul Castro raises his fist and shout “Long live Fidel” during the closing of the twice-annual legislative session at the National Assembly in Havana, Cuba, Dec. 20, 2014 (AP photo by Ramon Espinosa).

If the changes to the 53-year-old embargo on Cuba announced by U.S. President Barack Obama last month were contentious, implementing them will not be smooth either. To be sure, U.S. public opinion, even among younger Cuban-Americans, has shifted against the embargo, and private sector groups, especially agribusinesses that have lost market share in Cuba to Brazilian competitors, has become more organized and vocal in urging the president to exercise his authority to change the embargo. But there is still the shrill, organized contingent of hardline, pro-embargo Cuban Americans who continue to denounce the actions, led in Congress by two senators, […]

Anti-narcotics police set up drugs to be burned on the outskirts of Panama City, Dec. 5, 2014 (AP photo by Arnulfo Franco).

The war on drugs has been subjected to unprecedented criticism over the past few years. For the first time since the inception of the international drug regime in the 1960s, world leaders are calling for the regulated legalization of all drugs, and not just marijuana. Politicians, businessmen and activists from across North, Central and South America are leading the charge. Several Latin American presidents are at the forefront of this drug policy revolution, insisting on the legalization of cannabis, opium poppies and coca. Some Western European leaders are also demanding that punitive drug laws be replaced with updated measures putting […]

Members of the CNDD-FDD rebel forces surrender their weapons to United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) peacekeepers in Mbanda, southern Burundi, Feb. 3, 2005 (U.N. photo by Martine Perret).

Recent violence has touched all corners of the small Central African nation of Burundi. Earlier this month, attacks by an unnamed and as yet unclaimed rebel group, composed of both Hutus and Tutsis, left over 100 people dead in the western province of Cibitoke. They were followed by the killing of three members of the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), in Ruyigi, near the border with Tanzania. The timing of the attacks is suspicious, with elections, the third since the ending of major hostilities of the civil war in […]

French President Francois Holland and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow, Russia, Dec. 6, 2014 (photo from the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office).

Following a long-standing Gaullist tradition, and driven by romantic memories of their alliance from the two world wars, France has been careful to maintain good relations with Russia while remaining a member of NATO. But the Ukraine crisis has led to a significant change in France’s Russia policy, as evidenced by the saga over the sale to Russia of two Mistral-class warships. That deal was arranged in 2011 by President Francois Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy. Encouraged by his prime minister, Francois Fillon, a traditional Gaullist, and his defense minister, Herve Morin, who was keen on ensuring jobs for the beleaguered […]

A workman slides a dustmop over the floor at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Va., March 3, 2005 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

As the new year opens, and the dust has begun to settle from the release of a report last month by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the CIA’s use of torture in the war on terror, it is time to ask what changes, if any, the report’s revelations will bring about for the agency in the coming years. Quite a few are necessary, but whether they will implemented is, of course, uncertain. To begin with perhaps the most concrete potential outcome, the report opens the way for an overhaul of how U.S. drone strikes are conducted in the […]

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, Beijng, China, Jan. 7, 2015 (Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry photo by Luis Astudillo).

Earlier this month Venezuela and Ecuador received major boosts from China, which has redoubled its stake in the two Latin American economies most vulnerable to plunging oil prices. Following recent visits to China by financial chiefs from both countries, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his Ecuadorian counterpart, Rafael Correa, each traveled to Beijing in early January, where China held its first annual ministerial meeting with the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC). Correa returned from the visit with approximately $5.3 billion in new financing from the Export-Import Bank of China; Maduro announced that Venezuela would receive an additional […]

U.S. President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in the Oval Office, Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2015 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was in Washington last week for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama. The visit came in the wake of Obama’s executive order protecting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and his decision to loosen the decades-old embargo on Cuba, both of which won him favor in Mexico and across Latin America. Meanwhile, Pena Nieto has faced a difficult six months, following the massacre of 43 students in the southern city of Iguala and a series of scandals relating to railway contracts and his wife’s mansion. Immigration was at the top of the agenda, with Pena […]

Pakistani army soldiers check vehicles near the Army Public School which was targeted by Taliban militants last year, Peshawar, Pakistan, Jan. 12, 2015 (AP photo by B.K. Bangash).

On Dec. 16, militants from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) infiltrated Peshawar Cantonment, a high-security zone under military administration housing key government offices, and attacked the Army Public School, killing 145 people—132 of them children. The massacre was a stark reminder of Pakistan’s crisis of urban violence, weaknesses in its intelligence apparatus and the need to strengthen its counterterrorism capabilities. The attack prompted the government to swiftly adopt new measures to improve counterinsurgency and counterterror efforts. Nevertheless, significant changes in strategic thinking and internal reforms will be needed for this incident to become a watershed moment for Pakistan’s security policies. Pakistan’s major […]

Supporters of Beji Caid Essebsi hold his portrait outside his party headquarters after he was elected Tunisian President, Dec. 22, 2014 in Tunis, Tunisia (AP photo by Ilyess Osmane).

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part briefing on Tunisia’s elections. Part I looked at the state of democratic transition with the rise of the Nedaa Tunis party. Part II focuses on economic issues and whether Tunisia’s progress is sustainable. Despite Tunisia’s success navigating its political transition by holding peaceful, fair elections, the challenges of keeping it sustainable remain enormous. If Tunisia’s newly elected leaders don’t deal with those challenges carefully, they could undermine the steady progress Tunisia has made over the past four years. The most alarming issue is the absence of a clear economic agenda in […]

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