Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed holds a national flag during a handover ceremony at the presidential palace in Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb. 16, 2017 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

Somalia, once seen only as a war-ravaged failed state, is preparing to achieve a momentous accomplishment. Later this year or early next, for the first time in more than half a century, the fragile nation in the Horn of Africa will hold something very close to a democratic election. Somali officials, backed by Western diplomats and the United Nations, hope that millions of citizens will participate in the electoral process, even as the country’s weak central government and embryonic state apparatus, constantly tested by terrorist attacks and political dysfunction, continues a slow and disjointed recovery from a brutal military dictatorship […]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at his inauguration ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul, March 9, 2020 (AP Photo by Rahmat Gul).

The peace agreement signed late last month between the United States and the Taliban promised that intra-Afghan negotiations would commence by March 10. Unsurprisingly, that deadline was missed, illustrating the formidable hurdles that remain in the way of a lasting political settlement in Afghanistan. The multiple actors involved in the conflict have widely divergent expectations of the political process. Within the Taliban, there is a divide between the movement’s political leaders—most of whom are based in neighboring Pakistan—on the one hand, and its military commission and commanders in Afghanistan, on the other. Both are pursuing victory, but they differ on […]

People wear masks as they walk over Millennium Bridge near St Paul’s Cathedral, in London, March 22, 2020 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

Editor’s Note: WPR has made this article, as well as a selection of others from our COVID-19 coverage that we consider to be in the public interest, freely available. You can find all of our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here. If you would like to help support our work, please consider taking advantage of our subscription offer here. Bruce Mann is one of the most experienced emergency planners in the world. As the former director of the British Cabinet Office’s Civil Contingencies Secretariat, he was in charge of Britain’s planning for and response to emergencies and disasters. He coordinated […]

Fishing boats are moored in the Mekong River, which has changed to an unusual clear blue color, in Nakhon Phanom province, Thailand, Dec. 4, 2019 (AP photo by Chessadaporn Buasai).

As societies around the world focus on containing the spread of the novel coronavirus, millions of people in Southeast Asia have another worry on their minds: How to put food on their table amid a devastating drought. In Thailand, historically low levels of rainfall since last summer have taken a heavy toll on the agriculture sector, which employs 11 million people. Inland fishing communities across the region are reporting drastically smaller catches. And in Vietnam, a state of emergency was declared earlier this month in five provinces in the southern Mekong Delta, which produces more than half of the country’s […]

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 10, 2019 (AP photo by Heng Sinith).

Almost a year-and-a-half after threatening to sanction Cambodia over Prime Minister Hun Sen’s clampdown on human rights, and a year after beginning the formal process for doing so, the European Union finally made good on its word. Underwhelmed by the Cambodian government’s meager attempts to allow political dissent and media freedoms, the bloc announced in February that it would suspend tariff-free access for more than $1 billion worth of exports from the Southeast Asian nation, starting in August. While the immediate impacts of the new barriers to trade will be limited, they could eventually result in an economic contraction of […]

A woman walks by an election campaign billboard for the opposition Blue and White party in Ramat Gan, Israel, Feb. 20, 2020 (AP photo by Oded Balilty).

Israelis went to the polls earlier this month for the third time in less than a year to elect a new Knesset and hopefully a new government. The unprecedented sequence of elections is a result of a combination of factors that have left Israeli politics deadlocked since last spring. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his conservative Likud party have led Israel’s government for 11 consecutive years, but three high-profile corruption cases against Netanyahu created an impetus for a new opposition party, the center-right Blue and White, to emerge in early 2019. Its platform is constructed not around stark policy differences […]

From left, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Chingiz Aidarbekov, Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Uzbek Foreign Affairs Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Feb. 3, 2020 (AP photo).

The State Department released its updated strategy for Central Asia last month—a relatively short document that is mostly taken up with reiterating traditional U.S. priorities in the region. While it lacks the grand ambitions that fueled earlier U.S. approaches to Central Asia, particularly the aim to reshape its strategic geography through U.S.-backed infrastructure initiatives, the Trump administration’s new approach isn’t without its own ambitions. Given the past gap between aims and results in U.S. policy toward Central Asia, more realism about American capabilities might be welcome. But the policy outlined by the Trump administration is still problematic. It is based […]

A pump jack operates in an oil field in the Permian Basin in Texas, June 11, 2019 (Photo by Jacob Ford for Odessa American via AP Images).

Saudi Arabia’s decision to launch a price war in oil markets earlier this month could not have been more poorly timed, coming amid plummeting global demand for oil due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Saudi announcement sunk oil prices to an 18-year low, near $20 per barrel, after five years at more than double that price, putting further downward pressure on already troubled financial markets. Saudi Arabia had gambled that by flooding the market and pushing down prices, it could punish Russia for refusing to cut its output, while recouping market share that had been ceded to U.S. shale oil […]

A Brazilian soldier puts out fires at the Nova Fronteira region in Novo Progresso, Brazil, Sept. 3, 2019 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

Tensions have simmered for decades between Brazil, which believes the Amazon rainforest is a sovereign resource, and wealthy developed countries concerned with protecting one of the world’s most important carbon sinks. But it wasn’t until last summer that, amid growing international concern over climate change, deforestation in the Amazon provoked a high-level diplomatic spat. As fires raged in the Amazon, most of them set by farmers and ranchers to clear land, French President Emmanuel Macron proclaimed the issue was an international crisis and said he would put it on the agenda of the G-7 summit in Biarritz. German Chancellor Angela […]

Face masks being manufactured at a factory in Shanghai, China, Jan. 31, 2020 (Kyodo photo via AP Images).

There is no drug or vaccine against COVID-19, and it will be at least 12 to 18 months before those remedies could be available. Face masks are next to impossible to find for most consumers, even as public health officials caution that they are not terribly effective against this coronavirus. There is a shortage of ventilators, and President Donald Trump has told America’s governors that they should not rely on the federal government to provide them—even though they are the most effective tool for treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients. In addition to the political, economic and social impacts of the coronavirus […]

Ali Babacan, a former Turkish economy minister, speaks at the launch of his new Democracy and Progress Party, in Ankara, March 11, 2020 (AP photo by Burhan Ozbilici).

ISTANBUL—In a major political shake-up in Turkey, Ali Babacan, a former economy minister and once-close confidante of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently ended months of speculation and formally launched a new political party to challenge his old boss. Babacan, who resigned last July from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, formally launched his new Democracy and Progress Party on March 11, at a rally in the capital, Ankara. The DEVA party, as it is known—Turkish for “cure”—unites a slate of former Erdogan allies, including three other former AKP ministers, six former AKP members of parliament and one sitting lawmaker […]

A lone person crosses Piazza del Popolo in Rome, March 19, 2020 (AP photo by Andrew Medichini).

Editor’s Note: WPR has made this article, as well as a selection of others from our COVID-19 coverage that we consider to be in the public interest, freely available. You can find all of our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here. If you would like to help support our work, please consider taking advantage of our subscription offer here. PISA, Italy—In Pisa, we are entering our 11th day of full lockdown, following a couple of weeks during which normal life, and the economy, was progressively shut down. While China and some other Asian countries are loosening restrictions on movement, most […]

Migrants stand outside their makeshift tents on the perimeter of the overcrowded Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, Jan. 28, 2020 (AP photo by Aggelos Barai).

In mid-February, the United Nations issued a statement calling for the immediate evacuation of the Moria refugee camp, on the Greek island of Lesbos. Initially designed to hold fewer than 3,000 people, the camp’s population had increased from 5,000 last July to roughly 20,000. With ships bringing new arrivals every day, medical experts feared a looming public health crisis. Malnutrition was widespread, hygiene impossible to maintain and health care workers completely overwhelmed, leading many residents to die of treatable conditions. A regional government official called Moria “a powder keg ready to explode,” and a volunteer doctor told The Guardian that […]

Vigilantes and local hunters armed with locally made guns patrol on the street in Yola, Nigeria, Feb. 25, 2019 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

Africa’s Sahel region, the long stretch of scrubland that extends from Mauritania to Sudan, has emerged as a critical global hotspot in recent years, as national governments struggle to contain growing insecurity, rampant criminality and waves of violent extremism. But efforts to stabilize this transcontinental belt just south of the Sahara have largely overlooked one critical driver of tensions: the centuries-old but increasingly violent disputes between nomadic herding and sedentary farming communities. A recent influx of weapons has given these conflicts new and deadly force, with grave implications for international security. The scale of the recent violence stemming from herder-farmer […]

Albin Kurti, the newly elected prime minister of Kosovo, waves after a new government was elected, in Pristina, Kosovo, Feb. 3, 2020 (AP photo by Visar Kryeziu).

“The citizens of Kosovo voted massively for change,” said Albin Kurti, the country’s newly installed prime minister. “Kosovo is ready to turn a new page.” He may be right, but will they and their neighbors throughout the Balkans actually see that transformation, if their leaders can’t put the 1990s and the troubled years since behind them? In exclusive comments to WPR, Kurti said that countries in the Balkans “are still suffering from the past while struggling to build the future.” A few years ago, Kurti was leading his fellow lawmakers in setting off tear gas amid a protest in Kosovo’s […]

Sudan’s prime minister, Abdallah Hamdok, center, is welcomed upon his arrival in Juba, South Sudan, Sept. 12, 2019 (AP photo by Charles Atiki Lomodong).

The transitional government in Sudan announced last month that it will extradite former dictator Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he is wanted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Sudan’s Darfur region. The move was a sign that the new government in Khartoum, which took over last year after Bashir was ousted by the military amid popular protests, is trying to present itself as a responsible member of the international community. It also wants to draw a clear line under the Bashir era domestically and undertake serious peace negotiations with rebel […]

Slovakia’s incoming prime minister, Igor Matovic, arrives for an interview a day after the general election, in Bratislava, Slovakia, March 1, 2020 (AP photo by Petr David Josek).

After a surprise victory in Slovakia’s parliamentary elections late last month, the enigmatic Ordinary People and Independent Personalities party, known as OLANO, will lead a diverse majority coalition in the legislature. President Zuzana Caputova is scheduled to swear in the new government on March 21. Many Slovaks have welcomed the change after the nationalist and populist Smer party governed the small eastern European country for most of the past 14 years, with increasingly authoritarian tendencies. OLANO has pledged to clean up the “Mafia state” that allegedly flourished under Smer, following an election that was overshadowed by mass protests over the […]

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