Burkina Faso paratroopers participate in an annual counterterrorism exercise in Thies, Senegal, Feb. 18, 2020 (AP photo by Cheikh A.T Sy).

State security forces in Burkina Faso summarily executed 31 unarmed people in the northern town of Djibo earlier this month, just hours after they were taken into custody, according to a recent report from Human Rights Watch. It described the killings as a “brutal mockery of a counterterrorism operation that may amount to a war crime.” The victims were suspected of collaborating with jihadist groups that have been operating in the area. Shocking as the massacre may be, it is by no means an anomaly in northern Burkina Faso and the neighboring region of central Mali, which have become epicenters […]

Iraqi soldiers man a checkpoint as oil wells burn on the outskirts of Qayyarah, Iraq, Oct. 19, 2016 (AP photo by Marko Drobnjakovic).

Competition over scarce natural resources is often a key driver of the tensions that fuel armed conflict in different corners of the world. Yet in the heat of battle, environmental considerations are often relegated to afterthoughts, as smoke from burning buildings clouds the skies and toxic byproducts of munitions poison the soil and groundwater. As former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in 2014, “The environment has long been a silent casualty of war and armed conflict.” Conflict-related environmental damage directly and indirectly affects the wellbeing of nearby civilians by threatening their health, ecosystems, livelihoods and economies. Accordingly, humanitarian organizations […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech at his office in Jerusalem, March 14, 2020 (pool photo by Gali Tibbon via AP Images).

After three weeks of negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leading opposition figure Benny Gantz agreed to form a national unity government last week. While the idea of a unity government between Netanyau’s right-wing Likud party and Gantz’s centrist Blue and White bloc had been discussed on both sides over the past year, what finally broke the logjam after three inconclusive elections since April 2019 was the public health crisis and economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Gantz, facing the difficult choice of breaking his core campaign promise to not serve alongside Netanyahu or taking Israel to a […]

Guyana’s president, David Granger, addresses the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 20, 2016 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

Despite growing signs of a dramatic and global economic downturn stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, the small South American country of Guyana appears poised for a period of spectacular economic growth. In its recent semiannual report on Latin America and the Caribbean, the World Bank forecasts a 4.6 percent contraction for the region’s economy in 2020, followed by an expansion of 2.6 percent in 2021. However, the World Bank sees Guyana’s economy skyrocketing by 51.7 percent in 2020, before leveling off to 8.7 percent in 2021. The reason for this very rosy outlook? In December, ExxonMobil began pumping oil from […]

Austrian soldiers wearing protective masks at a military ceremony in Vienna, April 27, 2020 (AP photo by Ronald Zak).

“We are at war,” French President Emmanuel Macron stressed while announcing a nationwide lockdown last month. He was not alone in his choice of rhetoric, as leaders around the world have invoked battlefield metaphors to galvanize national responses to the coronavirus pandemic. The drama of the analogy certainly makes it a convenient political instrument to justify radical state-led interventions. Yet it also blurs the differences between the current public health crisis and an actual war. During an armed conflict, militaries face human opponents with wills of their own, but there is no such enemy during this pandemic—only an unfeeling virus. […]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends the ASEAN Plus Three virtual summit at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, April 14, 2020 (Blue House photo via AP Images).

Just six months ago, South Korean President Moon Jae-in was stuck in a downward spiral. His scandal-plagued justice minister had resigned after only five weeks on the job, prompting Moon to issue a public apology. The economy was sputtering, relations with neighboring Japan were at rock bottom, and Moon’s signature policy of détente with North Korea was going nowhere. In October, his approval ratings sank to a historically low 39 percent. It took nothing less than an unprecedented public health crisis to reverse Moon’s fortunes. Widespread approval of his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic led South Korean voters to […]

Soldiers stand guard after the start of a curfew to slow the spread of the coronavirus, in Lima, Peru, April 22, 2020 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

LIMA, Peru—Even before his quick, decisive response to the novel coronavirus, the irony of Martin Vizcarra’s accidental yet popular stint as president of Peru was not lost on many of his constituents. When voters here are asked to explain their reformist leader’s apparent honesty and effectiveness, they often respond cynically, “We didn’t vote for him.” They have a point. All five of Peru’s elected presidents between 1985 and 2018, when Vizcarra stepped up from the vice presidency to replace the scandal-plagued Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, have been linked by prosecutors to corruption. One, Alberto Fujimori, is serving a 25-year jail sentence. […]

Asylum-seekers wearing masks attend a mandatory immigration court hearing in El Paso, Texas, March 16, 2020 (AP photo by Cedar Attanasio).

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has complained that on immigration, the United States has “the worst laws of any country in the world,” which constrain his anti-immigrant agenda at the border with Mexico. He hasn’t been able to convince Congress to change those laws, or even to pay for a wall along the southern border, even after instigating the longest government shutdown in history just to pressure Congress. Trump’s administration has instead sought to chip away at immigration statutes and bend them almost to their breaking point, in order to make it harder for all immigrants, but primarily asylum-seekers, to […]

Police test facial recognition technology in London, Dec. 17, 2018 (Photo by Kirsty O’Connor for Press Association via AP Images).

The growing prevalence of facial recognition technology in authoritarian countries like Russia and the United Arab Emirates, which use it to monitor activists and suppress dissent, has raised increasing alarm among human rights advocates. Perhaps the most egregious example is in China, where the government has used facial recognition technology to racially profile Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that is concentrated in Xinjiang province, and forcibly lock them up in internment camps. But authoritarian countries are not alone: This technology is now being harnessed for law enforcement and surveillance purposes in many democracies. Last month, for example, India’s government […]

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, center, discusses the novel coronavirus at a news conferences at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, March 9, 2020 (Keystone photo by Salvatore Di Nolfi via AP Images).

President Donald Trump justified his recent announcement that the U.S. would halt further payments to the World Health Organization by claiming that “the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion” about the coronavirus pandemic. This charge has been widely rebutted by global health experts and practitioners. WHO representatives, journalists and academics have all demonstrated that the organization was doing what it could through diplomatic channels with Beijing to get updated information about the novel coronavirus that first emerged in central China and has since spread around the world. Contrary to Trump’s accusations, […]

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline, take part in a rally in Smithers, British Columbia, Jan. 10, 2020 (Photo by Jason Franson for The Canadian Press via AP Images).

MONTREAL—On Feb. 10, Karla Tait was arrested in northern British Columbia while participating in a ceremony along the path of a multi-billion-dollar pipeline project to honor missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police accused Tait and other members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation of violating an injunction preventing them from blocking construction on the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The project passes through an area where members of the Unist’ot’en clan, a sub-group of the Wet’suwet’en peoples, have set up a traditional healing center and camp to reclaim their ancestral lands and protest the pipeline’s construction. The road […]

A sign indicates a COVID-19 checkpoint ahead as a truck crosses the Confederation Bridge in Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick, Canada, March 22, 2020 (photo by Andrew Vaughan for The Canadian Press via AP).

Throughout history, outbreaks of infectious disease have often been linked with illicit trade. A cholera outbreak in Mexico during the 1990s, for example, is believed to have originated with an infected person from South America who arrived on an illegal airstrip used for drug trafficking. The historian Julia Clancy-Smith writes that in mid-19th-century Tunisia, “contraband, quarantine, and cholera worked together.” And while the precise origin of the coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the globe is unknown, the illicit wildlife trade in China may have been a major factor. Once they spread widely, infectious diseases also disrupt the illicit drug trade at […]

Voters line up to vote in Wisconsin’s primary election, Milwaukee, April 7, 2020 (AP photo by Morry Gash).

If the April 7 Democratic presidential primary vote in Wisconsin was a test of American democracy’s ability to handle the coronavirus pandemic, then by many accounts, it failed. The lead-up to the election was marred by last-minute partisan wrangling and poor communication with the public. Thousands of absentee ballots went missing or undelivered. And when people showed up to vote, they encountered crowded, under-resourced and under-sanitized polling stations. The state’s leaders have been widely condemned for forcing voters to choose between their health and their democratic rights. Wisconsin’s example shows that without proper preparation, voters across the country could face […]

A motorcycle taxi driver wearing a face mask waits for customers in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 14, 2020 (AP photo by Achmad Ibrahim).

Southeast Asian countries, already struggling to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, are bracing for a new surge of COVID-19 cases. Most countries in the region, with the exception of Singapore and Vietnam, had sluggish initial responses to the virus. Most also are poor or middle-income states, which lack public health systems that can effectively track and trace coronavirus patients. Malaysia now has more than 5,000 known COVID-19 cases, although the true number is probably much higher, while the Philippines and Indonesia also have more than 5,000 known cases. With minimal testing in Indonesia, the region’s most populous country, […]

A police officer wearing a face mask at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, April 8, 2020 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

The dusty border town of Taftan in western Pakistan is a frequent stopover for religious pilgrims. Many members of the country’s Shiite minority pass through it en route to visit holy sites in neighboring Iran. But after Iran emerged as one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus, the Pakistani government set up a quarantine camp in Taftan to prevent further movement, inadvertently turning the town into an epicenter for the spread of COVID-19. Testing in the camp is sporadic at best, while health facilities are abysmal. Many pilgrims reportedly paid bribes to escape back into Pakistan, and as […]

A property in Hampstead, north London, which is the home of Kazakh national Nurali Aliyev and is the subject of an Unexplained Wealth Order, March 12, 2020 (Photo by Ben Cawthra for Sipa via AP Images).

The United Kingdom has long been infamous as a money-laundering haven, with hundreds of billions of dollars in dirty money passing through its financial system just in recent years. In 2017, the British government decided to deal with all this dirty money by enacting the Unexplained Wealth Orders, a series of regulations allowing authorities to identify and seize assets related to potential corruption and money-laundering cases. But in their three years of existence, the government has pursued a grand total of just one case under the orders, against the wife of a prominent former banker from Azerbaijan, who had fallen […]

Sierra Leone’s president, Julius Maada Bio, addresses the Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 23, 2019. (AP photo by Jason DeCrow).

For decades, Sierra Leone has languished at the bottom of international corruption rankings. Despite detailed anti-corruption legislation that has been on the books since 2000, millions of aid dollars in technical assistance and repeated promises by politicians, corruption has persisted, even flourished. More recently, however, this has started to change under President Julius Maada Bio. Transparency International ranked Sierra Leone 119th out of 180 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index last year, up 10 places from 2018. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. foreign assistance agency, also recorded a jump for Sierra Leone in its annual anti-corruption scorecard, from […]

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