An elderly patient receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Orange Farm, near Johannesburg, South Africa, June 3, 2021 (AP photo by Denis Farrell).

By the late 1990s, an HIV diagnosis was no longer considered a death sentence in the wealthy countries of the Global North. Advances in medical technology had brought new drugs onto the market that could reverse the disease’s progression. However, those life-saving drugs were priced out of the reach of most patients across the Global South, where millions of people continued to die unnecessarily. There are echoes now of that earlier era, as those same regions are largely going without COVID-19 vaccines—even as wealthier countries move on to administer booster shots for their populations. In response to the disparity in […]

A vehicle bearing photos of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, passes by the Commission on Elections in Manila, Philippines, Nov. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

A series of recent developments in the Philippines has added suspense and drama to next year’s presidential election, which otherwise looks likely to reinforce the country’s long-standing tradition of politics as an affair of political families. The political drama originally centered on who would be the eventual presidential candidate representing outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte’s party, the PDP-Laban, in the May 2022 election. Though the party fielded an incumbent senator as its candidate, he was seen as a mere placeholder for Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, who was expected to be named as a replacement candidate at the last moment. Having cultivated suspense […]

Police officers carry a casket of a colleague who was killed in a grenade attack, Peshawar, Pakistan, July 30, 2021 (AP photo by Muhammad Sajjad).

On Nov. 8, the Pakistani government and the violent jihadist group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, announced a preliminary one-month cease-fire. While the development was shrouded in secrecy, it has potentially major implications for the future of jihadism in South Asia. The agreement—brokered by the Haqqani Network, a group of militants that are designated as terrorists by the United States—gave the Pakistani state respite from a campaign of violence waged by the resurgent, reconsolidated TTP, which maintains loose ties with the Afghan Taliban but is a separate entity. The group’s attacks on security forces along the border with Afghanistan have intensified […]

Women march while holding a banner calling for the abolition of prostitution at the Plaza Fuente Dorada in Valladolid, Spain, Oct. 17, 2021 (Europa Press photo by Claudia Alba via AP Images).

MADRID—Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is vowing to outlaw prostitution, arguing that it “enslaves” women. While Spain decriminalized the practice in 1995, Sanchez’s Socialist Party now wants to go the way of Sweden, where it is illegal to buy sex but not to sell it.  The Spanish government’s about-face illustrates how in the past few decades, Europe has become a laboratory for policies to address not only prostitution itself, but also the ways in which it goes hand-in-hand with human trafficking. Whereas countries like Norway and France have followed Sweden’s lead in trying to ban the practice on the demand […]

Delegates attend the opening session of the 33rd African Union Summit, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 9, 2020 (AP photo).

A number of recent developments, including the civil war in Ethiopia and a spate of military takeovers in Mali, Guinea, Sudan and Chad, have exacerbated longstanding concerns of democratic backsliding, the return of military coups and the viability of the nation-state in Africa. The reactions of regional bodies and the African Union to these developments have been typified by carefully worded diplomatic statements, suspension of erring member states from group activities and weak sanctions, evoking familiar criticisms of those organizations as “dictators’ clubs” beholden to national leaders at the expense of the citizens they ostensibly serve. The inability of these bodies to […]

U.S. soldiers sit in a C-17 aircraft at Sather Air Base in Baghdad as they begin their journey home after a year in Iraq, Nov. 30, 2010 (AP photo by Maya Alleruzzo).

If Washington is as committed as ever to its historical role as security guarantor in the Middle East, why do U.S. officials feel compelled to constantly reassure their regional partners that the U.S. isn’t pulling back from the region? The question speaks to the disconnect between Washington’s strategic interests in the Middle East and the priorities of its regional partners. It also reflects the difficulty U.S. policymakers face in seeking to exert influence in a region beset by poor governance and a multiplicity of state, nonstate and hybrid actors.  But it also reflects a paradox at the heart of U.S. […]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, accompanied by first lady Cilia Flores, speaks at a press conference after he voted in the ruling party’s primary elections, in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 8, 2021 (AP photo by Matias Delacroix).

Many Latin American countries have grappled with democratic backsliding in recent years. But recent sham elections in Venezuela and Nicaragua marked a new low.  On Sunday, the regime led by Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro held municipal and regional polls that were widely seen as rigged, resulting in ruling party candidates taking a vast majority of gubernatorial, mayoral and local council seats.  And earlier this month, Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega oversaw his own rigged elections. After putting seven opposition candidates behind bars during the campaign, Ortega claimed a fourth consecutive term in office. According to an independent voting rights group, turnout […]

Ethiopian soldiers march with national flags attached to their rifles at a rally to show support for the Ethiopian armed forces, at Meskel square in downtown Addis Ababa, Nov. 7, 2021 (AP photo).

As rebel forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Army close in on Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, domestic factions and international mediators are quickly revising their calculations regarding how the war may end and the kind of political order that could emerge in its aftermath.   Earlier this month, almost a year since the conflict began, the TPLF and the OLA announced they were forming an alliance with seven other opposition groups, with the goal of ousting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed—whether by force or through a negotiated settlement—and installing a transitional government. In light of their recent […]

A man crosses a street blocked by a burning barricade during a protest to demand the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Oct. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Elmer Martinez).

On Nov. 28, Hondurans will head to the polls for one of the most consequential elections in the country’s history. After the 2017 polls were marred by fraud and violence, voters face a stark choice between a corruption-plagued ruling party that has enabled Honduras’ transformation into a violent narco-state on one hand, and an uncertain future on the other. The main opposition candidate, Xiomara Castro of the progressive Liberty and Refoundation Party—or Libre, as it is known in Spanish—will try to break the National Party’s 12-year stranglehold on power. The wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, who was deposed in […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently on a five-day tour of sub-Saharan Africa, his first to the region since taking office in January. Having already visited Kenya and Nigeria this week, he will conclude his tour Saturday in Senegal. The trip comes amid intensifying challenges for U.S. policy across Africa, including a deadly new crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Sudan following last month’s coup, a persistent civil conflict in Ethiopia, and mounting concerns about instability, democratic regression and the viability of the state in Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation. Washington is also concerned about China’s deepening relationship […]

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a speech at a celebration of the 76th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party, in Pyongyang, Oct. 10, 2021 (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service photo via AP).

In the final months of his single term in office, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is making a strong push to formally end the Korean War. As part of his efforts, Moon is reportedly seeking a summit between the leaders of the four main participants in the conflict—the United States, China and the two Koreas—to coincide with the Winter Olympics in Beijing. In response, the North has signaled its openness to the proposal, provided its conditions are met.  Setting aside for a moment the policy debate over whether that would be a good idea, it is worth considering the logical […]

South Africa’s president and head of the ruling African National Congress party, President, Cyril Ramaphosa during a ceremony in Pretoria, South Africa, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021

For South Africa’s long-ruling African National Congress party, the outcome of local elections on Nov. 1 was a predictable disaster. The polls took place against a troubled backdrop for the ANC, which has struggled through a perfect storm of challenges and missteps this year: a lack of tangible economic progress, poor public service delivery, chronic power shortages, the worst violent unrest since 1994 and seemingly endless allegations of corruption—all unfolding amid a global pandemic that caused South Africa’s largest economic contraction in a century. All of this virtually guaranteed the party would face a backlash at the ballot box. When the votes were […]

Women walk by an electronic billboard showing China’s GDP index on a commercial office building, in Shanghai, Aug. 24, 2021 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

After two to three decades during which Beijing supported the marketization of the Chinese economy and the growing role of the private sector, many analysts now worry that the Chinese Communist Party has turned its back on its earlier commitment to market-oriented reforms. For example, Stephen Roach, an economist at Yale University and former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, worries in a recent essay that the Chinese government’s current focus on re-regulation and income redistribution is undermining “the heart of the market-based ‘reform and opening up’ that have underpinned China’s growth miracle.”  Indeed, in recent years Beijing has implemented a series […]

Families gather on both sides of the closed Moroccan-Algerian border, near Oujda, Morocco, Nov. 5, 2021 (AP photo by Mosa’ab Elshamy).

Algeria has blamed Morocco for a Nov. 1 bombing that killed three Algerian truckers in the disputed territory of Western Sahara, adding a new layer of uncertainty to ongoing tensions between the two hostile neighbors. While the details remain unclear in part due to Rabat’s complete silence about the incident, the attack marks a potentially dangerous turn of events that raises the likelihood of a broader conflagration between Morocco and Algeria. Rabat has already been engaged in low-level clashes for nearly a year with the pro-independence Polisario Front, which receives support from Algeria. Any further escalation would increase the risk […]

A desolate, semi-arid landscape surrounds the Sahel village of Ndiawagne Fall in Kebemer, Senegal, Nov. 5, 2021 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

At the recently concluded COP26 Climate Change conference in Glasgow, African countries—led by leaders of major continental states including South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya—made the case for firmer commitments on climate funding from rich, more industrialized nations and a longer timeline on the transition away from coal and other fossil fuels.  One of the major announcements to come out of the summit was South Africa’s “watershed” finance agreement with several Western powers to transition off of coal-burning power plants. But despite the triumphalism surrounding that deal, African delegates generally left the Glasgow summit disappointed that their […]

Conservative independent candidate Peter Marki-Zay celebrates his victory in the opposition primary race, in Budapest, Hungary, Oct. 17, 2021 (AP photo by Laszlo Balogh).

In 2018, opposition candidate Peter Marki-Zay’s surprise victory in a mayoral by-election in the small town of Hodmezovasarhely pushed Hungary’s opposition into a half-hearted bid to cooperate in that year’s parliamentary vote. However, the effort never got off the ground, leaving Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party to stroll to yet another two-thirds supermajority. Now, with months to go before the next elections, a diverse slate of six opposition parties insist that this time, they’re determined to unite in a bid to finally defeat Orban’s illiberal regime, which has ruled the country since 2010. Last month, the United Opposition selected […]

Coffins containing victims of a fuel tanker explosion seen lined up during a mass burial in Freetown, Sierra Leone (SIPA Images via AP).

More than 130 people have been reported killed after a fuel tanker hit a large truck and exploded Nov. 5 in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital. The tragedy occurred in the city’s densely populated Wellington district. The victims included motorbike drivers who reportedly rushed toward the scene to collect leaking fuel, which they presumably hoped to either use or sell, as well as roadside traders and commuters trapped in vehicles along the busy intersection. Many of the victims were burned beyond recognition, and posters of the dead and missing have been stuck on walls and buildings around the site of the […]

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