German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron walk to their press conference room at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, July 21, 2020 (AFP pool photo by John Thys via AP Images).

If the European Union were a cartoon, it would resemble an episode of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. The EU would be Wile E. Coyote, furiously paving a road with the help of some mail-order Rube Goldberg machine, patch by patch, just ahead of the car he is driving. The Road Runner would be the course of history speeding up alongside him, then zooming off into the distance. This half-finished structure constantly driven forward by the urgent necessity of events is no accident. It was one of the implicit assumptions of the EU’s early architects and builders, who […]

A nearly empty beach in the usually crowded resort town of Ayia Napa, Cyprus, July 20, 2020 (AP photo by Petros Karadjias).

Earlier this year, as the effects of a deadly new virus rippled across the world, international travel was thrown into a frenzy. Images of frantic business travelers, passengers on cruise ships and study abroad students all scrambling to return home filled the news. But these were soon followed by images of quite a different nature: silent streets in Barcelona, deserted piazzas in Rome, empty beaches in Greece and Thailand, vacant airport terminals in Boston and Singapore. Eventually, international travel ground to a halt. Reservations for hotels, resorts and Airbnb stays evaporated. International flights were canceled, borders were closed, and museums, […]

Riot police chase a nurse who was protesting at a government hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe, July, 6, 2020 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa appears to be using COVID-19 restrictions as cover for a growing crackdown on regime critics, even as his administration mismanages efforts to provide relief to people suffering under lockdown measures in response to the pandemic. In the latest of a string of arrests of politicians and activists, security forces this week detained a prominent investigative journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono, and opposition politician Jacob Ngarivhume, who heads the small Transform Zimbabwe party. The two are accused of organizing nationwide, anti-government […]

A lab technician works at the Eva Pharma facility in Cairo, Egypt, July 12, 2020 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

The new coronavirus field hospital, in a Cairo convention center, has enough space for 4,000 beds. Like so many things in Egypt, it was built by the armed forces. When President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who had once described the virus’s trajectory in Egypt as “reassuring,” toured its vast halls in late June, he didn’t look like he was worried about a surge of COVID-19 patients. Instead, flanked as usual by men in army fatigues, Sisi turned the hospital into another stage to project his authority. But after calling any and all critics of his government’s handling of the pandemic “enemies […]

A man wearing a face mask walks near a homeless person in Lima, Peru, July 14, 2020 (AP photo by Rodrigo Abd).

As the coronavirus pandemic takes a terrible toll across Latin America, with over 3.5 million cases and nearly 150,000 deaths, the region is increasingly facing a financial and humanitarian emergency. Across Latin America and the Caribbean, GDP is forecast to contract by 9.3 percent in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund—the region’s largest economic contraction on record, and far worse than the outlook for African and Asian economies. The United Nations expects the value of South America’s exports to fall by nearly a fifth this year due to shrinking international demand and weaker commodity prices. Foreign investment has also […]

People wade through a flooded street in Beledweyne, central Somalia, May 17, 2020 (AP photo).

This time last year, countries in East Africa were leading the continent in economic growth. Now, much of that progress is at risk as the region faces a dangerous triple threat: torrential rain and flooding, voracious swarms of locusts and the coronavirus pandemic. The three crises are compounding each other’s impacts. Border closures that were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 have strained the supply of pesticides and other equipment to fight the locusts that have ravaged the region for months now. Food supplies that were already under siege from the pests have been further devastated by […]

A lab technician puts labels on test tubes during research on COVID-19 at Janssen Pharmaceutical, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, in Beerse, Belgium, June 17, 2020 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

The coronavirus pandemic has inspired a great deal of scientific research into developing a vaccine for COVID-19. The process is moving much faster than normal, with more than 155 vaccine candidates currently being developed, 23 of which are already in human trials. Vaccines can take years or even decades to develop and distribute, but the Trump administration is pushing to have one ready by early next year. Developing a vaccine is one thing, but making it available to people is another issue altogether—one that involves thorny questions of ethics, intellectual property rights, global trade and recouping research costs. This is […]

Armed police officers wearing face masks block an area in Almaty, Kazakhstan, March 19, 2020 (AP photo by Vladimir Tretyakov).

In April, the Kyrgyz news outlet Kloop posted a video on YouTube showing a new app called STOP COVID-19. Developed by the government of Kyrgyzstan, it allows the authorities to follow the whereabouts of those exposed to the coronavirus. The video shows the movements of two individuals being tracked by combining their digital profiles and phone locations with their government-issued IDs. In theory, STOP COVID-19 is a valuable tool in the government’s efforts to track and trace confirmed or suspected coronavirus patients. But the app goes much further than most Kyrgyz citizens would likely be comfortable with. In addition to […]

A Kashmiri man waits for customers behind a half-closed shutter during a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus, in Srinagar, Kashmir, May 16, 2020 (AP photo by Mukhtar Khan).

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a harsh light on the long-standing structural weaknesses of global labor markets and of the protections available for workers. The estimated 2 billion people worldwide toiling away in the informal sector—in jobs that are not backed by contracts or institutions, and that are not monitored or taxed by governments—are the new economically vulnerable. Across the globe, in developing and developed economies alike, these often-overlooked workers are bearing the brunt of COVID-19 and its accompanying economic depression, and will continue to even when economies start to recover. Because many of these employees work off the books […]

A sign directs people to a COVID-19 testing center in Port St. Lucie, Florida, June 5, 2020 (AP photo by NewsBase).

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally notified the United Nations last week that the United States would withdraw from the World Health Organization. This imprudent step, taken in the midst of a rapidly accelerating pandemic, weakens global health at the precise moment it needs to be bolstered. It will endanger lives around the world while further shredding America’s tattered reputation as an enlightened global leader. Rather than abandoning the WHO and scapegoating it for its own failures, the United States ought to be reinforcing the U.N. agency’s central role in global health governance. That won’t happen while Donald Trump remains […]

Voters wait in line to cast their ballots in the Kentucky primary election, Lexington, Ky., June 23, 2020 (AP photo by Timothy D. Easley).

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, “Our knowledge of what we’re able to do as [election] observers is evolving as our knowledge of the virus evolves,” says David Carroll, director of the Democracy Program at the Carter Center. Carroll, who has participated in dozens of independent election observation missions around the world, joined WPR’s Elliot Waldman on the Trend Lines podcast this week to talk about how democracies are adjusting to COVID-19 in the way they administer elections, and how the pandemic is changing the facts on the ground for observers. Listen to the full conversation here: And if you like what […]

A man casts his vote for the parliamentary election at a polling station in Seoul, South Korea, April 15, 2020 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

The coronavirus pandemic has created a vexing challenge for democratic societies: How to safely hold free and fair elections. Some countries that saw early success in containing the spread of COVID-19, like South Korea, have been able to hold national elections safely, while a slew of others have been forced to postpone their votes. The pandemic has also changed the facts on the ground for independent election observers. For this week’s interview on Trend Lines, WPR’s Elliot Waldman is joined by David Carroll, director of the Democracy Program at the Carter Center. He has participated in dozens of observation missions […]

An Uber Eats cyclist during the coronavirus pandemic shutdown in Glasgow, Scotland, March 28, 2020 (Photo by Andrew Milligan for Press Association via AP Images).

In that foreign country that was our world before the pandemic, the so-called “sharing economy” was in full bloom. Uber and its ride-sharing competitors dominated point-to-point ground transportation. Airbnb was beating the world’s largest hotel brands in rooms rented and consumer spending. New startups were applying digital matching services to facilitate everything from food delivery to toilet rentals. And the phenomenon was global: China and India had their own ride-sharing giants, Didi Chuxing and Ola, while companies around the world—Comparto Mi Maleta in Chile, Sharemac in Germany, Gojek in Indonesia, Stashbee in the U.K. and Lynk in Kenya—connected consumers to […]

Protesters demanding President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s resignation take to the streets in Bamako, Mali, June 19, 2020 (AP photo by Baba Ahmed).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnists Louise Riis Andersen and Richard Gowan are filling in for Stewart Patrick this week. Since it began to spread rapidly earlier this year, the coronavirus pandemic has had a visible impact on United Nations peacekeeping operations. Peacekeepers have practiced social distancing, minimized interactions with local populations and tried to help fragile states handle the disease. Yet the long-term economic and political consequences for peacekeeping look like they will be more severe. COVID-19 has the potential to increase instability in fragile states, including those where the Blue Helmets are deployed, just as Security Council members and the […]

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrives at a nomination center with his team ahead of the general election in Singapore, June 30, 2020 (AP photo by Yong Teck Lim).

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong declared in a televised address last week that Singapore would hold its next general election on July 10. Lee and other members of the long-ruling People’s Action Party, or PAP, have expressed confidence in being able to hold an election safely and effectively, even though Singapore has had more than 43,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the most in Southeast Asia on a per capita basis. In his address, Lee noted the difficulty of determining how long it would take to wait out the pandemic, stating there was no guarantee that Singapore could hold a coronavirus-free […]

People line up as they wait to receive a ration of donated food, in Barcelona, Spain, May 14, 2020 (AP photo by Emilio Morenatti).

MADRID—Tens of thousands of households in Spain began receiving checks last Friday under a new guaranteed minimum income program that was passed by parliament in early June. Plans to provide a guaranteed income had been part of the coalition agreement reached in January between the ruling Socialists and their junior coalition partner, the far-left Podemos party, but they were fast-tracked due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Spain is one of the hardest-hit countries from COVID-19, with nearly 300,000 confirmed infections and more than 28,000 deaths. Its GDP is expected to contract by more than 9 percent this […]