A replica of planet Earth set ablaze during a worldwide protest demanding action on climate change, in Milan, Italy, Sept. 27, 2019 (ANSA photo by Nicola Marfisi via AP images).

Despite unfolding ecological catastrophes around the world, negotiations on a potentially groundbreaking Global Pact for the Environment have faltered. Its many champions had hoped for a binding multilateral treaty that would place all international environmental law within a coherent legal framework, as well as establish access to a healthy environment as a fundamental human right. In the end, U.N. member states meeting in Nairobi in May could only agree on a watered-down goal: a “political declaration” to be prepared by 2022, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the historic 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Beyond establishing the […]

President Donald Trump meets with President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, in New York, Sept. 25, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

“We signed the agreement because we want to show our friendship to our most important ally, which is the United States,” El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, said in a meeting last week with President Donald Trump during the U.N. General Assembly. Bukele was referring to the “asylum cooperation agreement” struck the week before between his government and Washington. Though its details are still unclear, the deal would require foreign nationals who cross into El Salvador seeking asylum to apply for it there rather than in the United States. It would also give the U.S. the ability to make people with […]

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the Climate Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 23, 2019 (AP photo by Jason DeCrow).

Two big questions about the future of multilateralism surfaced during last week’s United Nations General Assembly. How will the battle against climate change reshape international cooperation in the decades ahead? And will mounting competition between China and the United States render any cooperation impossible? The climate issue dominated the run-up to this General Assembly. Responding to dire warnings about global warming, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres insisted that it must be front and center in New York. He oversaw a masterful bout of diplomatic choreography, as the U.N. welcomed young, superstar activist Greta Thunberg to address a special Climate Action Summit, pushing […]

A motorcyclist drives past a burning barricade amid anti-government protests, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sept. 30, 2019 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

Violent protests in Haiti have paralyzed much of the country, as demonstrators vent their anger at ongoing, severe fuel shortages and widespread corruption at the highest levels of government. In a pre-recorded television address that aired at 2 a.m. last Wednesday, President Jovenel Moise called for national unity and dialogue with the opposition, but that appears to have done little to assuage the protesters, who say they will not rest until Moise steps down. In an email interview with WPR, Vincent Joos, an expert on Haiti at Florida State University, discusses the roots of the political and economic crisis in […]

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, Sept. 25, 2019 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for Ukraine’s president. The content of Volodymyr Zelensky’s now-infamous July 25th call with U.S. President Donald Trump will doubtless be picked over ad nauseum as the impeachment inquiry against Trump gets underway in Congress. Nor is history likely to forget how the release of a partial, reconstructed transcript of a single phone call between Trump and Zelensky triggered a constitutional crisis in the world’s most powerful country. Zelensky’s obsequious tone, his cloying requests to Trump for Javelin anti-tank missiles and his disparaging remarks about Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, have severely damaged Zelensky’s […]

Prime Minister Saad Hariri and other Lebanese officials attend a rally to mark the 14th anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Beirut, Feb. 14, 2019 (DPA photo by Marwan Naamani via AP Images).

The international tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri unveiled a new indictment last week further implicating Hezbollah in the destabilization of Lebanon in the mid-2000s. On Sept. 15, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a United Nations-backed court based in The Hague, charged Hezbollah member Salim Jamil Ayyash for two assassination attempts on former ministers, Marwan Hamadeh and Elias Murr, in 2004 and 2005, respectively, and the killing of former Lebanese Communist Party leader George Hawi in a car bombing in 2005. Ayyash is one of four Hezbollah members already charged by the tribunal in 2011 for […]

President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One after arriving at Andrews Air Force Base, Sept. 26, 2019 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein, Frederick Deknatel and Laura Weiss talk about President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear Democratic rival Joe Biden. They also discuss the politics of impeachment in Washington, and the impact the scandal will have on America’s standing in the world. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers a free preview article every day of the […]

The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, center, during the United Nations Climate Action Summit, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 23, 2019 (AP photo by Craig Ruttle).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. As this week’s United Nations Climate Action Summit focused more global attention on the effects of climate change, several African leaders used the event to signal a stronger, continent-wide commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Africa is easily the lowest emitter of greenhouse gases of any continent, and as a whole it produces fewer emissions than the United States. South Africa is the only African country to rank among the top 20 global emitters. Because it is particularly vulnerable to the effects […]

A rare anti-government protest in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Sept. 21, 2019 (dpa photo via AP by Oliver Weiken).

Egyptians witnessed something rare last Friday night: protests against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Amid heightened repression, Egyptians have mostly stayed home ever since Sisi took power in a 2013 coup, two and a half years after mass protests had led to the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak. Sisi quickly and ruthlessly crushed any opposition, starting with the Muslim Brotherhood. He jailed Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, and other Islamist leaders, along with any perceived critics of his regime. It’s no wonder most Egyptians have opted to keep their heads down. Friday’s protests, which unfolded in Cairo and […]

Rohingya refugees at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, April 24, 2019 (AP photo).

Myanmar’s government is pushing for the more than 1 million Rohingya refugees currently in Bangladesh to start returning to the country, in an effort to project an image of peace and reconciliation to the outside world. Yet as grim as the situation is for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, where they live in what is now the world’s largest refugee settlement, their prospects back in Myanmar are even worse. It is little surprise, then, that few if any Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar, have taken up the offer. This is Myanmar’s second attempt at facilitating the repatriation of Rohingya, […]

Newly appointed Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi speaks during a press conference at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo, Sept. 11, 2019 (AP photo by Eugene Hoshiko).

Barring the unexpected, Shinzo Abe will become the longest-serving prime minister in Japan’s history this November. Speculation is already rife among Japanese commentators over who could be next in line for the top job. A major reshuffle of Abe’s Cabinet earlier this month sets the stage for what the Nikkei Asian Review calls “Japan’s post-Abe game of thrones.” The crowded field of potential successors include Taro Kono, who was appointed defense minister after serving a two-year stint as foreign minister, and Toshimitsu Motegi, who replaced Kono at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Motegi has been close to Abe for years, […]

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

This time every year, just as surely as summer yields to fall, the United Nations becomes the hosting ground of an annual ritual as fixed as the turning of the foliage or the migration of birds: the General Assembly. It traditionally serves as an opportunity for small nations to speak to the world about their progress or plead for help with problems—think the Pacific islands that are sinking under rising seas—and for countries in conflict to spin their cases, as one can expect this week from Iran and other actors in the inflamed Middle East. Sometimes, the United Nations can […]

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks at a press conference during an EU summit in Brussels, July 2, 2019 (AP file photo by Virginia Mayo)

MADRID—Spaniards are not happy that their country is headed for its fourth election in four years. According to a recent poll in El Pais, more than 90 percent of respondents said they felt either disappointment, anger or worry at the prospect of another vote. But the parliament that was chosen in April still dissolved Monday at midnight after the leaders of its main parties were unable or unwilling to come to an arrangement that would allow one of them to form a government, triggering an election on Nov. 10. While Sept. 23 was the final deadline for any sort of […]

The aftermath of the twin suicide bombing of a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, the capital of Sulu province in the southern Philippines, Jan. 27, 2019 (AP photo by Nickee Butlangan).

It’s been six months since the Islamic State lost the last slice of its territory in Iraq and Syria, where it once controlled a land mass roughly the size of the United Kingdom. This loss dealt a serious blow to the terrorist group, but not a fatal one. As many different counterterrorism analysts have written, ISIS continues to spread its message and gather adherents who carry out attacks in its name across the globe. One area where a metastasizing ISIS could seek to establish a greater foothold is Southeast Asia. In recent years, a number of countries in this diverse […]

Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a ceremony to mark the establishment of diplomatic relations, Beijing, Sept. 21, Sept. 21, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. China notched two big victories in its campaign to diplomatically isolate Taiwan last week. On Friday, Kiribati announced it was cutting ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing, just days after a similar move by the Solomon Islands. The two Pacific island nations appear to have been swayed by promises of economic investment, a ploy Beijing has used in the past. Taiwan said in a statement Friday that it “deeply regrets and strongly condemns” Kiribati’s decision, which it claims […]

A Chinese investor monitors stock prices at a brokerage house in Beijing, Aug. 30, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Amid signs that both sides are trying to tamp down the trade war, at least for now, American and Chinese negotiators are planning to resume trade talks in early October. China recently exempted some U.S. goods from its retaliatory tariffs and is signaling that it may allow the private sector to resume purchasing American agricultural commodities. President Donald Trump in turn delayed by two weeks increasing the tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese exports from 25 percent to 30 percent. He said the delay, to Oct. 15, was a “gesture of goodwill,” since the leadership in Beijing will be celebrating […]

From left, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Japan’s then-foreign minister, Taro Kono, at a press conference in Beijing, Aug. 21, 2019 (pool photo by Wu Hong of European Pressphoto Agency via AP Images).

The foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea met in Beijing last month, where they agreed to seek closer economic ties and push for “free and fair trade” amid a climate of rising protectionism. A leader’s summit in China could follow later this year— an opportunity, perhaps, to resolve some festering troubles in a region mired in mistrust. This diplomatic progress in collective ties comes at an inauspicious time. Attempts by Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul to work together have been undermined constantly over the past decade due to various rivalries in Northeast Asia. An inaugural trilateral leaders’ summit was […]

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