The “Wall of Welcome” in front of European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Sept. 14, 2015 (Photo by Wiktor Dabkowski for dpa via AP Images).

In 2015, more than 1 million people, mostly from Syria but also Eritrea, Sudan and other countries wracked by conflict and economic turmoil, found their way to Europe in search of asylum, where they struggled to rebuild their lives, often in the face of xenophobia and exclusion. Those were the lucky ones. Thousands of other refugees and migrants died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, a tragic waste of human life that was symbolized in a photograph of the lifeless body of a four-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, which washed up on the shore of a beach […]

People in protective clothing walk past rows of beds at a temporary 2,000-bed hospital for COVID-19 patients in Tehran, Iran, March 26, 2020 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

Iran is one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus. As of March 30, it was behind only the United States, China, Italy, Spain, Germany and France in the number of confirmed cases, with more than 40,000. Its death rate is also one of the world’s highest, at around 7 percent, though it is well behind Italy’s staggering 11.4 percent. Yet in the face of this public health crisis, President Donald Trump is continuing his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran with crippling U.S. economic sanctions that were imposed after Trump unilaterally abandoned the international nuclear agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear […]

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 […]

The United Nations Headquarters in New York, which is closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, March 10, 2020 (Photo by Anthony Behar for Sipa via AP Images).

On Dec. 30, 2019, the world first learned that a dangerous new coronavirus had emerged weeks before in China’s Wuhan province. Three months, nearly 740,000 infections and 34,000 deaths later, as of this writing, it’s well past time for the United Nations Security Council to declare COVID-19 a threat to international security. Such a designation would carry immediate symbolic and practical weight, signaling to anxious populations around the world that U.N. member states are united in confronting this plague and determined to deploy their entire multilateral arsenal against it. It would also carry the binding force of international law, as […]

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 […]

An Afghan policeman stands guard at the entrance to a Sikh house of worship that was attacked by an Islamic State gunman, in Kabul, March 25, 2020 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The Islamic State’s deadly assault on one of the last remaining Sikh temples in Afghanistan this week was a grim reminder of how much more devastation lies ahead as the U.S. drawdown continues. Wednesday’s attack by gunmen affiliated with the Afghan branch of the Islamic State, known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, reportedly killed more than 25 people and wounded scores gathered for services at the temple in Kabul. It appeared to be the latest effort by the Islamic State to leverage existing ethnic and religious enmity in order to gain a bigger foothold in Afghanistan, amid widening […]

Streets and sidewalks are mostly empty near the New York Stock Exchange, March 16, 2020 (AP photo by Craig Ruttle).

In this week’s editors’ discussion on Trend Lines, WPR’s Judah Grunstein and Freddy Deknatel talk about the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and the responses so far by governments and central banks in the U.S. and Europe. They also discuss the difficult balance policymakers must strike between containing the spread of the pandemic and mitigating the economic impact of the public health measures needed to do so. 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 […]

A billboard is installed on an apartment building in Cape Town, South Africa, March 25, 2020 (AP photo by Nardus Engelbrecht).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. With more than 3,200 cases and 83 deaths now reported across Africa, in 46 different countries, experts are warning the continent’s leaders that they are rapidly running out of time to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. Governments are under pressure to take radical steps to contain the pandemic. South Africa, the continent’s second-largest economy, entered a strict, 21-day lockdown Thursday. Governments across the continent appear poised to follow suit. While these measures are seen as critical to slowing the spread […]

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 […]

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 […]

A member of a Chinese honor guard wears a face mask at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Feb. 4, 2020 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

The war of words between Chinese officials and President Donald Trump has been furious in recent days, as each side tries to push its own agenda amid the coronavirus pandemic. It would be a mistake, however, to view this crossfire as mutually retaliatory. These are two separate messaging campaigns, each pursuing different, self-interested objectives. China, where the novel coronavirus outbreak started months ago and spread rapidly before it turned into a global pandemic, is engaged in a multiprong effort to rewrite history and emerge empowered from this global crisis. Draconian lockdown measures in Wuhan and its surrounding province appear to […]

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 […]

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 […]

President Donald Trump speaks on the coronavirus pandemic at the White House in Washington, March 24, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

With the rapid growth of coronavirus infections in recent days, and likely for the foreseeable future, the United States finds itself in a grave predicament entirely of its own making. No amount of finger-pointing toward China about its lack of transparency early in the outbreak, or the time lost before Beijing finally alerted others about the nature of its epidemic—although both true—can change this harsh reality. The country that seldom tires of reminding others that it is the richest and most powerful nation in the world has completely squandered whatever lead time it had before the virus took firm hold […]

A sign at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia warning of the spread of the “Spanish Influenza,” Oct. 19, 1918 (U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command photo via AP Images).

Crises, whatever their nature, have a way of putting a mirror up to the face of societies. They throw our angels and our demons into sharp relief, and pandemics are no different. All across the world, throughout history, outbreaks of new and mysterious diseases have spurred the creation of narratives that cast blame on a foreign source of the epidemic by persecuting and stigmatizing immigrants, minorities and other vulnerable groups. So it is with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which President Donald Trump and his supporters gleefully refer to as the “Chinese virus.” Given the scale of the current […]

China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, speaks at the White House in Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Steve Helber).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Rare public discord between Chinese officials spilled into the open this week when Cui Tiankai, Beijing’s ambassador to the United States, rebuked Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, for peddling conspiracies on Twitter about the origins of COVID-19. Chinese officials normally adhere closely to the Communist Party line in public remarks, so observers are questioning whether the spat is a sign of disagreements in Beijing over the party’s messaging. Zhao has gained notoriety in recent weeks […]

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