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 girl wearing Kurdish colors waits with her mother in a queue at a polling station during a vote for Kurdish independence, in Kirkuk, Sept. 25, 2017 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

On Nov. 22, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the Confederation of British Industry, a local business organization, in a speech that was intended to focus on the U.K.’s role in the “green industrial revolution”—the global shift to environmentally friendly energies and technologies. Instead, the talk quickly collapsed into incoherent rambling. At one point, Johnson, having lost his place in his notes, even went on a tangent about his love of Peppa Pig World­, a family theme park based on the well-known children’s cartoon.  This was undoubtedly comedic, but as the country reveled in the prime minister’s latest embarrassment, I couldn’t help […]

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 […]

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, right, speaks as Vice President Kamala Harris listens, during an event at the Treasury Department in Washington, Sept. 15, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

On Oct. 3, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released 11.9 million confidential files, known as the Pandora Papers, that documented how world leaders, oligarchs and business elites park their wealth in offshore jurisdictions. Like the Panama Papers of 2016, this new leak brought shell companies and offshore jurisdictions under intense public scrutiny for their role in helping the rich and powerful evade taxes and ignore the transparency requirements by which their fellow citizens and competitors must abide. What was perhaps most damning was the inclusion of five U.S. states—South Dakota, Florida, Delaware, Texas and Nevada—among the list of favored offshore […]

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in Kearny, New Jersey, Oct. 25, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Next week, U.S. President Joe Biden will convene his Global Summit for Democracy, a virtual gathering of global leaders that aims to promote human rights, counter corruption and discuss ways to strengthen democracy against a rising tide of authoritarianism across the world. The event fulfils a campaign promise made by then-candidate Biden to organize a summit of democracies during his first year in office. The gathering has been dismissed in some quarters as a hollow performative exercise, rendered meaningless by the inevitable controversy over the guest list. But arguments about the substance of the summit, as well as which countries were […]

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 […]

The United Nations Security Council meets, New York, Nov. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

Editor’s note: Guest columnists Richard Gowan and Pyotr Kurzin are filling in for Stewart Patrick this week. The United Nations Security Council may be about to pass its first-ever resolution on the implications of climate change for peace and security. The council has talked about climate security since 2007, and it has acknowledged that environmental challenges such as droughts and degradation of farming land can fuel conflicts in regions like the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. But it has not laid out a systematic approach to assessing these risks or responding to them. This could be about to change, as Niger […]

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 […]

China’s Peng Shuai reacts during a women’s tennis singles match at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, Nov. 21, 2010 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

The mysterious disappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai from public view since she accused a top Chinese Communist Party official of sexual assault is growing into a diplomatic crisis for Beijing, amid concerns about her safety and the broader scrutiny of freedoms and the #MeToo movement in China. Earlier this month, the former Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion and three-time Olympian disappeared from public view after posting a lengthy message on Weibo—the Chinese microblogging site—accusing former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of having sexually assaulted her three years ago. She subsequently reappeared in photos and videos released on China's […]

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 […]

China’s Peng Shuai reacts during a first-round singles match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 21, 2020 (AP photo by Andy Brownbill).

Late last week, I found myself at a university podium participating in an unusual event, invited by a conservative group to argue against the proposition that the United States should apply a greatly stepped-up boycott, divest and sanction—or BDS—approach in its relations with China. The person arguing the other side in this debate began by stating that he supported going much further even than BDS. But after this emphatic opening sally, he offered scarce few details of what this might involve or how it would work. Surprised at how little substance I was left to respond to, I began by […]

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 […]

A virtual high-level meeting of the United Nations Security Council is seen on a computer monitor at U.N. headquarters, New York, Sept. 24, 2020 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

As the world gradually distributes COVID-19 vaccinations and starts to reevaluate coronavirus-related restrictions, many in the international community are pushing for societies to go back to “normal.” Leaders at the helm of the international system want to return to the comfort zone of structured interactions in their New York offices; they are tired of days filled with  back-to-back Zoom meetings and the chaotic distractions of working from home. But should we really welcome “normal” back with open arms?  The pandemic has uprooted everyone’s usual work patterns. This has been traumatic, certainly—but also disruptive in positive ways. Much of what I […]

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. […]

Milorad Dodik, the president of the Republika Srpska, inspects an honor guard during a parade marking the 26th anniversary of the Republika Srpska in the Bosnian town of Banja Luka, Jan. 9, 2018 (AP photo by Amel Emric).

Bosnia-Herzegovina could be on the brink of a political collapse that triggers a new conflagration in the Balkans. There is a growing consensus among experts that this is the country’s most dangerous moment since the 1995 Dayton Accords, which ended a war that cost 100,000 lives and displaced more than 2 million people. Analysts also say stability in the Balkans has been eroded recently by the disengagement of the European Union and United States. “The prospects for further division and conflict are very real,” the international community’s chief representative in Bosnia, Christian Schmidt, wrote in a report to the United Nations that was […]

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 […]

John Kerry, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, speaks with Alok Sharma, president of the COP26 summit, during a stock-taking plenary session at the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 13, 2021 (AP photo Alberto Pezzali).

As former U.S. President Barack Obama once mused, there are times in global diplomacy, as in baseball, when “hitting singles” is adequate. This month’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow was not one of those moments. With the fate of the planet on the line, world leaders should have been swinging for the fences. Instead, they played small ball, chalking up only incremental gains rather than the historic breakthrough the occasion demanded.  Going into the Glasgow summit, the United Nations Environment Program had delivered some blunt news: The world’s emissions reduction pledges before COP26 accounted for only one-seventh of the reduction actually needed to […]

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