Up to 58,000 square miles of forests are being lost to deforestation every year, contributing to climate change and the loss of habitats for millions of species. Can you tell us about the key drivers for forest loss across Africa?
Deforestation is directly being caused by activities such as illegal logging, agricultural development, mining and infrastructure projects – but there are reasons behind these activities which are often overlooked.
Poverty is one of the most significant indirect reasons causing deforestation across Africa – and it is increasing. The population across Africa is growing annually, and because we have a large land area with ample forests, Africans are using it to farm as a means of securing their food security while lifting themselves out of poverty.… Seguir leyendo »
As the last four years have demonstrated, the US and NATO are not going to become directly involved in military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine. Moscow understands this well. It correctly calculated that intimidating Ukraine in the Azov Sea would lead to loud condemnations of Russian behaviour with no serious consequences.
The problem facing Western countries is two-fold: Moscow prioritizes its objectives in Ukraine over relations with the West, and it retains vast capacity to inflict damage on Ukraine by stoking conflict and strangling its economy.
The Kremlin has become used to Western sanctions and other instruments of pressure, concluding that it can live with them despite their inconvenience.… Seguir leyendo »
Bahrain’s lower house and municipal council elections on 24 November have been heralded a success by the ruling Al Khalifa family and the government, who had hoped to use a successful election outcome to erase the public and international memory of Bahraini instability after the 2011 Arab Spring protests.
This narrative, however, provides a one-sided account of the election that seeks to paper over a boycott from banned opposition parties Al Wefaq and Al Waad and a long-standing government-led crackdown on popular dissent.
The Arab Spring: a turning point
During the over 200-year rule of the Al Khalifa family, Bahrain has had a unique and vibrant scene of domestic politics and protest, at least as compared to the rest of the Arab Gulf states.… Seguir leyendo »
On 25 November, the Russian coast guard denied access to two Ukrainian armoured artillery boats and a tugboat on their pre-planned transit through the Kerch Strait to Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. Russian forces reportedly assaulted the Ukrainian surface vessels, leaving the crew of 23 captive and 6 Ukrainian servicemen wounded. In the wake of the attack, Russia temporarily closed navigation to non-Russian traffic through the Strait, before reopening it on Monday.
This represents an escalation for Russia in the Sea of Azov, from air and sea provocations to direct military action against Ukrainian assets. It is the latest step in the Kremlin’s long-term efforts to destabilize Ukraine.… Seguir leyendo »
South Sudan’s long-running peace process has reached another milestone. On 12 September, President Salva Kiir and opposition leaders, including Riek Machar, signed a power-sharing deal promising an end to the five-year conflict that is estimated to have claimed nearly 400,000 lives and displaced one-third of the population.
Under the deal, which is a ‘revitalized’ version of a previous deal reached in 2015, Machar will be reinstated as first vice president with a reconstituted transitional government to be established in May 2019. News of the agreement was greeted with cautious optimism by a population who are desperate for peace, and huge crowds turned out for the government’s peace celebrations on 31 October.… Seguir leyendo »
In April, the Georgian government made a new attempt to formulate a policy towards the disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, publishing a peace initiative intended to help improve economic and educational opportunities for their residents. It has been welcomed by several European capitals for its commitment to peaceful means of conflict resolution and its pragmatic approach, but has attracted little interest and much scorn from its supposed main target audiences in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The economic component of the initiative is related to new trade links between Abkhazia and South Ossetia with Georgia, as well as with the wider European Market through the existing Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Georgia.… Seguir leyendo »
The pardoning of a British student sentenced to life imprisonment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for spying has been welcomed by the UK government. But the balance of power between the countries is changing.
The imprisonment of Matthew Hedges posed a real dilemma for the UK. It had to decide whether to stand up to the UAE, a country with which it does £15 billion of trade, or cave in and risk the perception that it is now the junior partner in the relationship.
Its strong response – and the fact Hedges can now return home – is testament to the UK’s diplomatic weight; this time the UAE flinched.… Seguir leyendo »
It was the diplomatic equivalent of a food fight. At the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, held last week in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG), the United States and China traded barely-veiled barbs and their growing rivalry prevented agreement on a final communique for the first time since the organization’s founding nearly 30 years ago.
Many equate these results with failure. But the forum accurately reflects the region’s evolving geostrategic dynamics. Importantly, the gathering provided a platform on which those dynamics could unfold peaceably, if contentiously – which is exactly what APEC should be doing. And, also true to APEC’s intent, it allowed for the advancement of the interests of smaller players while they tried to navigate the dilemma of great power competition.… Seguir leyendo »
The head of the Coptic Church in Egypt, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, is attempting to lead reforms that would redefine his church’s relations with other Christian denominations. But he now faces internal opposition that is not just doctrinal, but political, focused on the contrasting approaches of Pope Tawadros and his predecessor, Pope Shenouda III, towards the Egyptian state.
For over four decades and until his passing in 2012, Pope Shenouda acted as the political representative of the Coptic community. He perceived the relation between church and state, and by extension between political leaders and himself, as that of equals.
Pope Shenouda gave his relationship with the state a political slant by both applying and releasing pressure and exchanging political support from the church for religious benefits for the Coptic community.… Seguir leyendo »
Georgina Wright tells Jason Naselli that the draft withdrawal agreement shows more concessions from the EU than were expected.
Much of the current debate around Brexit is about the withdrawal agreement, but actually the withdrawal agreement is just the first part of continuing negotiations between the UK and the EU. So, after seeing the draft agreement, released on 14 November, is the shape of the future trade relationship any clearer?
The only thing that is clear is that the UK and EU can’t start talking about the future until a withdrawal agreement is in place and it has gone through the British parliament.… Seguir leyendo »
Forty years since beginning to open up to the world, China now faces a fresh set of foreign policy challenges. One of these will be developing a global foreign policy and responding to concerns in regions that are historically little known in China but will affect and be affected by the country’s economic growth. In order to improve its global diplomacy, China needs to draw on policies that go beyond the simple purposes of securing China’s own economic interests.
The Middle Kingdom projects its power and secures its national interests in three ways: exercising might, spending money and expressing its own mindset.… Seguir leyendo »
In August, frustrations over crippled public services, drought and unemployment in Al-Basra governorate boiled over. The acute cause was a water contamination crisis. By the end of October, hospital admissions of those suffering from poisoning exceeded 100,000 according to health officials. Crops and animals in the rural areas have been severely affected by lack of water and current levels of salinity, with thousands migrating to Basra city.
The unrest continues, stoked by local and regional tensions, and even threatens the export of oil from Iraq’s only deep water port, Umm Qasr. But the crisis of water governance that triggered it endangers more than oil, and will exacerbate problems of child health, migration and interstate conflict.… Seguir leyendo »
In 2017, Suspilne, Ukraine’s public broadcaster, kick-started a transformation. Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the broadcaster and its previous incarnations had for the most part screened a combination of stale, Soviet-style content and PR for politicians. However, over the past two years, it has built on a reform roadmap developed in 2014 to revamp its structure and deliver better quality programming.
But now funding cuts threaten to derail the reforms and leave Ukraine without an essential component of building an information-savvy society and a healthier democracy.
A good start
The reforms so far have improved the quality and independence of content and reshaped Suspilne’s bloated internal structure.… Seguir leyendo »
Americans are divided – but no longer complacent
The 2018 US midterm elections were a referendum on President Trump and in the aftermath, only one truth is crystal clear. America is divided. Americans have voted against Trump, and Americans have voted for Trump.
This division is likely to infect US politics for the next two years. Some of this division will now be given actual political expression in Congress. But it will also be played out across America.
Two areas stand out. One is trade. Americans may well experience a deepening trade war and suffer its costs very differently.… Seguir leyendo »
Brazil, the world’s eighth-largest economy and Latin America’s biggest democracy, has shifted sharply to the right following the presidential election of Jair Bolsonaro, a controversial conservative legislator.
The election is hardly a surprise following Bolsonaro’s strong showing in the first round on 7 October, but viewed over the longer term it is a huge shock. A year ago, it seemed the 63-year-old former army captain was just a maverick outsider who would quickly lose popularity as the wheels of the election campaign clicked into gear. Two questions loom large therefore. Why did Bolsonaro win? And what can be expected of his administration?… Seguir leyendo »
One could be forgiven for having missed the fifth birthday last month of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Celebrations were notably mute, for two obvious reasons. One is the increasingly audible grumbling among recipient countries about the effects of what Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has called a ‘new colonialism’ — a phrase that captures the idea that the BRI has led to the accumulation of debt on receiving countries’ balance sheets to pay for projects of uncertain value, built mostly by Chinese contractors on opaque terms, allowing China’s regional influence to grow in ways that are out of proportion to the benefits that countries can expect to enjoy.… Seguir leyendo »
Although the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is a bilateral agreement between the US and Russia, the recent threat from the US to withdraw from the long-standing, highly successful agreement is not an issue that should be decided only between the two countries.
We are all affected by the US–Russia relationship in its highs and its lows. Their security dialogue is a global security discussion. US nuclear weapons systems are part of NATO’s weapons systems and nuclear arms control agreements between the two states affect everyone in the world. Most significantly, any use of nuclear weapons that resulted from a conflict between them would have disastrous impacts for the whole planet.… Seguir leyendo »
Fashion plays a major role in the global economy with annual revenues totalling over £1 trillion. However, it is also one of the most resource-intensive industries in the world. What is sustainable fashion and why is it important?
Sustainable fashion is about meeting today’s needs while ensuring that the way we go about meeting those needs meet future needs as well.
If you dig down a little deeper, sustainable fashion is also about benefitting the people involved throughout the fashion supply chain – from farmers to consumers to everyone working in end-of-life facilities such as recycling factories.
Why is it so important?… Seguir leyendo »
The countries of Oceania have wildly different economies – Papua New Guinea (PNG) exported close to $4 billion in oil and gas in 2016, while in Tonga, the biggest commodity export was $11.6 million worth of agricultural products. But what they have in common is a history of communal landownership, an emphasis on social capital (as opposed to financial capital), and cash-strapped governments.
In many cases, the first two combine to supplement the shortfalls of the last. There may not be government-funded welfare, but someone in the extended family likely has access to land where they can grow food, or will share their fish catch, or will do a church fundraiser to help with school fees.… Seguir leyendo »
Almost 200 countries signed the Paris agreement in 2015 which included the target of limiting global temperatures to ‘well below 2°C and pursue efforts to below 1.5°C’. However the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published a report warning governments of the significant difference of a 1.5°C warmer world compared with 2°C. How is this different from previous warnings?
Myles Allen, Coordinating Lead Author, IPCC Report: At the time of the Paris agreement there wasn’t a lot of research on what a 1.5°C world meant so governments commissioned the IPCC to write this report. Crucially this report doesn’t tell governments what to do – it’s not the job of the IPCC to prescribe policy – we, as a group of scientists, are just here to inform governments about what the implications of different policies are.… Seguir leyendo »