Showing posts with label Global. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Global. Show all posts

13 December 2019

The New Geography of Global Diplomacy

By Bonnie Bley 

As China’s rise has become a central force in global politics, analysts and policymakers have tracked its path to potential preeminence on a number of fronts: the size of its economy, the scale and reach of its investment and commercial relationships, the budget and capabilities of its military forces. But as of 2019, China has surpassed the United States in an underappreciated but crucial measure of global influence: the size of its diplomatic network.

For decades, Washington had the largest diplomatic network in the world. Now China does, boasting 276 diplomatic posts—including embassies, consulates, and permanent missions to international organizations. The United States’ network, meanwhile, stands at 273, down one post since 2017.

This shift could mark a turning point in great-power competition. As Beijing becomes more and more willing to deploy its global power, seemingly no longer interested in former leader Deng Xiaoping’s instruction to “hide your strength, bide your time,” it has invested in active and far-reaching diplomacy. Washington, meanwhile, has seen both a turn inward and a privileging of other tools. Where once the United States enjoyed global diplomatic primacy, the playing field is now leveling.


7 December 2019

Global trade takes a beating—and with it the global economy

Eswar Prasad
International trade tends to be a good barometer of how the world economy is doing and where it is headed. This is why twists and turns in the U.S.-China trade war, and other developments in world trade, receive so much attention.

What do recent trade data portend? The news is not good, and suggests that not only is the world economy weaker than it was earlier this year but that more weakness lies ahead. Still, it may be premature to call a worldwide global recession. Much will, of course, depend on U.S. trade policy and whether the Trump administration chooses to tamp down or further escalate its trade disputes, not just with China but also with other major U.S. trading partners such as the European Union. Otherwise, trade will drag down rather than boost growth.

First, what do the data show? International trade volumes usually tend to grow at the same rate or faster than global GDP growth. The World Trade Organization, which monitors world trade, recently slashed its forecast for global trade growth in 2019 from 2.6 percent to just 1.2 percent. For 2020, the forecast has been cut from 3 percent to 2.7 percent, which still suggests a rebound.

But other indicators paint a less promising picture. The Baltic Dry Index, a closely-watched indicator based on bulk commodities shipping that serves as a reliable indicator of future trade activity, has fallen by nearly 50 percent since August (after doubling in the first eight months of the year), squelching hopes for a rebound in global trade.

5 December 2019

Thinking in Space: The Role of Geography in National Security Decision-Making

Andrew Rhodes

Being able to "think in space" is a crucial tool for decision-makers, but one that is often deemphasized. In order to improve its ability to think in space, the national security community ought to objectively assess how effectively it is employing geographic information and seek every opportunity to sharpen its skills in this area.

Only statesmen who can do their political and strategic thinking in terms of a round earth and a three-dimensional warfare can save their countries from being outmaneuvered on distant flanks.

-Nicholas Spykman

Leaders who fail to think in space do so at their own peril. Nicholas Spykman published the above warning on the importance of mental maps in the context of World War II and the global challenges it presented, but his argument regarding the importance of spatial thinking to the nation’s security has never been more relevant. Thinking in space has long been an essential tool for thinking critically and communicating clearly when it comes to national security decision-making. The importance of mental maps and geographic communication are only growing in an era of new global challenges and renewed great power competition. Strategists and diplomats would benefit from gaining greater insight into the ways geographic information shapes national security decision-making. Moreover, understanding this impact can help produce recommendations for how American strategists can more effectively think in space.

27 November 2019

A Rebellious World Is Taking It to the Streets

Charles Glass

Mass protests are happening in a growing number of countries for different reasons and with various goals.

The inclination is to look for a common thread that ties today's popular outrage together; such a search not only would prove difficult but probably also futile.

Protests forced change in Sudan and Algeria this year, and have animated Lebanon with a new spirit of anti-sectarian unity; so, while success is rare and hard to sustain, the powers that be don't always prevail.

Demonstrators were out on the streets when I returned to France last week, most of them peacefully protesting but enough burning cars and smashing windows in central Paris for the police to deploy water cannons and tear gas. The latest outbreak marked the first anniversary of a movement, les gilets jaunes or yellow vests, outraged by President Emmanuel Macron's attempt to increase the tax on diesel that fuels most vehicles in rural areas. Although Macron swiftly withdrew the tax, protests have continued in Paris and elsewhere every Saturday since. Participation dwindled, but the anniversary riot showed that the yellow vests are not going away. In this, they stand with the mainstream of protests all over the world.

A Growing Tally

Global Deaths From Terrorism Fell 15% In 2018

The 2019 Global Terrorism Index has been published and it has good news - deaths from terrorism fell 15 percent between 2017 and 2018. The trend is distinctly downwards and deaths have now halved in the past four years. Unfortunately, there is also some bad news and the number of countries directly impacted by terrorism has increased to 71, the highest number recorded since 2002.

The report also highlighted another grim trend - an upswing in right-wing terrorism. It has increased for the third year in succession with deaths up 52 percent in Western Europe, North America and Oceania in 2018.

24 November 2019

673 Million People Still Defecate Outdoors

Tomorrow marks World Toilet Day and late last year, the United Nations released a report focusing on water, sanitation and hygiene around the world. It has found that approximately 2.2 billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water, 4.2 billion have to go without safe sanitation services and three billion lack basic handwashing facilities. The report also examined the state of open defecation and progress in eliminating it. As recently as 2015, close to a billion people were still defecating outdoors, resulting in widespread disease and millions of deaths. That drove the UN to call for an end to the practice and some parts of the world have proven hugely successful in eradicating it.

In 2000 for example, the rate of open defecation was even worse with 21 percent of the global population - 1.3 billion people - practicing it. The impact of the UN's call to action has been telling and by 2017, the global share of people practicing open defecation had fallen to just 9 percent - 673 million people. Ethiopia saw the largest fall during that period, -57 percent. Cambodia and India also experienced declines of -53 and -47 percent respectively. The latter has been particularly ambitious in installing proper toilets. Before Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, just under 40 percent of India's population had access to a household toilet. He promised to change that and billions of dollars were invested under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan ("Clean India") campaign which kicked off in October 2014. India's Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation states that toilet coverage today stands at an impressive 99.22 percent.

18 November 2019

The End of Antibiotics?


Antibiotics are facing an existential crisis less than a century after their introduction. The bacteria-fighting drugs are becoming less effective as a result of their overuse in both humans and animals. At the same time, research and development (R&D) on new antibiotics has slowed to a crawl, putting the world at risk of entering a dangerous era in which routine infections are untreatable.

The global death toll from drug-resistant infections, estimated to be at least seven hundred thousand people annually, could reach into the millions by 2050. Some governments and international organizations are investing billions of dollars to tackle the problem, but many analysts say its scope and immediacy require a globally coordinated response.
What are antibiotics?

Introduced in the late 1920s with the discovery of penicillin, antibiotics are a class of drugs used to treat bacterial infections. They fall into a larger drug class, antimicrobials, which includes medications to fight microorganisms such as viruses, fungi, and parasites. Antibiotics were mass produced during World War II, and their use soared in the second half of the twentieth century. More than one hundred antibiotics have been developed.

Are We Witnessing the End of Multilateralism?

The United Nations' ability to carry out its mission has been severely constrained in recent years by its member states. And many of its agencies are now facing funding shortages that could severely curtail their work. In fact, multilateralism of all stripes is under strain, from the International Criminal Court to the World Trade Organization.

The United Nations is perhaps the most prominent manifestation of an international order built on balancing sovereign equality with great-power politics in a bid to maintain international peace. But its capacity to do that—and to meet its other objectives, which include protecting human rights and delivering aid—have been severely constrained in recent years by its member states.

The real power in the U.N. lies with the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council—the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain and France. And they have used their positions to limit the institution’s involvement in major recent conflicts, including civil wars in Syria and Yemen. Meanwhile, peacekeeping operations, one of the U.N.’s critical functions, are in need of significant reform. Blue helmets are ensnared in difficult, unwieldy missions in places like Mali and South Sudan. But Russia and the United States shut down attempts to act on initial reform discussions that began last year.

9 November 2019

The Geopolitics of Brazil: An Emergent Power's Struggle with Geography

This is the 15th in a series of Stratfor monographs on the geopolitics of countries influential in world affairs.

South America is a geographically challenging land mass. The bulk of its territory is located in the equatorial zone, making nearly all of the northern two-thirds of its territory tropical. Jungle territory is the most difficult sort of biome to adapt for human economic activity. Clearing the land alone carries onerous costs. Soils are poor. Diseases run rampant. The climate is often too humid to allow grains to ripen. Even where rivers are navigable, often their banks are too muddy for construction, as with the Amazon.

As the tropics dominate South America, the continent's economic and political history has been problematic. Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana are fully within the tropical zone, and as such always have faced difficulties in achieving economic and political stability, though the discovery of oil in Venezuela improved that country's economic trajectory. Throughout the tropical zones nearly all of the population lives within a few dozen kilometers of the coast. For the most part, however, those coasts are not naturally sculpted to encourage interaction with the outside world. Natural ports — deepwater or otherwise — are few and far between.

There are, however, two geographic features on the continent that break this tropical monotony.

7 November 2019

The Age of Leaderless Revolution

Mass protest movements are roiling politics around the globe. Over the past several days, the prime ministers of Lebanon and Iraq have agreed to resign and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile was cancelled—all due to massive, leaderless protest movements. At this very moment, protesters are out on the streets of not only Lebanon, Iraq, and Chile but also Hong Kong, Spain, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Haiti, Egypt, and Algeria. They have been out in force as well in recent months in Russia, France, Indonesia, and Thailand. In recent years, the restlessness of citizens has been channeled elsewhere into the ballot box for political populists from the United Kingdom to the United States, Brazil to the Philippines, Poland to India. And at the outset of the decade, the Arab Spring tore through 15 countries.

Citizen grievances are many but share a common theme: the failure of ruling elites and political institutions to meet expectations of dignity and betterment. Protesters are frustrated with perceived corruption and economic inequality. Often young, angry, and urban, protesters are not an organized opposition proposing the substitution of their party or ideology for an existing one but a leaderless movement demanding their voices are heard. In some cases, protesters’ demands are clear; more often they are muddled. Across the board the aggrieved want change in systems that feel outdated, broken, or nonresponsive.

Is the Global Dollar in Jeopardy?


WASHINGTON, DC – Since the end of World War II, the United States dollar has been at the heart of international finance and trade. Over the decades, and despite the many ups and downs of the global economy, the dollar retained its role as the world’s favorite reserve asset. When times are tough or uncertainty reigns, investors flock to dollar-denominated assets, particularly US Treasury debt – ironically, even when there is a financial crisis in the US. As a result, the Federal Reserve – which sets US dollar interest rates – has enormous sway over economic conditions around the world.

For 40 years, elites in rich and poor countries alike promised that neoliberal policies would lead to faster economic growth, and that the benefits would trickle down so that everyone, including the poorest, would be better off. Now that the evidence is in, is it any wonder that trust in elites and confidence in democracy have plummeted?

For all the associated innovation evident since the launch of the decentralized blockchain-based currency Bitcoin in 2009, the arrival of modern cryptocurrencies has had essentially zero impact on the global taste for dollars. Promoters of these new forms of money still have their hopes, of course, that they can challenge the existing financial system, but the impact on global portfolios has proved minimal. The most powerful central banks (the Fed, the European Central Bank, and a few others) are still running the global money show.

6 November 2019

Global risks 2035 update: Decline or new renaissance?

Mathew J. Burrows

Our conclusion in 2016’s Global Risks 2035 was that state-on-state conflict posed a bigger threat than terrorism. In the two years since, the post-Cold War order has continued to unravel without a “new normal” emerging. If anything, with de-globalization underway, conflict among the great powers looms even larger than when Global Risks 2035 was written in mid-2016.

We must recognize that the old historical rhythm that laid the foundations of the Western liberal order has come to an end. The world now faces momentous challenges with climate change, the return of state-on-state conflict and an end to social cohesion with increasing levels of inequality. Without a political, intellectual and, some say, spiritual renaissance that addresses and deals with the big existential tests facing humanity we will not be able to move together into the future. 

With so much of the analysis of Global Risks 2035 still on target, this update focuses on key changes since 2016 and the alternative worlds that appear to be emerging from the fraying of the old normal.

A short recap of 2016’s Global Risks 2035

1 November 2019

Playing with fire: Global offensive cyber operations


In late-September, and in unison with the United Nations General Assembly's General Debate, 27 countries signed an agreement on Advancing Responsible State Behavior in Cyberspace. A joint statement on the agreement states that offensive cyber measures are being used by malicious actors to “target critical infrastructure and our citizens, undermine democracies and international institutions and organizations, and undercut fair competition in our global economy by stealing ideas when they cannot create them.”

This long overdue document attempts to outline what is acceptable — and what is not — in cyberspace, as well as mentioning that there will be consequences for behavior deemed unacceptable. However, specifics regarding what these repercussions might look like are absent.

Russia and China, who are frequently accused of “bad behavior” — like influencing political elections and stealing valuable intellectual property — did not sign the agreement.

Hopefully this agreement serves as a much-needed wakeup call. Cyber warfare is already here, and a few organizations have unfortunately suffered the crippling consequences.

31 October 2019

About 41% of the global population are under 24. And they’re angry…

Simon Tisdall

Aspate of large-scale street protests around the world, from Chile and Hong Kong to Lebanon and Barcelona, is fuelling a search for common denominators and collective causes. Are we entering a new age of global revolution? Or is it foolish to try to link anger in India over the price of onions to pro-democracy demonstrations in Russia?

Each country’s protests differ in detail. But recent upheavals do appear to share one key factor: youth. In most cases, younger people are at the forefront of calls for change. The uprising that unexpectedly swept away Sudan’s ancien regime this year was essentially generational in nature.

In one sense, this is unsurprising. Wordsworth expressed the eternal appeal of revolt for the young in The Prelude, a poem applauding the French Revolution. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very Heaven!” he declared. Wordsworth was 19 years old when the Bastille was stormed.

30 October 2019

National Security in a “Liquid” World

Carmit Padan, Vera Michlin-Shapir
Source Link

Since the 1980s, we have witnessed rapid changes in a world characterized by a neo-liberal economy, increased human migration, and information technologies developing at an unprecedented pace. These transformations are putting stress on modern state structures and have allowed non-state players to enter the heart of global consciousness. These new entities pose new security challenges, including ethnic conflicts, civil wars, the use of robotics-based autonomous weapons, and terrorist attacks both in the physical sphere and cyberspace. The articles in this memorandum, authored by former and present Neubauer research associates at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), assert that the political, economic, and social changes, as well as the challenges to security now faced by the West (including Israel), converge to create a different agenda for analyzing security and strategy issues, forcing us to redefine the very concept of “national security.”This memorandum consists of articles written by young researchers—PhD candidates and others—who were part of the Neubauer Research Fellowship Program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and participated in the Neubauer Research Project which was carried out at INSS during 2017 .The research fellows who took part in this project studied together various aspects of national security linked to Israel’s domestic, regional, and international strategic environment. The objective of the project was to examine concepts and patterns in present day’s national security and contemporary research in the field, as a basis for an up-to-date analysis of specific issues relevant to Israel’s national security.

28 October 2019

Trying to Plant a Trillion Trees Won't Solve Anything

We’re not going to stop climate change with just seedlings and fancy agriculture. We also need to reduce emissions.

Only a monster would say no to this pitch: The best way to beat climate change—the warming of Earth caused by gases like carbon dioxide emitted by human industry, leading to rising sea levels, worsening fires and storms, drought, and disease—is simple. Plant a trillion trees. It’d be “one of the most effective carbon drawdowns to date,” said an article on the idea in the journal Science this past summer. And who doesn’t love trees, right?

Except the math turned out to be a little shady. Last month a bunch of climate scientists and ecologists piled onto that tree research in the same journal, calling out numerous errors in the first team’s calculations. At about the same time, a whole other bunch of ecologists started pushing back on the agriculture-tech startup Indigo for pitching a similar land-based carbon sequestration strategy, the “Terraton Initiative,” paying farmers to use new methods that could suck down a trillion metric tons (a teraton) of carbon. These goals are critical and the ideals are noble—who doesn’t want to stop climate change? Pretty much everyone except the US government agrees on that. It’s the numbers that are the problem.

15 October 2019

Assessing Global Response to Rising Sea Levels: Who Needs to Be Involved?


As states globally prepare for the inevitable effects of climate change, those ‘developed’ countries identified by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) continue to undermine their roles as leaders, inevitably to their own detriment. Not everyone will feel the effects of Global Warming-induced climate change in the same way, and many will feel it sooner and more tangibly than others. The World Bank data has determined that South East Asia and the island regions of the Pacific and Indian Oceans are the most severely impacted by global sea level Rise (SLR) (Dasgupta 2018).

SLR has been measured as rising since the turn of the 20th Century, pushed by a combination of retreating glaciers and ice sheets and the heat induced expansion of ocean waters (Parliament of Australia 2009). As an island nation, the Maldives are uniquely affected by SLR, with estimates it will be completely inundated in the case of a 1-metre rise by 2085 (Anthoff et al 2010). Indonesia is also placed in dire circumstances, as a topographically varied South East Asian country, it deals with both SLR and the multi-faceted face of global warming. With the combined effects of climate change, the induced natural disaster and SLR, Indonesia is an integral asset in furthering discussions surrounding the mitigation and adaptation of Climate Change.

As the world continues to globalise, it is vital that the governing institutions, such as the United Nations (UN) and their subsidiary the UNFCCC, drive discussion in developing relevant mitigation and adaptation techniques. Whilst these institutions have begun the conversation, fueling debate and grassroots action, much needs to be done in holding stakeholders accountable to their decisions and their potential impact.

12 October 2019

The decline of US global leadership: Power without authority


The US House of Representatives’ inquiry into grounds for impeaching Donald Trump is yet another indication of the massive erosion of the President’s domestic authority. His authority as an international leader has similarly declined, not as a result of challenges by other international leaders but as a consequence of the President’s commentary and actions.

For power to enjoy legitimacy, authority is a necessary concomitant. The alignment of political authority with economic and military power enabled the pax Romana to endure for more than two centuries. It took more than 1300 years following the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180CE for Rome’s political authority to dissipate and for the eastern empire finally to fall.

The pax Americana arguably began in 1945 with total victory by the US and its allies in Europe and the Pacific. The groundbreaking work of US Secretaries of State Cordell Hull, George Marshall, and Dean Acheson garnered the authority – accorded by the international community rather than simply usurped by the US – that positioned the US as the dominant strategic power for 70 years.

10 October 2019

Infographic Of The Day: The Most Miserable Countries In The World

This infographic uses data from Steve Hanke of the Cato Institute, and it visualizes the 2019 Misery Index rankings, across 95 countries that report this data on a consistent basis.

2 October 2019

We're In the Middle of a Global Information War. Here's What We Need to Do to Win

Source Link

If the Russians had tried to find a more inhospitable space for our meeting, I don’t know how they could have succeeded. I was led into a narrow trapezoidal room with one grimy window in a faceless building off Red Square. It was 10 days before the 2016 presidential election, and I was the last State Department official to visit Moscow before the vote. I had been Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy for almost three years, and a big part of my job had been trying to counter the deluge of Russian disinformation that we saw beginning with the invasion of Crimea in 2014. But I was under strict orders from the National Security Council to not bring up Russian disinformation or interference in the U.S. election. No one wanted any hiccups.

The two Russian officials seemed to be channeling Putin: chilly, inhospitable, inflexible. They made no effort to be pleasant–or even diplomatic. I brought up Russian harassment of American diplomats. They shrugged. I brought up the forced closing of American cultural facilities. They shrugged. I did not bring up Russian interference in our election. I wish I had.