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Better Know Enset, The Banana-Like “Wonder Crop” That Can Fight Food Insecurity

16. Mai 2022 - 16:41

Enset is a relative of the banana. It has been cultivated in a parts of Ethiopia for generations because it has several unique characteristics that make it a resilient and reliable staple crop.  Despite Enset’s incredible potential to support food security it is rarely — if ever —  cultivated beyond the Ethiopian Highlands. culture.

My guest, Dr. James Borrell is a research fellow at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, in the United Kingdom. He is the co-author of a recent study demonstrating that Enset could be productively grown in other regions of Africa, potentially providing a staple crop for over 100 million people.

We kick off the conversation with an extended introduction to this “wonder crop” before discussing its potential to fight hunger and food insecurity in regions beyond the Ethiopian Highlands.

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Kategorien: english

How the United Nations is Responding to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine | Richard Gowan

12. Mai 2022 - 16:34

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has posed a major test for the United Nations.  And while some parts of the UN system have admirably risen to the occasion, the Security Council has not.

On the line with me to assess the UN’s response to Russia’s invasion is Richard Gowan, the UN Director for the International Crisis Group. We kick off discussing a recent diplomatic mission by UN Secretary General to both Moscow and Kyiv before having a longer conversation about how his major international crisis is impacting diplomacy at the UN. Towards the end of the conversation Richard Gowan discusses a recent paper he wrote outlining the opportunities that this crisis may present for reforms at the UN.

Ukraine War and UN Reform — International Crisis Group

Transcript available soon

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Kategorien: english

The Rise and Fall of Imran Khan and What’s Next for Pakistan

9. Mai 2022 - 16:14

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan resigned on April 10th, following a no-confidence vote in Parliament. The former cricket star turned politician had served as Prime Minister since 2018,  but in recent months he had increasingly fallen out of favor with Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, which has long been a dominant force in Pakistani politics.

My guest, Michael Kugelman, is Senior Associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center. We kick off discussing how Imran Khan leveraged his celebrity as one of the greatest cricket players of all time to a career in politics. We then discuss how he governed as Prime Minister and the circumstances that lead to his downfall. Finally, we have an in-depth conversation about how this political transition in Pakistan may impact US-Pakistani relations and regional dynamics between Pakistan, India and China.

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Transcript has been lightly edited for clarity

Who is Imran Khan?

Michael Kugelman [00:02:25] If you go back to the 1980s and into the early 1990s, Imran Khan was really a household name in the world of cricket. He was not just Pakistan’s, but one of the world’s greatest cricket stars, for sure and his most famous moment was when he rallied an injured hobbled underdog Pakistani national cricket squad to a World Cup championship victory over heavily favored England in the 1992 World Cup. It was huge and, the entire country of Pakistan was literally exuberant for days and days. So that really, I think, was the pinnacle of his fame as a cricket star. But, yeah, he was a really big deal for a long time.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:03:04] And I have to imagine there is potent symbolic weight to the fact that Pakistan defeated its former colonial masters, England, in that World Cup.

Michael Kugelman [00:03:15] Oh, absolutely, you’d better believe it. And not to mention that England simply had a really tremendous, indomitable cricket squad. But indeed, if you look at the history of it, indeed there’s a tremendous amount of pride based on that very fact that I think made Pakistanis even so much happier that they that they defeated the English.

Why and how did Imran Khan enter into Pakistani politics?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:03:36] So how did one of the greatest cricket players of all time who led Pakistan in this improbable victory over England in the 1992 Cricket World Cup enter into politics.

Michael Kugelman [00:03:49] Yes. It was actually very soon after Imran Khan retired from cricket, very soon after he decided to launch his political career. So, he launched his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which really translates to the Pakistan Justice Party. He launched it in 1996, and he was already thinking about a political career, I think, during the last few years of his cricket career. One thing that he started to do was become a big philanthropist and he really emphasized charitable causes. And he developed this large cancer hospital in Pakistan in honor of his mother. And I think that was his way of projecting himself as so different from so much of the Pakistani political class, which was dynastic, corrupt, very wealthy, not given to huge displays of philanthropy. So that was a really big deal. But then indeed, in ’96, he formed his political party and the big issue that it revolved around, and it continued to be the case up to the present day, was the issue of corruption. Imran Khan, from his very earliest days as a political figure, depicted himself as a champion of anti-corruption, and he also wanted to really present a third way, so to speak, or actually I guess the second way — he wanted to project himself and his party as different from the long standing mainstream political parties in Pakistan, and there were only two of them, that had ruled Pakistan for its entire history when Pakistan was not run by the military. And again, the idea was to project himself as non-dynastic and non-corrupt, and that really helped him generate a lot of mass appeal in the nineties. It took him a while, of course, until he would lead a government. But he used that image, that projection, as a way to build national appeal in the years that followed.

What policies and ideas did Imran Khan campaign on to lead the Pakistani government?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:05:39] And I suppose, you know, when you have this independent kind of celebrity and you’re not caught up in the politics of the past, and you are very much an outsider, it’s easy to project oneself as being not tainted by the corruption of the sort of political establishment.

Michael Kugelman [00:05:56] Yeah, that’s correct. I mean, he really projected himself as that type of populist figure, this outsider who was coming in to make big changes and then pass-through major reforms. But of course, at the same time, we have to acknowledge that Imran Khan was someone who had made a lot of money, become very wealthy from his cricket career. He had very deep attachments to the West and in particular Great Britain, where he’d spend a lot of time during his cricket career, and he was a big part of the celebrity culture in the UK for a while. So, it’s not like he was a complete maverick and a complete outsider, but certainly in the context of Pakistani mainstream politics, he was very different. So, he was definitely very different from what had happened from what we’d seen in the decades leading to his emergence in politics.

How did Imran Khan become Pakistan’s prime minister in 2018?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:06:40] So I take it his party must have been something of a sort of permanent minority party for a long time because, you know, you said he started his party in 1996. He wasn’t prime minister until 2018. How is it that he emerged after so many years through the political wilderness to become prime minister in 2018?

Michael Kugelman [00:07:03] Yeah, it was definitely a long, hard road. And the PTI, his party, didn’t really even have any type of presence in the parliament, in the national parliament, for quite some time. And keep in mind, the political state of play was very challenging for him to penetrate for quite some time. Just a few years after he formed his political party, the military came back to take power in 1999 and you had military rule until 2008 so that made democracy very difficult. But it is notable that Imran Khan actually joined the very large pro-democracy movement that broke out 2007-2008 against the rule of military dictator Pervez Musharraf. And it’s funny because we hear so often, or we’ve heard in recent years that Imran Khan was the favorite son of the military, and he became prime minister because of the military support. Well, when he was first starting out, he was actually opposed to military rule in a big way but then what he started to do after civilian rule returned in 2008, he began to focus a lot more on trying to develop a larger base. He did several things. First of all, he really leveraged very adeptly, very strategically, this grievance harbored by a pretty significant voting demographic in Pakistan: that being a conservative, young, middle class, urban group of folks that were repulsed by corruption in the political class and he leveraged that. That had been his big calling card for so long: anti-corruption. So that really helped him become a bigger political figure as we got into the late 2000’s. And then in the 2013 election, he did not win it, but he used the 2013 election to take aim at the government, which he described as incredibly corrupt, and he claimed that it had won the election through fraud. He became a very adept opposition figure by galvanizing large crowds on the streets in major cities, including in Islamabad. That raised his stature even more. Then the final thing that he did, and this is really what allowed him to become prime minister in 2018, is he very slowly cultivated a better relationship with the military. And as you know, in Pakistan, if you’re a civilian politician and you want to attain the highest place in that political class, that of prime minister, you need to be on good terms of the military. So, he improves relations with the military and then you had a situation in the months leading up to the 2018 election where a number of things happened that suggested that the military may have been indirectly helping Imran Khan to win election. For instance, you had a number of arrests of members of the Pakistan Muslim League Party, which is at the time of the ruling party against Imran Khan. You had TV channels that suddenly went off the air, TV channels that were airing coverage of candidates opposed to Imran Khan and things like that. So, Imran Khan won the 2018 election thanks to the mass following that he had but at the same time, many experts, including myself, believe that he was aided by these pre-election engineering efforts by the Pakistani military to put Imran Khan in power. At that time the Pakistani military was very unhappy with the party that had been in power. It had sparred with the military a lot and I think the military saw Imran Khan as that figure that could be a very useful prime minister for the military’s cause, which we can go into.

What did Imran Khan accomplish as Pakistan’s prime minister?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:10:39] Yeah. So having become prime minister in 2018 with, as you said, the support of the military and a degree of popular support as well. How did he rule? What were characteristics of his time as prime minister?

Michael Kugelman [00:10:58] So he came in with very lofty goals and very high ambitions. Again, he was projecting himself as this populist maverick outsider that wanted to do big and better things. So, he made all kinds of promises that there was no way he could keep. So, he talked about wanting to create this new Islamic welfare state in Pakistan that would involve huge increases in social welfare spending to help the poor. Pakistan’s economy didn’t allow that quite frankly. He also vowed to get rid of all corruption within the political class within 90 days of taking office. That wasn’t going to happen either, given the structural presence of corruption in the political class. But he tried to follow through on those promises. Initially, it became very clear that it wasn’t going to work out. Another thing that stands out from his years in power is that he never really had any consistent, clear, principled positions. He made a lot of U-turns. He promised to do one thing, and he would have reneged on that promise. But I think what stands out the most, and this is what in the end contributed to his downfall, is that he really acted like an opposition figure even when he was prime minister. He really did not reach out across the aisle to work with the opposition. He harassed them. He called them names. He accused them of being frauds and corrupt. You know, he alienated members of his own party for some of the things he did. So, in the end, he wasn’t willing to make the types of compromises and concessions that are necessary in a parliamentary democracy, and particularly for Imran Khan, who was leading what was a rather fractious coalition. I mean, when his party won the election in 2018, it was by a pretty narrow margin, so he didn’t have much of a margin for error. He really had to make concessions and work with the opposition and be more accommodationist, but he wasn’t. And that’s really what stands out in retrospect about his nearly four years in power.

Why did Imran Khan lose the support of Pakistan’s military?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:12:53] And presumably, at some point, he must have fallen out of favor with the military and the security services, right?

Michael Kugelman [00:13:01] Yeah, that’s correct. So indeed, for the first few years that he was in power, he did have quite good relations with the military from the Army chief on down. And, you know, it’s striking many an analyst, including me, soon after he was elected, questioned whether he would be able to maintain good relations with the military because his personality doesn’t lend itself to working well with the military. He’s stubborn, he’s defiant; he’s got strong views. He does not like to defer to the higher authorities and yet the military wants exactly that. It wants civilian prime ministers to be willing to be malleable and to defer to the Army. But I think for the first few years that he was in power, Imran Khan really wanted to become Prime Minister for so long since he formed his party in 1996 so he was willing to defer. But then things finally changed at a key moment in November of last year when Imran Khan disagreed with the decision of the army chief about who the next spy chief would be, the next chief of Pakistan’s preeminent spy service, the ISI, as it’s known. So that is what finally caused his relationship with the Army chief, General Bajwa, to take a major tumble. Related to that is that the person who had been the spy chief up to that point, a guy named Faiz Hameed, had been a close ally of Imran Khan. They got along very well and the ISI chief in Pakistan is almost as powerful as the army chief. So that ISI chief, who was close to Imran Khan, he moved on to another position, he became a core commander outside of Islamabad. So, Imran Khan, basically, he lost the support of the army chief, and he also lost a key ally in the security establishment who moved on. The opposition capitalized on that knowing that had happened. That’s what prompted the opposition to put together this no confidence vote, justifying it on the fact that Imran Khan had failed to address the economic crisis in Pakistan, which was true to an extent, but really it was what had happened to Khan with the Army chief and with the spy chief. And that really created a situation where I think that the Army chief, perhaps indirectly, but played a role in allowing this no confidence vote to move forward. And of course, it’s a no confidence vote that Imran Khan failed to survive.

How was Imran Khan forced out of power in Pakistan?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:15:16] And then Khan tried some perhaps extra constitutional machinations to cling to power but was unsuccessful. Is that right?

Michael Kugelman [00:15:24] Yeah, that’s correct. It got really crazy in the sense that Imran Khan basically came up with this this argument that the no confidence vote had been put together by the opposition with the collusion of the US government and that the Biden administration was working with the opposition to try to get Khan kicked out of power. So, Khan then said that for that reason the no confidence motion was illegitimate and not credible, and therefore there was no way there could be a vote on it and if there was, you’d be caving to this illegitimate process. So, the Supreme Court weighed in, you know, the opposition obviously objected and brought this case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court said, no, that’s not the case at all. Procedurally, you can’t do that because in Pakistan the constitution says that when a no confidence motion has been introduced in parliament, as it had at this point, you can’t cancel the vote, you have to go through with it. So, the Supreme Court said that Imran Khan had acted unconstitutionally and ordered that the vote take place after all, which it did, and he lost. And at that point he did accept the result.

How did Imran Khan relate to the United States government and foreign policy during his time in power?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:16:35] So I find it interesting and telling that Khan would explicitly cite some sort of American conspiracy to oust him from power as the reason that he lost his premiership. And it’s also interesting, and I noted at the time that, it was the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that Khan paid a visit to Moscow to Putin. What do both of those things suggest to you about how he approached relations with the United States?

Michael Kugelman [00:17:10] You know, it’s interesting that Imran Khan actually had fairly good relations with the US until relatively recently.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:17:18] That’s what I thought. That’s why I was kind of surprised about those two things.

Michael Kugelman [00:17:22] Right, I mean, it’s during the last few years of the Trump administration, really the latter part of 2018 leading into 2019-2020 that US-Pakistan relations were in a good place with Khan in power mainly because Donald Trump had really wanted to get out of Afghanistan and he then requested that Imran Khan help bring the Taliban to the table to negotiate with the US government on an agreement. And Imran Khan and Islamabad did that and that resulted in Imran Khan getting invited to the White House. So, you know, it’s easy to forget now, but, almost two years ago, Imran Khan sat there in the Oval Office with Donald Trump. He was seated on Capitol Hill; he had a pretty successful visit here. Things went downhill, though, when the Biden administration came to power. Imran Khan took it very personally that President Biden did not call him, even though there’s no reason to think that Biden would call Imran Khan — Pakistan is an ally of the US but it’s not a close ally. There’s a lot of tensions in the relationship. And then I think also the fact that Pakistan was not invited to participate in this White House climate summit, which was taken as a big snub by Imran Khan, that didn’t go off well. But then, of course, as you know, what really set off the conspiracy allegations was a private exchange that happened reportedly between a senior U.S. State Department official, Donald Lew, and the Pakistani ambassador to the US, in which in which Donald Lew said, according to the reportage, that US-Pakistan relations aren’t in a good place under Imran Khan and that it would perhaps be better for the relationship if Imran Khan does not survive the no confidence vote, which at that time was going to soon be introduced. So, Imran Khan used that comment as evidence that the US was actually planning to get rid of Imran Khan, even though one cannot draw that link but that was the main data point, the prime data point, that Khan pointed to. And indeed, it does reflect how US-Pakistan relations in the Khan era had taken a major turn for the worse.

How will Pakistan’s new prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, engage with the United States?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:19:31] So Shehbaz Sharif, the brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is now the prime minister of Pakistan. What can we expect in terms of bilateral relationships between Pakistan and the United States going forward? I mean, it seems to kind of be at a rocky moment when you have the outgoing prime minister accusing the United States of orchestrating his downfall. What are key elements of Shehbaz Sharif’s policy priorities towards the United States right now and vice versa?

Michael Kugelman [00:20:06] Yeah so certainly one big change in the U.S. Pakistan relationship, which will help, and it’s already happened, is that you’re not going to have this shrill, anti-American rhetoric coming from Islamabad. Imran Khan has always been a sharp critic of U.S. policy. One of the biggest, sharpest Pakistani critics of U.S. policy going back to the drone war. Imran Khan once threatened to shoot down American drones if he were in power. But Shehbaz Sharif, just by nature, his personality, he’s much more subdued. He certainly is not given to sentiment that’s critical of U.S. policy so already that’s changed. I do think that Shehbaz Sharif being in power will provide more space and a better environment for the two governments to explore the possibilities for future partnership but I think that the Sharif government will also be careful, right, because Sharif does not want to play into the very rhetoric of Imran Khan and his supporters that indicate that Sharif is in power only because the US government helped put him there and if Shehbaz Sharif were to very publicly call for better relations with the U.S. and make efforts to improve relations with the U.S. that would give ammunition to Sharif’s critics to Imran Khan and his supporters so that’ll be tricky. Final point on this. The U.S. Pakistan relationship was going to be in a tough spot no matter who was in power in Pakistan, just because of U.S. competition with China, which is such a key component of U.S. foreign policy. That’s a problematic given that Pakistan is closely allied with China so there was only so far that U.S. Pakistan relations could go, given that Pakistan is essentially tied to the hip with the Chinese and then the U.S. India relationship has been growing as well, which is long been problematic for Pakistan. You also have a Biden administration in office that comprises, including Biden himself, many senior officials who had previously been with the Obama administration at a moment when the U.S. Pakistan relationship experienced some of its worst crises ever in 2011- 2012, so I think that there’s still a lot of ill will and mistrust and unhappiness within some many senior figures in the Biden administration that would be hesitant to move closer to Pakistan. So, this is to say that we shouldn’t overstate the changes, much less the improvements that we could see in US-Pakistan relations now that we have a new government.

How might the Pakistan-China relationship change with Shehbaz Sharif in power?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:22:37] So I’m glad you brought up China because that was on my list of questions for you. I mean, you know, it seems the Russian invasion of Ukraine sort of stalled or hit the pause button, it seems, on what was the growing foreign policy focus of the Biden administration, which is to gain allies around the world to counter Chinese influence. And I’m just curious if you can go a little deeper for me, for the audience, into some of the key elements or the key questions that might drive Shehbaz Sharif’s approach to China and vice versa in the coming weeks or months or years. What can we expect? What are some key issues that will be important in that Pakistani Chinese relationship?

Michael Kugelman [00:23:25] Yeah, well, you know, as I said before, China is arguably Pakistan’s closest ally. They’ve been very close for many years, very strong security cooperation and more recently, economic cooperation so you could talk about how we could see some shifts in foreign policy between Sharif and his predecessor, Khan but on China, there’s going to be a lot of continuity. You know, Sharif, like any leader in Pakistan, would value the importance of relations with China and he’s going to want to pick up where Khan left off and that’s to do whatever is necessary to keep the relationship strong. I think in the immediate term, Sharif will perhaps look to Beijing as a potential source of new financial assistance because Pakistan’s economic crisis is just really getting out of control at this point. So, I think we’ll see that. Now it is notable that Beijing had a very good relationship with Shehbaz Sharif’s political party and that’s because Shehbaz Sharif’s brother Nawaz Sharif was prime minister when the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is the Pakistan component of the Belt and Road Initiative, was formally launched. And as I understand it, Beijing had liked working with the Sharifs and the Pakistan Muslim League Party because they didn’t ask many questions. They were perfectly happy with how commercial cooperation went with China, whereas Imran Khan was very focused on the issue of transparency and concerned about corruption. And indeed, you actually had some senior leaders in the Imran Khan government that publicly expressed concern about Chinese loans coming from CPEC because of concerns that there was too much money coming in and not enough transparency so that’s pretty significant. I think that suggests that the Chinese perhaps may be relieved to have Imran Khan gone. They would never say this publicly, of course. And if they think there could be opportunities for stepped up partnership with Shehbaz Sharif and his government, but you know, final point on this, one big concern for China for several years has been the security of its nationals in Pakistan. You’ve got many Chinese workers in Pakistan and there have been a number of cases in recent years where there have been terrorist attacks that have targeted Chinese workers, including one just a few weeks ago in Karachi, where several workers at the Confucius Institute at the University of Karachi were killed in an attack by a female suicide bomber deployed by separatists by Baluch separatists who have always opposed Chinese investments in Pakistan. So, China is very concerned about that. So, on the issue of it’s of the safety of its workers has been a rare tension point in China-Pakistan relations. That was the case under Khan. It’s certainly going to be the case under Sharif. So even though we could expect relations to perhaps be better between China and Pakistan in the Sharif era, you know, the issue of these terrorist threats to Chinese workers in Pakistan is going to linger. That’s going a notable challenge for the relationship moving forward.

Could Shehbaz Sharif’s transition into power affect Pakistan’s relationship with India?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:26:27] So lastly, how might this change in power in Pakistan impact Pakistan’s relationship with India going forward, if at all? Or could we sort of expect more or less the kind of status quo going forward?

Michael Kugelman [00:26:43] Yeah so both Sharif soon after he took office and also Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, offered positive, conciliatory comments. I mean, Modi essentially congratulated Sharif and then Sharif had said that he wanted to move forward in relations with India. But here, quite frankly, with one exception which I’ll get to in a second, I think that the constraint here is India. I think that New Delhi would see this new government as what’s going to be a short term one. I mean, there are elections scheduled for next summer, in the summer of 2023, suggesting that it’s just going to be over a year, that this government will be in power. And so, would this Modi government want to take the bold political step of extending an olive branch to a government that’s not going to be around for a while? I think that’s a consideration. Secondly, as you know, the Modi government is a Hindu nationalist one that has benefited politically from taking a hard line on Pakistan in recent years and soon after Modi was elected, he made a trip, a surprise trip to Pakistan to meet with Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz’s brother, who was prime minister at the time. Very soon after that, there was a terrible terrorist attack, a deadly terrorist attack in India, which India blames on Pakistani militants that set back relations. So, I just don’t know if the political moment will be right for Modi to be willing to extend a hand to Sharif with the exception, one positive sign we could see is in trade. India, Pakistan trade, there hasn’t been much of it since a major military crisis between India and Pakistan several years ago. Cross-border trade is something that could really be beneficial to Pakistan, especially at a moment when its economy is in a freefall. Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League, one of its key support bases, is the business community in the province of Punjab, which borders India. So, I do think that there could be political incentives for Shehbaz Sharif to try to push for some type of dialogue with India to allow there to be a reopening of at least some cross-border trade with India. So that’s one area of low hanging fruit that I think we could look to as a potential way to move the needle forward just a bit on India-Pakistan relations. But otherwise, I think that we’ll see this relationship continue to be in this cold peace type status that it’s been in for the last few years.

Will Imran Khan attempt to regain power in the next Pakistani elections?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:29:06] So 2023 are the next elections. Do you expect Khan to put up a fight again or do you think he’s been sort of resigned to the political wilderness? What would you expect in 2023 with Khan and Sharif?

Michael Kugelman [00:29:22] Now Khan is definitely not going to disappear quietly into the night. That would not be his brand of politics. That would not be his personality. He is going to happily settle back into his role on political opposition, which of course is the role he had played for many years. He has maintained this narrative that the current government is a bunch of traitors that colluded with the US to oust him. He has mobilized huge numbers of people, huge number of supporters in recent weeks to come out on the streets in protest the current government. He has vowed to lead a march on Islamabad later this month. So, he’s not going away. He’s going to keep the pressure up on the government and he is very much going to be in the game when it comes to the next election, which is scheduled for the summer of 2023 but who knows if it doesn’t come sooner? You know, if this current government struggles to deal with the economic crisis, then it will become more politically vulnerable because the Pakistani public will redirect its anger away from Imran Khan and his inability to fix the economy over to Shehbaz Sharif. So yeah, Imran Khan is going to be continuing to be a big player. The fact that his relationship with the military has suffered may make it a bit more difficult for him as we get to the next election, but I certainly think there is a very good chance that that he could be back and could even be reelected and could become the prime minister again in 2023. A lot depends, of course, on what happens over the next eight to 10 to 12 months.

How is the Pakistan and India heat wave affecting people and politics?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:30:47] Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you briefly about this just incredible heat wave that is gripping Pakistan and India at the moment. I mean the reports about temperatures, I’m seeing are unprecedented for this time of year. Is there something, you know, that we perhaps in the West who are listening to this right now aren’t appreciating or understanding? Or can you give us some sense of just how bad is this heat wave right now in the region?

Michael Kugelman [00:31:14] It definitely is a huge issue for several reasons. One is just the sheer intensity of the heat and we’re talking about the highs in some areas of the region as high as 120 degrees. And this is a region where very few people have access to air conditioning. So, this has implications for public health. It also has implications for food security, because some of the biggest agricultural breadbasket areas of Pakistan and India actually happen to be in some of the most heat prone areas, including northern India. So, it’s a mess. Secondly, I think what this heat wave does is it sort of serves as a wakeup call for those that aren’t aware of this, that South Asia and specifically India and Pakistan are some of the most climate change vulnerable countries in the world. And in that sense, what we’re seeing now with this heat is exactly what climate specialists have long predicted for India and Pakistan and unfortunately, I think it’s a sign of what’s to come. There’s going to be more there’s going to be more heat waves like this. And I think what that then amplifies is that climate change and its effects, these are inevitable, irreversible problems, challenges for India and for Pakistan that I think in due course will dwarf the types of political challenges that you and I have been discussing earlier. Even issues like terrorism and things like that. These are going to become the big issues. And they’re shared challenges, of course, by Pakistan and India. So, you know, if you want to be optimistic, if there’s one thing that we could look to that could perhaps bring these two rival nuclear states together, it would be their recognition that they’re soon going to face existential threats posed by a shared threat, that being climate change. I may be too idealistic there, but I’d like to hope that in the years ahead, maybe that’s something that could provide the incentives to get these two countries to work more closely together to combat this, the climate change effect.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:33:08] Well, Michael, as always, thank you. This was great.

Michael Kugelman [00:33:11] Thank you. Always a pleasure to talk with you.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:33:15] All right. Thank you all for listening. Thank you to Michael Kugelman, as always. And thank you to Michael for humoring me with that last question. That was not part of the plan, but I figure I needed to ask him about that unprecedented heat wave, and I really appreciated his answer. All right. We’ll see you next time. Thanks, bye!

The post The Rise and Fall of Imran Khan and What’s Next for Pakistan appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The View From Moldova — Is This Putin’s Next Target?

5. Mai 2022 - 16:34

Of all the countries that border Ukraine, Moldova is arguably the most vulnerable to Russian aggression. Since 1992, Russian troops have been present in a breakaway region of Moldova called Transnistria. This is a majority Russian-speaking region that receives considerable support from Moscow.

In late April there were a series of explosions in Transnistria, the perpetrators are unknown but the explosions further heightened concerns that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would spill over into Transnistria and possibly even Moldova proper.

My guest Paula Erizanu is a journalist and author from Moldova and also based in the UK. I caught up with her from Chisinau,  Moldova’s capital city.  We kick off discussing the general mood of people in Chisinau as Russia targets the nearby Ukrainian port city of Odessa. We then discuss the history of the Transnistria conflict before having a broader conversation about how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is impacting Moldovan politics and Society.

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The post The View From Moldova — Is This Putin’s Next Target? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Hellish Plight of African Migrants Trapped in Libya

2. Mai 2022 - 17:04

Libya is a popular point from which Africa refugees and migrants set off for Europe. However, if caught, these migrants and refugees have been subject to indefinite detention in hellish conditions in Libya.

Journalist Sally Hayden first caught wind of this story when she unexpectedly received a Facebook message from an Eritrean migrant stranded in a Libyan jail. This lead her on a reporting journey that resulted in her new book, My Fourth Time We Drowned: Seeking Refuge on the World’s Deadliest Migration Route.

We kick off discussing how it is that she first started receiving messages from migrants trapped in a Libyan prison before having a broader conversation about the lives she profiles and how the European Union is partly responsible for this human rights disaster.

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The post The Hellish Plight of African Migrants Trapped in Libya appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Sri Lanka is in an Economic Freefall

28. April 2022 - 16:34

Sri Lanka is in the midst of an economic catastrophe.

The government is low on foreign exchange reserves and struggling to pay off its debts. The Sri Lankan rupee has plunged in value over the last several weeks. Inflation is soaring. Fuel is scarce, and there have been widespread blackouts in major parts of the country.

This sharp economic downturn is sparking a major political crisis for the government, long controlled by a single family. But now widespread protests are posing the most significant challenge to the Rajapaksa family’s grip on power in decades.

My guest today, J.S. Tissainayagam, is a Sri Lankan journalist and human rights activist living in the US. He kicks off describing how this crisis is impacting the daily lives of people in Sri Lanka before we have a longer conversation about the roots of this economic crisis and is political implications.


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Transcript lightly edited for clarity

How Has Sri Lanka’s Economic Crisis Affected Its Citizens?

J.S. Tissainayagam [00:02:59] Sri Lanka’s problem today stems basically from a failure of accountability when wrong decisions are made. This has led to both an economic crisis as well as a political crisis. At the same time, the economic crisis is not affecting everyone equally. So, I have a couple of examples. One example is […], who is a Tamil living in Kilinochchi in the northern part of Sri Lanka, and the mother of a boy who was forcibly disappeared by the Sri Lanka government. She’s a teacher. Like her Southern counterparts, she, and her family, too, are facing shortages of cooking gas, fuel, electricity, etc. However, she says, because the government limiting food and fuel in the past during Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, she can bear these provisions. Her main concern for the last 13 years has been searching for her son, who disappeared. She says Tamil families protesting every day for the last five years for their disappeared loved ones have not had accountability or justice, despite different political parties and leaders being in government. Then another example, […], who is also a teacher living in the outskirts of Colombo, that is Sri Lanka’s capital city. […] is a mother; she has three children under the age of ten. The 13-hour power cuts in late March were especially hard on her because none of her children would sleep due to the heat. She could not teach online because each part of Colombo had different power outages. Now that the 13-hour power cuts are been done away with, things are easier, but she still finds it difficult to go to work because there are fuel shortages and her husband, and she had to take turns in being in line to obtain a canister of cooking gas that would last them for about three weeks. Finally, there’s […], she’s the vice president of a conglomerate; she’s the mother of two and lives in the most affluent part of Colombo Cinnamon Gardens known as Colombo Summit. She’s worried about her business, the value of the Sri Lankan currency plunging. She wonders if she could even make a modest profit this year. She hopes the government agreeing to the IMF program, this deal, will stabilize the economy. Personally, she has not been affected as the others, because Colombo Summit does not have daily power cuts. Her children can study online, and she can work from home and her maid ensures that there is cooking gas to cook food. So, when we are speaking about the economic crisis, it hasn’t affected everyone equally or in the same way.

Why is Sri Lanka in an economic crisis?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:05:48] But it still it has affected everyone, as you said, not equally. I mean, the plunging value of the Sri Lankan rupee is sort of stunning to behold. It is the worst performing currency in the world today, including like the Russian ruble. It’s really sort of shocking to see a currency be devalued so quickly.

J.S. Tissainayagam [00:06:13] So the main economic problem, the crisis besetting Sri Lanka, has been two issues. One has been budget deficits and the current account deficit. When the Sri Lankan civil war ended in May 2009, there was hope in a substantive peace dividend. However, that didn’t quite materialize except of course, in the expansion of tourism. Sri Lanka therefore had to resort to international borrowing. It started borrowing from international capital markets, but soon turned to government loans, especially from China. Sri Lanka had to also borrow from India and Western countries. All of this increased the budget deficit. Sri Lanka tried to service these debts with income earned from tourism, foreign remittances supplemented of course by exports of tea, etc. Although there was always a current account deficit because the import of iron, food, medicine, and retail products exceeded the income from exports. Then a couple of things happened in 2019 and 2020. First, Gotabaya Rajapaksa became president and went on to implement two ill-advised policies. The first was to slash taxes, including VAT, the value added tax, by almost half. So, there was a substantial drop in revenue from debt. Secondly, he implemented an abrupt switch from chemical fertilizer to organic fertilizer. This led to a huge falling yield affecting food security and a further fall of revenue.

Why did Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa require a switch from chemical to organic fertilizer?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:07:53] Can I stop you there? Because that seems like quirky. Why impose that restriction?

J.S. Tissainayagam [00:07:59] No one knows for sure, actually. But one of the reasons that is stated at that time was that chemical fertilizer was not good for good for the environment, it was not good for health and that it was affecting people’s health and well-being. And therefore, his government was hoping to shift from chemical fertilizer to organic fertilizer but the problem here was this: the shift was immediate and abrupt and the soil in Sri Lanka, which the farmers were used to cultivating using chemical fertilizer couldn’t make the abrupt change because the soil wasn’t used to it and it led to an immediate drop in yields both for paddy, which in Sri Lanka is the staple food for its food supply as well as things like tea and so on and so forth, which is so important for an exchange. So, the real reason for that, we do not know, except perhaps the reason of health and trying to keep foreign exchange from going up but it has had a disastrous consequence on the people and on the economy.

How has COVID-19 affected Sri Lanka’s economic collapse?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:09:28] So you had the tax cuts combined with this desire or imposition of switching the kind of fertilizers that are used in Sri Lanka, which led to a sharp reduction in the production of key exports like tea combined I suppose then a year later with the pandemic, right, that presumably had a huge impact on Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, among others, which you said was responsible for some of the revenue generated to pay off some of these foreign debts.

J.S. Tissainayagam [00:10:04] Correct, yeah. So, then the pandemic happened and almost overnight it affected Sri Lanka’s foreign earnings because foreign tourists stopped coming; garment exports contracted because there were few foreign orders; remittances by overseas workers dried up because workers had to return to Sri Lanka. Therefore, the real crisis arose because as international debt could not be paid off because of falling earning. While Sri Lanka wrestled with repaying foreign debt, it had to also import essentials like fuel, cooking gas, food, and pharmaceuticals. In desperation, Sri Lanka began dipping into its foreign exchange reserves. Problems of repaying debt particular to Sri Lanka, of course, was exacerbated by international crises faced by other nations, as well as the supply chain shortcomings and with the Russia-Ukraine War, rising international oil prices. With shortages and domestic demand rising, prices soared. So, the government started printing money which aggravated inflation. This devalued the domestic currency, the rupee, that is, making it more difficult for Sri Lanka to meet its debt obligations in US government with limited fuel, long lines for fuel, for vehicle gas, cooking gas. And the worst thing was 13-hour power cuts, which in turn started the protests of the people against what was going on here.

How are Sri Lankans protesting the economic crisis and the actions of their government?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:11:46] Where I want to pick up this story, you know, as we speak, there have been days or more of protests throughout Sri Lanka, including at the residence of the president of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Can you describe these protests in more detail?

J.S. Tissainayagam [00:12:06] Right. What was surprising about the present crisis is that Sri Lankans took to the streets in protest. What was sporadic say in early March became more widespread as time went on. The main reason for these protests, of course, was economic shortages of food, fuel, cooking gas, etc. and most importantly, electricity cutoff, which began to hit the middle class very badly. But inevitably the protests became politicized with the call for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign. […] But due to the Rajapaksa family controlling the government, in many ways, the rising anger against him became ‘Go home, Rajapaksa.’

Mark L. Goldberg [00:12:52] Hmm. So now just Gotabaya Rajapaksa but the whole Rajapaksa ruling clan is being turned upon by the Sinhalese majority population that they sought to cultivate for many, many years.

J.S. Tissainayagam [00:13:08] Yes, that is correct. It has been mostly the Sinhalese but there have been also Muslims and Tamils participating in this protest, although most of the Tamils have had different slogans, not only ‘Go home, Gota,’ they have had other slogans as well, which I can explain as we go along. So, despite the protests at the Galle Face Promenade, which is in downtown Colombo, and that has featured prominently in the news, I believe that by itself it is not powerful enough to make either President Gotabaya Rajapaksa or the Rajapaksa clan give up power. Those protests do not have a political program other than for the president and his relatives to leave government. The protests have become popular because it is largely fueled by the middle class, which think that it is part of a political revolution amplified through social media. The protesting on Galle Face promenade therefore is, to my mind, a group of people under an authoritarian regime making the best use of an opportunity to hurl abuse at the president, his family, and the government. However, there have been other groups agitating for change such as the Ceylon Teachers Union, The Railway Union that is calling for a strike, the opposition political party, the JVP and the main opposition party, the SJB that are all mobilized and are being taken much more seriously by the regime because they actually have a political program.

How has the Sri Lankan Rajapaksa government reacted to the protests?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:14:41] What has been the response thus far of the Rajapaksa’s to this protest movement?

J.S. Tissainayagam [00:14:49] Its response is not to go away or for Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign and go away unless, of course, he faces much more political opposition. Under the circumstances, the idea that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is going to resign and go home is misled and wasted, because if he relinquishes power, he cannot live in Sri Lanka as his enemies will want to punish him and could use the Sri Lankan courts to mete out punishment. And it is well-known that he is terrified of the courts of law, let alone imprisonment. If Rajapaksa resigns and moves overseas to stay in the US, there will be his property and family. The Tamil diaspora and human rights defenders will file cases against him for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and wait to resume proceedings, which is also something that terrifies him, unless of course he’s given immunity, which is never 100% guarantee. Therefore, resigning is the last thing on his mind. So now that Sri Lanka is engaged in a program with the International Monetary Fund to restructure the repayment of its debt, Gotabaya Rajapaksa realizes Sri Lanka in the next few months or years is going to face painful austerity. Therefore, to spread the responsibility of the pain with as many parties as possible, it might be the best solution. Therefore, he is happy to have a multi-party government. At the head of the government, he will want to project himself, a Sinhalese Buddhist as a strong leader. He would want to project himself as the man who ensures political stability in a world where there is inevitable unrest because of austerity. Meanwhile, he will also transmit the message that as a former soldier and defense secretary, that he has the confidence of the military to ensure there is no coup. So, he will want to project himself as a strong leader in whom the international community can retain confidence. Such a leader will be palatable to Washington, which likes stability and will also hope to use the IMF debt restructuring program and other economic ties to wean Colombo out of China’s economic grip. And also, the US would like to use Gotabaya’s military strength and resume negotiations on the Status of Forces Agreement which has been in limbo. So, my feeling is that he’s not resigning.

How are Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s war crimes related to the economic collapse of the country?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:17:41] So he’ll try to weather this this storm in the ways that you describe. So earlier in our conversation, you cited lack of accountability as one of the reasons that Sri Lanka’s economy is in the mess that it’s in today. Presumably this refers, at least in part, to the credible accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity leveled against Gotabaya Rajapaksa stemming from the end of the Sri Lankan civil war in May 2009, in which, I’ve seen estimates of around 40,000 Tamils were basically murdered by the Sri Lankan military, then headed by Gotabaya, who is now the president of Sri Lanka. To what extent can you sort of draw a straight line between that event, the kind of ethno nationalism that the Rajapaksa’s invoked to sustain their rule and the economic crisis of today?

J.S. Tissainayagam [00:18:50] Right, so that is why I call the failure of accountability on economic issues systemic and not only something to do with the economics and what has transpired in the last couple of months. Because an important example of the systemic failure is that Sri Lanka’s political leaders, including Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as you were saying, and serving military top brass, were not held accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the country’s civil war. The judicial system and the media, which are built in guardrails against criminal behavior by governments, failed to bring about that accountability and not being accountable for war crimes is to me aa serious a failure of the system as today’s economic crisis because not only does it reflect that the institutions of justice were unable to punish criminal behavior, but that the failure of Sri Lanka’s constitution to guarantee equality, nondiscrimination and human rights for all its citizens. Because that was a failure that brought about the Civil War in the first place. So, there is a direct line to the fact that Sri Lankan institutions have not been able to be accountable for criminal behavior by government, as well as other shortcomings such as bad policy decisions which brought about this economic crisis that Sri Lanka is now experiencing.

How might the crisis in Sri Lanka change in the coming weeks?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:20:32] Going forward in the next few days or weeks or even months. What will you be looking towards that will suggest to you how this crisis may unfold both politically and economically?

J.S. Tissainayagam [00:20:47] I feel that there are four possibilities. So, the four possibilities are 1. Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigns and goes home, which I said will not happen so I will not repeat that. The other possibility, the second possibility is that the SJB, which is the main opposition party, establishes a parliamentary government. But these policies being such will ignore Tamil and Muslim issues. The third possibility is that the Tamil political parties use this moment to push for restructuring the state and sharing power in the federal government. And of course, the fourth possibility is that Gotabaya Rajapaksa abandons all political negotiations and rules with the military support. I will try to go to a bit of detail about the second, third and fourth issue. So, the possibility of the SJB, trying to use the opportunity of political unrest to probably retain Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the nominal head of state as president, but bring about changes to make parliament the center of political power. They have made certain pronouncements or come up with a draft that reflects this, that they are interested in these changes. The SJB’s leadership will try to portray itself as being more pro neo liberal reform than the present government and therefore better able to manage the IMF program. However, Parliament becoming the locus of power under this arrangement will be at the expense of the Tamils and Muslims. Tamils and Muslims have been demanding that Sinhalese Buddhists who dominate the state share power. There is nothing in the program put forward by the SJP that says that it is willing to share any more power than the present Constitution shares with the Tamils and Muslims, so both the Tamils and Muslims are rejecting it. The SJB will try to appeal to the Sri Lankan people by saying that the state will continue to be dominated by a Sinhalese Buddhists with minimal power sharing with the Tamils and Muslims. The third possibility is that the Tamil parties will use this opportunity to consolidate […]. The Tamil parties should be vehement that removing the president or installing a Sinhalese Buddhist dominated parliament is not what they want. The Tamils and Muslims have been fighting for structural change and not replacing one Buddhist leader with another. But the structural change would mean ensuring two things. 1. That in any new setup, accountability includes accountability for past human rights violations, such as crimes against humanity committed during the war, which we spoke about a moment ago. And not only abuse of power and corruption as the present leader is being charged for under the economic crisis. The second is that the Tamil support in or outside parliament for the government should be predicated on serious negotiations for at least a federal system of government. Any suggestion that discussions should be postponed on this matter should be rejected or not entertained by the Tamil party. The question is whether the Tamil parties are willing to stand together to push for it, and if not, whether the numerous interest groups like those families of the disappeared, the Tamil diaspora, groups fighting for the release of political prisoners and for demilitarization and so on and so forth could force the Tamil parties to stand together and make the united demand. And of course, the final possibility is Gotabaya abandoning political negotiations altogether and ruling with the military and his family circle, which is a pity as it will bring about further pressure.

Is it more likely that these Sri Lankan protests will result in increased power for the Sinhalese Nationalists or increased power for the Tamil and Muslim population?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:25:21] So, you know, two of the scenarios you just described are seemingly opposing to each other. There’s one in which a more pluralistic and inclusive structural change comes about that admits or gives Tamils and Muslims more political power structurally. The other is a devolution of power to the parliament, which is controlled by a Sinhalese nationalist party. You know, of those two scenarios of structural change, do you find any one more likely?

J.S. Tissainayagam [00:26:02] Well, I personally find the second one, that is the SJB pushing for a parliamentary form of government, if they can force Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign, a greater possibility. But it will all depend on how the Tamil parties react to that. I mean, if they stand firm and say, ‘okay, we are not going to accept this, any sort of change to a parliamentary form of government, because it will only continue Sinhalese Buddhist domination and we can only support you if you are willing to negotiate on the two issues of greater accountability and greater power sharing. That is basically to restructure the present unitary constitution into a federal constitution. And our support will depend solely on that.’ If they can push that, I think they will be able to make quite a bit of headway. So, while I feel the parliamentary government coming about is a greater possibility if Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigns, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the fate of the Tamil or Muslim Party should throw up everything and say, ‘okay, we have no other alternative but to support these guys.’ They definitely have the space, and I think they have the power to negotiate a better deal.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:27:38] And perhaps lastly, I mean, if these protests continue and if they grow in size, do you think that might lead to one of the scenarios that you described of either Rajapaksa doubling down with military repression or being forced to resign?

J.S. Tissainayagam [00:28:03] Well, I think if the protests not only at the Galle Face promenade, but other political groups such as the political parties and other interest groups like trade unions, would really come out and say that they will not accept any compromise and Gotabaya Rajapaksa has to go, there is a possibility of him resigning, but I don’t think he will go without a fight because he will feel that will be counterproductive because he will face the courts of law either within Sri Lanka or possibly in a foreign country. On the other hand, he might think, ‘okay, I have no other option but to use the military and become a dictator.’ And you might remember that sometime ago we had this conversation about how there’s a possibility that another crisis in Sri Lanka, like COVID 19, could bring about a recurrence of violence because Sri Lanka’s past in dealing with atrocities has not been very good, it has not gone to the root causes to resolve those issues. And if Rajapaksa feels that he has to govern with an iron hand and by using the military he could very well use issues like, there is a very important commemorative event coming up on the 18th of March where Tamils commemorate the dead, which traditionally Sri Lankan governments have tried to repress because they feel it’s an outpouring of grief, it has certain political significance and which defies the government and is a statement of dissent. So, the Sri Lanka government, under Gotabaya, could very well use that to, again, resume repression and basically say that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and former rebels are regrouping and it has repressed such a possibility — manufacture that sort of contention and use that to stop repression and then spread the repression to other parts of Sri Lanka and use the military to control the country and become a full time full dictatorship.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:30:36] And you said the 18th of March, but I think you meant the 18th of May, right?

J.S. Tissainayagam [00:30:40] I’m sorry. Yes, 18th of May.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:30:43] Well, thank you so much. This is very helpful and timely.

J.S. Tissainayagam [00:30:48] Thank you very much. Thanks for having me. Very nice speaking with you.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:30:53] All right. Thank you all for listening. Thank you to J.S. Tissainayagam for speaking with me and I hope you appreciate this conversation. I know I did, and I suspect it will give you the context you need to understand the events in Sri Lanka as they unfold. I will see you next time, bye!

The post Sri Lanka is in an Economic Freefall appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Sweden and Finland Want to Join NATO. What’s Next?

25. April 2022 - 16:23

Sweden and Finland are both historically neutral countries. Though both are members of the European Union, they are decidedly not members of NATO

But that may soon change.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden have signaled a desire to join the US-lead western military alliance.

On the line with me to explain the significance of Sweden and Finland joining NATO is Ivo Daalder, President of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and former US Ambassador to NATO.

We kick off discussing Sweden and Finland’s historic neutrality before having a longer conversation about the process of NATO membership and what impact adding these two countries to the alliance may have both militarily and diplomatically.

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The post Sweden and Finland Want to Join NATO. What’s Next? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Can a UN Brokered Ceasefire in Yemen Lead to a Lasting Peace?

21. April 2022 - 16:36

Yemen remains the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. More than 17 million are food insecure with over 150,000 people experiencing famine like conditions. In late March the heads of all the main UN humanitarian agencies said Yemen was “teetering on the edge of outright catastrophe.”

But after nearly eight years of war, the United Nations brokered a truce to coincide with Ramadan and last two months. So far, over two weeks in, this truce is holding. Can it lead to a broader peace agreement?

On the line with me to explain how we got to this ceasefire agreement and what happens next is Annelle Sheline, a Research Fellow in the Middle East program at the Quincy Institute.

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The post Can a UN Brokered Ceasefire in Yemen Lead to a Lasting Peace? appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

The Five Reasons Countries Go to War (And How to Avoid Them) | Chris Blattman

18. April 2022 - 16:46

The economist Chris Blattman is well known in academic and policy circles for his research and writing on peace, conflict and economic development. Chris Blattman is a professor at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and he is out with a brand new book, Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace.

The book boils down decades of social science around peace and conflict, using examples throughout history, to explain why groups resort to war. This book is a highly accessible way for the general public to understand what many academics know about war and peace.

(Transcript coming soon)

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The post The Five Reasons Countries Go to War (And How to Avoid Them) | Chris Blattman appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

French Elections: Marine Le Pen and Ascendence of the Far Right in France

14. April 2022 - 16:39

Emmanuel Macron and the far right wing politician Marine Le Pen will face off in the second round of the French presidential elections on April 24.

Macron and Le Pen last faced each in 2017, and back then Macron absolutely trounced her, defeating Le Pen by more than 30 points. But this time around the vote promises to be much closer, with many polls putting Le Pen within striking distance of Macron.

On the line with me to explain what happened in the first round of voting and what to expect ahead of the final vote on April 24 is Art Goldhammer. He is a writer and translator of over 125 books from French to English and a senior affiliate at the Center for European Studies at Harvard.

We kick off discussing the results of the first round before having a longer conversation about the implications of the fact that the far right wing candidate Le Pen is surging in the polls.

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The post French Elections: Marine Le Pen and Ascendence of the Far Right in France appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

How Russian War Crimes Changed the Conflict in Ukraine

11. April 2022 - 16:17

As Russian forces retreated from areas around Kyiv, the whole world became aware of the scope of atrocity crimes committed in areas under Russian control. Meanwhile, the brutal bombardment of cities like Mariupol in the south of Ukraine continues. And civilians are being targeted in deadly airstrikes, included a crowded train station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, which was crammed with civilians seeking to flee that region ahead of a Russian military advance.

As my guest today, Dr. Liana Fix, explains, these apparent war crimes will meaningfully impact both the trajectory of the conflict and any progress towards some sort of partial truce or ceasefire.  Liana Fix is the program director of the International Affairs department at Koerber Foundation, which is a Berlin based think tank.  She discusses the latest developments in the conflict in Ukraine and how Russian war crimes are changing the contours of this war.


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The post How Russian War Crimes Changed the Conflict in Ukraine appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Key Findings From The Latest United Nations Scientific Report on Climate Change

7. April 2022 - 18:49

Every six to eight years the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, undertakes a massive review of the latest science around climate change. Right now, we are near the end of one of these cycles of scientific review.

My guest today, Ryan Hobert, is the managing director of the United Nations Foundations climate and environment team. We kick off discussing the process behind these IPCC reports before diving deep into some of the specific findings of the latest report, released Monday.

(Transcript available soon)

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The post Key Findings From The Latest United Nations Scientific Report on Climate Change appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Changing the Narrative of Doing Business in Africa

4. April 2022 - 10:39

How do media narratives shape people’s perception of the business environment in Africa?

This question is at the heart of an innovative research project by Africa No Filter called The Business in Africa Narrative Report.

The report identifies and defines several dominant frames that western and African media invoke when covering issues on the continent. It shows how these frames lead to narratives that are often distorted from reality and harmful to the business ecosystem across Africa.

Joining me from South Africa is one of the authors of the report, Moky Makura, executive director at Africa No Filter.

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The post Changing the Narrative of Doing Business in Africa appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

Algeria’s Uncertain Political Future

31. März 2022 - 10:29

February marked the third anniversary of the Algerian street protests and movement that lead to the ouster of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Bouteflika was a fixture of Algerian politics and served as President since 1999. This was a huge turning point in modern Algerian history.

The movement that lead to his ouster is called The Hirak. Joining me to discuss the impact of the impact and legacy of this movement three years on are two leading scholars of Algeria’s politics and economy.

Andrew Ferrand is a senior fellow with The Atlantic Council and author of the book The Algerian Dream.

Tinhinane El Kadi is the cofounder of the Institute for Social Science Research in Algeria and a doctoral student at the London School of Economics.

We kick off discussing the circumstances that lead to the ouster of Bouteflika three years ago before having a broader conversation about Algeria’s politics and economy today.

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Kategorien: english

Inside “The Mediator’s Studio” With Legendary Diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi

28. März 2022 - 11:24

In many parts of the world war is a growing threat – or a harsh reality. But who are the peacemakers working to change this?

This week, we are featuring an episode of The Mediator’s Studio podcast, which offers a glimpse into the normally hidden world of peace diplomacy. In this episode, one of the world’s most distinguished conflict mediators, Lakhdar Brahimi, reflects on the hopes and failures of peacemaking in Afghanistan and his search for a peaceful solution to the war in Syria.

If you are a regular listener to Global Dispatches you will no doubt benefit from subscribing to The Mediator’s Studio on any major podcast platform.  I’ve posted a link to the Mediator’s Studio  in the show notes of this episode. And this absolutely fascinating conversation with a legendary diplomat will no doubt inspire you to subscribe to that podcast. So here is an episode of the Mediator’s Studio featuring Lakhdar Brahimi.

Link: The Mediator’s Studio

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Kategorien: english

The Promise and Perils of “Solar Radiation Modification” to Mitigate Climate Change

24. März 2022 - 9:21

The Paris Agreement set a target to limit global warming to “well below 2 degrees, but preferably to 1.5 degrees celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.”  However, if present trends continue the world is set to blow past those international targets.

This has lead scientists, the policy community and ethicists to consider strategies on climate change that assume the Paris Agreement targets will not be met in time.  This includes the technological innovation called “Solar Radiation Modification,” which can include the injection of aerosols into the atmosphere to essentially block heat from reaching the earth.

And to that end, my guest today, Janos Pasztor has done some important work on Solar Radiation Modification for global governance and climate justice. He is the executive director of Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative and we kick off discussing what me mean by a global warming overshoot scenario that may necessitate the use of this potentially controversial Solar Radiation Modification Technology.


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The post The Promise and Perils of “Solar Radiation Modification” to Mitigate Climate Change appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

How China Views Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

21. März 2022 - 16:03

Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, one major diplomatic variable has been the stance of China. So far, China has played its cards sort of close to its chest, neither firmly denouncing Russia’s aggression, nor providing Russia with meaningful support.

My guest Kaiser Kuo calls China’s stance thus far a kind of “pro-Russian neutrality.” He is host of the Sinica Podcast in the SUP China Network and we have a long conversation about what is informing China’s approach to this international crisis. We kick off discussing the history of China-Russia relations and then dive deep into China’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


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Transcript lightly edited for clarity 

What Was Vladimir Putin’s Relationship with Chinese President Xi Jingping Before Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine? 

Kaiser Kuo [00:02:26] I’m going to go all the way back; I think we need to actually take this back a little further than just Xi. Xi came to office in 2013 and by then, the China Russia relationship was already sort of on its present trajectory. So, I wanted to take it back a little further than that if that’s okay, Mark.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:02:44] Take me, take me back. You can go to the Qing Dynasty if you like.

Kaiser Kuo [00:02:50] [laughter] Don’t need to go back that far. So, I think it’s important to remember that from the time of the Sino-Soviet split, which began in earnest in 1960, no Soviet leader had even visited China until Mikhail Gorbachev did in ’89. He went there in the middle of these student demonstrations, if you recall—actually, I was present in Tiananmen Square when he was there. Gorbachev’s fates and you know, China’s own near-death experience in ’89 were always linked in the minds of Chinese leaders. And so, Deng Xiaoping and later Jiang Zemin, they regarded Boris Yeltsin as a feckless drunk. But from Gorbachev and then Yeltsin, they really drew a lot of important lessons because, you know, this has been an obsession, and it’s especially an obsession with Xi Jinping. He’s dead set on avoiding the same fate as the Soviet Union, right? So, they drew a couple of important lessons. One was, you know, don’t do glasnost before you do perestroika right? Don’t reform politics until you reform the economy. You want to be able to at least deliver people a decent living. So that’s one mistake. They looked at Russia and said, ‘Well, don’t privatize state-owned assets willy nilly the way that Yeltsin did’ because, you know, he created this class of rapacious oligarchs and, you know, a kleptocratic state. And finally, don’t submit to the kind of shock therapy being prescribed by Western economists. China sort of pats itself on the back for having avoided those things. It really wasn’t until the later stages of the Yugoslav conflict, after the breakup of Yugoslavia, especially the Kosovo war, that China really started to find convergence, though with Russia.

What factors have aligned Russia and China in the last 20 years?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:04:36] And of course, NATO bombed Chinese embassy in Belgrade during that war. It was a mistake, says NATO, but nonetheless, you know, presumably informed China’s response to the crisis.

Kaiser Kuo [00:04:47] Absolutely did. It absolutely did. And so, I think I have yet to meet a Chinese person, somebody born and raised in China who believes that it was a mistake. This is the question that I’ll ask God when I finally meet him. That’s one thing I really want to know: what really happened with that bomb or those bombs. Anyway, but there was a respite, though after that, I think, for both China and Russia during the early years of the so-called global war on terror when the United States was very much distracted. Both Russia and China were sort of enrolled in that war on terror for their own selfish reasons. But by 2007, after we’d already seen the Rose Revolution in Georgia in ’03, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in ’04, the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan in ’05. By 2007, though, you see a very changed Putin. He’s, you know, he’s smiting over NATO expansion already, of course, but especially over these color revolutions. I think that when he gives that Munich conference speech in 2007, that’s an important point. And heading into the year 2008, which was a really pivotal one for China because in March, China experienced this massive uprising—riots, as Beijing would describe them officially in Lhasa and in other culturally Tibetan areas of China. And that sparked a lot of anti-Americanism, maybe surprisingly just for the way that US media outlets covered that. But on the other hand, you had, you know, Russia invaded Georgia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia in August. It was right during the Olympics, which really frankly pissed off Hu Jintao, who was the president of China at the time. And then, you know, just three weeks after the closing ceremony of those Olympics, Lehman Brothers collapsed and the whole financial system went into meltdown. So that was another important turning point for China, and I think it got them a whole lot more assertive and pricklier almost immediately. I think they saw things eye to eye much more with the Russians at that point. And then in 2009, you have another couple of events that pushed China even still closer in worldview to this newly militant Russia under Putin. One was this big uprising in Xinjiang with riots in Urumqi. But it was also things like—I mean, people don’t understand how this was read in China—the protests in Iran after the contested reelection of Ahmadinejad,

Mark L. Goldberg [00:07:29] The Green Protest…

Kaiser Kuo [00:07:30] Yeah, the Green Protest but, you know, significantly, they also called it the YouTube Revolution and they got in the habit of appending the name of an American social media product every revolution that happened, especially after the Arab Spring started in 2011. So, you know, Tahrir Square was the Facebook Revolution and there were various Twitter revolutions, right?

How does shared vitriol against so-called “western values” unite Russia and China?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:07:52] Prescribing presumably American motives behind these very much organic protests in these countries?

Kaiser Kuo [00:08:01] That’s absolutely right. They always reach to the same boogeyman. For Putin, you have to remember in 2012, he had his own kind of near-death experience, all these massive protests against Putin, that he blamed on Hillary Clinton and our State Department. These organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy and of course, George Soros, right? So, it’s interesting because they start really reading from the same prayer book or singing from the same hymn book by that point. There’s this really remarkable—it was an internal party document that actually predates Xi’s succession as general secretary a few months later—it’s called Document Number Nine. I don’t know Mark if you’ve heard of it.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:08:45] I’ve not. Enlighten me, please.

Kaiser Kuo [00:08:47] It’s fascinating. It was leaked actually the following year in 2013. You can really kind of read it as the party’s diagnosis of what they need to watch out for in terms of how the faith and authority of the party gets undermined; how color revolution takes hold; it’s like a warning against the perils of democracy promotion by the United States. So, it’s like the seven deadly sins that it identifies and they’re almost entirely about the pernicious influence of Western values and Western institutions. You know, constitutional democracy with its features like multi-party elections or separation of power or independent judiciary. The very idea of universal values, civil society, NGOs, these are seen as a deadly vector for this kind of thinking. Independent media, what they call, you know, Western style journalism, in other words, adversarial journalism. So, I think it’s significant that this comes out in 2012. This is the same year that Putin is facing his big street protests again that, he says, are the machinations of the evil Secretary of State Clinton and so forth. So, I think if you take a look out Beijing’s windows and understand what it looked like, you can see why it felt alignment with Russia during this time.

How did China view the United States before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:10:22] And you know, there is this kind of prevailing sense among those who are China pundits or China watchers that China’s foreign policy proceeds from the assumption that the goals of its foreign policy is to shore up domestic stability and regime security. Are you seeing manifestations of that in terms of how China is approaching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

Kaiser Kuo [00:10:55] Yeah. So, this is one where I have this sort of ongoing debate with other people about 2014 and how important that was because I mean, I think you can look at 2014 and recognize that on the one hand, Beijing didn’t object strenuously but on the other, it has not recognized Crimea still to this day. So, this takes us up to the present so yeah, I think you’re absolutely right that China’s foreign policy ultimately is about shoring up its own. Well, I don’t think that it’s suffering a crisis of legitimacy exactly right now. I think that regime support is actually at very, very high levels currently but I think it’s important to look in, you know, take in the view out Beijing’s windows and see what America has looked like from that subjective vantage point. This isn’t to say that how Beijing sees things are is correct or that I agree with it. But you know, what it sees basically is over the last three years, four years, really—I mean, we can go even further back to the very beginning of the trade war—that the United States has sought to kneecap China’s tech businesses. It’s sought to basically drive Beijing onto its belly. You know, there’s the trade war, this tech Cold War, the blaming of Beijing for the COVID 19 pandemic and then, you know, that series of lab leak claims that were deliberately meant to be conflated with bioweapons claims. And then all the gratuitous insults that came from the presidential podium during Trump’s administration and then just the kind of profound disappointment that things didn’t change much when Biden came into office. There are more and more people in Beijing who are convinced that America, you know, irrespective of what party is in power, who holds Congress or who’s in the White House, the goal is to keep China down.

Is China strategizing to support Moscow in Russia’s war on Ukraine? Would it be beneficial to China to outwardly support Putin in his war against Ukraine?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:12:59] So, you know, I follow the UN pretty closely or very closely and at the UN, China has avoided any really explicit denunciations of Russia, but it’s also not firmly had Russia’s back, opting instead to abstain from some key votes at both the Security Council and the General Assembly. But from what I’m hearing from you, I mean, is it fair to say that beyond the UN in these last two weeks, Beijing has more or less been siding with Moscow? And if so, what have been manifestations of a strategy that seems to be developing in which Beijing is backing Moscow or not?

Kaiser Kuo [00:13:45] Yeah. So that’s obviously the million-dollar question.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:13:48] That’s why I asked you.

Kaiser Kuo [00:13:50] [laughter] Right, right, right. I actually think that I would describe it as a kind of pro-Russian neutrality at this point. China is still trying to hedge, right? You know, it is sanctions compliant so far and has signaled that it will be. It’s done things like denied the sale of airplane parts. It has done things like provided limited and pretty modest humanitarian aid to Ukraine. We saw the ambassador to Ukraine make comments about the unity and the tenacity of Ukrainian fighters, which has pissed Moscow off pretty badly. It has done things like flatly denied this claim that Russia had made a request of it for military aid. There were other things that I think are evidence of China’s hedging. Where the rubber meets the road, I think is, though, in how it is talking about this to its own people.

How has Chinese state-controlled media reported on the war in Ukraine?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:15:00] That was going to be my next question. How is this conflict being portrayed in state-controlled media?

Kaiser Kuo [00:15:05] Well, I mean, look, everything that I’ve been talking about, with relevance to the present crisis comes from conversations I’ve had with people who know a whole lot more than I do. And so here I’m going to be, you know, referring to what Maria Repnikova has told me in conversations I’ve had with her. She was my guest on the last podcast. She’s somebody who has this sort of happy confluence of research interests where she just published a book on Chinese soft power, but she is Russian born. She’s actually born in Estonia, but she’s a Russian speaker and is also fluent in Chinese. She studies Chinese media, and she’s published a book on the Chinese media system. So, she’s been watching this very closely. What’s maybe surprising is how little attention has been paid to the war in the official media. There is sort of the equivalent of the CBS Evening News during its heyday in Walter Cronkite’s time, where it was the news, everyone watches and that’s on China Central Television CCTV channel 1. It’s called […], “the evening news” and the Ukraine story has been relegated to minute 27 of a 30-minute broadcast and has been given very, very, very short shrift. They would rather people not be thinking about this because they understand how divisive it is now. It doesn’t serve Chinese ends right now to appear to take a side in it. Now that said, I think what really matters is that they are censoring people who are making arguments that are too pro-Western and not censoring the more strident nationalists who are calling for China to be all in with Russia.

Is the Chinese government censoring anyone because of their public opinion on Russia’s war in Ukraine?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:16:59] What does that suggest to you?

Kaiser Kuo [00:17:08] I suppose it would be possible to kind of make up a balance sheet right, to look at what favors China, what favors Russia, and what favors the West or Ukraine and what I would put in the pro-Russia column, obviously, is that they want to stand up against American unipolar hegemony. They want to keep America strategically tied up in Europe and unable to really build up a presence in Asia. Once again, the pivot to falter, that’s in their strategic interest. They realize that failing to support Russia means strengthening the West, with the EU remaining very, very close in American orbit. In other words, if Russia is ignominiously defeated in Ukraine, if its war aims are not met, we’re going to see a sort of resurgent American led order. And then of course, there’s hydrocarbons, oil and gas, and carbohydrates right, wheat. But on the other side of the ledger are many things, one of them is that the Russian economy is like only the 11th largest in the world. It is way down there in the list of Chinese trade partners. In fact, if you add up the E.U. and the United States, that comes to about a little over 1.1 trillion dollars in annual trade. But Russia is only 1/7th of that. So, they’re going to be sanctions compliant. They realize that sanctions could really hurt the Chinese economy, especially during this really crucial period where they’re trying to do something. It looks like they’re putting it off irrespective of what’s happening in Russia, but they’re really trying to move China onto a very different economic footing right now and that plan is sort of stymied by the distraction of this war, so they don’t like that. Of course, China is constantly talking about the basic principle of territorial integrity and national sovereignty, and they see what Russia has done as a pretty unambiguous violation of that.

Does China have the capacity to mediate an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:19:26] So I guess what opportunities exist or are being explored by elite Chinese foreign policy thinkers that exist that would use this crisis to firmly establish China as the dominant world power? I’m s thinking back or perhaps comparing this moment, potentially to the Suez Crisis of 1956 in which you had the declining powers of the United Kingdom and France get into a misadventure in the Middle East and it was the United States who sort of rescued the situation and in so doing firmly established the US as the power to be reckoned with and forever relegated Britain and to a lesser extent, France, as like declining or old imperial powers that are sort of feckless. Does the Chinese foreign policy establishment have the wherewithal to sort of assert itself in a way to help, perhaps negotiate or mediate an end to this crisis in a way that asserts China on the global stage in any meaningful way?

Kaiser Kuo [00:20:45] Well, the short answer is no. There are probably some people who have kind of wildly overestimated China’s capacity to do anything like that but I think that that the majority of people in the foreign policy establishment in China understand that China’s choices here are circumscribed, that its power is still limited and it has seen many examples just in the last three weeks of exactly why that is so, not the least of which is just the incredible discursive power of the Western media. It has so shaped that narrative and in so shaping it, it has, you know, changed the way that Brussels and individual European capitals have approached it. It has changed the whole way that the story is told globally and the way it’s been understood, and they’re very keenly aware of that. They’re also keenly aware of the power of sanctions now. I think that prior to February 24th, it was still possible in Chinese policy circles to speak of toothless, impotent sanctions, right? Not anymore. So no, I don’t think so. And I think that they realize that China is far away, that China would be seen as meddling in an affair that isn’t really of its doing. And because it had leaned to pro-Russia during the run up to an in the immediate first few weeks of the war it wouldn’t be seen as a sort of trustworthy intermediary certainly not by the West. Now there have been your occasional calls for China to step up and do something, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think that Xi Jinping so overestimates China’s capabilities in that way.

Is it sustainable for China to remain quietly pro-Russia while attempting to be publicly neutral on the war in Ukraine?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:22:45] So you use the phrase, and I love it, “pro-Russian neutrality” as describing China’s approach to this crisis thus far. How sustainable do you see that position being? What might break that quote pro-Russian neutrality one way or the other?

Kaiser Kuo [00:23:06] Right. I mean, that’s again, the other million-dollar question.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:23:10] I’m making you a millionaire today. All the questions your way.

Kaiser Kuo [00:23:20] I think maybe the most illustrative example is a Shanghai based scholar by the name of Hua, who published a really interesting piece that circulated pretty widely in Chinese and then was translated into English by the Carter Center in Atlanta—Carter Center’s US-China perception monitor. And it basically calls for China to come off the fence in the direction of the West and for China to break its ties with Putin. That has been pretty widely savaged in China, where it has been allowed to circulate, surprisingly, but only because I think the judgment was that it had enough holes in it, that it wasn’t really going to be taken too seriously. But I think it is indicative that there are plenty of people, especially people in the sort of soft handed academic policy community who really would like to see China get off the fence on the western side rather than getting off the fence onto the Russian side. Again, there are people who would challenge the idea that they’re even on the fence. One guest that I’ve had, Evan Feigenbaum, is very clear on that. He does not believe that China is on the fence. He thinks that China’s sanctions compliance was a given, that they don’t get credit for that. I don’t fully agree with him. I think that at least in its own mind, China believes itself to be still sort of on a fence. I think that they realize that the longer they wait, the less options they have but they also see a possibility where waiting this out without taking a side yields the most positive outcome for China in the long term anyway, where they see Russia emerge from this with what it wanted before February 24th anyway. That is, with a Ukraine that is avowedly neutral, that does not join NATO and promises not to for the foreseeable future. Where Russian quote unquote legitimate security interests are taken seriously and where it still sees that as a possible wedge to keep NATO’s constituent members sort of divided from one another. So, what it worries about most is an outcome that puts the EU and the United States firmly together under American hegemonic dominion. I mean, me personally, being an unalloyed liberal myself, I would love to see China come off the fence in the right direction. Unfortunately, I just don’t see that as a likely outcome.

How might Russia’s invasion of Ukraine affect China’s policies around Taiwan?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:26:27] So there’s this perception I sense in American policy circles that Chinese policy officials and Chinese officials are viewing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine through the prism, the lens of Taiwan. Does that strike you as true? And what’s more broadly the takeaway for China vis a vis Taiwan in terms of like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

Kaiser Kuo [00:27:02] Yeah. So, I think that there were a lot of kind of hot takes immediately, and this began well before February 24th. A lot of hot takes that say ‘/well this for China is entirely about Taiwan.’ Now I think it would be foolish for us to think that that hasn’t crossed the minds of Chinese leaders, but I think the kinds of direct parallels to the situation are not accurate in the least. China doesn’t conceive of it as a similar situation. It really does in its heart of hearts, believe that Taiwan is an internal matter, rightly or wrongly. So, I think that if anything, if there’s any lesson that’s being drawn right now, if there’s any direction in which Beijing is being pushed vis a vis the Taiwan issue, it’s away from adventurism right now. I think it’s fully on display the kind of moral opprobrium and how quickly that would translate into not just sanctions, but full-on embargoes, the pain that China would be made to suffer. I think that all along, Xi, by virtue of the fact that he has arrogated to himself so much decision-making authority, singular decision-making authority on that matter, he knows that if things go badly on such an adventure, he has nobody else to blame, and that is absolutely the end of his political career. Whereas all he need do is repeat the occasional mantra about the inviolability of China’s claim on Taiwan, and he can keep nationalists satisfied—throw them a little red meat once in a while—he faces no threat to his rule by not acting, whereas he faces an enormous risk if he does act with very little upside. So, I think that we’re safe but anyone who has looked at the situation, I would suggest listening to what Bonnie Glaser has to say. She’s at the German Marshall Fund, was formerly at CSIS and has been looking at this, knows the disposition of Chinese forces really well, knows that that Xi is not planning anything like that. I think it’s really irresponsible for a lot of news outlets to report Chinese planes that fly through the ADIZ, which, by the way actually includes parts of Mainland China, as you know, conflating those with overflights of Taiwan, which is not what’s happening at all, they’re happening far to the southwest of that.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:29:41] All right. No, that’s fair enough. It’s just, as you said, there was this slew of hot takes, and I feel like it’s still a persistent perception that a dominant frame in which China is interpreting events in Ukraine is through its positions on Taiwan. And I take your point, I figured that not to be correct, but hearing directly from you is certainly helpful.

What could motivate China to “pick a side” and support Ukraine?

Kaiser Kuo [00:30:08] Well, that said, there’s one area where I think Taiwan really does matter right now. I think if you look at the readout, especially the Chinese version of the readout from the meeting that just took place in Rome on Monday between Jake Sullivan and Yang Jiechi. You know, most of it is about Taiwan, and a sort of flick at Korea and North Korea and Ukraine in the last sentence or in the last paragraph of the readout.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:30:33] Is that in the State Department readout, or the Chinese government readout?

Kaiser Kuo [00:30:36] The Chinese government’s readout interest.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:30:37] Huh, interesting.

Kaiser Kuo [00:30:37] The State Department readout is very, very short considering that it was a seven-hour meeting. It’s actually possibly a good sign that it was so short but when I look at that readout where my mind goes instantly is that I think that Yang and China are angling for carrots to get them off the fence. I think that in their mind, the right inducement to get China to actually play a more constructive role in this would be sort of an explicit statement on Taiwan, an end to the salami slicing that they see as having happened across the Trump administration, especially in the last couple of years with Pompeo and especially in the last months, the kind of policy turds that Pompeo left on the lawn of the Taiwan Straits issue. And I really worry that they think they can extract those sorts of concessions in exchange for a more cooperative posture in the Ukraine crisis.

Could any event force China to make a more declarative statement on their support either for Russia or against it?

Mark L. Goldberg [00:31:53] So lastly, in the coming weeks or months even, could you foresee any decisions that Beijing will have to make or other inflection points that might suggest to you how China will evolve in its approach to Russia? For example, might Russia come to China to seek some sort of bailout or some support in order to shore up Russia’s own crumbling economy? And at that point, will China have to make a decision about whether or not to buy like Russian gold or something like that?

Kaiser Kuo [00:32:31] Yeah, I think that that’s exactly the kind of decision point that Russia might force on China, and I think they dread that. They’re looking, of course, very, very carefully at the course of the conflict itself, which changes day to day. I think there’s no doubt in my mind that they are watching everything that’s happening, every skirmish, every battle, you know, every Russian military action. And they’re keeping a very, very close eye on what’s happening in the peace talks, although they probably have no role in it whatsoever. I don’t know how good faith it is, but it looks like they’re converging on a set—I mean, it’s been reported you saw it in the Financial Times yesterday and elsewhere—that there is on the table now, a solution that is almost sort of a status quo ante, but with a vow of Ukrainian neutrality and a commitment not to join NATO.  I think we need to think about the other things that complicate China’s relationship with Russia, and we don’t think about this probably enough. One is India and another is Vietnam, both of whom are recipients of substantial Russian military aid, but who are kind of traditional antagonists of China, right? You know, it’s not an uncomplicated relationship. You can point to Central Asia and see that Russia and China have been largely copacetic there but there are other areas where it’s not easy to see how it will evolve. So, all of these things are factors in Beijing’s thinking.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:34:26] Well, Kaiser, this was so helpful. Thank you.

Kaiser Kuo [00:34:29] Thank you. Mark is a real pleasure.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:34:31] And you have at least one new subscriber to your podcast. Can you take a minute just to plug and tell the listeners about your show?

Kaiser Kuo [00:34:38] Sure. So, I actually run a network of podcasts. It’s called the Sinica Network, and it can be found on But our flagship show, which has been running since April 1st of 2010

Mark L. Goldberg [00:34:50] Oh my gosh, you pre-date me.

Kaiser Kuo [00:34:51] Yeah, coming up on our 12th birthday.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:34:52] Yeah, I’m April 2014. There are few who are older than I. That’s great!

Kaiser Kuo [00:34:59] Yeah. So, we started the show when I was still living in Beijing. Then we were acquired by SupChina, which was a fledgling news outlet which has allowed us to really spread our wings and we moved the show to the United States, and I moved here in 2016. The show is a current affairs show. It’s a weekly show in interview format usually, you know, anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. And we bring on everyone from diplomats, we’ve had people like Kurt Campbell, we’ve had former heads of government like Kevin Rudd on the show.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:35:34] Ah, he’s been on my show too.

Kaiser Kuo [00:35:35] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I see you’ve got quite a roster of great people. You’ve had Fareed Zakaria who is just fantastic. I envy a lot of the guests that you’ve had. Maybe we can, we can swap intros.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:35:47] Yeah, there you go. Well, I’ll post a link to your show in the show notes of the episode, so people are listening to this now have an easy way to access your show, which I really look forward to listening to regularly.

Kaiser Kuo [00:35:58] Yeah, yeah. And you can listen to all the shows I’ve done on Ukraine and China, where I’ve stolen everything that I’ve just said.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:36:07] Well, that’s what I do, whenever I get interviewed, which is always awkward, I’m like the person usually interviewing people, I always refer back to the insights of people I interviewed. So, I get it. Yeah. Well, thank you. That’s great, Kaiser. I really appreciate it.

Kaiser Kuo [00:36:18] Thank you, Mark.

Mark L. Goldberg [00:36:22] All right, thank you all for listening. Thank you to Kaiser, that was great. I am now a proud subscriber of the Sinica Podcast and recommend you all do as well. Looking forward to being a listener. All right, we’ll see you soon. As I said at the outset, I’m taking a little time off, but I have lots of fresh new content for you in the interim so nothing should change from your perspective but if you reach out to me, I might be slow to respond. Alright, I’ll see next time, bye!


The post How China Views Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

This is How There May Be Justice and Accountability for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in Ukraine

17. März 2022 - 15:53

War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity are being committed nearly every day in Ukraine. We can see it on our TV. Russian forces are apparently deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in ways that violate international humanitarian law.

So what opportunities might exist to hold perpetrators of atrocity crimes accountable for their actions? Joining me to discuss this question and more is Mark Kersten. He a researcher at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the Global Justice Lab at the University of Toronto, founder of the excellent blog Justice in Conflict and works at the Wayamo Foundation.

We kick off with an extended conversation about the role of the International Criminal Court. We also discuss other potential opportunities and venues for justice and accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

Transcript Coming Soon

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The post This is How There May Be Justice and Accountability for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in Ukraine appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english

How the War in Ukraine will Impact Global Food Prices and Food Security Around the World.

14. März 2022 - 15:49

Ukraine is a major exporter of key food staples around the world. Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the prices of food commodities like wheat were near all time highs. Since the outbreak of armed conflicted, these prices have soared even higher.

What impact is this war having on global food supply, food prices and food security? I put this question and more to Joe Glauber, Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington and formerly the chief economist at the United States Department of Agriculture.

(Transcript available soon)

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Gender, Conflict and Ukraine | Plus, a Preview of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women Conference

10. März 2022 - 17:27

I caught up with Michelle Milford-Morse on International Women’s Day and as the war in Ukraine entered its second week.

Michelle Milford-Morse is the United Nations Foundation’s Vice President for Girls and Women Strategy. I wanted to speak with her to both better understand gender dynamics in armed conflict and how these dynamics are playing out today in Ukraine.

Also, we spoke about a week before the Commission on the Status of Women kicked off at UN headquarters in New York. The Commission on the Status of Women is the second-largest annual gathering at the UN and I was keen to learn from Michelle Milford-Morse what to expect from this meeting and how, if at all, the war in Ukraine will impact CSW this year.


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The post Gender, Conflict and Ukraine | Plus, a Preview of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women Conference appeared first on UN Dispatch.

Kategorien: english