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  • Author: Flavio Fusco
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Located at the heart of the Middle East, connecting the Levant to the Persian Gulf, Iraq has always been at the centre of regional dynamics. Yet, the country is today reduced to a quasi-failed state fundamentally damaged in its political, social and economic fabric, with long-term consequences that trace a fil rouge from the 2003 US-led invasion to the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and the country’s current structural fragility.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, European Union
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Lorenza Errighi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: If 2020 was the year of “mask diplomacy”, as countries raced to tackle the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and acquire the necessary protective gear and equipment, 2021 is likely to be remembered as the year of “vaccine diplomacy”. Growing competition between states to secure the necessary quantities of vaccines to inoculate their population has already become an established feature of the post-COVID international system and such trends are only likely to increase in the near future. It normally takes up to a decade to transition from the development and testing of a vaccine in a laboratory to its large-scale global distribution. Despite current challenges, the speed of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns is unprecedented. To put an end to the current pandemic – which in one year has led to the loss of 2.6 million lives and triggered the worst economic recession since the Second World War – the goal is to ensure the widest immunisation of the world population in a timeframe of 12 to 18 months. In this context, COVID vaccines emerge as instruments of soft power, as they symbolise, on the one hand, scientific and technological supremacy and, on the other, means to support existing and emerging foreign policy partnerships and alliances with relevant geopolitical implications. From their experimentation in laboratories, to their purchase and distribution, the vaccine has emerged as a significant tool for competition between powers, often associated with the promotion of competing developmental and governance models across third countries.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Health, Vaccine, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Vedran Džihić, Paul Schmidt
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: In societies devastated by the pandemic, the EU needs to leave its conventional tool-box behind and urgently speed up the Europeanisation of its neighbours in Southeast Europe. The coronavirus pandemic has deepened the vulnerabilities affecting Western Balkan countries and exposed the weakness of their state institutions, especially in the health sector and social protection. At the same time, related to the limited effectiveness of the EU enlargement process over the past years, the progress of reforms has stagnated and some countries have even experienced concerning regressions in the rule of law. The outbreak of the coronavirus crisis has meanwhile increased the presence of other geopolitical players in the region, mainly in the context of competition over vaccinations, not only of China but also of Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Awareness is growing that the EU and the West is not the only available partner. As other powers not known for their democratic practices use or misuse the Western Balkans to promote their interests, the vision of a free, democratic and truly European Balkans is no longer self-evident.
  • Topic: European Union, Institutions, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe, Balkans
  • Author: Nicoletta Pirozzi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The European Union is struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has swept through European societies and economies, causing more than 500,000 deaths (and counting) and a GDP downturn of –6.4 per cent in 2020. This is the third big crisis – and possibly the most dramatic – to impact the EU over the last 12 years, following the economic and financial crisis in 2008– 2010 and the extraordinary influx of migrants arriving on European shores in 2015–2016. All these crises produced asymmetrical consequences on the member countries and citizens. The already marked differences among member states have been exacerbated, making a unified response by EU institutions difficult in the process and suboptimal in the outcome. Indeed, especially during the first wave of the pandemic in Europe, the actions and statements of national leaders revealed a deep rift within the EU and the Eurozone, leading to nationalistic moves in border control and the export of medical supplies. Citizens were therefore exposed to the negative consequences of a Union with limited powers in sectors such as health and crisis management. Meanwhile, important decisions such as the approval of the Next Generation EU package and the new budget for 2021– 2027 risked ending in failure due to the opposition of some member states.
  • Topic: Regional Integration, Crisis Management, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • Abstract: After four dark years during which President Donald Trump systematically weakened the United States’ commitment to multilateralism, international law and universal human rights, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect congratulates President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their impending inauguration. As an international civil society organization with its headquarters in New York, we join human rights defenders both here and abroad who view this historic moment with relief and hope. President Biden and Vice President Harris will be sworn in at a time of unprecedented crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous suffering around the world and killed over 380,000 Americans. Globally, more than 80.3 million people are also currently displaced by conflict, persecution and atrocities, the highest number since the Second World War. In all too many countries the laws, institutions and individuals who defend human rights appear to be under threat. This includes the United States, where disturbing political developments over the last four years led to the proliferation of online hate speech, the criminalization of asylum seekers and a prejudicial “Muslim Ban” aimed at refugees.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Elections, Responsibility to Protect (R2P), Atrocities, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Marijke Verpoorten, Nik Stoop
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Political Violence @ A Glance
  • Abstract: On January 1, 2021, the European Conflict Minerals Act came into force. It aims to regulate the trade in four minerals—tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold, also known as 3TG—that are often sourced from conflict-affected countries where the profits may allow armed groups to finance their activities. The regulation aims to break the link between minerals and conflict by ensuring that European Union (EU)-based companies only import minerals from conflict-free sources. If companies import minerals from conflict regions, the law requires them to report where the minerals were mined, the location of processing and trade, and the taxes and fees that were paid.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Conflict, Minerals
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Navin Bapat
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Political Violence @ A Glance
  • Abstract: The risk of terrorism is often overstated. Americans are more likely to die from everyday risks, such as driving, drowning, or being hit by lightning, than from terrorist attacks. I’ve often criticized the willingness of leaders to politicize terrorism, arguing that this results in ‘othering’ that harms racial and ethnic minorities, and, in some cases, in very large, costly, and brutal wars. I therefore do not say this lightly: In the case of the US, however, white supremacists like those who engaged in the mob attack on the US Capitol, are a clear and present danger to the human security of the American nonwhite population and to national security.
  • Topic: Violent Extremism, Far Right, White Supremacy, Racism
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Nina von Uexkull, Halvard Buhaug
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Political Violence @ A Glance
  • Abstract: While former US President Donald Trump frequently denied man-made climate change, the Biden administration has pledged to make climate change a priority, including for national security. In line with years of thinking within the defense sector, the Biden-Harris team refers to climate change as a “threat multiplier,” pointing to risks of regional instability and resource competition driven by worsening environmental conditions. This perspective also aligns with the initiatives of other countries that have pushed climate security in the UN Security Council and other international bodies.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Climate Change, International Security, Conflict, Armed Conflict
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Anthony Bubalo
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The examples of Egypt and Saudi Arabia show the risks in betting on the stability of autocratic regimes in the region. Despite the Arab uprisings of the last decade, most countries in the Middle East remain in the grip of autocrats, with a widespread view that this is the 'default setting' for the region. However, an examination of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where authoritarianism has been revived, reveals both regimes are struggling for popular legitimacy. Increasingly reliant on repression, these regimes risk provoking civil unrest, and external powers should reconsider their assumption that autocracy guarantees stability in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Authoritarianism, Political stability, Legitimacy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Egypt
  • Author: Roland Rajah
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Indonesia has much economic potential but the trade-off between growth and stability continues to bind its growth ambitions. Indonesian economic policy continues to prioritise stability over growth but the adequacy of economic growth has become the bigger issue. President Joko Widodo’s commendable pro-growth efforts have so far only stabilised Indonesia’s trajectory rather than boost it. Doing better will require reforms to be calibrated to make the trade-off between growth and stability less binding while enhancing productivity.
  • Topic: Government, International Trade and Finance, Economy, Economic growth
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Natasha Kassam, Richard McGregor
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: China has lost the battle for public opinion in Taiwan. Saturday’s elections are likely to reflect strong anti-Beijing sentiment China is already looking past the elections to weaken the island’s democracy through overt and covert means Whatever the result, Beijing will increase pressure on Taipei to open talks on unification
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Luca Franza
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Dolphins are being spotted in harbours, canals in Venice have never looked so clean and the temporary ban of corridas has spared the lives of a hundred Spanish bulls. Looking at the bright side of things is an admirable quality, but we should not get too carried away with the idea that COVID-19 is good for the planet. Besides the anecdotal phenomena quoted above, the collapse of mobility and economic activity induced by COVID-19 are generating meaningful short-term consequences for the environment. These include a sharp reduction in Hubei’s and Northern Italy’s air pollution levels and a likely reduction in global CO2 emissions in 2020. Rejoicing over such news rests on a short-sighted view. The interlinkages between COVID-19, energy and climate issues are so complex that we are actually looking at a mixed bag of consequences.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Pollution, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Francesca Ghiretti
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The bilateral relationship between Italy and China is back in the spotlight one year after the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on China’s Belt and Road Initiative. To date, Italy is the second hardest hit country by COVID-19 pandemic after China. Despite strict measures in place to limit the crisis, numbers keep rising, placing the national health care system under severe strain.
  • Topic: Health, Bilateral Relations, Foreign Aid, Propaganda
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Italy, European Union
  • Author: Alessandro Marrone
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The Italian armed forces need to adjust to a changing operational environment, whereby threat levels are on the rise and the United States is more reluctant to lead military operations than in the past.
  • Topic: International Relations, NATO, Armed Forces, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Elisa Murgese
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: China’s 2018 import ban on mixed “recyclable” plastic waste revealed deep-rooted problems in the global recycling system and uncovered the wasteful and harmful nature of the recycling trade. Repercussions have been global. In April 2019, Greenpeace East Asia took a closer look at the top plastic waste importers and exporters globally. This data details the 21 top exporters and 21 top importers of plastic waste from January 2016 to November 2018, measuring the breadth of the plastics crisis and the global industry’s response to import bans. Two core trends emerged from China’s ban and the Greenpeace analysis.
  • Topic: Crime, Environment, Trafficking , Waste
  • Political Geography: Europe, Malaysia, Asia, Italy
  • Author: Nicola Bilotta, Alissa Siara
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: One of the key priorities of the new European Commission is to enhance the EU’s geopolitical credentials and “learn to use the language of power”, as stated by the incoming EU High Representative Josep Borrell. The EU’s ambition is two-fold: to increase the Union’s ability to project power and influence at the global level, including through increased integration and coordination among member states, and secondly to enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy from the US in the political, military and economic domains. Both objectives, ambitious in the best of circumstances, are today under severe strain by the COVID-19 crisis. Implications will be long-lasting and multidimensional, and for Europe, its impact will have a direct bearing on its ambition for strategic autonomy, touching each of the three pillars outlined above.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics, Economy, Autonomy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Giuliano Garavini
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Oil markets are facing a perfect storm. The scissors of supply and demand are moving against one another, generating increasing pain on the oil industry and the political and financial stability of oil-producing countries. Global oil demand is dropping due to the recession induced by the COVID-19 shut down of economic activity and transport in the most industrialized countries. Goldman Sachs predicts that global demand could drop from 100 million barrels per day (mdb) in 2019 to nearly 80 mdb in 2020.1 If confirmed, this would be single biggest demand shock since petroleum started its race to become the most important energy source in the world.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Oil, Global Markets, Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Global Focus
  • Author: Alessandro Marrone
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic will negatively affect the defence field from a budgetary, industrial and politicostrategic point of view, particularly in Europe. Depending on the pandemic’s duration, its economic consequences and national and EU responses, effects may range from contained damages to a much wider European security crisis.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Crisis Management, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Daniele Fattibene
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development stands at a crossroads. While Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have progressively entered the political discourse and agendas of numerous states, without long-term financial investments, building a more just and sustainable future will remain little more than a rhetorical embellishment.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Development, United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Elena A. Korosteleva, Irina Petrova
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Resilience has recently emerged as a possible solution to address the increasing dysfunctionality of national and global governance, strengthening its ability to deal with the frequenting crises and the adversity of VUCA – the more vulnerable, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – world around us.
  • Topic: Politics, International Relations Theory, Institutions, Coronavirus, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union