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  • 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
  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Marine plastic pollution has worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic. Nuclear technology provides a sustainable and scientific approach to tackling this environmental problem. Can it help Southeast Asian countries battle plastic pollution?
  • Topic: Environment, Science and Technology, Pollution, Pandemic, COVID-19, Nuclear Energy
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia
  • Author: Jose M. L. Montesclaros
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: With vaccines not expected to fully roll out until 2024, lockdowns remain a critical priority to save lives today. February 2021 marks the end of a year of COVID-19, and the opportunity to re-visit and improve the way lockdowns are implemented in the year ahead.
  • Topic: Pandemic, ASEAN, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Vasyl Yurchyshyn
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Razumkov Centre
  • Abstract: The net outflow of almost $870 million of direct foreign investments from Ukraine, as reported by the National Bank of Ukraine, is annoying news, however, it did not surprise anyone. Clearly, this is partly due to the Coronavirus crisis. But even in the pre-crisis period, direct investment in the world economy was very cautious. Specifically, investment volumes also decreased in 2018−2019, with average annual decrease by 10%, while the 42% collapse in global flows in the pandemic year of 2020 came as no surprise. It is also “natural” that the outflows occur from emerging or weakened economies to the so-called safe havens — developed countries with strong capital.
  • Topic: Investment, COVID-19, Capital
  • Political Geography: Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Scott Lincicome
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Both the American left and right often use “national security” to justify sweeping proposals for new U.S. protectionism and industrial policy. “Free markets” and a lack of government support for the manufacturing sector are alleged to have crippled the U.S. defense industrial base’s ability to supply “essential” goods during war or other emergencies, thus imperiling national security and demanding a fundamental rethink of U.S. trade and manufacturing policy. The COVID-19 crisis and U.S.-China tensions have amplified these claims. This resurgent “security nationalism,” however, extends far beyond the limited theoretical scenarios in which national security might justify government action, and it suffers from several flaws. First, reports of the demise of the U.S. manufacturing sector are exaggerated. Although U.S. manufacturing sector employment and share of national economic output (gross domestic product) have declined, these data are mostly irrelevant to national security and reflect macroeconomic trends affecting many other countries. By contrast, the most relevant data—on the U.S. manufacturing sector’s output, exports, financial performance, and investment—show that the nation’s total productive capacity and most of the industries typically associated with “national security” are still expanding. Second, “security nationalism” assumes a need for broad and novel U.S. government interventions while ignoring the targeted federal policies intended to support the defense industrial base. In fact, many U.S. laws already authorize the federal government to support or protect discrete U.S. industries on national security grounds. Third, several of these laws and policies provide a cautionary tale regarding the inefficacy of certain core “security nationalist” priorities. Case studies of past government support for steel, shipbuilding, semiconductors, and machine tools show that security‐​related protectionism and industrial policy in the United States often undermines national security. Fourth, although the United States is not nearly as open (and thus allegedly “vulnerable”) to external shocks as claimed, global integration and trade openness often bolster U.S. national security by encouraging peace among trading nations or mitigating the impact of domestic shocks. Together, these points rebut the most common claims in support of “security nationalism” and show why skepticism of such initiatives is necessary when national security is involved. They also reveal market‐​oriented trade, immigration, tax, and regulatory policies that would generally benefit the U.S. economy while also supporting the defense industrial base and national security.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, COVID-19, Free Market, Deindustrialization
  • Political Geography: China, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Neal McCluskey
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In one year, COVID-19 contributed to the permanent closure of at least 132 mainly low‐​cost private schools. But that was better than some feared. As COVID-19 struck the United States in March 2020, sending the nation into lockdown, worry about the fate of private schools was high. These schools, which only survive if people can pay for them, seemed to face deep trouble. Many private schools have thin financial margins even in good economic times and rely not only on tuition but also on fundraisers, such as in‐​person auctions, to make ends meet. When the pandemic hit, many such events were canceled, and churches no longer met in person, threatening contributions that help support some private schools. Simultaneously, many private schooling families faced tighter finances, making private schooling less affordable. Finally, families that could still afford private schooling might have concluded that continuing to pay for education that was going to be online‐​only made little sense.
  • Topic: Education, COVID-19, Private Schools
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Oxford Economics
  • Abstract: The rising value of remittance flows into developing countries in recent years is often not widely appreciated. At a macro level, remittances support growth and are less volatile than other private capital flows, tending to be relatively stable through the business cycle. At a micro level, remittances benefit recipient households in developing countries by providing an additional source of income and lower incidences of extreme poverty. Remittances act as a form of 'social insurance', supporting households' capabilities to resist economic shocks. Remittances help recipient households to increase spending on essential goods and services, invest in healthcare and education, as well as allowing them to build their assets, both liquid (cash) and fixed (property), enhancing access to financial services and investment opportunities. Understanding the role and importance of remittances is particularly important at the current juncture, with the global economy experiencing a uniquely sharp and synchronized shock as a result of COVID-19. This report examines the available evidence on remittance flows and their potential economic effects. The report explores and shows how remittance flows remain a crucial lifeline in supporting developing economies through the current pandemic crisis and into the recovery. Although remittances slowed during the pandemic, they remained more resilient than other private capital flows, making them even more important as a source of foreign inflows for receiving countries. While the World Bank estimates that remittance flows to developing countries (low-and-middle income economies) contracted by 7.0% in 2020, this decline is likely to have been far less severe than the downturn in private investor capital. Looking forward, the World Bank predicts that remittance flows to developing countries will contract by a further 7.5% in 2021. But the outlook remains subject to a high degree of uncertainty with both upside and downside risks. A wider set of dynamics – including central bank data outturns for 2020, economic outlooks for the world economy in 2021, survey data and remittance consumer market fundamentals – suggest that while there are downside risks, there is also potential that 2020 and 2021 will not turn out as weak as predicted by the World Bank and for a period of strong remittance growth in the medium-term as sender economies recover and demand from developing economies remains high.
  • Topic: Development, Recovery, Economic Development , Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Kevin Rudd
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Asia Society
  • Abstract: The year 2020 was a devastating one, but also a year of great change and transformation as the world adapted with difficulty to meet challenges largely unprecedented in living memory, and the trends of global power appeared to shift dramatically. And it was a revelatory year — one that pulled the lid off the true extent and meaning of our globalized, interconnected world, revealed dysfunction present in our institutions of national and international governance, and unmasked the real level of structural resentment, rivalry, and risk present in the world’s most critical great power relationship — that between the United States and China. 2020 may well go down in history as a great global inflection point. It is thus worth looking back to examine what happened and why and to reflect on where we may be headed in the decade ahead. The Avoidable War: The Decade of Living Dangerously, the third volume of ASPI’s annual Avoidable War series, does precisely that. It contains selected essays, articles, and speeches by Asia Society and ASPI President the Hon. Kevin Rudd that provide a series of snapshots as events unfolded over the course of 2020 — from the COVID-19 pandemic, through an implosion of multilateral governance, to the impact on China’s domestic political economy. Finally, it concludes with a discussion of the growing challenges the world will face as the escalating contest between the United States and China enters a decisive phase in the 2020s. No matter what strategies the two sides pursue or what events unfold, the tension between the United States and China will grow, and competition will intensify; it is inevitable. The Chinese Communist Party is increasingly confident that by the decade’s end, China’s economy will finally and unambiguously surpass that of the United States as the world’s largest, and this will turbocharge Beijing’s self-confidence, assertiveness, and leverage. Increasingly, this will be a “decade of living dangerously” for us all. War, however, is not inevitable. Rudd argues that it remains possible for the two countries to put in place guardrails that can prevent a catastrophe: a joint framework he calls “managed strategic competition” that would reduce the risk of competition escalating into open conflict.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Power Politics, Governance, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, United States of America