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  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The clergy’s ambitions for global Shia revolution made the city of Qom uniquely vulnerable to the disease, and their resistance to modern medical science weakened the state’s ability to combat its spread. On February 19, two days before the Iranian government officially announced the arrival of coronavirus, an infected businessman who had recently returned from China to Qom passed away. The location and timing of his death illustrate how the Shia holy city and the religious leaders and institutions who call it home have played an outsize role in the disease’s disproportionately rapid spread inside Iran compared to other countries. How did this situation come to pass, and what does it say about the current state of the clerical establishment, its relationship with the regime, and its alienation from large swaths of Iranian society? (Part 2 of this PolicyWatch discusses the regime's role in the outbreak and its resiliency to such crises.)
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Religion, Shia, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: David Manley, David Mihalyi, Colin Fleming
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Natural Resource Governance Institute
  • Abstract: Earlier this year as people around the world responded to the coronavirus pandemic, their demand for oil tumbled. At the same time, OPEC and Russia initially failed to agree to coordinate supply cuts. Consequently, the price of a barrel of Brent crude oil fell from $60 in December 2019 to $20 in April 2020. As of this publication, the price is $43. If the price stays low, and if oil executives expect the price to remain low, companies may lobby governments to reduce taxes and other costly regulations. Payments to governments are often larger than costs for a company, so there is pressure on governments to reduce taxes to keep projects viable. This briefing considers the following key questions: Where will the oil price go next? What is the impact on currently operating projects, undeveloped projects, and those that are yet to be discovered? How should governments respond in changing oil and gas taxes? Will governments try to “race to the bottom,” but then lose a race back to the top? Key messages: There’s no certainty over future prices. Some rise is likely in the next few years, even if an energy transition results in a structural decline in the oil price in the longer-term. Governments must consider this uncertainty and probable rise when taxing oil and gas. Tax breaks on most currently operating projects are likely a waste of public money. Some governments may be pressured into reducing tax on projects awaiting development. But they must identify which projects would become viable with lower taxes, and which do not need a tax break. If in doubt, governments should consider whether a project that needs a tax incentive really will provide value for the country. For most countries, relative to total oil and gas produced, the production from projects that could be delayed or cancelled is small. But not so for the “new producer” countries like Senegal and Guyana. Changing taxes to make a country more attractive has the most impact before companies have invested – e.g., in attracting investment in licensing rounds. But setting low taxes now could force a government to raise taxes later if prices rise again. If a tax break is unavoidable, governments could use a “sunset clause” to limit the duration of the tax break. Ideally, governments should set progressive tax regimes that respond to changes in profit. But as many taxing authorities struggle to measure profit, governments could set simpler tax regimes based on sales revenue or prices – but must prepare to change tax rates in the future, and be prepared for the repercussion for a government’s credibility with investors. Governments should disclose contract terms detailing tax changes, tax exemptions, incentives and estimated break-even prices of projects to help government auditors, local think tanks, and the public check and support tax policy decisions.
  • Topic: Oil, Natural Resources, Gas, Tax Systems, Commodities, Coronavirus, Revenue Management
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic knows no borders. It further knows no gender, class, or race. This virus does not discriminate, but our societies do. Around the world we have historically built systems and structures that privilege the few and disadvantage the many. When a crisis as unprecedented as the current pandemic hits, inequalities are exacerbated. This holds particularly true for gender equality which, despite encouraging steps forward, no country is on track to achieve by 2030. This not only fails politically marginalised groups, in particular women, girls, and gender nonconforming people, but also greatly hinders the international community’s commitment to foster peace and security. Research shows that the most significant factor in determining a country’s peacefulness (within its borders and towards other countries) is its level of gender equality. Already in early April, the UN warned in its policy brief, “The Impact of COPVID-19 on Women”, that the limited “gains made in the past decades [towards gender equality] are at risk of being rolled back.” Governments and foreign ministries must apply a feminist perspective to their COVID-19 response in order to to prevent a set-back, safeguard existing progress, and advance more quickly toward their goals: A ‘gender-blind’ approach would counteract all previous efforts not only in the area of gender equality, but also in conflict prevention and the pursuit of international peace.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Feminism, Coronavirus, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Lena Kainz, Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan, Kathleen Newland
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
  • Abstract: The world has changed dramatically since the international community came together in December 2018 to adopt the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. Two years on, national governments and UN agencies are working to implement the compacts in an environment of new and intensifying challenges, including those associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasingly severe impacts of climate change. Given the significant political energy invested in the compacts, there is immense pressure to turn the commitments made on paper into reality, challenges or not. And while the migration landscape continues to change, the movement of people across borders remains at the heart of many pressing issues, including public health, economic recovery, and social inequality. This policy brief examines how implementation of the two compacts has played out thus far, highlighting areas in which the pacts have lived up to or fallen short of expectations. It also identifies sticking points and opportunities at the intersection of the compacts that merit greater attention. To do so, the brief draws on interviews with government officials and UN agency representatives in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, as well as an in-depth review of countries’ implementation plans and progress updates.
  • Topic: Climate Change, International Cooperation, Migration, Governance, Immigrants, Coronavirus, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Blaise Wilfert
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Robert Schuman Foundation (RSF)
  • Abstract: While the Covid-19 pandemic is unfolding in all its violence, "globalisation", to read more than one, is said to be the great culprit for what is happening to us, whether it has been the lightning speed of the virus' spread, the impotence of States to stop its progression, the inability of "capitalism" to produce medical equipment or the madness of stock market speculation. The logical consequence of this has been the repeated call, with some pathos, urgently to invent the time “after”, after the follies of globalisation. The magnitude of the shock that Covid-19 represents provides an ideal sounding board to replay a tune that is in fact an old one, familiar to us since the 1990s at least, or even the 1980s, but with an incomparable and therefore particularly disturbing echo. Defined both as liberalization - the triumph of the borderless market economy - and as planetarisation - the unification of the planet through flows of all kinds, information, migrants, ideas and representations, tourists, religious practices - globalisation is said to have become a form of disease fatal to the world. Hence to deglobalise[ 1]. Yet, it has to be said again, more than twenty years after Paul Krugman, globalisation is not to blame, and those who currently claim the opposite, with a communicative passion, pretending to draw conclusions from a lucid analysis of the recent past, rely on biased historical narratives to impose a political agenda, whether explicit or implicit. So, let a historian try to say a word about it, since understanding the times we are in requires understanding the times from whence we have come.
  • Topic: Globalization, Markets, Coronavirus, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus