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  • Author: Elizabeth Saleh
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Discussions on waste policy in Lebanon tend to focus on the country’s corrupt practices and the health and environmental impact of bad waste management. This paper examines an overlooked aspect: the story of waste pickers — many of whom are economic or forced migrants — who are essential to Lebanon’s garbage management. Through an ethnographic study of a group of underage waste pickers, it argues that it is time for policy debates on garbage in Lebanon to integrate the perspective of waste workers.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Labor Issues, Recycling, Garbage
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Omar Al-Jaffal
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: In December 2019, the Iraqi parliament approved a new electoral law following demonstrations calling for fundamental political change. However, it took over 11 months for the president to ratify it as Iraq’s political parties fought over the shape of electoral districts. This article examines the disputes that surrounded the adoption of the law and the compromises that led to diluting its potential for reform. It concludes that while the new law represents a small step in the right direction, it ultimately is insufficient to respond to the aspirations of protestors looking for an overhaul of their political representation.
  • Topic: Reform, Elections, Democracy, Transition
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Zied Boussen, Mohammed Islam Mbarki
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Tunisian youth are no different from their peers across the world when it comes to their indifference to public life. This apathy towards politics is not new; it goes back before 14 January Revolution. A 2008 national survey of youth showed that around 83% of Tunisian youth were not concerned with politics and 64% were not concerned with elections or joining civil society associations. Nonetheless, the Tunisian youth surprised observers and played an essential role in the revolution that led to the fall of Ben Ali. Immediately after, however, they returned to their position of indifference. The political tensions and episodes of instability that accompanied the democratic transition disappointed the youth greatly and led to apathy towards politics in all its forms. Successive elections were the most glaring example of this attitude: the youth abandoned the ballots and stopped taking initiatives of political work, either as candidates or as voters. The rise of Kais Saied as a presidential candidate seemed to have reignited the Tunisian youth’s interest in politics. They walked with him through all the stages of his elections. They led his most unusual campaign at the smallest cost; they confronted media attacks against him and provided him with alternative and new media platforms that improved his image. This support brought the youth and Kais Saied closer together. Saied also showed great understanding of the youth’s economic and social demands and gave them priority. He shared their anger at the political establishment, so they decided to stand by him to punish the establishment that they see as the source of their successive disappointments. The results of the presidential elections, in which one candidate won the bulk of the votes of the youth participating in the elections, generated many questions about the reasons for the youth’s support of Kais Saied, and the hopes that they hanged on him. What can we infer from this experience that can benefit the youth political participation generally? How does this experience help us understand the actual needs that push young people to participate in public life?
  • Topic: Political Activism, Elections, Youth, Participation
  • Political Geography: Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Joelle M. Abi-Rached, Pascale Salameh
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: As countries begin to roll out vaccination for COVID-19, the Lebanese caretaker government has yet to provide details about its vaccination strategy, raising concerns about its ability to provide vaccines due to the country’s economic and governance crisis. This paper, written by public health professionals, raises a number of questions about the vaccination strategy that the government should address and calls for an open, inclusive, and transparent process to placate the worries of citizens given the privatization and politicization of the country’s health sector.
  • Topic: Public Health, Vaccine, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Stephen J. King
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: After independence, Algeria’s ruling elites chose to suppress identity issues because they saw diversity as a source of division and a threat to their hold on power. The Hirak has challenged the official narrative and called for an overhaul of the established regime, but issues of Black Algerians and anti-black racism still remain absent from public debates. This paper discusses the absence of Black Algerians in on-going debates about democratization, national identity, and belonging in Algeria, and suggests ways in which to address this exclusion.
  • Topic: Discrimination, Black Politics, Exclusion , Identity, Racism
  • Political Geography: Africa, Algeria
  • Author: Yasmina Abouzzohour
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Oman is often portrayed as an “oasis of peace” that is immune to dissent. In fact, this assertion is an oversimplification and this paper provides a more discerning analysis of the relationship between the regime and opposition actors – such as youth groups, industrial workers, and intellectuals – that have led contestations in the last decade. It overviews the Omani political context, highlights recent episodes of contestation, and examines how the regime successfully contained them. It argues that in the coming years, the regime is likely to face heightened discontent triggered by socioeconomic hardship and it will be essential for the authorities to open the political sphere and stop repressing free speech.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Social Movement, Arab Spring, Protests
  • Political Geography: Oman, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: In most parts of the world, the lines on maps separating countries are true borders. That is, they are controlled by the governments on one or both sides. But in some places, they remain the quasi-open frontiers they were in the past or have reemerged as such because of recent political changes; those borders are highly porous zones, where people and goods can move more or less freely in one or both directions without much regard to the powers that be. Such situations invite outside involvement that can ramp up quickly and disturb preexisting international arrangements. One poignant example is the adjoining border area shared by Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In recent years, that frontier has attracted attention because of the danger that Islamist militants from Afghanistan could cross it to move north into Tajikistan and beyond. But another danger is emerging: China is establishing increasing control over Tajikistan and, thus, is putting itself in a position to project power southward from Tajikistan into Afghanistan. If Beijing does so, that could fundamentally change the security situation and geopolitical balance in Central and South Asia as a whole.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Territorial Disputes, Borders
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, China, South Asia, Central Asia, Asia, Tajikistan
  • Author: John C. K. Daly
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Amidst growing political dissatisfaction, the Russian government is grappling with the apparent vulnerabilities of the country’s internet. On February 1, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairperson of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, acknowledged during an extensive interview with Russian media what foreign analysts have long suspected: disconnecting Russia from the internet is possible (TASS, February 1). And as if to provide a rationale for such potential action, the previous week, the Federal Security Service’s (FSB) National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents (NKTsKI) reported a threat of possible cyberattacks by the United States and its allies against Russia’s critical infrastructure (Interfax, January 22).
  • Topic: Government, Internet, Repression
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Azerbaijan’s victory in the Second Karabakh War (September 29–November 9) has had a transformative effect on the country. It not only changed the attitudes of its population, whose members now feel themselves to be heroes rather than victims (see EDM, January 21), but also bolstered the diplomatic weight and possibilities of the Azerbaijani government in its dealings with other regional states. In prosecuting a triumphant war against Yerevan, Baku demonstrated its own ability to act. But just as importantly, Azerbaijan has shown to peoples and governments in the Caucasus and Central Asia that it is a force to be reckoned with, in part thanks to its growing links with Turkey. Moreover, that alliance makes possible an appealing path to the outside world for all who join it. That reality is causing countries east of the Caspian to look westward to and through Azerbaijan in their economic planning and political calculations. At the same time, however, these developments are generating concerns in Moscow and Tehran, which oppose east-west trade routes that bypass their countries’ territories and instead favor north-south corridors linking Russia and Iran together. As a result, Azerbaijan’s recent successes in expanding links with Central Asia set the stage for new conflicts between Azerbaijan and its Turkic partners, on the one hand, and Russia and Iran, which have far more significant naval assets in the Caspian, on the other (see EDM, November 27, 2018 and February 20, 2020; Casp-geo.ru, December 24, 2019; Chinalogist.ru, November 21, 2019).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Conflict, Trade
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran, Central Asia, Middle East, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Rahim Rahimov
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Iran emerged as a potential loser from the Russia-brokered trilateral truce accords that ended last autumn’s 44-day Second Karabakh War between Armenia and Azerbaijan (see EDM January 25). Therefore, Tehran is seeking ways to reposition itself into the new situation in line with its interests. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s five-country regional tour of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Turkey, between January 25 and 28, clearly carried that mission (Tasnim News Agency, January 30). In particular, a top agenda item during this series of foreign visits was the proposal to reactivate a Soviet-era railway connecting Iran and Armenia via Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan exclave, which is wedged between them and Turkey (Twitter.com/JZarif, January 26).
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Infrastructure, Transportation
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Armenia, Azerbaijan
  • Author: Paul A. Goble
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: Given the Vladimir Putin regime’s past reliance on oil exports, it is perhaps no surprise that Moscow has been casting about for some other raw material it can sell abroad now that hydrocarbon prices have fallen and Russian government revenues along with them. But its apparent selection of water as “the new oil” that it can sell to water-short China is again outraging Russians. Indeed, the policy may soon lead to the repetition of protests against such projects that roiled the country east of the Urals in 2019 and 2020. And this could complicate Russia’s relations not just with China but with Mongolia and Central Asian countries as well. By focusing exclusively on the possibility of foreign profits rather than the concerns of its own population, the Putin regime—wittingly or not—is recapitulating some of the steps the Communist leaders fatefully took in the years preceding the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
  • Topic: Natural Resources, Water, Domestic Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Alla Hurska
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On February 19, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDC) imposed sanctions on Ukrainian tycoon and politician Viktor Medvedchuk and his wife, Oksana Marchenko (Pravda.com.ua, February 19). Medvedchuk is a leader and people’s deputy of the pro-Russian party Opposition Platform–For Life, the largest opposition faction in the Ukrainian parliament. Moreover, he is a close acquaintance of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The NSDC sanctions list also includes five Russian nationals and Ukrainian national Nataliya Lavreniuk. The latter is Marchenko’s friend and the common-law spouse of Taras Kozak (already under sanctions), a people’s deputy from the same political party and Medvedchuk’s business partner. Apart from targeting those eight individuals, sanctions were imposed on nineteen associated businesses, including firms that own aircraft and operate direct flights from Kyiv to Moscow as well as a number of joint stock companies registered in Russia, Moldova and Portugal (Pravda.com.ua, February 20). These measures came two weeks after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered the shutdown of several television channels—ZIK, NewsOne and 112—connected to Kozak. The move was described by Zelenskyy as a necessary step to fight Russian propaganda. But according to the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) and the NSDC, these actions were motivated by more complex issues. Specifically, the three aforementioned TV channels were being financed by limited liability company trading house Don Coal (Rostov, Russia), which receives revenue from smuggling coal out of the Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics” (LPR/DPR) (Pravda.com.ua, February 4).
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Oil, Sanctions, Coal
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Pavel Felgenhauer
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: The Second Karabakh War, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, began on September 27, 2020, and ended on November 9, 2020, with a Russian-brokered and guaranteed agreement. The conflict claimed the lives of thousands of Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers. But after 44 days of fierce fighting, it concluded with Yerevan soundly defeated: Armenia lost territory occupied during the First Karabakh War in 1992–1994 as well as over 30 percent of prewar Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast—a region of Soviet Azerbaijan majority populated by ethnic Armenians. Today, the rump self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR or “Artsakh”)—still controlled by Armenians and not recognized by anyone—is fully surrounded by Azerbaijani troops and territory. The rump Karabakh “republic’s” perimeter is guarded by some 2,000 Russian “peacekeepers” who also control the so-called Lachin corridor, the only highway left open from Armenia proper to Karabakh through the city of Lachin. The future of the rump NKR and its Armenian population is unclear. Baku refuses to discuss any special administrative status for the territory, insisting Armenians born in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast or their descendants must disarm and apply for Azerbaijani citizenships to stay as a minority inside Azerbaijan. In turn, the NKR leadership has declared Russian an official language alongside Armenian to avoid use of Azerbaijani Turkish (Izvestia, February 17). Officials in Stepanakert (Khankendi in Azerbaijani) apparently hope this may tempt Moscow to keep its peacekeepers in Karabakh permanently and maybe eventually agree to annex the NKR outright.
  • Topic: Weapons , Conflict, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Eastern Europe, Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Author: Jack Broome
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: On December 7, 2020, following speculation in the news, the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte finally announced that the government would not offer a holiday ceasefire—as is tradition for this time of year—to the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Duterte’s announcement came during his weekly address to the nation on the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Duterte went one step further by declaring that peace talks are “dead” and there would no longer be any ceasefires for the remainder of his presidency (abs-cbn.com, December 8, 2020).
  • Topic: Communism, Terrorism, Insurgency, Non State Actors, Indigenous
  • Political Geography: Philippines, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Nancy Gallagher, Clay Ramsay, Ebrahim Mohseni
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: This report covers findings from two surveys fielded in September and early October 2020 and late January through early February 2021 to assess how Iranians were faring as the covid-19 pandemic intensified the challenges their country was already facing, what they thought about the parliamentary election in Iran and the presidential election in the United States, and how the inauguration of Joe Biden impacted their attitudes towards nuclear diplomacy and regional security. Iran was one of the earliest countries to be hard-hit by the novel coronavirus, with the country’s first cases confirmed on February 13, 2020, two days before the parliamentary election, senior officials among those soon infected, and high death rates reported. Western reporting depicted widespread government incompetence and cover-ups exacerbating the pandemic’s toll. As in other countries, Iranian officials struggled to decide whether to close schools, curtail economic activities, and restrict religious observances in hopes of slowing the virus’ spread, but cases and deaths remained high through 2020. When we fielded the first survey wave, the daily number of new confirmed covid-19 cases in Iran was starting to climb sharply again after having been relatively flat since May. Some world leaders, including the U.N. Secretary General, called for an easing of sanctions on Iran as part of global efforts to fight the pandemic. The United States, which had withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, maintained that medicine, personal protective equipment, and other humanitarian supplies were exempt from the steadily increasing sanctions applied as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign. But, the United States’ designation in September 2019 of the Central Bank of Iran as a terrorist organization made most foreign suppliers of humanitarian goods reluctant to sell to Iran. A decision in October 2020 to also designate the few Iranian banks that were not previously subject to secondary sanctions further impeded humanitarian trade, caused another sharp drop in the value of Iran’s currency, and had other negative economic effects. The Trump administration’s stated objective was to keep imposing more sanctions until Iran acquiesced to a long list of U.S. demands articulated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The original twelve points include the types of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program that the government rejected during previous negotiations and that the Iranian public has consistently opposed. It also included stopping development of nuclear-capable missiles and ending support for various groups throughout the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Public Opinion, International Community
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Björn Brey
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Nottingham Interdisciplinary Centre for Economic and Political Research (NICEP)
  • Abstract: Did recent technological change, in the form of automation, affect immigration policy in the United States? I argue that as automation shifted employment from routine to manual occupations at the bottom end of the skill distribution, it increased competition between natives and immigrants, consequently leading to increased support for restricting low-skill immigration. I formalise this hypothesis theoretically in a partial equilibrium model with constant elasticity of substitution in which technology leads to employment polarization, and policy makers can vote on immigration legislation. I empirically evaluate these predictions by analysing voting on low-skill immigration bills in the House of Representatives during the period 1973-2014. First, I find evidence that policy makers who represent congressional districts with a higher share of manual employment are more likely to support restricting low-skill immigration. Second, I provide empirical evidence that representatives of districts which experienced more manual-biased technological change are more likely to support restricting low-skill immigration. Finally, I provide evidence that this did not affect trade policy, which is in line with automation having increased employment in occupations exposed to low-skill immigration, but not those exposed to international trade.
  • Topic: Economics, Immigration, Economic Policy, Automation, Technocracy, Skilled Labor
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Samer Matta, Michael Bleaney, Simon Appleton
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Nottingham Interdisciplinary Centre for Economic and Political Research (NICEP)
  • Abstract: An extensive literature has examined the economic effects of non-violent political instability events. Nonetheless, the issue of whether economies react differently over time to such events remains largely unexplored. Using synthetic control methodology, which constructs a counterfactual in the absence of political instability, we estimate the output effect of 38 regime crises in the period 1970-2011. A crucial factor is whether crises are accompanied by mass civil protest. In the crises accompanied by mass civil protest, there is typically an immediate fall in output which is never recovered in the subsequent five years. In crises unaccompanied by protest, there are usually no significant effects. Furthermore, this paper provides new evidence that regime crises (with and without mass civil protest) have heterogeneous (country-specific) effects on output per capita.
  • Topic: Economics, Political Economy, Regime Change, Political stability, Economic Growth, Protests, Economic Policy, Civil Unrest
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Sonali Chowdhry, Gabriel Felbermayr
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW)
  • Abstract: In 2011, the EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (EUKFTA) entered into force. With its focus on non-tariff barriers (NTBs), it is a leading example of a deep new generation agreement. Using detailed French customs data for the period 2000 to 2016, we investigate how exporters of different size have gained from the agreement. Applying a diff-in-diff strategy that makes use of the rich dimensionality of the data, we find that firms with larger pre-FTA sizes benefit more from the FTA than firms at the lower end of the size distribution, both at the extensive (product) and the intensive margins of trade. The latter finding is in surprising contrast to leading theories of firm-level behavior. Moreover, we find that our main result is driven by NTB reductions rather than tariff cuts. In shedding light on the distributional effects of trade agreements within exporters, our findings highlight the need for effective SME-chapters in FTAs.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, Treaties and Agreements, Tariffs, Trade
  • Political Geography: Europe, South Korea, European Union
  • Author: Vincent Stamer
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW)
  • Abstract: Global container ship movements may reliably predict global trade flows. Aggregating both movements at sea and port call events produces a wealth of explanatory variables. The machine learning algorithm partial least squares can map these explanatory time series to unilateral imports and exports, as well as bilateral trade flows. Applying out-of-sample and time series methods on monthly trade data of 75 countries, this paper shows that the new shipping indicator outperforms benchmark models for the vast majority of countries. This holds true for predictions for the current and subsequent month even if one limits the analysis to data during the first half of the month. This makes the indicator available at least as early as other leading indicators.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, Trade, Shipping, Machine Learning
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Chuck Fang, Julian Schumacher, Christoph Trebesch
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW)
  • Abstract: Sovereign debt crises are difficult to solve. This paper studies the “holdout problem”, meaning the risk that creditors refuse to participate in a debt restructuring. We document a large variation in holdout rates, based on a comprehensive new dataset of 23 bond restructurings with external creditors since 1994. We then study the determinants of holdouts and find that the size of creditor losses (haircuts) is among the best predictors at the bond level. In a restructuring, bonds with higher haircuts see higher holdout rates, and the same is true for small bonds and those issued under foreign law. Collective action clauses (CACs) are effective in reducing holdout risks. However, classic CACs, with bond-by-bond voting, are not sufficient to assure high participation rates. Only the strongest form of CACs, with single-limb aggregate voting, minimizes the holdout problem according to our simulations. The results help to inform theory as well as current policy initiatives on reforming sovereign bond markets.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, International Political Economy, Law, Credit
  • Political Geography: Global Focus