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  • Author: Rachel Kleinfeld, Thomas Carothers, Steven Feldstein, Richard Youngs
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: Middle-power democracies—countries which regardless of their geopolitical weight have made democracy support a sustained component of their foreign policy—will be crucial to reimagining democracy support strategies and policies to better meet the moment. Some of these states have crafted new initiatives and wielded diplomatic tools to deepen their impact in recent years. However, these states have on the whole punched below their collective weight. This paper suggests that middle-power democracies can maximize their impact on global democracy in the following ways: Enhancing solidarity: when a country acts courageously in defense of democracy, it needs to know that others will stand alongside it. Sharpening their focus: middle-power democracies should target policy areas aligned with democratic values on issues both at the top of the geopolitical agenda and at the top-of-mind for citizens around the world—for example, economic recovery, injustice and discrimination, corruption, digital repression, and climate change. Improving diplomatic cooperation: pursuing flexible and focused multilateral partnerships allows for collaboration on key policy interests and amplifies middle-power actions.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Democracy, Solidarity, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Anirudh Burman
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: As India’s economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, Indian businesses need efficient financial structures to regain their ground. Key reforms to India’s Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code could fill these gaps. One of the key drivers of economic recovery in India will be the efficient movement of capital from inefficient firms to efficient ones. The economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been severe, and India’s economy was one of the worst affected in 2020–2021. Though the economy is recovering faster than initial estimates, sustained economic recovery will not take place if stressed businesses cannot restructure their debts properly or if failing firms cannot be resolved efficiently. India’s bankruptcy law is key to solving these challenges. In 2016 India enacted the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC), which was a landmark reform to the nation’s financial system and the first comprehensive law to regulate insolvency.1 But the IBC has been suspended for a period of one year since the COVID-19-related lockdown was imposed in March 2020. In its place, India’s banking regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has introduced a limited restructuring scheme for COVID-19-related stress in the meantime. Older mechanisms for insolvency that are still in operation have historically not worked according to expectations. As the one-year period of suspension comes to a close, this paper argues that bringing back the IBC—with adequate modifications—is an important prerequisite for sustained economic growth. India historically suffered from a patchwork framework of insolvency laws that either did not give lenders adequate powers to recover their debts upon default or only catered to the interests of certain kinds of lenders—to the exclusion of others.2 The IBC is a modern and comprehensive bankruptcy law that since its enactment has had a significant role in reducing the problem of nonperforming assets (NPAs), or “bad loans,” in India’s financial system. In the wake of the economic disruption caused by COVID-19, the Indian government suspended the operation of critical parts of the IBC. These changes meant that lenders could not trigger insolvency proceedings against defaulting businesses if the default occurred after March 20, 2020. While this suspension possibly prevented unnecessary business failures and provided a “calm period” for the economy, these measures have outlived their utility.
  • Topic: Law, Finance, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: During the pandemic, Chinese medical and equipment supplies to Chile have come mostly from a diverse cast of Chinese players with local experience in Chile. They adapted to Chile’s unique system of emergency and disaster management. China has become a global power, but there is too little debate about how this has happened and what it means. Many argue that China exports its developmental model and imposes it on other countries. But Chinese players also extend their influence by working through local actors and institutions while adapting and assimilating local and traditional forms, norms, and practices. With a generous multiyear grant from the Ford Foundation, Carnegie has launched an innovative body of research on Chinese engagement strategies in seven regions of the world—Africa, Central Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, the Pacific, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Through a mix of research and strategic convening, this project explores these complex dynamics, including the ways Chinese firms are adapting to local labor laws in Latin America, Chinese banks and funds are exploring traditional Islamic financial and credit products in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, and Chinese actors are helping local workers upgrade their skills in Central Asia. These adaptive Chinese strategies that accommodate and work within local realities are mostly ignored by Western policymakers in particular. Ultimately, the project aims to significantly broaden understanding and debate about China’s role in the world and to generate innovative policy ideas. These could enable local players to better channel Chinese energies to support their societies and economies; provide lessons for Western engagement around the world, especially in developing countries; help China’s own policy community learn from the diversity of Chinese experience; and potentially reduce frictions.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Disaster Relief, Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South America, Chile
  • Author: Soomin Jun
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Institution: School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
  • Abstract: Since 2005, Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, has become infamous for being one of the most polluted cities in the world. In response to growing public concerns over air pollution, on May 15, 2019, the Government of Mongolia (GoM) implemented a ban on raw coal – a type of fuel that poor citizens in the city use to survive harsh winters in the world’s coldest capital – and introduced “refined coal briquettes” at a subsidized price close to the price of raw coal. Since the COVID-19 outbreak and the country-wide economic shutdown, lower-income families are struggling to afford food, let alone refined coal briquettes; as a result, they are resorting to burning cheap, dirty fuel, including trash to keep themselves warm. Despite GoM’s efforts to reduce air pollution, in October 2020, Ulaanbaatar’s air quality, again, ranked the worst in the world, ahead of Lahore, Pakistan; Delhi, India; Chengdu, China, and other cities infamous for hazardous levels of air quality. While reducing raw coal consumption is critical to improving air quality, the raw coal ban is not a panacea to solving Mongolia’s air pollution. Poverty is the true culprit behind Ulaanbaatar’s subpar air quality. If Mongolia is to sustainably reduce air pollution, the raw coal ban must be accompanied by social and economic policies that aim to lift people out of poverty.
  • Topic: Governance, International Development, Pollution, COVID-19, Air Pollution
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Eurasia, Mongolia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Tareq Baconi
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Palestine Studies
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: In contemporary conversations around Israel/Palestine, the Gaza Strip is construed as a state of exception, rendering the territory either hypervisible or entirely invisible. Through the prism of the Covid-19 pandemic and Israel’s possible de jure annexation of portions of the West Bank, this piece argues that rather than being exceptional, the Gaza Strip represents the very embodiment of Israeli settler colonialism in Palestine. Its isolation and de-development constitute the endpoint of Israel’s policies of land theft and Palestinian dispossession. This endpoint, referred to as Gazafication, entails the confinement of Palestinians to urban enclaves entirely surrounded by Israel or Israeli-controlled territory. The Trump plan, otherwise known as the “deal of the century,” along with the Covid- 19 crisis, have inadvertently exposed the reality of Gaza as an enclave of the one-state paradigm.
  • Topic: State Violence, Settler Colonialism, Nation-State, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: Gilles Carbonnier
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Illicit financial flows significantly erode the tax base of resource-rich developing countries, which do not have the means to invest in public health, education, and sustainable development. In this column, the author presents the latest research findings and policy implications and discusses some of the most promising avenues to effectively curb illicit financial flows, strengthening the nexus between trade and tax governance.
  • Topic: Development, Environment, Human Rights, Financial Crimes, Trade, Development Aid, Sustainability, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • 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: Nicola Bilotta
  • Publication Date: 12-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The last decade has witnessed a progressive change in what had long been considered global priorities for achieving growth. The global financial crisis of 2007–2008 and the following European sovereign debt crises of 2011–2012 have brought to light important pitfalls in the functioning of globalized financial markets. Trade and financial liberalization policies have at times caused severe strains in some communities, raising concerns over the effects of rapid increases in international integration. Environmental and social risks have come to the forefront of the policy debate. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought enormous challenges to what was the normal way of living. All these events have had far-reaching consequences on the global economy. Currently, the world is facing at least three major shocks that are affecting health (COVID-19), prosperity (the recession) and the planet (climate change). These have been chosen as the three keywords for Italy’s G20 Presidency. These shocks are different in nature and have very diverse effects across countries, regions and municipalities. This calls for differentiated and targeted responses that take into account the specific needs of individual communities.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Infrastructure, G20, Economic Growth, Investment, Integration, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, India, Vietnam, Philippines, United States of America, Congo