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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS, TRENDS & IDEAS

Scott A Snyder

Scott A. Snyder – Korea as a Middle Power

While South Korea has become a major economic power, it is surrounded by far larger players in Asia. It may never be able to play a leading role in shaping both regional and international affairs, but is currently looking for ways to assert itself on the global stage. These aspirations are typical of what scholars define as a Middle Power – an international actor that is neither small nor large.

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After COP21: Mexico In-Between Energy Security and Climate Change Mitigation

Climate change is perhaps one of the thorniest economic and social problems of our time. This is not unrelated to the fact that in many countries, the forms of energy that power economic growth are those with the highest concentrations of carbon –oil and coal. It has been argued that it only takes three economies – the United States, China and India – to produce more than 40% of all global greenhouse gas emissions [1]. After the recent UN Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21) nonetheless, energy policies have quickly become priority issues in many developing countries’ agendas for a number of reasons, ranging from new technological developments and economic benefits to above all, energy security and climate change mitigation. A number of technical and economic challenges are likely to emerge in the near future, given the widespread development of fossil fuel resources and their incompatibility with decarbonised energy systems, now being adopted across many of these regions to mitigate global climate change.

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Europe’s Migrant Crisis – of the 5th Century

Europe/Middle East/Politics by

Rome was not built in a day, the saying goes. Yet the idea of a rapid “fall of Rome” seems to be commonly accepted: non-Roman barbarian “others,” taking advantage of Roman weakness, pouring across the borders and tearing down civilization, leaving Europe in a cultural backwater for the next millennium. This is an image which easily captures the imagination, and it fits into the general narrative of the Middle Ages as a generally backward, barbaric era. It has unrelentingly maintained its grip on minds, child and adult alike, even over the protests of professional historians who frown upon the use of that demeaning, and inaccurate, term “the Dark Ages.” Such a pessimistic view of an entire thousand plus years of European history is in fact the result of successful propaganda by Renaissance-era thinkers, who sought to emphasize their achievements by contrasting their time period with the alleged barbarism and darkness of the centuries before them and signaling a return to the cultural and intellectual glory of classical Europe (hence a “rebirth”). And the beginning of all the darkness of the Middle Ages begins with the so-called “fall of Rome,” precipitated by the mass movements of barbarian tribes who allegedly did…

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Cyclical Failure – Economic Crisis and Commodities in Latin America

Despite a great deal of discussion on the information economy in recent years, (much of it useful and much of it overhyped,) the actual world economy’s health is still reliant on raw materials, which is expressed in their prices. While in parts of the developed world the recent fall in commodity prices has been referred to as the equivalent of a tax break, in countries that are heavily dependent on commodity exports, calamity is a better reference point. The primary issue here is dependence. Many developed nations also produce raw materials in great quantities, but their economies are comparatively diverse. When a nation’s basket of exports is dominated by just a few commodities while its import basket is varied, economic crises are more likely to occur.

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The Will of the State: North Korean Forced Labour

The 2014 report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) laid bare an appalling scale of suffering across North Korean society. Violations of the freedoms of thought and life, discrimination on the basis of gender and disability, and arbitrary detention, torture, and executions defined the lives of a population. A report of the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (EAHRNK) that we published in September 2015, ‘The Will of the State: North Korean Forced Labour’, places forced labour alongside these crimes against humanity.

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Energy Reforms in Latin America: What the Mexican State Needs to Learn

The growing importance of developing countries’ national oil companies to the global supply-demand balance raises questions about the emerging policies of association, objectives and regulations of these organisations. In particular, shifts in those policies will have a great impact on the future development of global oil and gas markets, not to mention the socioeconomic development of the companies’ host countries. National oil companies are expected to control a greater proportion of future oil and gas supplies over the next two decades, as these commodities in the mature producing regions of the OECD countries continue to show natural decline of supply. The International Energy Agency projects that most of the new hydrocarbons supply will come from the developing world in the next 20 years. Latin American countries will play a pivotal role in this transition, as the region possesses more than 20% of the world’s known reserves (Ortiz, 2011). Along these lines, Brazil, Colombia and recently Mexico have embarked on major restructuring of their energy sectors. In the early 2000s, the Colombian oil industry was waning: its production started to decline due to a lack of major new discoveries and output fell considerably from 1999 to 2004 (CAEAG, 2010, p. 6).…

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Moves to a Service-Based Economy is Likely China’s Catch-22

The achievements of President Xi Jinping’s short duration in Britain are the first steps of what China hopes to be the path to becoming a fully-developed country. Proclaimed a “golden era” in relations between the two nations by Prime Minister David Cameron, China views Britain as a “great platform from which China can go global,” according to head of Chatham House’s Robin Niblett. Indeed, as China seeks to shift its economy from an export-based to a service-based economy and to propel the yuan into an internationally-traded currency that could potentially rival the dollar, yen, and Euro, access to Britain’s financial markets is viewed as critically important after the conspicuous blockade from the Trans-Pacific Partnership by the United States. Outside of Hong Kong, as President Xi told the British Parliament, the United Kingdom is the leading offshore trading center. As The Economist notes, “The Bank of England was the first G7 central bank to sign a swap agreement with China’s central bank.” Offshore yuan-denominated bonds were recently sold in the UK by Chinese commercial banks and on October 20th, China sold its first sovereign bond worth over $4 billion in London. What this accomplishes is that it lends an air of credibility…

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Poland Shocks The Visegrad Group: An Uncertain Future For The V4

Diplomacy/Europe/Security by

The Visegrad Group (V4) made up of Poland, Slovakia, The Czech Republic and Hungary are an often overlooked bloc of Central European powers. Originally a “triangle” of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary created in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the now four members (after 1993) of the Visegrad Group have worked together with various degrees of closeness and success. Originally set with the task of developing capitalist and democratic institutions in the post-Soviet era, the largely informal meetings between the V4 countries helped achieve remarkable results for countries who had until then stagnated under the Soviet system. Following this success, it was no surprise when the raison d’être of the group shifted towards joining NATO (1999 except for Slovakia in 2004) and the EU (2004), further integrating the former Soviet countries into the larger European system. Now integrated into a well established institutional political framework, the members of the V4 no longer had much reason for the Visegrad Group. Indeed, the ethnic and linguistic differences between the Slavic Poles, Czechs, and Slovaks with the Hungarians means that little cultural unity existed beyond a shared bond of Soviet-subjugation. Then perhaps unsurprisingly it was Russia’s response to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the…

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Beacons Over Mars

Lets begin with a question: How is trade created? At first an intellectual being defines a phenomenon and then that person (or maybe someone else who has somehow acquired that knowledge) generates an interest for it. Spontaneously that interest defines a need which ends up with an exchange. The difficulty of this process can vary; sometimes rocket science is required to define a phenomenon but sometimes it is as easy as lighting a beacon. For instance the Silk Road of the ancient world was not even a leveled sand road but rather several beacons lit by the locals to invite trade caravans. As a result goods, science and culture were transported to both ends of the known world, forming our past. It is of course a fact of history that trade has not only created immeasurable wealth but also caused devastating wars. Some countries boosted their intellectual capacity and flourished whereas some regions ended up covered by sand plagued by chronic instability. That’s why we read about geopolitics in our daily lives. History gave us a great example when colonialism overturned the existing Central Asian and Middle Eastern status-quo causing the wealth of European Empires’ to be revolutionary in every aspect at the expensive of…

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Do Economic Sanctions Work? The Answer is Still No.

Diplomacy/Human Rights by

With the seeming success of sanctions in Iran and the end of similar measures against Cuba, the debate on the efficacy of sanctions looks to begin anew. Economic sanctions have long been the preferred tool for the US government for a variety of reasons stretching back to the Cold War, where the US imposed economic sanctions against a variety of Communist-leaning countries around the world. The track result however, as scholars like Robert A. Pape point out, has been mixed at best. Sanctions against Latin American countries failed to directly be responsible for desired changes and appear to have more often than not led to greater instability in such countries. Cuba, where longstanding US sanctions have only began to thaw is perhaps the best example of a country where US sanctions failed to work despite drastically affecting the country’s economy. This latter point brings up one of the fundamental challenges of sanctions, the enforcement and participation of all parties. In the case of Cuba, a Communist sphere was there to support it for an extended period and more recently nearby politically aligned states. The end of sanctions against Cuba is near, and rather than coinciding with the end of the Castro…

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Leggo My Ego; America’s Struggle With Police Brutality

Human Rights/Law/Social/US by

Disclaimer: The videos linked in this post contain graphic language Police brutality is, unfortunately, a familiar fabric in American society that often finds itself unequally distributed between White-Americans and Minority-Americans. The Rodney King riots in 1992 and the Watts riots in 1965 demonstrate a disconnect and mistrust between Black-Americans and law-enforcement officials that are still manifest today in the shooting-death of unarmed Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of the gunman, the shooting-death of unarmed Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson and the subsequent failure of indictment by the grand jury, the death of Eric Garner by means of an illegal chokehold while being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes and the subsequent failure of a grand jury indictment (the transcripts of which have yet to be made available to the public), and the death of Freddy Gray who was deemed to be falsely arrested and was denied medical treatment while in police custody despite requesting it multiple times. These events sparked riots and protests across the nation including demonstrations by celebrities and professional athletes. With the indictment of the six Baltimore police officers directly involved in the death of Freddy Gray, it seemed the United States was taking a pivotal…

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