Current focus: Academic Perspectives

After Joining the WTO, What’s Next for Laos?

Image: Government of Thailand/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 9 August 2014.

Earlier this year Laos celebrated the first anniversary of its WTO membership. Laos’ accession to the WTO has been less talked about than that of its neighbours China and Vietnam, who joined the organisation in 2001 and 2007, respectively. This is partly due to Laos being a small, landlocked economy whose accession would not be expected to make a big impact on international trade.

But Laos’ clout is more than may first appear. » More

Prior focus: Global Views

How Qatar’s Hand Casts Syrian Shadows

Images of the crown prince and the Emir of Qatar.

Isabell Schulz/Flickr

This article was originally published by openSecurity on 1 August 2014.

The asymmetrical proxy conflict currently being fought in Syria has many interested state parties and Qatar has taken a prominent, multi-track approach to influence the outcome. The Qataris have met with Assad, armed rebels, provided facilities for the US to train militants, paid defectors and–employing a novel methodology– used the trappings of civil society in the form of a ‘report’ on torture and the coverage provided by a ‘free press’. Qatar’s participation raises some interesting questions: What is the goal of this geopolitical manoeuvring? Are they using a civil society façade to achieve  state goals? » More

Prior focus: Our Perspectives

Central American Blow-Back

Image: Amnesty International/Flickr

They are usually given the choice to leave immediately or stay, and be killed. Central America´s desperate, or deseperados, are fleeing their homes in record numbers. This year alone more than 60,000 undocumented children have already made the perilous trek from the northern triangle – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – to the United States.

The scale of the displacement crisis is staggering. U.S. customs officials picked-up 17,500 unaccompanied children from Honduras, 15,700 from Guatemala and 14,500 from El Salvador this year. There were just 3,000 from all three countries combined in 2009.

Many of these children are now in limbo, interned in 100 shelters scattered along the US-Mexico border. They join an estimated 11.7 million pool of “illegals” that negotiated extreme hardship in pursuit of a better life. » More

The Hillary Doctrine: Are Women’s Rights a National Security Issue?

Image: Pete Souza/Wikimedia

The linking of women’s rights to national security became a defining feature of Hillary Clinton’s tenure as US Secretary of State.  The core of what became known as the “Hillary Doctrine” can best be described as follows: when women are given equal rights “nations are more stable and secure,” while when they are not, national instability “is almost certain.” Clinton additionally argued that the subjugation of women was “a threat to the common security of our world and to the national security of [the United States].” Or to break this second assertion down further, states that deny rights to women and tacitly accept violence against them tend to be more fragile, politically divided and economically underdeveloped, which means they then pose greater threats to international security, due to the increased terrorism and internal conflict that they invariably invite upon themselves and others.  Well, as powerful as these claims may be, are they actually true? To be fair, Clinton’s claims have undeniably advanced the interests of women and girls around the world, but one can argue that by blending policy with advocacy, they have proven to be politically influential, but also too broad and inaccurate to facilitate the development of reliable government policies. » More

Prior focus: Academic Perspectives

New World Disorder – How We Got Here

Image: Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by NewPopulationBomb on 29 July 2014.

The world is in extraordinary turmoil — a violent Islamic Caliphate overturning the borders of Syria and Iraq; a war in Europe pitting Russia and pro-Russian rebels against the new regime in Ukraine; Israel invading Gaza and trading rocket exchanges with Hamas; Egypt, Libya and Yemen disrupted by the Arab uprisings; confrontations among Japan, China, Vietnam and the Philippines in the South and East China Seas; and gang wars in Central America driving thousands of young families and children across borders. Worse yet, Europe is caught up in its own internal squabbles, leaving the U.S. without the full support of its most powerful and reliable allies in dealing with these crises. » More

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