What Challenges Does 2016 Hold for Sub-Saharan Africa?

Soldiers during exercise Kwanza in Angola, 2010

This article was originally published by the Global Observatory on 20 January 2016.

Akin to its physical landscape, the political environment of Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015 varied greatly from country to country. On a positive note, elections in politically polarized countries such as Nigeria, Tanzania, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire concluded relatively peacefully, despite the shadow of political violence looming large. Burkina Faso, which entered the year in political limbo following the ousting of long-serving president Blaise Compaoré, also elected its first democratic government, thwarting a coup attempt by the deposed leader’s presidential guard in the process.

In another encouraging development, 2015 also marked the nadir of the West African Ebola outbreak, which killed more than 11,000 people since the virus was first reported in the region in early 2012. Just today, the World Health Organization declared Liberia—the last affected country—Ebola-free.

However, while last year saw Sub-Saharan Africa overcome a number of important challenges, it also saw the continuation and often the creation of social, political, and economic obstacles that will define the continent’s security outlook in 2016.

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Could Iran Be the Next Country to Legalise Cannabis and Opium?

Marihuana Grafitti. Image: Benzene Aseel/Flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 22 October, 2015.

After Uruguay courageously legalised the use of cannabis under a new drug policy, could Iran be the next country to make it legal? From the outside, the image of Iran as retrograde and inherently conservative hardly fits with the reality of a more dynamic domestic political debate within. But drug policy is one of the areas of debate in which the Islamic Republic has produced some interesting, yet paradoxical, policies.

Iran has a conspicuous drug addiction problem – which officially accounts for more than 2m addicts (though unofficial figures put this as high as 5-6m). Drug traffickers risk harsh punishments that include the death penalty. Yet Iran also has very progressive policies towards drug addiction, which include distribution of clean needles to injecting drug users, methadone substitution programmes (also in prisons) and a vast system of addiction treatment. » More

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Polio Wars: Conspiracy and Democracy in Pakistan

A doctor in Pakistan checking children for Polio vaccination. Image: CDC Global/Flickr

This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy on 18 September, 2015.

Between December 2012 and early 2015, 78 people were murdered and dozens of others injured because they tried to administer a polio vaccine to children.  They were killed because of a claim that the vaccines in their coolboxes were actually chemical devices in a western plot to sterilise Muslims.

These killings all took place in Pakistan, the archetypal ‘failed state’. What better evidence can there be that the country is a nest of terrorists than that it cannot stop the murder of medics trying to wipe out a deadly, crippling disease – all because of a conspiracy theory? » More

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China’s Cities Need More Babies, But One Child Policy Still Rules the Provinces

Painted image of chinese children on a space rocket. Image: wackystuff/Flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 6 February, 2015.

After 35 years of consistently strict government control over family size, China’s so-called “one child policy” seems to be winding down – at least for some. Recent headlines quote the authorities in Shanghai going so far as to plead with their residents to “have more children”.

To the policy’s many critics, this is long overdue: China faces an ageing population, epitomised by the four grandparent, two parent, one child family, and couples all over the country are simultaneously looking after their child and two sets of elderly parents. » More

What Role for UN Peacekeepers in Tackling Ebola?

Image: NIAID/Flickr

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 8 September, 2014.

The spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa is “racing ahead” of efforts to control it, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). On Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued an “ international rescue call” for a surge in assistance, including doctors, beds, supplies, and vehicles needed to halt the spread of the outbreak in West Africa. Of all the countries affected by the virus, Liberia is one of the hardest hit, with 1,698 reported cases and 871 deaths as of  August 31. » More

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