Prior focus: Academic Perspectives

Don’t Expect Too Much from Growing Sino–Indonesia Ties

Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Image: arifdani nugraha/Flickr

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 7 November, 2015.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) visited China twice in his first year of presidency alone. In contrast he made his first state visit to the United States only in October 2015. But although Sino–Indonesian relations are currently strengthening, economic and geostrategic obstacles are likely to limit progress.

When the Jokowi administration came to power in 2014, it inherited an already strong relationship with China. Under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) relations were upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2013, which saw enhanced cooperation in areas such as defence and scientific research. In 2010, China also became Indonesia’s largest trade partner and committed to assist Indonesia in infrastructural development. » More

Prior focus: Partner Insights

Russian Applications For US Asylum Skyrocket In 2015

LGBT activists marching for gay rights in Moscow. Image: Bogomolov.PL/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on 12 November, 2015.

The number of new U.S. asylum applications by Russians has reached its highest level in more than two decades, a surge that immigration lawyers link to the Kremlin’s tightening grip on politics, pervasive corruption, and discrimination and violence against sexual minorities.

Russian nationals filed 1,454 new asylum applications in the 2015 fiscal year ending September 30, up 50 percent from the previous year and more than double the number filed in 2012, when President Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin after a four-year stint as prime minister, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security data obtained by RFE/RL under the Freedom Of Information Act. » More

Prior focus: Global Views

Religious Politics and the Rise of Illiberal Religion

“Beware of God”. Image: James~Quinn/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 1 November, 2015. 

It has been argued that the twenty-first century will be ‘God’s Century’.[i] By this it is meant that religion—not God, but religion—will remain a central feature of both international and domestic politics for the next several decades. The basis for this claim can be found in the recent past. Over the last twenty-five years, the world has witnessed an increased level of political activism by religious individuals and organisations. This resurgence of religious politics is evident in the violent sectarianism and exclusive religious identities of the contemporary Middle East, the persistent communalism in South Asia and the continued salience of an illiberal religious politics in the United States and elsewhere. Conceptually, the trend is interesting given the assumptions of secularisation theory, which predicted that the influence of traditional belief systems would diminish with the onset of economic and political development. The persistence of religious politics has also given rise to the view that diplomats, politicians and political scientists all need to better understand religion if they are going to understand contemporary international politics.[ii] » More

Prior focus: Partner Insights

Finally! A Peace Policy for Kenya

“Keep Peace”, carved in a tree in Kibera, Kenya during the post election violence in 2008. Image: The Advocacy Project/Flickr

This article was originally published by Saferworld on 4 November, 2015.

The need for a national framework to guide efforts to prevent conflict and build peace in Kenya cannot be overstated. For a long time Northern Kenya was seen as the most problematic region of the country, with frequent incidents of cattle rustling fuelled by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The rest of Kenya remained ‘peaceful’, except for the cycles of political violence that have erupted during every election since the introduction of a multi-party democracy in 1992. The worst political violence was experienced in 2007–08, raising concern about the country’s capacity to deal with such high levels of violence and the effectiveness of its early warning and response, mediation, and security deployment. » More

Prior focus: Our Perspectives

Why North Korea is So Corrupt, and Why that May Be Good

North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un. Image: Surian Soosay/Flickr

This article was originally published by NK News on 16 October, 2015.

North Korea is probably the most corrupt country in Asia. Measuring corruption levels is difficult, and existing ratings (like the well-known index published annually by Transparency International) should be taken with a pinch of salt. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence appears persuasive enough: Official corruption in North Korea has been exceptional over the last 20 years.

In my frequent discussions with North Koreans, I have discovered the fact that most of them take a high level of corruption for granted. They assume that any official who is in a position to ask for bribes will. In fact, they are surprised if officials refuse bribes. Simply put, corruption is part of the fabric of daily life in North Korea today. » More

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