The CSS Blog Network

Why Panama Matters

Image courtesy of Nicolas Raymond/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by Pacific Forum CSIS on 27 June 2017.

On June 13, Panama switched diplomatic recognition from the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC or Taiwan) to the People’s Republic of China (PRC or China). Panama City and Beijing jointly announced that “the Government of the Republic of Panama recognizes that there is but one China in the world, that the Government of the PRC is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory.” Panama’s defection should serve as a “wakeup call” for the present administration in Taipei. To be sure, something needs to change.

After learning of the loss of one of Taiwan’s oldest friends, officials in Taipei – including President Tsai Ing-wen – lashed out at Panama for its shocking “betrayal.” Authorities also blasted the PRC for “oppressing” Taiwan. Senior officials even went so far as to threaten that the Tsai administration would consider all of its options while rethinking relations with the Chinese mainland. Paradoxically, anti-China pundits based in Taiwan (and elsewhere) put a different spin on the diplomatic defection. Some argued that the loss of Panama didn’t matter, while others claimed that Beijing had returned to the practice of “checkbook diplomacy” (bribing small countries to switch diplomatic relations). But these interpretations fall short.

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Understanding the Root Causes of Natural Disasters

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This article was originally published on The Conversation on 27 June 2017.

Every year disasters take lives, cause significant damage, inhibit development and contribute to conflict and forced migration. Unfortunately, the trend is an upward one.

In May 2017, policy-makers and disaster management experts from over 180 countries gathered in Cancun, Mexico, to discuss ways to counter this trend.

In the middle of the Cancun summit, news arrived that large parts of Sri Lanka were devastated by floods and landslides, killing at least 150 and displacing almost half a million people.

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The Increasing Salience of 3D Printing for Nuclear Non-Proliferation

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This article was originally published in in the PRIF Blog on 30 June 2017.

A growing number of defense-industrial 3D printing fairs, print-a-thons and the amount of defense dollars, particularly in the US, going into the technology of 3D printing speak to the fact that the defense industry and some countries’ armed forces recognize the great potential of the technology. 3D printing indeed allows the quicker, cheaper, and easier development of weapons, and even entirely new weapon designs. This applies to the full range of weapons categories: Small arms and light weapons (e.g. guns, guns, guns and grenade launchers), conventional weapon systems (drones, tanks, missiles, hypersonic scramjets) – and possibly even weapons of mass destruction.

3D printing, or additive manufacturing (AM), is increasingly adopted by various industries for rapid prototyping, the production of very complex objects in small numbers, and even the rapid production of end parts. Because of the features associated with 3D printing, particularly the high flexibility, the technology is, in a sense, the epitome of dual-use: One and the same 3D printer can produce both tools and weapons. A growing concern in the international security realm is that 3D printing could help a proliferating state in its quest for a secret nuclear weapons program.

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Can We Predict Political Uprisings?

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This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 19 June 2017.

Forecasting political unrest is a challenging task, especially in this era of post-truth and opinion polls.

Several studies by economists such as Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler in 1998 and 2002 describe how economic indicators, such as slow income growth and natural resource dependence, can explain political upheaval. More specifically, low per capita income has been a significant trigger of civil unrest.

Economists James Fearon and David Laitin have also followed this hypothesis, showing how specific factors played an important role in Chad, Sudan, and Somalia in outbreaks of political violence.

According to the International Country Risk Guide index, the internal political stability of Sudan fell by 15% in 2014, compared to the previous year. This decrease was after a reduction of its per capita income growth rate from 12% in 2012 to 2% in 2013.

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Is the Force Intervention Brigade still Justifying its Existence?

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This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 22 June 2017.

This potentially effective unit is being hamstrung by politics and concerns about using force in peace operations.

The Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), the sharp end of MONUSCO – the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – earned its stripes in 2013 when it helped the DRC’s army defeat the powerful Rwanda-backed M23 rebels in the east of the country.

But not a lot has been heard about the FIB since, though it has remained deployed in the eastern part of the country for four years. What has it been doing?

The unit of some 3 000 troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi has a more muscular mission than the rest of MONUSCO to use necessary force to ‘neutralise’ all the ‘negative’ armed rebel groups in eastern DRC. Its second target was supposed to be the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the armed group founded in the mid-1990s by Rwandan Hutus who fled the country after the genocide against the Tutsis.

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