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Understanding the Root Causes of Natural Disasters

Image courtesy of schmid91/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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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Why Are European Leaders So Afraid of Greece’s Syriza Party?

Alexis Tzirpas. Thierry Ehrmann/flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 9 January, 2015.

The calling of a snap election in Greece for January 25 has been met with great concern in political circles, prompted direct interventions by top European officials and alarmed markets and credit rating agencies.

This is all because Syriza, the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left, is being tipped to win the election. It is currently the largest opposition party in the Greek parliament and consistently leads the polls as the vote approaches.

According to the latest polls Syriza’s vote share could stretch anywhere between 36% to 40%, with the centre-right New Democracy trailing by at least three percentage points. Anything above 36% gives Syriza not only an electoral victory but an outright governing majority in the Greek parliament because the winning party is automatically handed a 50-seat bonus in the 300-seat parliament.

Opponents claim that Syriza would renege on Greece’s international obligations if it came to power and that efforts to reform the country would be halted. Political instability would ensue and the eurozone would again be plunged into crisis. Talk of Greece leaving the euro has been particularly prominent of late. » More

The Missing Doctrine of Economic Warfare

Origami money gun

Origami Money Gun, Image: Dominik Meissner/flickr


This article was originally published by the International Security Observer on December 17, 2014.

The concept of economic warfare has been traditionally used for addressing the complementary economic tactics of armed conflict. In the near future it could represent a way of conducting war per se.

The balance of forces amongst states is no longer only measured by assessing the strength of conventional armed forces. The years since 1990 are often defined as the “geo-economics’ era”. Following the end of the Cold War, the economic domain has become the main criterion of measuring the state’s power, at both the regional and global level.[i] The current trend sees the balance of forces measured by economic indicators rather than by military capabilities. Hence, the confrontation amongst competitors in a certain region is often played by exploiting the points of weakness and dependencies of the opponent/s as well as putting in place financial measures aimed at damaging it or limiting its influence rather than threatening it with military means. In short, geopolitics seem to be experiencing a renaissance, heavily impacting–at times dominating–the realm of international relations due to a decrease in the likelihood of full-scale military escalations.

In effect, without the constraints of a defined world order, risks of local military escalations have become great at the point that full-scale military actions are very few while more limited interventions and/or wars by proxy have increased. » More

North Korea: Northeast Asia’s New Tourism Hub?

This article was originally published by 38 North on 4 September 2014. Republished with permission.

At first glance, last week’s wrestling exhibition in Pyongyang seems to have been a one-off event similar to others with which North Korea has used in the past to try to shift attention away from its nuclear program. As such, it could be dismissed as little more than a dose of regime propaganda. However, this interpretation seems inaccurate. Instead, Kim Jong Un appears intent on actually developing the tourism sector to attract much needed capital inflows. Seen in this light, a group of international wrestlers fighting inside a North Korean ring and holding arm-wrestling competitions with local children can be interpreted as in line with recent efforts to attract more visitors. » More

Not Beyond Hope: Japan and TPP

 

Shinzo Abe speaking in 2012

George Bernard Shaw called second marriage “the triumph of hope over experience.” In restoring the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its leader Abe Shinzo to power last month, Japanese voters seemed to be sending the opposite message: after three years of vesting their hopes in the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) with disappointing results, they opted to fall back on the LDP’s greater experience in governing.

Abe himself seems to have learned from his previous, unhappy experience as prime minister in 2006–2007. In his first public remarks after taking back the job in late December, he said, “There is no future for a country which has given up on growth.” The sentiment marked a refreshing change not just from the DPJ’s focus on austerity, but from Abe’s own disinterest in economic affairs during his earlier tenure in office. An older and wiser Abe is right to pay more attention to Japan’s economic health – and right that more growth is what the patient needs – but his policy prescriptions to date will not be enough to produce the lasting recovery he is hoping for.

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