High Stakes: Understanding Risk and Why This Year’s Climate Negotiations Are So Important

Arctic ice sea. Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr

This article was originally published on 6 April 2015 by New Security Beat, the blog of the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) at the Wilson Center.

Expectations for the upcoming UN climate change summit in Paris are higher than they’ve been in years. Experts expect it will be the best chance to achieve a binding, universal agreement to limit carbon emissions. But the conference is still not getting the attention it deserves from policymakers and the public, given the stakes – and not just for the environment but for the international system writ large, said Nick Mabey, founding director and chief executive of the UK-based environmental NGO E3G at the Wilson Center on February 12. » More

Ethics on Film: Discussion of “Timbuktu”

Jihadists of the group “Ansar Dine” near Timbuktu, Mali. Image: Magharebia/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs on 25 February, 2015.

2014, 97 minutes. Nominated for Oscar for best Foreign Language Film.

For an American audience used to war movies with explosions, good guys and bad guys, and finite conclusions, the Oscar-nominated, Mauritanian film Timbuktu is a departure. The violence is never gratuitous, most of the jihadists seem like normal (albeit dangerously misguided) people, and, at the end, the fates of the eponymous city and several main characters are left hazy. The people who would most likely choose to see Timbuktu are already numbed by the constant stream of horrific news out of Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, etc., so this low-key approach is the perfect strategy. We know about the executions, suicide bombings, and coalition airstrikes. But what we don’t realize is, perhaps, the main takeaway from the film: This type of militant extremism, more than anything else, is soul-crushingly boring for the occupied populations. » More

Juncker’s EU Army: a Tool of Politics More Than Defence

Juncker greeting members of the Greek Navy during his visit to Athens on 19 May, 2014. Image: Jean-Claude Juncker/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB) on 23 March 2015.

Jean-Claude Juncker has revived the debate on a European army, an old, periodically torpedoed aspiration. In the 1950s, when the European integration process was in its embryonic phase, six nations led the European Defence Community. Its goal was to establish a supranational European army as an alternative to German rearmament, but it never saw the light of day due, ultimately, to the rejection of the country that put the initiative forward, France. In the 90s, when the Maastricht treaty set up the Common European Security Policy, its military component was also diminished by the reluctance of the more Atlanticist states to build a common European defence system. » More

China’s Domino Tactics Boost Infrastructure Bank

President Jacob Zuma receiving the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping in Pretoria in March of 2013. Image: GovernmentZA/Flickr

This article was originally published by the CIPS Blog, hosted by the Centre for International Policy Studies on 22 March 2015.

China is looking ever the experienced super-power. In a week it has scooped up all the important European dominos, humiliating a U.S. government which has lobbied hard to block the launch of China’s new $50b Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

The dominos have fallen quickly. Last week it was the UK’s turn to join, preferring its commercial interest and geo-political judgment over its friendship with the U.S. Now it is a coordinated set of EU announcements from France, Germany and Italy. The driver was their desire to be well-connected economic partners in Asia, but there was also an element of blowback on U.S. geo-political arrogance, be it spying on Angela Merkel or military jingoism towards Russia. » More

Cuba: Not a Terrorist Threat

Revolutionary propaganda of Camilo Cienfuegos. Image: 819043/Pixabay

This article was originally published by the World Policy Institute on 11 March 2015.

This blog is the first in several leading up to the World Policy Institute Board trip to Cuba in May. The trip seeks to re-open a once highly effective dialogue with Cuban leaders. WPI plans to examine the achievements of 55 years of revolutionary society and explore ways to highlight what the U.S. and Cuba can learn from each other.

As the Obama administration and Cuban negotiators examine the 54-year-old unilateral embargo (or “blockade” as the Cubans refer to it), one obstacle—particularly painful for Cubans and extremely important to American interests—must be addressed: Cuba’s continued presence on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

President Obama directed the State Department to review this designation in December 2014, since Cuba’s removal from that list is entirely justified and long overdue. As a result, when the State Department issues its annual Country Reports on Terrorism on April 30, it is likely to be the first time in 33 years that Cuba is not designated a sponsor. » More

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