Photo: Whitecat SG/flickr.
SEOUL – North Korea’s system is failing. The country is facing severe energy constraints, and its economy has been stagnating since 1990, with annual per capita income, estimated at $1,800, amounting to slightly more than 5% of South Korea’s. Meanwhile, a food shortage has left 24 million North Koreans suffering from starvation, and more than 25 of every 1,000 infants die each year, compared to four in South Korea. In order to survive, the world’s most centralized and closed economy will have to open up.
A more dynamic and prosperous North Korea – together with peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula – would serve the interests not only of North Korea itself, but also of neighboring countries and the broader international community. After all, North Korea’s sudden collapse or a military conflict on the peninsula would undermine regional security, while burdening neighboring countries with millions of refugees and hundreds of billions of dollars in reconstruction costs. » More
Still not much to celebrate. Photo: Valerie Sticher
Last week, the EU eased its long-held travel and financial restrictions on four Burmese ministers and lifted the ban on high-level visits to the country. The decision follows the swearing-in of a new government in March and is the first partial reversal of punitive measures against the suppressive regime. So, are things finally heading in the right direction?
It’s easy to suggest otherwise. The elections in November last year were neither free, nor fair. The new, nominally civilian regime is still dominated by the military elite. Praise for Aung San Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest is hardly due, given the regime’s bizarre reasoning for extending her detention in the first place. And ethnic conflicts are still a sad (and under-reported) reality in the resource-rich country. But some subtle changes give hope for restrained optimism. Perhaps most importantly, powers are now distributed more widely. In the past, literally everything – from defense and security issues to social and economic matters – had been controlled by a single, authoritarian leader. Now there are four (partially overlapping) key centers of power: the presidency, the military, the parliament and the Union Solidarity and Development Party.
These changes are not the result of sanctions, but most likely part of Than Shwe’s exit strategy. In an attempt to avoid the miserable fate he imposed on his predecessor, Than Shwe has put in place constitutional arrangements that make it difficult for a single person to emerge as a new strongman. » More
The Centre for Security Studies (CSS) has recently published two new policy briefs.
CCS Analysis No 83
CSS researcher Daniel Trachsler looks at the effectiveness of economic sanctions.
He argues that, apart from economic sanctions, there are few options between words and warfare to induce a change of behavior in international actors. Therefore, sanctions will remain an important policy instrument and debating their usefulness as well as their design is important.
Download the full analysis here.
For more information, see our collection of resources on economic sanctions.
CCS Analysis No 84
Meanwhile, colleague Aleksandra Dier examines the emerging African Standby Force.
According to her, demand for international peace operations remains high while the willingness of the international community to intervene is declining and defence budgets continue to shrink. This is why the notion of greater regionalisation in security continues to enjoy growing appeal.
Download the full analysis here.
For more information, see our collection of resources on peacekeeping operations in Africa.