Baghdadiâ€™s Death Strengthens the Case for American Forces to Remain in Eastern Syria
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Omani Women Make Slow and Steady Progress in Political Office
Issue 1772- November- 01/11/2019
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Issue 1772- November- 01/11/2019
Emperor Naruhito of Japan Scholar, Anglophile and Breaker of Traditions www.majalla.com
The Middle Eastâ€şs Battle on the Frontline of Climate Change www.majalla.com
A Weekly Political News Magazine
www.majalla.com/eng Climate change is the most dangerous crisis facing our world today, what’s even more harrowing is that it is arguably one of the most difficult to resolve. Even though the entire globe will feel the consequences of climate change, scientific reports have indicated that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will suffer the most out of any region. Yasmine El-Geressi writes this week’s cover story in which she focuses on the impact climate change will have on the already water scare region, as it is enduring a drought that has continuously lasted for more than 20 years. The writer also explains how droughts can affect and fuel conflicts in the region as terror groups have already exploited water scarcity by controlling freshwater dams. The second cover story by Ali El Shamy also focuses on climate change in MENA; however, the writer takes a look at the efforts various countries in the region are taking to switch to cleaner and renewable solar energy sources. The article begins with an overview of the lead Israel and Morocco have taken with regards to the industry, as the former has started using solar power since the 1950s, while the latter has made great efforts since 2009 to increase its solar energy use and as it stands 35 percent of Morocco’s electricity comes from solar power. The piece then moves on to new ambitious solar plants being built in Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. Hanin Ghaddar writes on the ongoing protests in Lebanon. Unlike previous mass movements in the country, this one is notable for ignoring sectarian barriers as Christians, Sunnis, Shias, and Druze are all united against government corruption and have all collectively rallied under the Lebanese flag. The writer states that Shia involvement in the movement is noteworthy since they are effectively protesting against Hezbollah which has often portrayed itself as the vanguard of Shias. Moreover, Hezbollah’s violent and authoritarian response has exposed its rule over Lebanon. The writer notes that the militia is now facing a dilemma namely that it cannot respond violently as it did back in 2008, lest it risks losing even more of its supporters. A major breakthrough in the war against ISIS took place this week as an American operation successfully killed the terror group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. According to Joseph Braude, the operation highlighted the case that American presence in Syria might still be necessary. The writer also notes how Kurdish allies have been instrumental in this operation, as SDF intelligence planted an operative within the inner circle of Baghdadi and that operative provided details on the leader’s compound. The SDF also gave US intelligence services Baghdadi’s DNA sample to establish his identity. We invite you to read these articles and more on our website eng.majalla. com. As always, we welcome and value our reader’s feedback and we invite you to take the opportunity to leave your comments on our website.
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A Weekly Political News Magazine
14 Nothing but Sun and Sand
Issue 1772- November- 01/11/2019
26 Poland’s Right Won the Day, But Not the Future
24 Lebanon’s Protests: No Option is a Good Option for Hezbollah
34 Nowhere to Go
30 Why Latin America Was Primed to Explode
From ‘Joker’ to ‘Hustlers’ to ‘Parasite’ 3
46 Shining a Light on Winter Depression
A displaced Syrian boy cries at a school turned into a shelter for people displaced by the war, in the northeastern Syrian town of Hasakeh, on October 2019 ,24.(Getty)
Participants in costume perform during the annual International Day of the Dead Parade in Mexico City, Mexico on October 2019 ,27. Thousands of people from Mexico City took to the streets to enjoy the Day of the Dead parade in which hundreds of artists participated.(Getty)
eekly news Syrian hideout. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) claim they played a key role in tracking down Baghdadi to a compound in northern Syria where he was reportedly planning his escape over the nearby border into Turkey.
PM Hariri Resigns as Lebanon Crisis Hezbollah fighters seized control of the capital in a brief eruption of armed conflict Turns Violent Saad al-Hariri resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister on Tuesday, declaring he had hit a “dead end” in trying to resolve a crisis unleashed by huge protests against the ruling elite and plunging the country deeper into turmoil. Hariri addressed the nation after a mob loyal to the Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah and Amal movements attacked and destroyed a protest camp set up by anti-government demonstrators in Beirut. It was the most serious strife on the streets of Beirut since 2008, when
with Lebanese adversaries loyal to Hariri and his allies at the time. The departure of Hariri, who has been traditionally backed by the West and Sunni Gulf Arab allies, raises the stakes and pushes Lebanon into an unpredictable cycle. Lebanon could end up further under the sway of the Iranianbacked Hezbollah, making it even harder to attract badly-needed foreign investment.
Iraqi Demonstrator Killed as Mass Protests Resume in Baghdad
Iraqi security forces killed one protester and wounded more than 50 on Thursday as tens of thousands resumed mass demonstrations to demand an end to the sectarian powersharing system they blame for endemic corruption and economic hardships. More Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Killed in than 250 people have been killed in clashes US Raid with security forces and pro-government The ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, paramilitary groups since protests began on was killed in a raid by US special forces on Oct. 1 and eventually swelled into the worst his Syrian safe house, ending a years-long mass unrest in Iraq since the 2003 fall of hunt for one of the world’s most-wanted Saddam Hussein. The protester was killed terrorists. Trump said the “impeccable” in the capital Baghdad early on Thursday two-hour operation was conducted on when security forces fired a tear gas canister Saturday night in the province of Idlib, into his chest - the latest to die of canisterone of the few areas of the country still related injuries. Meanwhile, Iraq’s political outside Syrian regime control, and that elite was gripped by a power struggle that US officials had confirmed Baghdadi, 48, raised pressure for the removal of Prime was among those killed. World leaders Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi but protesters welcomed the news of Baghdadi’s death said this would not be enough. but also struck notes of caution. Syrian Kurds say they managed to place a spy in U.S., Gulf Countries Impose joint al-Baghdadi’s inner circle who stole a pair of the his underpants to prove his identity Iran-related Sanctions on 25 Targets and then helped guide US soldiers to his The United States and six Gulf countries
of Karachi, with many people traveling to a religious gathering. It was the worst disaster on Pakistan’s accident-plagued railway system in nearly 15 years. “Two stoves blew up when people were cooking breakfast, the presence of kerosene with the passengers in the moving train further agreed to jointly impose sanctions on 25 spread the fire,” Minister for Railways corporations, banks and individuals linked Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told Geo television. to Iran’s support for militant networks Many of the dead were killed when they including Hezbollah, the U.S. Treasury leapt from the moving train to escape the Department said on Wednesday. The flames, he said. blacklisted targets were announced by the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center Britain Set for December 12 Election (TFTC) nations - which also include to Break the Brexit Deadlock Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Britain will hold its first December Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. election in almost a century after Prime U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Minister Boris Johnson won approval from made the announcement as part of a trip to parliament on Tuesday for an early ballot visit several of these Middle East allies to aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock. bolster their support for increasing pressure After the European Union granted a third on Iran. All 25 targets were previously delay to the divorce that was originally under financial sanctions imposed by the supposed to take place on March 29, the United States. United Kingdom, its parliament and its
Brexit on Oct. 31 “do or die”, demanded a Dec. 12 election after parliament - where he has no majority - frustrated his attempts to ratify the last-minute divorce deal he struck with the EU earlier this month. In a rare parliamentary success for Johnson after a string of defeats, his short bill calling for a Dec. 12 election was approved 438 to 20 in the House of Commons. The bill now goes to the House of Lords.
Fire Sweeps Pakistani Train, Killing 73, After Cooking Fire
Twitter Inc will ban political advertising on its platform next month, the company’s chief executive said on Wednesday, a move that won praise from Democrats and scorn from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. "We've made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally," said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a statement here "We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought." Analysts do not expect the ban, which takes effect on Nov. 22, to significantly reduce Twitter’s business. Its shares fell %1.9 in afterhours trading. Social media companies, including Twitter rival Facebook Inc (FB.O) face growing pressure to stop carrying ads that spread false information that could steer elections. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg opened his earnings conference call on Wednesday by defending the company’s policy to run ads from politicians containing false or misleading claims, saying that Facebook did not want to stifle political speech.
electorate remain divided on how, or indeed whether, to go ahead with Brexit. Johnson, who had promised to deliver
A fire swept through a Pakistani train on Thursday, killing 73 people and injuring nearly 40 after a gas canister that passengers were using to cook breakfast exploded, the minister of railways said. The fire destroyed three of the train’s carriages near the town of Rahim Yar Khan in the south of Punjab province. It was on its way to Rawalpindi, near the capital, from the southern city
Twitter Bans Political Ads; Facebook's Zuckerberg Defends Them
Deluge and Drought: Water Challenges in the Middle East The Future of a Region on the Frontline of Climate Change
by Yasmine El-Geressi In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), climate change is an especially urgent issue, particularly as it has already triggered devastating weather events, including prolonged droughts, flash floods and rising sea levels. Evidence abounds it will be the MENA that climate change will hit hardest as temperatures across the region are expected to increase more than twice the global average. Governments and their international partners have done little to integrate climate change to
their strategies to mitigate instability. But without urgent action to curb global emissions, according to research by Nature Research, cities in the region may become uninhabitable before 2100.
WORST DROUGHT IN 900 YEARS The Middle East and North Africa is the worldâ€™s most water scares region and has been experiencing almost continuous drought since 1998 - the most severe dry spell in 900 years according to NASA â€“ and it is seemingly
Inflows through the Tigris and Euphrates river systems - the area known as the "cradle of civilization" - have dropped by 60 percent since the 1970s
An Iraqi man walks on dry, cracked earth in the Chibayish marshes near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. (Getty)
endless. According to estimates by the World Bank, 90-80 million people will be exposed to water stress by 2025. The organisation, which is spending 1.5$ billion to fight climate change, says that the region is home to 6 percent of the world’s population, but only 1 percent of the world’s fresh water resources, with 17 countries in the region falling below the water poverty line set by the United Nations. Temperature records have been repeatedly broken in the MENA region in recent years. The highest recorded temperature in the region to date was °54C in Kuwait in 2016. In the same week, Basra in Iraq recorded 53.9 °C.
By 2050, temperatures in the region will be 4 °C higher, according to Max Planck Institute. With rainfall projected to decline 20 to 40 percent in a °2C hotter world, and up to 60 percent in a °4C hotter world, the region’s ability to provide water to its people and economies will be severely tested. A lack of water in a country or region is destabilising. Several countries are experiencing instability connected to climate change-linked drought and the UN have said that swelling populations and food demands, combined with even scarcer water and land resources, could lead to a doubling of food prices as local crops will become depleted and farmers’ livelihoods blighted - triggering civil unrest in some developing countries An example of climate change’s damaging power is the war in Syria where climate change caused the generational drought that preceded the ongoing conflict there. The prolonged dry spell led to the death of 85 percent of livestock in eastern Syria and widespread crop failure, pushing 800,000 people into food insecurity and triggering mass migration from rural to urban areas with farmers moving into urban centers like Damascus and Aleppo. From 2002 to 2010, the country’s total urban population increased by 50 percent, priming the populace for concentrated, large-scale political unrest. Climate-induced economic despair and migration worked to grow the influence ISIS in Syria. When ISIS controlled large swathes of territory across Iraq and Syria, it wrested control of dams that provided drinking water, electricity, and irrigation to millions along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. A report by the German foreign office in 2017, said that “ISIS tried to gain and retain legitimacy by providing water and other services to garner support from local populations” during the prolonged drought. ISIS also offered money and food to rural inhabitants with no means to sustain themselves through agriculture to lure them into joining the terrorist group. Protests linked to water have also broken out in Iraq and Jordan. In Iraq, the implications of not having access to water were highlighted when at least a dozen people were killed in protests that broke out in the oil-rich southern
province of Barsa last year after 102,000 people fell ill due to unclean water supply. Rainfall has decreased in the south and western parts of the country in the past seven decades. Hassan Janabi, a former Iraqi minister of water resources, told NBC News that inflows through the Tigris and Euphrates river systems — the area known as the "cradle of civilization" — have dropped by 60 percent since the 1970s. That has taken a toll on agriculture, which supports one-third of the country's 32 million people living in rural communities. Across Iraq’s border in Jordan, one of the world’s most resource-poor states, many houses only get up to 24 hours of water a week. Protests broke out in the summer of 2018, the largest in recent years, over severe water shortages and food which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki.
RISING SEA LEVELS THREATEN COASTAL CITIES Across the world, 800 million people are living in more than 570 coastal cities that are vulnerable to a 50 cm rise by 2050, according the World Economic Forum. The World Bank declared in 2016 that the MENA region is among the most vulnerable places on earth to rising sea levels which is expected to affect 43 port cities – 25 in the Middle East and 19 in North Africa, risking the safety and standards of living of millions of inhabitants of the Arab world’s coastal cities in the decades to come. Forecasting a 0.5 metre rise by 2099, its report warned that “low-lying coastal areas in Tunisia, Qatar, Libya, UAE, Kuwait and particularly Egypt are at particular risk”. In case of Alexandria, Egypt’s second city which has survived invasions, fires and earthquakes since its foundation in the 4th century BC, a 0.5 meter rise would
In Alexandria, Egypt’s second city which has survived invasions, fires and earthquakes since its foundation in the 4th century BC, a 0.5 meter rise would leave more than 5 million people displaced.
leave more than 5 million people displaced, with 35$ billion in losses in land, property, and infrastructure, as well as incalculable losses of historic and cultural assets, according the World Bank. A 2018 study predicted that more than 280 miles of the Nile Delta, the breadbasket of the country and one of the most productive agricultural areas on earth, could be inundated by 2050 and more than 1,000 square miles by the end of the century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body charged with monitoring the impact of global warming says that “the Alexandria lowlands – on which the city of Alexandria originally developed – are vulnerable to inundation, waterlogging, increased flooding and salinization under accelerated sea level rise.” According to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), if current trends continue, Egypt will be faced with the prospect of a climate catastrophe in Alexandria, which is home to 40 percent of Egypt’s industrial capacity. The AR5 say that Egypt's agricultural sector could decrease by as much as 47 percent by 2060 as a result of groundwater being inundated by saltwater and “hundreds of billions of Egyptian pounds, about two to six percent of future gross domestic product (GDP), could be lost from effects on water resources, agriculture, coastal resources, and tourism,” as per the United Nations report.
An image grab taken from an AFPTV video shows people walking through flood water as they evacuate a flooded area during a cyclone in the Yemeni island of Socotra. (Getty)
Shifting rainfall patterns has caused more frequent and intense storms and some of the driest parts of the MENA have suffered sudden, unprecedented storms. contaminating the aquifers on which many Bahrainis depend for their water.
DEADLY STORMS AND FLOODING IN THE DESERT
Residents living in low-lying areas of the port city are already coping with the consequences. A severe storm in 2015, during which the city was drenched with more than eight inches of rain in just two days, flooded large parts of the city, causing at least six deaths and the collapse of some two dozen homes, exposing weaknesses in the local infrastructure. High waters are also already flooding basements of buildings near Alexandria’s waterfront Corniche, leading to fatal collapses. Rising sea levels are also a particularly important problem in the Arabian Sea and Gulf region, where most capitals are coastal cities and where several of the fastest-growing cities — such as Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Dubai — are located on low-lying coastal zones or islands and are concerned about their ambitious development projects being reclaimed by the sea. r. Bahrain in particular is endangered by rising sea levels which could submerge between 27 and 56 percent of Bahrain—already the smallest country in the Middle East—by 2100. The loss of that land would devastate the island country’s economy, water supply, and the natural environment. In addition to the more obvious problem of coastal erosion, rising sea levels will likely contribute to water scarcity in Bahrain. A research paper presented at the Twelfth Gulf Water Conference in Bahrain in 2017 notes the dangers of seawater
With rising global temperatures due to increased heattrapping emissions, more water evaporates from the land and oceans and a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor. This means that when it rains, there is a higher potential for heavy rainfall and therefore rainfall patterns are shifting. This has caused more frequent and intense storms and some of the driest parts of the MENA have suffered sudden, unprecedented storms. In 2014, cyclone Nilofar caused-flash floods in north-east Oman, killing four people. A year later, two rare tropical cyclones - Cyclone Megh and Cyclone Chapala – with winds as strong as hurricanes, made landfall in Yemen, killing 26 people and displacing tens of thousands. World Meteorological Organisation spokeswoman Clare Nullis said that tropical cyclones are extremely rare over the Arabian Peninsula, and two back-to-back was "an absolutely extraordinary event". These events puzzled Hiroyuki Murakami at Princeton University in New Jersey who used a sophisticated climate model to compare conditions in 2015 to conditions in 1860, when humanity’s carbon footprint was much smaller. Murakami and his colleagues found that, in 64 ,2015 percent of the increased hurricane risk in the Arabian Sea was down to climate change. In November 2018, a deadly storm swept across the Arabian Peninsula dumping almost a year's worth of showers on the emirate in one day, killing 30 people before it reached Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia. Almost 4,000 residents were evacuated from their homes. The previous month, three people died when Tropical Cyclone Luban struck Oman and Yemen. Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, has suffered almost annual floods since the late 1960s. Research by the King Abdel Aziz University found that the city’s rapid expansion in recent years has made the situation worse, as routes through which water used to escape have been built over.
Nothing but Sun and Sand How the Oil Reliant Middle East is Embracing Solar Energy by Ali El Shamy Natural resources are a funny thing in the Middle East; some states in the region suffer from a general scarcity of water while others have abundant sources of water. The presence of oil has brought great wealth to some nations, but it has
also lead to a myriad of instances of foreign intervention. One thing that most Middle Eastern nations have is lots of sunshine and sand, too main components needed for solar panel installations. Despite this abundance, the region has largely been late to this renewable energy game, as up until recently the only Middle Eastern countries that really
While not widely known, the firstever solar-powered plant was actually built in Egypt over one hundred years ago.
A picture taken on October 2015 ,17 shows a worker walking past solar mirrors at the Noor 1 Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant, some 20km (12.5 miles) outside the central Moroccan town of Ouarzazate. (Getty)
embraced solar power were Morocco and Israel. However, with the advent of Arab leaders setting up ambitious plans to modernize their countries and diversify their economies, many more states in the region have looked into solar energy as a new opportunity to steer away from fossil fuel dependence as well as job creation.
MORROCO AND ISRAEL GET A HEAD START Back in the 1950s, a fuel shortage forced the Israeli government to pass laws discouraging civilian use of heated water during certain times of the day. This gave engineer Levi Yissar the idea of developing solarpowered water heaters. Though only 20 percent of Israeli homes had these devices in 1967, a new law passed
in 1980 requiring new homes to have solar-powered heaters made them an essential part of Israeli households. According to one Reuters article, nearly 90 percent of all Israeli households use solar thermal energy to heat their water. Since then Israel has invested heavily in solar energy and has become a regional pioneer in the field. As it stands, 17 percent of the country’s daily energy use comes from solar panels, in spite of this 95 percent of its overall energy needs are still carried out by fossil fuels. The Arava region has become a haven for solar power, as almost 100 percent of its electricity comes from solar panels (at least during the day). Moreover, Yosef Abramowitz and Dorit Banet, the entrepreneurs who built Arava’s solar panels, are lobbying the government to start on an ambitious goal to make the entire country 100 percent solar reliant (during the day) by 2030. Currently, the government wants the country to get 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by next year, and 17 percent by 2030. To help reach the goal, multiple solar plants are being/have been set up in the country; one example is the recently inaugurated Negev thermo-solar power plant which supplies electricity to approximately 70,000 households in the country. The second solar energy pioneer in the region is Morocco. Even though it only recently took up renewable energy, recent developments have made the North African country a frontrunner in the field. A growing population and increasing demand for electricity have persuaded the government to come up with an energy strategy plan in 2009, namely to increase its use of renewable energy from 30 percent to 42 percent in 2020. The accomplish this, the country started building the Noor Solar Power Station in Ouarzazate in 2013 and its first phase was completed in the span of just three years. The station is currently the world’s largest power farm and has recently reached its goal of providing the country with 580 megawatts of power. One unique aspect of the Noor complex is that it uses concentrated solar power (CSP) rather than the more widely used photovoltaic collectors. While CSP is more costly, it has one huge advantage over photovoltaic collectors and that is the fact that it can store energy for later use during nights and cloudy days. As of July ,2019 35 percent of Morocco’s energy comes from renewable sources; as such it is on its way towards its 2020 goal.
EGYPT’S SOLAR AMBITIONS: “100 YEARS IN THE MAKING” While not widely known, the first-ever solar-powered plant was actually built in Egypt over one hundred years ago. In 1916, American inventor Frank Shuman five -60meter-long parabolic troughs in Maadi which absorbed heat from the sun into black boilers, steam from the boilers would be used to pump water into farm fields. The project only operated for a year, but Shuman proved to be ahead of his time as he wanted to harness the sun’s power for both irrigation and electricity generation but the imminent discovery of oil in the region put these ideas to rest. Fast forward 100 years later and Egypt is on the brink of finishing one of the world’s largest solar plants. The new Benban Solar Park is situated in Benban of the Aswan governorate, which is already home to the Aswan High Dam which produces 6 percent of the electricity used in the country. The park takes up 37 square kilometers of land and is divided into 41 plants which collectively make up 7.2 million photovoltaic collectors. The park will have the ability to produce 1.8 gigawatts of electricity. Egypt started drawing up plans for the project in 2014 a time when power outages in the country reached its peak; as such the government decided it needed to address the growing power demands of the nation. The project is also part of a broader goal of having 20 percent of the nation’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2022, and 42 percent by 2035. This goal might not be out of reach, as a recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) stated that Egypt has the potential to increase its renewable electricity usage to 53 percent by 2030. There are some setbacks to the Benban project however; for one thing, it uses the more cost-effective, but less practical photovoltaic collectors. As previously stated these collectors don’t store energy for use during times when there is no sunlight. There are also fears that
One unique aspect of the Noor complex in Morocco is that it uses concentrated solar power (CSP) rather than the more widely used photovoltaic collectors.
the heat-sensitive inverters in the plants might risk damage during days of harsh weather, nevertheless, a report by the IEEE Spectrum stated that only one inverter has needed repairs but the other 200,000 panels are up and running without problems. Another issue is that sand can come into the panels and render them inoperational, but this problem will be addressed as employees will use specialized tools to clean the panels on a monthly or fortnightly basis. If the country plans well enough, it could soon become another renewable energy capital in the region.
THE GULF STATES DREAM BIG Recently, many Arab Gulf states have issued ambitious plans for diversifying both their economies and energy needs beyond oil. For the past eight years, a gigantic solar plant has been under construction in Dubai, UAE by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA). The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is part of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which aims for seven percent of the Emirate’s energy consumption come from renewable sources by 2020. The emirate also wants to increase this share to 25 percent by 2030, and to 75 percent by 2050. The first three phases were based on installing and using photovoltaic collectors, and the project is currently in its fourth phase in which a 260 meter CSP tower is being installed, and when completed it is set to be the tallest tower of its kind in the world. The tower will have the capacity to store heat for 15 hours, which
Visitors look at screens displaying images of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Solar Park on March 2017 ,20, at the solar plant in Dubai. (Getty)
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is part of the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which aims for seven percent of the Emirateâ€™s energy consumption come from renewable sources by 2020.
can then be used to provide power to the city for 24 hours a day. The park will be able to provide more than 900 megawatts of energy by 2021, and there is an end goal of 5,000 megawatts in the works. To counter the risk from dust and sand accumulation, DEWA has indicated that new coating technologies for panels are being looked into and
Aerial view of the Benban Power Plant in Aswan, Egypt.
that a robotic cleaning system will be put in place in the near future. Saudi Arabia has been the main developer of the project and the Kingdomâ€™s role has inspired it to pursue its own solar ambitions. Earlier this year Saudi Arabia announced plans for seven photovoltaic plants, which will collectively produce 1.51 gigawatts of energy. The largest of these plants is the AlFaisaliah solar plant being built in Mecca. Saudi Arabia has also started plans to build a hybrid solar plant, similar to that of Dubai, in Waad Al-Shamal and 50 megawatts of the energy produced there will come from a CSP source. This project is part of the Vision 2030 plan to reduce the Kingdomâ€™s dependence on oil. The Kingdom has also set a target of producing 58.7 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030.
Baghdadiâ€™s Death Strengthens the Case for American Forces to Remain in Eastern Syria Kurdish Forces Tracked ISIS Leader and Supplied the DNA to Establish his Identity 18
by Joseph Braude The din of partisanship in Washington quieted briefly this weekend as figures across the political spectrum hailed the demise of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Early reports indicate intelligence cooperation from the Kurdish-dominated SDF was indispensable to the operation which killed al-Baghdadi, strengthening the case for American forces to remain in eastern Syria.
AMERICAN POLITICIANS RALLY AROUND WHITE HOUSE On October 27, U.S. special forces carried out a nighttime raid on the village of Barisha in Syria’s Idlib province. They engaged and killed ISIS’s self-proclaimed ‘Caliph’, Abu Bakr alBaghdadi, who died detonating a suicide vest that killed himself and three children. In certain respects, this marked the crescendo of the U.S.led anti-ISIS campaign which successfully removed all territory in Syria and Iraq from the group’s control. Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who has clashed repeatedly in recent weeks with President Trump on both matters of foreign policy and the ongoing Democratic-led impeachment campaign, issued a statement saying: “Americans salute the heroism, dedication & skill of our military and our intelligence professionals.” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, who at one point ruled over some eight million people, was killed in a U.S. Special Operations raid, on Saturday, October 26th, in Syria. (Getty)
In a similar vein, Progressive Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted, “Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was an evil man and a terrorist, who terrorized the world with violence and a message of hate. The world is a safer place without him. We have deep gratitude for the brave men and women who carried out this dangerous operation.” Mitt Romney, a former Republican presidential nominee and often critical of President Trump, went further and praised the President’s role in the operation: “Al Baghdadi spread “fire and brimstone” on earth; now he feels it for himself in hell. To all who arranged his change of venue—the intel officers, the President, the warriors—thank you.”
INCREASING LIKELIHOOD OF RENEWED U.S. PRESENCE IN SYRIA Although President Trump reiterated his commitment
Just a few days before the President announced al-Baghdadi’s death, one U.S. Defense Department official noted, “We have begun reinforcing our positions in the Deir Ezzor region, in coordination with our SDF partners”. to withdrawing American forces from the SyrianTurkish border in a Sunday press conference, he also noted that Kurdish forces had been “helpful” and “worked incredibly” with American forces in providing necessary intelligence to carry out the operation. As details about the operation targeting al-Baghdadi spread, it became increasingly clear that Kurdish forces played a pivotal role in supplying the intelligence needed for locating the ISIS leader, and even supplied the DNA that enabled American special forces to conclusively identify him post-mortem. In one interview, SDF military leader General Mazloum Abdi claimed his intelligence service had placed a source deep within al-Baghdadi’s inner circle who provided a detailed layout of the ISIS leader’s compound. This source proved to U.S. intelligence that he had direct access to al-Baghdadi this summer by providing blood and clothing samples belonging to him. While the President’s decisions can often come as a surprise to even his closest advisors, the bipartisan backlash to the initial withdrawal from Syria, coupled with Kurdish assistance in eliminating al-Baghdadi, will likely increase the political hindrances to ending the U.S. presence in eastern Syria. Indeed, just a few days before the President announced al-Baghdadi’s death, one U.S. Defense Department official noted, “We have begun reinforcing our positions in the Deir Ezzor region, in coordination with our SDF partners, with additional military assets to prevent the [local] oil fields from falling back into the hands of ISIS or other destabilizing actors.”
Omani Women Make Slow and Steady Progress in Political Office
The Sultanate Voted to Select Members of the 9th Consultative Council by Yasmine El-Geressi The Sultanate of Oman, the oldest independent state in the Arab world, voted this week to elect an 86 member consultative council. Oman’s location at the mouth of the Gulf at the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula has given the country strategic advantage to leverage
diplomatic relations in a troubled region and with superpowers in the west. While the council has no role in defense, internal security of foreign affairs, it is the country’s only democratically elected legislative body and the country’s leader, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said al-Said, has granted the council greater legislative and oversight capabilities in recent years.
350,581 out of Oman’s 4.6 million- strong population, 46 percent of which are noncitizens, took part in in the elections October 27 in which 597 male and 40 female candidates competed for 86 seats of the 9th Shura Council. The election will be followed by an internal vote to select its chairman. Electronic voting machines were used for the first time in Oman to ease the voting process, including for the elderly and disabled people. Voters living outside the Sultanate cast their vote on an app launched by the Interior Ministry.
WHAT IS MAJLIS AL-SHURA?
An Omani woman casts her ballot at a polling station in the Gulf state's northeastern town of Izki during consultative council elections, on October 2019 ,27. (Getty)
Sultan Qaboos established the Consultative Council in 1991 in a drive to modernise Oman’s government structure. The Omanis gained universal suffrage in 2003. Voters were previously chosen from among tribal leaders, intellectuals and businessmen. Until 2011, the body’s purpose was only to advise the government on socio-economic issues, with no real power. Following the mass protests during the Arab uprisings, Sultan Qaboos promised the council would be given greater legislative and oversight capabilities and granted it powers to revise and propose laws and call government ministers for questioning, along with electing its own chairman. The Shura Council is the only democratically elected legislative body among the Government institutions of the Sultanate. Legislation proposed by the Shura Council must be sent to the State Council (Majlis al-Dawla), the Upper House of parliament, whose 83 members are directly appointed by the Sultan for a term of four years. There, a proposal is discussed and might be sent back to the Shura Council with proposed amendments. If there is a disagreement about the amendments, the two bodies hold a combined vote. If a majority approves, the legislation is passed on to the government and, eventually, Sultan Qaboos for approval. The council also reviews draft laws, key government contracts, and development plans and state budgets. The Shura Council and the State Council together form the Council of Oman.
While these figures seem low and insignificant, there are signs of progress being made in realising the importance of engaging women in politics and encouraging them to take a more active role in public life - albeit rather slowly. WOMEN TAKING SMALL STEPS FOR CHANGE While the number of women candidates this year more than doubled compared to the elections in 2015, in which there were only 20 female candidates vying for the seats of the Shura Council, only 2 of the 86 elected representatives were women, up one from last elections. While these figures seem low and insignificant, there are signs of progress being made in realising the importance of engaging women in politics and encouraging them to take a more active role in public life - albeit rather slowly. Seven women won seats on municipal councils in 2016, up from four in 2012 and fourteen women were appointed by Sultan Qaboos to the State Council. The Sultan has led efforts for women to be better represented in employment, government and business. A national Oman Women's Day was also implemented to improve women's visibility in public and highlight the government's resolve in promoting their position. Oman became the first Gulf Cooperation Council state to grant women the right to vote and stand for public office in 1994. Ten years later, the Sultan appointed the Gulf’s first female minister, Sheikha Aisha bint Khalfan, the minister of the National Authority for Industrial Craftsmanship.
Lebanonâ€™s Protests: No Option is a Good Option for Hezbollah The Iran-backed Group is the Main Enemy of the Lebanese People, and the Shia Are No longer Part of Its Scope of Influence by Hanin Ghaddar As unprecedented protests took over the streets of Lebanon- from the North, all the way to the
South, through Beirut and the mountains, the Lebanese political class were taken by surprise. Years of sectarian narrative, intimidation and humiliation, failed to coerce the Lebanese people
into submission. While the protests started as a cry against corruption and bad economy, the authorities’ responses – mainly Hezbollah’s – turned the protestors attention to the real ruler and authority in Lebanon; that is, Hezbollah and Iran. It was interesting to monitor the street’s reaction to Hezbollah’s responses. When Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah spoke for the first time during the protests, he sided with the authority against the protestors. When he spoke for the second time, it was clear that he – and his party and sponsors – are the real authority in Lebanon.
HEZBOLLAH’S MISTAKES Siding with the authority and telling the protestors that their demands are worthless was Hezbollah’s main mistake, which has framed its position in Lebanon today and for the days to come. It has made itself clear as the main authority that decides who stays and who goes, and how the protestors should behave.
An anti-government protester waves a Lebanese flag as he stands on top of a pile of broken tents in Martyrs' Square on October 2019 ,29 in Beirut, Lebanon.(Getty)
However, between the two speeches, Hezbollah has also made a number of other mistakes. Hezbollah had always been good at political maneuvers and military strategies, but they do not have any tools to deal with a true and genuine uprising. They responded the way they usually do: with violence. They have used violence against the Lebanese before in May 2008, and against the Syrians since 2011, but in 2008, they were fighting political opponents, not the Lebanese people, and in 2011, they used the Islamism extremism as a scarecrow to justify their violence. This time around, they stumbled. Hezbollah sent its men to clash with the peaceful and unarmed protestors a number of times, but each time they failed to scare them off the streets. Because this time around, they are not dealing with a clear enemy or an extremist opponent such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda. This time around, they are fighting the Lebanese people, pure and simple. The more violence they used, and the more threats their leadership sent, more people took to the streets, in an act of defiance against
Siding with the authority and telling the protestors that their demands are worthless was Hezbollah’s main mistake, which has framed its position in Lebanon today and for the days to come. fear and sectarian rhetoric. The most fascinating part of this process is the Shia community, which took the streets under the same Lebanese flag and with the same nonsectarian rhetoric, and with the same demands. The unity of the Lebanese people scared all the political class that has been using the same sectarian rhetoric for thirty years, but it mostly frightened Hezbollah who started to realize that they are no longer in control of the Shia community in Lebanon. The Shia towns and cities witnessed the worst violent reaction by Hezbollah, and its partner Amal movement. However, people still came back to the streets after each violent clash and threats. They have nothing to lose anymore. Today, two things have been clear: Hezbollah is the main enemy of the Lebanese people, and the Shia are no longer part of Hezbollah’s scope of influence. Hezbollah has been stripped of the most significant pillars of its power in Lebanon. Broadly speaking, the Lebanese people’s unity defied corruption and militia rule in the streets.
HEZBOLLAH’S OPTIONS AND CONSEQUENCES Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned during the second week of the protests. That was received as a big win in the streets. However, the process is longer and more complicated than a Hariri resignation. Constitutionally, the parliament needs to make immediate consultation with the president in order to choose the next prime minister. Until
then, Hariri’s government might simply become a care-taking government. Knowing that the current parliament’s composition is still a Hezbollah-majority, there is no chance that it will allow a proper transition of power. They can stall until the people get tired or until they are forced to go back home. This is an unlikely scenario because the next crisis will bring everyone back to the street; that is the economic collapse that Lebanon has been facing for many months. So eventually, this authority – that is Hezbollah’s authority – will have to deal with the repercussions of such collapse and maybe an international bailout that will eventually contain their power. Hezbollah can use more violence, such as the May 2008 ,7, when Hezbollah’s militias stormed the streets of Beirut and the mountains, and for the first time, used their arms against other Lebanese. But this will also backfire as violence has only made Hezbollah look bad and created more criticism against them in the streets. They cannot lose more than they already have. Hezbollah can also divert this scene by starting a war against Israel, thereby using the “resistance” rhetoric and forcing the people back home. However, they will try their best to avoid this option. Their own financial crisis makes it very difficult for them to fund a war, or to deal with the reconstruction phase, especially that they will
The unity of the Lebanese people scared all the political class that has been using the same sectarian rhetoric for thirty years, but it mostly frightened Hezbollah who started to realize that they are no longer in control of the Shia community in Lebanon.
be blamed for the war this time. Hezbollah has a number of options up their sleeve and they exhausting one after another. But every time they act, people react. Hezbollah – by siding with the authority – has turned the Lebanese people, including its own constancy – against them. No option is a good option for Hezbollah. These protests have already achieved many significant outcomes. Hezbollah has been stripped of its power by losing two main pillars: its public support among the Lebanese, and mainly among the Shia community, and they have also lost their political allies who politically fell in the streets: Speaker Nabih Berri and Foreign
Demonstrators gesture and chant slogans during an anti-government protest in the southern city of Nabatiyah, Lebanon, October ,20 2019. (Reuters)
Minister Gebran Bassil. It is not a coincidence that the two most corrupt political leaders are Hezbollah’s main two allies. And it is not a coincidence that a protest against corruption turns into a protests against Hezbollah. Last but not least, what is taking place in Lebanon today is not separate from the events that are taking over Iraq’s streets, mainly in Shia areas. Two unprecedented protests that seem to be linked with the fight against corruption, are gradually turning into a fight against Iran’s influence in the region. Iran is in a very difficult position, and no matter what happens next, it has already lost much of its power; the people. One thing is clear, there is no
Knowing that the current parliament’s composition is still a Hezbollah-majority, there is no chance that it will allow a proper transition of power. going back to square one. Hanin Ghaddar is the inaugural Friedmann Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute
Polandâ€™s Right Won the Day, But Not the Future New Parties and New Voters Make Themselves Heard 26
Four years from now, the tactics that will win Poland’s next parliament are unlikely to look anything like the ones that carried the election last week. Polish voters delivered PiS a renewed majority in the parliament’s lower house, the Sejm. This latest victory was not a mistake, and there was little that the opposition could have done to prevent it. In fact, PiS attracted more than two million more voters in 2019 than it did in 2015, taking 235 of the Sejm’s 460 seats. The right-wing party has a strategy that is working. Since 2015, it has become expert at enticing disadvantaged voters and ginning up fear. The party has doled out promises to retirees, farmers, blue-collar workers, and parents—first of three or more children, then of two, and finally of just one child. In 2017, before the European parliamentary elections, the PiS used the news channel it dominates to sow anti-refugee paranoia. In the lead-up to this year’s polls, it amped up conservative hatred and fear of sexual minorities. The PiS has coaxed the wave of fear and hatred to new heights. The party has proposed a bill ostensibly meant to curb the “over-sexualizing of children,” but which in fact mirrors a “gay propaganda” law that Russia passed in 2013. The legislation stipulates that teaching basic sexual education to minors is punishable with a five-year prison sentence. Only a softened version of the bill will likely be voted on. But very fact that it has been proposed, as well as its timing, demonstrates that PiS now possesses a well-oiled and aggressive political machine. Rafal Bochenek, Malgorzata Wassermann, Andrzej Adamczyk, Piotr Cwik and other members of Poland›s Law and Justice ruling party react after seeing the first results, as PiS was victorious in the parliamentary elections. (Getty)
by Marta Figlerowicz When Poland’s right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) first rose to power in 2015, some liberal commentators dismissed the populist upsurge as an aberration. For years, the governing majority party had allowed economic and social grievances to fester without resolution, and the resulting vacuum was easy for a newcomer to step into. Moreover, PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski rode a wave of sympathy, because his twin brother, Lech, then the Polish president, had died in a 2010 plane crash over Smolensk. Four years after its first electoral sweep, PiS can no longer be regarded as a fluke. Just last week,
And yet, for all the party’s recent success, PiS leaders seem to know that their moment could be an ephemeral one. “We have received much, but we deserved more,” Kaczynski commented when the election results came in. That PiS is not now resting on its laurels is perhaps one more sign of its savvy— or an indication of the tremendous uncertainty ahead for Poland. The country’s political landscape is in flux, and today’s divisions of power could easily be rearranged tomorrow. A FRACTURED LANDSCAPE PiS’s majority is more precarious than it first appears.
Yes, the party attracted more than two million new votes—but this gain coincides with a general upsurge in voting. In the 2015 election, 15 million Poles cast valid votes. This year, the number reached 18.5 million, accounting for more than 61 percent of the population. Not since the first postcommunist election in 1989 had so many Poles come out for a parliamentary vote. Of them, more than 50 percent of them opted for PiS’s centrist or leftist opponents. As the election’s biggest individual winner, PiS secured a majority in the Sejm—but not a large enough majority to change the constitution or overcome a presidential veto. The latter is not an immediate problem, since the current Polish president, Andrzej Duda, is a faithful PiS member. But his term ends next year, at which point he will face some credible challengers from the center and the left. These are likely to include Donald Tusk, a former centrist prime minister who currently heads the European Council, and several popular young politicians, such as Robert Biedron and Katarzyna Lubnauer. To fulfill populist campaign promises between now and then, the PiS-dominated Sejm will need to raise some taxes or incur new national debts. Such moves will provide Duda’s opponents with easy talking points. Moreover, PiS now controls only one of Poland’s two national legislative chambers. For four years, the party controlled both houses and was able to push its bills through with little resistance. Now, after a heated fight, PiS lost its majority in the Senate in a series of tight votes and claims just 48 senators, while 52 hail from the opposition or are independent. Only one of the independent senators is likely to side with PiS in crucial votes. The Polish Senate does not have all the powers of its American counterpart, but several
None of Poland’s alternative parties is likely to take over government on its own. But together the groups are helping to unravel the two-party system that had begun to take shape after 2007.
crucial posts, including that of national ombud, require the approval of the upper house. The Senate can also delay government proposals through revisions, debates, and filibusters. The PiS may have handily defeated the old majority party, Civic Platform (PO), but in Poland as elsewhere, new political competitors are on the rise. Small parties did comparatively well in the recent election and have reason for further optimism. A Christian-Democratic, agrarian party known as Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (Polish People’s Party) performed well in rural areas, doubling its seats in the lower chamber. A coalition of leftist parties called Zjednoczona Lewica (United Left) won 49 seats—up from no seats at all four years prior. A new extreme-right-wing party, Konfederacja Wolnosc i Niepodleglosc (Confederation for Freedom and Independence), won 11. Liberal and leftist women joined the Polish parliament in record numbers; so did young activists, who vaulted to the top of establishment-heavy voting lists across parties. The rise of these new forces could quickly render the strategy that PiS has honed obsolete. The public to which PiS has attuned its appeal is one divided between social conservatives and free-market liberals. But that landscape is changing as PO fades into the background and other opposition groups emerge with different priorities. These small parties attack PiS’s policies from new angles and offer social and economic worldviews that cannot be classified neatly as liberal. The Confederation has already fractured the rightwing vote and threatens to fragment it further. Led by old conservatives together with young libertarians, the group offers an explosive cocktail of radicalisms: monarchism, minarchism, antiSemitism, queer-phobia, and misogyny. PiS may need the Confederation’s support in Sejm, where the radicals could use their leverage to press the PiS’s proposals to even greater extremes. The left-of-center parties, meanwhile, are drawing the economically disadvantaged away from PiS. GENERATIONAL PRESSURES None of Poland’s alternative parties is likely to take over government on its own. But together the groups are helping to unravel the two-party system that had begun to take shape after 2007. During the nineties, Poland had several governments formed from
Jaroslaw Kaczynski a lawyer and the current leader of the Law and Justice party casts his vote in a ballot box during the general election. (Getty)
coalitions of small parties. The coalitions were often querulous and messy. But at a time of polarization, Polish voters may well demand a return to this slowmoving, compromise-based approach. At the moment, with PiS in control of both Sejm and the presidency, such a shift feels far off. But generational change brings it nearer. Polish parties are refashioning themselves as fresh faces appear at the polls. In the past, leftists were often politically handicapped by the accusations that they were former pro-Soviet communists. Today’s young leftist leaders have shed such historical associations, even despite the best efforts of PiS and the church to impute them. For models, young leftists look not to Russia but to the EU and Scandinavia. Even PO has a share of young, dynamic leaders, to whom its more complacent senior establishment will soon have to start devolving power. The populist right is every bit as vulnerable to generational dynamics as the center and left. The success of the Confederation’s young libertarians suggests
as much. So does the tension within PiS between the -70year-old Kaczynski and some of his deputies who are some 20 years younger, including Zbigniew Ziobro and Jaroslaw Gowin. Anonymous PiS politicians have suggested to reporters that these younger leaders are jostling for greater influence, and a divisive fight for the party’s leadership is close at hand. Poland’s political parties are addressing themselves to a revivified public. The past few years have seen a surge of protest on all sides: for and against abortion, LGBTQ rights, judicial independence, and more. This past week, Poles at home and abroad cast a record number of votes. Such a public can be counted on to make strong demands and ask hard questions. The moment’s uncertainty seems to trouble PO and PiS— and to elate their competitors to the left and the right. Four years from now, the tactics that will win Poland’s next parliament are unlikely to look anything like the ones that carried the election last week. This article was originally published on
Why Latin America Was Primed to Explode Economic Malaise, More Than Foreign Meddling, Explains the Outpouring of Rage by Moisés Naím and Brian Winter In a world aflame with protest, Latin America stands out as a raging ten-alarm fire. From Bolivia to Ecuador, Haiti to Honduras, the closing months of 2019 have seen
enormous, sometimes violent demonstrations prompted by a truly dizzying array of grievances, including electoral fraud, corruption, and rising fuel and public transportation prices. Even Chile, the region’s ostensible oasis of calm and prosperity, erupted in protests and
riots that left 20 dead and forced President Sebastián Piñera to declare a state of emergency. It is now an open question whether any country in the region can be considered truly stable. The rapid spread across social media of images of burning buildings and besieged riot police has inspired widespread talk of a conspiracy: specifically, that the protests throughout the hemisphere are being orchestrated from Venezuela and Cuba. These socialist dictatorships, the thinking goes, are hellbent on distracting from their own domestic crises by destabilizing democracies in the region governed by center-right parties, such as Ecuador and Chile. Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro seemed to confirm the theory when he told an audience that “the plan is going exactly as we hoped,” with “the union of social movements, progressives, and revolutionaries . . . of all of Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest against the government's economic policies in Santiago on October 2019 ,29. (Getty)
Maduro has a long history of overstating his influence in the region, hoping to appear all-powerful in the eyes of his countrymen and the world. He has extra incentive to do so now, given Venezuela’s severe economic and humanitarian crisis and the ongoing threat to his rule from Juan Guaidó, who is recognized as the country’s legitimate president by dozens of governments, including the United States. Cuba is also facing hard economic times, owing in part to sanctions from the Trump administration. That said, numerous credible voices, including Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie and Luis Almagro, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, have denounced what they see as clear Venezuelan and Cuban interference in the region’s recent unrest. And at the peak of the rioting in Ecuador in early October, that country’s interior minister said that 17 people had been arrested at the airport, “most of them Venezuelans . . . carrying information about the protests.” At this early stage, it is impossible to say how important foreign interference has been in igniting or sustaining the protests. According to the Chilean newspaper La Tercera, Chilean police believe that Venezuelans and Cubans helped instigate violent attacks on subway stations in Santiago during riots in mid-October, to cite one example. But the massive and unrelenting nature of the protests, which brought more than one million of Chile’s 18 million citizens into the streets on October 25, suggests that their root causes are large and structural. The focus on conspiracy theories, moreover, risks giving politicians and other elites a handy scapegoat. Whether or not foreign agitators lit the sparks, much of Latin America was already primed to combust. After a
Latin Americans have become some of the world’s most dedicated users of social media. They watched as protests erupted from Hong Kong to Beirut to Barcelona. Some doubtlessly wondered: Why not us, too? commodity boom in the early years of this millennium raised expectations higher than ever, much of Latin America has entered a long period of disappointing growth. Against the backdrop of stagnating wages and rising costs of living, indignities such as inequality and corruption have become more difficult for many people to swallow. At the same time, Latin Americans have become some of the world’s most dedicated users of social media. They watched as protests erupted from Hong Kong to Beirut to Barcelona. Some doubtlessly wondered: Why not us, too?
HARD UP, FED UP The protests now raging across much of Latin America originated from different sparks but are connected by a single common denominator: economic malaise. On average, Latin American and Caribbean economies will grow just 0.2 percent in 2019, the worst performance of any major region in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund. By contrast, emerging markets globally are expected to expand by 3.9 percent this year, building on several years of solid growth despite headwinds from the trade war between the United States and China. To understand why Latin America’s economic slump has generated such outrage, one need only rewind to the beginning of this decade, when the region was outperforming the rest of the world. Thanks to a boom in commodities prices, driven largely by demand from China, Latin American economies grew by an average of about 3.5 percent on a per capita basis between 2003 and 2013, their best performance in at least half a century. These gains were relatively well distributed, and nearly 100 million Latin Americans ascended to the middle class during that period, according to the World Bank. Many people were able to buy cars, washing machines, and big-screen TVs for the first time. They expected the good times to continue for the foreseeable future.
But things haven’t worked out that way. In the last half decade, Venezuela endured one of the worst economic collapses ever outside of a war zone; Brazil weathered one of the longest and deepest recessions in its history; Argentina suffered a currency and debt crisis; and comparatively resilient countries such as Peru, Mexico, and Colombia experienced only disappointing growth. The specifics vary country to country, but there are some common causes for the regional downturn. Many Latin American governments were left with unsustainably large budget deficits at the end of the commodities boom and failed to adjust quickly enough to reassure investors. Productivity in much of the region has stagnated, and only sub-Saharan Africa has a lower ratio of investment to GDP. As a result of these factors, salaries have stagnated, poverty has ticked up in several countries, and people have railed against what they see as their governments’ broken promises. All of which helps explain the current unrest. In Chile, protests erupted after the government hiked public transit fares by 30 pesos, the equivalent of four U.S. cents. In Ecuador, people took to the streets after the government slashed fuel subsidies, causing diesel prices to more than double. Both the Chilean and Ecuadorian governments reversed themselves after protests broke out, but the damage was already done: unrest continues in both countries. Even where the proximate causes of protests have been political, economic issues have loomed large in the background: riots erupted in Bolivia this month after President Evo Morales, whose popularity has sagged along with the country’s economy, won a fourth consecutive term in an election marred by widespread allegations of fraud. Economic hardship has focused protesters’ anger onto related issues such as inequality and corruption. Latin
Voters are clearly turning to “strong” civilian leaders such as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
America has long been one of the world’s most unequal regions, but the limits of what people consider tolerable are shifting. The middle class that sprang from the last commodities bonanza is more educated and, thanks to the Internet, hyperconnected. Its members now have an unobstructed view of the flashy cars, designer handbags, and expensive Miami vacations of the Latin American elite. During the boom times, middle-class people seemed to have a degree of patience for such excesses, perhaps rooted in the hope that they might one day enjoy them. But along with the region’s economic prospects, that hope seems to have melted away in recent years. A wave of recent corruption scandals landed former presidents of Brazil, Peru, and Guatemala in prison and has likewise eroded the credibility of the establishment. In polls, political parties frequently receive the lowest trust rating of any entity or group. And voters across Latin America have increasingly concluded that it is not just politicians or parties that are corrupt; it is the system itself. Only 57 percent of Latin Americans now believe democracy is “better than any other form of
Venezuelan opposition leader and National Assembly president Juan Guaido speaks during a session of the National Assembly with the presence of progovernment deputies in Caracas on October ,8 2019. (Getty)
many cases have festered for decades, if not centuries. On the other hand, these leaders have lousy approval ratings (many of them, including Chile’s Piñera, below 30 percent) that will make passing legislation extremely difficult. The protests hem these leaders in further, increasing polarization and making consensus even more elusive. In Chile last week, Piñera tried to address this quandary. He apologized in a nationally televised address for what he called a “lack of vision” so far in his administration and announced a 20 percent increase in the minimum pension, a higher minimum wage, and price cuts for medicines for the poor. These measures were designed to close the gap between rich and poor Chileans. But it is simply not possible to lastingly reduce inequality unless an economy is growing at a healthy pace. Piñera and his counterparts elsewhere in Latin America surely know this.
government,” according to a recent poll conducted by the Latin American Public Opinion Project at Vanderbilt University. That is compared with 66 to 70 percent in the decade before 2014, when economies shifted into lower gear and several corruption scandals exploded into public view. The results of the Vanderbilt poll and other similar ones do not necessarily mean that people want a return to the military dictatorships that dominated the region in the 1970s. But voters are clearly turning to “strong” civilian leaders such as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, both of whom came into office promising easy solutions that they have so far proven unable to deliver.
MISSION IMPROBABLE To succeed in the current climate, Latin American leaders will have to manage a tricky balancing act, one that may ultimately prove impossible to pull off. On the one hand, their constituents demand that they take immediate, sweeping action to fix problems that in
If Latin America is to recapture the relative prosperity of the early years of the millennium, an ambitious reform agenda is necessary—one that goes beyond the standard measures popular among pro-business types, such as tax reform and trade deals. Instead of waiting for the protests to spread, leaders across the region should identify the top two or three priorities for their countries— for example, malnutrition in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America, security in Mexico or Brazil, infrastructure in Colombia, modernization of schools everywhere—and convene broad coalitions to address them. Chronic shortfalls in health care, security, infrastructure, and education hold back growth in much of the region. To effectively address these problems, governments, businesses, and civil society must collaborate. People will need to put their mobile phones aside for a moment and stop expecting governments to solve all of their problems. Such broad-based and ambitious reform may be a lot to ask. But the region can’t simply wait for another commodities boom or some other magical source of growth. Passivity will lead only to a vicious cycle of slowing economies, declining faith in democracy, and rising populist leaders. Such was the cycle that propelled much of Latin America into repressive military dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s. The same gears may churn toward mayhem and division, sown from within Latin American countries and without. Venezuela and Cuba may not be the main reason for the current protests. But if the region continues down its current path, it will be vulnerable to the next conspiracy, whether from Havana, Caracas, or somewhere else. This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.
Nowhere to Go How Governments in the Americas Are Bungling the Migration Crisis by Alexander Betts In 2015, over 1.2 million asylum seekers arrived in the European Union. They were fleeing war zones in Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Syria; economic deprivation in Nigeria and Pakistan; and political instability in Somalia. The largest group came across the Aegean Sea; many of them reached European territory in Greece and then made their way to Germany. Others crossed the Mediterranean on rickety, overloaded boats or traversed the Bosporus, the Dardanelles, or the Gibraltar strait. Politicians and journalists labelled the situation a “crisis” to reflect its unprecedented scale. But this was not a crisis of numbers. It was a crisis of politics. European leaders initially resorted to unilateral, quick fix solutions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel implemented a short-lived open-border policy.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban built a razor-wire fence. Other countries sought to accommodate, sequester, or cast out the migrants—mostly to no avail. The human consequences were devastating: over 10,000 people have drowned while crossing the Mediterranean since 2015. Those who made it were greeted not as survivors but as usurpers, free riders, or covert extremists; they soon became scapegoats for the radical right. The political consequences changed Europe forever. The Western Hemisphere now faces a migration crisis on a similar scale, with consequences that will likely be just as farreaching. So far, this crisis has received a piecemeal treatment. Central American migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexican border, Venezuelans crossing dry plains into Colombia, Bolivians seeking work in Argentina and Chile—these are treated as
separate phenomena but are in fact part of the same underlying set of problems. To avoid the kind of human and political toll that the migration crisis produced in Europe, political leaders and policymakers must treat this new situation holistically and learn from past examples. Already, policymakers in the United States and elsewhere in the Americas are repeating European mistakes. So far this year, the U.S. Border Patrol has apprehended over 800,000 people at the southern border—the highest number in over a decade. The previous peak in apprehensions occurred in 2000 and resulted mainly from “pull” factors, namely, the high demand for cheap labour. Today’s migrants, in contrast, are responding to “push” factors, including many of the same things that inspired masses of people to flee to Europe four years ago: failed or fragile states, violence, and economic insecurity. To contend with the new arrivals, the United States is weighing many of the same approaches that European countries have tried but ultimately found wanting. From border walls to bilateral deals linking immigration to trade and aid, Washington has borrowed directly from a playbook that fell short abroad. For instance, U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, requiring migrants hoping to gain asylum in the United States to have their claims assessed while they wait in Mexico, mirrors the EU’s long-standing failed attempts to set up similar systems in Libya and elsewhere.
A French police officer oversees men standing in a courtyard at the ‹Centre de Retention Administrative› (CRA), a migrant detention centre in Vincennes, eastern Paris, on September 2019 ,18. (Getty)
Despite some differences between the two cases, there are a few strategies that the New World could draw on from the Old World. The key lesson from the European experience of 2015 is that when it comes to migration, there are limits to unilateralism and bilateralism. The sense of crisis began to abate only when the EU adopted a multipronged approach grounded in cooperation among the migrants’ countries of origin, transit, and destination.
SEEING DOUBLE The European and American crises are alike in a number of ways. The total number of people apprehended at the U.S. border or deemed inadmissible at a U.S. port of entry since October 2018 is now nearly the same as the number of asylum seekers who arrived in Europe in the whole of 2015. Observers on both sides of the Atlantic have also stumbled on eerily similar scenes. The widely published photograph of the bodies of Óscar Martínez and his -23month-old daughter, Valeria, who drowned while attempting to cross the Rio Grande in June, resembles the picture of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian toddler who drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015. Both images have come to symbolize the awful toll of transnational migration in a world of closed borders. The effects of migration on the European and American political systems are likewise comparable. The rhetoric of xenophobic right-wing figures in the United States echoes— and, in some cases, draws on—the pronouncements of their European counterparts. In Europe, such rhetoric fuelled anti-
The human consequences were devastating: over 10,000 people have drowned while crossing the Mediterranean since 2015. immigrant sentiment and encouraged support for right-wing parties. It has had similar effects in the United States, where rising xenophobia has underwritten the Trump administration’s punitive approach to migrants. There are more parallels between the two crises when it comes to their causes, their consequences, and governments’ responses. Both crises resulted from state collapse. In Europe, the immediate trigger was the Syrian civil war. State fragility in Afghanistan and Iraq also contributed to mass displacement, and the chaos in Libya created a transit option and haven for smugglers facilitating movement from sub-Saharan Africa across the Mediterranean. In the Americas, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have grown highly unstable in recent years. Guatemala appears on the “high warning” list of the Fragile States Index; Honduras is just one grade below. In these states, governing capacity is low, corruption is high, and organized crime dominates business, politics, and society. Since the summer of 2018, all three countries have experienced severe drought. Crop failure rates have reached higher than 80 percent; as a result, food insecurity has become a major cause of outmigration. On the opposite side of the Caribbean, Venezuela has crumbled under its president and would-be strongman, Nicolás Maduro. Over four million people have fled the country, the majority bound for Colombia, Ecuador, or Peru, making this the second-largest displacement crisis in the world. The Americas are also witnessing a human tragedy as dramatic as the one that engulfed Europe in 2015, when more than 3,700 people drowned while crossing the Mediterranean. The number of those dying at the U.S.-Mexican border is considerably smaller—around 400 in the first eight months of this year—but the figure is still significant. What is more, that statistic does not account for the thousands of people who have been subjected to inhumane conditions or have suffered injuries on the journey north. Meanwhile, the fact that the richest country in the world has resorted to indefinitely detaining migrant children signals a lapse in the application of human rights standards similar to what Europe witnessed in 2015. Europe’s initial response to the crisis was characterized by unilateralism rather than international cooperation. In 2015, the 28 EU states struggled to agree on a common response. Merkel’s plea for open borders fell on deaf ears, as Austria and Hungary quickly shut their doors. A major source of frustration for northern European states was the sense that southern European
states were largely indifferent to the problem, simply waving migrants through in the hope that they would move northward. The Mexican government also stood by when migrant caravans originating in Central America crossed Mexico en route to the United States in late 2018. And just as richer northern European countries were unable to force their southern neighbours to take more responsibility for the problem, Washington’s unilateral efforts to bully or bribe Mexico to respond more energetically have come to naught. Although South American countries have been far more receptive to Venezuelan migrants than their northern neighbours have been to those fleeing Central America, they have similarly struggled to develop standardized responses or mechanisms for regional collaboration. The distribution of migrants across the region is highly uneven: by the end of 2018, there were around 1.3 million in Colombia, 768,000 in Peru, 288,000 in Chile, 263,000 in Ecuador, 168,000 in Brazil, and 130,000 in Argentina. Each of these countries handles work permits, public services, and refugee status differently. In light of the xenophobic backlash in several countries, some governments have put in place deterrence measures similar to those that European states used back in 2015; Ecuador, for instance, has introduced a policy requiring Venezuelans to present their criminal records at the border in response to an upsurge in antiimmigrant violence in late 2018.
DITCH THE DICTIONARY The crisis in the Americas—like the European one before it—has raised questions about the usefulness of conventional categories such as “refugees” and “economic migrants.” The UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention defined a refugee as someone who has “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” In the 1980 Refugee Act, the U.S. Congress enshrined that description in U.S. law, as well. But the 1951 definition was written to address the upheavals of the early Cold War, especially the emigration of Soviet dissidents. Today, most migrants are not fleeing powerful regimes that are out to get them. Nor are they simply seeking better economic opportunities. Rather, they are running from states that have
On the border in Cúcuta, Colombia, around 50,000 people cross the checkpoint each day at the Simón Bolívar International Bridge.
failed or that are so fragile that life has become difficult to bear for their citizens. What Europe saw in 2015 and what the Americas are witnessing today are not simply refugee flows or market-driven population movements but rather “survival migration”—a term I initially coined to describe the exodus of Zimbabweans from Robert Mugabe’s regime in the early years of this century. Between 2003 and 2010, around two million Zimbabweans fled to South Africa and other neighbouring states. Most of them wanted to escape hyperinflation, banditry, and food insecurity—the economic consequences of the underlying political situation—rather than political persecution per se. Because the majority of these migrants could not be described as either refugees or economic migrants, humanitarian action around the crisis stalled. Many of the migrants who arrived in Europe in 2015, notably those from Syria, were clearly refugees under the 1951 convention. Others—including some Albanians and Kosovars who used the Balkan routes toward Germany alongside the Syrians—were plainly economic migrants. But significant numbers of those crossing the Aegean were fleeing fragile states such as Afghanistan and Iraq. European governments were, by and large, unsure of how to label these migrants. In the first quarter of this year, 46 per cent of Iraqi asylum seekers received recognition in Germany, compared with 13 per cent in the United Kingdom. Petitioners from failed or fragile Middle Eastern or sub-Saharan African countries faced— and still face—a sort of recognition lottery whose outcome depends on whether judges and bureaucrats are prepared to shoehorn today’s circumstances into Cold War categories. But few European governments wanted to abandon the old terminology and categories. Governments led by right-of-centre parties did not want to open themselves up to possibly greater obligations; those led by left-of-centre parties did not want to risk jeopardizing the 1951 convention. A similar dynamic seems to be at work in the Americas today, where out-dated notions obscure the reality of survival migration. Nowhere is this truer than in Central America. In the first eight months of this year, around 508,000 people
Migrants, part of a group of 65 rescued by the German-flagged NGO rescue ship Alan Kurdi, queue as they are brought into Haywharf, in Valletta, by the Armed Forces of Malta after being transferred onto the Maltese patrol boat on July 2019 ,7. (Getty)
left the so-called Northern Triangle region, which consists of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, bound for the United States. This represents almost double the number who made that trip in any single year since 2014, an increase that has played a major role in the dramatic spike in U.S. border apprehensions. Meanwhile, in the past six years, there has been a more than tenfold increase in the number of U.S. asylum applications from these three countries. The reasons Central American migrants have for emigrating are often complex. Poverty levels are high across the Northern Triangle. Drought has contributed to large-scale crop failure, undermining livelihoods and food security in these predominantly agricultural societies. The UN has suggested that climate change is in part to blame. Meanwhile, weak governance contributes to pervasive corruption and violence in the absence of public services. The most visible manifestation of survival migration from the Northern Triangle has been the migrant caravans that have periodically tried to enter the United States through Mexico. A survey by the International Organization for Migration of 800 people in the first caravans of 2019 revealed the complicated motives of the Central Americans who have participated in the northern exodus, with 45 percent of those polled indicating that they had moved mainly for better economic conditions, nine percent because of violence and insecurity, and 45 percent because of a combination of both. Sixty-eight percent also said that they had had to change their residence in their country of origin in the previous year due to violence or insecurity. As Washington has stepped up enforcement and detention, many Central American migrants have opted to surrender to the U.S. Border Patrol in order to claim asylum rather than try to sneak across the border—contributing to a growing backlog of claims at the U.S. border.
AN UNEASY WELCOME Central America is not the only source of the Western Hemisphere’s migrants, and the United States is hardly their only destination. Unrest in Venezuela has also driven massive numbers of people from their homes to seek refuge in many other places in the region. Under Maduro’s increasingly authoritarian rule, the country has been beset by violence and economic upheaval since late 2015. Venezuela now has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Ninety percept of the population lives below the poverty line. There was close to 1.7 million per cent hyperinflation in 2018. The exodus ramped up in 2017, when the full weight of the economic crisis came to bear. Since then, up to four million Venezuelans—at least seven per cent of the country’s population—have left. This is an unprecedented development in the region, arguably surpassed only by the period between 1979 and 1992, when over 25 per cent of El Salvador’s population fled a civil war.
Venezuela’s neighbours have responded in vastly different ways. Colombia’s approach has been the most progressive. The country opened its doors to roughly 1.5 million Venezuelans and has granted them the right to work and to receive basic services. It has recognized Venezuelan immigration as a development opportunity, receiving a 31.5$ million grant from the World Bank earlier this year, alongside additional concessional finance, to provide jobs and improved social services to the migrants and the communities that host them. But Colombia’s government refuses to call these Venezuelans refugees, since doing so might exacerbate a bureaucratic backlog in the asylum system and risk a political backlash in a country where anti-immigrant rhetoric is growing in the border regions. Other countries have been less welcoming. At first, Peru opened its borders, allowing Venezuelans to apply for short-term stays or for asylum and, from January 2017 until December 2018, offering Venezuelan migrants temporary access to work, education, and banking services. But by the end of 2018, Peru suspended that practice amid concerns that it was creating an incentive for more Venezuelans to come. In 2017, Brazil began offering Venezuelan migrants two-year residency visas and gave all asylum seekers from Venezuela access to work permits and basic services. In 2018, however, the governor of Roraima State appealed to the Supreme Federal Court to close the border until the conditions for “humanitarian reception” were in place. (The court dismissed the case.) Brazil has also tried, with limited success, to carry out an internal relocation scheme, in which around 5,000 Venezuelans in the border area have been transferred to 17 other states across the country. For its part, Ecuador initially welcomed fleeing Venezuelans but eventually introduced stricter border controls in August 2018. In January, the country witnessed a xenophobic backlash after a Venezuelan migrant killed his pregnant Ecuadorian girlfriend; in the face of the resulting anger and violence, many Venezuelans left Ecuador for Colombia. Meanwhile, international organizations have struggled to even define the crisis in South America, much less deal with it. Until this past spring, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees had only vaguely noted that the region was experiencing a “migrant crisis.” But on May 21, under pressure from human right activists, the UNHCR released a statement suggesting that most Venezuelan migrants were actually refugees in need of international protection. The World Bank has characterized the Venezuelan migration as “mainly based on economic reasons but with the characteristics of a refugee situation in terms of the speed of influx and levels of vulnerability.” And yet everyone dealing with the situation on the ground agrees that a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding. On the border in Cúcuta, Colombia, around 50,000 people cross the checkpoint each day at the Simón Bolívar International Bridge. They set out with suitcases, bags, and hand trolleys to collect food and basic provisions that cannot be easily found in Venezuela. They buy and sell in Cúcuta’s La Parada market or eat at the soup kitchens run by organizations affiliated with the World Food Program,
which serve a total of 8,000 meals per day. Up to 3,000 of those who cross every day wind up staying in Colombia. Those with passports can regularize their status, access public services, and find work. By contrast, those without papers cannot get even the most basic entitlements. Competition and a lack of adequate coordination among UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations is palpable. For example, during my recent visit to the border, some organizations pushed for unrestricted cash assistance to Venezuelans, while others—among them, the Colombian government—strongly counseled that this would merely exacerbate existing tensions between migrants and locals. Several agencies complained that other agencies initiated schemes without consulting relevant partners, despite the existence of an inter-agency coordination platform. There are, of course, some guiding lights. In beleaguered Cúcuta, a “one-stop shop” border point operated by UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations offers emergency relief and guidance to those who most need it. Here, and at other points along the border, UNICEF provides vaccines to the youngest migrants. And a few reception centers offer overnight housing, but only on a temporary basis. Most migrants, however, rely on their kith and kin to survive.
LESSONS FROM THE PAST A new approach is needed to handle this situation—one that recognizes the contemporary realities of survival migration and relies on international cooperation rather than unilateralism. In 2016, Europe belatedly began to find solutions by strengthening international cooperation both among and beyond the 28 EU member states. The drop in Mediterranean crossings between 2016 and 2019 is due in part to improvements in the security situation in Syria. But the change has also come from strategic reforms aimed at strengthening internal and external cooperation. In March 2016, the EU signed an agreement with Turkey, which during the crisis was the last place that millions of migrants passed through on their way to Europe. The EU offered Turkey around two billion euros of assistance in exchange for hosting and integrating refugees while limiting their outward movement. (Although criticized for making some migrant journeys even more dangerous, the deal has reduced Aegean Sea crossings
What the Americas need today is a revival of the spirit of international cooperation that drove CIREFCA.
for Greece and supported Turkey’s capacity and willingness to host 3.7 million refugees. Unfortunately, due to the growth of anti-immigrant sentiment in Turkey, officials in Ankara have recently started resettling refugees in the Levant.) The EU also created an emergency assistance fund for Africa in late 2015 and dedicated more than four billion euros to support collaboration in the broad area of “migration and development” with African states. Agreements that the EU forged with countries such as Ethiopia and Jordan have created jobs, supported existing enterprises, and provided more sustainable opportunities for refugees and migrants in those countries. Europe’s approach has been far from perfect—that much is clear. But it is also undeniable that the crisis ended in part owing to policies that created sustainable development opportunities and removed some of the “push” factors that had caused the migrant surge. If U.S. policymakers are serious about developing more sustainable immigration policies, perhaps they ought to borrow European tactics, creating multilateral deals with countries in Latin America that aim to ensure the safety and economic opportunity of migrants in their countries of origin, transit, and asylum. The Western Hemisphere could also look to its own past for inspiration. In 1984, the countries of the region issued the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees, which extended the definition of “refugee” to include people fleeing “massive violations of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order.” This definition aptly describes the circumstances of many of the region’s contemporary survival migrants. But until now, nearly all states have refrained from applying this extended definition to the plight of Central Americans or Venezuelans. Policymakers could also draw lessons from the 1989 International Conference on Central American Refugees (CIREFCA)—which identified regional solutions for around two million displaced people across the hemisphere, more than half of whom were displaced across borders. CIREFCA
Members of the activist group Rise And Resist gathered at a silent protest inside The Oculus on September 2019 ,12 holding NO RAIDS/CLOSE THE CAMPS/ABOLISH ICE banners, photographs of the children who have died in ICE custody, and photographs of the detention camps to object to Border Patrol and ICE treatment of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. (Getty)
is, in short, one of the most successful historical examples of cooperation on refugees anywhere in the world. The conference set standards for recognizing and responding to different categories of migration. And through CIREFCA, countries created sustainable sanctuaries closer to home for the region’s migrants. The impetus behind the conference was just as dramatic as the migration crisis that is troubling the political landscape in the present day. By the end of the 1980s, after a decade of regional conflict that had produced around 160,000 casualties, there were millions of displaced people in Central America. Of these, around 150,000 were recognized as refugees, around 900,000 were displaced across borders but not regarded as refugees, and around 900,000 were considered internally displaced. CIREFCA aimed to remedy this problem as part of the region’s peace process at the end of the Cold War. The initiative for the conference came from the UN, working closely with the Contadora Group (Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela) and major donors such as the United States and the EU. As part of the process, the UNHCR and the UN Development Program established a joint secretariat, based in San José, Costa Rica. The aim of CIREFCA was to address forced displacement through a development-based approach. Conference attendees called for the CIREFCA secretariat to implement 36 initial projects that would require 375$ million over a three-year period. Most of the projects aimed to ensure that, rather than having to migrate long distances in search of security and opportunity, migrants could receive protection and achieve prosperity closer to home. For example, through CIREFCA, the Mexican government undertook the development of large parts of the Yucatán Peninsula, including Campeche and Quintana Roo, states that at the time hosted tens of thousands of Guatemalan refugees. The project created agricultural jobs and other opportunities for Guatemalan refugees to build sustainable lives in Mexico, while simultaneously supporting the development of relatively impoverished areas of the peninsula. A number of other CIREFCA projects encouraged self-reliance on the part of refugees, empowering them to access opportunities both at home and in neighboring countries. For example, 62,000 Nicaraguans, 45,000 Guatemalans, and 27,000 Salvadorans returned home because integrated development projects cropped up in their local communities, schemes aimed at improving employment, infrastructure, and social services. In the end, CIREFCA is estimated to have channeled more than 422$ million in additional resources to the region, most of it from the United States and the EU. But CIREFCA was not just a one-off pledging conference: it was an ambitious political undertaking that lasted from 1987 to 1995. It led to sustainable solutions even for those who were not officially refugees, using the term “externally displaced persons” to capture the needs of people in migration situations that the traditional terminology failed to describe. Ultimately, CIREFCA did more than just address a migration crisis: it laid the foundations for two decades of relative peace in Central America.
ANCHORS, NOT WALLS What the Americas need today is a revival of the spirit of international cooperation that drove CIREFCA. The recently forged Global Compact on Refugees—endorsed at the UN General Assembly last year—is a step in the right direction. The agreement calls for responsibility sharing on refugee issues and encourages what could be termed “solidarity summits,” gatherings at which countries faced with major displacement challenges can present projects and proposals to the global donor community. Such summits would provide a platform for governments to agree on policies and norms around migrants, refugees, and those who fall in between. The summits would allow governments to pilot new approaches to forced displacement, creating mutually beneficial growth opportunities for both displaced populations and host communities. The most obvious place to start would be a solidarity summit to address Venezuelan refugees and migrants, since there is a clear consensus in South America on the need for cooperation and an existing institutional mechanism through which to achieve it. Such a meeting could be hosted by the so-called Quito Group, 11 countries that signed a declaration in 2018 in the Ecuadorian capital calling for “substantially increased” resources to deal with the crisis. Whichever countries from the group that were prepared to move forward with the initiative could do so. The UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration would play a key role. (Eduardo Stein, the two organizations’ joint special representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, called for a “coherent, predictable, and harmonized regional response” in August.) Ideally, the summit would lead to a sustained process resembling the one employed by CIREFCA, run by an intergovernmental secretariat and backed by donor countries in the global North. The main purpose of the process would be twofold: to channel international funding into development projects that will benefit both migrants and hostcountry citizens and to commit to common regional standards for the reception and recognition of migrants across countries. Rich countries such as Canada and the United States have strong incentives to contribute, given the risk that an anti-immigrant backlash across Latin America may spread populist and even revolutionary politics. The goal, above all, must be to expand some of the provisions traditionally available only to refugees to the survival migrants that are the face of today’s crisis. CIREFCA proved that such an approach can work, and its legacy is indisputably positive— the sustainable integration of thousands of refugees and other displaced populations. It is high time that the region embarked on a similar project, focused on building anchors rather than walls. This article was originally published in the November/ December 2019 issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine and on ForeignAffairs.com.
A Weekly Political News Magazine
Issue 1772- November- 01/11/2019
Emperor Naruhito of Japan Scholar, Anglophile and Breaker of Traditions www.majalla.com
From ‘Joker’ to ‘Hustlers’ to ‘Parasite’ Filmmakers Explore the Gap Between the Haves and Have-nots by Josh Rottenberg On the face of it, the gritty comic-book blockbuster “Joker,” the hit female-led crime drama “Hustlers,” the darkly comic Koreanlanguage thriller “Parasite” and the upcoming Agatha Christie-style whodunit “Knives Out” would appear to have little in common beyond the fact that they’re all, well, movies. Scratch beneath the surface of genre, though, and you’ll find that these films share a common preoccupation. In different ways, each tackles issues of economic disparity, exploring the gulf between society’s haves and have-nots that has widened dramatically since the 2008 financial crisis. While steering clear of overt partisan politics, their depiction of individuals, families
and entire societies buffeted and warped by the impacts of wealth inequality wouldn’t be out of place in a stump speech on the 2020 presidential campaign trail. Generally speaking, of course, Hollywood entertainment is designed to provide audiences with a temporary vacation from the real world with its endless parade of gloomy headlines. But as the gap between the rich and poor has grown ever wider — hitting a record in the U.S. in 2018, according to data released last month by the Census Bureau — it should come as no surprise to see filmmakers taking it on. “Films always respond to the world that they are born out of,” said writer-director Rian Johnson, whose “Knives Out,” in theaters Nov. 27, is a
A Lebanese demonstrator, her face painted as DC comic book and film character «The Joker», takes part in a protest in the capital Beirut›s downtown district›s Martyr›s Square on October 2019 ,19. (Getty)
murder mystery centered on a dysfunctional moneyed family and their decidedly less-well-off staff. “It’s unavoidable right now that we are in a world dealing with increased income disparity and you can feel it. At the same time, the tub of boiling water of the public discourse has been cranked up to 11. It’s no longer something that we all are in the privileged state of being able to dip in and out of. It’s very much the ocean that we’re all swimming in.” And audiences seem to be responding. Released in March, Jordan Peele’s horror film “Us,” a pointed commentary on class division in which a family is terrorized by their doppelgängers, earned 255$ million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing non-franchise film of the year thus far. Meanwhile, on the small screen, arguably
As the gap between the rich and poor has grown ever wider it should come as no surprise to see filmmakers taking it on the buzziest current show, HBO’s “Succession,” skewers the cutthroat machinations of an ultraaffluent clan headed by a Rupert Murdoch-like media baron. In director Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite,” which opens Friday, an impoverished family schemes its way into the employment of a rich one with increasingly dark and surprising consequences. The genre-scrambling film, which won the Palme
d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, has Oscar ambitions beyond the foreign-language category, and Bong believes it will resonate with audiences well outside his native South Korea, where it has already proven a box office smash. “The topic of the gap between rich and poor lends itself to being so universal,” Bong told The Times recently at the Telluride Film Festival, where the film earned a rapturous reception. “Every country has its own structures and conflicts regarding class, but when you really delve deep into the cave of capitalism and explore the infinite darkness of it, you find a similar sort of mechanism flows throughout. We’re all obsessed with class. Whenever we pass by people, whether they’re rich or poor, even if we only see them for three seconds, we see what kind of clothes they’re wearing, what watch they have, what phone they’re using, what car they’re getting out of.” In “Joker,” which broke box-office records this past weekend on a wave of controversy, the gap between the haves and have-nots becomes the breeding ground for chaos and violence, as the alienated, disturbed Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is driven to horrific acts of murder by an uncaring society. Though the film has the outward trappings of a comic-book film and is set in the fictitious city of Gotham circa the late ’70s-early ’80s, its depiction of a world bitterly divided between a marginalized underclass, personified by Fleck, and a callous elite, embodied by billionaire Thomas Wayne, felt deeply topical to director Todd Phillips. “Movies are often a reflection of where we are,” said Phillips, who co-wrote the film with Scott Silver. “We could say this movie was set in 1979 or 1981 but we wrote it in 2016 and 2017, so that stuff does come through.” A female-centric answer to films like “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Goodfellas,” “Hustlers”
views the issue of income inequality through the lens of gender, following a group of strippers who, struggling to make ends meet in the wake of the financial crisis, begin drugging Wall Street types who visit their club and running up their credit cards. Released last month, the film has grossed in excess of 100$ million globally, roughly five times its budget, striking a particular chord with female audiences at a time when women in America earn on average 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. “Stories like this had been told with men at the center but never with women,” said “Hustlers” producer Jessica Elbaum. “It spoke to themes of money, power, greed, control, the American dream. But it really started with what men and women are valued for and how different that is, just exploring that and breaking it down to the simplest terms. Women are valued for their bodies and men are valued for their wallets.” Though the film, directed by Lorene Scafaria and based on a true story, aims to avoid preachiness, “Hustlers” producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas said its implicit message is nevertheless clear. “The last line of the movie is, ‘The whole country is a strip club — some people are throwing the money and some people are doing the dance,’” Goldsmith-Thomas said. “It’s hard not to see it through the prism of the craziness of the reality we’re living in.”
Actress Park So Dam on stage during The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences official Academy screening of «Parasite» at the MoMA, Celeste Bartos Theater on October 2019 ,7 in New York City. (Getty)
With “Knives Out,” Johnson set out to make an homage to the whodunits he had loved growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, including films like “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Death on the Nile,” “Murder by Death” and “Clue.” But while the film plays as a fun, twisty romp through an old-fashioned genre, he also wanted to invest it with timely themes about the ways in which money and greed can warp people’s values. “This isn’t a message movie, but whodunits always have a strong moral point of view,” he said. “Growing up reading Agatha Christie’s books, that’s something I got straight from her. She’s known for building these elaborate
Though the film has the outward trappings of a comic-book film and is set in the fictitious city of Gotham circa the late ’70s-early ’80s, its depiction of a world bitterly divided between a marginalized underclass, personified by Fleck, and a callous elite, embodied by billionaire Thomas Wayne, felt deeply topical to director Todd Phillips. mousetraps, but there’s usually a moral center of the universe in her books.” That moral dimension was also on Bong’s mind when he was conceiving “Parasite.” Rather than create a piece of agitprop about the evils of concentrated wealth, he aimed to deliver something more nuanced, examining the human foibles that can be found at both extremes of the income spectrum. “The story is basically about infiltration,” he said. “You have the poor family who’s trying to feed off the rich family’s money and you have the rich family exploiting their labor. So they’re both parasites in a sense. There aren’t any complete villains or complete saints in this film. I think this gray zone more resembles the people we see in our daily lives. “The poor family are not perfect people, but they’re also not completely bad people. The rich family is the same — you see the disgusting sides to them, but you never really hate them. So who do we feel anger toward? That’s the question I wanted to ask. Originally published in the LA Times
Shining a Light’on Winter Depression Light Therapy Can Help You Avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder. by Harvard Men›s Health Watch Winter does not officially begin until Dec. 21, but as the days grow shorter and sunlight exposure becomes scarcer, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) becomes more common. SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the late fall and early winter and often ends by spring or early summer.
The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but research points to lack of light as the main contributor. «SAD is not a minor condition, but because people typically experience it only during certain months, they don›t see it as a serious issue. However, it is imperative to treat,» says Dr. Paolo Cassano, a psychiatrist who specializes in low-level light
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that occurs during the late fall and early winter and often ends by spring or early summer. of a major depressive episode include • feeling hopeless or worthless • losing interest in activities you once enjoyed • having problems with sleep • experiencing changes in your appetite or weight • feeling sluggish or agitated.
CHEMICAL IMBALANCES How does SAD occur? Sunlight exposure stimulates the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps control your circadian rhythm -- the body›s internal -24hour sleep-wake clock. Lack of light can throw off your circadian rhythm. This can cause your brain to produce too much of the sleep hormone melatonin and to release less serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical that affects mood. The result of this chemical imbalance? You feel low and lethargic. Other common symptoms of SAD include lack of sexual energy, overeating (especially from craving high-carbohydrate and high-calorie comfort food), and social withdrawal.
therapy at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
DO YOU HAVE SAD? For people to be formally diagnosed with SAD, they must meet the criteria for major depressive episodes coinciding with the fall and winter months for at least two years. Common symptoms
SAD affects more than just mood. It is also associated with impaired cognitive function, including problems with concentration and working memory -- like having trouble recalling just-learned information or finding the right words when speaking. People who live in the northern states, where there›s noticeably less light in fall and winter, tend to suffer more from SAD than those who live in the south. A family history of SAD or depression also raises your risk.
DRUGS AND LIGHT THERAPY The most common drugs used to treat SAD are antidepressants. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) primarily increases levels of dopamine, while selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) increase mostly serotonin levels. If medication is not for you, or you want to avoid drugs because of possible side effects, then light therapy may be a better option. The idea behind light therapy is to replace the missing sunshine with artificial light. Light therapy uses light boxes that produce a bright white light. As far as your brain is concerned, artificial light works just like natural sunlight. «Even if you don›t yet have the clinical signs and symptoms of SAD, using light therapy during the winter may help prevent it,» says Dr. Cassano. There are many light boxes available online. Here are some tips for finding the right one and using it correctly. Get enough exposure. Your light box should have 10,000 lux exposure. («Lux» is a measure of light intensity.) A bright sunny day is 50,000 lux or more. Don›t stare. Keep your eyes open, but don›t look directly at the light. Keep the box in front of you or
Light therapy uses light boxes that produce a bright white light. As far as your brain is concerned, artificial light works just like natural sunlight.
just off to the side and about a foot away. «Spend your time reading, meditating, or watching TV,» says Dr. Cassano. Get enough time. You should absorb light for about 30 minutes a day. You don›t have to do it all at once, either. Begin in the morning. Try to get in some light
time before 10 a.m.
headaches and irritability.
ÂŤAs days become longer and sunnier, you will use light therapy less often, or may even stop during the spring and summer except for the occasional cloudy weeks,Âť says Dr. Cassano.
Also, some medications, especially antibiotics like tetracycline, can make your skin more sensitive to light, and if you have a family history of macular degeneration, exposure to light therapy over the years may increase your risk. If any of these situations applies, check with your doctor before trying light therapy.
Light therapy is relatively safe, although there can be some minor, temporary side effects like
Emperor Naruhito of Japan Scholar, Anglophile and Breaker of Traditions by Moncef al-Mazghany and Ali El Shamy A Non-Traditional Royal Background Emperor Naruhito was born on February 1960 ,23, in the Imperial Household Agency Hospital at Tokyo Imperial Palace. As the eldest son of crown prince Akihito, he became third in line for succession since his grandfather Hirohito was still emperor at the time. When his father, Akihito, was crowned as emperor in 1989, the -28year-old Naruhito became Japan’s crown prince. His parents, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, were breakers of tradition. First and foremost, Michiko was a commoner and a Catholic and many traditionalists opposed the prospect of their marriage. However, love won the day as Akihito became the first Japanese crown prince to marry a commoner. As the royal couple, they also performed unprecedented acts such as visiting natural disaster victims in plainclothes and kneeling before them. Breaking Traditions Runs in the Family As crown prince, Naruhito would follow his parents’ example and break some traditions of his own. In 1978, the -18year-old Naruhito enrolled at Gakushūin University, and four years later he would become the first Japanese crown prince to earn a university degree. That wouldn’t the last of his academic pursuits, as he started his postgraduate studies at Gakushūin University’s Graduate School of Humanities just one month after earning his bachelor’s degree. His studies focused on history
with a specialization in medieval transport and distribution, he earned his master’s degree in 1988. During his postgraduate years, he also went to study at Merton College, Oxford in Britain from 1983 to 1985. The Oxford University Press would publish one of his academic studies in April 1989 entitled: The Thames as Highway: A study of Navigation and Traffic on the Upper Thames in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford University would give him an honorary degree in Law in 1991. In spite of his royal duties, he continued his academic career by becoming a guest researcher in the archives of Gakushūin University in 1992. He also gave a series of lectures on British society and traditions at that same institution. Like Father, Like Son One day in 1986, Naruhito was attending a tea reception held for Duchess Infanta Elena (daughter of former Spanish King Juan Carlos I). During the reception, he met Masako Owada who was working in the Japanese diplomatic sector. Naruhito was instantly captivated by her and like his father; he would fall in love with a commoner. However, Naruhito would take it a step further since his father was in love with, Michiko, a commoner with an upper-class background, while Masako wasn’t as fortunate. The enamored emperor to be soon pursued Masako, who was reportedly reluctant towards Naruhito’s advancements. Nevertheless, Naruhito’s love bug soon made its way to Masako’s heart and they got married 1993. When the crown prince proposed he made an important promise to
Masako; he would always protect her. In 2003, he proved word's worth when Masako came down with a stress-induced adjustment disorder and in spite of this, he remained by his wife’s side and supported her throughout her time of grave trials. Together the couple has one daughter, Princess Aiko, who was born on December 2001 ,1. Before his ascension, the family lived Tōgū Palace in Tokyo, the official residence of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess. Parliament Follows the Royal Family’s Example Ever since his coronation in 1989, Emperor Akihito has dedicated his life to serving the people of Japan and being a representative of the Japanese nation. He will forever be remembered for his acts of empathy, particularly towards those who suffered from the 1991 Nagasaki volcanic eruption and the 2011 Fukushima earthquake, respectively. However, his declining health meant that he couldn’t perform his royal duties with the same vigor as before and as a result, he foreshadowed his intention to abdicate the throne in the late 2010s something that hasn’t happened since 1817. However, the current royal family has shown time and again that it is willing to break from traditions, and in 2017, Japan’s National Diet (its legislature) followed the family’s example by issuing a bill that would allow the emperor to give up his throne for his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito. Akihito would formally abdicate on April 2019 ,30, and soon after his scholar son became the new Emperor of Japan, while Masako became the new Empress of Japan.
Will More Traditions Be Broken? Since Naruhito has no son, his younger brother Fumihito, Prince Akishino has become the new crown prince of Japan. However, Emperor Naruhito
might break another tradition and allow for a change in the succession law to pave the way for his daughter, Aiko, to succeed him. Such a change would likely need approval from the National Diet, which could also opt to change the law which
requires female royal family members to lose their royal status if they chose to marry a commoner. If such changes happen, then Aiko would become Japanâ€™s first empress regnant since Empress GoSakuramachi whose reign ended in 1771.