This analysis delves into the concerns surrounding debt-trap diplomacy in Kyrgyzstan by examining a leaked loan contract of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for the construction of the Alternative North-South Road. This unique occasion—as contracts are usually shrouded in confidentiality—sheds light on the dynamics of BRI lending in the region and on a global level. The analysis considers the political and economic implications of China's investments in Kyrgyzstan, aiming at investigating whether the investment is geared toward exerting political influence, as has been suggested by the active political debate around the narrative of debt-trap diplomacy. While acknowledging the limited data available, this analysis neither finds application for debt-trap diplomacy nor an active attempt by Chinese entities to utilize contractual provision, even though on paper the contract could allow for the latter. Despite the lack of hard evidence, the paper contributes to the academic debate by shifting attention from broader geopolitical considerations and the debt-trap narrative, to increased scrutiny of contractual provisions in large-scale infrastructure projects, in which BRI lending indeed appears to differentiate itself.
When does China use force to settle territorial disputes? This paper leverages data from the Correlates of War project and Stanford’s Mapping Interstate Territorial Conflict repository to demonstrate that China takes different approaches to settling terrestrial and sea-based disputes. While China has tacitly accepted the territorial status quo and generally used force only after a rival challenged extant terrestrial boundaries, it has initiated revisions to the territorial status quo in the maritime domain. This paper contends that China takes different approaches to its terrestrial disagreements and maritime disputes due to the Chinese Communist Party’s internal risk calculus. While land-based disputes can stoke unmanageable levels of escalation, factors specific to the maritime domain are more likely to keep militarized incidents contained.
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) faces significant challenges in agricultural productivity, with cereal yields far below the global average. Despite improvements in other regions, absolute poverty has increased in SSA over the past three decades. The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted weaknesses in the region's food security system, exacerbated by pre-existing structural issues. This paper emphasizes the importance of empowering women in agriculture, as they constitute a substantial portion of the agricultural labor force in SSA and play a vital role in food production. However, women encounter gender-specific constraints in addition to systemic challenges. Recognizing these issues, the paper proposes that the African Development Bank (AfDB) prioritize female-centric agricultural cooperatives in its strategy, aiming to improve agricultural productivity, empower women, and achieve Sustainable Development Goals. While some multilateral and bilateral initiatives exist, a comprehensive continent-wide program is lacking. The AfDB's agro-industrial strategy, Feed Africa, provides an opportunity to support farming cooperatives, with a specific focus on female empowerment. Despite some existing investments in female farming cooperatives, the AfDB should allocate more resources to help them realize their full potential. The paper highlights the need to bridge the investment gap between large-scale projects and cooperative support, emphasizing the importance of a strategic vision beyond mere productivity improvement and calling for concerted efforts to improve gender equality and enhance agricultural productivity through female-centric cooperatives in Africa.
This paper explores the climate change, conflict, and state-building nexus, challenging the prevailing one-dimensional view of this relationship. While global actors like the UN Security Council and the European Union recognize climate change as a "threat multiplier" that intensifies conflict risks, this paper argues that state-building processes can also significantly influence the impact of climate change. By examining the story of Basra, Iraq, this case study highlights how Iraq's vulnerability to climate change is not solely a consequence of environmental factors but also stems from the enduring legacy of decades of war. This vulnerability, coupled with the state's limited monopoly of violence, creates a feedback loop wherein non-state actors strengthen their control over territory and resources as the state’s climate change vulnerability increases. The findings of this analysis have implications for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, underscoring the need to address both conflict dynamics and state-building processes to effectively tackle climate change.
Transitions of power mark an inflection point in any society. They come about in all forms—elections, successions, coups, and conflicts—but in each case, it is an instance of a country embarking on a new path. In the field of development economics, it is thus essential to understand how the level of success of these power transitions impact the development of the nation. Specifically, the authors of this paper set out to determine to what extent change in foreign direct investment flows can be explained by the level of success of a transition of power. We conclude that maintaining or increasing good governance practices during a transition of power is a significant explanatory factor for changes in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and discuss the potential policy implications.
In the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, Rwandan President Paul Kagame banned people from sharing their ethnic identity. While many Western leaders have praised Kagame for ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity after the genocide, activists have cautioned that Kagame’s approach has significant drawbacks for the civil liberties of Rwandans. After their own ethnic conflict, Ethiopia took an approach opposite to Rwanda’s, choosing to divide the country into ethnically federated states. Given that both sub-Saharan African states experienced ethnic conflict in the 1990s and developed starkly different approaches to conflict management, comparing the two makes for an interesting case study. This paper evaluates Rwanda’s and Ethiopia’s approaches to ethnic conflict management by examining how effective they were at curbing the resurgence of violence. In addition to direct violence, this paper will examine political rights and civil liberties to measure the mitigation of structural violence, or structural inequalities between groups. The Uppsala Conflict Data Programme (UCDP) database is used to measure the resurgence of direct violence, while Freedom House’s Freedom in the World reports on political rights and civil liberties are used to measure structural violence.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Congress transferred nearly $1 trillion USD to state and local governments between April 2020 and March 2021 to support vaccination efforts, keep schools open, and sustain economic recovery. As of March 2023, much of this money remained unspent, raising questions about the underlying process of determining the size and distribution of aid. This paper explores how Google search data and machine learning models can work in real-time to assist policy makers in evaluating fiscal policy proposals. These results are among the first pieces of evidence that economic models can feasibly integrate alternative sources of data to provide real-time estimates of economic activity at the state level. The author’s models provide reliable and accurate estimates of state and local fiscal need and indicate the states that need relief the most months ahead of official estimates. The more tailored models presented in this paper could lead to more equitable and effective outcomes at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers when used to inform emergency fiscal stimulus distribution in the future.
The Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2010 created a federal program to advance community living for people with disabilities. This program’s enactment followed the Supreme Court’s 1999 ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. which categorized unnecessary institutionalization and segregated living of people with disabilities as discriminatory. In the intervening years, amid the continued fallout of the Great Recession, the COVID-19 pandemic, and an ever-challenged affordable housing stock, it is prudent to evaluate the Melville Act’s effectiveness in achieving its goals from a national and programmatic perspective.
This piece has been published as a complementary extension to a previous paper published by Carleton University’s Jean Monnet Network on EU-Canada Relations in partnership with the University of Antwerp. Read that piece here.