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.
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.
Forced and coerced sterilizations, far from being a relic of the past, remain a widespread and troubling practice throughout the world. In the Americas, numerous countries have been accused of carrying out state-sponsored campaigns of forced sterilizations against indigenous, Afro-descendant, poor, and/or intellectually disabled women, in what amounts to an appalling act of violence and targeted erasure of marginalized communities. While international jurisprudence on forced sterilizations is limited, the Inter-American Human Rights System has been at the forefront of confronting this issue of reproductive justice. Through an analysis of two landmark cases at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, this paper explores the strides that have been made and the gaps that remain for survivors of forced sterilization to receive justice.
LGBTQ+ rights are gaining attention in national and international political discourse and policymaking. Despite recent progress, complex challenges still stand in the way of establishing human rights for LGBTQ+ communities around the world. One such challenge is the uneven progress towards LGBTQ+ rights caused by conflicts between progressive policy and conservative norms, which poses a threat to the progress that has been made and may lead to worsening conditions for LGBTQ+ people. Within the context of Latin America and Cuba specifically, this paper explores whether progressive policy alone is sufficient for enabling change, and the relationship between policy and norms: does policy shift with norms? Or do norms shift with policy? With a unique history and culture, and some of the strongest pro-LGBTQ+ policies in the region, Cuba provides an opportunity to examine these questions and provides critical insights for literature that is otherwise underdeveloped.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the influence that private pharmaceutical companies and philanthropic foundations have on global health governance. Private actors have been able to maintain the norm of intellectual property rights, despite opposition from developing countries and growing opposition from powerful actors in developed countries. This article examines how private actors have wielded their material resources, expert authority, and discursive powers to overrule the wishes of governments. It concludes by exploring the public health consequences of their growing hold on international governance and offers some policy recommendations to mitigate distorted public health outcomes.
Accessing healthy and affordable food is highly intertwined with the biggest challenges of our century, such as climate change or conflict resolution. The United Nations has established eliminating hunger as one of the seventeen goals of the international community to achieve sustainable development. The largest part of the food the world consumes is produced by smallholders, peasants and Indigenous communities, but their own food sovereignty is not always practically implemented. This paper explores the extent to which Indigenous Peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon are able to practice food sovereignty, and traces colonialism’s continuous influence on the application of international law to this marginalized community. Though the Indigenous concept of Buen Vivir is linked to food sovereignty and was integrated into the Ecuadorian constitution since 2008, post-neoliberalism, land ownership issues, access to seeds, the use of chemical fertilizers within agriculture, and tourism in the Amazon are all elements impeding its realization.
Since 2005, Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, has become infamous for being one of the most polluted cities in the world. In response to growing public concerns over air pollution, on May 15, 2019, the Government of Mongolia (GoM) implemented a ban on raw coal – a type of fuel that poor citizens in the city use to survive harsh winters in the world’s coldest capital – and introduced “refined coal briquettes” at a subsidized price close to the price of raw coal. Since the COVID-19 outbreak and the country-wide economic shutdown, lower-income families are struggling to afford food, let alone refined coal briquettes; as a result, they are resorting to burning cheap, dirty fuel, including trash to keep themselves warm. Despite GoM’s efforts to reduce air pollution, in October 2020, Ulaanbaatar’s air quality, again, ranked the worst in the world, ahead of Lahore, Pakistan; Delhi, India; Chengdu, China, and other cities infamous for hazardous levels of air quality. While reducing raw coal consumption is critical to improving air quality, the raw coal ban is not a panacea to solving Mongolia’s air pollution. Poverty is the true culprit behind Ulaanbaatar’s subpar air quality. If Mongolia is to sustainably reduce air pollution, the raw coal ban must be accompanied by social and economic policies that aim to lift people out of poverty.
Since the 5th World Parks Congress in Durban (2003) and the 7th COP on Biological Diversity in Kuala Lumpur (2004), the definition of protected areas has evolved. Protected areas now to incorporate principles of participation and inclusion, as well as of traditional and local knowledge. This adjustment shed light on the role of non-state actors, including indigenous peoples and local communities, as guarantors of conservation, and marked a decisive turning point in the evolution of international policies on this issue. Despite the growing awareness of the importance of biodiversity conservation and the role played by local communities to this end, national legislation and policies in Morocco do not yet give due recognition to areas conserved by local communities. Articulated around the case study of a traditional natural resource management regime - the agdal - practiced by communities of the Moroccan Atlas, this paper highlights the extent to which traditional modes of managing common-pool resources (CPR) are compatible with a government’s strategy to decentralize natural resource management. This paper finds that despite the benefits that community-conserved areas and territories represent for maintaining ecosystems, traditions, and livelihoods, as well as their advantages in terms of decentralization, these practices are under threat due to a lack of policies and programs directly supporting or recognizing communities' agency over local natural resources.