Central Asia and Coronavirus: When Being Nomadic Isn’t Enough

Central Asia and Coronavirus: When Being Nomadic Isn’t Enough

Friday, April 3, 2020

By: Gavin Helf, Ph.D.

“Do you know how nomads prevent conflict?” a Kazakh friend once asked me. “I turn this way; you turn the other way. We start walking.” In ordinary times in Central Asia, this traditional “social distancing” may be enough to avert friction. But in a time of pandemic, it isn’t. Like elsewhere, the novel coronavirus is challenging Central Asian states and societies in new ways and revealing a great deal about the character of peoples and their governments. Here’s a look across the region at how the crisis has affected its states and how leaders have responded.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience

Six Challenges Facing a Fragile Middle East Amid Coronavirus

Six Challenges Facing a Fragile Middle East Amid Coronavirus

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

By: Ambassador Hesham Youssef

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven a challenge even for wealthy countries with the most robust health care systems. For the Middle East—a region with no shortage of dangerous pre-existing conditions—it could be far worse. The virus now appears to be spreading to a part of the world where, over the past decade, conflict and displacement have become widespread while effective governance and social cohesion have eroded.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience

In Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians Face a Common Foe in Coronavirus

In Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians Face a Common Foe in Coronavirus

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

By: Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen; Robert Barron

On March 22, authorities in Gaza affirmed the inevitable: the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip. Gazan officials reported that the two men were immediately quarantined upon entry via Egypt’s Rafah border crossing with the enclave and have remained there, along with all those who had been in contact with them. Yet, since then, the number of confirmed cases has jumped to 10, and the question of how long a further spread of the virus into Gaza can be contained weighs heavily for this densely populated territory, long beleaguered by wars and severe deficiencies in its healthcare infrastructure.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Don’t Leave Fragile States Behind in the Fight Against Coronavirus

Don’t Leave Fragile States Behind in the Fight Against Coronavirus

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

By: Corinne Graff

Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, the virus has demonstrated it can infect anyone, anywhere. The disease has affected 179 countries and regions and has spread to all 50 U.S. states. Yet if the pandemic has spread far and wide, its impacts have not been the same everywhere. The disease may be taking radically different trajectories, even among wealthy countries. While it may be too early to tell how the disease’s spread will play out in specific countries, one thing is certain: the world’s fragile states—where the social contract between citizens and the state is severed or weak—are likely to be the hardest hit, and that could pose a significant risk to the global pandemic response.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience

Dismembering Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance

Dismembering Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

By: William Byrd

In Afghanistan, where corruption and ineffective government have hampered efforts to build a functioning state, the Ministry of Finance has been a standout performer. Competently run since as early as 2002, the ministry collects substantial revenue, manages aid inflows, pays public employees, funds key public services and has won the confidence of donors. Now, all that is threatened. The Afghan government is eviscerating the ministry—carving out key constituent parts, putting them directly under the presidential palace, and gravely weakening one of the country’s most effective institutions. It’s a move that’s bad for Afghanistan’s governance and financial viability. It will harm the country’s development and jeopardizes the sustainability of peace if an agreement is reached with the Taliban.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment

The Coronavirus Requires Global Cooperation—Now

The Coronavirus Requires Global Cooperation—Now

Monday, March 30, 2020

By: Tyler Beckelman

As the world’s privileged cope with the COVID pandemic through telework and sheltering at home, millions of people face grim struggles for survival, packed into informal settlements or camps for people already displaced in war-torn or fragile states. Governments have missed opportunities for a stronger international response, partly because of great-power rivalries. The economically powerful Group of 20 nations and international financial institutions have made a start at buoying the world’s economy—but other multilateral forums are mired in stasis. The U.N. Security Council should act to get ahead of the pandemic in fragile states and seize the moment to advance peace in some of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Fragility & Resilience

Four Lessons from Outbreaks in Africa for the Age of Coronavirus

Four Lessons from Outbreaks in Africa for the Age of Coronavirus

Monday, March 30, 2020

By: Aly Verjee

As the coronavirus pandemic continues and new behavioral practices—from social distancing to avoiding handshakes and hugs—become expected norms overnight, there are crucial policy lessons to be learned from struggles against previous outbreaks of disease in Africa. Despite widespread poverty, weak infrastructure, and relatively few health professionals, there is an encouraging, long record of African countries—often with significant international assistance and cooperation—eventually managing to overcome dire health challenges. For non-African countries already facing large numbers of COVID-19 infections, as well as for African countries where the epidemic is now at an early stage, policymakers would do well to recall these four lessons of past epidemics—of both what to do and, perhaps almost as importantly, what not to do to confront this global threat.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Human Rights

Coronavirus Puts Systems for International Cooperation to the Test

Coronavirus Puts Systems for International Cooperation to the Test

Monday, March 30, 2020

By: Dr. William J. Long

The spread of infectious diseases can foster opportunities for international cooperation, even between rivals. During the Cold War, for example, American and Soviet scientists collaborated to develop and improve a polio vaccine. The unprecedented challenges posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic put in stark relief the need for enhanced international cooperation. What role can the United States play in building such cooperation? In his 2011 book “Pandemics and Peace,” published in 2011 by USIP Press, Dr. William Long contended that infectious disease control presents an unparalleled opportunity for American leadership in global public health. Long looks back at the recommendations he made for U.S. global health policy and how they are relevant today and at how other outbreaks in recent years have led to increased cooperation.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Nonviolent Action in the Time of Coronavirus

Nonviolent Action in the Time of Coronavirus

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

By: Jonathan Pinckney; Miranda Rivers

Last year saw a wave of nonviolent action movements, mostly relying on tactics of large public protests and sit-ins as people took to the streets from Hong Kong to Chile to demand greater democracy, economic equality, and social justice. Some of these movements, like the revolution that successfully ousted Sudan’s longtime authoritarian ruler Omar al-Bashir, achieved many of their goals. Others, like the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, were still seeking major demands from the government when news of the rapid spread of a novel coronavirus began coming out of central China.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Nonviolent Action

Can Algeria’s Protest Movement Bring Fundamental Change?

Can Algeria’s Protest Movement Bring Fundamental Change?

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

By: Thomas M. Hill

Last year, Algerians massed in peaceful protests against the authoritarian, 20-year presidency of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, prompting the military to force his resignation. The demonstrations have brought millions to the streets, demanding greater transparency in government and an end to pervasive corruption within the shadowy mix of military, business, and political elites who dominate the country. While the popular movement has forced once-unthinkable resignations and criminal investigations of powerful figures, its push for more a fundamental overhaul is stalled. The movement, called the Hirak, can continue its pattern of twice-weekly demonstrations, hoping for more government concessions. Or it can adapt its strategy to move beyond the current stalemate. Either approach could risk greater conflict.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention