Secretary of State Antony Blinken was forced to cut short his first trip to Southeast Asia this week, scrapping plans to meet with Thai officials due to COVID-19 concerns. That talks with Thailand, specifically, were put on hold is an unfortunate development. Because while Blinken’s agenda for the trip was wide-ranging, the crisis in Myanmar was at the top of his list. And with a nearly 1500-mile border and close ties with Myanmar’s military junta, Thailand has the greatest stake in Myanmar’s future among ASEAN countries. As the world discusses a strategy for addressing the crisis in Myanmar, Thailand’s potential influence — especially with respect to humanitarian access — could prove consequential.
India’s second wave of COVID has quickly turned into one of the worst outbreaks in the world. Since early March, official cases and deaths have skyrocketed, recently breaking world records on an almost daily basis. Meanwhile, Indian officials are warning the country’s health care system cannot keep up with the deluge of patients as supplies run thin, exposing India’s ailing health infrastructure. USIP’s Tamanna Salikuddin and Vikram Singh look at the origins of India’s second wave, its far-reaching consequences in the global fight against COVID and what the international community can and should do to help India weather the storm.
The global economy is projected to rebound from the effects of COVID-19 in 2021, but the world’s most fragile states may not share in the upswing. Saddled with economic collapse and soaring debt, developing economies are likely to be left further behind after shrinking about 5 percent last year, according to World Bank estimates. As a result, over 55 million people could be plunged deeper into poverty, fueling social and political grievances and increasing the risks of instability.
With the novel coronavirus emerging in late 2019, the attention of Western governments and international NGOs was dominated by the COVID pandemic in 2020, upending everything from domestic policies to international assistance priorities. The Devex funding database reveals more than $20.5 trillion has been committed to the global COVID-19 response from January to November 2020, with around $186 million for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Does this prioritization of COVID align with challenges facing the people of the region? Conversations with local peacebuilders expose that although the COVID cases might increase in 2021, pressing socioeconomic needs continue to trump concerns about the pandemic.
As the world deploys unprecedented measures to stem the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the assistance that many struggling people see as a beacon of hope also raises the risk for unchecked corruption. Without a strong counterbalance demanding transparency and accountability, built at the grassroots level, anti-corruption agendas could face a debilitating blow as the pandemic wears on. However, despite the acute vulnerability of the current moment, there is emerging hope that the urgency of the pandemic could also help jumpstart solutions to perennial problems in the anti-corruption space.
Over two months later, there are still more questions than answers regarding the Beirut explosion that killed over 200 people and damaged large swaths of Lebanon’s capital city. Meanwhile, the fallout from the explosion has forced the resignation of Lebanon’s government, which had already been under fire after months of protests over corruption and a deteriorating economy. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Osama Gharizi look at where the blast investigation stands, what’s holding up the formation of a new government, and what a new outbreak of COVID-19 means for Lebanon.
As the United States and other international actors assess the wreckage reaped by the coronavirus pandemic around the world, estimates are that an unprecedented level of aid will be needed to mitigate its worst impacts in fragile states. Given the ballooning costs of COVID-response efforts, the U.S. will need to deepen its partnerships with other international donors and local actors to bolster accountable and inclusive institutions and prevent conflicts and violence from escalating. Equally important, but less discussed, these international efforts will need to focus on managing a more complex global risk landscape that is emerging from the pandemic.
In the United States, there is no shortage of public opinion data on nearly every question imaginable. But in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, such data is more scarce and policymakers often lack detailed insights into citizen perceptions and concerns. Now, new evidence from USIP-commissioned surveys conducted in May and July 2020 of more than 10,000 Nigerians has found new relationships between violent conflict and the coronavirus response. The data shows that victims of violence are more likely to distrust the Nigerian government’s response to coronavirus.
As COVID starts to surge in Syria, the pandemic poses extraordinary challenges in one of the world’s most complex conflict zones. Nearly a decade of war has left Syria’s health care system in shambles. With supplies and trained personnel scarce, medical providers have struggled to meet the needs of millions of displaced Syrians. Meanwhile, medical workers have not been spared from the violence—despite international condemnation, health care facilities have been targeted by military strikes over 500 times since 2011.
As the humanitarian and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, so does the risk that this crisis will fuel new conflicts around the world, while stymying prospects for resolving ongoing ones. The global health crisis is triggering devastating levels of food insecurity and unemployment, especially in the world’s most fragile states, where the social contract between citizens and the state is severed and societies are fragmented and vulnerable to violence. These trends will almost certainly lead to a future spike in instability across these countries, unless concerted international action is taken.