According to the recently released 2022 U.S. National Security Strategy, China and Russia “are increasingly aligned with each other but the challenges they pose are, in important ways, distinct.” These challenges are felt all around the world, not least in Europe and the United States. All too rarely explored, however, is when and how Beijing and Moscow coordinate or cooperate and what this means for the United States and its allies and partners.
In natural environments and in human societies, pressure for change can build up gradually for years, then suddenly reach a point of no return. Living in the new “Anthropocene” era of climate crisis, people worldwide are increasingly aware of the linkages between ecological, social and political stability. Stress in one of these domains can contribute to a rupture in others. According to human geographer Sango Mahanty, such a rupture is “a dramatic episode of nature-society disruption that is adverse, intense, and ripples across scales” of space and time. In Southeast Asia, one of the most visible instances of rupture is the explosion of dam construction on the Mekong River and its tributaries.
Ahead of this week’s summit, USIP’s Joseph Sany says the United States has shifted its approach toward the continent: “Long gone are the days where America will come and dictate solutions. This time around, we are willing to listen and support African solutions for African problems.”
Tunisia’s transition to democracy remains incomplete and under stress. Since the presidential measures to suspend the parliament, dismiss the government and draft a new constitution were enacted in 2021, socioeconomic conditions have continued to deteriorate, and risks of unrest have increased. Meanwhile, the ambitions of the 2011 revolution for rule of law, accountability, economic prosperity and human dignity are far from being realized. USIP works with Tunisians to improve national and local governance and security, rebuild trust and strengthen civil society.
The countries of Coastal West Africa are currently facing significant challenges to peace and security as extremist violence spills over from the neighboring Sahel region. Attacks in 2022 in the northern parts of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Togo illustrate the immediacy and gravity of the threat, and governments across the subregion are grappling with protecting fragile communities in the north, addressing porous borders that facilitate attacks from neighboring states, and building the capacity of security forces to address the threat.
Since the Taliban’s August 2021 takeover of Afghanistan, they have ratcheted up restrictions on women and girls as the group consolidates power. These restrictions include limitations on employment, education, public interactions and other fundamental rights such as access to justice. These restrictions have only tightened over time with increasingly draconian enforcement — the latest being public floggings that harken back to the Taliban’s 1990s rule. Amid the U.N.’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, USIP has compiled a comprehensive archive of Taliban decrees and public statements on the treatment of women and girls. While leaders and activists around the globe strategize and develop plans to address gender-based violence in their respective countries, Afghanistan stands out as a worst-case example, with two decades of hard-won progress rapidly unwinding.
The U.S. government is gathering this month’s second U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit not least because the swiftly rising challenges of the 21st century are pushing Africa squarely to the center of global and U.S. interests. Managing increased violent conflict, climate degradation and human displacement all depend on a better U.S.-African partnership, one that shares an interest in strengthening the democratic rule of law within and among nations. Democracy has eroded, globally and in Africa, since the first U.S.-Africa summit eight years ago — but this month’s conference can reverse that pattern, say two USIP experts, both former ambassadors in Africa.
U.N. Security Council (UNSC) reform has been a long-standing demand from many in the international community, but calls for an overhaul of the institution have grown louder amid renewed interest in democratizing the international system and addressing historical exclusion and injustices in its core institutions. And in a major development this past September, President Biden told the U.N. General Assembly the United States would support reforming the Security Council — specifically mentioning the addition of permanent members from Africa.
After protests forced China to ease its zero-COVID policies, Xi Jinping will need to weigh socioeconomic stability against his authoritarian aims, says USIP’s Andrew Scobell: “You’re seeing domestically what many countries have noticed China doing beyond its borders: Being more assertive or aggressive.”
South Asia’s Brahmaputra has been cited as one of the basins most at risk for interstate water conflict. While violent conflict has occurred between China and India within the Brahmaputra’s basin boundaries, the risks of conflict over water are in fact low. This is in part because China functionally contributes less to the Brahmaputra’s flow than is commonly perceived and in part because, despite its massive volume, the river can contribute little to solving India’s significant water security challenges. Nonetheless, the Brahmaputra is and will continue to be intimately connected to Sino-Indian tensions largely through the use of water infrastructure investment as a form of territorial demarcation and control.