After various stretches of lockdowns and the related dire political, social, and economic consequences, the world has welcomed the news that several companies – including Moderna, AstraZeneca and Pfizer – are approaching an effective vaccine for Covid-19. Approximately 200 more are in the pipeline, of which 48 in clinical and 164 in pre-clinical stages of development. While there is thus hope on the horizon, for low and lower-middle income countries the roll-out of the vaccine will be enormously expensive, whatever option is eventually selected. As such, the life-saving vaccine may bring ramifications for future prioritization within domestic health budgets as well as allocations in foreign aid budgets.
In the past weeks, the Nigerian city of Lagos had been rocked by numerous youth-led protests against police brutality by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, also known as SARS. These protests which started peacefully turned deadly with numerous reports accusing the Nigerian police officers of shooting the demonstrators, resulting in at least 10 deaths and dozens more wounded.
As ongoing post-electoral violence across West-Africa continues, especially in countries such as Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, the region is forced to urgently address the implications of long-term economic decline and poor governance systems.
We can all learn and draw inspiration from stories of ordinary people who care for others and resist oppression while risking their own lives. Such stories are often overlooked in both the media and in much research on conflict zones.
On 19 November 2020 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the most senior US politician to officially visit an Israeli settlement on the occupied West Bank. This visit, and his ensuing statement that products from Israeli settlements can be labeled as “Made in Israel”, mark the swan song of US support for the two-state solution.
In my experience, successful peace processes are marked by close interaction between actors who engage with the process for a long time, know the conflict and the parties well, and gain their trust. Trust is more important than anything else. The long-term actors might be from NGOs or from civil society. They certainly don’t have to be people from political circles. They are vitally important in the first, most difficult phase, when the process is vulnerable, and trust is gradually built. This creates a foundation for the UN to play a role in later stages. The UN is a large apparatus, and when it enters a process, the dynamic is immediately changed. However, at some point it is often necessary to have UN agencies on board, not least when a peace agreement has been signed, in the demobilization phase, when there is a need for monitoring, and when it’s time to disarm non-state actors and organize the surrender of weapons. At this stage, the role of UN agencies can be critical.
Humanity has been extraordinarily challenged by the coronavirus with serious and unprecedented impacts on all aspects of human life and the ways states have been functioning and managing public affairs. COVID-19 may either consolidate global solidarity or it may take humanity on a path toward the demise of globalization and multilateralism. There is no doubt that the world will not be the same again after the end of this pandemic.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy secured yet another large majority in the Myanmar parliament in the national election. But, despite the Nobel peace laureate’s party being in power since 2015, progress in the war-torn and troubled country remains hampered by both structural restraints and the absence of political will.
The Biden Administration will be perceived differently by the various actors involved in the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” and the so-called peace process. Yet, its position as a “dishonest broker for peace” will remain the constant variable, in line with previous US Administrations. It is not speculative to argue that the Biden Administration will follow a well-trodden, yet failed, US policy towards Israel-Palestine in an attempt to achieve peace, albeit it might introduce some minor cosmetic changes.
With a winner finally announced in the US election, researchers at the PRIO Middle East Centre present a few thoughts on what a Biden presidency could mean for the Middle East. What are likely to be the guiding foreign policy principles of a Biden administration and how will regional and international actors’ positions be impacted? Much will depend, naturally, on the as yet undetermined foreign policy team Joe Biden will select.