The facts are quite straightforward: on March 9 Saudi Arabia blocked a planned speech by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström at the League of Arab States in Cairo. Wallström, a strong critic of the Saudi’s human rights record, told the Swedish agency TT:
The explanation we have received is that Sweden has drawn attention to the situation of democracy and human rights [in Saudi Arabia], and that is why they do not want me to speak.
The next day, in apparent retaliation, Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven confirmed that his country would not extend a military cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia, which included an important amount of arms sales to the Gulf monarchy. Finally, today, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Stockholm.Read more
The new Greek government has finally bent under the pressure of its European partners. After a 10-days-long negotiation in Brussels, the “Grexit” is no longer on the agenda (it’s been put off, but surely not forever) and the main actors of the play have left the scene almost completely unscathed. Greece wanted more flexibility in the macroeconomic field, and the Germany-led coalition of creditors wanted a firm commitment on internal, productivity-enhancing reforms. Both have partly achieved their goals, sharp rhetoric aside.Read more
During the first years of the financial crisis there seemed to be a broad consensus around the need to undertake reforms in the decision-making system of the international financial institutions to be able to better manage, in the future, the cyclical crisis that the current capitalist system generates once in a while.
How to accommodate China, India and other emerging economies in the Bretton Woods system became a hotly debated topic, mainly due to the fast growth rates these countries were experiencing and the fact that their strengthened economic position was not duly reflected in their voting share within those institutions.Read more
In my last post I tried to provide an overall view of how Colombia will look like if a peace agreement between the government and the FARC-EP is signed. I focused mainly on economics (GDP, national budget, investments) and on how the many singularities of the Colombian armed conflict can make predictions based on other international experiences quite misleading.
I mentioned how a scenario of fragmented demobilization is not out of the table, and I also pointed out to some reasons why I think the levels of violence, at least when measured through the homidice rate, are not likely to significantly decrease in the short term, due in part to the fact that most of the homicides are unrelated to the conflict, and in part because the violence perpetrated by other non-state actors beyond FARC-EP is not expected to decline.Read more
Once a war ends, or is on the brink of its end, speculation mounts over the benefits brought about by the arrival of a new era of peace.
During this period, some things become clearer than others: on the one hand it’s the end of the squandering of life and the human suffering entailed by war, relatively easy to measure in terms of lives saved and other war-related indicators such as the number of internally-displaced persons, refugees, wounded or kidnapped as a result of the conflict; on the other, and this is especially relevant for long-lasting wars, there are other indirect benefits, more difficult to weigh, account and predict. Among the latter, the economic benefits of peace (the so-called “peace dividend”) hold a prominent position, while other social and cultural returns have been less studied.Read more
These are turbulent times for Southern European countries. Beyond the social costs of what many feel as a never ending economic crisis, the traditional political parties of the left are at the brink of collapse (Spain), if they are not already extinct (Greece). Many analysts talk about the end of the “political middle” which would have characterized the last decades of European integration in the Mediterranean countries, giving way to a new era of radical politics and policies (left and right alike), with more polarization and less willingness to compromise on all sides.
Too often, at least when playing for a domestic audience, these new political groups frame the political debate as “anti-”, looking for an elusive coherence while being anti-corruption, anti-austerity and anti-Europe at the same time. Both Syriza, already in the government in Greece, and Podemos, which has high chances of being elected to power in Spain, would be the main exponents of this new movement (or awakening, as some of their most nationalistic supporters like to term it.)Read more
Prestige, access to information and, above all, power, seem to be the main factors driving countries to run for a seat on the UN Security Council. Less studied, though, are the different ways this power is utilized once there, and, more specifically, what being a member of the world body means for developing countries in terms of economic performance and democratic outcomes.
Recently, a number of papers have shed some light on this issue.Read more
Rankings, classifications and indexes of all sorts have proliferated during the last couple of decades, making country-level comparisons easier and allowing for a better understanding of regional and world trends on such matters as poverty, women’s empowerment, corruption, inequality, CO2 emissions, human rights’ compliance and the like.
These easy-to-understand lists, which are quite welcomed by the press for their simplicity and their visual attractiveness, are becoming not only more common but also more accurate, since this phenomenon grew out of a much freer access to a more thorough statistical data and also hand in hand with the development of new methods that allow for complex analysis of large volumes of information and therefore much better comparisons.Read more
According to the website of the European Union’s executive body, “the democratic deficit is a concept invoked principally in the argument that the European Union and its various bodies suffer from a lack of democracy and seem inaccessible to the ordinary citizen because their method of operating is so complex.”Read more