The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was created in 1991 as a multilateral development bank (MDB) to help former Soviet states in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) transition to market-based democracies. In roughly two decades of existence, the EBRD has failed to successfully transition the states it works with, and consequently has failed to fulfill its mandate. In order to be a more effective MDB the EBRD needs to invest in more effective aid channels.
The appearance of three mystery tanks in east Ukraine may be a serious escalation of the conflict (as Russia throws extra military hardware into the fray) or another one of those desperate attempts to prove a Russian presence. I honestly don’t know, but until we have more solid data, I hope people will be cautious about accepting the “they must be Russian tanks” line uncritically. I hope, but don;’t expect: even if some caution ends up buried in the text, the headlines are already taking it at face value that Russian tanks have rolled into Ukraine. But:
While the international media has reported on the surge of violence that has plagued many parts of Iraq including Samarra, an Iraqi city lying directly north of Baghdad, few have actually described the true nature of the clashes. Samarra, which is a predominantly Sunni city, finds itself once again in the middle of a violent storm as Islamic militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have attempted to seize control of the city and purge it of all Shia residents.
Palestinians are yet to achieve national unity despite the elation over the ‘national unity government’ now in operation in Ramallah. One has to be clear in the distinction between a Hamas-Fatah political arrangement necessitated by regional and international circumstances, and Palestinian unity. What has been agreed upon in the Shati’ (Beach) refugee camp in April, which lead to the formation of a transitional government in the West Bank in June, has little to do with Palestinian unity.
Two centrally important countries in South Asia recently had elections that attracted international attention – India and Afghanistan. India’s newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, believed by many to be a Hindu nationalist, pleasantly surprised many by inviting Pakistan’s prime minister for his swearing-in ceremony. Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to his credit, resisted pressure from hawks within his own country and attended Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.
On Nov. 1, 2004, Jaswant Singh, then opposition leader in the upper house of India’s parliament, shared an anecdote with the U.S. ambassador during a conversation in his official residence in the prime minister’s compound in New Delhi. Singh, who previously was finance, defense and foreign minister, told Ambassador David Mulford that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had made three major efforts to end hostility with Pakistan: First in Lahore in 1999; then in Agra in 2001; and again in Srinagar in 2003.
Amid the horrors of the Syrian conflict, the humanitarian response by Turkey has been nothing short of heroic. While Europe has largely closed its borders to Syria’s refugees, Turkey has presented an open door, reflecting its “zero problems with neighbours” policy and its obligation to the universal principle of non-refoulement. Turkey has also spent $2.5 billion on “five star” refugee camps, equipped with schools, clinics and community centres. As a result, Turkey has soared from 59th to 10th in the United Nations index of hospitality towards refugees.
In spite of the recent peace deal, the conflict in South Sudan seems to be far from over. Almost all the regional and international players that are involved in the peace process have their own agendas, and this has left the South Sudanese people highly vulnerable. Amidst all this conflict, Sudan has managed to keep quiet. However, time has come for Sudan to be pro-active and play a larger role in the current conflict in South Sudan. In all likelihood, only Sudan can pave the path towards sustainable peace in South Sudan.
The constant bickering among Islamic states would make it seem as though there is no unity within the Muslim world. By allowing domestic political and religious interests to supersede over collaboration, intra-Muslim cooperation has proven to be more difficult to attain. In 1969, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was founded on the principle of defending and promoting Islamic solidarity in the basis of Islam. Even though the OIC members have ratified the Ten Year Programme, they still continue to promote their national interests above everything else. As a result, Islamic oneness is a facade, demonstrating the need for OIC reform. We believe that the OIC can return to prominence by becoming an organization that works to deepen economic cooperation among its member states.
Historically, the OIC has focused on defending Islam under the pretext of Islamic oneness as opposed to addressing the actual issues of member states such as economic inequality, stagnation and underdevelopment. The OIC has failed in many areas: like fostering intra-Muslim cooperation in conflict resolution, economic development and combating religious fundamentalism. Although the OIC has created multiple financial institutions such as the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and COMCEC, “obstructions such as bureaucratic delays, lack of firm commitment and often insufficient capital” are still present.
Despite my instincts that Prime Minister Erdoğan was going to decide that it is better to be a super-empowered prime minister than the Turkish president under the current constitutional configuration, it seems pretty clear at this point that he has his sights trained on the Çankaya Palace. The AKP has officially announced that it is not going to change its internal party regulations to allow MPs who have served three terms to run for a fourth, which means that Erdoğan will be term limited out and will thus seek the presidency. There is no doubt that Erdoğan will win and become the first directly elected Turkish president, and there is also little doubt that he will transform the presidency as he sees fit from a traditionally apolitical office with few real powers into something far different. The more interesting question that remains is who will replace Erdoğan as prime minister, and the answer to that is a lot murkier.
Due to the AKP’s three-terms-and-out rule, 73 AKP parliamentarians are unable to stand for election again and the list is a rundown of nearly all of the party heavyweights. Bülent Arınç, Bekir Bozdağ, Ali Babacan, Ömer Çelik, etc. The A team, that founded the party and shepherded it through three consecutive electoral victories, is out, and that leaves precious few suitable candidates to replace Erdoğan. It will have to be someone who has some modicum of name recognition and influence, but also someone whom Erdoğan can control. To the best of my calculations, there are two people who fit the bill and who are not subject to the term limit conundrum.
Less than six months ago, when Aam Admi Party (AAP) registered a huge victory in Delhi state assembly elections, many people in India spotted a new political party with number of clean, honest and energetic leaders such as Arvind Kejriwal, Shazia Ilmi, Kumar Vishwas and Yogendra Yadav and anticipated a massive change in Indian politics. The party promised to eliminate corruption and the young leaders of the AAP impressed the entire nation with their openness and humble attitude. The AAP attracted a number of big names such as Captain Gopinath, a retired caption of Indian Army and an entrepreneur, Raj Mohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and Adarsh Shastri, grandson of former Prime Minister Late Shree Lal Bahadur Shastri and they all joined the newest political party that was poised to change India.
Things have changed dramatically recently and, just like its surprised emergence, the AAP could cease to exist sooner than expected unless the party exigently reestablishes itself as a credible political party. AAP’s devastating defeat in recent general election in India is the result of anger people have towards the party for a series of erroneous decisions made by the party leadership after winning 28 seats in Delhi state assembly election.
The Russian-Chinese energy deal concluded on May 21 has been treated as an ominous development for various powerhouses of the West. Over the course of 30 years, the $400 billion deal will involve piping natural gas from Russia’s Far East to China. Students of the energy markets are thrilled and troubled in equal measure, seeing links in the deal venturing as far as Ukraine’s crisis, and the broader implications of global supply and consumption.
There was initial scepticism that the deal would even have any wings. For almost two decades, the countries have stuttered along the path of energy politics, attempting to carve out their respective roles. Russia wants to sell; the voracious Chinese market needs to be satisfied. Anything, provided it is at the right price, will do. Chinese hunger for gas imports is evident in the figures, which show that between 2006 and 2013, gas demand tripled from 56 billion cubic metres to 169 billion cubic metres.
Earlier this year, the Afghan Taliban called for an end to violence against Muslims in the Central African Republic, where ethnic cleansing has been occurring since the government was overthrown last year. The highly unusual commentary on events so far removed from Afghanistan is significant for the Taliban, demonstrating that it considers itself to be a de facto state actor and has influence on groups allied to Al Qaeda (AQ). Doing so is, in essence, a call to arms for jihadists to descend on the CAR.
The symbolism that lays behind the Taliban statement is significant, and may prove to have a profound impact on the future outcome of the CAR conflict and beyond. In conjunction with Boko Haram (which has proven links with AQ in the Islamic Maghreb) and Somalia-based Al Shabab (which joined AQ in 2012), AQ threatens to establish a presence in the CAR. It is believed that up to 80 percent of Seleka fighters originally came from Chad and Somalia , which would indicate an orientation and predisposition to subscribing to AQ’s ideology and tactics. Seleka’s lack of a clear ideology and direction should make it more susceptible to influence from strong external groups such as AQ.
Is the PRC Ditching the Nine Dash Line?
Without any ambiguity, the People’s Republic of China has announced that it considers itself and not the United States the boss in the South China Sea. Its most assertive statement of this principle was to send the HYSY 981 rig, escorted by a flotilla of dozens of ships, into waters that Vietnam claims as its Exclusive Economic Zone for some exploratory drilling, right after president Obama made a trip to Asia (but, tellingly and perhaps unwisely, not to the PRC) to talk up the US pivot.
In keeping with the PRC pattern of avoiding overtly military operations—those that would justify the invocation of existing or new U.S. security alliances with PRC neighbors—the flotilla apparently included no PLAN vessels, and the objectives and disputes surrounding the rig have been characterized in economic/bilateral terms.
As Egypt’s former defense chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approaches his expected presidential victory, he faces a myriad of issues that threaten his office. While many claim the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) poses the largest threat to Egypt, the country’s economy also illustrates worrisome concerns. For the past three years, the Egyptian economy has been struggling since the country emerged from the post-Mubarak revolution. Public debt has been aggregating, businesses and households face harsh conditions due to daily power blackouts, and the country’s energy shortfall will be exacerbated with the coming summer months. Unemployment and economic stagnation has continued to plague the country since Mubarak was deposed.
With the current unemployment rate at 14%, and the number nearly double among the young section of society, the country is facing a restless youth who is disenfranchised with the current course of the economy. Frequent labor strikes further cripple already paralyzed sectors such as public transportation and healthcare. With a mild growth rate around 2.1% for the last fiscal year, the country shows bleak prospects of growth. One of the country’s longest financial bases, tourism, has seen a precipitous drop in comparison to its pre-2011 heights. Wary international investors, halved foreign currency reserves, and a strained national budget continues to plague the country’s prospect for future growth.