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The World

Archive | The World

The Pressure is on Morocco’s PJD Party Over its Human Rights Records

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Remy Steinegger
Remy Steinegger

Remy Steinegger

Two recent events focus increased international attention on Morocco. First, nine activists from Morocco’s February 20 pro-reform movement were granted bail at their appeal hearings this week. They had been jailed last month under charges of chanting anti-regime slogans and clashing with police during a protest. The activists had been arrested on April 6, while attending a mass rally in Casablanca called by the trade unions. The rally was called in protest to the austerity measures enacted by the government of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane. The demonstrations were attended by some 10,000 people.

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Renewed Attention over Refugee Camps in Western Sahara

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Evan Schneider/UN Photo
Evan Schneider/UN Photo

Evan Schneider/UN Photo

International attention over precarious living conditions in the refugee camps of Western Sahara has been growing in the past few weeks. It started last month with the visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. During her tour in Morocco and Western Sahara, Pillay voiced her concern in respect to ongoing practices such as the use of torture in Western Sahara. Since then, international delegations have been flooding into the desert region.

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Democratic Wave in Hong Kong

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Vincent Yu/AP

More than half a million Hong Kong residents cast their ballots over an unofficial referendum on democratic reforms. By late afternoon on Sunday, about 636,000 ballots had been cast since voting started on Friday including about 400,000 through a smartphone application. Nearly 200,000 were cast online despite a massive cyber-attack that left the site intermittently inaccessible and forced the organizers to extend voting by a week until June 29. About 26,500 voters cast their votes at 15 polling stations which organizers operated on two successive Sundays.

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Islamic Extremism in Africa

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YouTube
YouTube

YouTube

Last week’s attacks on innocent civilians in Kenya are a reminder of the growing threat posed by Islamic extremists in many parts of Africa. In spite of all the resources devoted to fighting Somalia-based Al Shabaab in recent years, the group has grown stronger, and continues to cross the region’s borders with impunity. The same is true with Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The West and regional governments appear to be fighting a losing battle.

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ISIS is the Mafia of the Middle East

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Chuck Kennedy/White House
Chuck Kennedy/White House

Chuck Kennedy/White House

Apparently ISIS is a business, a bloody and illegal business, sort of like the Mafia. That’s what I gleaned from a McClatchy report by Hannah Allam on the group’s finances, revealed at least by a trove of documents captured by the US, turned over to RAND a few months ago, whose conclusions leaked into the public sphere today. “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria sprang from a largely self-funded, corporation-style prototype whose resilience to counterterrorism operations was proven by the time Abu Bakr al Baghdadi assumed command in 2010,” Allam reports.

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Maritime Piracy in Bangladesh

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DoD Photo

Does piracy off the coast of Bangladesh pose a threat? The answer is yes. Is the threat external or internal? The answer is both. While Bangladesh has long-running conflicts with its neighbors over maritime boundaries which are being solved amicably, the latest threat is now emerging from maritime piracy. How is maritime piracy threatening Bangladesh and to what extent?

Recently, several dozen fishermen were abducted from the Sundarbans. A total of 11 piracy events took place off the coast of Bangladesh in 2012. What are the factors behind maritime piracy in Bangladesh? Maritime piracy in Bangladesh is the result of a set of interrelated factors. Factors associated with the failure of law-enforcing agencies, a culture of impunity and poverty induced criminality.

The first set of factors basically stems from inefficiency and corruption of law-enforcement agencies. Most significantly, inefficiency within Bangladesh’s Coast Guard (BCG) which is charged with maintaining security for the maritime zone around Bangladesh, is overstretched, the result of a shortage of manpower and equipment. Founding Director General of BCG has suggested that the BCG is comprised of only 2,000 persons who need better equipment and more than its current fleet of 11 vessels. Eight vessels are 30 years old and cannot operate during the monsoon season. Importantly, it will be interesting to watch how Bangladesh’s Coast Guard utilizes a decommissioned U.S. Coast Guard Cutter that was transferred to their custody in 2013.

The second set of factors is associated with the failure of crime prevention and reduction. As reported by Bangladeshi media last month, police take bribes from drug dealers and criminals in Cox’s Bazar. Criminals commit crimes more and more because they know police will not arrest them. The third set of factors has been identified as poverty related.

The less work that is available, crime will increase. The implications of maritime piracy for Bangladesh are far-reaching. The livelihood and survival of many thousands of people from 16 coastal areas are dependent on fishing in the rivers in and around the Bay of Bengal. Around one million people are dependent on fishing alone in the Cox’s Bazar alone. The lack of personal security in maritime zones poses a threat to their livelihoods.

In the last five years, pirates have killed at least 411 fishermen and wounded at least 1,000 more, suggested Mujibur Rahman, Chairman of Cox’s Bazar District Fishing Trawler Owners Association (DFTOA). According to the DFTOA, pirates attacked more than 1,000 fishing boats, abducting more than 3,000 fishermen, killed over 45 and collected more than 1.28 million USD in ransoms from fishery owners of two coastal towns – Chakaria and Maheshkhali, alone from late 2011 to late 2012.

Attacks on Bangladesh’s fishing industry have profound implications for the national economy. The country will face significant economic losses if piracy cannot be controlled. Mujibur Rahman argues that coastal fishermen contribute 25-35% of the nation’s total catch which declined during fiscal year of 2012-2013.

This is the right time to combat maritime piracy. The policy of combating piracy must have two approaches: traditional and non-traditional. Otherwise, it cannot work properly. What does the traditional and non-traditional approach mean? The traditional approach is the way of preventing crime through the use of military force. But, this is not the permanent solution. Suppose the law-enforcing agencies conducted operations, seized pirates and thus reduced the crime but criminals were not provided job and earning facilities.

The problem will remain if these pirates are not rehabilitated back into society. Here is the essence of a non-tradition approach which embraces a series of tasks, for example providing basic needs to the criminals, educating them, employing them in different job sectors and reintegrating them into society. Anti-piracy social awareness campaigns can also be conducted countrywide.

While maritime piracy has been extensively covered when it is occurring off the coast of Somalia, the increase in piracy off the coast of Bangladesh must also be addressed.

George Will’s Words of Folly

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Gage Skidmore
Gage Skidmore

Gage Skidmore

Sexual assault is the new name for rape. Rape by any other name is still rape. This crude word denotes a cruel, barbaric, and inhuman act. Any type of word play does not diminish the traumatic effect of this heinous crime, certainly not by indulging in euphemisms. In an effort to shield the perpetrator, some US campuses have resorted to using ‘sexual assault’ instead of ‘rape.’ On a student’s record the ugly word ‘rape’ might diminish his future prospects. The poor boy might miss out on his chance to join the ranks of Wall Street, to indulge in another form of rape and pillage.

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Kenya, Corruption, and Terrorism

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Benedikt von Loebell
Benedikt von Loebell

Benedikt von Loebell

Shortly after Uhuru Kenyatta was elected president of Kenya early last year, I published an article pondering whether his election and indictment at the International Criminal Court would ultimately make the country more isolated. At the time, Kenya was becoming increasingly important in the regional fight against militant groups such as Al-Shabaab, and a transit point for aid and goods to South Sudan, so the country’s potential to impact other states in the region was significant.

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Exposing China’s Artificial Islands Plan in the Spratly’s

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Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, via Associated Press
Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, via Associated Press

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, via Associated Press

On May 2nd 2014, tensions dangerously escalated in the South China Sea (SCS) after China’s HYSY 981 oil rig began its drilling operation in an area within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf. While the HYSY 981 event has become the focal point of SCS developments at the moment, there are signs of another alarming threat to this region’s peace and stability.

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Iraq: West’s Failed Democracy Project

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Atef Hassan/Reuters
Atef Hassan/Reuters

Atef Hassan/Reuters

The democracy “project” instituted by George W. Bush and Tony Blair in Iraq is like for a better term, failing. Jihadists have taken large territories of Iraq. Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, has been captured with other towns and villages falling like dominoes. The reality for many Iraqis are militants in open jeeps, hundreds of pro-government forces being massacred and havoc everywhere. Iraqis by the thousands have fled their homes. Meanwhile, the Kurds have taking advantage of the situation and taken control of the oil hub, Kirkuk, as Iraqi forces abandoned their posts.

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Of Strelkov and Stolypin: Tsarist Russia’s Last Chance

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Reuters
Reuters

Reuters

Strelkov, the military commander of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic,’ imperial adventurer and historian-with-a-gun, and Stolypin, the reforming reactionary prime minister who, I would suggest, represented tsarist Russia’s last chance for survival: two imperial(ist) figures of the moment, both of whom see the revival of something past or passing in reshaping the future, by violent means if need be. (There’s a reason why the ‘Stolypin necktie’ became a slang term for the hangman’s noose.)

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Stuck in Transition: The EBRD

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Reuters
Reuters

Reuters

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.

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Those Mysterious Tanks in Ukraine

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NATO
NATO

NATO

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:

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Samarra Under Siege by ISIS Militants

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Reuters

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.

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Defining Palestinian Unity

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State Dept. Photo
State Dept. Photo

State Dept. Photo

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.

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