March 2016

When recently asked about his foreign policy advisors on Morning Joe, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump declined to name any names except his own. Trump’s willingness to go his own way and buck conventional wisdom has endeared him to his supporters, but his pronouncements have alarmed many experts, who fear that his policies would damage the national security of the United States.  His newest outburst regarding NATO is no exception. Last week, after declaring that law enforcement should patrol Muslim neighborhoods and that the U.S. should loosen its definition of torture, Trump derided NATO for being an irrelevant organization that is costing Washington “a fortune.”  At a time when security crises mandate a strong NATO presence in Europe, one might question if this is merely another publicity stunt to sustain the public’s attention in a lengthy election cycle. However, Trump’s comments on NATO fit into a recurring pattern and deserve serious scrutiny.

Nancy Donaldson

February 2016

By Nancy Donaldson Director of the Washington, D.C. office of the International Labor Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations. Republished from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with permission.

Economic growth in the United States is expected to strengthen in 2016 for a third year in a row. What does this mean in terms of jobs? The economy is on the mend and labor market conditions are continuing to improve. The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.9% from its level of 8% in January 2013. At 15.7%, the youth unemployment rate is still high.

February 2016

Voices from street cafes to the corridors of government tell of Argentina’s rebirth—one that is energetically re-engaging the international community and developing plans to reform its economy so it works for the people of Argentina.  Bringing in a new era for Argentina will present many challenges for President Macri and his new team. That said, the early achievements demonstrate that Argentina is off to a very good start.

Tunisia Protest

February 2016

On January 16, riots erupted in several Tunisian districts with protesters shouting for “work, freedom, and dignity;” similar to demands made during the Jasmine Revolution.  The protests commenced after the suicide of a Kasserine youth who had learned that the Ministry of Education had removed his name from the list of possible hires, and continued for four days until authorities implemented a nightly curfew.  What was most disconcerting to Tunisian authorities was the rate at which the protests spread across the country, into nearby cities of Sidi Bouzid, Gafsa, and the capital, Tunis. Now in its fifth year, the Tunisian democratic experiment must include widespread economic improvements, especially in interior regions, to allay mounting unrest. 

February 2016

As the European migrant crisis reached new heights last summer, much attention was given to the stress of countries on Europe’s southern flank—in particular Greece, which has processed the vast majority of incoming refugees from across the Mediterranean. Subsequently, the conversation was driven by central Europe: on the one hand by Germany, which spearheaded the continent’s open-door policy, and on the other hand by Hungary, which has resisted it.


January 2016

2015 proved to be a turbulent year for Europe, as the continent was faced with a series of unexpected crises amid political discontent with the status quo in Brussels. Two deadly terrorist attacks in Paris bookended 2015, stoking populist fears and driving opposition to Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy. Pushback against the longstanding Schengen free-travel agreement and British threats to leave the EU have also frayed European solidarity at a time when it is needed more than ever.

None of these challenges will dissipate in 2016. In fact, the new year may prove even more contentious. Upcoming elections, referendums, and long-term political trends will do much to shape the future of Europe in the coming year. American leadership will also play a decisive role: on issues from NATO enlargement to the UK’s membership in the EU, a strong American commitment to a united Europe can help to undergird peace and stability.     

MD 3rd

January 2016

During his final State of the Union President Obama singled out redistricting as an issue plaguing US politics which he hopes to tackle during his last year in office.  In his address he said that, "we have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.” It is widely known that redistricting has created more “safe” congressional seats where members are unlikely to face a real challenge from outside their party leading to complacent members and to more political polarization since members have little need to appeal to voters from the opposite party in their district.

South America

January 2016

In 2016 we expect a number of political and economic changes in South America, from the implementation of new policies by the recently-elected government in Argentina and new legislature in Venezuela, to upcoming general elections in Peru and an important municipal election in Brazil.  In addition to the political changes in the region many countries are facing severe economic problems, most notably Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina.  Amidst the potential for political turmoil and economic difficulties however there is also hope – Colombia may finish negotiating with the Farc rebels this year thereby putting an end to a fifty-two year long conflict. 

Nimr al-Nimr

January 2016

By James Le Grice of Insight Consulting Group

The New Year was barely a day old before the Saudi-Iranian cold war heated up again. The beheading of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the Shia cleric at the head of anti-regime protests in eastern Saudi Arabia, was swiftly answered with threats of "divine revenge" from Iran and the torching of the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Diplomatic relations were severed and a war of words ensued. Over the past three weeks, Saudi Arabia and Iran’s regional allies have rallied behind either side in the dispute, and western commentators have been quick to label the whole affair as yet another chapter in the interminable Sunni-Shia conflict. However, the execution of Nimr al-Nimr is a prime example of why the “Sunni vs Shia” narrative is misleading.

By Caroline Fagard, Director at Forensic Risk Alliance and Jesica Lindgren, General Counsel at Blue Star Strategies, LLC

On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza factory building in Dhaka (Bangladesh) collapsed, killing more than 1,000 workers and wounding more than 1,500. Thirty-two U.S., Canadian and European labels and retailers were outsourcing garments to Rana Plaza factories, including a number of French ones. Following the tragedy, French members of parliament are proposing to implement a “Duty of Vigilance” or “Duty of Care” on large French companies operating abroad.

Amidst the terrible news of recent weeks there has been one bright spot- Myanmar held its first contested national election since 1990. The National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel Peace Prize winner and activist Aung San Suu Kyi, won by an overwhelming landslide and has taken over 80 percent of the contested seats in the Parliament. This result handily surpasses the two-thirds seats required to form a government and select the next president.

For the first time since 1989, a single political party has garnered enough votes to form an absolute parliamentary majority in Poland. With no need to form a coalition, the conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) will seek to make its own mark on national politics as Poland transitions away from the centrist Civic Platform, which has led the country’s coalition government since 2007.