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  • Author: Paul Stronski
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: After a decades-long absence, Russia is once again appearing on the African continent. The Kremlin’s return to Africa, which has generated considerable media, governmental, and civil society attention, draws on a variety of tools and capabilities. Worrying patterns of stepped-up Russian activity are stirring concerns that a new wave of great-power competition in Africa is now upon us. U.S. policymakers frequently stress the need to counter Russian malign influence on the continent. On a visit to Angola in early 2019, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said that “Russia often utilizes coercive, corrupt, and covert means to attempt to influence sovereign states, including their security and economic partnerships.”1 Advocates for a more forceful Western policy response point to high-visibility Russian military and security cooperation in the Central African Republic and the wide-ranging travels of Russian political consultants and disinformation specialists as confirmation that Russia, like China, represents a major challenge in Africa. Yet is that really the case? Are Russian inroads and capabilities meaningful or somewhat negligible? Hard information is difficult to come by, but any honest accounting of Russian successes will invariably point to a mere handful of client states with limited strategic significance that are isolated from the West and garner little attention from the international community. It remains unclear whether Russia’s investments in Africa over the past decade are paying off in terms of creating a real power base in Africa, let alone putting it on a footing that will expand its influence in the years to come. Nevertheless, Russia increasingly looks to Africa as a region where it can project power and influence. President Vladimir Putin will welcome leaders from across the continent to Sochi in late October for the first Africa-Russia summit, a clear indication of the symbolic importance that Africa holds for the Kremlin right now.2 It is clear that Russian inroads there would be far more limited but for the power vacuums created by a lack of Western policy focus on Africa in recent years. That state of affairs gives Russia (and other outside powers) an opportunity to curry favor with the continent’s elites and populations. More than anything else, it is opportunism that propels Russia’s relatively low-cost and low-risk strategies to try to enhance its clout and unnerve the West in Africa, just as in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Power Politics, Democracy, Geopolitics, Peace
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: You Young Kim
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Council
  • Abstract: Hearing my grandfather state, "I'm forever grateful to Kim Il-sung," baffled me. His words of gratitude to the first supreme leader and the eternal president of North Korea did not match his heartbreaking tale of defecting to the South during the Korean War. Recalling his stories of hiding in the mountains and his relatives trapped in the isolated dictatorial communist state, I couldn't fathom being grateful for a man who pushed my grandfather to make such a difficult choice when he was only a few years older than I am now.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Perla Issa
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: This article examines the practices of humanitarian aid distribution from the perspective of aid recipients rather than providers through an immersion in the daily home life of Palestinian residents of Nahr al-Barid refugee camp (north Lebanon) in 2011. It argues that in the name of distributing aid fairly, humanitarian aid providers put in place a pervasive system of surveillance to monitor, evaluate, and compare residents’ misery levels by relying on locally recruited aid workers. This regime of visibility was designed to be one directional; NGOs never disclosed how much aid they had available, nor when or how it would be distributed. The inclusion of local aid workers in this opaque framework turned a process that relied on community and neighborhood ties into an impersonal machine that fostered doubt and suspicion and ultimately hindered the community’s ability to engage in collective political action.
  • Topic: Humanitarian Aid, International Security, International Affairs, Occupation
  • Political Geography: Palestine
  • Author: Maciej Kotowski
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper investigates the formation of production and trading networks in an economy with general interdependencies and complex property rights. The right to exclude,a core tenet of property, grants asset owners a form of monopoly power that influences granular economic interactions. Equilibrium networks reflect the distribution of these ownership claims. Inefficient production networks may endure in equilibrium as firms multi-source to mitigate hold-up risk. Short supply chains also reduce this risk, but may preclude the production of complex goods. A generalized Top Trading Cycles algorithm, applicable to a production economy, identifies equilibrium outcomes in the model. Such outcomes can be decentralized via a price system.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, International Affairs, Intellectual Property/Copyright, National & provincial initiatives
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: John Gerard Ruggie
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: On August 19, 2019, the U.S. Business Roundtable (BR), comprising the CEOs of more than 200 of America’s largest corporations, issued a new mission statement on “the purpose of a corporation” (BR, 2019a). The press release noted that each periodic update on principles of corporate governance since 1997 had endorsed the principle of maximizing shareholder value. In contrast, the new statement commits signatory CEOs “to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders” (BR, 2019b). “[Milton] Friedman must be turning in his grave,” a Fortune magazine article declared (Murray, 2019)
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Richard Zeckhauser
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper argues that historical analysis, necessarily written with hindsight, often underestimates the uncertainties of the past. We call this tendency explanation bias. This bias leads individuals – including professional historians – to imply greater certainty in causal analyses than the evidence justifies. Their analyses will treat what is plausible to be probable. We offer a few intuitions about why explanation bias exists, its relation to other well-established psychological biases, what it leads to, and how it might be combatted. Appreciating the depth of uncertainty and ignorance in our world is critical for accurately understanding, interpreting, and drawing from the past to illuminate the present and the near future
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Will Dobbie
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We study the drivers of financial distress using a large-scale field experiment that offered randomly selected borrowers a combination of (i) immediate payment reductions to target short- run liquidity constraints and (ii) delayed interest write-downs to target long-run debt constraints. We identify the separate e?ects of the payment reductions and interest write-downs using both the experiment and cross-sectional variation in treatment intensity. We find that the interest write-downs significantly improved both financial and labor market outcomes, despite not taking effect for three to five years. In sharp contrast, there were no positive e?ects of the more immediate payment reductions. These results run counter to the widespread view that financial distress is largely the result of short-run constraints.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Will Dobbie
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We estimate the causal effects of parental incarceration on children’s short- and long-run outcomes using administrative data from Sweden. Our empirical strategy exploits exogenous variation in parental incarceration from the random assignment of criminal defendants to judges with different incarceration tendencies. We find that the incarceration of a parent in childhood leads to a significant increase in teen crime and significant decreases in educational attainment and adult employment. The effects are concentrated among children from the most disadvantaged families, where criminal convictions increase by 10 percentage points, high school graduation decreases by 25 percentage points, and employment at age 25 decreases by 29 percentage points. In contrast, there are no detectable effects among children from more advantaged families. These results suggest that the incarceration of parents with young children may significantly increase the intergenerational persistence of poverty and criminal behavior, even in affluent countries with extensive social safety nets.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Affairs, Prisons/Penal Systems
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Will Dobbie
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper tests for bias in consumer lending using administrative data from a high-cost lender in the United Kingdom. We motivate our analysis using a new principal-agent model of bias, which predicts that profits should be higher for the most illiquid loan applicants at the margin if loan examiners are biased. We identify the profitability of marginal applicants using the quasi-random assignment of loan examiners. Consistent with our model, we find significant bias against immigrant and older applicants when using the firm’s preferred measure of long-run profits, but not when using the short-run measure used to evaluate examiner performance. Keywords: Discrimination, Consumer Credit
  • Topic: Debt, International Political Economy, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Todd Rogers
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Many states mandate districts or schools notify parents when students have missed multiple unexcused days of school. We report a randomized experiment (N = 131,312) evaluating the impact of sending parents truancy notifications modified to target behavioral barriers that can hinder effective parental engagement. Modified truancy notifications that used simplified language, emphasized parental efficacy, and highlighted the negative incremental effects of missing school reduced absences by 0.07 days compared to the standard, legalistic, and punitively-worded notification—an estimated 40% improvement. This work illustrates how behavioral insights and randomized experiments can be used to improve administrative communications in education.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus