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  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: That nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the UK, U.S. and Germany) were extended beyond the 20 July 2014 deadline was neither unexpected nor unwelcome. The parties ha d made enough headway to justify the extension, which was envisioned in the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) that was signed in November 2013 and came into force in January, but given the political and technical complexity, they remain far apart on fundamental issues. Unless they learn the lessons of the last six months and change their approach for the next four, they will lose the opportunity for a resolution not just by the new 24 November deadline but for the foreseeable future. Both sides need to retreat from maximalist positions, particularly on Iran's enrichment program. Tehran should postpone plans for industrial- scale enrichment and accept greater constraints on the number of its centrifuges in return for P5+1 flexibility on the qualitative growth of its enrichment capacity through research and development.
  • Topic: Development, Diplomacy, Economics, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Iran, Middle East, France
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: As Aleppo goes, so goes Syria's rebellion. The city is crucial to the mainstream opposition's military viability as well as its morale, thus to halting the advance of the Islamic State (IS). After an alliance of armed rebel factions seized its eastern half in July 2012, Aleppo for a time symbolised the opposition's optimism and momentum; in the following months, it exposed the rebels' limits, as their progress slowed, and they struggled to win over the local population. Today, locked in a two-front war against the regime and IS, their position is more precarious than at any time since the fighting began. Urgent action is required to prevent the mainstream opposition's defeat: either for Iran and Russia to press the regime for de-escalation, to showcase their willingness to confront IS instead of exploiting its presence to further strengthen Damascus; or, more realistically, for the U.S., Europe and regional allies to qualitatively and quantitatively improve support to local, non-jihadi rebel factions in Aleppo. Any eventual possibility of a negotiated resolution of the war depends on one course or the other being followed.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil War, Islam, Terrorism, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Li-gang Liu
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: China's property market has slowed significantly since the first half of 2014, with sharp declines in sales and a buildup in the inventory of new homes. This sharper than expected downturn—which has affected not only second- and third tier smaller cities but also first-tier megacities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou—contrasts with last year's buoyant sales and double-digit price surge. Compounded by fears of a default in the shadow banking system and the perception of a highly leveraged Chinese economy, the sudden declines in the property sector are being watched closely. Many commentators believe this could be a turning point for the sector, triggering a hard landing of the Chinese economy and even a financial crisis. Over the last decade, China's property sector has become an important pillar for the country's growth as well as the key source for elevated commodity prices. A property market slump would hurt other sectors, as well as drag down resource-rich economies that rely heavily on China to buy their exports.
  • Topic: Economics, Financial Crisis, Urbanization
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, United Nations
  • Author: Anna Gelpern
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The escalating crisis in Ukraine has prompted the United States and Europe to impose the toughest economic sanctions against Russia since the end of the Cold War. Continued instability and military conflict in eastern Ukraine are straining Ukrainian finances. Despite a generous international support package, the government faces shrinking revenues, rising costs, and a spike in foreign debt payments over the next two years.
  • Topic: Cold War, Debt, Economics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Ukraine, Asia
  • Author: Muhammad Quraish Khan
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Former U.N. peacekeepers are an emerging cadre within Pakistan's police who are precursors of professionalization and other positive changes in police culture. Given their peacekeeping experience, they are torchbearers of human rights protection in policing, and believers in gender equality and the rule of law. They have also shown an ability to resist undue political pressure by government ministers, politicians and interest groups. They form a resilient force when it comes to fighting the tide of militancy and terrorism in Pakistan. This pool of trained resources may be utilized by the United Nations Department of Peace-keeping Operations (DPKO) for the quick start of new peacekeeping missions. The Government of Pakistan could also utilize them for police-reform initiatives, imparting training and demonstrating best practices. Given the potential gains from police participation in U.N. peacekeeping, Pakistan's recent, self-imposed ban on police joining peacekeeping deployments in the future should be reversed.
  • Topic: Security, Culture
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Africa, United States
  • Author: Palwasha L. Kakar
  • Publication Date: 06-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: As the economic, security and political transitions take place in Afghanistan, it is essential to work with religious leaders who have credibility and moral authority among large segments of the Afghan public. Religious leaders are among Afghanistan's traditional "gatekeepers" for making local decisions, especially on questions of women's rights, and they can be effectively engaged. Despite the very negative reactions by religious leaders to women's rights at the national political level, some at the local level have shown continuing interest in women's rights when they are involved within an Islamic framework and have participated in protecting such rights. Effective engagement with religious leaders starts with respecting their opinions and involving them directly in processes of changing strongly held social norms on women's rights and other sensitive topics, such as tolerance and peacebuilding.
  • Topic: Security, Politics, Religion
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Africa
  • Author: Richard Albright
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The effectiveness of U.S. civilian assistance to Pakistan depends on sustained funding commitments from the United States and sustained commitment to economic and institutional reform from Pakistan. Weak public institutions and poor governance have greatly impeded Pakistan's development. U.S. assistance should focus on strengthening institutions systemically. Direct assistance to the Pakistani government—through financing that supports specific reform programs and policy initiatives and cash-on-delivery mechanisms that offer assistance after agreed performance criteria are met—could incentivize Pakistani public institutions to improve service delivery. Pakistan's devolution of authority to the provinces offers an opportunity for well-targeted and cost-effective initiatives to incentivize improvements in provincial public service delivery in such areas as basic education, health and policing.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, Foreign Aid, Reform
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, United States
  • Author: William A. Byrd
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Afghanistan faces a fiscal crisis that reflects worsening domestic revenue shortfalls since 2011, which could reach $1 billion in 2014 compared with the 2011 outlook. The massive theft and fraud at Kabul Bank, failure of mining activities to pay taxes and royalties, and mislabeling of some commercial imports as duty-free are among other contributing factors. Turning the fiscal crisis around will take time, but a legitimate, credible new Afghan government coming into office is essential. Quality leadership and management teams in the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank will be crucial for success. Urgent measures are needed to turn around poor revenue performance, including strong signals from the top, possible exploitation of limited new revenue sources, and cooperation among different agencies to reduce smuggling and contain revenue leakages. Accelerated recovery of stolen and lost Kabul Bank assets should be a priority, which could provide over $100 million per year of extra fiscal space for the budget. Reforms of the revenue system need to be initiated, including introduction of a value-added tax, and possibly reform of the revenue and customs services. Expenditures will need to be cut. This requires the elimination of unnecessary and wasteful expenditures as well as the meaningful prioritization of programs within a tight resource envelope. Additional international fiscal support will be needed to help stabilize the budget in the short run. Linking aid for the Afghan discretionary budget to increases in domestic revenues and Kabul Bank recoveries would make sense.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Foreign Aid, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan
  • Author: Georgia Holmer
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Countering violent extremism efforts strive to prevent at-risk individuals from being recruited into or joining extremist groups. Identifying who is at risk and who poses a threat, however, is a complicated inquiry. In Kenya, as in many other places experiencing violent extremism, the young, the undecided, the coerced and others might—if properly guided—move away from rather than toward violence. Many at risk of becoming involved in violent extremist groups are too quickly categorized as an enemy and given no opportunity to move in a different direction. Empathy is critical both to learning why individuals are vulnerable to engaging in violent extremism and to creating the space and willingness in a community to help those at risk.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Kenya, Somalia
  • Author: Sven Biscop
  • Publication Date: 03-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: EGMONT - The Royal Institute for International Relations
  • Abstract: When they meet at NATO's Wales Summit in Newport on 4-5 September, the European Heads of State and Government should not see this as the first chapter of a new book, but as the next chapter of an existing one. The previous chapter was their meeting in Brussels last December for the European Council. The title of the book is European defence.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, NATO, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Europe