This roundup covers news summaries across six regions: Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. Wherever possible I draw links to Singapore, but I think it is more important to understand geopolitical developments around the world, to draw attention to meaningful news stories, and to highlight both positive and negative events.
Around the world, I rely primarily on the email newsletters from “The Economist“, “Foreign Policy“, “Muck Rack“, “The New York Times“, “The Wall Street Journal“, and “The World Post“. In Singapore, the weekly digests from the European Union Centre and the Middle East Institute are handy. Do send me recommendations of news outlets or articles too, to jinyao.guan.yin.miao[a]gmail.com!
May 29 to June 3, 2017
After meeting with United States President Donald Trump at the Group of 7 (G7) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) last week – and especially after Mr. Trump said he needed more time, to decide whether his country will honour the 2015 Paris Agreement, and after he accused NATO allies of not spending enough on defence – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that while friendly relations must be maintained with Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, “We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands“. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also had harsh words, that “The short-sighted policies of the American government stand against the interests of the European Union (EU)“. President of the EU Council Donald Tusk, however, said he was more optimistic after the talks in Brussels: “Our partners in the G7 are much more responsible than the first impression after the election in the United States“.
“Foreign Policy” has a great commentary, on Mr. Trump’s trip to Europe, the European disengagement, and their implications.
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- There are 38 coastal cities in Africa, but issues of governance and safety over the use of oceans – “to contribute to economic growth”, for the Blue Economy – remain unaddressed. Countries need to cooperate across boundaries to secure and use ocean territories.
- The economic crisis in Morocco has increased the number of waste workers in Casablanca, the country’s largest city. “They remain excluded from the Moroccan society because of the uncleanliness of their work, and the nature of their living spaces“.
- Nearly 300,000 people in Bangladesh were evacuated from the south coastal areas, ahead of Cyclone Mora. “Mora is the equivalent of a strong tropical storm and will bring winds around 100 kilometers per hour as it moves onshore“.
- The skirmish between government forces in the Philippines and Muslim militants is dragging on, as troops “pounded positions held by the militants” in Marawi City. The government had planned to capture the most senior leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in South East Asia last week, but they had underestimated the militants protecting him.
- After a week of fighting which claimed about 100 lives, the military in the Philippines said “it has taken back control of most of Marawi City, and expects the siege by Islamist militants to end soon“. Thousands of civilians have been displaced.
- At least 92 were killed by flooding and landslides in Sri Lanka, as the monsoon dumped “record rainfall in many parts“.
- The Eurogroup – “an informal gathering of the finance ministers of the 19 euro countries and officials from the European Central Bank and European Commission” – could not agree on further debt relief for Greece, and the group itself is confronting increased criticisms, over its lack of transparency and its arrangement approximating to a “private club”.
- In the United Kingdom, an IT glitch forced British Airways (BA) to cancel all of its flights from two major London airports, Gatwick and Heathrow. 75,000 passengers were stranded, with about 800 BA flights cancelled.
The Middle East
- Egypt has blocked access “to at least 21 news sites critical of the government“, as socio-political unrest persists.
- At least 28 Coptic Christian worshippers in Egypt – travelling to a monastery – were killed by gunmen in Egypt. The attack “followed a series of church bombings claimed by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in a campaign of violence against the Copts“.
- At least 20 people were killed in Iraq, when two car bombs exploded in streets packed with crowds preparing for their Ramadan fast. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for the first explosion.
- For a digital revolution to happen in Iran, and for startups to potentially flourish, the government – led by President Hassan Rouhani, who has just secured a second term – will have to accept changes in civil liberties, further “trusting local entrepreneurship, and breaking the legal barriers on civil rights and freedoms, Internet access and filters“.
- Libyan extremist group Ansar al-Sharia – deemed a terrorist organisation by the United Nations and the United States – “announced its ‘dissolution’ in a communique published online“. It is said to be responsible for the Benghazi attack in 2012.
- Goldman Sachs bought billions worth of Venezuelan government-owned bonds through a broker, as it insisted that it had no interactions with the government, which is “dependent on financial deals or asset sales to bring in coveted foreign exchange“. The country remains embroiled in political and economic insecurity, and President Nicolás Maduro is deeply unpopular.
- President Donald Trump said he will withdraw his country from the 2015 Paris Agreement to fight climate change, aligning the United States with Nicaragua (who opposed the voluntary arrangement) and Syria (who is embroiled in a destructive civil war) as the only non-participants. France, Germany, and Italy dismissed the suggestion that the pact could be revised.
- As many as 200,000 people gathered in Argentina to protest a Supreme Court decision on a “two-for-one law“, which could reduce the prison sentences of those convicted of crimes against humanity during the country’s last military dictatorship.
- Brazil‘s “graduation dilemma” has a domestic and a geopolitical component. Domestically, corruption is rife and money politics remains an issue. Geopolitically, the country is choosing between “a more autonomous type of development or a more dependency-based foreign policy” – balancing or bandwagoning – and the need for greater cohesion among different stakeholders.
- At least four people died in Honduras, after a stampede at a football match.