But for a dramatic twist of happenstance, Americans would from January 20, 2021, have a new shepherd. The White House looks set to, once again, welcome Sen. Joe Biden into the oval office; albeit with a completely different status from his previous experience as a vice to Barack Obama.
When Biden took to the stage for a customary victory speech to millions of Americans on Saturday night, the appreciation of the magnitude of the tasks ahead seemed not lost on the 76-year-old former Delaware Senator. His announcement of a team of experts and scientists to formulate a blueprint against Coronavirus was a clear indication of an awareness of, unarguably, the biggest challenge the United States is grappling with at this time.
When accounts of this historic moment are written, it shall be mentioned that unseating President Donald Trump was made possible, in part, by covid-19. His perceived (mis) management of the pandemic may have sealed his fate long before the first vote was cast. Trump’s denial of science and decision to fight the pandemic with rhetoric was a fatal gamble that did, obviously, not pay off in the end. It is for that reason that the promise to “listen to science” by Biden would gladden the hearts of American scientists as they struggle to combat the spread of Covid-19.
The 2020 presidential election was simply a referendum on Trump’s slapdash handling of the virus. In the 72hours of waiting for the declaration of a victor after the bitterly contested election, America broke daily records for new cases of Coronavirus twice, with thousands dying in the process. In peacetime, America has never known such a crisis. Claiming more than 120,000 lives in a year, surely the pandemic has to top the ‘to-do’ list of Biden.
When he steps in as the 46th President of the United States next January, Mr Biden would have his work cut out from the onset. Asides Covid, he must strive to heal America of its striking racial discrimination which became pronounced when George Floyd was murdered by policemen in May 2020. Theodore R. Johnson, an expert in voting behaviour amongst African-Americans at the Brennan Center for Justice, contends that having a woman of colour in Kamala Harris on Biden’s ticket “is 1,000 percent a demographic selection” which helped in no small degree to clinch victory for the Democrats in the 2020 elections.
And in addition to what Americans expect from the President-elect is a resuscitation of the economy. For three years, Mr Trump appeared to possess the magic wand to breathe life into a comatose economy inherited from the Obama era. He fought vigorously to arrest job losses, expand health insurance, and widen the social safety nets amongst others. However, the advent of the pandemic and the speed at which the economy spiralled out of hands exposed the continued fragilities inherent in the American economy.
On the international scene, the Biden presidency would, of course, have critical challenges to deal with. His years of experience on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at the Capitol Hill would be put to task. In four years, President Trump promotes chronic nationalism at the expense of globalization. While his analysis of globalization as anti-people gained tractions in a few places, there is a growing sentiment that such disposition has pushed the international community into further turmoil and uncertainties.
Trump was bad news for multilateralism ideologists as exemplified by the brokenness of the much-cherished Trans-Atlantic relations with the European Union (EU) on the one hand, and the unending trade ‘war’ with China on the other. His sharp criticisms of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) left the military alliance in dire straits as a rudderless entity. The unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) could be summed as a major affront on globalization and the culture of joint efforts to achieve common aspirations.
However, the contestation between Washington and Beijing is seen by some observers as unavoidable and necessary if the United States would retain its hegemony of the system and would therefore require Biden to be extremely strategic in his dealings with the Chinese.
Another theatre of action that cannot escape the radar of the United States is the Middle East. The Jewish/Arab fraught relationship viz-a-viz the management of Iran remains potentially combustible, thus putting more pressure on the White House at every given time, regardless of the political leanings of its occupant. Trump’s bold approach in withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, the killing of General Qaseem Soleimani in a drone strike, alongside his clear indulgence of Israel further exacerbated the eternal animosity in the region.
Furthermore, the Korean Peninsula also remains a diplomatic burdensome for the U.S. The solo attempt by Trump to manage North Korea failed to translate into a de-nuclearized Pyongyang which he had hoped for while engaging in a photoshoot with Kim Jong-Un back in June 2019. Trump referenced that moment as a “great honour” after becoming the first sitting U.S. President to step foot in the Communist side of the peninsula. How to tactfully manoeuvre these is going to be, perhaps, the most prominent foreign policy nightmare for President Biden.
While the enduring global camaraderie of the ‘new world order’ may have suffered greatly as a result of Donald Trump’s disruptive ‘America first’ mantra, the incoming political guard appears ready to restore the valued tradition of building consensus through networking and negotiations between Washington and its allies. As reckoned by Biden, the notion of America first pursuance by Trump nearly turned the country into a pariah sovereign as “America alone”. That naked reality could not have been captured more succinctly by anyone than Brian Mckeon, the President-Elect’s advisor on foreign policy, who submits thus: “Biden would have a lot of repair work to do (as President).”
Maximizing Biden’s Plan to Combat Corruption and Promote Good Governance in Central America
Authors: Lauren Mooney and Eguiar Lizundia*
To tackle enduring political, economic and security challenges in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the Biden administration is attempting to revitalize its commitment to the region, including through a four-year, $4 billion plan submitted in a bill to Congress.
In its plan, the White House has rightly identified the root causes of migration, including limited economic opportunity, climate change, inequality, and violence. Systemic corruption resulting from the weak rule of law connects and entrenches the root causes of migration, while the increased devastation brought about by climate change exacerbates economic hardship and citizen insecurity.
The renewed investment holds promise: previous foreign assistance in the Northern Triangle has shown results, including by contributing to a reduction in the expected level of violence. As the Biden Administration finalizes and begins implementing its Central America strategy, it should include three pillars—rooted in lessons learned from within and outside the region—to maximize the probability that the proposed spending in U.S. taxpayer funds has its intended impact.
First, the Biden administration should deliver on its promise to make the fight against corruption its number one priority in Central America by supporting local anti-graft actors. The sanctions against officials which the United States is considering are a step in the right direction, but lasting reform is best accomplished through a partnership involving regional or multilateral organizations. Guatemala’s international commission against impunity (CICIG) model was relatively successful until internal pushback and dwindling U.S. advocacy resulted in its dismantlement in 2019. Though Honduras’ equivalent was largely ineffective, and El Salvador’s recently launched version is marred by President Bukele’s campaign against judicial independence, there is room for learning from past mistakes and propose a more robust and mutually beneficial arrangement. The experience of Ukraine shows that while external engagement is no silver bullet in eliminating corruption, the role of foreign actors can lead to tangible improvements in the anti-corruption ecosystem, including more transparent public procurement and increased accountability for corrupt politicians.
In tandem with direct diplomatic pressure and helping stand up CICIG-like structures, the U.S. can harness lessons from prior anticorruption efforts to fund programs that address other aspects of graft in each country. This should involve empowering civil society in each country to monitor government compliance with anti-corruption laws and putting pressure on elected officials to uphold their commitments. While reducing impunity and improving transparency might not automatically persuade Central Americans to stay, better democratic governance will allow the three Northern Triangle nations to pursue policies that will end up expanding economic opportunities for residents. As Vice President Harris recently noted, any progress on addressing violence or food insecurity would be undermined if the environment for enabling corruption remains unchanged.
Second, the United States should support local initiatives to help reverse the deterioration of the social fabric in the region by expanding access to community decision-making. Given the high levels of mistrust of government institutions, any efforts to support reform-minded actors and stamp out corruption at the national level must be paired with efforts to promote social cohesion and revitalize confidence in subnational leaders and opportunities. In the Northern Triangle countries, violence and economic deprivation erode social cohesion and undermine trust in democratic institutions. The U.S. government and practitioners should support civic efforts to build trust among community members and open opportunities for collective action, particularly in marginalized areas. A key component of this is expanding sociopolitical reintegration opportunities for returning migrants. In so doing, it is possible to help improve perceptions of quality of life, sense of belonging, and vision for the future. While evidence should underpin all elements of a U.S. Strategy for Central America, it is particularly important to ensure social cohesion initiatives are locally-owned, respond to the most salient issues, and are systematically evaluated in order to understand their effects on migration.
Lastly, the U.S. should take a human-rights based approach to managing migration and learn from the pitfalls associated with hardline approaches to stem migration. Policies rooted in a securitized vision have a demonstrable bad record. For example, since 2015, the European Union undertook significant measures to prevent irregular migration from Niger, including by criminalizing many previously legitimate businesses associated with migration and enforced the imposition of legal restrictions to dissuade open and legal migration. Not only did this violate freedom of movement and create adverse economic consequences, but it also pushed migration underground, with individuals still making the journey and encountering significant threats to their lives, security and human rights.
A welcome realignment
Acknowledging the role of push factors is key to responding to migration effectively. Most importantly, putting political inclusion and responsive governance at the center is critical for ensuring vulnerable populations feel rooted in their community. A more secure, prosperous, and democratic Central America will pay dividends to the United States not only in terms of border security, but also in the form of improved cooperation to tackle global challenges, from climate change to the rise of China.
*Eguiar Lizundia is the Deputy Director for Technical Advancement and Governance Advisor at IRI
Sinophobia grows in Argentina: The relations still the crucial one
Since COVID-19 came up in Wuhan, China followed by the growth of anti-sentiment China especially in Argentina. In late November 2020, the crowds happened in the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires that involved the two Chinese entrepreneurs who have a supermarket chain and the customers speak loudly if the owners spread COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent article, the slogan of ‘China out’ is available to speak up against the government.
At the same time, the Representative of the United States expressed similar concerns over the increasingly close relationship between China and Argentina, which come on top of attacks against Chinese immigrants whose country is blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic. The US also concerns that ‘the close relationship’ would limit Argentina’s economic autonomy.
Despite the troubles and the response from the US, the Argentine government still has incredible ties with China on several sides such as economic, military, and politics.
Economic side is crucial with Chinese government. Since President Xi introduced the ambitious project, Belt and Road Initiative, he imagined it can lift China’s economy. One of the developing countries and a member of G20, Argentina. During 2005-2019, Argentina received a maximum investment from China $ 30.6 billion, which accounted for 39 per cent of total Chinese investment in South America. Besides, the Chinese corporations also gave the proposal to build 25 industrial pig farms in Argentina, which will significantly increase pork exports to China. The project involving investment of $3.8 billion, is expected to generate annual production of 900,000 tons amounting to $2.5 million in annual exports.
Even captured by COVID-19 that caused an economic and health crisis, the government has several agreements within China. At least, Argentina has 15 infrastructure projects on the list that can be presented to Chinese corporations. The projects that Argentina prioritizes for investment from China are the rehabilitation plan of the San Martín Railway system, improvements to the Roca Railway line, infrastructure works on the Miter and Urquiza railway, and the redefinition of the Belgrano Cargas railway network.
A Marco Press reported Chinese government and Argentine government discussed the possibility of selling to Argentina the Sino-Pakistan’s resultant force, JF-17 fighter jets. In the history of both countries noted it was not the first time to have an arms deal. In 2015, the two countries signed a deal for Argentina’s purchase of several weapons systems. Estimated at US$1 billion, the deal included warships, armoured vehicles and fighter jets. These agreements were signed during the presidency of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (2008–2015), the left-wing and Peronist leader who built close ties with China. Despite, the retired right-leaning, Mauricio Macri in 2015 having cancelled these projects, the Peronist government in 2019 tried to revive it.
In late May 2021, The Argentinian government have announced an Ascention Technologies SA will have a collaboration with China’s counterpart, Satellite Hard to install a satellite ground station at an industrial park, The Southern city of Rio Gallegos. But before, since 2017, Argentina also hosted a Chinese military-run space station in Neuquen province. The facility signed between the PRC and the prior government of Cristina Fernandez, is largely operated by Chinese military personnel.
The station’s location and known dish characteristics appear consistent with China’s need for facilities in the hemisphere capable of continuously tracking objects in space, in support of its lunar and planetary space program. While the telescope facility does not have an overtly military purpose, the head of the U.S. Southern Command has mentioned it as an item of concern, as it is conceivably capable of intercepting signals from American or other overflying satellites, or supporting other Chinese strategic missions.
The Chinese space radar telescope is not, however, the only instance of China collaboration with Argentina on issues related to space. Great Wall Industrial Corporation has helped to build and launch 13 satellites for the commercial Argentine company Satellogic. Additionally, the state satellite company ARSAT also maintains commercial service contract relations with Chinese-based firms.
The several relations led by the Argentine government depend on China’s potensial. Instead of the protests that have grown up in Argentina, the government needs to upgrade their economic growth. But, for some reasons, the government should set an alarm if China steps up their acceleration. Besides, the government should be careful and must have more consideration to Chinese firms because the West analysts have stated that China’s foreign policy has an unseen reciprocal, the debt-trap. It had been proven that Sri-Lanka’s port, the Hambantota, went to the China side.
The Gendered Effects of COVID-19 in Mexico
Authors: Andi Dahmer, Kerby Gilstrap, Timothy S. Rich*
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated many existing problems and inequalities in societies around the world. Informal labor, loosely defined as “productive activities that are not taxed or registered by the government” has suffered more job losses due to the pandemic. These jobs, such as fruit market vendors or hospitality workers among other lower-paying professions, are less likely to have remote working options which increases the exposure of their employees to COVID-19. According to the International Labor Organization, Latin America and the Caribbean region saw the largest reduction in hours worked in the labor market, estimated at a 20.9% loss in hours. In Mexico, women have experienced unemployment at higher rates than men. In March 2020, the unemployment rate was just under 3 percent, but due to shutdowns during the course of the pandemic, the unemployment rate has fluctuated between 4 and 5.5 percent since then. COVID-19 also largely accounts for a GDP decline of 8% in 2020.
Due to the pandemic and the rise of working remotely from home, many workers have found the lines between work and home blurred. According to Pew Research Center, in a survey about how Covid-19 has impacted working Americans, one third of respondents who work from home all or most of the time now work longer hours than before the pandemic. Results are similar for those who rarely or never work from home (23%) and for those whose work cannot be done from home (21%). In total, 24% of respondents said they are working more hours, 59% said about the same or did not know, and 17% said they are working fewer hours than before the pandemic.
This disparity is also true in Latin America, where women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Already, men were more likely than women to both participate in the labor market and hold jobs in “high-paying sectors”; however, even before the pandemic, women in Latin America and the Caribbean faced high levels of unemployment.
Women who did work often did so in sectors most affected by the pandemic (e.g. tourism, restaurants) and in which one could not work remotely, which exacerbated already high levels of unemployment across the region.
According to the LAC COVID-19 High Frequency Monitoring project, 56 percent of women lost their jobs either temporarily or permanently between May and August 2020, a rate 44 percent higher than that of men. Even as men began returning to the workforce in 2021, the gap in job losses by gender remained. Two of the largest factors to blame for this include: childcare and household responsibilities in combination with gender norms, and reliance on work in industries that require face-to-face interaction and are thus vulnerable to social distancing measures. Many could not transition to work from home, and those who could often did so while balancing traditional caregiving responsibilities for children and family members which ultimately became too burdensome to successfully balance, and contributed to an exit from the workforce.
To assess both views of the government’s response to COVID-19, but more importantly the shifts in work and household responsibilities due to the pandemic, we conducted an original web survey June 22-24 via Qualtrics, using quota sampling. First, we asked respondents to evaluate the statement “I am satisfied with the national government’s response to COVID-19”. Overall, 45.44% agreed with the statement, compared to 42.4% disagreeing. Men were slightly more likely than women to state they were satisfied with the response. Broken down by party, only supporters of the ruling MORENA party had a majority of respondents satisfied, consistent with the broader public opinion literature on the role of partisan lenses.
Next, we randomly assigned respondents to one of two prompts regarding responsibilities since COVID-19.
Version 1: Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, would you say that your work responsibilities have decreased, increased, or stayed about the same?
Version 2: Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, would you say that your household responsibilities have decreased, increased, or stayed about the same?
In terms of the work responsibilities version, we see that men were far more likely to say responsibilities had increased rather than decreased (41.52% vs. 16.96%), whereas women were more evenly divided (36.05% vs. 34.01%) However, when asked to evaluate the increase of household responsibilities, we see almost identical responses between men and women, with nearly two thirds of both (64.71% of men, 66.27% of women) stating responses increased.
These findings on their face may seem odd at first glance, when considering that household responsibilities, especially childcare, tend to fall disproportionately on women. However, this may be a case of men overestimating the time spent on housework, as seen elsewhere prior to the pandemic. Likewise, our survey cannot capture the extent to which household responsibilities increased, only that male and female respondents claimed increases. For example, according to a 2015 study, after the birth of their first child, a woman’s total house work (including unpaid labor and childcare) increases 21 hours per week whereas men’s increases to slightly more than 12 hours. It is not unreasonable to assume similar differential increases due to the pandemic, especially in light of gender role expectations in Mexico.
Finally, this analysis does not take into account the single mothers who are barred from re-entering the workforce as they are unable to find sufficient childcare to monitor their children when they work outside of the home. This is especially true of the gig economy and informal labor sectors which cannot be completed virtually. For example, according to the United Nations, women in Mexico before the pandemic performed 39 hours per week of unpaid labor (nearly the same amount as a full-time job) and the number is increasing due to COVID. This does not include increased homeschooling responsibilities as public schools In Mexico closed. Men, by contrast, performed only 13 hours of unpaid labor, and the inequity was especially stark for single mothers. In Mexico City, for example, record numbers of women have been forced to enter the sex trade in order to afford food, rent, and provisions for their families. The Associated Press estimates that nearly 40 % of the women new to sex work are single mothers who lack any other alternative.
How to reintegrate millions of women forced to exit the workforce during the pandemic will be a challenge to Mexico, but one faced by most developing and developed countries alike. The New York Times has labeled this mass exodus of women as a “shecession” and foreshadows long term implications of women’s exit throughout the global economy. There are many possible policy solutions to the inclusion of women in the workforce but none of them are short-term fixes. A simple start would be ensuring that women have access to childcare. If children are home alone, it is impossible for low-wage workers to return to informal labor sectors outside of the home. The second and third are increasing access to higher education for women around the world and closing the gender pay gap so that women’s rates of unemployment and employment in low-wage sectors are not substantially higher than men’s. While, during the 2010’s, Mexico implemented a Federal Daycare Program for working mothers, this program still did not have the capacity to address the rampant need in all parts of the country. Then, in February of 2019, citing austerity measures, President López Obrador permanently ended the program, resulting in more than 1.8 million parents living without access to childcare. Moreover, Mexico has one of the largest gender employment gaps as well as gender pay gaps in the OECD. Though policies are enacted to alleviate these economic stressors, policy rollbacks, like those listed above, have consistently communicated to women and indigienous women that their needs are not prioritized. The pandemic has exacerbated this gap and it is unclear to what extent the government will act to offer solutions.
Andi Dahmer is the Exchange Program Manager at the World Affairs Council of Kentucky. She is a 2019 Honors graduate of Western Kentucky University and a 2018 Truman Scholar.
Kerby Gilstrap is an Honors Undergraduate Researcher at Western Kentucky University. She is majoring in International Affairs, Arabic, and Sustainable Development.
Timothy S. Rich is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the International Public Opinion Lab (IPOL) at Western Kentucky University.
Funding for this survey work was provided by the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University.
Partnership with Private Sector is Key in Closing Rwanda’s Infrastructure Gap
The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has pushed the Rwandan economy into recession in 2020 for the first time since 1994, according...
Carbon Market Could Drive Climate Action
Authors: Martin Raiser, Sebastian Eckardt, Giovanni Ruta* Trading commenced on China’s national emissions trading system (ETS) on Friday. With a...
10 new cities chosen for World Economic Forum circular economy initiative
The World Economic Forum’s Scale360° initiative announced today the 10 city-based hubs joining its Circular Shapers programme. Scale360° leverages innovation...
A New Era in US-Jordan Relations
King Abdullah of Jordan is the first Arab leader who met American President Joe Biden at the White House. The...
Reusing 10% Will Stop Almost Half of Plastic Waste From Entering the Ocean
It is possible to prevent almost half of annual plastic ocean waste by reusing just 10% of our plastics products....
USA and Australia Worry About Cyber Attacks from China Amidst Pegasus Spyware
Pegasus Spyware Scandal has shaken whole India and several other countries. What will be its fallout no one knows as...
The EU wants to cut emissions, Bulgaria and Eastern Europe will bear the price
In the last few years, the European Union has been going above and beyond in dealing with climate change. Clearly,...
Energy3 days ago
Oil and the new world order: China, Iran and Eurasia
International Law3 days ago
Syrian Refugee Crisis: A Critical Analysis Concerning International Law
Intelligence2 days ago
Afghan issue can not be understood from the simplistic lens of geopolitical blocs
Science & Technology3 days ago
Implementation of virtual reality and the effects in cognitive warfare
Americas2 days ago
Sinophobia grows in Argentina: The relations still the crucial one
Reports3 days ago
Global electricity demand is growing faster than renewables
Economy2 days ago
Entrepreneurialism & Digitalization: Recovery of Midsize Business Economies
Africa3 days ago
Former South African president is pursuing a treasonous strategy