The Next Big Referendum to Shape the European Union

Almost three months since it first erupted, the Yellow Vest protests in Paris still rages on. The Yellow Vest protests have since transformed into a general anti-government movement with no clearly defined agenda apart from a common display of frustration towards an unresponsive and out-of-touch government. Rumors in French media have hinted at a potential nation-wide referendum on May 26th this year. If true, this would be the first French referendum in 14 years, with strong implications for France and the European Union.

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Eight Years on from the Arab Spring: A Tunisian Turnaround?

Eight years on from the “Arab Spring” of 2011, Tunisia continues to struggle with questions of economy and identity. While Tunisian President Beji Essebsi has implemented a number of initiatives to combat extremism and improve regional and international trade, the remains much uncertainty in the country’s political structure and domestic economic situation.

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Libya: Abusing Migrants in Detention

In January 2019, the Human Rights Watch organization published a report titled “No Escape from Hell: EU Policies Contribute to Abuse of Migrants in Libya”, which documents instances of severe overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and malnutrition in Libyan detention centers. Today, human rights abuses against migrants remain rampant in Libya as the country continue to serve as a departure point into Europe for migrants fleeing from economic hardship, violence, and discrimination in their home countries in Africa.

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Yemen: A Human Security Crisis

According to the United Nations, today 79% of Yemen’s population is in poverty, compared with 49% just two years ago. Of the roughly 28.5 million people living in the country, 22 million are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. From a human security standpoint, ending the conflict in Yemen is as much a mission to secure regional stability as a pursuit to ensure civilian wellbeing.

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Vaccines: Are They Truly Able to Protect Citizens?

In 2011, the World Health Organization developed a strategic document called the Global Vaccine Safety Blueprint, which aims to establish indicators for vaccine safety in all countries. Yet as of 2018, vaccination schemes around the world continue to undergo a number of setbacks, including a major vaccine scandal in China and failure to prevent measles outbreaks in Thailand and the United States. Despite current progress, there remain much to be done by governments to increase health standards transparency and consideration for communities that they serve.

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Trump’s Trade War: Economic Naivety or Deft Populist Politics?

Throughout his campaign and administration, President Donald Trump has emphasized the need to decrease trade deficits with China through increasing tariffs as one of the core tenets of his pledge to “Make America Great Again”. While academics and other experts often criticize the President as an “economic dummy” with little understanding of public policy, these negative judgments may actually allow President Trump the possibility to market and implement policies in a way that a “traditional” administration could not.

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Spain's Open Attitude Towards Syrian Refugees

In 2018, Spain increased its intake of Syrian refugees by 300%, accepting 38,451 documented Syrian refugees from the Mediterranean. Spain’s popular attitudes and political rhetoric towards Syrian refugees have also been markedly more positive in comparison to those from other European countries in face of rising populism and shifting public opinion. Will these policies and public sentiments create lasting effects in the coming months and years?

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What Merkel’s Stepdown Means for Germany and the Rest of Europe

In October 2018, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced her intention to step down from her position as the head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), signalling the end of her thirteen year career in office. While frontrunner Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK) has been elected as Merkel’s successor to the CDU in December, there remain important questions for the future direction of the party, German domestic policy, and the European Union itself.

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Could the Treaty that ended the Cold War start a New Nuclear Arms Race?

The signing of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1988 was a pivotal moment in ending the nuclear arms race and the Cold War. Yet in October 2018, the United States under the Trump Administration announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty following violations of the treaty from both sides since 2001. If negotiations stagnate and powerful bodies like the United States and Russia continue to battle and build nuclear arms, there could be the evolution of a new nuclear arms race.

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China’s Xinjiang Camps: Human Rights Violations and International Interference

While China has frequently received international criticism for human rights abuses over the decades — violent suppression of protests, disappearances and arrests of “political dissidents,” tight control over religion, information, and speech — the Xinjiang re-educational camps may be one of the more pressing issues of human rights today. Yet, efforts at uncovering and condemning the camps have been complicated by media censorship, international diplomacy, as well as questions of national sovereignty.

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A Military Face of China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative in Pakistan

A central piece of Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative lies in what has been titled the Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an approximately $62 billion dollar investment to strengthen bilateral ties in infrastructure, scientific research, and defense. The newest developments in the CPEC initiative involve increasing air force and naval cooperation between China and Pakistan, which holds significant implications towards the Belt and Road Initiative and regional diplomacy.

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The Trump Administration’s Renewed Commitment in Syria

The Syrian Civil War has waged on for more than 7 years, and the United States is likely to remain in Syria until there is wider political peace in an attempt to avoid a military resurgence similar to the case of Iraq in 2011. However, the Trump administration’s renewed commitment to stability in Syria will require more than just military presence.

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US Sanctions on Iran Hinder Hope of Future Progress

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was a milestone of Barack Obama’s legacy and the history of US-Iran relations, but was recently overturned by the Trump administration in November. The move to re-impose sanctions will not only prove ineffective to bring about the outcomes his administration purportedly supports, but it will also reduce the US’s ability to engage with Iran and other countries and negotiate successfully in the long-term.

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Cyberspace: The Real "Final Frontier"

The past two decades have seen unprecedented growth in online usage and dependency within nations around the globe. The internet has facilitated communication, international trade, and even the spread and development of democracy, but has also generated a host of security concerns involving the information and safety of nations and their citizens. Due to the constant growth of this threat, the next major international conflict very well may be fought not on soil but over cyberspace

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Diplomatic Daybreak

A new theme seems to have achieved play within the international cycle. Diplomacy is having its day once again for Morocco, as it is for several other North African states.

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United States Unveils $60 Billion Agency to Counter China’s Global Influence

In October 2018, the United States Senate passed the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act, a $60 billion dollar foreign aid project directed towards developing countries. Despite the Trump Administration’s earlier rhetoric to decrease foreign aid, the new Act re-instills the importance of economic soft power in maintaining its international image and checking influence from competitors, particularly China in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Vietnam’s Prime Minister Calls Upon the United Nations for Multinational Cooperation

The United Nation General Assembly’s 73rd session (UNGA 73) was overwhelmed by President Trump’s speech against globalism, but there should have been more attention to representatives from the remaining 192 UN Member States. Among them, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the Prime Minister of Vietnam, delivered a speech supporting the role of the United Nations and cooperation among member states.

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Russia Invites Taliban to Talk Peace

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has invited representatives of the Taliban, Afghan government, and delegates from 11 countries bordering Afghanistan—including China, Iran, and Pakistan—to peace talks in early September. However, without both Afghan and U.S. government representatives attending the peace talks, the extent to which the conference makes progress in negotiating with the Taliban is uncertain.

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Saudi Arabia Human Rights Abuses Highlighted

Since his instatement as both crown prince and Minister of Defense in 2017, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has sought to modernize Saudi Arabia, with the lifting of a long-standing ban preventing women from driving being an early indicator of change within the kingdom. Despite this sign of modernization, however, the Saudi government has continued to violate international human rights.

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