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ESSAY / Emilija Žebrauskaitė
While the Western Westphalian State - and, consequently, the Western legal system - became the default in most parts of the world, Africa with its traditional ethics and customs has a lot to offer. Although the positive legalism is still embraced, there is a tendency of looking at the indigenous traditions for the inspiration of the system that would be a better fit in an African setting. Ubuntu ethics has a lot to offer and can be considered a basis for all traditional institutions in Africa. A great example of Ubuntu in action is the African Traditional Justice System which embraces the Ubuntu values as its basis. This article will provide a conceptualization of Ubuntu philosophy and will analyse its applications in the real-world scenarios through the case of Gacaca trials in Rwanda.
Firstly, this essay will define Ubuntu: its main tenants, how Ubuntu compares with other philosophical and ethical traditions, and the main criticism of Ubuntu ethics. Secondly, the application of Ubuntu ethics through African Indigenous Justice Systems will be covered, naming the features of Ubuntu that can be seen in the application of justice in the African setting, discussing the peace vs. justice discussion and why one value is emphasized more than another in AIJS, and how the traditional justice in Africa differs from the Western one.
Lastly, through the case study of Gacaca trials in post-genocide Rwanda, this essay seeks to demonstrate that the application of the traditional justice in the post-genocide society did what the Western legalistic system failed to do - it provided a more efficient way to distribute justice and made the healing of the wounds inflicted by the genocide easier by allowing the community to actively participate in the judicial decision-making process.
It is the opinion of this article that while the African Traditional Justice System has it's share of problems when applied in modern-day Africa, as the continent is embedded into the reality of the Westphalian state, each state being a part of the global international order, the Western model of justice is eroding the autonomy of the community which is a cornerstone of African society. However, the values of Ubuntu ethics persist, providing a strong basis for traditional African institutions.
Conceptualization of Ubuntu
The word Ubuntu derives from the Bantu language group spoken widely across sub-Saharan Africa. It can be defined as "A quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity" (Lexico, n.d.) and, according to Mugumbate and Nyanguru, is a homogenizing concept, a "backbone of African spirituality" in African ontology (2013). "Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" - a Zulu phrase meaning "a person is a person through other persons" is one of the widely spread interpretations of Ubuntu.
In comparison with non-African philosophical thoughts, there can be found similarities between Ubuntu and the traditional Chinese as well as Western ethics, but when it comes to the modern Western way of thought, the contrast is striking. According to Lutz (2009), Confucian ethics, just like Ubuntu ethics, view the institution of family as a central building block of society. An Aristotelian tradition which prevailed in the Western world until Enlightenment had some characteristics similar to Ubuntu as well, namely the idea of Aristotle that human being is a social being and can only reach his true potential through the community (Aristotle, 350 B.C.E.). However, Thomas Hobbes had an opposite idea of human nature, claiming that the natural condition of man is solidarity (Hobbes, 1651). The values that still prevail in Ubuntu ethics, therefore, are rarely seen in modern liberal thought that prevails in the Western World and in the international order in general. According to Lutz (2009) "Reconciling self-realization and communalism is important because it solves the problem of moral motivation" which Western modern ethics have a hard time to answer. It can be argued, therefore, that Ubuntu has a lot to offer to the global ethical thought, especially in the world in which the Western ideas of individualism prevail and the values of community and collectivism are often forgotten.
However, while Ubuntu carries values that can contribute to global ethics, as a philosophical current it is heavily criticised. According to Metz (2011), there are three main reasons why Ubuntu receives criticism: firstly, it is considered vague as a philosophical thought and does not have a solid framework; secondly, it is feared that due to its collectivist orientation there is a danger of sacrificing individual freedoms for the sake of society; and lastly, it is thought that Ubuntu philosophy is applicable and useful only in traditional, but not modern society.
When it comes to the reproach about the vagueness of Ubuntu as a philosophical thought, Thaddeus Metz examines six theoretical interpretations of the concept of Ubuntu:
U1: An action is right just insofar as it respects a person's dignity; an act is wrong to the extent that it degrades humanity.
U2: An action is right just insofar as it promotes the well-being of others; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to enhance the welfare of one's fellows.
U3: An action is right just insofar as it promotes the well-being of others without violating their rights; an act is wrong to the extent that it either violates rights or fails to enhance the welfare of one's fellows without violating rights.
U4: An action is right just insofar as it positively relates to others and thereby realises oneself; an act is wrong to the extent that it does not perfect one's valuable nature as a social being.
U5: An action is right just insofar as it is in solidarity with groups whose survival is threatened; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to support a vulnerable community.
U6: An action is right just insofar as it produces harmony and reduces discord; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to develop community (Metz, 2007).
While arguing that the concept U4 is the most accepted in literature, Matz himself argues in favour of the concept U6 as the basis of the ethics is rooted not in the subject, but in the object (Metz, 2007).
The fear that Ubuntu tenants make people submissive to authority and collective goals, giving them a very strong identity that might result in violence against other groups originates, according to Lutz (2009), from a faulty understanding of Ubuntu. Even though the tribalism is pretty common in the African setting, it does not derive from the tenants of Ubuntu, but a corrupted idea of this ethical philosophy. Further criticism on the idea that collectivism might interfere with individual rights or liberties can also be denied quoting Lutz, who said that "Ethical theories that tell us we must choose between egoism and altruism, between self-love and love of others, between prudence and morality, or one's good and the common good are individualistic ethical theories" and therefore have nothing in common with ideas of Ubuntu, which, unlike the individualistic theories, reconciles the common and staff good and goals.
The third objection, namely the question of whether Ubuntu ethics remain useful in the modern society which functions according to the Westphalian State model is challenged by Metz (2011). While it is true that Ubuntu developed in a traditional setting in which the value of human beings was based on the amount of communal life a human has lived (explaining the respect for the elders and the ancestors in African setting), a variant concept of dignity that in no way can be applied in a modern setting, there are still valuable ethical norms that can be thought by Ubuntu. Metz (2011) provides a concept of human dignity based on Ubuntu ideas, which, as he argues, can contribute to ethics in the modern African setting: "individuals have dignity insofar as they have communal nature, that is, the inherent capacity to exhibit identity and solidarity with others".
The Ubuntu ethics in African Indigenous Justice System
The institutionalisation and centralisation of power in the hands of the Westphalian State takes away the power from the communities which are central to the lifestyle in Africa. However, the communal values have arguably persisted and continue to directly oppose the centralisation. While the Westphalian State model seems to be functioning in the West, there are many good reasons to believe that Africa must look for inspiration in local traditions and customs (Malisa & Nhengeze, 2018). Taking into consideration the Ubuntu values, it is not difficult to understand why institutionalisation has generally not been very successful in African setting (Mugumbate & Nyanguru, 2013), as a place where the community is morally obliged to take care of its members, there is little space for alienated institutions.
Generally, two justice systems are operating alongside each other in many African societies: the state-administered justice system and the African Indigenous Justice System (AIJS). According to Elechi, Morris & Schauer, the litigants can choose between the state tribunal and AIJS, and can apply to be judged by the state if they do not agree with the sentence of the AIJS (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). However, Ubuntu values emphasise the concept of reconciliation: "African political philosophy responds easily and organically to the demands for the reconciliation as a means of restoring the equilibrium of the flow of life when its disturbed" (Nabudere, 2005). As the national court interventions often disharmonize the community by applying the "winner takes it all" approach, and are sometimes considered to be corrupt, there is a strong tendency for the communities to insist on bringing the offender to the AIJS tribunal (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010).
African Indigenous Justice System is a great example of Ubuntu values in action. The system operates on the cultural norm that important decision should be reached by consensus of the whole group as opposed to the majority opinion. AIJS is characterised by features such as the focus on the effects the offence had on victims and the community, the involvement of the litigants in the active definition of harms and the resolution of the trial, the localisation and decentralisation of authority, the importance of the restoration of harm, the property or relationship, the understanding that the offender might be a victim of the socioeconomic conditions; with the main objective of the justice system being the restoration of relationships, healing, and reconciliation in the community (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). Underlying this system is the concept of Ubuntu, which "leads to a way of dealing with the social problems which are very different from the Western legalistic, rule-based system which had become the global default" (Baggini, 2018).
One of the reasons why AIJS can be considered exemplary is its ability to avoid the alienation of the Western courts in which the victim, the offender, and everybody else seem to be represented, but neither victim nor offender can directly participate in the decision making. The system which emphasises reconciliation and in which the community is in charge of the process is arguably much more effective in the African setting, where communities are generally familiar and close-knit. As the offender is still considered a part of the community and is still expected to contribute to its surroundings in the future, the participation in the trial and the decision making is important to the reconciliation: "unlike adjudicated justice, negotiated justice is not a winner take it all justice. Resolution can be reached where the offender, the community, and the victim are each partially wrong" (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). As there is very little hope for an offender to be reintegrated into a close community without forgiving and forgiveness from both parties, this type of approach is pivotal.
Another interesting feature of AIJS is the assumption that the offender is not inherently bad in himself, but is primarily a marginalised victim, who does not have the same opportunities as other members of the community to participate in the economic, political, and social aspects of the group, and who can be made right if both the offender and the community make effort (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010). This concept differs from the Western Hobbesian idea of human beings being inherently corrupt and is much closer to traditional Western Aristotelian ethics. What makes the African concept different, however, is the focus which is not on the virtue of the person himself, but rather on the relationship the offender has with his family and community which, although violated by the offence, can and should be rebuilt by amendments (Elechi, Morris, & Schauer, 2010).
The Gacaca Trials
The Gacaca trials are the state-administered structure which uses communities (around a thousand of them) as a basis for judicial forums (Meyerstein, 2007). They were introduced by the Rwandan government as an alternative to national justice after the Rwandan genocide.
During the colonial times, Rwanda was indirectly ruled by the colonisers through local authorities, namely the Tutsi minority (Uvin, 1999). The Hutu majority were considered second class citizens and by the time of independence were holding deep grievances. The Rwandan Revolution of 1959-1961 overthrew the monarchy and the ruling Tutsi elite. After the independence from the colonial regime, Rwanda was ruled by the Party of Hutu Emancipation Movement, which was supported by the international community on the grounds of the idea that the government is legitimate as it represents the majority of the population - the Hutu (ibid.) During the period of transition, ethnic violence against Tutsi, forcing many of them to leave the country, happened (Rettig, 2008). In 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Army composed mostly by the Tutsi exiles invaded Rwanda from neighbouring Uganda (ibid.) The incumbent government harnessed the already pre-existing ethnic to unite the Hutu population to fight against the Tutsi rebels. The strategy included finding a scapegoat in an internal Tutsi population that continued to live in Rwanda (Uvin, 1999). The genocide which soon followed took lives of 500,000 to 800,000 people between April and July of the year 1994 when the total population at the time is estimated to have been around 8 million (Drumbl, 2020). More than 100,000 people were accused and waited in detention for trials, creating a great burden on a Rwandan county (Schabas, 2005).
According to Meyerstein (2007), the Gacaca trials were a response to the failure of the Western-styled nation court to process all the suspects of the genocide. Gacaca trials were based on indigenous local justice, with Ubuntu ethics being an underlying element of the system. The trials were traditionally informal, organic, and patriarchal, but the Rwandan government modernised the indigenous justice system by establishing an organisational structure, and, among other things, making the participation of women a requirement (Drumbl, 2020).
The application of Gacaca trails to do justice after the genocide was not always well received by the international community. The trials received criticism for not complying with the international standards for the distribution of justice. For example, Amnesty International invoked Article 14 of the ICCPR and stated that Gacaca trials violated the right of the accused to be presumed innocent and to the free trial (Meyerstein, 2007). There are, undoubtedly, many problems that can be assigned to the system of Gacaca when it comes to the strict norms of the international norms.
The judges are drawn from the community and arguably lack the official legal training, the punitive model of the trials that arguably have served for many as an opportunity for staff revenge, and the aforementioned lack of legal protection for the accused are a few of many problems faced by the Gacaca trials (Rettig, 2008). Furthermore, the Gacaca trials excluded the war criminals from the prosecution - there were many cases of the killings of Hutu civilians by Tutsis that formed the part of the Rwandan Patriotic Front army (Corey & Joireman, 2004). This was seen by many as a politicised application of justice, in which, by creating two separate categories of criminals - the crimes of war by the Tutsis that were not the subject of Gacaca and the crimes of the genocide by the Hutus that were dealt with by the trials - the impunity and high moral ground was granted for the Tutsi (ibid). This attitude might bring results that are contrary to the initial goal of the community-based justice - not the reconciliation of the people, but the further division of the society along the ethnic lines.
However, while the criticism of the Gacaca trials is completely valid, it is also important to understand, that given the limited amount of resources and time, the goal of bringing justice to the victims of the genocide is an incredibly complex mission. In the context of the deeply wounded, post-genocidal society in which the social capital was almost non-existent, the ultimate goal, while having justice as a high priority, was first of all based on Ubuntu ethics and focused more on peace, retribution, and social healing. The utopian perfectness expected by the international community was nearly impossible, and the Gacaca trials met the goal of finding the best possible solutions in the limits of available resources. Furthermore, the criticism of international community often seemed to stem not so much from the preoccupation for the Rwandan citizens, as from the fact that a different approach to justice threatens the homogenising concept of human rights "which lashes out to squash cultural difference and legal pluralism by criticising the Gacaca for failures to approximate canonised doctrine" (Meyerstein, 2007).
While it is true that even Rwandan citizens often saw Gacaca as problematic, whether the problems perceived by them were similar to those criticised by the international community is dubious. For example, Rwanda's Supreme Court's response to the international criticism was the provision of approach to human rights which, while not denying their objectivity, also advocates for the definition that better suits the local culture and unique circumstances of post-genocide Rwanda (Supreme Court of Rwanda, 2003). After all, the interventions from the part of the Western world on behalf of the universal values have arguably created more violence historically than the defended values should ever allow. The acceptance that Gacaca trials, while imperfect, contributed positively to the post-genocide Rwandan society has the grave implications that human rights are ultimately a product of negotiation between global and local actors" (Meyerstein, 2007) which the West has always refused to accept. However, it is the opinion of this article that exactly the opposite attitude, namely that of better intercultural understanding and the search for the solutions that are not utopian but fit in the margins of the possibilities of a specific society, are the key to both the efficiency and the fairness of a justice system.
The primary end of the African Indigenous Justice System is to empower the community and to foster reconciliation through a consensus that is made by the offenders, the victims, and the community alike. It encourages to view victims as people who have valuable relationships: they are someone's daughters, sons, fathers - they are important members of society. Ubuntu is the underlying basis of the Indigenous Justice System and African ethnicity in general. While the AIJS seems to be functioning alongside the state's courts, in the end, the centralization and alienation from the community are undermining these traditional values that flourish in the African setting. The Western legalistic system helps little when it comes to the main goal of justice in Africa - the reconciliation of the community, and more often than not only succeeds in creating further discord. While the criticism of Gacaca trials was undoubtedly valid, it often stemmed from the utopian idealism that did not take the actual situation of a post-genocide Rwanda into consideration or the Western universalism, which was threatened by the introduction of a justice system that in many ways differs from the positivist standard. It is the opinion of this article, therefore, that more autonomy should be granted to the communities that are the basic building blocks of most of the African societies, with the traditional values of Ubuntu being the basis of the African social institutions.
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June 15, 2021
WORKING PAPER / Jon Paris Oses, Jokin de Carlos Sola and Túlio Dias de Assis
South Korea finds itself in the middle of the geopolitical ambitions of regional giants, while at the same time addressing their own conflictive relationship with their northern counterpart. Because of that, a global and also a peninsular overview of their characteristics from an international relations perspective has been analysed, with the objective in mind of identifying the main dynamics and driving factors that strategically influence South Korea in the present times with an eye into the future. Pursuing that analysis, a global perspective and an inter-Korean perspective were suitable to better address the main issues, with special attention to the influence of the two big powers in relation with Seoul, the US and China, as well as the constant uncertainty North Korea generates in the relations between both Koreas. Findings regarding key aspects such as the US military presence in South Korean soil, or the possibility of a Korean reunification suggest the primacy of continuity and controlled stability for the next ten years, as the stakes are too high for the actors involved to take high-risk high-benefit decisions. The main conclusions follow the same direction, with stagnation as present condition South Korea will have to find its way, always with the inter-Korean relations in mind, if it wants to survive and develop its own path under the shadow of two giants.
June 15, 2021
ESSAY / Paula Mora Brito[English version].
Terrorism in the Sahel is an ignored reality that affects millions of people. Unsurprisingly, the region is one of the most affected by this practice; the political instability that these nations suffer. Their complex geographical features make it difficult to control borders (especially those in the Sahara Dessert), and the lack of cultural homogeneity and beliefs, coupled with ongoing economic and social challenges, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, makes the region a fragile and convenient scenario for terrorist groups. Furthermore, Western countries (mainly France) are present in the area, which has led to some challenges regarding their intervention in the eyes of the Sahelian population. An analysis of the role of these countries will be developed. Although data on this problem is scarce, making it difficult to study it, this article will try to broaden the concepts and knowledge about terrorism in the Sahel, extending its geographical spectrum, to show the daily life of its inhabitants since several years from now. The focus of the analysis will be on Western intervention in the fight against terrorism.
The terrorist phenomenon
Terrorism is a controversial concept because it is subject to individual interpretation: while some condemn a group for the use of indiscriminate violence with a political/social/economic objective, others consider that its militants are freedom fighters. Only its purpose defines this activity: to coerce and intimidate the general public on an issue. It takes different forms, and it can be classified by geographical scope (regional, national or international) or by its target (ethno-nationalist, political and/or economic ideology, religious or specific issues). This is why each has different characteristics.
Religious terrorism, as highlighted by Charles Townshend in his book Terrorism: A very short introduction, has its own characteristics. Quoting Hoffman, he explains that the terrorist's objective transcends politics because it is considered a theological demand. Although no religion holds the monopoly of this kind of terrorism, today, it has an Islamist base. In its interpretation of Islam, there is no difference between the political and theological postulates.
In the Sahel, religiously motivated terrorists often follow a political objective: establishing a regime based on Islam, defined in religious terms. It is a bilateral relationship between fervent religious believers and God, in which there is no possibility of dialogue or understanding with others, only the establishment of the demand for righteous combat. This concept explains why religious terrorism has an international scope, because even if it starts at a regional or national level, the group of "enemies" encompasses all those who are distinct from the terrorist group. Messianism is the engine of this activity, and martyrdom its most potent weapon. Death from fighting is presented as a sacred act and reflects the certainty of the members of these groups of the truth to their ideology.
The West has difficulties in dealing with these threats because it understands the world in a secular way. However, in the states in which these groups develop, religion represents the nation, holding firm its central values and lifestyle: the individual is religion and vice versa. As Edward Said stated, "The entrenched West is blind to nuance and changes in the Islamic world". Islamic religious terrorism arises as a response to colonialism and the practice of soft power by Western countries in Arab and Islamic cultures, which has been reinforced through the current of Islamic fundamentalism.
Terrorism in the Sahel
The Sahel ("edge, coast" in Arabic) is a geopolitical region that cuts across the north and south of the African continent as well as from west to east, with a total area of 3,053,200 km2, constituting a belt 5,000 km long. It is composed of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Mali, Algeria, Burkina-Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia. It is a strategic area, as the Sahara Dessert is understood as a means of communication.
The area has 150 million inhabitants, 64% of whom are under 25 years of age and mostly Sunni Muslims. In 2018, the latest year for which there is data on these countries, the annual mortality rate per 1,000 people averages 8.05, a high value when compared with the 2.59 of Spain in 2019. The adult (15+) literacy rate, for which data is only available for seven of the ten countries previously mentioned, averages 56,06%. However, in reality it is very unequal, ranging between Algeria's 81,40% and Niger or Mali's 35%. The poverty incidence rate based on the national poverty line is on average 41,15% (only four countries have 2018 data). Life expectancy is 63 years.
The territory faces a numerous economic, political and social crisis. The Sahel is one of the poorest regions in the world. In fact, northern Nigeria is one of the territories with the largest number of extremely poor population on the planet. The situation in the region worsened this year, due to the pandemic, with a historic fall in the price of raw materials by more than 20%, which account for 89% of the region's exports.
The environmental crisis hinders economic development. Climate change has caused temperatures to rise 1.5 times faster than the global average, which has increased the frequency of droughts (from one every ten years to one every two). Political instability in some countries, such as the 2012 coup d'état in Mali, hampers their development.
In this context, insecurity has increased since the 2004 attacks in Borno, a Nigerian state bordering Cameroon and Chad, by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. Terrorist activity has spread in the Sahel through the leadership of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), present in northern Mali, eastern Mauritania, Niger and western Chad. This has led to a demographic crisis, with 4.2 million displaced persons and more than a million unable to find work. The United Nations Development Program estimates that between now and 2050, more than 85 million Sahelians will be forced to migrate.
Most attacks take place in the triple borders of Mali, Burkina-Faso and Niger, and that of Niger, Nigeria and Chad. Since the 1885 Treaty of Berlin, African borders have posed a serious problem for ensuring stability in the region, as their creation by European powers did not take into account for pre-existing tribal and ethnic groups spread across the region, ultimately forcing and creating nations with little common cultural affinity. This reality was reflected with the case of Mali, showing the pre-existing fragility of the region.
AQIM has divided the Sahel into katibas (branches): the Yahia Abou Ammar Abid Hammadu, which is established between southern Algeria and Tunisia and northern Niger, and Tarik Ben Ziyad, active in Mauritania, southern Algeria and northern Mali. The former is known to be more "terrorist", while the latter is more "criminal". This is due to the greater degree of cruelty employed by the Hammadu, as they follow the takfirism (war against "infidel" Muslims) of Zarqawi (ISIS).
They take over territories through negotiations, in which they establish an illegal trafficking market to finance their activities. Once they have acquired an area, they establish their settlements, their training camps and prepare their next attacks. Another means of financing is kidnapping. It is a way to subjugate, humiliate and get revenue from the West. The need for money, unlike a criminal organisation, is not for the staff enrichment of the components, but to continue financing the activity: to buy loyalty, weapons, etc. Regarding recruitment, there is no data on its development, conditions, or objectives by age, class or sex.
The geographical and partner-political characteristics of the ecoregion have forced AQIM to develop its capacity to adapt, as it can be appreciated through the subdivision of the group (Boko Haram), which shows that they no longer need a fixed physical base as in the 1990s (Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan). In addition, there has been a change in strategy, as these groups are increasing their attacks on international organisations or government infrastructure by 250% and decreasing attacks on civilians. This may be a new way to attract locals as they promote themselves as protectors against state abuse.
In 2019 there was an average of 69.5 attacks per month in the Sahel and Maghreb, and last March 2021, there were 438 fatalities. Since 2020, the terrorist activity has decreased due to COVID-19. For Spain, the most recent and impactful event took place last April 28th 2021, when journalists David Beriain and Roberto Fraile where assassinated in Burkina-Faso by the Jama'a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin, Support Group for Islam and Muslims in English; a terrorist group linked to Al-Qaeda. Furthermore, terrorism also brings political and social insecurity, as well as economic, as investors are not attracted to do business in an unstable area, causing the maintenance of precariousness. This causes and/or maintains the underdevelopment of a state, causing a large flow of migration. A vicious circle of underdevelopment and poverty then ensues.
Moreover, the recent and sudden death of the Chadian President Idris Déby Itno, on April 19, 2021, at the hands of the Fighters of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), has further increased instability in the region. The 30-year president was fighting this rebel group, created in 2016 in Libya, which aimed to thrown Déby and the dynastic regime of Chad. Since this event took place, massive protests have covered the streets of Chad asking for a democratic transition in the country, to which the army has responded by killing some of the protestors. This uprise comes from what it seems to the Chadians as a repetition of their history and the violation of the nation's constitution. The Chadian army had announced the formation of a transitional council, which would last for 18 months, under the leadership of Mahamat Idriss Déby, the son of the former president. The problem is that in 1999 his father created the same political organ and promised the same, and his promises were not kept. The Transitional Military Council suspended the Constitution, in which it is established in its Title fifteen that the transitional president must be the President of the National Assembly.
The situation in the Chad is key in fighting terrorism in the Sahel. The country lies across the Sahel and besides the Horn of Africa. The removal or weakening of the troops in the country's borders represent a great risk not only for Chad, but also for its neighbors as they will be exposed to violent attacks by terrorist groups, as Chad has the greatest joint force in the G5 Sahel. The country is the stabilizer of the region. To the East, it prevents the Sudanese political instability to spread over the borders. To the South, Chad has been the new home for more than 500,000 refugees that are escaping from the Central African Republic and its huge migration crisis. To the West, it counters mainly Boko Haram, which is now a major player in Niger and Nigeria. To the North, it counters the Libyan rebel groups. It is important to understand that, even though Libya does not form part of the Sahel, its instability echoes fiercely in the region, as the country is the new center of terror groups in the Sahel, as seen the death of the former president seems to prove. The country has become the launch pad of the terrorist groups in Africa that are aiming to impose their will all over the continent. It remains to be seen what happens in Chad, because it will completely change the actual Sahelian paradigm.
The Western fight against terrorism
There are institutional initiatives to address these regional issues jointly, such as the G5 Sahel group, composed of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina-Faso and Chad, counting on the support of the African Union, the European Union, the United Nations, and the World Bank, among others. There is also international assistance to the region, mainly from France and the European Union. Since 2013, after Mali's government request, the French government launched Operation "Serval" with the objective of rejecting terrorist groups in northern Mali and other Sahel nations. It was succeeded a year later by Operation "Barkhan," which focuses on assisting the G5 Sahel member states, seeking to provide the necessary resources and training to these countries to handle their own security independently. In this Operation, Spain, Germany, Estonia and the United Kingdom also participate. Last year, the Task Force "Takuba" was launched, composed by French and Estonian special forces, in the Sahara-Sahel belt. To this day, France has deployed 5,100 military personnel, has trained more than 7,000 G5 Sahel soldiers, has deployed 750 training or combat support activities, and has 75 cooperation officers in the region.
France has also led international intervention in the Sahel. In 2012, in the United Nations Security Council promoted Resolution 2085 to underline the need of international assistance in the region. In 2017, France was the precursor of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), created under Resolution 2391 to provide assistance to Mali's government in stabilizing its country. It counts with over 15,000 civilian and military personnel that provide logistical and operational support.
The European Union has also participated through three main missions under the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP): European Union Training Mission (EUTM) Mali, EUCAP Sahel Mali, and EUCAP Sahel Niger. The former was established in 2013 to train and advise Malian armed forces. It also cooperates with the G5 Sahel member states in order to improve border control. The other two are civilian missions which aim to train the national police, gendarmerie and guard, as well as advise the national government security reforms. EUCAP Sahel Niger was created in 2012 and remains in force. Regarding EUCAP Sahel Mali, it was established in 2014 and has been extended until 2023 by now. Furthermore, France and the European Union also contribute financially to the region. Last year, the European Union provided €189.4 million to the region. France provided around €3.97 billion during 2019-2020.
Nevertheless, the uncertainty created by Déby's death has reshaped the local perception of Western intervention, mainly French one. The protests that have taken place these past weeks in Chad have also included accusations to France for backing the military council against the will of the people. Along with the African Union and the European Union, Macron stated in Déby's funeral: "France could never make anyone question (...) and threaten, neither today nor tomorrow, the stability and integrity of Chad", after Mahamat's promises of "staying true to the memory" of his father. These declarations were understood by Chadians as that Mahamat will follow his father's leadership style and that France does not care about the oppression that the people have been suffering during decades. It is at this point that France risks to just worry about the stability that Chad brought in the region, especially in its geopolitical interests regarding especially Libya and West Africa. This is why maybe Macron felt the urge to clarify his words a week later: "I'll be very clear: I supported the stability and integrity of Chad when I was in N'Djamena. I am in favour of a peaceful, democratic and inclusive transition, I am not in favour of a succession," he said. However, Sahelians are getting tired of being puppets in the Western Games, as shown this year in Mali with the Malians protesting against French military presence in the country. The West must show its real commitment to their fostering of human rights by pressuring a democratic transition whilst keeping its fight against terrorism.
In conclusion, Islamist religious terrorism has been on the rise in recent years as a counterpoint to the U.S. soft power of the Cold War. The Sahel is one of the predominant scenarios for these activities as it is an area with pre-existing political and economic instability that terrorists have taken advantage of. Terrorism is changing its ways of acting, showing its adaptability in terms of geography, methods of action and acquisition of resources. France has proven to be the leader of Western initiative in the region and has made progress in the region. Nevertheless, the West, especially neighbouring European countries, must begin to pay more attention to the causes of the problems in this region, collecting data and learning about its reality. It will only be then, when they will be able to address these problems effectively by assisting the existing regional institutions, seeking long-term solutions that satisfy the population.
15 June, 2021
essay / Paula Mora Brito [English version].
Terrorism in the Sahel is a neglected reality that affects millions of people. Not surprisingly, the region is one of the most afflicted by it internship. Its complex geographical features make it difficult to control borders (especially those of the Sahara desert), and the lack of cultural and religious homogeneity, coupled with continuing economic and social challenges, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, make the region a fragile and convenient scenario for terrorist groups. In addition, Western countries (mainly France) are present in the area, provoking a certain rejection of their intervention in the eyes of the Sahelian population. Although data is scarce on this issue, which makes it difficult to study, this article will attempt to broaden the concepts and knowledge of terrorism in the Sahel, extending its geographical scope to show the daily life of its inhabitants over the last few years. The focus of the analysis will be on Western intervention in the fight against terrorism.
The terrorist phenomenon
Terrorism is a controversial concept, as it is subject to individual interpretation: while some condemn a group for the use of indiscriminate violence under a political/social/economic goal , others consider its members to be heroes of freedom. Only its purpose defines this activity: to coerce and intimidate the general intention on an issue. It takes different forms: by geographical scope (regional, national or international) or by its goal (ethno-nationalist, political and/or economic ideology, religious or specific issues). This is why each has different characteristics.
Religious terrorism, as Charles Townshend highlighted in his book Terrorism: A Very Short Introduction, has its own unique characteristics. Quoting Hoffman, he explains that goal transcends politics because it is seen as a theological demand. It is a bilateral relationship between fanatics and God, in which there is no possibility of dialogue or understanding, only the establishment of the demand. This conception leads to international terrorism, even if it starts at the regional or national level, as the group of "enemies" is broader. Messianism is the driving force behind this activity, and martyrdom its most potent weapon. The death that comes from fighting is presented as a sacred act and reflects the certainty of the members of these groups to their ideology.
The West finds it difficult to address these threats because it understands the world in a secular way. However, in the states in which these groups develop, religion represents nationhood, values and lifestyle: the individual is religion and vice versa. As Edward Said said: "The entrenched West is blind to nuance and change in the Islamic world". Indeed, Islamic religious terrorism emerges as a response to colonialism and the internship of soft power in Arab and Islamic cultures, which has been reinforced through the current of Islamic fundamentalism.
Terrorism in the Sahel
The Sahel ("edge, coast" in Arabic) is an ecoregion that transitions between the north and south of the African continent, as well as from west to east, with a total area of 3,053,200 km², constituting a belt of 5,000 km. It is made up of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Algeria, Burkina-Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia. It is a privileged area, as the desert is understood as a pathway to speech.
The area has 150 million inhabitants, 64% of whom are under 25 years old and mostly Sunni Islamic. In 2018, the last year there is data on these countries, the annual mortality rate per 1,000 people was 8.05, a very high rate compared to Spain's 2.59 in 2019. The adult literacy rate (15+), for which there is only data for seven of the ten countries, is 56.06 %. In reality, it is very unequal: while Algeria has 81.40%, Niger or Mali have 35%. The poverty incidence rate based on the national poverty line is 41.15% (only four countries have data from 2018). Life expectancy is 63 years.
The territory faces an economic, political and social crisis. The Sahel is one of the poorest regions in the world, with northern Nigeria as one of the territories with the largest number of extremely poor people in the world. The status worsened this year with a historic drop in the price of raw materials (more than 20%), which account for 89% of its exports. The environmental crisis is hampering the economic development .
Climate change has caused temperatures to rise 1.5 times faster than the global average rate, which has multiplied droughts (from one every ten years to one every two). Political instability in some countries, such as the 2012 coup d'état in Mali, is hampering their economic development development .
In this context, insecurity has increased since the 2004 attacks in Borno, a Nigerian state bordering Cameroon and Chad, by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram group . Terrorist activity has spread through the leadership of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), present in northern Mali, eastern Mauritania, Niger and western Chad. This has led to a demographic crisis, with 4.2 million people displaced and more than a million unable to find homes work. The UN programme development estimates that between now and 2050, more than 85 million Sahelians will be forced to migrate.
Most attacks take place on the tri-border areas of Mali, Burkina-Faso and Niger; and Niger, Nigeria and Chad. Since the Treaty of Berlin in 1885, African borders have been a serious problem because they were a European imposition that did not respect the tribal and ethnic reality of many regions, forcing and creating a nation that its inhabitants do not feel part of. This reality was reflected in the case of Mali, showing the pre-existing fragility of the region.
AQIM has divided the Sahel into katibas (branches): the Yahia Abou Ammar Abid Hammadu, which is established between southern Algeria and Tunisia and northern Niger; and Tarik Ben Ziyad, active in Mauritania, southern Algeria and northern Mali. The former is known to be more "terrorist", while the latter is more "criminal". This is due to the greater Degree cruelty employee by the Hammadu, as they follow the takfirism (war against "infidel" Muslims) of Zarqawi (ISIS).
They take over territories through negotiations, where they establish a market for illegal trafficking. Once they have acquired a area, they set up their settlements, training camps and prepare their next attacks. Another means of financing is kidnapping. It is a way to subjugate, humiliate and extract revenue from the West. The need for money, unlike in a criminal organisation, is not for the enrichment staff of the components, but to continue financing the activity: buying loyalties, weapons, etc. There is no recruitment data development , no conditions, no age, class or gender targeting.
The geographical and socio-political characteristics of the ecoregion have forced AQIM to develop its capacity to adapt, such as the subdivision of group (Boko Haram), which sample no longer needs a fixed physical base as in the 1990s (AQ in Afghanistan). In addition, there has been a change in strategy, as these groups are increasing their attacks on international organisations or government infrastructure by 250%, and decreasing attacks on civilians. This may be a new way of attracting locals as they promote themselves as protectors against state abuse.
In 2019 there was an average of 69.5 attacks per month in the Sahel and Maghreb, and 438 deaths were recorded last March. In 2020, activity has decreased due to COVID-19. Terrorism brings political and social insecurity, as well as economic insecurity, as investors are not attracted to do business in an unstable area, leading to continued precariousness. This causes and/or maintains the underdevelopment of a state, leading to a large influx of migration. A vicious circle of underdevelopment and poverty then ensues.
For Spain, the most recent and shocking event took place on 28 April 2021, when journalists David Beriain and Roberto Fraile were murdered in Burkina-Faso by the Jama'a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin, group de Apoyo al Islam y a los Musulmanes en español; a terrorist group linked to Al-Qaeda.
The recent sudden death of Chadian President Idris Déby Itno on 19 April 2021 at the hands of the Fighters of the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) has further increased instability in the region. The president of the last three decades was fighting against this rebel group , created in 2016 in Libya, which sought to oust Déby and the dynastic regime from Chad. Since this event, massive protests have covered the streets of Chad, calling for a democratic transition in the country, to which the army has responded by killing some of the protesters. This uprising is due to what Chadians see as a repetition of their history and a violation of the nation's constitution. The Chadian army had announced the training of an 18-month transitional committee under the leadership of Mahamat Idriss Déby, the son of the former president. The problem is that his father, in 1999, created the same political body and promised the same. However, his promises were not kept. The transitional military committee suspended the constitution, which states at degree scroll Fifteenth that the transnational president must be the president of the National Assembly.
Chad's status is core topic in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel. The country lies between the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. The withdrawal or weakening of troops on the country's borders poses a great risk not only to Chad, but also to its neighbours. Countries bordering Chad will be exposed to violent attacks by terrorist groups, as Chad has the largest combined force in the G5 Sahel. Chad is the stabiliser of the region. To the east, it prevents Sudanese political instability from spilling over the borders. To the south, Chad has been the new home to more than 500,000 refugees from the Central African Republic and its massive migration crisis. To the west, it mainly counters Boko Haram, which is now a major player in Niger and Nigeria. To the north, it counters Libyan rebel groups. It is important to understand that although Libya is not part of the Sahel, its instability resonates strongly in the region, as the country is the new hub for terrorist groups in the Sahel, as the death of the former president seems to demonstrate. The country has become the launching pad for Africa's terrorist groups seeking to impose their will across the continent. What happens in Chad remains to be seen, as it will completely change the current Sahelian paradigm.
The West's fight against terrorism
There are institutional initiatives to address these regional issues jointly, such as the group G5 Sahel, composed of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, with the support of the African Union, the European Union, the United Nations and the World Bank, among others.
There is also financial aid international support to the region, mainly from France and the European Union. Since 2013, at the request of the Malian government, the French government launched Operation 'Serval' with the goal aim of expelling terrorist groups in northern Mali and other Sahel nations. It was followed a year later by Operation Barkhan, which focuses on attendance to the G5 Sahel member states, seeking to provide the resources and training necessary for these countries to manage their own security independently. Spain, Germany, Estonia and the UK also participate in this Operation. Last year, 2020, Task Force "Takuba", composed of French and Estonian special forces, was launched in the Sahara-Sahel belt. To date, France has deployed 5,100 military personnel, trained more than 7,000 G5 Sahel soldiers, deployed 750 training or combat support activities and has 75 cooperation officers in the region.
France has also been at the forefront of international intervention in the Sahel. In 2012, at the UN Security committee it promoted Resolution 2085 to underline the need for international attendance intervention in the region. In 2017, France was the precursor of the mission statement United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), created under Resolution 2391 to provide attendance to the Malian government in the stabilisation of its country. It has more than 15,000 civilian and military personnel providing logistical and operational support.
The EU has also been involved through three main missions in the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) framework : mission statement of training of the European Union (EUTM) Mali, EUCAP Sahel Mali and EUCAP Sahel Niger. The first was created in 2013 to train and advise the Malian armed forces. It also cooperates with the G5 Sahel member states to improve border control. The other two are civilian missions whose goal is to train the police, gendarmerie and national guard, as well as to advise on security reforms at government. EUCAP Sahel Niger was created in 2012 and is still in force. As for EUCAP Sahel Mali, it was created in 2014 and has been extended until 2023. In addition, France and the European Union also contribute financially to the region. Last year, the EU contributed €189.4 million to the region. France contributed around €3.97 billion during 2019-2020.
However, the uncertainty over Déby's death has reshaped local perceptions of Western, mainly French, intervention. The protests that have taken place in Chad in recent weeks have also led to an indictment of France for backing the military committee against the will of the people. Together with the African Union and the European Union, Macron declared at Déby's funeral that "France will never be able to make anyone question (...) and threaten, today or tomorrow, the stability and integrity of Chad", following Mahamat's promises to "remain faithful to his father's report". These statements were understood by Chadians to mean that Mahamat will follow his father's style of leadership and that France does not care about the oppression the people have suffered for decades. It is at this point that France risks only caring about the stability that Chad brought to the region, especially in its geopolitical interests regarding Libya and West Africa in particular. Perhaps this is why Macron felt the need to clarify his words a week later: "I will be very clear: I supported the stability and integrity of Chad when I was in N'Djamena. I am in favour of a peaceful, democratic and inclusive transition, I am not in favour of a succession," he said. However, Sahelians are getting tired of being the puppets of Western games, as demonstrated this year in Mali by the protests of the inhabitants against the French military presence in the country. The West must show its real commitment to promoting human rights by pushing for a democratic transition while maintaining its fight against terrorism.
In conclusion, Islamist religious terrorism has been on the rise in recent years as a counterpoint to US power in the Cold War. The Sahel is one of the predominant theatres of these activities, as it is an area with pre-existing political-economic instability that terrorists have taken advantage of. Terrorism is changing its modus operandi, showing its adaptability in terms of geography, methods of operation and resource acquisition. France has shown itself to be the leader of the Western initiative in the region and has made progress in the region. However, the West, especially European countries, must begin to pay more attention to the causes of the region's problems by gathering data and understanding the realities of the region. Only then will they be able to address these problems effectively, assisting existing regional institutions, looking for long-term solutions deadline that satisfy the population.
COMMENTARY / Jairo Císcar
Since the end of the Second World War, collective security on the European continent and with it, peace, has been a priority. The founding fathers of the European Union themselves, aware of the tensions that resulted from the First and Second World Wars, devised and created security structures to prevent future conflicts and strengthen relations between former enemies. The first structure, although not purely military, obeys this logic: the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), essential for the creation and maintenance of industry and armies, was created by the Treaty of Paris in 1951, introducing a concept as widely used today as "energy security". This was arguably the first major step towards effective integration of European countries.
However, for the issue at hand, the path has been much more complicated. In the same period in which the ECSC was born, French Prime Minister René Pleven, with the encouragement of Robert Schuman and Jean Monet, wanted to promote the European Defence Community. This ambitious plan aimed to merge the armed forces of the six founding countries (including the Federal Republic of Germany) into a European Armed Forces that would keep the continent together and prevent the possibility of a new conflict between states. Ambitious as it was, the project failed in 1954, when the deeply nationalist Gaullist deputies of the French National Assembly refused to ratify the agreement. European integration at the military level thus suffered a setback from which it would not begin to recover until the present century, although it continues to face many of the reluctances it once did.
Why did the European Defence Community fail, and what makes the European Armed Forces still a difficult discussion today? This is a question that needs to be analysed and understood, for while political and economic integration has advanced with a large consensus, the military problem, which should go hand in hand with the two previous issues, has always been the Achilles' tendon of the common European project.
There are basically two factors to take into account. The first is the existence of a larger defence community, NATO. Since 1948, NATO has been the principal military alliance of Western countries. Born to counter Soviet expansionism, the Alliance has evolved in size and objectives to its current configuration of 30 member states and a multitude of other states in the form of strategic alliances. Although NATO's primary purpose was diluted after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it has evolved with the times, remaining alert and operational all around the globe. The existence of this common, powerful and ambitious project under U.S. leadership largely obscured efforts and intentions to create a common European defence project. Why create one, overlapping, structure if the objectives were practically the same and NATO guaranteed greater logistical, military superiority and a nuclear arsenal? For decades, this has been the major argument against further European integration in the field of defence - as protection was secured but delegated.
Another issue was the nationalism still prevalent among European states, especially in the aforementioned Gaullist France. Even today, with an ongoing and deep political, economic and, at a certain level, judicial integration, military affairs are still often seen as the last bastion of national sovereignty. In Schengen Europe, they remain for many the guarantee of those borders that fell long ago.
Other issues to take into account are the progressive detachment of the population from the armed forces (a Europe that has not seen war on its own territory in 70 years, except for the Balkans, has tended to settle into peace, nearly oblivious to wars) and its progressive ageing, with a future with fewer people of military age, and who, as we have mentioned, often have an ideological and motivational gap with previous generations with respect to the concept and utility of the military.
It was not until relatively recently, with the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999, that the embryonic mechanisms of the current Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), supervised by the European Defence Agency, began to be implemented. In the 2010s, with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, these mechanisms were established. The Military Staff of the European Union (EUMS) is one of them. It constitutes the EU's first permanent strategic headquarters. The final impetus came in 2015, with the European Union Global Strategy. This led to the creation of various far-reaching initiatives, most notably the Permanent Structured Cooperation(PESCO), which since 2017 has been pursuing the structural integration of the Armed Forces of all EU countries except Denmark and Malta. It is not only limited to proper integration, but also leads capability development projects such as the EU Collaborative Warfare Capabilities (ECOWAR) or the Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA), as well as defence industry endeavors such as the MUSAS project, or the CYBER-C4ISR capabilities level.
Although it is too early to say for sure, Europe may be as close as it can get to René Pleven's distant dream. The EU's geopolitical situation is changing, and so is its own language and motivation. If we used to talk about Europe delegating its protection for years, now Emmanuel Macron advocates 'strategic autonomy" for the EU. It should be recalled that just over a year ago he claimed that "NATO is brain-dead". Some voices in the EU's political arena claim and have realised that it can no longer delegate the European protection and defence of its interests, and they are starting to take steps towards doing so. Despite these advances, it is true that it is not a shared interest, at least, as a whole. France and other Mediterranean member states are pushing towards it, but those in the East, as Poland or Latvia, are far more concerned about the rise of Russia, and are comfortable enough for U.S. troops to be established in their terrain.
Having said that, I truly believe that the advantages of the European Armed Forces project outweigh its negative aspects. First of all, a Europe united in defence policies would not imply the disappearance of NATO, or the breaking of agreements with third countries. In fact, these alliances could even be strengthened and fully adapted to the 21st century and to the war of the future. As an example, in 2018 the EU and NATO signed collaboration agreements on issues such as cybersecurity, defence industry and military mobility.
While NATO works, Europe is now facing a dissociation between U.S. interests and those of the other Allies, especially the European ones. In particular, countries such as France, Spain and Italy are shifting their defence policies from the Middle East, or the current peace process in Afghanistan (which, despite 20 years of war, sounds like a long way off), to sub-Saharan Africa (Operation "Barkhane" or EUTM Mali), a much closer region with a greater impact on the lives of the European citizens. This does not detract from the fact that NATO faces global terrorism in a new era that is set to surpass asymmetric warfare and other 4th generation wars: the era of hybrid warfare. Russia's military build-up on the EU's eastern flank and China's penetration into Africa do not invite a loosening of ties with the United States, but European countries need to prioritise their own threats over those of the U.S., although it is true that the needs of countries to the west of the EU are not the same as those to the east. This could be the main stumbling block for a joint European Army, as weighting the different strategic priorities could be really arduous.
It is true that this idea of differing policies is not shared in the EU as a whole. Countries such as Poland, those in the Balkans or the Baltic have different approaches and necessities when talking about a European Union common security strategy. The EU is a 27 country-wide body that often is extremely difficult to navigate within. Consensus is only reached after very long discussions (see the soap opera on the COVID relief package negotiations), and being defence as important as it is, and in need of fast, executive decision making, the intricate bureaucracy of the EU could not help with it. But if well managed, it could be an opportunity to develop new strategies for decision-making and reforming the European system as a whole, fostering a new, more effective Europe.
Another discussion, probably outdated, is the one who claims that the EU is not capable of planning, organising and conducting operations outside the NATO umbrella. In this case, apart from the aforementioned guidelines and policies, one simply has to look at the facts: the EU today leads six active (and 18 completed) military missions with close to 5,000 troops deployed. The "Althea" (Bosnia & Herzegovina) and "Atalanta" (in the Indian Ocean) missions are particularly noteworthy. It is true that these examples are of low-intensity conflicts but, given the combat experience of EU nations under NATO or in other missions (French and Portuguese in Africa, etc.) combat-pace could be quickly achieved. The NATO certification system under which most European armed forces operate guarantees standardisation in tactics, logistics and procedures, so that standardisation at the European level would be extremely simple if existing models are taken into account.
Another issue is the question of whether the EU could politically and economically engage in a long, high-intensity operation without getting drowned by the public opinion, financial administration, and, obviously, with the planning and carrying out of a whole campaign. This is one of the other main problems with future European armed forces because, as mentioned earlier, Europeans are not prepared in any way to be confronted with the reality of a situation of war. What rules of engagement will be used? How to cope with casualties? And even more, how to create an effective chain of command and control among 27 countries? And what will happen if one does not agree with a particular intervention or action? How could it be argued that the EU, world's leading beacon of human rights, democracy and peace, gets engaged in a war? Undoubtedly, these questions have rational and objective answers, but in an era of social average, populism, empty discourses, and fake news, it would be difficult to engage with the public (and voters) to support the idea.
Having said that, there is room for optimism. Another reason pointing towards Europe's armed forces is the collaboration that exists at the military industrial level. PESCO and the European Defence Fund encourage this, and projects such as the FCAS and EURODRONE lay the foundations for the future of European armed forces capabilities. It should not be forgotten that the European defence industry is the world leader behind that of the United States and is an increasingly tough competitor for the latter.
In addition, the use of military forces in European countries during the current coronavirus pandemic has served to reinforce the message of their utility and need for collaboration beyond the purely military. While the militarisation of emergencies must be avoided and the soldier must not be reduced to a mere "Swiss army knife" at disposition of the government trying to make up their own lack of planning or capacity to deal with the situation, it has brought the military closer to the streets, and to some extent may have helped to counteract the disaffection with the armed forces that exists in many European countries (due to the factors mentioned above).
Finally, I believe that European-level integration of the armed forces will not be merely beneficial, but necessary for Europe. If the EU wants to maintain its diplomacy, its economic power, it needs its own strategic project, an "area of control" over its interests and, above all, military independence. This does not preclude maintaining and promoting the alliances already created, but this is a unique and necessary opportunity to fully establish the common European project. The political and economic framework cannot be completed without the military one; and the military one cannot function without the former. All that remains is to look at the direction the EU is taking and hope that it will be realised. It is more than possible and doable, and the reality is that work is being done towards it.
Unlike the abrupt changes of recent presidencies, the new Administration maintains the creation of the Space Force and the Moon as the next goal .
test that the new space degree program is serious is that, for the first time in many years, the United States is sticking to a fixed course in its journey to the stars. George W. Bush proposed going back to the Moon; Barack Obama, on the other hand, spoke of first going for an asteroid and then put Mars first; Donald Trump was more specific than his predecessors: he launched the Space Force and set up a programme, 'Artemis', which should take manned missions to the Moon and at the same time serve as a bridgehead for a future destination on Mars. Joe Biden has made no U-turn, but intends to continue in the direction indicated by what already seems to be an American consensus.
article / Pablo Sanz
The new space age is marked by the interest of the private business in the economic exploitation of space - the satellite industry, space tourism and the prospect of a lucrative mining business - and by the involvement of the major powers both in a hypothetical war scenario and in new horizons of exploration.
At a time of budgetary difficulties, Obama did not prioritise NASA, but left in the hands of private companies the technological development to gain access to close orbits and also lured them with the appropriation of space resources. This privatisation continued under Trump, but the hallmark of his presidency, in a resurgent global geopolitical confrontation, was to again dip into public funds. He launched the US Space Force (USSF) as a new branch of the US Armed Forces, and established a new purpose for NASA: a manned return to the Moon, with the creation of a station in lunar orbit to serve as a staging post for later landing on Mars. Biden maintains the direction he has taken.
US Space Force
Ever since he arrived at the White House, Trump has insisted on the idea of building a Space Force that would have the same rank as the five branches of the existing Armed Forces. First instituted as a germ within the Air Force, the US Space Force would eventually have its own budget, facilities, personnel (under the name of Guardians) and commanders. Its goal was to confront the alleged threats from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran in space. The directive for the creation of this military corps was signed by President Trump in February 2019; it was formed at the end of that year.
With the change of Administration and in view of the doubts that the Pentagon itself had raised, due to questions of expense, about an initiative that many interpreted as a whim of Trump's, some media pointed to a backtracking on the part of Biden. However, the new White House spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, announced in February this year that the creation of this military branch had the president's full support. Psaki commented that the new administration had no intention of modifying or reducing the structure of the Space Force and endorsed its progressive implementation: issue is expected to grow from 2,400 to 6,400 members by the end of this year.
The Space Force recently announced its intention to establish a Space Systems Command (SSC) in Los Angeles, whose goal will oversee the development of next-generation technologies and the acquisition of satellites and launch services. The SSC will assume the responsibilities currently performed by the Space and Missile Systems Centre (SMC) and will oversee a staff of 10,000. The SSC will be one of three Space Force field commands and will be led by three-star generals who will report to the chief of space operations, John Raymond. Raymond argues that the organisational structure of the SSC is specifically designed to anticipate and respond to the challenges presented by a contested space domain.
NASA's new leadership
With the inauguration of Joe Biden, there was also a change at the helm of the American space agency. The NASA administrator appointed by Trump, Jim Bridenstine, resigned from his position to facilitate the changes that the new president deemed appropriate. Biden appointed former Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, a close ally of his, to the post. Although the new administration has yet to make its mark, it is keeping its sights on a manned return to the moon - for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972 - and continuing the Artemis programme. In recent months, NASA has been able to celebrate the successful arrival of Perseverance on Mars, which is part of several ongoing unmanned exploration missions.
For the time being, Biden has order congress a discretionary expense for NASA of 24.7 billion dollars for the US fiscal year 2022. According to the agency's own announcement, from agreement with the tone of the new administration, this funding will make it possible:
-Keep NASA on track to land the first woman and first black man on the moon under the Artemis programme.
-To better understand the functioning of planet Earth.
-Encourage robotic exploration of both the solar system and the universe.
-Investing in aviation.
-Inspiring students to become the next generation of scientists
Fight on the Moon
With the Artemis programme and at partnership with space agencies from Western countries and commercial companies, NASA aims to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon and a space base in its orbit, starting with an estimated first manned flight in 2024. This should help private companies explore the feasibility of a lunar Economics and serve as a stepping stone for human spaceflight to Mars from 2033. Ongoing spacecraft programmes such as Orion, Lunar Gateway Orbital Platform and Commercial Lunar Payload Services are integrated into the framework initiative.
Through this multilateral mission, the United States will work with domestic industry and international partners, following the principles of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which aims to facilitate exploration, science and commercial activities by preventing nations from claiming sovereignty over outer space.
Although the new national security strategy has not yet been published, it is highly likely that it will include a space strategy reference letter , as the major powers are also moving the geopolitical tension between them off the planet. Recently, China and Russia have announced their intention to build a lunar base; although they have invited the international community to join the effort, the initiative is still seen as an alternative to the one promoted by the US and its allies.
[Eduardo Olier, La guerra económica global. essay sobre guerra y Economics (Valencia: Tirant lo Blanc, 2018), 357 pgs].
review / Emili J. Blasco
War is to geopolitics what economic war is to geoeconomics. Eduardo Olier, the driving force behind another related field in Spain, economic intelligence, has devoted much of his research and professor to the latter two concepts, which are highly dependent on each other.
The book The Global Economic War ( 2018) is a sort of colophon of what could be considered a trilogy, whose previous volumes were Geoeconomics. Las claves de la Economics global (2011) and Los ejes del poder económico. Geopolitics of the global chessboard (2016). Thus, first there was a presentation of geoeconomics, as a specific field inseparable from geopolitics (the use of the Economics by the powers as a new instrument of force), and then a commitment to the concretisation of the different vectors in struggle, with a prolific use of graphs and statistics, unusual in intellectual production in Spanish for a work of knowledge dissemination. This third book is somewhat more philosophical: it has a certain broom-like quality, finishing off or rounding off ideas that had previously appeared in some cases less contextualised in their conceptual framework , and integrating all the reflections into a more compact edifice. With hardly any graphics, here the narrative flows with more attention to the argumentative process.
The global economic war, moreover, puts the focus on confrontation. "Economic warfare is the reverse of political warfare, just as military wars, always political in origin, end up being economic wars," Olier says. He shares the view that "any economic transaction has at its heart a danger of conflict", that "trade is never neutral and contains within it a principle of violence": at final, that "war is the result of a flawed economic exchange ". The author warns that as a country increases its welfare at the same time it boosts its military capacity to try to gain more power. This need not necessarily lead to war, but economic dependence, according to Olier, increases the chances of war. "The possibility of increasing economic benefits from a potential victory increases the likelihood of starting an armed conflict," he says.
Olier is indebted to the development of this discipline carried out in France, where the School of Economic Warfare was born in 1997 as an academic centre attached to the technical school Libre des Sciences Commerciales Appliquées. These programs of study place special emphasis on economic intelligence, which in France is closely linked to the actions of the state secret services in defence of the international position of large French companies, whose interests are closely linked to national imperatives when it comes to strategic sectors. Olier represents in Spain the high school Choiseul, a French think tank dedicated to these same issues.
Among the interesting contributions of The Global Economic War is the dating and interrelation of the successive versions of the internet, globalisation and NATO: the beginning of the Cold War, 1950 (globalisation 1.0 and NATO 1.0); the dissolution of the USSR, 1991 (globalisation 2.0); creation of the internet, 1992 (web 1.0); entrance of Poland in NATO (NATO 2.0); birth of social networks, 2003 (web 2.0); annexation of Crimea by Russia and consolidation of cyberspace in all activities, 2014 (globalisation 3.0, NATO 3.0 and web 3.0). In this schedule he adds at another point the currency war: currency war 1.0 (1921-1936), 2.0 (1967-1987), 3.0 (2010); this is not an outlandish addendum , but very much to purpose, as Olier argues that, if raw materials are one of the keys to economic warfare, currencies "are no less the subject commodity of the Economics, as they can mark who has and who does not have power".
All this reflection is set in the context of a chain of cycles and counter-cycles, where economic and political cycles are interconnected. reference letter Referring to Kondratiev's long cycles, which are renewed every half century, he recalls that the last cycle would have begun in 1993, so that "the expansionary period should last until 2020, before falling and fill in the 50-year cycle, more or less, towards 2040, when a new expansion would begin" (Olier writes this without foreseeing how the current pandemic would, for the time being, reinforce the prediction).
Just as in geopolitics there are a few imperatives, geoeconomics is also governed by some laws, such as those that move directly to the Economics: when there is economic growth, leave unemployment rises and inflation rises, and vice versa; the conflict for a country and its international environment is when Economics goes down, unemployment rises and so does inflation, giving rise to stagflation status .
Geoeconomics as discipline forces us to look squarely at present and future realities, without allowing ourselves to be fobbed off with wishful thinking about the world we would like, which is why the outlook on the European Union ends up being sombre. Olier believes that Europe will experience its instability without revolutions, but with a loss of global power. "The bureaucratisation of the Structures government in Brussels will only help to increase populism. Brexit (...) will be a new silent revolution that will diminish the power of the whole. This will be increased by the different visions and strategies" of the member states. "A circumstance that will give greater power to Russia in Europe, while the United States will look to the Pacific in its staff conflict with China".
In his opinion, only France and Britain, because of their military power, show signs of wanting to participate in the new world order. The other major European countries are left to one side: Germany sample that economic power is not enough, Italy has enough to try not to disintegrate politically... and Spain is "the weakest link in the chain", as was the case just over eighty years ago, when the new order that was taking shape in Europe first confronted the major powers in the Spanish Civil War before the outbreak of the Second World War. Olier warns that "the nirvana of affluent European societies" will be seriously threatened by three phenomena: the instability of internal politics, mass migrations from Africa and demographic ageing that will cause them to lose dynamism.
With no parliament and a president with a one-year extension, the country complicates the road to recovery.
The global economic and health crisis has affected all countries, but in Haiti the impasse at status has also aggravated a long-standing political crisis. With a president who has refused to leave position and renew parliament, and who has called a constitutional referendum to give himself more power, Haiti finds itself in a destructive spiral from which the international financial aid is unable to extricate it. The neighbouring Dominican Republic has announced the construction of a border fence to control entrance of Haitians.
article / Christian Santana
The coronavirus pandemic has aggravated Haiti's already difficult economic situation status and has also contributed to accentuating the institutional collapse that the country has been experiencing for the last five years, as it has somehow sheltered the exceptional occurrence of electoral postponements. agreement In terms of health, subject the impact of Covid-19 has not been particularly high, at least according to official figures (14,258 people affected and 307 deaths by the end of May 2021, well below the figures for the neighbouring Dominican Republic: 291,910 and 3,628, respectively), although the deficient national health system may suggest a higher incidence: in fact, Haiti is the last American country to begin vaccinating its inhabitants.
In a country with inherently low economic activity, where GDP declines are common, the global downturn in 2020 was understandably modest, while the recovery in 2021 is barely perceptible. Haiti's GDP fell by 3.7% in 2020 and will grow by only 1% in 2021, according to IMF estimates. The economic damage and its social consequences can be seen especially in the inflation rate, which last year was close to 23% and this year will remain above 22%. Moreover, in just two years, Haiti's public debt increased by almost ten points, from 38.3% of GDP in 2017 to 47% in 2019.
As early as April 2020, when the global recession began, the IMF warned of the damage being done by political paralysis. "Due to popular frustration with high levels of corruption and inequality, Haiti has been experiencing a prolonged political crisis and social unrest that has at times paralysed most of the country's economic activity," said report, and stated that "absent sustained implementation of good policies and comprehensive reforms, the outlook remains bleak".
In the following months the pandemic has worsened Haiti's already weak economic outlook. An expected sharp drop in remittance flows, reduced textile exports and falling foreign direct investment will put significant pressure on the balance of payments. Additional social and health expenditures, together with a further fall in tax revenues, will increase the fiscal deficit and financing needs. To address this emergency, the IMF approved in April 2020 the disbursement of USD 111.6 million. The amount was intended to alleviate the impact of the crisis on the population, such as paying the salaries of some teachers and workers, providing cash transfers and food rations to households, and providing subsidies to the transport and sanitation sectors.
goal At the beginning of 2021, the Haitian government introduced a post-Covid-19 (Precop) economic recovery plan, with the aim of achieving an average of 3% growth over the next three years, a gradual reduction of inflation to 10% and the creation of 50,000 jobs. According to the Haitian government, in 2020 the incomes of 95 per cent of households fell sharply and unemployment rose by 10 per cent.
In any case, Haiti lacks the political stability required for a rigorous implementation of the recovery plan. Since the first round of the 2015 presidential elections, the country has experienced its last long period of instability. Allegations of irregularities delayed the second round until November 2016. The victory went to Jovenel Moïse, with 55.6% of the vote and a very high turnout leave . Moïse was sworn in in February 2017, a year later than would have been normal had the two rounds not been so far apart.
The committee High Court of Justice ruled in early 2021 that the five-year term was due to expire on 7 February, but Moïse has remained at position, amid violent protests, claiming that his term actually ends on 7 February 2022. Although the judges appointed an interim president, Moïse has continued to rule, removing politicians and magistrates who have questioned his authority and whom he accuses of orchestrating a coup d'état (23 people were arrested in connection with the coup). He has the support of the armed forces, an institution he himself created anew in 2017 after two decades of being disbanded by Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Moreover, Moïse has postponed legislative elections that should have been held in October 2019, so that since January 2020, when the parliament that was to be elected was to be constituted, he has been governing by decree. He now promises legislative and presidential elections for September and November 2021, but first he wants to proceed with a constitutional reform that should give him more power. A constitutional referendum has been called for 27 June to revalidate a new constitution drafted by a five-person commission, all of them appointed by Moïse. The new text envisages eliminating the Senate, making the system unicameral, and shielding former presidents from prosecution for corruption or other crimes. The 1987 constitution prohibits constitutional amendments by referendum, but Moïse argues that his initiative is not an amendment but a new constitution.
The international community has reacted to the violence and corruption in Haiti, but has failed to turn the tide status. The UN has complained about impunity and the US has applied sanctions against leaders who have violated human rights. However, these bodies have had to come to terms with the reality of Moïse's permanence in power and have gone on to demand that he keep to the announced electoral timetable, as has the Biden Administration and the European Union (although they reject constitutional change).
Relationship with the Dominican Republic
The conditions under which the pandemic has unfolded around the world have given the Dominican Republic the opportunity to propose a border with Haiti that can be hermetically sealed when appropriate and that would provide a greater obstacle to smuggling, drug trafficking and illegal immigration. In his last report to congress on 27 February this year, Dominican President Luis Abinader announced the construction of a fence along the 400-kilometre line separating the two countries on the island of Hispaniola. A dividing line that will combine physical and technological means and which will include "a double perimeter fence in the most conflictive sections and a single fence in the rest, as well as movement sensors, facial recognition cameras, radars and infrared ray systems". By May, 23 kilometres of fence had already been built, with a height of four metres and crowned with hawthorns.
Abinader, of the centre-left, compensated for this hardline policy by promising to give identity documents to Haitians living in the Dominican Republic (an estimated 500,000, or 5 per cent of the Dominican census, although the figure is probably higher). He also announced the concession to Haiti of various types of financial aid, such as the supply of surplus Dominican electricity and the contribution to the construction of hospitals, for use as maternity wards and with international funding, on the Haitian side of the border. Precisely the temporary migration of Haitian women to the Dominican Republic in order to give birth there under the public health system, in many cases despite their illegal status, is one of the most common arguments in the national discussion on migration from Haiti.
The Dominican Republic was hit at the start of the pandemic by a decline in exports and then by a halt in tourism, but this 2021 is seeing a rapid recovery, with total year growth estimated at 6.2% (after a 6.7% drop in 2020), a figure that is close to the growth of up to 7% it has experienced in recent years.
Pandemic crisis pushes for long-overdue economic reforms, but may be ineffective due to fears of out-of-control openness
The Cuban government has wanted to undertake economic reforms for years, but the distraction brought about by Chavista Venezuela's aid and internal doubts about the model economic openness delayed firm decisions. The Venezuelan collapse, first, and especially the pandemic, later, have brought the Cuban Economics to a breaking point that is forcing it to take measures, because the island's population is beginning to show some concern. framework Raúl Castro's departure from the scene constitutes an opportunity for change, but the uncertainties of the future can stiffen any transition, however modest it may be.
article / María Victoria Andarcia
After a particularly complicated 2020, Cuba took significant steps in the first months of 2021. In February, the government announced a massive expansion of permits for private initiative in different economic sectors. The Minister of work, Marta Elena Feito, announced that the list of sectors in which private enterprise would be authorised to operate would grow from 127 to more than 2,000 and that the state would reserve exclusivity in only 124 areas, which she did not detail.
With the development of "cuestapropismo", approximately 600,000 workers were employed in private activities in Cuba, 13% of the labour force. The vast majority of these initiatives are linked to the tourism industry, which has been affected by Donald Trump's tightening of sanctions and especially by the Covid-19 pandemic, which practically wiped out tourism in the Caribbean. According to ECLAC, at the height of the pandemic, 250,000 self-employed workers had suspended their licence from work. This unemployment is preventing the self-employed sector from being able to take on the public sector workers that the state wants to shed in order to slim down loss-making activities.
The Cuban Ministry of Economics puts the economic decline suffered by the island in 2020 at 11% of GDP, the worst since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which left Cuba without the support of its economic breadwinner and led to the time of extreme hardship known as the "special period". Already in 2019 there was hardly any growth. In 2020 there was a 30 per cent reduction in imports, which has exacerbated the growing shortages of basic commodities and price inflation on the island, also driven by the exchange rate readjustment.
1 January 2021 was "day zero" of the monetary and exchange rate reform, 62 years after the triumph of the revolution led by Fidel Castro. This is the most complex economic reform undertaken by the country in the last three decades, after years of waiting. Since the "special period", two currencies had been in circulation in Cuba: the Cuban peso (CUP) and the convertible (CUC), equivalent to the dollar, which has been eliminated with the merger of the two currencies. The currencies were exchanged at different rates: for state enterprises, one dollar or CUC was equivalent to one Cuban peso, while for the population, the exchange rate was 24 pesos to the dollar. Unification has been accompanied by the fixing of a single exchange rate of 24 Cuban pesos to the dollar, the first official devaluation of the peso since 1959.
Rising inflation has affected the price of many products and services. While there has been an increase in salaries in the state sector, the price of electricity has increased threefold, water sixfold and bread and flour twentyfold.
The disappearance of the CUC has been compensated for by the opening of shops where one can buy with "freely convertible currencies", thus protecting the free circulation of the dollar and implying, at final, a covert dollarisation (in addition, a black market in foreign currency continues to operate, where the dollar is worth almost double the official exchange rate). These are establishments for tourists, but where the nomenclature can also buy products that are not available to the rest of the population. This has even contributed to internal criticism of a status of inequality, as Raúl Castro himself acknowledged in April in his speech to the 8th Communist Party . speech before the VIII congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).
Rising prices and growing inequality are contributing to a social malaise that is giving rise to increasingly timid public complaints. This is occurring in a context of isolated protests, such as that of the artists' guild, which speak of a growing unease that economic reforms should satisfy in the medium term deadline but which, if applied without decision or if they are not effective, could lead to a frustration of expectations.
In fact, the government's conviction in promoting economic reforms has so far been rather weak. In 2011, at the PCC's VI congress , in which Raúl Castro consolidated his leadership after succeeding his brother in 2008, a path of economic reforms was approved but only partially implemented. The aid provided by Chávez's Venezuela during the boom years led to the postponement of the most urgent measures, in what in reality amounted to a lost decade.
The island's Economics is highly dependent on foreign trade, although it is not a market Economics . The goods it exports are limited to its natural resources and traditional products with little processing: nickel, zinc, sugar, tobacco and rum. Services are the main item of Cuban exports, especially health services sent to Venezuela and other countries of similar ideological orientation. The need to import raw materials, oil and foodstuffs conditions the growth of the island's Economics . The USSR was a lifeline, above all because of its contributions of oil, as later happened with Venezuela, whose crude oil Cuba refined and exported as a gift, thus improving the flow of foreign currency.
Relations with the United States
The Venezuelan collapse was followed by increased pressure from the Trump administration. Although the US has maintained an embargo on the island since 1962, Barack Obama sought a mutual rapprochement that led in 2015 to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. The embargo remained in place, as its lifting depends on congress, but Obama encouraged its relaxation through presidential decrees that increased contacts between the two countries, with the resumption of commercial flights, the authorisation of greater purchases on visits to the island and the promotion of tourism. source In addition, it allowed family travel to Cuba and facilitated remittances, which constitute an important source of foreign currency for Cuba, after income from professional services abroad and tourism. Thus, remittances increased by 143% between 2008 and 2017 (from USD 1.447 billion to USD 3.515 billion).
Trump maintained diplomatic recognition (although neither Obama nor he appointed an ambassador) and the sending of remittances, but reversed most of the decrees approved by Obama and also applied several rounds of sanctions. These included, among others, the suspension of visas for Cubans and the expansion of the list of Cuban companies run by the Armed Forces with which Americans cannot interact (even as tourists).
With the arrival of Joe Biden in the White House, it was hoped that relations between the historic enemies would improve again, but months later there are still no signs of change and Obama's former vice-president has not returned to Obama's strategy towards Cuba, but maintains the sanctions pressure of his immediate predecessor.
China and Russia
If in relations with the Obama Administration, Raúl Castro was looking for a new sponsor to somehow replace Venezuela, as Venezuela had replaced the USSR (in fact, secret negotiations with Obama began when the death of Hugo Chávez opened up uncertainties about Venezuela's future), Washington's slamming of the door may lead to greater rapprochement with Russia or China. Such rapprochement has been taking place in recent years, but for the moment there is no definite dependence on Moscow or Beijing.
If Russia's return to the Caribbean can be circumscribed to the availability military access (in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela), in the case of China, there is a clear commercial stake. China has become the island's second most important commercial partner partner. Several Chinese companies such as Huawei and Haier have helped the Cuban telecommunications system development . Beijing recognises Cuba's strategic importance, given its geographic proximity to the United States, and can leverage this relationship to challenge its American enemy.
Both the deepening of this link and a firm step forward in economic reforms, perhaps imitating Vietnam in opening up the market without abandoning communism (Vietnamese communism, however, is a model with ballast), will depend on the new generation of leaders. Raúl Castro, more inclined to reform than his brother Fidel, did not push the process forward decisively because the boom in commodity prices, from which Cuba benefited very directly through Venezuelan oil, relativised its urgency. This is now being considered, but the new Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, to whom Raúl Castro also passed his last position in April as first secretary of the PCC, does not have the internal authority or the ascendancy over the army, which controls a large part of the Economics, that the Castros enjoyed.
POLITICAL RISK REPORT / Andrea Izco, Elena López-Doriga and Lucía Sáez
Download the document [pdf. 1MB].
The purpose of this political risk report is to analyze how stable the political, economic, and social conditions of South Korea are to determine the best approach to invest in this country.
Firstly, regarding the Economic Outlook, the GDP is expected to increase 3.6% in 2021 and 2.8% in 2022 and the government has devoted to get out of the crisis through the Korean-New Deal. Concerning heavy industry, manufacturing, and AI and technology, South Korea is taking action to become a potential leader. In terms of energy, the country's high dependence on energy imports because of its scarcity of natural resources motivates them to move towards renewable energies as well as to maintain its energy security.
Secondly, in relation to South Korea's Social Outlook, the country has shown great social cohesion after the COVID-19 crisis with responsible action by the population. The birth rate is expected to remain very low, but still, the need for immigrants has not been an easy response as nationals feel a certain threat. Regarding religion, the notion of democracy is what brings South Korea closer to the Western World, not too much the notion of Christianity, but even having a democratic system, many Confucian values still remain. It is safe to say that even though Koreans are likely to become less institutionally committed, the decline on religion will be minimal and regarding social stability, there will not be social confrontations between the different groups.
Thirdly, in the Political Outlook we see how South Korea's democracy faces issues concerning the powerful executive connected to a crony capitalism system in which Chaebols have been related to political scandals in the last administrations. However, in the short-term, the government will focus on resolving partner-economic issues rather than taking system reforms, as a new form of populism is emerging claiming for solutions for inequalities and damage caused by modernity. Despite of the little economic progress carried out by the current administration under President Moon, it is likely that his party will win again the next presidential elections in 2022 thanks to the well management of the COVID-19 crisis.
Finally, the Inter-Korean question can be concluded by saying North Korea is not willing to open up and instead takes minimal reforms. Despite of the struggles caused by the crisis and the commitment to dialogue from South Korea under the so-called Sunshine Policy, little progress has been achieved.
Publicador de contenidos
Back to Ecuador desaprovecha su salida de la OPEP y pierde producción petrolera
The country left the cartel in order to expand pumping, but the Covid-19 crisis has cut extraction volumes by 10.8%.
Construction of a variant of the oil pipeline that crosses the Andes, from the Ecuadorian Amazon to the Pacific [Petroecuador].
ANALYSIS / Jack Acrich and Alejandro Haro
Ecuador left the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on 1 January 2020 to avoid having to continue to join the production cuts imposed by group , which it agrees to in order to push up the world price of crude oil. Ecuador preferred to sell more barrels, albeit at a lower price, because by exporting more at the end of the day written request it could increase its income and thus get out of its serious financial situation status , which the coronavirus emergency has only accentuated, with a fall in GDP in 2020 currently estimated at 9.5 per cent.
However, domestic economic difficulties and the difficult international situation have not only prevented Ecuador from expanding pumping, but oil production has fallen by 10.8% in the last year. average In 2020, Ecuador extracted 472,000 barrels of oil per day, especially affected by the sharp reduction in activity in April with the beginning of the confinement, which was not compensated for the rest of the year. agreement This is a volume that is below the 500,000 line that has always been exceeded in recent years (in 2019 production was 528,000), according to figures from Petroecuador, the state hydrocarbons company. The reduction in global consumption during the Covid-19 year also correlated with a drop in the consumption of derivatives in Ecuador, especially gasoline and diesel, which fell by 18.5%.
International investment constrained by the pandemic context and reduced consumption marked a status that could hardly lead to an increase in production. In 2020, Ecuador saw a drop in the value of oil exports of 42.1% (twice as much as total exports), which, combined with a deterioration in the price of a barrel of oil, meant a 40.9% reduction in public revenue from the oil sector, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) data .
The figures for the first two months of 2021 indicate an accentuation of the fall in crude oil production (-4.73% compared to January and February 2020) and derivatives (-7.47%), as well as their export (-22.8%).
Cutting expense and seeking oil revenues
Exiting OPEC did not pose any particular risk for Ecuador, which had already left the organisation in a previous period. Its limited weight in OPEC and the progressive decline in the cartel's own strength meant that Ecuador's attempt to go it alone was not particularly costly. The absolute priority of Lenín Moreno's government was to rebalance the country's macroeconomic picture - battered by the high public expense of his predecessor, Rafael Correa - and for this it urgently needed to increase state revenue, a significant part of which in Ecuador normally comes from the hydrocarbons sector.
When he became president in 2017, Moreno set out to steer the country towards more market-friendly energy policies. The president was determined to break with the nationalist approach of his predecessor, whose policies discouraged foreign investment in the oil industry while significantly increasing public debt. Among the most costly programmes undertaken by Correa was to maintain high subsidies for energy consumption, with especially low fuel prices.
In order to overcome the financial status that Ecuador found itself in when he took office, Moreno approached the IMF to apply for financial aid financial, and committed to structural reforms, including the gradual dismantling of subsidies. These reforms, however, were not well received and the social unrest that spread throughout the country put further pressure on the oil industry.
In February 2019, Moreno negotiated an IMF loan to help reduce the country's large fiscal deficit and huge external debt, which by the end of 2018 had reached 46.1 per cent of GDP and twelve months later would reach 51.8 per cent. The committed 'bailout' was for $10.2 billion, of which $6.5 billion came from the IMF and the rest from other international agencies.
As part of austerity measures agreed with the IMF, Moreno was forced to end government subsidies that had kept petrol prices low for decades. In early October 2019 he announced a plan of cuts to save $2.27 billion a year, essentially withdrawing the fuel subsidy. The advertisement decree, which would later be annulled, immediately provoked massive protests, both from transporters and low-income sectors, as well as most notably from indigenous communities. The street violence forced the president to leave Quito for a few days and move to Guayaquil.
To address the need for revenue, Moreno sought to rely on the oil industry, which accounts for roughly a third of the country's total exports. He initially expressed the intention to seek a rise from the 545,000 barrels of crude oil produced at the time to almost 700,000 barrels a day.
goal One of the measures taken in this direction was to promote the development and the exploitation of the Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha field, with the aim of increasing oil production by 90,000 barrels a day. This decision met with social rejection due to the environmental damage it could cause, as the Yasuní National Park, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, has been declared a protected area. The government then decided to postpone the expansion of production, first to 2021 and then to 2022. The civil service examination was especially led by indigenous communities, in a mobilisation that partly explains the success in the 2021 presidential elections of Yaku Pérez's indigenist Pachakutik movement, which almost made it to the second round.
Another measure was to reverse some of his predecessor's emblematic policies. For example, he eliminated the service contracts introduced under President Correa, thus restoring the model production-sharing contract. This reform was more favourable to international oil companies, as it allowed them to retain a share of oil reserves; it also offered them financial incentives to invest in the country. The new model was first applied in the tenders awarded during the twelfth Intracampos oil round, in the Oriente region, which is rich in oil reserves. Under this contract modality , the Moreno administration awarded seven of the eight exploration blocks on offer with a total investment of more than $1.17 billion.
Fall in production
Due to the urgency of increasing revenues, Ecuador resisted the plan of production cuts that OPEC has been imposing on its members at various times since the abrupt fall in oil prices in 2014. Initially, the organisation accepted that some of its members, with moderate or very low production volumes compared to previous figures, as was the case of Venezuela, would maintain their extraction rates. But since it could no longer be an exception, Ecuador preferred to announce at the end of 2019 that it would leave OPEC and not have to reduce its production to 508,000 barrels per day in 2020, which was the quota set for it.
What is striking is that last year production finally fell from 528,000 barrels per day in 2019 to 472,000 (a drop of 10.8%), and not because of decisions taken at OPEC headquarters in Vienna but because of the various difficulties subject caused by the Covid-19 crisis. Petroecuador's oil exports fell from 331,321 barrels per day in 2019 to 316,000, a drop of 4.6%, which in monetary terms was greater, as the price of a barrel of Ecuadorian mixed oil fell from 55.3 dollars in 2019 to 34.7 in 2020.
One element that makes it difficult for Ecuador to take better advantage of its hydrocarbon potential is that it has insufficient infrastructure for refining crude oil. The country has three refineries, but their capacity does not reach the volume of domestic consumption of oil derivatives, which means that it must import diesel, naphtha and other products. This means that in times of high oil prices, Ecuador benefits from exports, but also has to pay a higher invoice price for imports of derivatives. In 2020, Petroecuador had to import 137,300 barrels per day.
The complicated situation caused by the pandemic has continued to put pressure on Ecuador's public debt, which reached 66.4% at the end of 2020, despite all the attempts made by the Moreno government to reduce it.
The next president, due to take office at the end of May 2021, will also have little room for manoeuvre due to these debt volumes and will have to continue to rely on higher oil revenues to balance public finances. The expansionary policies of expense during Correa's presidency took place in the context of the commodity super-cycle, which benefited South America so much, but this is unlikely to be repeated in the short term deadline.
OPEC's loss of weight
With its departure from OPEC, Ecuador left an international organisation that was created in 1960 with the aim of regulating the world oil market and controlling oil prices to a certain extent. goal . The founding members were Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Over time, other countries joined OPEC and today it is made up of thirteen members: Algeria, Angola, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Libya, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates and the five founding countries. When it was created, the organisation sought to establish, acting as a cartel, a kind of counterweight to a series of Western energy transnationals, mainly from the United States and the United Kingdom. OPEC members account for about 40 per cent of world oil production and contain about 80 per cent of the world's proven oil reserves. To be admitted as a member of the organisation it is necessary to have substantial oil exports and to share those of the member countries.
Ecuador joined OPEC in 1973, but suspended its membership in 1992. Subsequently, in 2007 it resumed active participation until its leave in January 2020. Considering that Ecuador was one of OPEC's smaller members, it did not really have much influence in the organisation and its exit does not represent a substantial loss for the organisation. However, it is a second departure in just one year, as Qatar, which had more weight in the cartel, left on 1 January 2019. In its case, its divorce from OPEC was due to other reasons, such as its tensions with Saudi Arabia and its desire to focus on the gas sector, of which it is one of the world's largest producers.
These moves are an example of OPEC's loss of influence. This has led it to establish alliances with producers that are not part of the organisation, such as Russia and some other countries forming OPEC+. With the decline of oil production in Venezuela and the decreasing ability of other members to control their production and exports, Saudi Arabia has been increasingly consolidating its position as the cartel's leader, accounting for around a third of the total production, with approximately 9.4 million barrels per day. In a way, Saudi Arabia and Russia remain, in a head to head battle, as the main countries seeking to cut production in an attempt to increase prices. Additionally, thanks to fracking, the United States has become the largest oil producer, representing a major influence on the international crude oil market, affecting the power that OPEC may have.