the brief: issue three


Social media shutdown in Nigeria
by Harry Padoan

Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari’s government banned Twitter’s operations in Nigeria for an indefinite period. The nation had formerly boasted a user base of around 40 million people, leading to mass worldwide debate on freedom of expression. The government’s decision came after the social media platform deleted the President’s post comparing the attacks on the national electoral commission with the Biafran Civil War of 1967 – a conflict that saw over 1 million casualties.

Organisations including Amnesty International have claimed that such actions ‘undermine Nigerians’ human rights’ – the Swedish Embassy in Nigeria amongst other groups have also united against the ban. Alternatively, former US President, Donald Trump congratulated the government, who in his view ‘just banned Twitter because they banned their President’. For many Nigerians, however, this is just another example of civil liberties being curbed under the Buhari administration.

The 2021 Malian coup that could make or break the Sahel
by Theo Mitchell

During the night of 24 May, Malian military officer, Assimi Goïta, launched his second coup in a year. The second coup did not come with the popular support of the first, but has nonetheless faced no serious internal opposition. The long-term causes of the first coup have largely persisted: the civilian leadership remains corrupt, the Islamist Azawad insurgency remains rife, and the government’s handling of the pandemic has remained poor. The immediate cause, however, emerged from palace intrigue after former President Ndaw attempted to remove coup leaders from the interim government.

Alongside Mali being expelled from the Economic Union of West African States and the African Union, France has suspended all military co-operation with the country. France is the main force behind the anti-Jihadist Operation Barkhane which started in 2014, and the coup could severely damage already miserly counterinsurgency efforts.


Israel’s opposition form coalition to remove Benjamin Netanyahu from office
by Josh Chapman

Eight of Israel’s opposition parties have formed a coalition in order to remove the ruling Likud party from government. This comes after the general election in March, the fourth in two years, ended in deadlock. The coalition includes parties from across the political spectrum and is the first time an Arab party will feature in an Israeli government. The coalition took office on 13 June with Naftali Bennet the new Prime Minister.

Whilst this is a historic moment for Israel, the breadth of this coalition is cause for concern. Although the parties share the aim of removing Benjamin Netanyahu from office, they are united on few things. Despite this uniting the state will be the primary aim of Israel’s new government.

Thailand begins vaccination scheme
by Jessica Pender

Thailand aims to vaccinate 70% percent of the population by 2022 primarily by using doses of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. However, concern has risen due to the provider of the vaccines: Siam Bioscience, a company owned by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, which has no prior history of vaccine distribution. With over 70 million residents the rollout has been slow, as only 2% of the population are vaccinated.

Bioscience has sealed deals to be the main provider of Astra-Zeneca doses for south-east Asia. However, planned allocations to nations such as Taiwan and Malaysia have been reduced in size, and shipments delayed.

The restless environmental efforts of Bhutan
by Owen Buchan

The nation of Bhutan is incredibly environmentally conscious. This small monarchical nation with a population of around 760,000 is extraordinary; being the only carbon-neutral country in the world. While dealing with the environment is a global issue that requires all nations to do their part, Bhutan stands as a beacon of inspiration to the world and shows no signs of stopping its noble crusade.

This World Environment Day, 6 June, the Queen of Bhutan, who is personally interested in the Environment, announced four major national actions. The action plans cover a variety of domestic issues, aiming to further lower carbon emissions, reduce food insecurity and protect the nation’s biodiversity. It is hoped the successes of these programs will send a powerful signal to the other nations.


G7 summit propels Britain’s first satellite launch into space
by Luke Jones

The 47th G7 summit was hosted by the proud Cornish people on the southwestern tip of England last weekend. Melissa Thorpe, head of Spaceport Cornwall, believes that the summit is a “huge opportunity” to showcase its pioneering project. Spaceport’s ambition is to deliver the UK’s first satellite launch from Cornwall Airport Newquay in 2022.

Ahead of the summit, Spaceport signed a memorandum of understanding with the US company, Sierra Nevada Corporation, to explore future opportunities. This will create a new, growing economy for Cornwall which is one of the less wealthy regions of the country. It is expected to grow the economy by £240 million through its indirect impact. The Johnson government will welcome such investment as they endeavour to achieve their post-Brexit foreign policy strategy, Global Britain.

Mladić loses final appeal
by Frank Roberts

Ratko Mladić has lost his final appeal against a 2017 genocide conviction derived from the Bosnian War. Although acquitted of the charge with respect to 5 municipalities, he was found guilty within Srebenica. Reactions to the verdict have been predictably mixed within Bosnia.

Croat & Bosniak politicians have been supportive, but prominent Bosnian Serb politician Milorad Dodik has claimed the trial was an effort to “satanise Serbs” by the international community. The trial has highlighted a number of the difficulties facing Bosnia & Herzegovina more than 20 years on from the brutal war. However, it also marks a possible break with the past, since Mladić is expected to be the last prominent figure from the conflict to face international justice.

Greek and Turkish leaders to meet alone
by Orestis Sechas

Fully prepared and diplomatic ‘shielded’, Athens is heading to the meeting of the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on 14th June, on the side-lines of the NATO summit. According to officials, the intimate setting will help a frank exchange of views and will be the first step for a calm summer in the Eastern Mediterranean. Both leaders aim to smooth over differences, which erupted into a public spat between their foreign ministers and want to ensure that tension will be kept to a minimum.

However, even with this setup, the Greek side has few illusions about the likely results. Turkey’s provocative and problematic position has made clear that Erdogan is not interested to engage in substantial talks with Athens, but instead, Greek diplomatic sources claim that Erdogan accepted the one-on-one meeting as part of his recent charm offensive towards the West.

How Italy’s increasing educational equalities are music to the Mafia’s ears
by Rachael Ward

Italy takes the undesirable lead of the highest school dropout rates among its European neighbours. Their government have invested in the south in an attempt to seal the severing north-south educational divide, including €40m to tackle educational poverty in deprived regions. Italy’s lockdown helped to increase educational disparities. The padlocks to Italian school gates have been fixed longer than most European states. Pupils from third to eighth grade attended school for a mere 42 days between September 2020 and March 2021.

Low literacy rates and dwindling attendance levels pose an all-consuming problem for Italy. As the health crisis trickles down to education, these educational inequalities materialise into socioeconomic ones. Instantaneously, a fertile breeding ground is reared for the Mafia with disillusioned student dropouts turning to criminal gangs. Will this blow to Italy’s educational imbalance therefore be a victory for Mafia recruitment?

North America

Implications of the Senate report into the capitol riots
by Connor Crout

A Senate report published earlier this week looked into the capitol riots on 6 January, focusing on law enforcement intelligence and communication. It found that intelligence agencies failed to properly assess talk on social media ahead of the riots. Additionally, on the day, intelligence about the riots was not passed onto police and it took the Pentagon three hours to deploy the DC National Guard after it was requested. The report provided recommendations for the future.

It mentioned Donald Trump but shies away from using words such as “insurrection”. After the Senate failed to reach the required supermajority to convict Donald Trump on the charge of incitement of insurrection in his impeachment trial in February, it is evident the Senate are not backing down from their decision regarding Trump’s involvement (or lack thereof).


First female Prime Minister for Samoa
by Tiffany Choong

On 24 May, Samoa swore in their first female Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, the daughter of the first PM after Samoan independence from New Zealand in 1962. This change in leadership significantly marks the end of Tuilaepa Sailele Malielagaoi’s 22-year reign. As the ceremony for a new government was set to take place, Malielagaoi locked his opposition out of Parliament while the ceremony continued inside a tent outside of the building.

Samoa operates as a parliamentary democracy and joined the Commonwealth in 1970, but issues have been raised regarding the preceding Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) on its abuse of power and disregard to the rule of law. Mata’afa, having been part of HRPP, witnessed the indignity that prompted her to lead the new Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party into being elected with the most seats.


Colombian Protests
by Leanna Devabalan

Protests restarted in Colombia towards the end of April 2021, as the government sought to introduce tax reform. These tax reforms aim to alleviate the country’s current economic crisis by imposing taxes on lower levels of income (2.6 million pesos) and inflating business taxes. As rallies escalated, President Iván Duque stated he would withdraw the bill. However despite withdrawing the bill, protests continued, echoing previous anti-government protests of November 2019.

The protests of April 2021 and November 2019 share a common factor – police riot action. According to human rights groups, riot police have utilised both live ammunition and tear gas in April protests. The Colombian president has since promised police reforms and a “zero-tolerance” policy towards any abuse. The protests are not unique to Colombia but play into a larger global issue of police brutality worldwide.

No irregularities in Peruvian presidential run-off
By Gracie Daw

The Organization of American States has not found any irregularities in the Peruvian presidential run-off. The election was extremely close, Keiko Fujimori, the incumbent, is currently 60,000 votes behind opponent, Pedro Castillo. Fujimori wants 300,000 votes reviewed and another 200,000 votes nullified, which would likely give her the Presidency. Castillo has come from relative oblivion and is viewed as a wildcard, he wishes to rewrite the constitution and pursue policies which are thought to further destabilise the Peruvian economy.

To complicate matters, Fujimori, who spent 13 months in jail between 2018 and 2020, has been requested to be returned to custody by a prosecutor. She is being investigated for alleged corruption and money laundering and the case will be halted if she wins this election. There is currently no winner of the run-off election, as authorities have been wary of proclaiming a winner, but there will be serious repercussions, no matter the next President.

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