the brief: issue seven


ICJ ruling on Kenya-Somalia maritime border dispute

by Harvey Young

image credit: SKopp (Wikimedia Commons)

The ICJ ruled on a maritime border dispute between Kenya and Somalia on 12 October after a protracted legal battle. Kenya argued that the border should be drawn directly east of its land border whereas Somalia argued that it should extend in the same direction as its land border. It is believed that this area could be very rich in gas and petroleum, making this area extremely economically valuable. 

This dispute started in 2005 when Kenya granted several petroleum exploration blocks in the disputed zone. At this time Somalia was experiencing severe internal political instability but brought the case to the ICJ in 2014 following failed attempts to resolve this dispute diplomatically.

However, this decision was met with a great deal of controversy as the Kenyan president rejected the court ruling, which was heavily in favour of the Somalian claim, whereas the Somali president called for further collaboration.


Hope for Syria’s embattled strongman?

by Isaac Hotchkiss

image credit: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom (Agência Brasil)

Despite the civil war that has largely rendered Syria a failed state, the past week has been good for the country’s embattled leader – President Al-Assad. 

Although Assad is known for massive human rights abuses such as gassing his own people and Syria itself is still in ruins after heavy conflict, Middle Eastern neighbours are slowly turning their heads back towards the President.

Recently, Lebanon has appealed to Assad for help with the nation’s electricity shortages; King Abdullah II of Jordan spoke with him on the phone for the first time in 10 years and the United States backed a plan to revive a gas pipeline through Syrian territory. 

Is this the dawn of a new era of friendship between long standing enemies, as nations turn a blind eye towards abuses in the hope of stability in the region?

Saudi Arabia and China versus climate change

by Lauren Mealing

image credit: Quintucket (Wikimedia Commons)

Two of the world’s biggest climate polluters, China and Saudi Arabia, have neglected their responsibility to provide a written commitment to COP26. Ahead of the summit due to take place in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November, the decision will impact the UK’s steps to radically reduce carbon emissions including the intention to have halved global emissions by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050.

Saudi Arabia is an oil exporting giant and China currently emits 27 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. Their lack of cooperation is suggested by the COP26 president (Alok Sharma) to be a ‘fall at the first hurdle’. Especially with China’s new found plan to build more coal-fired power plants, it is increasingly doubtful that the renewed commitments will be achievable.


Hungarian primary to determine Orbán’s 2022 opponent

by Frank Roberts

image credit: bici (Pixabay)

Hungarian voters will go to the polls this week to determine the leader of an opposition coalition which will attempt to usurp Viktor Orbán and his Fidusz party at next year’s parliamentary elections. Two candidates have advanced to the second round – Péter Márki-Zay and Klára Dobrev.

Dobrev is the candidate of the Hungarian centre-left whereas Márki-Zay, who is not affiliated with a party, is known for more conservative views and has enjoyed a meteoric rise since securing a surprise win to become mayor of Hódmezővásárhely.

This is the first time an opposition primary has been held, with previous opposition parties failing to form a united front against Fidesz who have been dominant since the 2010 election. The united opposition were able to beat Fidedz in Budapest at the 2019 local elections.


The January Capitol riots and Trump’s future political ambitions

by Connor Crout

image credit: Martin Falbisoner

Steve Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist to Donald Trump, did not show up to a summons by a committee investigating the Capitol riots that happened on 6 January. Therefore, on 19 October the committee will vote to hold him in contempt of court. If convicted Bannon could be fined and  face up to 12 months in prison.

Donald Trump held a campaign-style rally in Des Moines, Iowa on 9 October. Although Trump did not say he will be running for president again, he bragged about how he would beat all potential rivals (including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis). However, given the capitol riots are still being investigated nine months later, it is clear that they will not be forgotten and will likely affect any potential future political campaigns from Trump.


The Global Witness Papua New Guinea palm oil report

by Nell Fithen

image credit: GDJ (Pixabay)

On 7 October Global Witness updated their palm oil report on Papua New Guinea, summarising all of their findings since their last report in 2015. This report, containing an array of evidence gathered on large palm oil corporations, outlines and proves crimes including: organised police brutality, huge scale international tax evasion, mass and illegal deforestation, damage to community projects, bribery, and deaths of workers and children on plantations. 

The report attempts to prove that ‘tainted palm oil and its derivatives from Papua New Guinea plantations were sold on to well-known big brands including Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Colgate, Danone, Hershey, and PZ Cussons and Reckitt Benckiser, the parent companies of Imperial Leather and Strepsils.’ This is shocking given the fact that many of the implicated brands are participants in the Earthworm Foundation, and have pledged to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains.


President Pinera vs. Pandora Papers

by Rachael Ward

image credit: Sharon McCutcheon

The recently published Pandora Papers have put Chile’s President in an unpalatable position. The papers which contain almost 12 million documents shed light on the secret wealth that world leaders and politicians would prefer to keep in the shadows. President Pinera has come under the microscope for merging the realms of private and public in his handling of government affairs.  The papers reveal that Pinera sold off the Dominga mine to a personal pal. This favour for a friend was balanced on the condition that the mine could open within an environmentally sensitive area.

Chile’s opposition are setting their sights on an impeachment bid to bring the President down. Meanwhile, the President is standing his ground and stifling the opposition. Although November’s elections are creeping up on the political scene, Pinera has announced that he will not be pitching his presidential candidacy.

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