The bear and the lion: Sergey Lavrov visits Bamako
by Neo Allert
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov embarked on a two-day trip to Mali last week, promising support for the West African states struggling with armed insurgencies. Mali, which has long relied on France for military support, its former colonial master, has been left vulnerable after the withdrawal of French troops last year. Tensions had risen to a new high between Paris and Bamako and had ended in Paris calling back its troops.
Since then Russia has enthusiastically stepped in, providing extensive military support for the new rulers of the West African nation. In a press briefing on 7 February, Lavrov called the alliance between Moscow and Bamako ‘historic’. Additionally, Lavrov announced Russia’s willingness to support the other West African states facing similar armed insurgencies. Moscow seems to, slowly but steadily, be replacing European actors on the African continent, expanding its sphere of influence further.
No end in sight for economic crisis in Pakistan as cash deal with IMF fails
by Harvey Young
A meeting between the Pakistani government and IMF negotiators on 11 February has failed to produce a deal which would unlock $1.1 billion in funding for the increasingly economically beleaguered nation.
Pakistan has recently been embroiled in a multitude of crises: political instability, unsustainable state expenditure, the consequences of Covid, the ineffectiveness of tax collection, and devastating floods in 2022 have all contributed to a dysfunctional and indebted economy that is heading towards bankruptcy or even collapse. In 2019, Pakistan signed a bailout deal with the IMF which would provide $6.5 billion in funding. However, the first payment of $1.1 billion was stalled in December 2022 and a deal to release this funding has yet to be reached
Nevertheless, there is a silver lining for Pakistan, as the latest meeting has produced a roadmap of economic reforms that would give the IMF confidence to commit more money.
Cyprus elects new president in a tight runoff vote
by Orestis Sechas
On 12 February, Nikos Christodoulides was elected President of the Republic of Cyprus in the second and final round of the 2023 Cypriot presidential election. The former Cypriot Foreign Minister garnered 51.9 percent support against his opponent Andreas Mavroyiannis. Mavroyiannis is a former chief negotiator in peace talks with Turkish Cypriots and a career diplomat, who served as ambassador for Cyprus in various different contexts.
The election was an unprecedented victory for Nikos Christodoulides as he managed to knock out the two major parliamentary parties DISY (Democratic Rally) and AKEL (Progressive Party of Working People) while running as an independent with the backing of the centre and centre-right parties. The newly elected President will have to face difficult challenges over his five-year term, with the most important issues being the reunification of Cyprus and the island nation’s growing financial woes.
Mexican search and rescue dogs sent to Turkey
by Eleanor Austin
On 7 February, Mexico announced that it would be sending its specially trained search and rescue dogs to Turkey. 16 trained dogs were flown from Mexico City to Adana, near the epicentre of the earthquake. Mexico made this quick decision to send these dogs with the hope of saving those still trapped under the rubble, rather than solely recovering bodies.
The dogs sent over had gained international fame with their success in rescuing the lives of many Mexicans during the devastating events of the 2017 Mexico City earthquake. Their specialist training, experience, and their ability to smell will all provide significant support to the search and rescue efforts in Turkey. Crucially, the dogs can alert their handlers of humans trapped in areas covered by rubble, which may have not been possible without them.
Australia blocks coal mine proposals to protect the Great Barrier Reef
by Henry Neale
The Australian government recently vetoed a plan entailing the construction of a coal mine approximately ten kilometres from the Great Barrier Reef, marking Australia’s first rejection of a coal mine under federal environmental laws.
The coal mine project had been advanced by Australian businessman, Clive Palmer. The government, pressured by both UNESCO and the public, suggested that the plans presented a risk of significant environmental damage.
The Labor party promised stricter climate action upon inauguration in 2022, and recently allocated one billion Australian dollars towards related programs. There also exists a pledge to cut national emissions by 43 percent by 2030. Despite this, Australia remains a significant exporter of fossil fuels and retains a disproportionate global emissions record relative to its population. Combined with the refusal to completely discount future fossil fuel projects, many have suggested that Australia’s long-term promises may be undermined due to its lack of political consistency.
Six months of Gustavo Petro in Colombia
by Louise Cresswell
This week marks six months since former guerilla activist Gustavo Petro was elected President of Colombia. He is considered Colombia’s first ever left-wing President. He ran for office on an ambitious agenda of land reform and environmental protectionism, whilst also promising to broker peace with Colombia’s various criminal organisations that have been destabilising public life for well over a century.
Since winning office, Petro has followed up on many of his plans: he has advocated for the decriminalisation of cocaine and marijuana, established a commission on land reform with stakeholders from both the agricultural industry and the indigenous population, and has outlined plans for a universal healthcare system that would coincide with a large rise in the value of Colombia’s state pension.