Kimberly Daniels, a
member of our Emerging
Fellows program envisions an equilibrium scenario within Eurasia's
Heartland alternative futures through her eighth blog post. The views expressed
are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other
A new equilibrium scenario could play out as a future in which geopolitical
control in Eurasia's Heartland in 2050 among the U.S., Russia, and China is
proportional to their alignment with pivotal Afro-Eurasian powers. In this
alternative future, Continental Africa and Central Asia emerge as competing
forces with enough economic brawn to disrupt the continuation of a unipolar
world system. Along with India and Japan's foreign policy shifts, they bring
about a redistribution of power that has kept the three civilizational states
from dominating the Heartland. Characterized by a commercialized approach to
Heartland and Afro-Eurasian power and a multipolar world order catalyzed by
technological change, this scenario also considers geo-technological warfare as
a change driver.
By 2050 in this scenario, India, Japan, and Africa have put the Asia-Africa
Growth Corridor (AAGC) into operation in response to China's Belt and Road
Initiative (BRI) in Eurasia's Heartland. Supported by Western Europe, parts of
Eastern Europe, North America, much of Central and South America, and Australia,
the AAGC and the Indo-African alliance has been key to Africa's economic rise.
High-speed rail systems, Internet of Things (IoT) connected air travel, and
joint militarized sea transport make it possible. AAGC success is attributable
to foreign policy shifts by India and Japan and partnerships with Africa and
Central Asia, enabling them to encroach on China's trade aspirations in
Free from colonial interference and economic subjugation but closely aligned, in
foreign policy, with India, Japan, and the U.S., continental Africa is united.
Having made the move to a singular digital currency backed by a robust
cryptocurrency market, Africa is now a globally-competitive regional power. Her
commercial economy, supported by artificial intelligence (AI) and rapid
smartphone penetration elevated her as a pivotal international player. Despite
clusters of religiopolitical extremism, Africa emerged as a pivotal disruptor to
a US, Russian, or Chinese unipolar power position in the Heartland.
Allied with the U.S., India, and Japan; and through reimagined commerce and
industry, as well as the freedom to reinvest BRI trade revenues into her
economy, Central Asia grew in global competitiveness. No longer indebted to
China and irrespective of US alignment motives of containing China's
commercialized Heartland domination, Central Asia is a liberalized,
self-governing region. She chose regional sovereignty with Western allies over
the pull to a resuscitated Soviet regime.
As the primary supplier of cutting-edge green mining and clean-energy resources,
U.S.-backed Kazakhstan leads Central Asia. India-aligned Uzbekistan engages her
military, intelligence, and counter-terror capabilities to protect the region
against most threats. Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, mutually aligned
with the U.S., India, and Japan, are market leaders in augmented and virtual
reality (AR/VR) tourism. Central Asia, an annoyance to Russia, also emerged as a
pivotal disruptor to US, Russian, and Chinese unipolar power positioning in the
As the US, Russia, and China navigate a multipolar world order marked by
technological change, commercialization, and new regional competitors shaping
Heartland power, they drive an environment of geo-technological warfare. The US
preemptively protects her Afro-Eurasian interests through sabotages of critical
Russian and Chinese infrastructure. In response, she incurs New Cold War
assaults from Russia, China, and Iran. Suspected hacks by China of Africa's
IoT and AI systems and profit-making linked to surveillance capitalism incites
the US and India to launch discrediting campaigns against China.
Russia, aligned with the Caucasus, Mongolia, and multiple Eastern European
countries, is often blamed for cyberattacks against Central Asia's BRI and
AR/VR infrastructure. Such accusations provoke reciprocal attacks from the US
and China and intensified conflict with a Western-allied Turkey. For the three
civilization states, alignment with pivotal Afro-Eurasia powers for proportional
geopolitical control has also meant protecting them against geo-technological
In this 2050 new equilibrium scenario, India, Japan, Africa, and Central Asia
have brought about a multipolar world system resulting in redistributed
Afro-Eurasian power. While they have prevented the US, Russia, and China from
dominating the Heartland, they accept the three's extended power in support of
commercial-oriented, tech-based foreign-policy agendas. Aligning with these
pivotal Afro-Eurasian powers has given the US, Russia, and China proportional
control in the Heartland and incentives for initiating or responding to
geo-technological warfare tactics to protect their interests. One other
alternative future to US, Russian, and Chinese Heartland geopolitics is depicted
in a transformation scenario.
Tyler Mongan, a
member of our Emerging
Fellows program inspects the ownership of Arctic natural resources in his
ninth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily
those of the APF or its other members.
As Arctic nations pursue their interests, stakeholder relevance and
opportunities will depend on which futures emerge. We can image four alternative
futures that will shape the stakeholder landscape in the region: (1) A White
Arctic with no change in ice levels, or a reversal of ice melt, leading to a
decrease in access to the region. (2) A Blue Arctic featuring an increase in
open and navigable waters governed by the rule of law (3) A Red Arctic featuring
open waters within a context of strategic competition and conflict, and (4) A
Green Arctic featuring open waters within a context of sustainable economic
development and cooperation.
If the ice melt stalls, or shows signs of reversal, we will see a White Arctic
future emerge. Current stakeholders will dominate the landscape with little
change in power dynamics. Financial investment and overall risk will be
extremely high for new stakeholders to venture into the region. Further, a trend
of ice melt reversal would make future investments in the region and the
promises of past investments less tenable. Overall, very few stakeholders would
be in a position to make investments in the region. Russia would be an exception
simply because they control the largest portion of the Arctic circle, but even
their efforts would be stalled.
If the ice melt continues on the current trend, it will result in a Blue Arctic
future with longer periods of ice-free waters. In the Blue Arctic rule-of-law is
the norm and the Arctic Council is a relevant power. Russian transportation and
natural resources extraction companies, and their partners become larger
stakeholders in the region. In general, the shipping industry takes a larger and
long-term stake in the region. Chinese research and investment partners expand
their access in the region. US stakeholders continue to lag behind in their
efforts to access the region. Canada solidifies control over their portion of
the Arctic and increases indigenous people’s relevance to their region. Military
stakeholder access will be limited by agreed upon rules and cooperation efforts.
The Blue Arctic could easily slip into a Red Arctic future if the rule-of-law is
compromised by strategic competition and conflict. If this future emerges, the
military could become the dominate stakeholder in the region. Russia will extend
its control over the shipping routes and form new partnerships with China to
invest in closing off a portion of the Arctic. The US will be forced to increase
its military presence in the region, and Russia and China will respond with
similar build ups. Shifts in fisheries could lead to naval conflict. In this Red
Arctic future economic development stakeholders are overshadowed by military
stakeholders in the region.
The Blue Arctic could also transform into a Green Arctic with a stronger Arctic
Council to ensure the rule-of-law and support sustainable development and
continued cooperation in the region. In this alternative future the environment
and indigenous people become more important stakeholders in the decision making
process. Stakeholders that bolster cooperation, follow sustainable development
guidelines, and increase safety, while decreasing risk, will thrive in the
region. This could include resources extraction businesses, transportation
operations and research partnerships. Tourism could also open up the region to a
more global stakeholder perspective as more people are able to experience the
As milestones alert us to which alternative future is most likely to arise,
stakeholders will begin to position themselves to take advantage of emerging
long-term possibilities. The stakeholders who are willing to take a risk and
invest in their desired future will also shape the future of the region. This
cycle will have local, national and global implications and will determine if
Arctic geopolitics trend towards strategic conflict or economic and
Kevin Jae, a member
of our Emerging Fellows
program inspects the impact of economic inequality on migration in his ninth
blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those
of the APF or its other members.
How does economic inequality affect migration? We can examine the question from
two vantage points. The first vantage point will take the international context.
As for the second, we will examine the effects of economic inequality on
migration from the intra-national context.
In the international context, economic inequality and migration seem to be
inextricably tied in a cause-and-effect relationship. In a dominant narrative,
migration happens because of economic inequality, or the differences between the
economically underdeveloped nations and the developed world. In this narrative,
there is an inversely proportional relationship between economic development and
migration: the less economically developed the nation, the greater the
motivation for potential migrants to emigrate and pursue a better livelihood.
Pursuing this logic, some politicians, development workers, and scholars
advocate for a “smart solution” to migration by tackling the problem at the
roots. They advocate for ideas like “circular migration” and suggestions for
temporary migration, in which international migrants contribute to the
development of their home countries through remittances and the development of
human capital through their experiences working abroad. These hopes seem
justified, given the role of remittances on economic output for some
underdeveloped countries. For example, according to the International Labour
Organization (ILO), 42% of Tajikistan’s GDP came from remittances in 2015.
More recent scholarship puts the correlation between development and migration
into doubt. Actual empirical migration processes hardly conform to this
relationship. While it seems rational to assume that people will migrate to
improve their long-term material prospects, a more nuanced way of
conceptualizing migration takes migratory capabilities into consideration.
Realistically speaking, migrants need access to information, personal networks,
a certain degree of capital, and skills for the labour market to migrate to
another country. Higher levels of human and economic development actually
facilitate migration, although migratory aspirations eventually decrease as
nations reach developed country status.
Empirical data also corroborates this way of theorizing migratory patterns. The
largest movement of migrants come from countries like Turkey and Mexico, not
from countries like Liberia and Bhutan. Eventually, after a certain level of
development, potential migrants will be satisfied with the opportunities
available at home and the home country will start to become a destination for
migrants. Countries like South Korea, which has traditionally been a sender of
migrants, are starting to become a receiving nation. In either case, economic
development will lead to migration to a certain extent. Given how vastly
unsuccessful development initiatives have been in the past decades, this does
not promise to radically increase migrations from the global South to the global
North in the future.
In the domestic context, economic inequality plays a role in the reception of
and the attitudes toward migrants by the local population. Studies suggest that
individuals who perceive a lack of control harbour anti-migration sentiments:
these individuals often face financial insecurity, feel political alienation,
and lack trust in public institutions. As it stands, the general feeling of a
lack of control looks to increase in the future. In the current
political-economic landscape, there is increasing alienation of citizens from
the political process, there are the politics of austerity, and income and
wealth inequality are as high as they have been for decades. In the United
States, almost 40% of Americans report that they would struggle to meet an
unexpected $400 expense. These trends were happening before COVID-19 exacerbated
the situation: the wealth of American billionaires has grown $365 billion to
$3.65 trillion since the middle of March, while middle-to- low-income families
have not fared well. Following the research, we may expect anti-migrant
sentiments to increase, along with anti-migrant discourse from political
parties, if these trends continue to hold in the future.
Economic inequality affects migration in both the international context and the
intra-national context. In the international context, economic inequality
creates migratory aspirations while limiting migratory capabilities. In the
intra-national context, economic inequality sets the ground for nationalist,
anti-migration sentiments. This latter point will drive the next article, which
will examine future scenarios of migration given a nationalist response.
Skidmore, a member of our
Emerging Fellows program evaluates the role of religious contention in
destabilizing peaceful futures of Africa through her ninth blog post. The views
expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its
The Sahel is a leading region currently experiencing religious conflict. Keep in
mind, the Sahel is the belt spanning across the continent from the Atlantic
Ocean to the Red Sea in northern Africa. Within the past five years alone,
religious contention has been a leading factor influencing most conflicts in the
Sahel. Amid the religious disputes, the area is home to harsh desert climates,
drought, food insecurity, and poverty. As climate change continues to escalate
in the coming years, the trajectory for increased conflict seems inevitable.
With climbing temperatures, increasing droughts, and diminishing rainfall, food
insecurity compounds the instability the Sahel faces.
Though instability and violence in the Sahel are not a modern phenomenon, the
situation's caliber and extremity continue to rise exponentially. Specifically,
the influx in ideologically-fueled conflicts – including armed conflict,
religious violence, and religious extremists – is increasing at an alarming
rate. Religious discrimination is on the rise, and discriminatory thinking
certainly influences the thought of the groups initiating and prolonging, armed
conflicts in the region. Marginalization. Frustration. Aggression.
Understand that, customarily, Islamists inhabited the northern portion of the
Sahel with fundamentalist Christians in the southern part. With climate change
progressing rapidly, food insecurity is an influencer spurring violence from
militant Islamic groups. Also, realize that people living in the Sahel may fall
victim to recruitment, kidnapping, or killing by Islamic extremist groups.
Without immediate intervention, a future of religious warfare and the escalating
violence will be the cyclical reality of the millions of Africans living in the
The contention is not limited to interactions between opposing religions such as
Islamists and Christians. Disputes are ripe within religious groups as well,
consider the distinctions between Catholics and Protestants. In sub-Saharan
Africa, just over 60% of Africans identify as Christian. Within this 60%, over
half identify as Protestant, and roughly one-third of Christians identify as
Catholic. Nuance and differences between catholic religiosity and protestant
evangelical leanings demonstrate one area of growing hostility. The second area
of growing hostility within Christianity is the rub between African religious
interpretation with other aspects of the global Christian church. In the next
three decades, as population growth in Africa expands, the African Christian
church is projected to be the leader in numbers of the global Christian church,
including the branches of Protestantism and Catholicism. This dynamic further
opens doors for further religious hostilities. The African Christian church
clings to more traditional and fundamental religiosity than Western religion,
which leans more liberal in comparison. Consider attitude and beliefs toward the
LGTBQ+ community regarding marriage equality and clergy ordination as one
The religious contentions that exist among African groups compounded with global
religious contentions do not foster a foundation of a conflict-free future; in
contrast, they do the opposite, and seemingly uphold hostilities and conflict in
the continent. With these ideological and global influences at work, is it
possible to have shared vision across an entire continent? What are the odds
that there is buy-in on the shared vision being a conflict-free future for the
African people? Is a conflict-free future merely a fleeting idea and utopian
Johanna Hoffman, a member of our Emerging Fellows program detects the conflicts that
may be raised by refugees migrating because of climate change in her ninth blog
post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of
the APF or its other members.
Unrest often leads to
unrest. It’s a truth that’s playing out again today as protests for racial and
social equity accelerate across the United States, Europe, India, Brazil and
beyond. While these demonstrations stem from longstanding anger over a status
quo built on the legacies of colonialism and white supremacy, the impacts of
COVID-19 have arguably augmented their intensity. This movement erupted after
the world was gripped for months by isolation, fear, sickness and economic
shutdown. Such intense strife lays fertile ground for frustration to transform
Now imagine a world
where COVID-19 is not an isolated incident but one of many progressively
disastrous events. That is where we’re currently headed. Experts warn that
raging wildfires like those that devastated Australia in 2019 will recur and
grow. Superstorms like Hurricane Sandy will no longer be anomalies. When they
strike, these events will wreak mounting costs, from loss of homes and habitats
and jobs, to widespread loss of life. Longer term, systemic changes like sea
level rise stand to spark more severe political instability, resource
competition and forced migration than we as a species have ever seen.
The risks associated
with the climate crisis are mounting so quickly that groups beyond the
scientific community are now sounding the alarm. Last year’s Worldwide Threat
Assessment from the U.S. intelligence community stated that “Global
environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, are likely
to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent
through 2019 and beyond. Climate hazards … are intensifying, threatening
infrastructure, health, and water and food security.”
The numbers of
refugees that could arise from such degrees of instability are staggering.
Hundreds of millions of people across the globe currently live in low-lying
coastal areas. If seas rise just a couple of meters – which scientists predict
could happen by or before the end of this century – tens of millions of people,
if not hundreds, will be forced to flee. Such a change would create more
environmental refugees than ever seen before. To put such numbers in
perspective, the refugee crisis created by the Syrian Civil War, one of the
major humanitarian disasters of this century and a source of widespread
geopolitical tension across Europe, involved the relatively small amount of five
million refugees. Imagine what conflicts might arise when hundreds of millions
of people are on the move.
That is the reality
we’re facing. Even if our most ambitious climate mitigation goals are met, we
are still looking at futures with roughly 2.7 degrees Celsius of warming and 1.4
meters of sea level rise. These kinds of changes would spark a wide array of
environmental discord, from drastic swings in precipitation patterns to
increasingly intense coastal floods, threatening the lives and livelihoods of
millions around the world. That’s a best-case scenario. Given the lack of
international cooperation and global leadership, we’re slated to deal with
situations far more dire.
As the COVID-19
pandemic is making abundantly clear, none of these shifts will unfold in a
geopolitical vacuum. Coronavirus has spread rapidly since it first appeared in
December of 2019, posing enormous challenges to the entire human population,
from death and long-term health impacts to economic implosion. The myriad
consequences of the climate crisis – mounting numbers of refugees, spikes in
forced migration, border conflicts and increasing resource scarcity – will have
similarly widespread impacts beyond their immediate origins.
Unrest, however, isn’t
inherently evil. Current demands for racial and social justice are direct
reminders that rapid action can cause positive change. Yet the pendulum can
always swing quickly back in opposing directions. Adolf Hilter’s rise to power
followed a period of progressive development during the Weimar Republic,
characterized by growing support for
reformist taxation, social welfare programs, labor unions, and economic
opportunity for women.It also
coincided with one of the worst depressions in modern German history, where the
value of the German mark decreased so precipitously that residents needed
wheelbarrows to carry enough paper money to buy single loaves of bread.
international fallout of the coronavirus is creating similarly precarious
repercussions. The growing impacts of the climate emergency will bring even
with such pressures, we can go the direction of Germany under Hitler, vilifying
those who are different and taking solace in cultures of fear. Or we can learn
from history and carve a different, more inclusive path.
checks the effect of Belt and Road Initiative on world order in his ninth blog
post for our Emerging
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF
or its other members.
The theme of this scenario is: ‘The BRI Impedes Globalisation – A Continuing
World Order’. The key drivers are continuing support for globalisation, coupled
with the BRI working as an impediment in the global order, which is how it is
viewed by the international community. In this scenario the dominant themes are
continuity, multipolarity, business-as-usual, and a weakening of a universal
approach to the international order.
In this scenario, states form blocs with those in geographical proximity or with
similar civilisational foundations. They coordinate within blocs, though blocs
compete with each other. The US and China as the leaders of the largest blocs,
have not quite escaped the Thucydides trap; with conflict addressed through ‘a
long peace’ approach. Disconnection, distrust and antagonism are rife. The
heightened potential for conflict raises military expenditure although actual
conflict remains limited.
By 2050 the Chinese economy is the largest but that of the US is dominant.
Intra-bloc trade is limited by barriers and actual international institutions
are given little attention. The economies of Africa, ASEAN, India and China
continue to grow but with an internal prosperity divide. Economic growth is
strongly viewed through a resilience lens and long-term planning is viewed as
From a social perspective, cohesion is emphasized in most advanced regions and
the provision of welfare and social services is controlled. Values and
lifestyles are less given to trends because of an emphasis on ‘discipline’.
Developed countries experience a collective decline in population but migration
is highly controlled, leading to economic and social pressures being alleviated
through growing levels of personal augmentation.
Technology and information remain a critical driver of growth, but the drivers
for technological innovation are the military and security. Technology
availability is constrained by a lack of international cooperation and is poorly
regulated in social and ethical terms. Most states or blocs prioritise
locking-down and securing their information environments in order to defend
them, but this has an inadvertent effect on the free flow of people, knowledge
Governance is characterised by the lack of global initiatives to address global
problems because of a lack of respected multilateral institutions. This leads to
stronger intra-bloc frameworks further undermining global institutions.
Low-intensity hybrid conflict is commonplace, which strengthens the hands of
bloc leaders as they manage their states, the governance of which is strongly
impacted by technological advancements. The megacity rules the day with high
levels of intra-urban connectivity within blocs but not between them.
In the context of protecting and managing the global natural environment, there
are few international initiatives to provide mitigation for environmental stress
arising from the changing climate. Access to water, energy, mineral and food
resources is regulated at the bloc level, in order to manage both short-term
shocks as well as long-term resilience structures. There is strong global
competition for key mineral resources. The result is inconsistency,
disconnection, and a lack of coordination for environmental management.
In this scenario, in 2050, the BRI has hindered globalisation and instead upheld
the continuing of the current world order. Despite the BRI being designed to be
multilateral and geo-economic, its perception as an instrument of hegemony
enhanced polarisation, and the challenges it created engendered distrust among
many powerful nations. As a result, China did not increase its soft-power, and
this added to the perception that it was different from the rest of the world.
Taiwan, the South China Sea and North Korea will continue to be flashpoints, but
a pre-emptive strike remains unlikely. The emphasis will be on deterrence and
ambiguity rather than overt provocation since all parties know that any
counterproductive moves would upset the ongoing balance of the prevailing
multipolar world order.
Travis Kupp, a member of our Emerging Fellows program checks the impact of internal
chaos on Asian futures through his eighth blog post. The views expressed are
those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
It is said that nature abhors a
vacuum. While the truth of that proposition may be debated in the physical
sense, it is almost certainly true of power politics. In Asia, the incumbent
powerhouse is headquartered in Beijing, where one could say that all major roads
under construction on the continent lead. However, for much of recent history
this has not been the case for China and, even with a substantial lead today, it
is not a guaranteed future. If China were to soon fall into a state of internal
turmoil, the rest of the continent could experience a period of political and
economic refactoring. Alternatively, the collapse of an even more powerful China
in the future could leave the rest of Asia in a state of dangerous disarray. As
and when the country undergoes such a massive shock, Asia’s future will change
In a near-future turmoil scenario,
China’s still incomplete work of hegemony over Asia may allow for a gradual
shift in the center of gravity. Southeast Asia could take back ownership of its
manufacturing base, decreasing dependency on their giant neighbor and giving
rise to a rebalanced ASEAN with a more assertive bloc of the smaller nations.
However, with a more volatile partner and less attractive market to their north,
these states will need to look elsewhere for reliable trade partners. These will
likely be found westward.
Meanwhile, India and Russia would
find themselves in a struggle to lead the continent’s economy and to pursue
their agendas in Central Asia more tenaciously with one major player distracted.
The full potential of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) dashed, affected
nations will be left indebted to a nation unable to effectively enforce its
covenants. New projects could take control of and repurpose some of this
existing infrastructure to more strongly connect Russia and Europe to India and
the Southeast. The net effect would be an Asia now led from its West.
If China is able to keep major
change at bay until after the successful entrenchment of the BRI and significant
military expansion, the rest of Asia may react in a more extreme manner. In this
future, Japan’s debate over remilitarization will be resolved overnight in favor
of protecting itself from an unpredictable neighbor. The island nation would
likely also need to quickly overcome its differences with South Korea in order
to establish a stronger defensive position. China’s struggle for sovereignty of
its coastal waters would heat up quickly.
Resentment toward Chinese hegemony
in BRI-dependent states would also begin to boil over as dependent economies
collapse. India and Russia would see opportunities for strategic advantage in
greatly weakened Central Asia, Pakistan and Kazakhstan especially, but would
need to tread carefully. China would be in a position to retaliate swiftly and
forcefully if threatened by such encroachment, assuming the military takes a
leading role in re-establishing stability in the state. However, rising threats
in the East could weaken this position.
Whenever a tumultuous social and
political change strikes China, its neighbors will be obliged to act. Peaceful
outcomes would involve significant rethinking of economic flows and
relationships across Asia with an opportunity for China to reintegrate when it
stabilizes. If China’s turmoil occurs after its rise to dominance is more
complete, the continent would at best be thrust into a state of heightened
tension, and at worst into the next global war. Asia and the world can only hope
that any major difficulties in China will occur slowly enough, and perhaps soon
enough, to avoid such an outcome.
Kevin Jae, a
member of our
Emerging Fellows program
inspects the migration flashpoints in his eighth blog post. The views expressed
are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other
Migration may spark internal,
intra-state conflict, as discussed previously. This still leaves a whole set of
unexamined questions on the potential effect of migration on inter-state
conflict. Where are the potential flashpoints, at which state-on-state conflict
As is evident from the contemporary
political landscape, state violence and state-on-state conflict begets a certain
type of migrant, the refugee. Refugees can be political exiles who remain
involved in the politics of their country. As politically marginalized figures
with a vested interest in the affairs of the home country, refugees may continue
their political dissidence from the safety of the host country—sometimes with
the support of the host country, who see an opportunity to advance their
Of course, it is not our intention to
cast the shadow of a security threat onto the bodies of refugees: the vast
majority of refugees seek only a better life. However, 73% of refugees are
hosted in neighbouring countries, which make them a potent conduit of such
engagement against the home state. Additionally, great numbers of refugees have
not been resettled in any meaningful capacity. 25% of refugees are stuck in
refugee camps, where they may stay for years or even decades. The refugees in
these camps lack basic infrastructure and any semblance of a decent future.
These conditions foster resentment, despair, and can lead to collusion with
dissident groups. As an example, the Palestine Liberation Organization operated
from Lebanon and Jordan and relied on Palestinian refugee camp networks for
support. Climate change related factors will lead to the increase of externally
displaced refugees and may exacerbate political tensions between refugees and
home country. Without a coordinated global response to resettle refugees,
refugee camps will only grow larger and refugees will only become more
Refugee camps on the boundaries of
nation-states may play a larger role in facilitating political conflict as these
trends continue. To name some of the larger camps, there are nearly a million
Rohingya refugees in southern Bangladesh, there are nearly 5.6 million Syrians
in refugee camps in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan, and there are Somalian refugees
in camps near Kenya and Ethiopia. The locations of refugee camps may change in
the future; however, potential flashpoints can be found in nations vulnerable to
climate change (like Bangladesh) and conflicts that produce refugees.
Migrants can also be used in state
policy. Turkey has struck a deal with the E.U. to host refugees. A failure to
uphold the deal or a miscommunication may result in retaliatory action and
subsequent conflict. Additionally, a migrant—if not yet a citizen of the host
country—is fundamentally in an ambiguous position in between two nation-states.
Having left the safety and sovereignty of the home country, the migrant has
abandoned his or herself to the goodwill of the host state. Nation-states exert
a degree of influence through embassies and consulates that provide political
services for their citizens abroad, but their powers are limited. Nation-states
can prey upon the extra-territorial migrants under their jurisdiction, creating
or aggravating conflict between states. In a recent demonstration, Meng Wanzhou,
the CFO of Huawei and daughter of the founder, was arrested by Canadian
authorities on December 1, 2018 to be extradited to the United States. In
response, the Chinese government detained two Canadian citizens working in China
under the state secrets law. While the current pandemic virus has radically
changed inter-state mobility, labour market migrants are fodder for this type of
Migrants motivated by both push
factors (refugees) and pull factors (economic migrants) are a potential locus of
flashpoints. Both of these forms of migration promise to increase in the future.
The unresolved climate change problem will lead to millions of displaced people.
If the trends toward globalization continue past the end of the pandemic, then
economic migrants can be potential political pawns to advance state interests,
particularly as conflicts between state intensify.
Sarah Skidmore, a member of our Emerging Fellows program evaluates the role of
non-state actors in threatening the peaceful futures of Africa through her
eighth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not
necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
As with tribalism, non-state actors are not inherently prescribed as positive or
negative. Non-state actors have the opportunity to sow division or foster
greater unity as Africa works toward a conflict-free future. The motives and
values of non-state actors are vast and diverse – and often multi-dimensional.
The discussion of non-state actors really calls into question contemporary
geo-politics and proxy wars specifically.
It is important to understand the influence that non-state actors bring. What is
the motive of the non-state actor? What is the strategy of the non-state actor?
Why is the non-state actor involved? What is the benefit to the non-state actor
for being involved? These questions are critical as non-state actors bring a
real threat of proxy wars. In proxy wars, non-state actors may instigate lasting
harm to already weak nations by escalating conflict, struggle, and violence.
Keep in mind that many proxy wars involve various foreign state actors. And, the
interconnectedness and layers of complexity in proxy wars can evolve throughout
the duration of the war.
Since 2014, Libya has experienced civil war. With armed extremists along with
rival tribal groups all fighting to claim power in the country, this is a prime
example of a proxy war originated by non-state actors. Or, consider violence in
the Sahel. Though originally the Sahel experienced more climate-induced
conflict, it evolved into more extreme conflicts including militia and religious
groups. Libya and the Sahel are merely two examples demonstrating the role of
non-state actors in conflict.
The motivations and actions of the non-state actors in these two conflicts are
generating war, unrest, and violence now. How must their motivations and actions
evolve over the next three decades to ensure a conflict-free future by 2050? Is
that type of evolution even possible in 30 years? Or, might the hope of a
conflict-free future be too big and complex a problem to achieve?
Prevalent non-state actors include the vast number of African tribal groups,
American Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) and Chinese State-Owned
Enterprises (SOE). Being a continent where tribal affiliations are stronger than
national affiliations, non-state actors enhance the complexity of the continent.
The actions and decisions of non-state actors – whether tribal groups, NGOs or
SOEs for example - create avenues for greater division and strife throughout
African regions. With African governments greatly influenced by tribal
affiliations, non-state actors have heavy influence with national cohesion and
local governments. In addition to the tribal influences, the Great Powers bring
an added layer of complexity to conflicts.
Conflict is created when a non-state actor influences a party to take power from
another party. Seeds are sown for growing - and cyclical - conflict through
corruption, nepotism, and abuse of power. The growing violence and presence of
armed groups along the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Great Lake
States is merely one example of how non-state actors exacerbate existing
conflicts among African nations. Ethnic divisions, fractured relationships, and
power struggles shape much of the present conflict.
Another thirty years of tribal warfare, religious rivalries, and armed groups
inhabiting the area will certainly not need to a conflict-free future – if any
viable future to imagine. A continuation of groups vying for power or asserting
dominance over weaker groups will not bring about a conflict-free future. How
can this cycle of conflict be broken? Is a conflict-free future even possible?
If so, how might non-state actors bring unity toward a conflict-free future? If
not, what will happen in the coming decades if the conflict cycle continues? The
cyclical, patterned power-based conflicts will not bring about intra-continental
cooperation, help foster local entrepreneurship, or allow for critical
infrastructure to be established. And, without those aspects, what type of
future is possible for the African people?
a member of our Emerging Fellows
program detects the milestones that likely shape the futures of the Arctic region in his eighth
blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those
of the APF or its other members.
There are some key milestones that can serve as guideposts for determining a
nations success in the Arctic region as they move from the baseline to the
One of the key milestones for Russia would be 5-10% of shipping rerouted through
the NSR. This will diversify Russia’s economy and increase their control in the
region. A pathway to that metric requires a consistent trend of melting ice in
the region, which will support an increase in investor confidence in commercial
operations. It is predicted that an ice free Arctic could occur between 2030 and
2040. Ice is melting faster along the Northern Sea Route than other parts of the
Arctic. If this trend continues we will see more investor confidence in Russian
transportation infrastructure and natural resource extraction. Although
unlikely, another key milestone to look for would be a move to approve an
extension of Russia’s EEZ all the way to the center of the high north.
One of the key milestones for China’s success in the region is an increase in
Chinese yuan flowing into the region. China has already invested billions into
the region to support the development of a Polar Silk Road. The flow of yuan
into the region will be supported through bilateral partnerships. Some of the
biggest financial investments have occurred in Iceland, Greenland, Norway and,
to a large extent, Russia. A diversity of long-term bilateral agreements will
secure China’s place in the region as a near-arctic state. As Chinese money
increases its flow into the Arctic, China will become more deeply embedded in
the geopolitics of the region. Another sign that there is a trend towards
reaching this milestone is an increase in Chinese shipping and icebreaker
activity in the region supported by its satellite technology.
key milestone to look for that supports US success is a reversal of climate
change and a decrease of melting ice in the region. This would hamper Russian
and Chinese developments, while also reducing the need for a stronger Arctic
Council. This would also maintain the secure ice wall between Russia and the US,
blocking a transpolar route.
key milestone for European Nations would be a strong Arctic Council to increase
the capacity and capability to create legally binding agreements in the region.
The path to this milestone might require an increase in multilateral cooperation
to keep the Arctic open, sustainable and demilitarized. This milestone could
also be inspired by increase conflict over EEZ, fisheries, and strategic
military developments. To prevent these conflicts from escalating, the European
nations might demand stronger governance in the region.
A key milestone for Canadian success would be for the United Nations Convention
on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to confirm recognition of the outer limits of the
continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean. While Canada supports an open and
cooperative Arctic, it also wants to maintain sovereignty in the region. Canada
aligns with the European Nations, supporting sustainable and environmentally
friendly economic developments. These aligned goals could increase support for a
favorable UNCLOS ruling and if a stronger Arctic Council develops it could also
move to recognize Canada’s desired future.
As nations strive for their preferred futures in the Arctic, not all these
milestones will be reached. There will be a dynamic balance of powers through
trade-offs, negotiations, and strategic conflicts. It will be difficult to
define which nations are “winning” and which nations are “losing.”