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Eurasia’s Heartland 2050: How Might a New Equilibrium Scenario Play Out?

Posted By Kimberly Kay Daniels, Friday, September 18, 2020

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 members.

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 Afro-Eurasia.

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 Heartland.

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 threats.

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.

© Kimberly "Kay" Daniels 2020

Tags:  Eurasia  Heartland  scenario 

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Who are the stakeholders of these alternative futures?

Posted By Tyler Mongan, Tuesday, September 15, 2020

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 Arctic’s mystic.

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 environmental cooperation.

© Tyler Mongan 2020

Tags:  Arctic region  natural resources  Russia 

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How does economic inequality affect migration?

Posted By Kevin Jae, Friday, September 11, 2020

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.

© Kevin Jae 2020

Tags:  economics  inequality  migration 

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How might religious contention derail attempts for a conflict-free future?

Posted By Sarah Skidmore, Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Sarah 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 other members.

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 Sahel.

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 example.

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 dream?

© Sarah Skidmore 2020

Tags:  Africa  Christianity  religious contention 

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How might climate refugees trigger conflict?

Posted By Johanna Hoffman, Thursday, September 3, 2020

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 into action.


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.


The international fallout of the coronavirus is creating similarly precarious repercussions. The growing impacts of the climate emergency will bring even more. Faced 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.


© Johanna Hoffman 2020

Tags:  climate change  conflict  refugees 

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How would the BRI impact a Continuing World Order?

Posted By Carl Michael, Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Carl Michael checks the effect of Belt and Road Initiative on world order in his ninth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. 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 crucial.


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 and material.


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.


© Carl Michael 2020

Tags:  Belt and Road Initiative  globalization  world order 

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How could a China in turmoil affect Asia?

Posted By Travis B. Kupp, Monday, August 24, 2020

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 radically.


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.


© Travis Kupp 2020

Tags:  Asia  politics  turmoil 

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Where are the migration flashpoints?

Posted By Kevin Jae, Monday, August 17, 2020

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 members.


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 may erupt?


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 interests.


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 desperate.


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 state manoeuvring.


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.


© Kevin Jae 2020

Tags:  climate change  migration  refugee 

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How might non-state actors derail attempts for a conflict-free future?

Posted By Sarah Skidmore, Thursday, August 13, 2020

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?


© Sarah Skidmore 2020

Tags:  Africa  conflict  non-state actors 

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What milestones alert us to these futures?

Posted By Tyler Mongan, Monday, August 10, 2020
What milestones alert us to these futures?

Tyler Mongan, 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 preferred future.


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.


A 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.


A 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.” 


© Tyler Mongan 2020

Tags:  Arctic  ice  Russia 

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