Week of March 6th
The location of the Falkland Islands.
Drought in Somalia
A severe drought in Somalia has led 6.2 million people to suffer from food shortage and is creating a spreading famine. From just Friday to Saturday of this past weekend 110 people have died. Earlier in the week newly elected President Farmajo declared the drought a national disaster. The United Nations announced that the drought was caused by two consecutive seasons of little rain, which has killed both livestock and crops. This lack of clean water has increased the risk of waterborne diseases and children in affected areas are at risk of dropping out of school. This is not the first time the country has been hit by famine in recent years. Between 2010 and 2012 about 280,000 people died due to famine. The government has asked businesses and Somalis with means in addition to aid agencies to help those affected.
British Planes from Brazil to Falklands Islands Disputed by Argentina
The Mauricio Macri government of Argentina has spoken out in recent days about the use of Falkland Islands airstrips by British RAF (Royal Air Force) planes flying to and from Brazil. This breached an agreement between the two nations. The Falklands, which are called the Malvinas in Argentina, were fought over in a brutal but short war between the United Kingdom and Argentina in 1982. Currently, the archipelago is an independent nation with the United Kingdom in charge of its security and protection; this has allowed the UK to open a large military base on the island called Mount Pleasant. Argentina is requesting an explanation for the total of 18 flights to and from Brazil by RAF planes, and has called out Brazil for not standing up to British influence in the region. The UN has recently allowed for Argentine waters to extend to the areas surrounding the Falkland Islands. This trouble over the flights follows prior dissatisfaction with military exercises by the British in 2015 on the Falkland Islands, which was to include missile launches. Look to see if a Brazilian and/or British response to this incident comes this week.
China’s National People’s Congress Begins its 2017 Session
Over the weekend of March 4th, China’s national parliament began its annual spring session. Although the congress itself is nothing more than a rubber stamp, the meeting is important. During this time, Chinese leaders declare and decide the nation’s direction for the year to come. Of particular interest are economic and international intentions. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has lowered the economic growth target from its goal of 7% last year to 6.5% this year. This revised figure reflects concerns of a slowing economy and structural issues. Li has singled out “zombie enterprises” and industrial overcapacity as potential targets for change. Additionally, Li affirmed China’s role as a “responsible country” and noted its comment to stability and other international agreements, like the Paris climate deal. Other subjects were also addressed, including the growing levels of pollution and Taiwanese independence. The necessity of supporting Xi Jinping as “China’s core” was also reaffirmed, further cementing Xi’s role as leader of China and anchor in the times to come. Despite these major announcements, the conference is not over yet and will continue for another week or so.
Tensions Between Germany and Turkey
Diplomatic relations between Germany and Turkey have been strained since the failed July coup attempt against President Erdogan, who has accused Berlin of not doing enough to condemn the coup. However, tensions have run especially high after local German authorizes cancelled Turkish political rallies. Turkey will soon host a referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers as head of state, and the Turkish government has attempted to rally support with the over one million Turks residing in Germany, as they comprise the second largest ethnic group in the country. Last week, local authorities in several German towns cancelled political rallies and appearances by Turkish ministers, angering the Turkish government. Erdogan accused the German government of working against its campaign, though Chancellor Merkel rejected such accusations. However, President Erdogan continued to lash out, claiming that the cancellations were reminiscent of 1930s-era Nazism and fascism. Look to see how this issue is addressed, as the two countries’ foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in the coming week.
Protests in Beirut over Destruction of Nature Reserve
Protests erupted in Beirut, Lebanon, on Thursday over a plan to build a hospital on the city’s last piece of parkland. Horsh Beirut, the largest green space in Beirut, is categorized as a protected nature reserve. The announcement of the planned project has drawn the ire of many residents, who organized a demonstration on Thursday to protest the building. The rally quickly turned violent, however, when clashes broke out between the protestors and supporters of the project, who were waiting at the site for the demonstrators to arrive. Mohammed Ayoub, director of the NGO Nahnoo, told a local TV station that, “The police and the army watched it happen and did nothing.” Police had been deployed in the area in an attempt to pacify both sides. The construction of the hospital is funded by the Egyptian government, and meant to aid Palestinian and Syrian refugees in the city, which is lacking in adequate hospitals. Adnan Istambuli, a union leader, says, “Why are they protesting against a project that will help the poor?...This is a charitable project.” Authorities promised to create a strategy to expand green spaces in the city, but few protesters believe that they will follow through with it.