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Framing The World, LVI Edition

A new season begins in the international community

In the new issue of Framing the World we talk about what is happening in the world alongside pandemic management, vaccine tests and vaccinations themselves, talking about the state of the world economy and the effects of the blockade of the Suez Canal on international trade. We talk about the worsening of relations between China, the EU, the US and Canada on the subject of human rights violations, also reporting the news on human rights from Geneva. Moving from the agreement between the World Bank and Argentina to the tensions on the border between Venezuela and Colombia, and from the regional security threat launched by North Korea to jihadist attacks in Africa, you will find this and much more. Enjoy the reading!

HUMAN RIGHTS

Turkey, withdrawal from the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. It was announced by President Erdogan on March 20 and immediately aroused the indignation of Turkish women, who took to the streets to demonstrate, and the governments of various countries. The EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the German, French and Italian governments, among others, have criticized the decision for which a definite justification was not given. The Convention was signed in Istanbul in 2011, entered into force in 2014, and represents the first legally binding international instrument designed to protect women against any form of violence, as well as to prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence.

(Sara Squadrani)

China, “2020 report on human rights violations in the US". It was published on March 24 by the State Council Information Office. A few days earlier, the EU, the US and Canada had sanctioned various Chinese officials responsible for the persecution of Xinjiang Uyghur Muslims. China has, in response, sanctioned ten European officials, also publishing this report, which intends to highlight the weaknesses and failures of the US in meeting the task of protecting its citizens, dealing with "The tragedies caused by the severe loss of control of the epidemic", "The political chaos caused by the unrest of American democracy", "The deterioration of the living conditions of ethnic minorities due to racial discrimination", "The threats to public security generated by the continuing social turbulence", "The aggravated social injustice from the ever-widening gap between rich and poor ”,“ The human rights disaster caused by disregard for international rules ”- these are the titles of the various parts of the report.

(Sara Squadrani)

Geneva, UNHRC approves resolutions against repression in Belarus and Myanmar. At the forty-sixth session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which ended between 22nd and 23rd March, the forty-seven member states expressed their support for the implementation of a resolution that would tackle human rights violations in Belarus and in Myanmar. In particular, the resolutions refer to the repression of dissent following the re-election (with suspicions of fraud) of President Lukashenko in August 2020, and the use of force by the militias that carried out the coup in the Asian country last 1st February. It was also established that the investigations into the affected territories by independent bodies dealing with the defense of human rights will continue. The Minsk government rejected the accusations and did not recognize the resolution, accusing the UN to interfere with the country's internal affairs. The military junta that governs Myanmar, which also risks future prosecution at the International Criminal Court, has done the same.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

Bangladesh, fifty years after independence there is a risk of a one-party authoritarian shift. Since its independence in 1971, Bangladesh has proposed itself (not without difficulty) as a democratic bulwark in its area over the last decades. With the Coronavirus pandemic, however, many intellectuals, journalists and satirists have been detained in inhumane conditions for criticizing the government’s actions. Bengalese institutions also enacted the Digital Security Act, which for many activists is just a means of cracking down on consent expressed by citizens online. In Bangladesh, the Bengali People’s League of Sheikh Hasina has ruled for 13 years now. Since then, the country has grown economically at an exponential rate. However, the Hasina government is accused by multiple organizations, including Amnesty International, of fraudulent arrests, abuses of power, murders, and disappearances. In the last two elections, in 2014 and 2018, Hasina triumphed, but the main opposition group (the Nationalist Party) did not recognize the results.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

Lebanon, denied access to learning for numerous Syrian refugee students. As the education crisis adds to the global health emergency, the situation in Lebanon where numerous Syrian refugee children are denied access to education is of concern. The closure of schools due to the pandemic has severely damaged the education sector for this segment of the population that is hosted by Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. "After years of donor promises to support quality education for all Syrian refugee children, most Syrian children in Lebanon get nothing," comments Lotte Leicht, Union Director at Human Rights Watch. The data notes that in the 2018-2015 school year, only 42% of the approximately 660,000 Syrian children in Lebanon were in school. The issue of access to education is therefore a priority and sees a steady deterioration exacerbated by the emergency situation the world is experiencing.

(Federico Brignacca)

A UN history ruling for Sri Lanka. The recent resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council is a major victory for Sri Lankan victims of abuse. Specifically, Resolution 46/1 of March 23, 2021, provides for the establishment of an accountability process for the collection, analysis and preservation of international crimes committed in the country that can be used in future criminal proceedings. "The historic resolution - said John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch - shows that if justice is denied, the United Nations will act to ensure accountability for atrocities.” The measure adopted is in response to the report delivered in January by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, on how the Sri Lankan government is unable to ensure justice in the nation.

(Federico Brignacca)

Federico Brignacca, Sara Squadrani and Edoardo Cappelli



ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE

Wall Street, new highs but… For the 13th time since the beginning of the year, the S&P 500 recorded a new all-time high, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average surpassed 33,000 points for the first time in history thanks to a proper post-covid economic boom, rising growth estimates, which reached +7%, and a labor market which is expected to improve significantly in the coming weeks. However, these records hide some dangers. On Wall Street itself, the Nasdaq is experiencing days of volatility and is trading 7% below the mid-February highs; in Europe, the third wave of COVID and the controversy surrounding AstraZeneca risk derailing the fragile recovery that was emerging and pushing the weakest countries in the eurozone into the abyss; finally, in Asia, weakness persists on Chinese markets, not least due to geopolitical tensions.

U.S., a spending spree. No sooner had the ink dried on the 1.9 trillion package than the Biden administration went back to work putting together an even more ambitious plan worth over 3 trillion, which would contain infrastructure investments and funding for the energy transition. But given the state of U.S. finances (see last issue), the plan will necessarily be covered by higher taxes. According to rumours circulating, Biden intends to approve the first increase in federal taxes since 1993, which would affect those who earn more than $400,000, raise corporate taxation from 21% to 28%, extend estate taxation and increase the capital gains tax for the wealthy. Some measures, such as making community colleges free, are expected to be very controversial.

Trade, a new hurdle. It is not an easy period for international trade, which has to juggle trade wars, pandemic viruses and a 400 m container ship blocking the Suez Canal, the main communication route between Europe and Asia. The refloating of the Ever Given could take a week or more, and thus generate further stress in supply chains that have already been pushed to the limit by the boom in trade of physical goods caused by Covid and the economic recovery. Already in February, major Asian and American ports were reporting freight traffic increases of 40/50% over 2020, with kilometre-long lines of ships waiting to enter the port, containers impossible to find in Asia, and freight rates up more than 230%. However, the closure of the Canal, through which 25% of crude oil and 12% of world trade passes (equivalent to $9.6 billion per day), is not expected to cause energy shortages in Europe, given the ample stocks and low demand.

China, a retail boycott. A few hours passed between the announcement that some of the most important clothing brands, including H&M, Nike, Adidas and Burberry, would stop buying cotton produced in Xinjiang (due to the well-known accusations of genocide), and the reaction of users of Chinese social media and e-commerce platforms, with the suspicion of a silent support of the Communist Party. As of last Wednesday, it is effectively impossible to buy H&M products on Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo, but it is also impossible to search for the company's stores on navigation apps or book a cab to a store on ride-hailing apps, although there have been no restrictions on purchases in the physical shops. For the moment, the Chinese reaction has been limited only to the Swedish brand, but as the affair is part of the increasingly fraught relations between China and the West, it is feared that this is only a first step, harbinger of other more incisive measures.

Turkey, new change at the top. Last weekend, Turkish President Erdogan fired the governor of the Turkish central bank, Naci Agbal, causing a true earthquake on financial markets. It is the third change of leadership since 2019, but this time the markets seem to have lost much of the confidence they had in the Middle Eastern country: the Turkish lira has lost over 12%, the Istanbul stock exchange 9.9%. Erdogan's decision comes after Agbal once again raised interest rates to try and control inflation of over 15%, a textbook move in economics but one that the government believes is the cause of inflation itself. Turkey's economic condition, already gripped by a crisis that began in 2013 and has caused per capita GDP in dollars to nearly halve, looks increasingly precarious.

Europe, between recovery and lockdowns. The vaccination campaign conducted in a less than irreproachable manner risks causing new heavy economic losses for the major economies of the old continent. The economic recovery, which materialized only in March and was reflected in the record improvement of the PMI manufacturing index (Eurozone at 52.5 in March, +3.7 on February, the best pace since 1997), driven by the excellent performance of German industry, is already at risk due to the new restrictions imposed by national governments and their impact on daily economic life. Little use is made of the funds allocated by governments, which are largely insufficient: if Draghi's Italy has just approved a €32 billion package, Bloomberg believes that as early as this week the government will have to seek funding for a further €15 billion for each month of the crisis, weighing down the already impressive public debt even more.

Leonardo Aldeghi



SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Republic of Congo, election of Denis Sassou Nguesso. On 23 March the outcome of the presidential elections was announced by the Minister of the Interior, which awarded the umpteenth victory to President Denis Sassou Nguesso with 88.57% of the votes. His first victory dates back to 1979 and, after losing the elections in 1992, he has reasserted his position continuously since 1997. His re-election in 2009 should have been his last one (for another 7-year term), but in 2014 Nguesso promoted a constitutional reform that removed the 70-year limit to run for president (he is now 77) and removed the two-year limit of 7 years in favor of three 5-year mandates. The democratic nature of the elections was questioned, also given the death of Nguesso's political opponent the day after the polls closed, but the result has been confirmed.

(Sara Squadrani)

Ethiopia, confirmed the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray. Last Tuesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed confirmed at the Addis Abeba parliament the involvement of Eritrean troops in the devastating conflict in the Tigray region. For some time, various rumors have suggested Asmara’s active role in the clashes against the Tigray People's Liberation Front. Nevertheless, for months both the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments categorically denied these rumors. However, in the face of growing complaints from numerous international actors, the Ethiopian government could not deny the evidence any longer. Abiy Ahmed, in addition to confirming the presence of foreign troops in Ethiopian territory, also strongly condemned, thus actually confirming, several atrocities that the Eritrean forces themselves would have committed in Tigray. In this regard, the United Nations expressed its willingness to work together with Addis Abeba’s government to investigate the serious violations of human rights that occurred in the region.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

Sara Squadrani e Andrea Ghilardi



NORTH AMERICA

United States, the vaccination campaign based on age criteria risks exacerbating racial discriminations already increased by the pandemic. In the United States, the first phase of the vaccination plan gives priority to people who are at least 75 years of age. However, according to the ProPublica website, demographics from across the country reveal that vaccination has so far only involved 5% of African Americans, who in turn represent 12% of the total population. This disparity would come from a combined set of factors plaguing black communities. Apart from structural issues, life expectancy data shows that the average African American, unlike his white fellow citizens, hardly reaches 75 years of age. COVID reinforced all of this, killing an exorbitant number of black people between the ages of 65 and 74. With the advancement of the vaccination plan and the decrease in the age threshold required to access the serum, these inequalities will be mitigated, but they will unlikely be defeated.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

Boulder, Colorado. Ten people killed in a shooting in a market. On March 23, a gunman killed ten people, aged between 20 and 65, in a market in the town of Boulder, Colorado. Police arrested the only suspect, a 21-year-old named Ahmad Al Aliwi Al Issa. The motive is yet unknown, and investigations are still ongoing. The shooting took place less than a week after another tragic event involving eight people in Atlanta, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The tragedy has rekindled the debate on weapons in America and the danger of terrorism. President Biden has come out in favour of introducing stricter control over the sale of assault weapons. The Boulder market shooting represents the seventh mass killing occurred during the pandemic, according to data provided by the Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

The variants hit Canada. After weeks of relative stability, the contagion curve has started to rise again in recent days. Estimates agree in predicting about 12,000 new infections a day starting next week. The cause of this new growth is to be found in the diffusion of the new variants among the population. In fact, these are much easier to spread, further raising the hospitalization rate with serious repercussions on hospitals. On the other hand, good news comes from the vaccination campaign. After the false start of the first months, the vaccinations are proceeding at a rapid pace but still too slow to allow us to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hope comes with the announcement of the arrival of 1.5 million doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine from the US border.

(Lorenzo Bonaguro)

Lorenzo Bonaguro and Edoardo Cappelli



LATIN AMERICA

Argentina, negotiations with the World Bank. Martín Guzmán, Minister of the Economy, went to Washington to negotiate Argentina's debt. On 23 March, an agreement was reached with the World Bank to allocate $2,000 million to finance infrastructure, the health, employment and social protection systems, and measures to tackle climate change. 420 million had already been approved in February this year. The agreement stems from the desire to overcome the problems caused by the pandemic, but also from a long-term vision of Argentina's political, social and economic system. The funding will be approved throughout 2021 in a gradual way.

(Ginevra Ricca)

Chile, attack on the family estate of the president of the Chamber. Diego Paulsen, president of the Chilean Chamber of Deputies, reported an arson attack on his family property in the Araucanía region on 19 March. Sebastián Piñera said it was an act of guerrilla warfare. Paulsen accused the police force of inaction in relation to the incident, for failing to arrest those caught in the act. In addition, Paulsen and other parliamentarians, belonging to the Chile Vamos coalition, called on President Piñera to establish a state of emergency in the south of the country and to reach a political agreement to resolve the conflict with the Mapuche people over land ownership. Paulsen made it clear, however, that by calling for a state of emergency he did not intend to accuse the indigenous people but to take direct action against the terrorists.

(Ginevra Ricca)

Colombia, border issues. The Colombian government says it is concerned about both the border clashes in Venezuela and the influx of refugees from this neighbouring country. The Colombian Defensoría del Pueblo said that about 600 people had immigrated to Colombia from Venezuela because of the firefight between the guerrillas and Maduro's army. Colombian institutions have mobilised to respond to the emergency, providing the necessary services for the refugees, while also asking for help from international organisations. Julio Borges, a former deputy of the Venezuelan opposition welcomed by Colombia, accused Maduro of supporting criminal activities within his territory and stressed that in order to defeat drug trafficking it is necessary to have a strong army and institutions, a goal that the Venezuelan president has no intention of achieving, he said.

(Ginevra Ricca)

Mexico, the toll of the humanitarian crisis on the border with the U.S. worsens. The death by drowning of a 9-year-old boy while crossing the Rio Grande river in an attempt to reach US's soil, marks one of the most dramatic points of the migration crisis at the border between Mexico and the United States. A crisis that in recent years has seen millions of people fleeing their respective countries of origin - torn apart by poverty, corruption and violence of all kinds - pouring en masse along the border. The change of course that was expected with Biden's election is struggling to take hold. On the contrary, in the first months of 2021, the trend - in terms of expulsions - has not shown any discontinuity with the past management. In the virtual meeting between Obrador and Biden held at the beginning of March, the two leaders agreed on the importance of a joint effort aimed at supporting the economic growth of those countries where most of the irregular migratory flows originate.

(Davide Shahhosseini)

Nicaragua, the US blacklist and situation after the hurricanes. The US has included Nicaragua in its list of malignant countries that threaten the very security of the North American state. Indeed, the US has pointed out that Nicaragua, like Cuba and Venezuela, opens the door to outside state actors and organised crime. This decision contributes to alienating foreign investors, who are frightened by the bad relations between the two countries, but even before that, by the line adopted by the Ortega regime itself. Meanwhile, half a million people in Nicaragua still do not have access to water due to the damages caused by the hurricanes of the last year. Entire villages on the coast were razed to the ground and are still reduced to a desolate desert of rubble. The surviving population still lives in hotel accommodation.

(Ginevra Ricca)

Venezuela, guerrilla warfare on the border. The Venezuelan army was engaged in a military action on the border with Colombia, in the area of Apure on March 21. Reports about the military operation were very mixed. According to some sources, the Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana, Maduro's army, fought against the FARC, which was trying to enter Venezuela, while others even refer to an attempted invasion by Colombia. However, other sources, who declare these interpretations of the facts to be false, say that Maduro is fighting a specific faction of the FARC in order to support the other wing of the same organisation, led by two sympathisers of his regime: Jesús Santric and Iván Márquez. It seems that because of the armed clash, part of the population is moving to Colombia, which the latter is preparing to welcome.

(Ginevra Ricca)

Ginevra Ricca and Davide Shahhosseini



ASIA AND THE FAR EAST

North Korea, Pyongyang launches two ballistic missiles to Japan. On the day of the departure of the Olympic torch, North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, making the first violation since the election of President Biden. After the launch of the missiles, both Japan and South Korea held extraordinary meetings of the security councils of their respective countries. The resumption of ballistic tests from Pyongyang puts at risk the ‘peace and security of the region', says Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. The new US President, on the other hand, said that he is open to diplomacy, but that he is also ready to respond if North Korea increases its violations.

South Korea, the relations with the United States and the European Union. In the past few weeks, President Biden has confirmed America’s commitment to protecting Seoul from North Korean nuclear and missile programmes. In addition, the two countries have concluded an agreement to increase South Korean financial support to American military forces in the country. Moreover, South Korea and the European Union are gradually developing bilateral security cooperation ties, focusing on four areas: non-proliferation and disarmament, cyber security, space technology and preventive diplomacy and crisis management.

India, the new wave of Covid-19 and the suspension of vaccine exports. After a period in which the situation of the infections seemed to be under control, another wave of Covid-19 arrived in India, which led the country to record about 40 thousand cases a day. The cause of this new peak is probably the excessive relaxation of the country’s containment measures. This new emergency has forced New Delhi to suspend exports of the vaccine AstraZeneca, causing problems especially for low-income countries that, as dictated by the Covax program, should receive free doses.

Margherita Camurri


WESTERN EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION

Germany, Merkel's turnaround, no Easter lockdown. “Historical apologies” writes Bild regarding the surprising change of direction of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Only two days after the decision to call a national super lockdown during the Easter holidays, Germany changed direction. In fact, these decisions "will not come into force" because "they are not doable in a short time" Merkel said at the Bundestag. Chancellor Merkel publicly apologized, taking on herself all the responsibilities of this mistake made, however, with the best intentions, those of slowing down the third wave and reducing infections. This action was positively received by the public opinion and the German press, which highlighted how these apologies confirm the great capacity for self-reflection and flexibility of its Chancellor.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

European Union, new rules on the export of vaccines. On Friday, March 26, the European Commission launched a strengthened mechanism for the export of vaccines produced in the EU. This mechanism introduces "reciprocity" and "proportionality" among the criteria used to verify that exports of vaccine stocks do not represent a threat to the supply of vaccines in EU countries. A pharmaceutical company, with a contract already signed with the EU, to export out of the Union vaccine doses produced in factories located in member countries must now apply to the national authorities, which express an opinion and notify the Commission, which has the final decision. This measure arises from the numerous requests for greater firmness towards companies that do not comply with their contractual duties stipulated with the EU.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

The German Constitutional Court blocks the Recovery Fund. The German Supreme Court suspended the ratification of the Recovery Fund, already approved in both chambers of the German parliament, due to an urgent appeal submitted by the economist Bernd Lucke, founder and former member of the far-right AfD party. The President of the Federal Republic of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmayer cannot therefore proceed with the ratification of the Recovery Fund until the court has examined the constitutional legitimacy of the provision.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

European Union, elections in the Netherlands and Germany. It has been an important week for Angela Merkel and Mark Rutte. In the Dutch general election, the outgoing Prime Minister's party won back the trust of the citizens, gaining two more seats than in the previous legislature. Negotiations have begun to form a coalition government with the Christian Democrats and D-66, a centre-left party that has achieved an excellent result. Angela Merkel fared much worse: in the two Länder where they voted, the Christian Democrats suffered a sharp drop in support. In contrast, the Greens and the SPD were rewarded by the citizens, winning in Baden Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate respectively.

(Leonardo Cherici)

European Union, exchange of sanctions with China. The European Union, together with the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, have imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights violations against the Uighur minority in the Xinjiang region. Beijing's response was not long in coming. The Chinese government sanctioned a dozen EU citizens, including five MEPs. Borrell said that the sanctions were unacceptable and that it was a tactic adopted by China to avoid responding to the accusations made against it. Relations between the great powers have deteriorated sharply during these early months of 2021.

(Leonardo Cherici)

European Union, Council meets. At the European Council on 25 March the atmosphere was not the best. Despite the fact that European leaders had many issues on the agenda, the discussion focused almost exclusively on the vaccination campaign, which is still going on slowly. Mario Draghi expressed his support for a possible mechanism to block the export of vaccines if pharmaceutical companies do not fulfil their commitments. The Commission risks being put in the dock for its handling of the vaccine issue, which could have important political consequences. US President Joe Biden also briefly attended the summit, but did not comment on vaccine supplies, disappointing those who had already expected direct support from Washington.

(Leonardo Cherici)

Leonardo Cherici and Andrea Ghilardi



CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA

Lese majesty in Poland. After the case of the Catalan rapper Pablo Hasel, imprisoned for insults to the Spanish Crown, another similar case has occurred in Poland in recent weeks, rekindling the debate on free speech within the European Union. In November, journalist and writer Jakub Zulczyk posted a tweet where he called President Duda ‘‘moron’’. This could cost him a three-year prison sentence. There are currently seven laws in force in Poland that criminalize insults against state symbols, religion, of course institutional figures and even flags of other nations. And all these laws also lead to prison sentences. In a 2017 OSCE report, Poland was at the top of a long list of countries ranked by the number of such laws.

(Lorenzo Bonaguro)

Russia, in the last twenty-four hours 9,221 new Coronavirus infections have been recorded. Yesterday there were 9,221 new infections in Russia. The total number of infections in Russia since the beginning of the pandemic is now updated to 4,492,692, the Center for the Fight against Coronavirus of the Federation informed the press this morning in Moscow. ‘‘In the last 24 hours in Russia 9,221 new cases of Coronavirus infection have been recorded, of which 1,173 are without clinical manifestations at the moment, so asymptomatic’’, reads the bulletin. The total number of infections in the Federation rises to 4,492,692, the daily rate of increase is 0.21%. In the last twenty-four hours there have been 393 deaths due to Covid-19 cause or concomitant. There are 286,799 active cases currently under observation. Moscow yesterday recorded 49 deaths and 1,787 new cases of infection. St. Petersburg is the second most affected city - yesterday it recorded 804 new cases and 37 deaths.

(Arianna Giannino)

EMA in Russia to test Russian Sputnik V. The European Medicines Agency, EMA, is planning a mission to Russia to inspect the production sites of the Covid Sputnik V vaccine as part of its assessment of the drug's authorization in the EU. This was announced by the head of the EMA, Emer Cooke, in a hearing at the European Parliament. ‘‘We are currently preparing inspections at clinical and manufacturing test sites in Russia - he said - I take this opportunity to reiterate once again that we are committed to applying the same standards and controls for this assessment as for any other scientific assessment’’. Cooke did not specify when this mission will take place, but the Russian health ministry Mikhail Murashko has anticipated that it should take place on 10 April.

(Arianna Giannino)

Arianna Giannino and Lorenzo Bonaguro

MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)

Egypt, the disastrous blockage of the Suez Canal. Major works are notoriously more likely to cause huge problems, and this is even more true if we take the Suez Canal as an example. Blocked in history because of wars or pandemics, this time it was a daring manoeuvre by a giant Japanese container ship that blocked the route between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, through which approximately 10% of global trade (mainly oil) passes. Thus, from Tuesday 23 until Monday 29 March, the "MV Ever Given" remained stuck diagonally north of the southern entrance to the Canal, near the city of Suez. After several unsuccessful attempts to refloat the stranded vessel, on Monday the Ever Given was first righted and then beached, finally allowing the resumption of navigation in the Canal. The ship had run off course following a violent sandstorm on Tuesday, impairing the captain's visibility. The Canal Authority welcomed international aid to resolve the situation, which had the desired effects. In this way, the ships initially queuing up in the Canal will not have to re-evaluate the longest, oldest and not without dangers route to the Mediterranean: the circumnavigation of the Horn of Africa.

(Federica Sulpizio)

Egypt, internal problems in transport and construction. Egypt seems to be in the eye of the storm for a series of unfortunate events that have occurred in the space of a few days. On Friday 26 March, two trains - one from Aswan to Cairo, the other from Luxor to Alexandria - collided, killing 32 people and injuring 165. The accident took place in the governorate of Sohag, where about 70 ambulances and several medical teams were immediately dispatched. Initial investigations suggest that the cause of the collision was human error: an unidentified person had activated an emergency brake, causing one of the two trains to be mistakenly stuck on the tracks, which were preparing for the arrival of another train. However, many are calling for a modernisation of the Egyptian railway system, which is considered obsolete and has been the scene of many accidents in recent years. But this is not the only tragedy in this first week of spring: the umpteenth collapse of a residential building in Cairo, on 27 March, caused the death of at least five people and injured about thirty.

(Federica Sulpizio)

Tunisia, steps forward in space and national dialogue. After three years of hard work, the first satellite developed with Tunisian experience and expertise by the Talnat Company, located in the Sfax governorate, is finally in orbit in space. The mission of the "Challenge One'' satellite will last between 5 and 7 years. As regards the political arena, the government said it was prepared to embark on a programme of national dialogue involving the broad participation of young people through modern communication tools. Moreover, on 26 March, the World Bank approved an additional funding of $100 million for the "Tunisia Covid-19 Response Project'' with the aim of allowing cheaper and more equitable access to vaccines in the country, so that Tunis can implement the national vaccination strategy that foresees the injection of the serum for at least 50% of the population by the end of 2021.

(Federica Sulpizio)

Turkey, the last tango in Brussels. News such as Ankara's withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention certainly causes dismay, but such moves have deeper reasons. The recent European Council confirmed that the EU needs Turkey to keep trade channels open and to pragmatically address issues such as immigration. Likewise, the United States cannot afford to alienate an albeit ambiguous NATO bastion in the Middle East. While such positions undoubtedly bring bargaining power, the Turkish leadership is not in sweet dreams. With the Turkish lira at an all-time low and a heavy socio-political polarization, the last AKP party congress showed how President Erdoğan is increasingly weighting every decision under the pressures of his ultra-nationalist government allies. Emblematic is the prospect of further authoritarian tightening, the proposal to close the pro-Kurdish HDP party and, finally, the idea of holding snap elections before 2023.

(Samuele Abrami)

Iran, speaking of "bottlenecks". Just in these days when a ship ran aground in the Suez Canal shows the importance of maritime junctions, the waters of the Strait of Hormuz threaten new storms. In fact, several sources blame Iran for the recent missile attack against an Israeli cargo ship. If undoubtedly the skirmishes between Teheran, Israel and the Gulf countries do not constitute an absolute novelty, these modalities and timing could be particularly revealing. On the one hand, the Iranian operation could be a muscular response to the Haretz report, according to which Israeli drones have recently dealt heavy blows to the Islamic Republic's supply channels to Hezbollah and Syria. On the other hand, there are growing concerns in the Gulf that its economic interests will be harmed by such a low-intensity conflict. And from the U.S. perspective, the delicate balance seriously risks compromising any progress on the Iranian nuclear issue.

(Samuele Abrami)

Israel, new elections and a new impasse. After a count that lasted several days and did not lack surprises, the country sees a real risk of going back to the polls. Bibi's Likud party remains ahead but is losing some seats. Its ultra-Orthodox allies do not see their number of seats change and Bezalel Smotrich's far-right party enters the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. The anti-Netanyahu bloc, made up of centre-left parties, liberals, Arabs and secular nationalists, seems too heterogeneous to succeed in governing and in any case does not reach 61 seats. Ra'am's Islamists and Yamina's national-conservatives are therefore decisive. The veto of Smotrich's party regarding collaboration with the Islamists, however, poses some difficulties for Netanyahu in the formation of the new government.

(Michele Magistretti)

Libya, international diplomacy supports the transition process. The first foreign head of state to visit the country after the new government took office is the President of Tunisia, Kais Saied. The Tunisian politician met the head of the Presidential Council, Mohamed al-Menfi, and stressed the need to continue along the path of internal dialogue, hoping for the expulsion of all mercenaries present in the country. According to some sources, they amount to 20,000. Subsequently, the Italian foreign minister and his French and German counterparts visited the country and reiterated the European countries' full support for the transition process. At the end of the meeting, Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush called on the foreign powers that have been involved in the Libyan conflict for years to withdraw their mercenaries.

(Michele Magistretti)

Federica Sulpizio, Samuele Abrami and Michele Magistretti



TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY

Niger, attack against three villages. On Sunday, 21 March, Niger witnessed the bloodiest page in its history of jihadist attacks. An armed group perpetrated three coordinated attacks in the villages of Intazayene, Bakorat and Akifakif, in the southwestern region of Tahoua, on the border with Mali. According to a local official, the attackers arrived on motorbikes and fired 'at anything that moved'. The attack, which killed 137 people, is a symptom of the progressive worsening of security conditions in the African country, especially in the areas bordering Mali, where terrorist cells linked to ISIS or al-Qaeda operate.

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Italy, Tunisian citizen inciting jihad expelled . Following investigations conducted by the State Police and the Carabinieri, on 17 March, the foreign citizen Nasir Nairi, 28 years old and irregularly residing in Italy, was expelled and repatriated to Tunisia. Last October, at the end of a religious function at a mosque in Turin, Nairi had approached the Imam praising the Parisian bomber responsible for the death of professor Samuel Paty. Later, having been admitted to an extraordinary reception centre because he tested positive for covid, he threatened to slit the throat of the medical staff. Once discharged, the Tunisian citizen was transferred to a detention centre for repatriation (CPR), where he repeatedly expressed his will to carry out attacks in Italy. Moreover, he also incited his fellow countrymen to riot in the CPR and contributed to the damage of some housing furniture.

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Mozambique, jihadist attack in Cape Delgado. On Wednesday, March 24, a terrorist commando attacked the city of Palma, in the northern province of Cape Delgado. Residential and central areas were targeted and, according to local sources, about 180 people were trapped in a hotel in the city. Local armed forces went on an offensive against the jihadist forces, and clashes continued in the following days. The attack occurred on the same day that Total announced the resumption of work at a site not far from the besieged city. Since 2017, the province of Cape Delgado has been grappling with the insurgency of jihadist groups, close to the Islamic State, which has so far claimed more than 2,500 lives and forced some 700,000 people to flee their homes.

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Indonesia, attack against a Catholic Church. On Palm Sunday, two attackers (a man and a woman) on a motorbike blew themselves up in front of a church in Makassar, in the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. The toll is two victims (the terrorists) and about twenty wounded. The local authorities blamed fot the attack the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah group, affiliated to ISIS and author of the suicide bombings against three churches in the locality of Surabaya in 2018.

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Iraq, counterterrorism operations continue amid uncertainty over US troop withdrawal. Iraqi government sources have revealed details on recent counter-terrorism operations in the country, including a series of air raids which occurred during the night between March 25 and 26, aimed at destroying presumed ISIS hideouts in the mountain area north of Tikrit, between Kirkuk and Salah al-Din governorates. In the meantime, discussions continue over the possible withdrawal of US troops from the country, already significantly reduced throughout last year: the Al-Kadhimi government has officially requested a resuming of bilateral negotiations, after those of last summer, to establish the plan for the evacuation of the remaining US forces. Almost certainly, it will not be a total withdrawal: some contingents will remain in support of the Iraqi army, to ‘prevent ISIS from resurgence’.

(Laura Morreale)

Syria, in the al-Hol camp UNICEF’s warning about the deterioration of the security situation. The detention structure in north-eastern Syria, where approximately 70 thousand people (including about 40 thousand Syrians) formerly stationed in the territories of the Islamic State are being held, has been repeatedly called an incubator of terrorism. According to a recent UNICEF statement, the security situation in the camp is very critical: in 2021 alone, there were reportedly 40 killings, including 16 in March. Recent incidents of violence have also involved two minor detainees. The Kurdish-Syrian SDF that control the area are reportedly organizing a new security operation in the camp, with military support from U.S. allies, to respond to the increase in violence and escape attempts.

(Laura Morreale)

USA, eight victims in an armed assault on three wellness centers in Atlanta. It's not still clear what has triggered the homicidal fury of the 21 year-old Robert Aaron Long, that in the late evening of Wednesday 17 March, armed with a pistol, has broken into three different spa centers of Atlanta killing seven women (six of Asian origin) and a man. However the County Police has excluded at the moment the track of the racial hate as a matrix at the base of the attack. The assailant himself would have motivated the gesture as a "solution method" against what he defined as a real addiction, which had turned him into a regular visitor of the different beauty salons of the city. In the past he would have been admitted in a rehabilitation clinic for sex-related treatments. However, the episode has deeply shocked the American community of Asian origin, already tried by a considerable increase - since the advent of the pandemic - of episodes of intolerance, about which even the new President Biden has made a statement.

(Davide Shahhosseini)

USA, Nashville "explosion": for the FBI it was not a terrorist act. In the suicidal gesture of Anthony Quinn Warner - the man who blew himself up inside his camper last December 25 in Tennessee - the investigation of the Federal Police has not found sufficient elements for it to be considered a terrorist attack. Although the explosion wounded a dozen people, Warner's - according to the feds - was a purely self-inflicted act, with the sole objective of ending his own life. The investigations, in fact, have not found ideological and/or political motivations behind the extreme act. Warner, according to some indiscretions, was suffering from mental disorders that in recent years had led him to isolate himself, to the point of cutting all ties with the environments he used to attend.

(Davide Shahhosseini)

Davide Shahhosseini, Laura Morreale and Vincenzo Battaglia



INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Council of Europe, conclusions regarding the European Social Charter. The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) of the Council of Europe is the body in charge of supervising the compliance with the economic and social rights enshrined in the European Social Charter. On 24 March it published its conclusions on the compliance with the provisions related to employment, training and equal opportunities - with regard to the period 1 January 2015 - 31 December 2018. Out of 33 countries examined, 349 conclusions were adopted, 152 of which are of non-conformities, 97 of conformity and 100 contain deferrals due to an impossibility of evaluation. The main advances in the application of the Charter were found in Germany, Lithuania, Slovak Republic, Andorra, Lithuania, Slovenia, Austria, Denmark, Albania, Andorra, Montenegro, Romania.

(Sara Squadrani)

UN Human Rights Council, the results of the 46th Session. Held between February 22 and March 23 in Geneva, the first regular session of 2021 concluded with the adoption of 76 documents and 14 periodic reviews covering 14 countries under review. This session of the Human Rights Council saw a renewed presence from the United States after two and a half years of absence, which also announced its candidacy for a seat on the Council for the 2022-2024 term.

(Sara Squadrani)

NATO Summit: US wants to revitalize the alliance. Foreign ministers of the Member States met in Brussels on March 23 and 24 to discuss the organization’s future challenges, the latter being consistent with the NATO 2030 program. The priorities of the new US administration, determined to reinforce synergies with European allies after the Trump presidency, will be to contrast Russia, to which it opposes not only on the geopolitical level but also on cybersecurity, and China, considered the new threat to US interests. But European nations, while sharing the general line that led them recently to adopt sanctions against both Russia and China, are less rigid about the possibility of maintaining open channels with these countries: this is the case of the Russian-German gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, strongly opposed by Trump before, and now by Biden.

(Laura Morreale)

WHO: vaccine inequalities, a “moral affront”, as it was stated by the Director-General of the organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, regarding global disparities in access to vaccines. While some countries already have an advanced vaccine program in place, many others rely on reserves made available through the COVAX program, which, however, has experienced several delays. Inequalities in vaccination plans could have counterproductive health effects: immunizing only a portion of the world’s population and leaving behind a substantial portion of humanity would encourage the development of variants, potentially affecting the effectiveness of vaccines produced so far. Only 0.1% of vaccines administered to date in the world have been done in low-income countries.

(Laura Morreale)

Laura Morreale and Sara Squadrani



Framing The World is a project conceived and created by the collaboration between members of the team of Mondo Internazionale associates.

Andrea Ghilardi: Western Europe and the European Union

Arianna Giannino: Central and Eastern Europe and Russia

Davide Shahhosseini: Terrorism and International Security, Latin America

Edoardo Cappelli: Human Rights, North America

Federica Sulpizio: Middle-East and North Africa

Federico Brignacca: Human Rights

Ginevra Ricca: Latin America

Laura Morreale: Terrorism and International Security, International Organizations

Leonardo Aldeghi: Economics and International Finance

Leonardo Cherici: Western Europe and the European Union

Lorenzo Bonaguro: North America, Central and Eastern Europe and Russia

Margherita Camurri: Asia and the Far East

Michele Magistretti: Middle-East and North Africa

Samuele Abrami: Middle-East and North Africa

Sara Squadrani: Human Rights, International Organizations

Vincenzo Battaglia: Terrorism and International Security


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