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Weekly News Digest

Compiled by Sara Anis Ali, Grey Cohen, Hayes Orr, Quinn Phillips, Ryan Simons, and Tobyn Smith

Edited by Sara Anis Ali, Hayes Orr, Quinn Phillips, Meagan McColloch, Niamh Dempsey


Deadlock in Europe’s Climate Change Plans

Earlier this week, farmers in Brussels protested a European Union (EU) plan for further nature protection and stricter climate targets in a state of uncertainty. The protest, which had been boiling for quite some time, grew violent as police had to deploy tear gas, resulting in EU lawmakers indefinitely delaying the bill. Later in the week, farmers in Poland reinforced the agricultural sector’s negative view of the bill, protesting that the whole Green Deal, the broader program behind the proposed legislation, should be “withdrawn as a whole.” Many farmers argue that the bill will negatively impact local businesses by increasing farming costs and allowing cheap food imports from Ukraine as its war with Russia continues to rage on. This is all part of a bigger plan by EU policymakers to encourage the agriculture sector to cut its emissions and become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Still, the power of protest is a challenging hurdle to its success. 

The environmental Minister of Hungary has suggested that EU member-states should be able to keep their “flexibility” and “cannot promise anything”. However, eager supporters of the bill, such as the Irish Environment Minister, Eamon Ryan, worry about the implications of giving up on this bill, expressing that the bill’s failure would send a “shocking statement to the rest of the world. The consequences of the success of the protests in the upcoming elections and the fight for climate change regulations will be worth watching. 

Middle East and North Africa

UN Security Council Votes on Temporary Ceasefire in Gaza

On March 26th, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed a resolution demanding a cease-fire in Gaza. The text requires both an immediate ceasefire to the war occurring in Gaza and the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages” by both parties. The ceasefire would continue until the end of Ramadan in early April and ensure “humanitarian access to address their medical and other humanitarian needs.” The text further stressed that Israel must lift “all barriers to humanitarian assistance.”

While nations like France hope that the passing of the resolution could help usher in a “permanent ceasefire [and] work towards recovery and stabilization in Gaza”, based on the U.S. interpretation of the resolution, it isn’t clear if the act will result in any change. According to the White House National Security Council Communications Advisor, John Kirby, the UN resolution was “nonbinding” which means both the ceasefire and hostage release are not obligatory for either Israel or Hamas. However many nations, including China, refute this claim, arguing that Security Council resolutions must be binding. 

The general language of the UN Charter does include some ambiguity for the U.S. to posit a resolution as “non-binding”, however, overall it's clear that the resolutions of the Security Council are intended to inflict repercussions on states failing to adhere to the body’s decisions. 

Under Article 25 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the language states that “members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council.” Furthermore, in the same chapter under Article 40, the UN Charter states that the Security Council may “call upon the parties concerned to comply with such provision measures…[and] the Security Council shall duly take account of failure to comply with such provisional measures.”

Because of the U.S.’s insistence that the resolution is “non-binding”, currently Israel refuses to accept the ceasefire. Instead, Israel has reaffirmed it will continue its campaign until the nation eliminates Hamas. The disputed status of the resolution makes it unclear if fighting will stop in Gaza and whether future UN Security Council Resolutions will maintain legitimacy. 

North America

United States Imposes Sanctions on Those Involved in Chinese Cyber Espionage Attacks   

This week the United States imposed sanctions on Chinese hackers it deems party to the ‘cyber espionage’ campaign against its critical infrastructure, electricity grids, and defense systems. The United Kingdom followed suit with similar sanctions as a response to China’s cyber attacks which targeted voter registration and multiple political figures. Quickly after, New Zealand announced similar claims against China for their participation in cyber attacks on Parliament members in 2021. The main group named as part of this campaign is internationally referred to as the Advanced Persistent Threat Group 31, or “APT31.” China has vehemently opposed these claims.

These announcements are significant, as all three countries are part of the Five Eyes. The Five Eyes, which also includes Canada and Australia, are a group of countries that partner in intelligence sharing and security coordination. It is widely known to the public that Chinese hackers have been ramping up their operations in the last decade. However, the governments of these countries have been slow to comment on specific actions by China, opting to keep a calmer public relationship to preserve economic opportunities. The Obama administration reluctantly revealed that China was behind the 2015 attack on the Office of Personnel Management which affected over 22 million security clearance files. Likewise, the British government announced the voter registration attack when it occurred, but did not call out China as the perpetrator. These states continue to walk a thin line as Chinese hackers ramp up the frequency of their cyber attacks as China remains a key player in the interdependent international landscape. 

South America

Record Levels of Dengue Fever Plague South America

During the first three months of this year, a surge in dengue fever has put the South American continent on track to experience the worst year yet for the virus. Across the Americas, there have been over 3.5 million dengue cases reported, three times more cases than declared at this time in 2023. Of the reported cases, 81% come from Brazil where the country’s tropical climate and thick vegetation provide the perfect breeding ground for the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Paraguay, Argentina, Peru, and Colombia have also reported spikes in cases. Officials from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) described the outbreak as, “the worst potentially the worst outbreak in the Americas to date for the deadly mosquito-borne viral illness.”  

South America experienced 4.5 million reported cases of dengue fever during all of 2023. Experts attribute the sharp rise in cases to a combination of climate change and the El Niño weather phenomenon, which are both enabling the disease-carrying mosquitoes to spread earlier than usual and in areas previously thought to be safe from the virus. According to National Geographic, “El Niño is a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.” The phenomenon occurs irregularly at two-to seven-year intervals and is partially responsible for a multitude of climate-related incidents across the Americas including the recent Chilean wildfires and the drought affecting the flow of commercial shipping through the Panama Canal. 

Dengue fever is most common in the Southern Hemisphere’s late summer months between February and May. The most common symptoms are high fever, headache, body aches, nausea, and rash. Though deaths from the virus are rare, poor sanitation practices combined with the prevalence of tropical and subtropical climates across the global South place 4 billion people at risk of contracting dengue.

Central America & Caribbean

Kamala Harris meets with Guatemalan President to discuss Migration and Investment

United States Vice President Kamala Harris hosted Guatemalan President Bernando Arevalo at the White House on Monday. The aim was to bolster his government and discuss a strategy to reduce migration coming from Central America. The meeting reaffirms U.S. support for President Arevalo’s administration, whose inauguration was delayed in January. Harris started the meeting by telling Arevalo that the U.S. was proud to stand with him and that the “will of the people of Guatemala, by our observation, has triumphed.”

Harris and Arevalo discussed how the U.S. could support Guatemala’s new government and its ongoing battle against corruption. Arevalo himself faced backlash following his successful campaign from various political and business elites within the country. Corruption in Guatemala has diverted many already scant resources used for social spending and undermined security forces within one of the poorest countries in Latin America. 

Immigration has become a hotly debated issue in President Biden’s and Harris’s 2024 re-election campaign. Republicans have accused the administration of mishandling recent surges in the number of immigrants crossing the U.S. border. During the meeting, Harris and Arevalo discussed Guatemala's prioritization of efforts seeking to reduce “irregular migration” to the United States. Harris announced $1 billion in new financial commitments from a public-private partnership program to invest in Central America. 

Sub-Saharan Africa

Opposition Wins in Senegalese Presidential Elections

Arrests, delays, protests - Senegal’s uneasy election cycle came to an end on Sunday as the Senegalese people ventured to the polls to fulfill their civic duty. In a remarkable display of democratic virtue, opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye defeated incumbent Alliance for the Republic party candidate Amadou Ba. Faye, while taking in a much larger share of the vote than Ba’s, was able to avoid a run-off election by scoring 4 percent more than the 50 percent required for a first-round victory. 

President-elect Faye has had an extraordinary two weeks leading up to the election. Just 10 days after being released from prison (for a Facebook post) on March 14, Faye led the country's opposition in the challenge for the highest seat in office. On his birthday, the day after, Faye received the greatest gift he could - the announcement of his victory. Faye was turning 44, which makes him Africa’s youngest elected president. 

Faye’s rise to become President-elect of Senegal is an interesting and spontaneous one. Faye grew up in the small town of Ndiagniao, in the West of the coastal African country. A devout Muslim and a prodigious student, he worked as a tax inspector after attending one of Senegal’s top universities. It wouldn’t be until 2022 that Faye would enter Senegal’s political scene. He ran for mayor of his hometown, a contest he would end up losing. Faye managed to become involved with the Patriots for Senegal (PASTEF), the opposition party founded by Ousmane Sonko. Supported by Faye, Sonko rose to become the incumbent regime’s biggest opposition candidate. When Sonko was arrested on defamation charges last year, authorities detained Faye as well for defending his political comrade on Facebook. Sonko was barred from running in the election and his ardent friend and supporter took up the torch, leading him to his electoral victory.



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