Ukraine: What is Currently Happening?

Soon, another year is coming to an end and the holidays are arriving but Ukraine and Russia are still at war. We are entering a time in the Russo-Ukrainian War where there is little to no coverage of major updates. The Russo-Ukrainian War started on February 20, 2014, with Russia invading Ukraine in early 2022, and from then on attacks and the number of casualties have escalated. 


During the recent virtual G20 meeting, Vladimir Putin stated that Russia has always been ready to talk with Ukraine to bring an end to the “tragedy” of war in Ukraine. In this meeting, Putin gave the most pacifistic comments yet since invading Ukraine. Although his comments were peaceful, the Russian president proceeded with blaming Kyiv for having no intention of a peace talk about the Russo-Ukrainian War. 

In other recent developments, the Russian foreign ministry has said that relations with the United States of America have become extremely thin and are at risk of being torn at any moment. This is due to the U.S.A.’s involvement in supporting Ukraine in the Russo-Ukrainian War by providing $44.2 billion in security assistance. Russian foreign ministry’s spokesperson Maria Zakharova informed reporters that the actions taken by Washington can lead to “unpredictable consequences” which were not specified. 

Recent data collection from the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office reported that more than 10,000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion. More than 560 children have been killed, and more than 18,500 people have been injured since the start of the conflict on February 24, 2022. About half of the deaths in the past three months have taken place far behind the front lines. The UN Human Rights Office expects that the real toll is significantly higher than what was collected. 

The U.S. National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby, presented the U.S.’s concern on November 21, 2023, that Iran may provide Russia with ballistic missiles for use in the war against Ukraine. He stated that this development would be disastrous for civilians in Ukraine. Iran already has been providing Russia with unmanned drones, guided aerial bombs, and many more weapons, and announced that Iran might be taking a step further into supporting Russia in the Russo-Ukrainian War. In return, Russia might be providing Iran with unprecedented defense cooperation and has been helping Iran develop and maintain its satellite collection capabilities and other space-based programs. Kirby mentioned how this burgeoning military partnership between Iran and Russia is harmful to Ukraine, Iran’s neighbors in the Middle East, and most importantly to the international community. 

Written by: Events Intern, Anahi Aguirre

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LTG H.R. McMaster (Ret.): Qualified for Duty

Who is LTG H.R. McMaster (Ret.)?

Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster (R.) (Herbert Raymond) was born in Philadelphia on July 24, 1962. Upon graduation from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1984, McMaster served as a commissioned officer in the US Army for thirty-four years. McMaster obtained a Ph.D. in military history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and later became an assistant professor of history at the US Military Academy. He is known for his roles in the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

What is LTG H.R. McMaster (Ret.) qualified for and why? 

On February 20, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump nominated McMaster for National Security Advisor following the resignation of Michael T. Flynn on February 13. When he was nominated, McMaster was to remain in active duty while serving as the National Security Advisor. Some people might have had their doubts about H.R. McMaster becoming National Security Advisor but his experience has shown that he is more than qualified. McMaster has served overseas as an advisor to the most senior commanders in the Middle East, Iraq, and Afghanistan. In Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world released in April 2014, McMasters was described to be “the architect of the future of the U.S. Army.” 

Throughout his years in the army, General McMaster maintained that despite his forward-thinking approach, his understanding of military history remained a huge influence on how he made future decisions. During the Gulf War in 1991, McMaster was a captain commanding Eagle Troop of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of 73 Easting. Although his troop was significantly outnumbered, they encountered the enemy by surprise as McMaster’s lead tank crested a dip in the terrain, the nine tanks of his troop destroyed 28 Iraqi Republican Guard tanks without loss in 23 minutes. He has brought his knowledge to battle and has emerged victorious in countless situations. H.R. McMaster has also had a series of staff positions at U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), including planning and operations roles in Iraq. 

In July 2014, McMaster became Lieutenant General and pinned on his third star when he began his duties as Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and Director of TRADOC’s Army Capabilities Integration Center. A few years later, H.R. McMaster retired as Lieutenant General in June 2018 following his resignation as National Security Advisor. Today, McMaster is the host of Battlegrounds: International Perspectives on

Crucial Challenges and Opportunities and is a regular on a video series called Goodfellows. He is also a Distinguished University Fellow at Arizona State University.

Written by: Events Intern, Anahi Aguirre

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The Shia Minority and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Threat

The Breakdown

Islam, one of the world’s major religions, has numerous sects among its following with Shia being one that is prominent in the Middle East. While states such as Iraq and Iran have a majority of Shia followers that mostly live in a peaceful coexistence among other Islam sects, Pakistan offers a noticeably different experience for the Shia. In Pakistan, the Shia are the minority. They are consistently met with violent threats, persecution, and discrimination, especially by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group. By exploring the historical context, distinct discriminatory incidents against Shia in Pakistan, and prior efforts to find a peace, solutions surface that are well within the capability of the government of Pakistan and local communities to ensure peace and protection for this minority group.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Widespread Shia Persecution

Shia Muslims in Pakistan represent only a small fraction, specifically 10-20%, of the entire population. Sunni Muslims, who significantly outnumber the Shia have maintained historically rooted antagonistic sentiments. This stems from centuries-old disputes around religious interpretations of sacred Islam texts. At the same time, parts of the Middle East, from the late of the 20th century to today, became a breeding ground for violence justified by religion. The region alone is responsible for 36% of worldwide terrorism, a statistic that alludes to the pressing need for more concentrated peace and reconciliation efforts.

The U.N., recognizing this escalating threat, rolled out the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in 2006. Although well-intended, its primary focus was on the major terror outfits. As a result, smaller yet potent groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were often sidelined in global counter-terrorism initiatives. This organization’s modus operandi is unique in that it doesn’t aim for significant political changes, it rather specializes almost exclusively in terrorizing Shia communities. Their atrocities since the onset of the 21st century are grim, causing around 700 Shia deaths, a number that is tragically high for any civil society.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the controversy surrounding Osama Bin Laden’s concealment and subsequent death became a focal point for the world’s attention as it related to Pakistan. Questions arose, hinting at Pakistan possibly providing safe haven to the world’s most-wanted terrorist. Such allegations have added to concerns about Pakistan’s genuine commitment to combating terrorism. With the Prime Minister’s 2020 statement, where Bin Laden was referred to as a “martyr”, the water became murkier. Such developments rose genuine apprehensions that extremist groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi might be operating with impunity in Pakistan, subsequently threatening regional stability.

The Shia, an already vulnerable community in Pakistan, face heightened persecution, compounded by stringent blasphemy laws. An incident involving Syed Kareem, who voiced his sentiments online, served as a case in point. His comments against the killing of a historic Shia figure led to him being branded an extremist, resulting in blasphemy charges. This already volatile situation was exacerbated in September 2022 when widespread Sunni protests erupted with demands that were not only discriminatory, but also alarmingly violent.

Pakistan’s Shifting Political Landscape & Strategic Policy Recommendation 

Pakistan’s political trajectory, especially in recent years, appears to lean increasingly towards extremism. The events of 2017 and 2018, where hardline groups secured political influence, is a testament to this worrying shift. Their growing clout in the parliamentary corridors of power has many international observers concerned, particularly considering their alleged ties to terrorism.

To provide lasting solutions to the issues at hand, a dual approach is required: a strong domestic policy framework augmented by international support. Pakistan, with its intricate socio-political landscape, must design robust mechanisms to screen and disqualify potential office-bearers with extremist leanings or terror affiliations. A stringent governmental background check mechanism should be the cornerstone of this policy, ensuring that individuals with extremist associations are meticulously filtered out.

Emerging from anti-Shia sentiments of the 1990s, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s rapid evolution into a dominant extremist force in Pakistan deserves intense scrutiny. Their doctrine, rooted in a rigid Sunni interpretation, sees Shias as apostates. This not only endangers this already threatened minority but also poses significant challenges to Pakistan’s secular fabric. Their operational prowess is further bolstered by their connections with major terror networks, such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Effectively countering their influence demands a multi-faceted approach: a combination of military action, intelligence maneuvers, socio-economic development strategies, and proactive interfaith dialogues. For Pakistan’s national growth, stability, and enhanced international image, neutralizing such threats is non-negotiable.

With deep-seated historical prejudices intensifying, and the nation’s political trajectory seemingly favoring extremist ideologies, comprehensive policies are an urgent need to ensure the Shia community’s safety and the overarching stability of Pakistan.

Written by: Justin R. Boulanger, a MS candidate in the Global Studies and International Relations program at Northeastern University.

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Mexican-American Veterans: Post-World War II Struggles 

When looking back at World War II and U.S. veterans, the perspective of thousands of White and Black soldiers is heavily presented. Little to no perspective of the thousands of Mexican-American soldiers is known. Mexican Americans were either drafted or volunteered for the U.S. armed services, and at the end of the war received the highest percentage of Congressional Medal of Honor winners of any minority in the United States. History has not shown the struggles of returning to the U.S. with expectations of a better future for Mexican Americans but coming home to disappointment. 

During WWII, around 500,000 Mexican-Americans served in the U.S. military fighting for liberty and equality. They went to war to prove their citizenship and allegiance to the country that had taken them in. The war had offered them a new opportunity to be integrated with White soldiers and the opportunity to gain a higher rank within the armed forces and a relationship with White soldiers that they never had in their communities. When returning home, Mexican-American veterans came face-to-face with the same issues they had prior to the war. This time around they were no longer willing to accept second-class citizenship, limited opportunities, and segregation. The veterans had seen tyranny abroad and did not want to face it any longer at home. 

The beginning of the fight for Mexican-American veterans’ rights can be tracked to 1948 when Mexican-American war veterans created the American G.I. Forum, with the direct goal of helping War veterans and later Mexican-Americans’ civil rights. An example of their work in their early years involves a situation in which a Texan funeral home denied use of the chapel for the wake of Felix Longoria, a Mexican American who died in combat during WWII. The chapel offered his family a section in the “Mexican section,” a portion of the cemetery that was separated by barbed wire. This enraged the Mexican-American community and WWII veterans, who were tired of being treated as second-class citizens even after returning as war heroes. The American GI Forum dispatched multiple letters and telegrams to state and local officials condemning discrimination against a Mexican-American soldier who had given his life serving his country. This resulted in successfully obtaining a proper burial for Felix Longoria at Arlington National Cemetery. Unfortunately, there were far worse experiences that many Mexican-American veterans experienced after the war. 

Most discrimination against Mexican-American soldiers went unchecked and the history of Mexican-American veterans’ involvement in WWII has been ignored. Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge what Mexican-American veterans have done for our country and what current Mexican-American soldiers will continue to do.

Written By: Events Intern, Anahi Aguirre

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Hayat Tayrir al-Sham: The Wall Between Humanitarian Aid and Syrian Authorities

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has occupied the northwestern provinces of Syria for almost five years, acting less as a terrorist organization and masking as a wannabe pseudo-government. The group was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S., Turkey, and Syria, rightfully so, for their indiscriminate attacks, promotion of martyrdom in the name of jihad, and radical use of violence in opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. HTS gradually garnered quite the following, almost 20,000 strong and multiplying, as the group attacks and dominates other regional rivals. Recently, there were reports of military clashes between HTS and ISIS, leading to the capture and killing of ISIS leader Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurayshi in April 2023. Initially denying involvement, it is believed the organization itself was responsible for the assassination, further solidifying its stance as Syria’s most tyrannical jihadist group. 

Over the years, HTS tried to manipulate its image and disassociate from groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS as a means to be viewed as a legitimate insurgency group and maintain their stronghold in Idlib and the encompassing border crossings with Turkey. Successful military advancements continue to block Syrian security forces from retaking the rebel-held provinces, and ruthless crackdowns on dissidents have eliminated any viable political competition. Whether this is viewed as a strong influence or forced concession, it is clear that HTS is the only authority in that region. 

As a result of HTS’ terrorist designation, Syria refuses to discuss diplomatic matters related to humanitarian aid or occupied border crossings, generating stalemates with UN aid workers and other international organizations. This issue is especially pertinent because of the earthquake that devastated Turkey and Syria earlier this year. The ability to get aid into the country is often halted at the Turkish border by HTS personnel restricting access. The ability to compromise with HTS on border crossings in their controlled territories is met with even more red tape due to Damascus’ stance that UN workers are not to work with designated terrorist organizations and HTS security denying entry into Idlib. Compounding the problem, HTS officials believe the Assad regime has and will manipulate the distribution of aid. The outgrowth of this is that they halt the passage through two key crossings and demand to be included in talks regarding distribution. 

Transporting humanitarian aid remains a significant issue for Syria, Turkey, and the millions of civilians in need. Moving forward, there needs to be a balance between appeasing HTS leadership, so as not to exacerbate tensions along the border, and cooperating with Syria’s counter-terrorism policies to reduce the likelihood of Syrian retaliation against HTS. Currently, there is a low threat that HTS forces would attack any UN aid workers; however, with more attempts to use occupied border crossings, that risk could also increase. However, the necessity of getting aid into the war-torn country is non-negotiable, and the fighting in the region will not stop, regardless of the group in control of the border crossing. The greatest chance for increased cooperation also comes with limiting the involvement of Turkey and Russia in these talks due to both countries’ vested interest in the outcome of the civil war.

Currently, most of the population does not necessarily support HTS occupation, but there is little alternative, and punishment for dissent keeps criticism to a minimum. With limited resources, the necessity to survive and support families outweighs the ideologies or terrorist distinctions a group may have. In other words, the people in these regions are willing to comply with the regime that provides necessary security and resources. There is a risk that involving HTS in aid distribution will bolster popular support. Another risk involving either HTS or Syrian officials is the chance both groups would redistribute to its armies, rather than civilians, to fuel their military advancement. 

It was reported in recent weeks that violence from both sides has ramped up. Increased Russian airstrikes, as well as bombings from Syrian forces, have targeted Idlib, leading HTS forces to adopt new defense strategies and fortify their front lines. If the situation at the border remains the same, the three million people living in the rebel areas will continue to suffer where they are or be forced to flee to neighboring countries, increasing refugee strain. Appeasing HTS and allowing them to continue their occupation of the border crossing could allow for swifter aid passage. However, doing so could also embolden the group to expand territorial control across the northern region. Doing nothing and continuing a lax security environment will encourage the organization to continue to absorb rival groups and challenge the Syrian authorities. With Syria’s recent return to the Arab League, perhaps now is the time to work with the Assad regime to regain control over this country riddled with conflict for over a decade.

Written by: Carley A. Smith is a MS candidate in the Global Studies and International Relations program at Northeastern University.

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A New Era of Banking: Bank of Korea’s Introduction of Digital Currency

As the world rapidly embarks on a modern technological revolution, a rising concern is the unprecedented digitalization and transformative practices of money. Entering into the era of the New Economy, the advances of the digital economy will presumably allow a decisive method of transactions universally. Adapting to the technological revolution and rapid digitalization has challenged many central banks, including South Korea. The Bank of Korea, the central bank of South Korea, has decided to meet the growing demand and adapt to the changes brought by the digitization economy. South Korea’s government confirmed its plans to implement a central bank digital currency (CBDC) in three test regions, not including the capital Seoul. 

The purpose of the test regions is to pilot and experiment with payments and distribution to the public and to secure businesses that would accept payments via CBCD. The CBCD will be equivalent in value to the state currency, divided into wholesale CBDC for institutions and retail for individuals and daily use. It is scheduled to take place by the end of 2023 likely in Jeju, Busan, or Incheon by the Bank of Korea, the nation’s Financial Services Commission, and the Financial Supervisory Service. The pilot will be primarily based on wholesale CBDCs which means primarily for the use of financial institutions for interbank settlements rather than everyday transactions. Retail testing is expected to begin in the following year, 2024, on a limited scale for individual users. 

The Bank of Korea has an advanced financial institution due to its financial accessibility and well-developed payment systems. However, completely transitioning into a world without fiat money and into a world of digital currencies and cryptocurrencies has its trade-offs. The Bank of Korea’s research highlights the positive perspective on how CBCD can address future challenges. Korea already has a sophisticated fast payment system along with ownership of bank accounts being one of the highest in the world at 95% of its population. Digital currency is believed to not completely disrupt the system in place. The innovation in the financial sector is accelerating the advancements and the ability to implement digital currencies nationwide

Digital currencies and their respective markets are continuing to develop and without change, digital currency will become very disruptive to the world economies.  Financial institutions and banking systems have to evolve and transition parallelly because economies will never be the same again. This is challenging the traditional paradigm of governments and banking institutions but opens doors to the new era of banking. 

Written by: Community Outreach Intern, Kiana Flak

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Why ETA Remains a Constant Threat

Basque separatist group, the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Liberty or ETA), remains an ever-present shadow in Spain despite disbanding in 2018, infiltrating public life and discourse. While the present threat of bombings and assassinations are nil, the peril ETA poses remains a vexing issue that should not be ignored. That danger that it brings to the country today is one of factionalism, and the exploitation of wounds that can be expanded and left gaping if this persistent air of tension is left to fester. Continued use of ETA as political tools by those seeking to win votes will run the risk of exacerbating the fragile social fabric that Spain has attempted to strengthen when it returned to democracy in 1975. Those who believe that ETA’s threat has passed are sorely mistaken, as ignorance of the problem does not lessen the reality.

ETA supporters’ zeal towards an independent Basque Country has not dimmed, despite their operations grinding to a halt. In the past 25 years, the process of what Ubasart-Gonzalez called “social delegitimation,” left ETA with less power, influence, and social acceptability than what it previously enjoyed. Nowadays, Spaniards who sympathized with ETA’s mission no longer tolerate deviations from the norm of peace and support good faith efforts toward settling differences through reconciliation. The experiences of the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the targeting and assassination of Partido Popular politician Miguel Angel Blanco in 1997, solidified Spaniards’ aversion to violence in promoting political and social aims. Despite some autonomy granted to Spain’s regional governments and the recognition of the plurality of its character as a nation, there are consistent calls in the Basque Country for not only additional reforms, but complete separation from the Spanish state.

Politicians and those that use these divisions for selfish objectives do nothing but sow chaos and contribute to ETA’s complicated legacy. Both of the political right and left cannot absolve themselves of the continued utility of invoking ETA, be it the right’s usage of the slogan, “Que te vote Txapote, or “Let Txapote vote for you,” or the left’s reliance upon EH Bildu (Euskal Herria Bildu, a pro-independence, leftist alliance of Basque nationalists) to pass legislation in parliament. An egregious gesture was EH Bildu’s inclusion of several convicted criminals, some formerly affiliated with ETA, in their electoral lists for recent general elections held in July 2023. These actions are not just political ploys to win elections, as if they were divorced from the contextual landscape they inhabit. They are a recognition of the power of ETA’s memory and the continued fracture of Spain’s seams. While further violence may not be a realistic outcome, these deeds do nothing in moving the  needle forward to actual healing for the general public and the victims in particular. 

What steps can the government take to reverse this division? One is a revamping of civics education within all schools. Civics education must include an appreciation and accurate representation of the peoples in Spain that includes their languages, customs, and traditions. With the emergence of national far-right parties like Vox, the argument against these programs has been reduced to defending Spanish unity and nationhood, as if the country was monolithic, devoid of diversity. Although one could argue these voices are necessary to combat a growing secession movement in Catalonia and the Basque Country, this is an opportunity to change how students learn about their fellow citizens, so they are not demonized. Regional languages can be taught alongside Spanish in places where it is not predominantly spoken and field trips should be organized so students have first-hand experiences with the people and practices of a region. It is difficult to hate and separate yourselves from someone or something you do not have close knowledge of.

Lastly, the central government must enhance their cooperation with regional governments in areas of agreement according to each other’s priorities. The conversation of increased autonomy in domains like fiscal issues will inevitably be contentious, but are necessary to avoid continued breakdown in collaboration. While the central government recognizes the plurality of the country and does not inhibit the use of regional languages nor their instruction in schools, there is a constant fear of edicts being imposed from Madrid. The quickest way for ETA sympathizers to rekindle any relevance would be the central government inciting voices of those who seek to eliminate the diversity of Spain’s identity. Continued cooperation amongst all is the only way that the threat of an ever-present conflict worsening can be avoided. 


Ubasart-González, G. (2019). ETA and state action: the development of Spanish antiterrorism. Crime, law and social change72(5), 569-586.

Stephen Santos is a MS candidate in the Global Studies and International Relations program at Northeastern University. 

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Brazil Succumbs to the Aggressions of Climate Change & Weakened Environmental Protections

Fires consuming environmentally protected land in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil on Aug. 24, 2021.

Photo from Bloomberg/Jonne Roriz (photographer)

How this complex biodiverse country in South America is handling climate change’s effects on its human population and wildlife.

From the equator and down south to the tropic of Capricorn, Brazil is notable for its diverse and natural physical geography that it offers to the world from its dense wildlife population in the Amazon rainforest, outstretched wetlands of Pantanal, low pampas grasslands of Rio Grande do Sul, long coastal plains and more. 

Within its various terrains, Brazil inhabits approximately 215.3 million people according to the World Bank and at least 103,870 animal species and 43,020 plant species as cataloged in the Convention on Biological Diversity

These numbers are pivotal when taking into account the aggressions of climate change in cultural, economic, and political relations.

How climate change affects the Brazilian workers and its economy

In order for Brazil to reduce its societal vulnerability in a time of extreme climate change, it is imperative to gain a baseline understanding of how ecosystem-based alternatives and adaptations play a key role for its agricultural and aquacultural sectors and the Brazilian people that see it through.

Brazil currently supplies 34% of the world’s soybeans, with agriculture driving 4.3% in its annual GDP, in the state of Mato Grosso which comprises both grass and woodlands. Additionally, both soy and corn are products that generate up to 88% of the country’s grain population, much of which is dependent on natural rainfall and steady temperatures. So much so, that these precipitation-based crops can offset agricultural calendars forcing farmers to adapt and regulate and implement crop rotations in addition to relying on government subsidies and action.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, rising temperatures with unpredictable rainfall that perpetuate soil degradation can only encourage farmers and the Brazilian government to the current literature on collected data, educating communities, and expose them to future studies in better understanding the varying trends of climate change.

In a discussion hosted by Soberania & Clima, an organization that promotes the interdependence of security and environment in Brazil and globally, the loss of aquatic ecosystems are also vulnerable as Brazil’s surface sea temperatures increase as the ocean’s levels of acidity are sensitive to loss of marine and coastal ecosystems perpetuated by climate change. 

Brazil’s fish and aquaculture is a billion dollar industry that generates both job opportunities for roughly 3.5 million people that are directly and indirectly involved according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This also prompts climate change’s effects on high carbon pathway levels (energy derived from coal, fossil, oil or natural gas) that can affect the fishing industry in the country’s distribution to the people and global consumer markets with trade flows and pricing.

How climate change affects the Brazilian people and politics, along with its relation to neighboring countries

At this moment, more than 29.4% of Brazil’s population lives in poverty due to the complex nature of its politics ranging from lack of government intervention like inadequate social assistance to unequal land distribution. But those considered the urban poor or living in unsuitable and informal settlements, are most vulnerable to climate change. 

Food security is susceptible to falling short for the Brazilian people. Crop yields may decrease if the vulnerability of the country’s unique biomes aren’t met without the government spearheading the lead with its farming sectors.

Prolonged drought and dry conditions adds onto the struggles of poverty, notably in the central and southern regions of Brazil. With the rising trends of water scarcity and above-average temperatures, it can offset an increase in fire activity in susceptible regions such as Pantanal wetlands and the Amazon rainforest. This limits the access to securing basic needs such as food and water and sanitation. The deficit extends itself to neighbors such as northern Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Patagonia.

Traditionally, agricultural farmers cut down and set fire to areas of the forest as a practice to make room for cattle and encourage new room for crop growth. Historically, rainforests remain moist throughout the year to resist fires. However, the topography of the Andes high mountains and natural glaciers are affected by Amazonian fires and its carbon emissions.

Due to Brazil’s weakened environmental protections to promote more deforestation to encourage industrialization, overcrowding populations, coupled with drier vegetation, aggressive fires that are unable to be contained offset glacial retreat from the Andes due to the warming. This then affects the Amazon River where its water is derived from the Peruvian Andes and results in large floods, inflicting irreversible damage to native cassava and rubber trees.

Coastally, with rising sea levels affecting urban infrastructure and shorelines, it is predicted that the current 60% of Brazil’s population that lives in those target areas are at risk of experiencing severe flooding by 2050. This may displace habitants living in those areas or decrease habitable space with the intensity of floods.

Moving forward

For Brazil to sustain its prominence in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it is essential for its government to acknowledge the serious repercussions in the hand that climate change plays.  

It is pivotal for the Brazilian government and its economy to not only safeguard its food and agricultural systems, but also account for low-carbon pathways during climate change to ensure protective and preventive measures for the Brazilian people and its surrounding environment and economy.

Written by Anna Tran, WACOC Community Intern


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Voices in a Crowd: How People and Organizations can Change Ethiopia

Civil War. A word that has plagued human history, and Ethiopia is no exception. The Tigray War has shown that it is easier to divide a group of people than to bring them together and create a sense of community. Violence and political strife are the last steps that a population takes when they feel their voices are not being heard and are desperately trying to find a solution for their misery. The conflict in Ethiopia is a result of deeply rooted historical issues that the nation has repeatedly failed to remedy. Political strife, ethnic tension, and a lack of national identity dominate political, economic, and social life throughout Ethiopia. Instead of seeing the issue as a means to an end, the population has chosen to firmly establish the ‘us vs. them’ dichotomy, making it almost impossible to change the reality of the nation. The inability of the nation to fix their ills poses a threat to the people within the country, the horn of Africa, and the United States.

The internal health of the nation will determine the direction that Northern Africa will take for the rest of the 21st century. As the second largest population in Africa, Ethiopia plays an influential role; how the federal government conducts itself at home and abroad will set the stage for other African nations to follow. If Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed cannot manage to unite his own people and persuade people of different backgrounds to cooperate, how will he be able to conduct himself on the international stage? The Prime Minister inherited a problem that has been festering for decades but he has failed to utilize his political power to ignite change. Words of division, discriminatory police raids, and violence have deepened an invisible wound. However, change is possible and the people of Ethiopia have begun to take the necessary steps to secure a new future for the nation.

The complex history of the nation creates barriers that impact all sectors of life and impedes unification. Religious and ethnic intolerance is a brewing ground for economic and social inequities. The community that has the upper hand will depend on who is currently in power. Right now, Prime Minister Abiy and the Oromo people dictate what laws are implemented and how resources are distributed throughout the land. The current regime does not give room for different schools of thought and creates tension when someone speaks up about inhumane and unjust practices. However, there are people and organizations that have been putting in active effort to change the status quo and bring Ethiopia into a period of growth and peace.

Certain stakeholders have the ability to work a divided population and instill words of hope where hate and separation have been commonplace in a society. Voices matter in a Civil War. Sometimes all it takes is a couple of organized key players to start enacting change. An experienced stakeholder or organization can help broken communities see that they have more in common with their neighbors than history has led them to believe in the past. They can help break down the invisible barriers that have caused violence and hatred for decades. With key players, religious and political strife can be reduced and the seeds of a potential national identity can be planted.

Furthermore, certain voices create an echo chamber and help spread information and conversations that are instrumental in a peace process. The various cultural and religious individuals have allowed for a diverse pool of ideas that, if utilized appropriately, can be the missing key to help the nation secure political, social, and economic stability. Economists like President Solomon from the Ethiopian Geothermal Association and Dr. Won Kidane are experts in their field. They can help the nation become an economic powerhouse with the proper support. In the ethnic sector, the Ethiopian Community Mutual Assistance Association is an example of an organization that has facilitated dialogue and peacebuilding among different ethnic groups. Through grassroots initiatives, community engagement, and cultural exchange programs, the organizers have been able to make small steps toward peace. Lastly, social media influencers can grab the attention of a younger audience that may be dispersed throughout the world. Influencers like Jawar Mohammed have used their platforms to amplify the voices of marginalized communities, especially of the Oromo people. Mohammed’s charismatic demeanor enabled him to unify communities and start necessary discussions to generate a sense of togetherness. On the other hand, Samarawit Silva is a political activist that resides in the U.S. and actively protests the streets to show the dire humanitarian crisis that has destroyed her family and community. Through public protests, public demonstrations, and community organization, she can bring together the diaspora community throughout the U.S. to show Congress that effective action is needed in Ethiopia and that the U.S. needs to help people whose rights are being deprived. Each voice, even if small and insignificant, plays a role in minimizing the load of a conflict-ridden environment.

Change is a series of trial and error, and Ethiopia is beginning a long road where each sector of politics and life must be checked and altered. The end goal for Ethiopia should be establishing democracy and democratic systems where people and political parties will eventually learn to work together cohesively. However, specific steps need to be achieved before peace, stability, and prosperity can be entrenched in the nation. To remedy the three ills (political strife, ethnic tension, and lack of national identity) that have dominated the country for decades, the Ethiopian government must implement the above suggestions and commit to ending violence and oppression. The government has to learn to use the resources available to them and the voices that have played a part in the peace process, such as Dr. Won Kidane, to create hope and change the makeup of the land. The people of Ethiopia are feeling depleted and uninspired. A campaign that fosters interfaith dialogue and builds a sense of community to create a spark of optimism will help the state turn a leaf. Peace is possible, and the people of Ethiopia deserve to live a life where they are not judged for their culture or religious belief. Reinventing a nation is not an easy process, but the tiring work is necessary to correct the errors in human behavior that have allowed transgressions to occur. Currently, Ethiopia is playing a dangerous game of Jenga, and whether the tower can withstand the test of time will depend solely on the people’s will to pave a new path of peace.

Ana Beatriz Loureiro De Alencar is a M.S. candidate in Northeastern University’s Global Studies & International Relations program.

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China and Japan: A Return to a Rocky Relationship of the Past?

On Thursday, August 24, 2023 at 1:30 Japan officially began its plan to release treated radioactive waste water from the Fukushima Disaster into the ocean. This event was the culmination of planning and research since 2019 by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Association in cooperation with Japanese scientists, researchers, and government officials to find a way to move this treated wastewater, as the massive tanks holding much of this radioactive water have lost most of their capacity to continue doing so.

Though some experts have commented that the amount of radiation that will be released into the ocean will be minimal with “negligible effects” on people and marine life, China has been quick to condemn Japan in its efforts to release this treated wastewater, labeling Japan’s action as an “extremely selfish and irresponsible act that disregards the international public interest.” Furthermore, the same Thursday that Japan started to release its wastewater, China’s customs agency issued a ban on any aquatic products, namely seafood, being imported from at least 10 of Japan’s prefectures. 

With such quick and unrelenting measures being taken by the Chinese government, concerns from Chinese citizens have also begun to rise, as many have taken to Chinese social media platforms, like Weibo, to express their concerns. Both on and off-line, criticism towards the Japanese government and citizens has slowly increased, as calls for boycotting other Japanese products have grown. Though less common, other acts ensuing out of anger have emerged, such as a reported incident of stones being thrown in a Japanese school in China, though no students were harmed. Within Japan, both governmental and non-governmental entities have been receiving harassment from phone calls by many angered at this wastewater release plan. This has prompted the Japanese foreign ministry to urge China to protect the rights of Japanese citizens in Mainland China at all costs.

As the relationship between the two countries has begun to strain, the question of legitimacy on China’s part has risen: is it fair for China to make the argument that Japan is out of line, while also contributing to the deterioration of the environment? After all, China’s own Fuqing nuclear plant was reported to have released radioactive waste in liquid form in 2020.

Thus, uncertainty has sparked over the past few days as some have started to doubt whether or not this is actually an issue of concern for the oceans and environment. China and Japan’s rocky history could partly explain China’s actions. In 2012, Japan nationalized a group of islands in the East China Sea, which were claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing. This event provoked protests all across China, as many cried for boycotts of Japanese goods in China, with eventually some of these protests turning violent, harming Japanese businesses and generating overall anti-Japanese sentiment. With this history, and previous tensions predating 2012, China’s ban could very well mean that the issue at hand is just another way for China to find a way to exert power over Japan. 

In its current state, Japan is focusing on trying to use diplomatic means to get China to overturn its ban. With officials such as Japan’s prime minister urging the Chinese government to change their policy, and other figures such as mayors trying to find ways to keep their seafood sectors sailing smoothly with the absence of a Chinese export market, Japan has yet to give up. Yet, with China’s track record, it seems that they are also reluctant to give up, and will continue in supporting their ban. It is imperative that both countries find a way to meet in the middle; if both continue on the current route, the chances for escalation in tensions is very likely, and a return to the relationship they had in 2012 can materialize faster than imagined. 

Written by Special Projects Intern, Noor Razmdideh

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