A new homeland ministry, further debates on Islam and Germany, new places for crucifixes in public buildings – all these political acts show that exclusive identity constructions are perceived as a way to be electorally successful. But they also blur the boundary between politics and almost satirical symbolism-oriented acts. The current politics are part of a political communication that seems to add fuel to the ongoing sociopolitical debate on religious and cultural diversity. However, in a pluralistic country like Germany, a calm and thoughtful political communication is required to increase societal cohesion and not let a presumed heritage determine the shared values of our society.
The African Elephant is a keystone species, strongly affecting the ecosystems in which they live. The recent drop in elephant populations across the African continent are therefore cause for major concern in the realm of wildlife conservation. However, this downturn is not only cause for ecological concern. The illegal trade in ivory is an important source of revenue for armed groups across the African continent, and highlights questions of governance, corruption, and organized crime. What are the key drivers of illegal elephant killing? What consequences does the trade have, ranging from the local to the international level? How can the trade be halted as a means of warfare financing and ongoing corruption?
On Saturday February 3rd, a 28 year old far-right activist Luca Traini went on a shooting rampage in the small town of Macerata in central Italy. Over the course of a few hours, he randomly shot and wounded 5 men and one woman of African origin. He was eventually apprehended by police wrapped in an Italian flag, in front of a monument to Italy’s war dead, performing the Roman salute and screaming “Viva l’Italia”. Traini claimed that he had heard a radio news report detailing the arrest of a Nigerian drug dealer as a suspect related to the local death of a teenage girl Pamela Mastropietro, when he decided to get his legally held gun and “kill them all”, referring to the local African community. Notwithstanding the attack’s evident racial motivations, the aftermath of the shootings has been framed in terms of migrants as a source of tension rather than focusing on the far-right milieu as a generator of political violence.
How robust is the Non-Proliferation Treaty which has recently come under severe attack? In a new article, Carmen Wunderlich and Harald Müller examine contestation within the nuclear nonproliferation regime. They argue that debate over international norms does not necessarily result in erosion, but may also strengthen international norms.
Turkey’s ‘Operation Olive Branch’ is a marked escalation of its campaign against the Kurdish autonomous regions in Syria. The battle for Afrin, a mountainous, well defended region protected by a battle hardened Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) forces will likely be protracted and lead to significant civilian casualties, due to Afrin’s large community of internally displaced Syrians. It will further compound the ongoing conflict against Kurds in Turkey and lead to, as of yet, unclear regional ramifications.
More and more countries restrict how NGOs operate, often by limiting their funding. The response is frequently to argue that these restrictions flout international law or amount to crackdowns on the opposition. Annika Elena Poppe and Jonas Wolff argue that the objections to NGO activity need to be taken seriously. In Egypt, for example, they are rooted in concerns about sovereignty and foreign interference.
A new political party was founded in Turkey on 25 October 2017. Named the “IYI Party”, meaning “good party”, it claims to bring betterment for Turkey’s financial, judicial and also human rights situation. The inaugural speech of the party’s founder, Meral Akşener, leaves an impression of the “modern” face of Turkish conservative politics. The IYI Party presents itself as an alternative to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in times of a growing dissatisfaction with Turkish politics and reorientations in opposition parties’ political stance. Although the idea that the AKP era might come to an end is intriguing, the Akşener’s party seems to follow the well-known narrative of Turkish nationalism. For a truly pluralist democracy in Turkey, this is not enough.
On 26 October 2017, Burundi’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute – the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – took effect. This withdrawal is just the tip of the iceberg of a long-lasting confrontation between the ICC and some African states. When the Assembly of States (ASP) Parties to the Rome Statute convenes today for its 16th annual session in New York, the stakes are high as the ICC faces major challenges. The ASP should take on the dwindling support and criticism from the African Union (AU) as well as African states and bolster the ICC: States Parties should defend the integrity of the Statute, back the ICC’s budget, further outreach activities as well as the regional scope of investigations and strengthen the cooperation with the Court.
In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) rejected most of the Chinese claims in the case on disputed “islands” in South China Sea brought to the Court by the Philippines. The verdict triggered widespread fears of a further escalation of the conflict between China and the Philippines as well as the other claimants and the United States. Yet, the near simultaneous ruling by the PCA and the change in Philippine administration from President Benigno Aquino to Rodrigo Duterte created a “ripe moment” for a fundamental transformation of the crumbling Sino-Chinese bilateral relations.
In May 2017 two groups of Muslim fighters raided the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines. After five months of fighting, the Philippine military finally announced that the city was reconquered from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups that supposedly had ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. This incident resembles a crisis in 2013 when members of another armed group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), entered the city of Zamboanga and battled government troops for weeks. But whereas the Zamboanga crisis neither attracted much foreign attention nor was linked to international jihadism, the fighting in Marawi has been portrayed as part of larger conflict between militant Islamism and the civilised world – a narrative that is lacking substantial empirical evidence.