25 June, 2021

The Humanitarian Collective

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The Weekly Global Briefing: See This Week’s Most Important Humanitarian News

Bonjour. Hola. 你好. Приветствие. What you need to know, all in one place. Welcome to this week's briefing.

A new interim government in Libya.

After months of political instability and protest, the United Nations has finally brokered a resolution to install a new interim government in Libya until the next planned national elections, which are scheduled for the 21st of December 2021. Securing the date of these new elections has not been a straightforward task for the United Nations and Libyan political parties. The Hill reports that it took months to select and compromise on an interim leader, just one part of the already complex and arduous task of taking the baby steps towards democracy. Until the December elections, Mohammad al-Menfi, Libya’s former ambassador to Greece, has been selected as the interim Prime Minister, a pick that United Nations officials hope will not embolden or antagonize militia groups who have fought continuously for political power in past months. Despite this encouraging progress, Libyans still fear a government failure. After all, this is not the first time an interim government has been installed in the effort to secure Democratic norms. In 2015, a peace agreement was signed between dueling political parties, promising a new constitution, and parliamentary elections. Even with the United Nations itself declaring the 2015 agreement “historic”, the treaty essentially became words on paper, as the GNA (Government of National Accord) remained in power for years after the document was signed. Only time will tell if this national reform will differ from that of 2015, and if the December elections will even occur without interference and instability. 

An update on Yemen.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced on February 4, 2021 that America will end all support for Saudi Arabia’s offensive military operations in Yemen. The nation has been wracked by domestic conflict since 2015, when rebels from the Houthi Shia Muslim movement launched an armed uprising against the Yemeni government. The civil war quickly spiraled into a proxy war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia, a majority-Sunni Arab state, and Iran, a mostly Shia Muslim state, with the former claiming that Iran is putting resources at the disposal of Houthi rebels. Saudi-led airstrikes, until recently, had been supported by the United States, along with several other European allies. The ceaseless conflict has resulted in what the United Nations has labeled “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world,” with millions of civilians displaced, living in extreme poverty, or killed. In his statement announcing this change in U.S. policy in Yemen, Biden was careful not to distance America from Saudi Arabia, stating: “We are going to continue to help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people.” How this decision impacts U.S.-Saudi relations, and what this means for peace prospects in the region, still remains to be seen.

A changing Cuban economy.

Over the past year, the Cuban economy has been in turmoil. Shaken by the compounding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, disastrous governmental policies, and U.S. sanctions, the Cuban economy shrank by 11% in 2020 alone— its worst decline in over 30 years. Moreover, Cuban citizens face extreme shortages of necessary goods and services, as well as widespread unemployment. In August 2020, progressive members of the Cuban government introduced a series of reforms in order to save the nation’s economy. After much deliberation, revision, and a change in U.S. leadership, Cuban leader Raul Castro has agreed to open the island to private businesses. Cuba will now allow over 2,000 economic activities to take place on the island, up from a measly 127. Moreover, Labor Minister Marta Elena Feito has assured the people that only 124 economic activities will be prohibited from private businesses, but has neglected to elaborate further. The reform represents a departure from typical communist economic policy, and is the most extreme economic transformation since the establishment of state-and-local “productive chains” earlier in 2020, which integrated state-owned and non state-owned enterprises in foreign and domestic trade (although state-owned businesses receive preferential treatment). Unfortunately, Cuba’s new reforms are not enough to undo decades of bad policy, nor are they a holistically effective counter to the havoc wreaked by the communist party. Nevertheless, the Cuban government and more importantly, the Cuban people, are optimistic that these new policies will be a foundation from which true recovery can begin. 

Sources:

Libya

  1. https://thehill.com/opinion/international/538860-libyas-new-interim-government-pressed-to-deliver-elections

Yemen

  1. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/04/biden-will-announce-end-of-us-support-for-offensive-operations-in-yemen.html
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-44466574
  3. https://yemen.un.org/en/about/about-the-un

Cuba

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-55967709
  2. https://peoplesworld.org/article/cubas-triple-troubles-pandemic-blockade-and-econom ic-crisis/
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