Volt Europa: A New Path to The European Dream?

Back in November, the Policy Centre for European Affairs ran a Hackathon on “European cohesion in the age of populism: How should the EU strengthen European identity to counterbalance Eurosceptic forces?”. Euroscepticism and populism aren’t the only forces causing division in Europe and threatening the European project, but the motivation behind this event was to try and understand in what ways the European Union (EU) could strengthen its internal ties in order to secure its future. This is a hard question, because the EU is not in the best position to fight these forces. The EU is clearly more than a conventional international organization, but it has not yet become part of policy discussions at a state level. Even if it wished to increase its influence and assert its leadership position, there would always be strong opposition to giving EU institutions the kind of powers it would need to do so. Perhaps the solution for the future of the European project may not exist via top-down approaches championed by EU institutions. Instead, a bottom-up political movement may be needed.

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Limiting Lies: The Need for Greater Regulation of the Tech Industry in Europe

Although Europe exercises some of the world’s strictest policies towards the technology sector, the EU is considering passing new regulations aimed at ‘gatekeeper’ platforms, including Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, to force big tech companies to remove dangerous content, hate speech, and misinformation. Renewed efforts by the EU to curb the spread of hate speech and misinformation are prompted by concerns over the recent growth of extremist groups, both within Europe and internationally, that are strengthened by their online communities.

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European waters and migration during the pandemic

As a French citizen studying in the UK, encounters with migrants while traveling across the English Channel have become a regular experience. Whether you take the Eurostar from Calais to Dover or the boat from Ouistreham to Portsmouth, you cannot ignore the reality of their situation, especially during the pandemic. One memory will always remain with me: I arrived by car at the harbour of Ouistreham when suddenly a group of migrants started chasing after the lorry ahead of us. They tried to jump on it and, unsuccessfully, attempted to open the back door of the lorry. This shocked me and at that moment I felt privileged. I had a passport and the right to legally cross the border. Meanwhile, they were illegal immigrants attempting something incredibly dangerous to be able to lead a better life. I was unable to help them and felt embarrassed that this was happening in a European country like France. But this is the reality of the lives of many migrants attempting to cross the borders to European countries.

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The Impact of Covid-19 School Closures on Children and Parents’ Mental Wellbeing

With schools having reopened their doors on March 8th, concerns have been raised that Britain’s school children now face a serious mental health crisis. British paediatricians have warned that they are witnessing an “acute and rapid increase in mental health and safeguarding cases”, with anxiety, depression and self-harm amongst young people rising to worrying levels. Parents have also been reported to be suffering psychological stress and breakdowns due to the pressures of managing their child’s remote learning whilst trying to sustain their own jobs. The Lancet has found that single parent families in particular, have the highest levels of self-reported stress. Gingerbread, the UK’s leading charity for single parents, stresses that the impact of dealing with the financial and practical pressures of Covid, whilst also having the sole responsibility for managing their child’s physical and mental health can be very overwhelming. 

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Space: The New Frontier for Policy and Strategy

On the 21st of December 2015, SpaceX conducted a successful test of its Falcon 9 Rocket. The partially reusable rocket marked an extraordinary achievement as it demonstrated that the cost of space travel could be significantly reduced. 

Reusable rocketry has been a recurrent theme in space travel since the ‘space race’. The US-led Space Shuttle project and the Soviet Buran spacecraft sought to overcome the cost barrier associated with space travel by developing rugged crafts that may be used multiple times. Both projects failed to economise space travel, and the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union left the US unchallenged in space. However, the above-mentioned developments have thrust space travel back into the strategic spotlight. SpaceX is not the only company to be making advances in this area. Boutique companies, such as the New Zealand-based Rocketlab, have found a business selling low-cost launches for satellites to private entities. The “ride-sharing” model allows various prices depending on the weight and value of one’s payload.

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The Impact of Covid-19 on Women and Girls’ Sexual and Reproductive Health

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the world, concerns are rising about the effect of the virus on women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health, and their access to contraceptive care. Past humanitarian crises have shown that when there is a disruption in the supply and access to routine health care services, it is women and girls’ who are disproportionately affected, simply by virtue of their sex.  

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Tobacco Ban in Bhutan

Bhutan is a remote Himalayan nation, landlocked and bordered by two of the world’s most populous countries – China in the North and India to the South, West, and East. In 2004, Bhutan became, and still remains, the only country in the world to implement a nationwide ban in the sale of tobacco (both cigarettes and in smokeless form). Lack of organized lobbying by businesses and the absence of tobacco production industries made the passing of this legislation relatively easy. Along with bans on the sale of cigarettes, smoking in public spaces and the advertisement of tobacco products the ban included that tobacco products for self-consumption (only in limited quantity) declared at customs while entering the country would be subject to a 100% duty. 

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A Pandemic in itself? The Mental Health Crisis of Covid-19

The Covid-19 crisis, which has rapidly spread across the globe, has now exceeded 50 million confirmed cases in 190 countries and more than 1.2 million deaths. This pandemic has not been selective in who it targets, but rather, has had an unprecedented effect on the lives of almost every single human being.  

As the UK exits its second national lockdown, complaints have repeatedly been raised about the harmful consequences of a singular focus on the virus, with people questioning why the all-important side effects of a lockdown have not received the same attention. Though the protection of the physical health of individuals remains a priority of most governments, there are accompanying side-effects of a lockdown which can also be disastrous and need to be acknowledged. One such side effect is the impact that the pandemic has had on the mental deterioration of young adults. Based on these findings, I will consider some policy and practice recommendations which can help governments, schools and universities to better address the mental challenges facing young people today. 

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The Big Swap: Energy and Water Bartering

The 1960’s Indus Water Treaty was the first intervention of a global organization – the World Bank – that focused not only on keeping peace at the border between Pakistan and India but also pursued regional development(United Nations, 1962, p.140; Akhter, 2015, p.68). The World Bank’s proposal – the dam and its subsidiaries built along the basin – left some wariness on the outcome’s success. It split the use of water along the border and limited the type of economic activity of the neighbouring countries sharing the basin (Akhter, 2015, p.65). Nowadays, the Punjab and the North-Western regions are rich in energy – provided by the dam’s hydroelectric power – but is still an arid area where regular water consumption comes in considerably from groundwater pumped through solar panels. Strangely enough, the North-Eastern regions of India face the opposite case with the Ganga River Basin overflowing.

Fig 1. The Indus Rivers and associated infrastructure in 2012 (Source: Akhter, 2015, p.69; Mustafa 2013)

The valley of Ica, located on the desert coast of Peru, south of Lima, has been a significant agricultural and energy producer due to its year-round sunny weather and strong desert winds. The soil nutrients and weather conditions provide crop flexibility that can adjust according to the available water supply (Swedwatch, 2018). Recently however, as a result of climate change, it has been inevitable for farmers – both big and small – to suffer a significant reduction in the water supply of the region’s main rivers. Its neighbour in the Andes, Huancavelica, an impoverished mountainous region with little access and benefits from national development, enjoys enough water flow from the River Pampas (Gestion, 2019). This river runs across the Ica region and into the Pacific Ocean without benefitting the valleys since it does not connect to any main irrigating river where most agricultural activity concentrates. After years of dispute escalated to national authorities, the central government approved a project for constructing a dam and detour of the River Pampas (Gestion, 2019).

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United Nations Emergency Force I (UNEF I): The Stepping Stone of United Nations Peacekeeping

The effectiveness of United Nations Peacekeeping (UNPK) has been debated over the course of its 70-year history. Peacekeepers have shown that they are resilient among crises and adaptable in the 21st century’s ever-changing landscape. This article explores the historical context of United Nations Peacekeeping, from its foundation to the contemporary era, specifically examining their mission’s establishments and breakthroughs and their respective influence in shaping the course of peacekeeping for the years to come. 

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