Category Archives: MIDCM Column

The Honeymoon is over – Ukrainian Separatists begin to splinter

By Daniel Russo

On May 23rd, 2015, Alexey Mozgovoy died. More specifically, his car exploded:
in broad daylight, miles away from the front lines of the conflict (Crowcoft). Unless Mozgovoy accidentally wandered onto the set of Mythbusters, this explosion was not an accident. Mozgovoy’s supporters believe his death to be nothing short of a politically motivated murder by hitmen of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). Mozgovoy was loved throughout the region and was incredibly well respected – he was the commander of the ‘Ghost Brigade’, one of the Separatists’ most effective and well-trained military units (Eliason). He was also, however, one of the most outspoken critics of the LPR, specifically regarding the ceasefire agreement. For Mozgovoy, peace with Kiev is not an option. He embodies the sentiments of many anti-peace elements within the Separatist movement who believe that the current leadership is essentially cutting a deal with the devil by making peace with Kiev.

These elements see the Minsk peace talks, held in September of 2015 and attended by leaders of the DPR and the LPR, as a mistake and have pledged to continue fighting (Crowcoft). Mozgovoy is not the only member of this anti-peace movement to be silenced, and these politically motivated killings have become a reality of daily life in eastern Ukraine. Alexander Khodakovsky, a senior official in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), has been banned from traveling to Russia, which is small potatoes compared to the fate of his comrade Alexey Mozgovoy. Khodakovsky, in an address to Ukrainian media, went so far as to ask for a less obvious and destructive way of being assassinated. He noted that he “often travels through densely-populated neighborhoods…so please use a more delicate method” (Kyiv Post). This statement may seem absurd to those of us who grew up in a country free from politica assassinations. In the DPR and LPR, however, this is a reality for those who feel the current Separatist leadership does not accurately reflect their beliefs and desires.

At a time when Russia and the Separatist governments in the DPR and LPR appear to be moving towards peace, anti-peace voices are being silenced, often violently. This represents a fraying of the relationships within the Separatist movement that are not so obvious upon first glance and do not receive much attention in Western media. It is simply unrealistic to paint the Ukrainian Separatists as a homogenous group with a united goal. While it is true they have a shared enemy, e.g. Kiev, the glue holding the Separatist movement together is beginning to break away.


Eliason, George. “The Assassination of Donbass Commander Alexey Mozgovoy”.
Global Research Centre for Globalization. 26 May 2015. Web.

Crowcoft, Orlando. “Ukraine Crisis: Who killed rebel leaders Alexey Mozgovoy and
Alexandr Bednov?”. International Business Times. 4 June 2015. Web.

Kyiv Post. “Separatist Leader in Donetsk Predicts His Own Assassination by the
Kremlin.” Kyiv Post. 22 Feb. 2016. Web.



The Road to 2030: Bankrolling the Bottom Billion’s Path to Sustainable Development

By Sade Ayinde

As we look ahead to the 2030 deadline for the world’s completion of the Sustainable Development Goals, development finance has been incorporated as part of a larger effort to focus on inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.  According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development official development assistance (ODA) reached a record high of $131.6 billion USD in total aid, in 2015.  In the graph below, OECD recorded Sweden as having the highest percent of ODA to gross national income.


Source: OECD ODA Statistics

According to the UN Development Policy and Analysis Division, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) compromise of 48 countries in the bottom billion: 13 in Asia and the Pacific, 34 in Africa and 1 in Latin America. The “Bottom Billion” is often defined as the world’s poorest countries that suffer from cyclical poverty and limited growth. There is often overlap between the bottom billion countries and the UN’s official “Least Developed Country” list. The main criterion for LDC classification is based on low levels of gross national income (GNI) per capita, low human capital, and high vulnerability to environmental and economic shocks. LDCs hold unique demographics and specific challenges that require tailored and innovative strategies to invigorate inclusive growth for their development agendas.

Historically, LDCs have been heavily dependent on development assistance and aid. Over the decade, there has been an increase in trends in private finance and investments as opposed to the traditional aid model. But for LDCs, their capacity to attract such flows besides traditional aid has been limited.


The global share of aid has increased, but the proportion to LDCs has decreased (OECD). When compared to other developing countries, LDCs are more susceptible to economic shocks and are less likely to attract the amount of finance needed to implement the SDG 2030 agenda. Solutions to finance LDCs are vital in order to assure that inclusive economic growth, and sustainable development are achieved for the SDG agenda. If the eradication extreme poverty by the 2030 deadline is to be reached, donor countries, development banks and international finance institutions must develop a finance strategy that prioritizes the needs of LDCs and their emerging economies.



Muslims in Europe: Looking at the Challenges Through Different Angles

By Je Ru Lee

The massive flooding of immigrants into Europe and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels have raised the issues of immigrant integration and Muslim populations in Europe to a new height. However, the public are being fed with mostly the negative events and superfluous comments from politicians by major media outlets without critical analyses and educational values. This lack of insight contributes to the misconceptions that the European public holds about their Muslim populations, and creates an even more discriminating environment for this religious group living in the continent.


Leading think tank on religious matters, the Pew Research Center, has surveyed the European populations on their attitudes towards the Muslims among them. The results as of 2015, varying widely for different countries, show that a significant portion of the European population explicitly hold unfavorable views towards their Muslim counterparts (5 Facts). Further more, a poll conducted by the Ipsos Mori found populations in the countries surveyed vastly overestimated the percentage of their Muslim populations. Some notable European examples include the French, overestimating at 31% when the actual proportion is 8%, and Belgium at 29% when it’s actually 6% (Perceptions Are). The fact that certain people hold negative views towards Muslims and make erroneous estimations exposes the problem of possibly dangerous sentiments and emotions, not from the Muslim side, but from the Europeans themselves.


It is very clear that extremists consist of a very small portion of the Muslim populations, and just like any other religious or ethnic groups, Muslims condemn terrorist acts and teachings (Integrating Europe’s). The explicit and implicit unfavorable perceptions that Europeans hold against Muslims present a difficult situation for both homegrown and foreign-born Muslims in Europe and a dilemma for the governments. A study by Strabac and Listhaug found that Muslims are more likely to become targets of prejudice than other groups in Europe (Anti-Muslim Prejudice), manifesting in the forms of street violence and discrimination in the labor market. Studies have shown that participants are less likely to consider candidates with Muslim-sounding names (Integrating Europe’s). This phenomenon, among other factors, very likely contributes to a British report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission on the astonishingly high Muslim unemployment rate in the country at 50% for men and 75% for women (Britain’s Coping Classes).


Such hardships experienced by the Muslims that consider Europe their home have a bigger impact on the European society itself, albeit the Muslims themselves are the most hard-hit. Recent terrorist attacks conducted by Muslim European nationals who grew up in the land they carry out jihads have indeed painted a bad image of Muslims, that even those raised in Europe could not be trusted, in the hearts of the general population. European governments face the challenge to respond to discrimination and concerns of terrorism without being seen as patronizing or victimizing Muslims (Integrating Europe’s). With governments exploring different options to better integrate Muslims into European societies, it is important to remember bottom-up efforts should be complimented by top-down efforts. Involving Muslims in community and regional councils on religious matters is applaudable, but they also need to be civically involved at a higher level and participate in the national decision making process. Integrative problem-solving does not equal governments with disproportionate representatives close the door and fumbling with ideas themselves. It means governments include their people who are the most affected and brainstorm with them to try to come up with possible solutions, not only supported by some but ideally endorsed by all.

ISIS in…the Philippines?

By Daniel Russo

Between late 2015 and early 2016, several news agencies reported an ISIS presence in the Philippines.  In December, the UK Daily Mail argued that ISIS’s new recruitment video, which depicts ISIS training in a Filipino jungle, represents the organization branching into the Philippines.  In February of 2016, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon warned against the spread of ISIS in the Philippines and southeast Asia.


The spread of ISIS in the Philippines also may sound intuitive to some, particularly internationally-savvy students and practitioners.  The Philippines has long been home to an underrepresented Muslim population, which has also been fighting for independence and more autonomy over the past couple decades.  The region collectively known as the Bangsamoro, which contains most Filipino Muslims, has been in talks with the Filipino government for the better part of the early 2000s after decades of secessionist fighting.  Those talks ended in March of 2014 with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).  The CAB established a procedure for establishing a semi-autonomous Bangsamoro region in the southern Philippines.


This agreement, however, was negotiated by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).  The MNLF is the largest group representing Filipino Muslims in the Bangsamoro and is the only group that has actually negotiated with the Filipino government.  The MNLF has been the vanguard of the movement from the 1960s, and holds more respect and authority than any other organization claiming to represent Muslims in the Philippines.  The MNLF has explicitly rejected ISIS’s ideology, denouncing it as a distorted and perverted interpretation of Islam.  The existence, and past success, of the MNLF is what stands in the way of ISIS actually setting up camp in the Philippines.  ISIS succeeds where there is a lack of organization for frustrated Muslims to act upon such frustrations (see: Libya, Iraq, Syria).  The Philippines is different from these cases because of the presence of the MNLF, which represents a vehicle for Filipino Muslims to collectively act for more autonomy and representation with the Filipino government.  More importantly, however, it takes up space that ISIS would normally take up, preventing the organization from really taking hold in the Philippines.

Green Bonds: The Way Forward To Finance A Cleaner, More Resilient World?

By Sade Ayinde

The path to 2030 is a critical timeline for the world, as we look towards the post-2015 development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.  In the coming decade, there will be a high need and projected demand for conservation financing and inclusive models of development that account not only for economic but also environmental sustainability.

As global climate change has increasingly become a priority on the post-2015 development agenda, a need for eco-conscious development has risen. So, what are “Green Bonds”? A bond is a form of debt security, in the form of a legal contract with the purpose of raising capital by borrowing. A green bond is any financial instrument exclusively used for the financing of “Green Projects,” with green projects being defined as a broad range of environmentally oriented projects (energy efficiency, sustainable land use, water management, and clean transportation).

The World Bank has spearheaded the support of green projects globally with over 70 projects initiated in effort to promote low-carbon investments and climate resilient growth in recipient countries, like Brazil, China, Belarus and Morocco. The projects differ from financing geothermal clean energy investment in Indonesia to support energy efficiency improvement for low-carbon projects in Shanghai, China. With the varied outcomes resulting in 1.1 million tons of Co2 avoided per year, and 622,000 Mwh annual energy savings, respectively. The popularity of green bonds is picking up as a new mechanism of financing to adapt to climate change and low-emission projects.

Additionally, the bond market has peaked interest from private investments, creating opportunities for public-private partnerships (PPP) that crosscut different sectors to create deeper social impact. However, there are still various challenges such as the lack of well functioning bond markets in developing countries and risk-averse investors. Since emerging as a new form of environmental financing in 2007, green bonds, compared to more traditional forms of financing and investment methods, are still viewed by investors as a niche product.

Overall, in 2014, the green bond market expanded, accumulating to an almost $37 billion in issuance. The new investments have raised the urgency towards an environment that actively supports and promotes climate resilient development. As green bonds only constitute a small fraction of the global bond market, 2016 will be a critical period for the conservation finance market.




Myanmar’s Peace Accord: Meaningful Step Forward or Elaborate Smokescreen?


By Janice Freeman

Last October, a peace accord was signed in Myanmar with the aim of finally ending 60 years of violent civil war. However, this Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) has fallen quite short of its objective, as only eight of the fifteen ethnic groups invited to sign did so, and others were not even permitted to take part in the negotiations. Further troublesome, however, is that more than 5,000 civilians in Myanmar have been displaced in the past two weeks by fighting between two ethnic armies, one of which signed the NCA.


Violent clashes broke out on February 7 in the Shan State townships of Kyaukme between the Restoration council of Shan State (RCSS) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). With regards to the NCA, RCSS signed the agreement while the TNLA was excluded. The TNLA claims that its rival, the RCSS, has increased its troop presens in the Shan State from 80 to 1,700 troops since signing the accord and the TNLA is fighting to ensure its claim on the territory. Even more disturbing is that Myanmar researcher, Tom Kramer, believes that the military “must have allowed the RCSS to reinforce its presence in the northern Shan State” and that these actions of the RCSS wouldn’t have been possible before the NCA.


While the NCA may seem like a positive step forward for Myanmar’s powerful military, the Tatmadaw, many critics say it has exacerbated tensions between the ethnic groups who signed it and those that didn’t, as exemplified by the conflict in the Shan State. Some have even gone so far as to say that the Tatmadaw is purposefully using the NCA to turn armed groups against each other and weaken their power against the state.


There may be hope, however. Aung Saan Su Kyi’s National League for Democracy was victorious in Myanmar’s historic elections last November and many are hopeful that a more democratic government will strengthen the peace process. The authority over the negotiations lies with the military, however, so for now it is unclear how Su Kyi and her party will try to quell the violence and instill peace between all the armed groups in Myanmar.

South China Sea tensions escalate from Chinese missile deployment


By James Mott

Mobile surface-to-air missile systems were discovered on Woody Island, also known as Yongxing Island, in the South China Sea. Part of the Paracel islands, one of the island groups hotly contested in the South China Sea alongside the Spratley islands, Woody Island has been the site of Chinese infrastructure development since the early 1960s. As one of the first instances of permanent arms installations on any of the contested islands, China’s move has worried others in Southeast Asia over their own sovereign claims to these islands. Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines all hold territorial claims to at least one island in the South China Sea, while China’s claims encompass both the Paracels and the Spratleys. Currently, China has total control of the Paracel islands, with the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam controlling portions of the Spratly islands alongside China.

Leaders in Southeast Asia have taken China’s expansion seriously – Beijing is unlikely to be bluffing with the amount of investment into building artificial islands in the South China Sea. While none of the ASEAN states are likely to tackle China, whether head-on or as a bloc, parrying Beijing’s aspirations has been tackled diplomatically thus far. Using the United States as a foil, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called for ‘more practical and more efficient actions’ on behalf of the United States this past Tuesday. Washington has sent missile-equipped destroyers close to disputed islands in the past year, there have been no active confrontations between Beijing and Washington. Vietnam is also one of the keenest of the ASEAN states to avoid a prolonged dispute with China, as its trade ties and ideology are closest to Beijing than its other neighbors.


The United States also want de-escalate an increasingly militarized South China Sea – while at the ASEAN summit in California, President Obama reaffirmed commitment to ‘a regional order where international rules…are upheld’. While Obama did not mention China directly, the allusion to adhering to ‘a regional order’ was a thinly-veiled message to Beijing – stop escalation regional tensions, and contribute to a diplomatic outcome. No party in the South China Sea dispute has openly declared militarized intentions, nor does any party want to fire the first salvo; losses from trade and infrastructure destruction, not to mention severed diplomatic ties, are deterrent enough against any military movements.

Most worrying to the Southeast Asian community and the United States is the possible expansion and enforcement of China’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Beijing’s current ADIZ, surrounding much of the East China Sea, has already provoked immense concern from Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. The ADIZ’s proximity to the islands of Taiwan, South Korea’s Jeju, and Japan’s Kyushu, not to mention encompassing the disputed Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands, sparked fierce reactions over the infringement of South Korean and Japanese sovereign territory.

Should China expand and enforce an ADIZ in the South China Sea, that may be the last move tolerable to Southeast Asia and the United States – joint military drills, sanctions, and other tangible diplomatic measures would surely follow. Whether or not direct military installments on behalf of the Philippines, Vietnam, or Malaysia would follow is a major uncertainty – none of these states have the economic weight of China, but it is likely that they would cooperate in order to jointly repel Chinese encroachment in presumably their waters. Should the United States openly back any of these proposals, China would be expected to distance themselves from Washington in order to keep momentum – the fallout of strained relations between Washington and Beijing may have serious repercussions on issues in the future, North Korea being the most notable.