Three Stories in the Key Of: Borders

Three Stories in the Key Of: Borders

Borders. Who gets to define them, control them, and cross them is a critical political issue in dozens of countries across the globe these days. Here are three recent stories about borders that caught our attention.


Backlash in South America: As Venezuelans continue to flee their country’s government-driven humanitarian crisis, the exodus is beginning to generate pushback in neighboring countries. Earlier this month, Brazil sent the army to quell a local riot against Venezuelan migrants at the border. Now Peru has tightened restrictions, requiring Venezuelans to hold a passport, rather than an easily-forged national ID card, to enter the country. Passports are expensive and rarely held by Venezuela’s most vulnerable people, meaning that the measure in effect shuts out thousands of impoverished migrants. The UN has criticized the move, which the Peruvians argue is needed to preserve order and security – but it may just end up spurring more clandestine border-crossings. Colombian, Peruvian, and Ecuadorean officials are currently meeting to discuss. South America has typically been less affected by the kinds of border issues that have plagued Central American countries further north, but issues of security, sovereignty, and social backlash are coming to a head fast as Venezuela’s monstrous deterioration continues to take a toll on its neighbors.

Border dwellers who like things loose: Often it’s the people who live just inside the frontiers who clamor loudest for their governments to tighten the borders against migrant flows. Earlier this year, for example, the Bavarians who live along Germany’s southeastern border nearly brought down the national government by demanding that Berlin impose more checkpoints to stem the flow of Middle Eastern and North African asylum seekers. And of course, Italy, which makes up a large swathe of the EU’s southern border, is already bucking Brussels by turning away boatloads of migrants.

But in North Africa, the situation is different. There, people who live right along (often arbitrarily-imposed) borders, far from major population centers and economic hubs, are typically marginalized populations who depend on smuggling for survival. So when central governments tighten borders to stop militants, weapons, and migrants – but fail to address the broader economic problems that cause black markets in human trafficking and contraband to flourish – they may end up exacerbating the problems of poverty and economic exclusion that breed militancy and social instability.

Fluid borders: Lastly, while some border disputes are about who’s crossing over them, others are about what’s flowing under them. A recent report on water resources along national borders by Quartz finds that two-thirds of the world’s frontier rivers aren’t governed by cross-border agreements, placing hundreds of millions of people at risk in the event that governments clash over those resources. There are currently open or potential water disputes between dozens of countries including the US and Mexico; India and Pakistan; Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Jordan; and between Egypt and almost all of its southern neighbors along the Nile. As climate change and population growth place growing strains on water resources worldwide, the question of who gets access to rivers and underground aquifers is an increasingly urgent one.

In a new episode of That Made All the Difference, Savita Subramanian, head of ESG Research, BofA Global Research, explains why ESG factors are critical to why some companies succeed and some fail.

"I think 10 years from now, we won't even call it 'environmental, social and governance,' or ESG investing. We won't call it sustainable. It'll just be part of investing," she says.

Link to the episode here.

This weekend, world leaders will open the COP26 climate summit, the UN's annual climate change conference, in Glasgow. Some insist this event is crucial to the multinational fight to limit the effects of climate change; others dismiss it as a circus that will feature politicos, protesters and celebrities competing for attention – one that's long on lofty promises and short on substance.

What's on the agenda?

Political leaders and negotiators from more than 120 countries will gather to talk about two big subjects. First, how to reduce the heat-trapping carbon emissions that scientists warn can inflict catastrophic damage on millions of people. This is where they'll offer their "nationally determined contributions," diplomatic jargon for their updated promises on their climate goals. Second, how to help poorer countries pay for adaptation to the climate damage that's already unavoidable.

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Less than a year after the world started putting COVID vaccines into people's arms, most regions have immunized at least half their populations, but Africa still lags behind. With industrialized nations hoarding jabs and the COVAX facility faltering, barely five percent of the African population is fully vaccinated.

Some enterprising South African scientists are now making a bold bid to change that, with an experiment that could benefit not only Africa's 54 nations and billion people, but the entire world: Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a Cape Town-based startup, has developed a plan to reverse-engineer Moderna's mRNA shot and manufacture it for priority distribution on the continent.

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11: Hit by a massive new COVID wave, Moscow has issued an 11-day lockdown of schools, businesses, and all "non-essential" services. Russia is now one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, having recorded 400,000 deaths by some estimates. Russia's high rate of vaccine skepticism isn't helping.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Has Russian behavior in cyber changed after President Biden and President Putin's meeting earlier this year?

Well, unfortunately, we see ongoing assertiveness and aggression from the Russian side, targeting the US government, but also US tech companies. And the fact that there is so little accountability probably keeps motivating. Shortly before the Russian elections, Apple and Google removed an app built by opposition parties, to help voters identify the best candidate to challenge Putin's party. The company sided pressure on their employees in Russia, but of course, the pressure on the Russian population is constant. And after these dramatic events, the silence from Western governments was deafening.

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No government today has the toolbox to tinker with Big Tech – that's why it's time to start thinking of the biggest tech companies as bona fide "digital nation states" with their own foreign relations, Ian Bremmer explains on GZERO World. Never has a small group of companies held such an expansive influence over humanity. And in this vast new digital territory, governments have little idea what to do.

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Big Tech: Global sovereignty, unintended consequences

Right now, only one region of the world is reporting an increase in new daily COVID cases. Here's a hint: it's one of the places where vaccines are, for the most part, easiest to get.

It's Europe. According to the World Health Organization, the region last week notched a 7 percent uptick in new daily infections, the third week in a row that infections rose there.

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