What We’re Watching: Thai monarchy ruling, weed vs coke in Colombia, Moroccan olive twig

What We’re Watching: Thai monarchy ruling, weed vs coke in Colombia, Moroccan olive twig

Don't mess with the Thai king. A Thai court has ruled that calls by three youth protest leaders to reform the monarchy are an unconstitutional attempt to overthrow the country's political system. Although the verdict is symbolic and won't carry a jail term, it paves the way for the activists to be tried for treason, which is punishable by death. But it's also a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the ruling is a clear warning shot to the youth-led protest movement that last year shocked Thailand by for the first time openly questioning the role of the king, a taboo subject until then. On the other, actually executing protest leaders could turn them into martyrs, driving more of their followers into the streets to face off against government forces. Regardless, the controversial notion of curbing the king's powers is now at the very center of Thai politics: it's the inevitable future for millennials and zoomers, a third-rail issue for mainstream political parties, and a non-starter for the all-powerful Rama X himself.

Can medical weed bring down the high of Colombia's cocaine industry? After decades of trying to stamp out a coca industry that has fueled violence and conflict, the Colombian government is looking to cannabis for help. President Iván Duque wants to boost the cultivation of medical marijuana as a more lucrative, eco-friendly, and less socially-damaging substitute crop for Colombian farmers. Duque, a strong opponent of decriminalizing drugs, made clear that the strategy would apply only to growing cannabis for medical rather than recreational use. He also continues to advocate aerial spraying as a means of eradicating coca crops, despite questions about the effectiveness and environmental impact of this approach. Coca cultivation in Colombia has reached record highs in recent years, as drug cartels have benefited from the poor implementation of Colombia's historic 2016 peace deal with FARC rebels, taking over drug-producing areas of the country that those militants once controlled.

An olive twig from Morocco to Algeria. Tensions between Morocco and Algeria have flared recently, over Algiers' support for separatists in Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that Morocco considers its own territory. For half a century now, the militants of the Polisario Front have been waging a struggle for independent control over the region, a resource-rich swath of land blessed with plentiful fisheries that lies along a critical trade route for Morocco. Algeria has long backed the rebels as a way to needle Morocco. Earlier this year, Western Sahara figured prominently in a dispute between Morocco and Spain over migration flows to Europe. But in August, Algeria cut ties with Rabat over the issue, and last week accused Moroccan forces of killing three Algerian civilians in the area. Against that backdrop, Morocco now says it wants to "turn the page" on tensions with Algeria. But it also says that its demand for sovereignty over Western Sahara — only recognized by the US — is "legitimate" and non-negotiable. That's not quite an olive branch, but we'll call it a twig and see how this plays out.
Colorful graphic with a woman wearing a red top in the foreground and blue background with two individuals looking on

As the private sector innovates aid and financing, seeking holistic solutions to neighborhood challenges is the cornerstone of the approach.

Businesses, which rely on healthy communities for their own prosperity, must play a big part in driving solutions.

See why.

Abortion rights and anti-abortion demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court while the court holds a hearing on a Mississippi abortion ban, in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.

On Wednesday the Supreme Court began hearing arguments on an issue that has had Americans fighting — and in some cases killing — each other for 50 years: abortion.

The court must decide whether a recent Mississippi state law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy is legal and, more broadly, whether it runs counter to the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973.

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S2 Episode 7: Why biodiversity loss matters to governments and investors


Listen: Are global leaders finally taking needed action on environmental issues? Coming out of the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, we've seen governments agree to a certain set of policies to fight climate change. But that isn't the only urgent environmental issue we face. The twin problem of climate change AND biodiversity loss are a serious threat to not just governments, but also investors.

The latest episode of Living Beyond Borders, a special podcast series from GZERO brought to you by Citi Private Bank, looks at how important biodiversity is to the global economy, and what leaders need to do to prevent further loss. Moderated by Caitlin Dean, Head of the Geostrategy Practice at Eurasia Group, this episode features Anita McBain, Managing Director at Citi Research, heading EMEA ESG Research; Harlin Singh, Global Head of Sustainable Investing at Citi Global Wealth; and Mikaela McQuade, Director of Energy, Climate and Resources at Eurasia Group.

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The Graphic Truth: Abortion laws around the world

While the debate over fetal rights vs a woman’s right to choose is particularly ferocious in the US, it’s also a divisive issue in many parts of the world, particularly in countries where the Catholic Church holds influence. We take a look at abortion laws globally, as well as countries with the highest and lowest official abortion rates.

A man eats by a newspaper stand that displays a cover story on the preliminary results of the general election in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, November 29, 2021

The small Central American nation of Honduras is in many ways a full blown narco-state. President Juan Orlando Hernandez – who’s governed the country for close to a decade – has been linked to the country’s booming drug trafficking trade. His brother Tony, a former congressman who is buds with Mexican drug lord El-Chapo, was sentenced to life-in prison this year for smuggling cocaine into the US. Narco-trafficking gangs run riot in the country, fueling one of the world’s highest murder rates, while corruption and poverty abound.

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Will the Taliban be able to maintain control over the entire country of Afghanistan if the ongoing hunger and economic crisis worsens?

Civil disobedience is likely to expand from women's protests to widespread unrest, said journalist Ahmed Rashid, especially if humanitarian aid only reaches the hands of Taliban loyalists and the country’s urban elites.

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Belgium, Brussels, 2021/12/01. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press conference on the Global Gateway at the EU Commission headquarters.

The EU rivals China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The European Commission has unveiled its Global Gateways plan, which aims to invest €300 billion globally in infrastructure projects by 2027. Indeed, Brussels is positioning its plan as a better alternative to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. This announcement comes as Beijing has been steadily upping its investment in the Global South, including a pledge this week to supply Africa with an additional 1 billion COVID vaccine doses over the next three years, as well as doling out $10 billion of trade finance to support African exports. But European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen points to several advantages for the European plan. One, Global Gateway focuses both on physical infrastructure – like fiber-optic cables, transportation, healthcare and clean energy resources – as well as investment in research and education. And unlike Beijing’s plan, which saddles recipient countries with debt, the EU will provide cash “under fair and favorable terms.” Its plan will also include buy-in from Europe’s robust private sector. Beijing has not commented on the development, but the Chinese foreign minister’s visit to Ethiopia on Wednesday was likely intended to signal Beijing’s enduring commitment to the region.

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Afghan women hold signs as they gather for a women's rights protest march in central Kabul, Afghanistan October 21, 2021.

1 billion: In restricting women from working, the Taliban could cost Afghanistan’s economy $1 billion, according to a UN report. That’s 5 percent of the country’s total GDP. Banning women – who make up 20 percent of the Afghan workforce – from many aspects of social life is risky business as the country faces a humanitarian and economic crisis.

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