Can Brazil’s Olympics survive the Zika emergency?

By Jean Daudelin

Three recent developments are changing the Zika crisis: global media awareness, new possible vectors, and doubts — at the epicentre of the crisis — about Brazil’s capacity and honesty. Together, they threaten the upcoming Rio Olympics.

At the end of November 2015, I peddled a piece about the Zika/microcephaly crisis that was already severe in Recife, the large Northeastern Brazilian city where I am currently working. No one but this site,, would have it: not The Globe and Mail, not The Huffington Post, not Foreign Policy, no one else. Worse still, it took a few more weeks for the global media to catch up: The New York Times, measure of “all things fit to print,” published its first piece on Dec. 29.

Today, Zika is front-page news every day the world over. This is mostly good as it keeps prodding governments and the increasingly nimble global infectious disease community. As usual, the danger is that, were the epidemic to be less serious than currently speculated, the overblown coverage could lead to public cynicism and, subsequently, less urgency from politicians, less money for research, and public nonchalance when a truly severe one hits: call this the “swine flu” scenario. Fortunately, public health organizations and experts have become very adept at balancing warnings with caveats. In the face of global infectious diseases, panic is not the default mode any more.

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What should Canada’s portfolio for private sector engagement in development look like?

By Shannon Kindornay

In my first blog on private sector engagement in Canadian development cooperation, I highlighted some of the overarching lessons for Canada’s engagement with the private sector in development cooperation based  on my years of research in this area. In this blog, I take a closer look at Canada’s current approach to private sector engagement and offer some lessons which could inform a consolidated and expanded approach in the future.

Canada’s current approach to private sector engagement

The Canadian government does not have an overarching policy that sets out the objectives of and mechanisms for private sector engagement in development cooperation. Global Affairs Canada (GAC) has a website which does however articulate some of the key elements of Canada’s approach. It notes that Canada “pursues strong results” in the following areas: coordination, investments, partnerships and innovations.

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Canada’s development finance plan: How to go beyond low-hanging fruit

By Aniket Bhushan

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his coterie of eloquent ministers went to considerable lengths last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos to rebrand Canada and double down on the “Canada is back” message. While it was good to see that innovation in development financing was one of the many areas the government targeted, its focus on one relatively small initiative is problematic.

In a joint release, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, and Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development, welcomed the launch of a “new Canadian initiative [that] will support investment in emerging markets.” The initiative is a platform called Convergence and it will be run out of Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District. Canada is investing $23.5 million to get Convergence started, and the expectation is that this relatively small investment will lead to projects worth $10 billion over the next five years.

This is great and very welcome. Except it is not new.

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Should Canada’s exclusion from anti-ISIS meeting be worrisome?

By Steve Saideman

Monday, we learned of a meeting in Paris this week about the future of the anti-ISIS effort by the significant contributors to the current effort, and that Canada is apparently not invited. The natural questions to ask are: why and so what? It is easier to answer the second than the first, but I will try my hand at both.

Before starting out, one thing needs to be clear: this is not the first time Canada has been left out of a major meeting aimed at figuring out the future of an allied effort. In 2002, there was a meeting of the “Quint” to set NATO’s agenda about the future of the various Balkan missions (Bosnia/Kosovo/Macedonia). The Quint included the five largest providers of troops — U.S., UK, France, Italy and Germany. During the military mission in Afghanistan, things had changed quite a bit as it was no longer about the size of the force but where the countries’ troops were and what they were doing. As a result of Canada’s key commitment, Canada was at the table and some of the bigger contributors were either not invited or simply not that relevant (Italy, Germany).

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Starting the year with a bang: the DPRK’s nuclear test

By Jez Littlewood

North Korea – or more formally the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – has announced a fourth nuclear weapons test. It claims the test was of a hydrogen or thermonuclear bomb (H-Bomb) which, if true, would represent a qualitative leap in its capabilities.

From the limited information leaking out so far from official and unofficial sources most analysts doubt the test was of a H-Bomb given seismic monitoring suggests a lower yield than that expected from a thermonuclear weapon. Indeed, the US is indicating the test has not altered its own assessment of the capabilities of the DPRK. However, no one knows at this stage. Nor is the test a “surprise”, out of the blue or unanticipated. Activity was detected in September 2015, and the possibility of a H-Bomb was explored by Jeffrey Lewis’ mid-December piece on 38 North: “a staged thermonuclear weapon is likely more than North Korea can, at the moment, achieve technically, [but] it is a mistake to rule out the aspiration by Pyongyang. An H-bomb might not conveniently fit our perception of North Korea, but perhaps that is Kim’s point.”

So what does the test mean? Put simply, we do not know although past practice from the DPRK on nuclear testing has usually been about signaling to adversaries and demonstrating prowess at home. There are both domestic and international aspects to nuclear testing.

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#WelcomeToCanada: This is how to win a propaganda war

By Steve Saideman

Lots of folks criticize Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about being more about style than substance (see his Vogue pics), but the style can be substance.  How Canada has welcomed the first batch of refugees could be seen as a photo opportunity. And 25,000 refugees can be seen as too little.

However, it can also be seen as a vital effort in the war against ISIS/ISL/IS/Daesch.

The videos and pictures counter the messaging by our adversary that the West will not welcome Muslims into their country, that the West is hostile, and all that.  And the images are going viral.

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Is Argentina back on the world’s map?

By Jean Daudelin

Argentina has the second largest economy of South America (after Brazil), its third largest population (after Brazil and Colombia) and, in spite of all the problems of recent years, the region’s second highest GDP (PPP) per capita (after Chile). It’s a huge country whose agricultural potential and agro-business productivity are phenomenal, it has large reserves of gas and, for almost a century and in spite of recent difficulties, it has boasted one of the best-educated population of the continent.

And yet, it has had no significant international or even regional presence or influence for at least 50 years.

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