The Melting North – a Frosty Sea Route to Asia

Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld, the first person to complete the crossing of the Northern Sea Route. Painting by Georg von Rosen.The age of discovery may have passed, and the times of great explorers like Vasco D Gama or Magellan be long gone, but there are still discoveries to be made and new sea routes to be found. Although not a new find exactly, the icy trade route called the Northern Sea Route has recently been the object of renewed attentions, with melting arctic icecaps now making it possible to cut the sailing distance to Asia. The most dominant shipping route through the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean by Singapore may just have found itself a new competitor in world trade.

Although not its discoverer, Swedish-Finnish explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld was in 1879 the first person to complete the crossing of the Northern Sea Route (NSR). However, at first the route was not seen as a realistic alternative for ships carrying cargo between Europe and Asia. Icecaps and ice sheets made it treacherous; even Nordenskiöld’s expedition had to wait several months for the ice to melt before it could continue on its journey. The NSR shipping lane was by and by somewhat forgotten, until last year when 46 ships sailed through it. This was by no means the first time this trade route had been used this century, but on this occasion it carried 1.2m tonnes of cargo, quite an increase on previous years. An intriguing possibility presented itself: had a new trade route between Asia and Europe suddenly opened up as a result of global warming and shrinking icecaps?

by Joakim Carbonnier

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Sven-Ove Hansson on “The Role of Science in Politics”

What should the interplay between scientists and policy makers look like? Should it be permitted to base a policy on uncertain knowledge? One of the speakers at this year’s Conference on Foreign Affairs was Sven-Ove Hansson, professor in philosophy at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, who helped the audience make sense of these questions. This article sums up some of the most important points from his talk.

Scientists and policy makers often look at the world in quite different ways. Policy makers put up guidelines to help achieve certain outcomes while scientists try to find out how things really are.When a policy decision is made on an issue that bears on scientific knowledge, there is a coordination problem between policy makers and scientists: Scientists first gather data, and when there’s enough evidence to draw a certain conclusion, that conclusion becomes part of the corpus – the scientific knowledge which at a given time could be written in a...

by Hampus Ljungberg

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What about Chechnya?

Vladimir Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov. Photo: kremlin.ruA few weeks ago the Chechen capital of Grozny once again briefly hit international headlines. This time it was not because of war, insurgency or human rights violations, but because one of its newly built skyscrapers was on fire. The contrast between the war-torn Grozny of yesterday and the new Grozny of skyscrapers could not be more stark. So what has happened to Chechnya following the withdrawal of Russian troops?

by Yana Brovdiy

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Caught Between Two Giants: The Cyprus Debt Crisis

Nightmare for the EU: Is the Euro system collapsing? Photo: quapan on flickr.Panicos Demetriades, then professor of financial economics at the University of Leicester, said in mid-2011 that Cypriot banks have big business connections with Russia and warned that the problem with small Cyprus was that it could not afford to support such a large banking system. Today, Mr Demetriades is the governor of Central Bank of Cyprus and his warning became reality. For the last couple of weeks Cyprus has been trying to mend its economy and get much needed 17 billion Euro aid. In the end the Cypriot government got what it needed, but at the cost of closure of her second largest bank, social upheaval and deterioration of relations with its biggest business partner: Russia.

by Ali Acikgoz

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Whatever Happened to Mercy Towards the Rohingya?

The Rohingya are often referred to as the “Boat people” since many of them try to escape the persecution in Burma by boat. Photo: IPS on flickr.The Rohingya people not only suffer from oppression by the Burmese government, they are also systematically denied citizenship and subject to a number of different repressive restrictions. The country’s authorities have directly taken part in violence against this Muslim minority group, which lives in the state of Rakhine in Northwestern Burma. This mistreatment is why the Rohingya are frequently referred to as the Romani of Asia, as well as the most persecuted minority group in the world.

by Lovisa Klason, Karin Forser & Lisa Blidnert

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Freedom of the Press in Burma: En route to democracy?

Photo: Wikimedia commons.After decades of an authoritarian regime dominated by military rule, Burma has seemingly begun to reopen its doors and welcome democracy. Most notably these changes have been marked by constitutional reforms, the release of political prisoners, and visits from prominent political officials for the first time in decades, such as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011. However, even under a new constitution, the Burmese military is guaranteed a quarter of the seats in parliament and freedom of the press remains tied to policies from the 1960s.

by Sofia Murad

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A Permanent Lift for Burma?

Burma's President, Thein Sein, meets with with EU High Representative, Cathrine Ashton, in March 2013. Photo: EEAS on flickr.

Almost one year has passed since the EU decided to ease its sanctions on Burma for an initial period of twelve months. On April 22, a decision will be made concerning whether the sanctions, which had been in place for over twenty years, should be lifted permanently or whether they should remain suspended.

by Johanna Ringkvist

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The Forgotten Revolution of the Arab Spring

Protesters and the Pearl Monument. Photo: had the chance to speak with Sayed Mohamed, the human rights activist who was forced to flee Bahrain as a result of the violence and persecutions that followed after the revolution in 2011. With thousands of followers on Twitter and active participation in international conferences, Sayed is trying to inform a wider audience about the situation in Bahrain and the human rights violations that have been committed by the government.

by Yana Brovdiy

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Water and War

Women fetching water at the Pabbo IDP camp in Gulu, Uganda. Photo: John and Melanie (Illingworth) Kotsopoulos on flickr.2013 is the International Year of Water Cooperation. So, what are we celebrating? 783 million people around the world do not have access to clean water, and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. In addition, over 80% of wastewater worldwide is not collected or treated. To these humanitarian and environmental disasters can be added problems of geopolitical disagreement and potential water wars. These facts make one doubt an actual cause for celebration.   

by Edith Brodda Jansen

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The Keepers of the Currencies: Central Banks and the “Currency Wars”

One interpretation of recent US monetary policy. Image: Todd Benson, flickr

In spite of the national myths surrounding the virtues of a “strong currency”, great currencies like the US Dollar, the Pound Sterling and the Japanese Yen are falling in value. While the natural course of the 2007-08 economic crisis in these nations can certainly be blamed, eroding the value of currency has become a conscious decision by policy makers in central banks and is embraced by these countries’ governments. Alarmed emerging economies have accused these advanced countries of waging a covert currency war behind the veils of “quantitative easing” and “monetary stimulus.” Currency matters were even the subject of a recent G20 summit. But rather than a return to the destructive beggar-thy-neighbour currency policies of the 1930s, the new currency “wars” reflect the growing power of central banks and the changing ways in which they manage the economy.

by Scott Sutherland

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