• Research Briefing

    The Arms Trade Treaty

    A legally binding Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 2 April 2013. It provides, for the first time, an international legal and regulatory framework for the arms trade based on respect for international law and human rights. The UK ratified the treaty on 2 April 2014. Primary legislation was not required for ratification but secondary legislation was amended and the UK’s Consolidated Criteria, which are the basis upon which official decisions are made about whether to approve licence applications for arms exports, were updated. The treaty enters into force on 24 December 2014

  • Research Briefing

    Malaysia: the ruling coalition strikes back

    In May 2013 elections, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, led by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, won a majority of seats in parliament despite gaining only 47% of the vote. With his leadership under significant threat within UMNO, the dominant Malay party within the BN, since the 2013 elections Najib has launched a campaign of harassment of the political opposition and a focused anew on affirmative action for Malays. Longstanding sodomy charges have been revived against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Najib's reforming credentials currently look threadbare.

  • Research Briefing

    Universal suffrage to elect the next Chief Executive of Hong Kong in 2017: a legal primer

    In August 2014 the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People’s Congress decided that the next Chief Executive of Hong Kong should be directly elected in 2017 by universal suffrage. However, the candidates (expected to be two or three in total) will still have to be approved in advance by a nominating committee, whose composition and method of formation will remain unchanged from that of the 1200-person strong ‘Election Committee’ which elected the current Chief Executive in 2012. Critics argue that this nominating committee will have an in-built ‘pro-Beijing’ bias. The decision has triggered a wave of protest. This briefing summarises the legal context of recent events, including the UK's own obligations.

  • Research Briefing

    Somalia – President Mohamud on the back foot while al-Shabaab attacks continue

    A few days ago, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared that Somalia was once again in a “political crisis”. In May, UN Special Envoy to Somalia, Nicholas Kay, said that Somalia is approaching “a danger zone”. For the first year or so after President Mohamud took office in September 2012, Western supporters of the Government put a positive spin on his performance. However, there is a growing sense that President Mohamud’s government is not turning out to be the fresh start that Somalia needed. Al-Shabaab has suffered important military reverses since President Mohamud took office and is now focusing increasingly on launching regular violent attacks on government-held areas, including Mogadishu, where security has declined markedly recently. It has also increased its attacks in neighbouring Kenya, which sent troops into southern Somalia in 2011.

  • Research Briefing

    Nigeria: Boko Haram’s insurgency

    In the northeast of Nigeria, an Islamist terrorist insurgency continues to rage. At the head of the insurgency is Boko Haram, which calls for the introduction of Sharia law and an Islamic state across the whole of Nigeria. There has been a state of emergency in the three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa since mid-2013. Well over 2000 people are estimated to have died in attacks by the group since the beginning of 2014.The Nigerian authorities have been heavily criticised both at home and abroad for their ineffective response to the crisis. Outrage in Western countries following the kidnapping in April of about 270 schoolgirls in Borno state has led the UK, US and French governments to make offers of assistance to the Nigerian authorities despite the poor human rights record of the security forces.

  • Research Briefing

    The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition

    US President Obama launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition at the May 2012 G8 summit at Camp David. It aims to address years of underinvestment in agriculture, and to meet the financing gap for global food security, in order to help pull 50 million people out of chronic poverty over 10 years. Critics of the New Alliance question whether it will help poor farmers. and charge that the New Alliance represents a “new form of colonialism”. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) supports the scheme and has committed £600 million to it.

  • Research Briefing

    A ‘democratic asteroid’: India’s elections

    As so often in the past, India’s electorate has sprung a surprise. The count on 16 May gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its presidential candidate, 62 year-old Narendra Modi, a convincing victory in the elections to India’s lower house, the Lok Sabha. On a 66.38% turnout, the BJP won a majority of the seats – the first party to do so since 1984. Author and academic Sunil Khilnani described the outcome as “a democratic asteroid.” For the Congress Party, the result is a disaster.

  • Research Briefing

    South Africa’s elections: no change?

    On 7 May 2014, South Africa held its fifth national and provincial elections since the end of Apartheid. The African National Congress (ANC) triumphed once again, winning 62.15% of the vote - down 3.75% on its tally in 2009. The Democratic Alliance came second with 22.13%. - up 7.57% on 2009. But while there was no big opposition breakthrough, the ruling party cannot rest on its laurels - not least in Gauteng Province, the country's economic power-house, where its vote fell by over 10% to 53.59%. Debate also continues about creating a labour party to the left of the ANC.