• Research Briefing

    North Korea: domestic developments during Kim Jong-Un’s first year in power

    This note briefly surveys domestic developments in North Korea since the death of Kim Jong-Il in December 2011 and the succession of his son, Kim Jong-Un. The nuclear issue is referred to only in passing. Insofar as we can know, Kim Jong-Un appears to have consolidated power smoothly and quickly. There are signs that the new leadership wants to shift from a 'Military First' to a 'People First' policy, which will involve economic reform measures. However, there are no real signs yet of an improvement on human rights.

  • Research Briefing

    China: new political directions under a new leadership?

    A new Chinese leadership is about to take power at the National People’s Congress, which begins on 5 March. Xi Jinping will take on the role of President, while Li Keqiang will become Premier. The succession of the 'fifth generation' of Communist leaders appeared to have been destabilised during 2012 following the fall of Bo Xilai, but in the end has gone relatively smoothly. Commentators are now focused on whether and, if so, how Xi and Li will change China's political course. This note surveys some of the views being expressed on this issue.

  • Research Briefing

    Justice and Security Bill [HL] Committee Stage Report

    This paper has been produced following the Committee Stage of the Justice and Security Bill in the House of Commons, which took place between 29 January and 7 February 2013. The Bill, which has proved contentious, was originally introduced in the House of Lords on 28 May 2012. It is aimed at modernising and strengthening the oversight of the intelligence and security services and would allow the civil courts to use ‘closed material procedures’ to hear sensitive evidence in cases that raised national security concerns. It would also preclude the courts from ordering the disclosure of sensitive information in certain circumstances. The Bill was revised significantly in the Lords and was introduced in the House of Commons on 28 November 2012. Second Reading took place on 18 December 2012. A number of noteworthy and controversial amendments were made to the Bill in Committee.

  • Research Briefing

    In brief: Malawi under President Joyce Banda

    Joyce Banda became Malawi's president in turbulent circumstances in April 2012 and since then has sought to build domestic support and win back previously alienated Western donors through an economic and political reform programme. While she has had some successes, there is currently growing public discontent about the economy and her political position is still vulnerable. Her prospects in the 2014 elections are uncertain.

  • Research Briefing

    Southeast Asia: an update

    The political and economic profile of Southeast Asia as a region continues to rise. The UK is scaling up its engagement with the region. This briefing provides country snapshots of the main events in six of the countries in the region since the start of 2012 and also looks at significant developments over the past year or so in the UK’s relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its member states.

  • Research Briefing

    In brief: North Korea and the nuclear issue one year on from the succession

    After a failed ballistic missile launch by North Korea in April 2012, an apparently more successful one took place in December, characterized at the time by the regime as a satellite launch. The UN Security Council passed a resolution further toughening sanctions. North Korea has responded to the new sanctions with its customary threatening rhetoric and has announced that it is preparing to conduct a third nuclear weapon test, following on from those undertaken in 2006 and 2009. This note surveys the state of play on the nuclear issue in the light of internal developments in North Korea, where Kim Jon-Un appears to have consolidated his power.

  • Research Briefing

    Antarctic Bill – Committee Stage

    The Antarctic Bill is presented as a Private Member’s Bill by Neil Carmichael MP. This note sets out the issues discussed in the Bill Committee on 21 November 2012. These included: the timing of the enactment of the provisions relating to the liability annex, compatibility with existing shipping liability provisions, and the wider issue of the future of the British Antarctic Survey.

  • Research Briefing

    The Turks and Caicos Islands

    This note briefly reviews the crisis of political and economic governance which has affected the Turks and Caicos Islands since 2008. A period of direct rule came to an end when fresh elections were held in November 2012. Only time will tell whether the Turks and Caicos Islands are now set on a new course – and, if so, what that course is.

  • Research Briefing

    Large-scale land acquisitions in developing countries – camouflage for ‘land grabbing’?

    Oxfam has launched a campaign on the issue of ‘land-grabbing’ – or what others would call ‘large-scale land acquisitions’ – in developing countries around the world, including by foreign governments or companies, with the World Bank primarily in its sights. This note is a brief introduction to the debate, current multilateral initiatives on the issue and the stance of the UK Government.

  • Research Briefing

    Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war

    Sri Lanka's civil war ended in May 2009. Since then President Mohinda Rajapakse has consolidated his power at home but has been unable to shake off international controversy about alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by the security forces during the final phase of the conflict. There are also grave doubts about whether the govermment is willing to promote the kind of regional autonomy that many observers believe is essential to avoiding renewed conflict in the longer-term.

  • Research Briefing

    Kenya since the 2007/08 crisis

    This note reviews major political developments since the 2007/08 crisis, whose legacies Kenya is still struggling to overcome. Elections are scheduled for March 2013 but two of the candidates seeking high office - Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto - are due to stand trial at the International Criminal Court in the following month. Meanwhile, Kenyan troops have now been in southern Somalia for over a year and helped re-take the strategic port of Kismayo in September 2012. But there remains uncertainty about Kenya's objectives in Somalia.