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"International Affairs - Analysis and Reflections" offers insights into topics and current events in international affairs. The main fields of focus are Sustainable Development, Microfinance, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Peace and Security Studies. Regions/Countries of focus are Latin America (particularly Colombia) and Europe (Switzerland, Spain).

For suggestions, comments or questions, feel free to drop a line at: intlaffairsblog@gmail.com


Essay: An Analysis of Colombia’s Democracy


See my essay “An Analysis of Colombia’s Democracy” from November 2008 published on e-International Relations.

This paper focuses on the question whether the emergence of democracy in Colombia can be explained based on the assumptions of the ‘sequentialist’ or ‘preconditionist’ theories as suggested, amongst many others, by Fareed Zakaria or Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder, or if, by contrast, the views of ‘gradualists’ or ‘universalists’ such as Sheri Berman or Thomas Carothers are more indicated to explain and analyze Colombia’s democratic past, present and future.


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Colombian Elections – Antanas Mockus Gaining Ground


Image by ojovisor (found on Flickr.com)

Antanas Mockus

At the end of my post Sweet Sour Colombian Democracy from March 23rd I mentioned that Noemí Sanín, the Conservative Party presidential candidate, can “count on a solid popular support and will certainly challenge Santos in May’s elections”. Well, the situation has now changed significantly in the last few days. Since Antanas Mockus, the Green Party’s presidential candidate and a very popular former mayor of Bogotá, joined forces with Sergio Fajardo, his candidacy is gaining ground and has overtaken Sanín, according to the latest polls. Fajardo, a former mayor of Colombia’s second largest city Medellín, was presidential candidate himself, but now agreed to join Mockus as his candidate for vice-presidency after the polls gave him little hope for success. While the “independent ticket” Mockus/Fajardo is very popular in their respective cities, they are rather “unknown” outside of these. If they make it to the second round, mobilizing support outside Bogotá and Medellín will be their major challenge. They can count on considerable support from young people and students, but they need to mobilize also other strata of the population in order to be a serious presidential contender.
Read more…

From Cuba to Prague, or Walking the Talk


Image by RobbertjanR (found on Flickr.com)

Khrushchev and Kennedy

Nearly half a century has passed since the events of October/November 1962, today known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. This crisis, arguably the most dangerous one of the Cold War, was unleashed when US reconnaissance flights revealed that the Soviet Union was deploying ballistic missiles, military equipment and personnel to Cuba. President Kennedy, interested in de-escalating the crisis rather than in provoking a war, opted for a well-employed coercive diplomacy as the answer to the observed developments on Cuba. While avoiding to give the Soviets a clear deadline for withdrawing the missiles, he imposed a naval blockade on the island and at the same time mobilized U.S. military forces to a higher readiness degree. This was a clear signal from Kennedy to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev indicating that the United States’ priority was a de-escalation of the crisis.

Image by Mika V. Stetsovski (found on Flickr.com)

Obama and Medvedev

The Cuban Missile Crisis marked a “negative milestone”, as it probably was one of the moments of highest tensions during the entire Cold War. Today, almost fifty years later, signing the U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Pact can be seen as an important milestone or as a small step: A milestone, because it banishes the ghosts of the Cold War and heralds a new era in U.S.-Russian relations. A small step, because there’s still a long way to go before reaching the goal of “a world without nuclear weapons” as called for by Obama exactly one year ago in Prague—the same place as today’s nevertheless historic event. But the good news is that he is walking the talk. During his Nobel Prize speech, Obama said that he viewed the award as “a call to action” rather than as a recognition of his accomplishments. He has followed that call, and while he received the prize mainly for his discourse, he has now made a further step towards deserving it for his actions.


Image Khrushchev/Kennedy: © RobbertjanR (found on Flickr.com)
Image Obama/Medvedev: © Mika V. Stetsovski (found on Flickr.com)


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Microfinance as an Instrument for Conflict Prevention?

March 31, 2010 7 comments

Image by Antonio Olmos / HelpAge International (found on Flickr.com)

Microfinance is nowadays widely recognized as a powerful tool for combating global poverty by giving micro-entrepreneurs access to small loans and other financial services to which they usually would not have access. Investing in grassroots efforts like microfinancial services unfolds an invaluable potential of innovation and empowers the people at the bottom of the pyramid to work out of chronic poverty and to sustainably transform their and their families’ lives. Poverty often is the result of violent conflicts, which disrupt economic activity, severely impact social and political structures, and deteriorate the quality of life of civilians. As such, microfinance can also be considered an effective instrument for post-conflict reconstruction. Extensive research has been done on these topics, and there is a huge variety of literature.

However, there’s an area which I regard as interesting but where I have not found much information, namely whether there is a potential for microfinance as a conflict prevention instrument. This is obviously a hard question to answer, since it is difficult to analyze whether specific pre-conflict settings would actually have led to a conflict situation, had there not been microfinancial activities. Further, in order to analyze this question in more detail, many aspects would have to be considered, such as the type of the potential conflict (i.e. is it likely to be an ethnic conflict, a “social grievance” conflict, etc.) or the risks for microfinance institutions (MFI’s) to operate in such pre-conflict environments. For the purpose of this post, however, I will concentrate on some brief reflections on a rather general level, i.e. looking at the economic causes of civil conflict as defined by Paul Collier[1], and how microfinance could potentially address these issues before the violent conflict breaks out. Read more…

Sweet Sour Colombian Democracy


Image by Arnaud Carlos Andrès Vittet (found on Flickr.com)

Democracy has had a hard time in the past few years in some parts of Latin America. In Venezuela, Hugo Chávez has turned a once liberal democracy into an electoral autocracy. Various constitutional reforms undertaken since he took power in 1999 almost guarantee him a de facto presidency for life. Followers of his “21st Century Socialism” in the region, such as Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua or Rafael Correa in Ecuador, seem to have similar goals of perpetuation of power. In the case of Colombia, President Uribe’s intention of running for a third term, which is not provided for under the current constitution and therefore would require a constitutional change to be approved by popular referendum, was widely criticized. It was seen as yet another attempt of a Latin American head of state—although of opposed ideological convictions with regards to the proponents of Chávez’ “Bolivarian Revolution”—to concentrate too much power in too few hands. But Colombia, a country with strong democratic traditions[1], has once again proven to be a democracy with functioning institutions and separation of powers. The constitutional court turned down a law, which would have allowed a popular referendum about the possibility for President Uribe to run for a third consecutive term, as being unconstitutional.

Throughout his two terms (2002-2006 and 2006-2010), Uribe has enjoyed an overwhelming popularity of around 70% amongst the Colombian population—a unique figure among its Latin American neighbours, attributable to the Colombian society’s fatigue with regards to the high rates of kidnappings and homicides, as well as to the failed peace talks with the FARC during Andrés Pastrana’s government. And would he have the opportunity to run for a third term, he would most certainly win the elections. But Uribe, despite his known aspirations to be re-elected a second time and in an act of democratic statesmanship, immediately said to accept and respect the decision of the constitutional court. Read more…

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Welcome to the “International Affairs – Analysis and Reflections” Blog


Welcome to my blog. This site will be used for analysis and reflections on topics I am particularly interested in with regards to international affairs.