The Week That Was: Global News in Review

Foreign Policy Brief #89 | By: Ibrahim Castro | August 29, 2023

Photo taken from: cbc.ca

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Building BRICS

Last week, BRICS, a bloc of top emerging economies, which include Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, took a major step in expanding their influence and global reach with the announcement that six more nations have been welcomed as new members. Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been invited to join the grouping of top emerging economies in January 2024. Collectively the bloc makes up around 32% of global GDP, and that is before the expansion took place. The bloc was formed in 2009 and previously said it was seeking to grow a stronger coalition of developing nations who can better represent the interests of the Global South on the world’s stage. Before the start of its annual summit in South Africa this week, more than 40 countries had expressed interest in joining BRICS, and 23 formally applied to join. Yet of the six that were invited to join it is hard to find commonalities with those selected, the best and most likely explanation is that they are geostrategic choices for the bloc. The block has expressed its intention to challenge Western hegemony and its expansion appears in-line with its global ambitions.

Guatemala’s Presidential Election

Guatemalan’s took to the polls on Sunday in an unexpected election in which  progressive Semilla party candidate, Bernardo Arevalo, was elected as the next President of the most populous Central American nation. Arevalo rapidly gained support appealing to widespread public discontent with crime and corruption, promising to tackle malnutrition, and bring growth to a country that has one of the highest levels of inequality in the region. The Electoral Observation Mission of Guatemala observed the elections over the weekend and reported no irregularities. Yet on Monday, after fears of possible election tampering, the country’s electoral registry suspended the Semilla party to which Arevalo belongs. Though it appears he will be able to take office as president on Jan. 14,2024, it is not clear whether his Semilla party lawmakers would be able to take their seats in the country’s Congress. The Organization of American States’ human rights commission asked that the current Guatemalan government provide protection for Arévalo after reports emerged of a possible plot to kill him and UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concern about the attempts to undermine the results of Guatemala’s presidential election.

Japan releases Fukushima power plant water into the Pacific Ocean

Japan has started releasing treated radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean. The plant was destroyed in 2011 after an earthquake and massive tsunami struck the Island nation, and water used to cool the plants reactors from a meltdown has been accumulating ever since. Currently, some 350 million gallons are being stored in more than 1,000 tanks according to Japanese authorities. A review by the UN’s nuclear watchdog says the discharge will have no great radiological impact to people and the environment, yet still surrounding nations and the Japanese public remain concerned. The government has been working on a complex filtration system that removes most of the radioactive isotopes from the water. Known as the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), it can remove several different radioactive contaminants from the water. but there’s a radioactive isotope that they cannot filter out: tritium. Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen, and hydrogen is part of the water itself (H20). So it is impossible to create a filter that could remove the tritium. Still the International Atomic Energy Agency has peer reviewed this plan and believes it is consistent with international safety standards. 

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