CFR’s Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy (CSMD) Program highlights noteworthy events and articles each Friday in “This Week in Markets and Democracy.”
The Americas’ Refugee Crisis
As Europe struggles to absorb one million refugees this year alone, the United States is facing its own crisis. From October 2014 to September 2015, U.S. officials detained 80,000 people at the U.S.-Mexico border, mostly women and children from Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) where record homicide rates and forcible gang recruitment threaten daily life. A recent United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report documents the dangers women in particular face, including rape, assault, kidnapping, and extortion. Over the past year Mexico’s migrant detention rate doubled, leading the number of Central Americans reaching the U.S. to fall. Still, tens of thousands of migrants wait in the United States in prison-like facilities of questionable legality, given little if any help navigating the U.S. asylum process. Unlike the Europeans, who are debating how to equitably distribute refugees and manage flows, the U.S. government remains largely silent regarding its own humanitarian crisis.
Continued Impunity in Journalist Attacks
Monday’s International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalism memorialized over 1,000 journalists slain since 1992. Over this period the Committee to Protect Journalists counts Iraq, Syria, the Philippines, and Algeria as the deadliest countries for press. With conflicts escalating this year in Yemen and South Sudan, so too did the dangers for reporters; these two nations join Syria and Bangladesh among the top five most perilous places in the world to practice journalism in 2015. Local reporters account for the majority targeted, particularly when investigating corruption or challenging political authority in closed societies. Most attacks against the press go unpunished—only 7 percent of cases are resolved, and less than 10 percent are even investigated. One of the most egregious recent examples is the torture and murder of Mexican photojournalist Ruben Espinosa last summer, a case that remains unsolved.
Changes to the World Bank Doing Business Survey
The World Bank’s annual Doing Business report, released last week, now measures the quality and strength of judicial systems in scoring the business environment of 189 countries. In addition to measuring efficiency (time and cost) of resolving contract disputes—from filing cases to enforcing judgements—Doing Business added a “good judicial practices” index, looking at court structures, procedures, and whether cases are assigned randomly to avoid corruption. The 2016 report also factors in regulatory transparency in property transactions and electricity tariffs when considering the quality of reforms. Though country rankings changed only slightly with the revised methodology—Singapore ranked number one for the tenth straight year—the shift reflects an effort to incorporate the broader governance issues that affect companies and countries.
TPP Debate Begins
On Thursday President Obama notified Congress of his intent to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and released all thirty chapters of the trade pact between twelve countries, covering roughly 40 percent of global GDP. As set by terms of the trade promotion authority (TPA), or “fast-track” legislation passed last summer, the House and Senate now have ninety days to debate the TPP before taking an up-or-down vote. (CFR’s Jim Lindsay explains the voting procedure and TPA rules in detail.) After months of criticism of the TPP’s closed-door negotiations and speculation over more controversial provisions—on the environment, labor rights, and intellectual property (IP)—TPP proponents and detractors can now analyze what the U.S. may gain and lose from the deal.