Updated: May 11, 2020
1. Jamaica’s first catastrophe bond delayed by Covid-19 uncertainty
Dr. Nigel Clarke, Jamaica’s Minister of Finance and the Public Service, explained last week that due to the financial pressures of Covid-19, Jamaica’s hopes to have a more robust disaster risk insurance scheme in place for the 2020 hurricane season appear to have been dashed. The Caribbean region as a whole struggle to access adequate disaster insurance due to a combination of relatively weak economies and the high likelihood of disasters in the region. Despite this, Jamaica was making strong progress in disaster risk financing, accessing financial instruments from the UK, Germany and the US through the Green Climate Fund and the USAID. Whilst Jamaica had hoped to issue their first catastrophe bond imminently, with the World Bank acting as their placement agent, this will now no longer take place. This highlights the stark reality of the difficulties the Caribbean faces not only from disasters themselves, but the financial troubles they create and serves as a reminder that ‘insecurity’ can come from many sources. The Commonwealth Security Group in conversation with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (The 5Cs) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) will explore this topic further in the forthcoming Commonwealth Security Review 2020.
2. Military airstrike destroys Boko Haram’s logistics base in Borno
The Nigerian government scored a victory in their on-going struggle with the terrorist group Boko Haram in the country's north-easterly Borno state. On April 30th, Airstrikes on the Parisu area of the Sambisa forest destroyed a logistics facility used by the group as well as neutralising some jihadists. This represents a success on the military front of Nigeria’s fight against terrorism amid renewed hope that the Nigerian government can further suppress the threat of insurgency in the north of the country. Efforts to tackle the threat posed by Boko Haram and ISWAP in the wider region continue to require cross-border coordination, and where necessary international support. This support should include both military cooperation and civil engagement to tackle the driving forces behind the insurgency.
3. In the Commonwealth neighbourhood, trouble appears to be growing as peace is threatened by new fighting in South Sudan
Various forces have clashed this week in South Sudan, which is seeking to maintain a country-wide ceasefire. The February 2020 ceasfire and peace agreement is threatened as an armed opposition group known as the National Salvation Front led by Thomas Cirilo, formerly a high ranking army figure, clashed with the South Sudan People’s Defence forces (a militia) as well as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (government forces). This is the latest flare up in a series of skirmishes between various armed groups in the country and despite strong efforts to maintain the ceasefire, conflict appears to be intractable.
CSG Comment: South Sudan is an aspiring Commonwealth member. The country shares historical ties with the Commonwealth and borders Kenya and Uganda. In the forthcoming Commonwealth Security Review 2020, CSG will explore what Commonwealth membership would mean for South Sudan, and how the Commonwealth community can support efforts to hold the peace, and set the conditions for South Sudan to flourish.
4. Heavy rainfall sees flooding in East Africa
Heavy rains in Kenya have caused the rivers Nzoia and Tana to burst their banks, causing dangerous flooding. So far, the floods have claimed 194 lives. As waters in dams across the country rise to unprecedented and dangerous levels Kenyans who live near the rivers are being advised to move by the government. In some instances, those who are refusing to move are being relocated forcefully. Similarly, in Uganda the rivers Nyamwaba, Mubuku and Nyamugasani burst their banks. Key infrastructure like bridges and electricity plants have been put out of action.
CSG Comment: The severe weather and flooding in East Africa is a timely reminder that although global security efforts are rightly focused on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, cimatic security challenges continue unabated and require effective disaster and emergency management. The Commonwealth community is well placed to learn from the experiences of one another, support capacity development, and help ensure effective communication. The Commonwealth Security Group has teamed up with The Environmental Design Studio to help identify practical measures to improve flood resilience. Contact us for more information.
After a tense showdown in late April off of Malaysia’s Borneo coast involving China, the United States and another key Commonwealth Nation, Australia, the Chinese navy continues to flex its muscles in Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone. The Chinese ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and a posse of smaller vessels are sailing close to the West Capella, a drillship chartered to Petronas, Malaysia’s state-owned oil company. Intent on using its considerable naval power to coerce Southeast Asian littoral states into accepting joint energy development projects China’s increasing naval presence in the Pacific concerns many regional governments.
CSG Comment: Growing competition in the Indo-Pacific region emphasises the need for the reinforcement of the rules based system. Robust cooperation across allies and friendly nations is vital to ensuring national sovereignty and regional stability, while all the time engaging peaceably and in good faith with all regional actors. The first Commonwealth Maritime Security Dialogue, held in October 2019 by CSG and India's National Maritime Foundation, highlighted the breadth of opportunities for deeper cooperation in the maritime domain, particularly in disaster management, the Blue Economy, and the international rules based system. Defence relations in the region could also be expanded. The Five Powers Defence Arrangement (FPDA) is an example of a framework under which wider Commonwealth engagement could be based.
Australia, with a population of 25 million, has had just over 6,000 infections, and 50 deaths. New Zealand, a country of 5 million people, has had 1,200 infections and so far only one death from Covid-19. Unlike many other nations, both countries shut down their borders very quickly, with New Zealand doing so on the 18th of March and Australia following suit the next day. As well as this, both countries were early to impose strict police enforced ‘lockdowns’ which prevented people from going outside other than for essential reasons and socially distanced exercise. Whilst both countries had the obvious advantage of being well-developed island nations with a low population density, the decisive actions of their governments to combat the virus should serve as an example of best practice should second waves of the virus appear.
CSG Comment: It is too early in the global campaign against COVID-19 to declare victory or defeat in any corner of the Commonwealth. But through experience we can better understand which methods appear most effective at stopping the contagion. Commonwealth countries should study the actions taken in Australia and New Zealand and explore how the lessons learned from their early successes can be replicated in their own countries, and applied to their very own and often very unique societal circumstances.