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April 2021 Newsletter

It’s been a busy spring at the Global Research Institute. AidData published a groundbreaking report on Chinese loans, which was featured by more than 300 news organizations; three of those stories are included below. As we hit the 100-day mark of the Biden Administration, our researchers weighed in with advice and analysis: both Dr. Zvobgo’s commentary and a new TRIP snap poll about President Biden’s performance were featured in Foreign Policy Magazine (the latter is forthcoming). It’s also exciting to see this year’s Project on International Peace and Security Fellows finish work on their white papers, which they’ll present at the annual PIPS Symposium today, May 12, at 6:30pm with Dr. Fiona Hill serving as discussant.

Today I also write with gratitude for the support many of you provided on One Tribe One Day last month. It was the most successful OTOD on record for both GRI and for W&M as a whole – your contributions provide critical support for our student-faculty teams.

I look forward to seeing you in person again soon, preferably in the Burg. Come see us!

Best,
Mike

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In "How China Lends: A Rare Look into 100 Debt Contracts with Foreign Governments,”  AidData researchers obtained and analyzed 100 loan agreements between Chinese government institutions (and state-owned banks) and 24 low- and middle-income countries. Their research showed that Chinese loan contracts have unusual secrecy provisions, collateral requirements, and debt renegotiation restrictions. This path-breaking study was featured in more than 300 media stories, including pieces in The Economist, The Washington Post (AP wire), Bloomberg, and the Financial Times.

Read the AidData report now.
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International Justice Lab

Foreign Policy Magazine re-published "Put Racial Justice at Center of the Biden-Harris Transition Plan," in the spring 2021 print issue. IJL Fellows Alexandra Byrne and Bilen Zerie, and IJL Director Dr. Zvobgo draw on insights from their collaborative research to recommend what the new administration can learn from transitional justice in racially divided societies, of note South Africa.

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Teaching, Research, and International Policy Project

After 100 days in office, President Biden enjoys strong approval ratings among the public for his handling of foreign policy. But how do experts of international affairs assess his performance? In a forthcoming Foreign Policy article, researchers from the Teaching, Research, and International Policy Project report on the results of their latest snap poll, in which experts graded Biden’s performance.

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Africa Research Center

In a new Centre for the Study of African Economies working paper, Phil Roessler and co-authors report findings from one of the first large-scale experimental studies on women’s mobile phone ownership. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the research demonstrates the economic benefits of closing the mobile gender gap—in particular, the transformative impact of smartphone technology—but these gains were attenuated by many women not retaining their handsets.

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Project on International Peace and Security

This year, PIPS Fellows wrote white papers on topics as diverse as China’s exploitative fishing in the Gulf of Guinea, the role of local deliberative forums in combating affective political polarization, how Russia exports patriotic military education to post-Soviet youth, and more. On May 12, they will present their research in an event featuring discussant Fiona Hill.

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AidData

A new study, published by AidData researchers in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, helps determine whether local development slows or hastens environmental degradation in the developing world. It evaluates how a massive local infrastructure program in Cambodia impacted deforestation, finding that the projects did not lead to environmental degradation.

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Ignite

In a new Health Policy and Planning journal article, undergraduate Ignite research assistants Morgan Pincombe ’21 and Victoria Reese ‘20 and Ignite Director Carrie Dolan evaluate the effectiveness of national-level containment and closure policies in 113 countries. In their analysis, they found that contextually inappropriate policies may exacerbate poverty and cause unnecessary death.

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Global Cities and Digital Democracies Initiative

Working with Dr. Tanu Kumar, a GRI Post-Doctoral Fellow for Academic Diversity who works with both AidData and the Center for African Development, student researchers assessed complaint and response data from the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai as part of the “Global Cities and Digital Democracies Initiative,” observing key disparities in how the government addressed a range of issues.

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Africa Research Center

More than 100 members of the W&M community spent a Saturday in April attending the virtual, inaugural Africa Network Conference (ANC) hosted by the Africa Research Center (ARC). ARC Co-Director Phil Roessler and Shanda Cooper '06 co-convened the conference with students Redeit Hailu ’24 and Mayada Hassan ’22, who bring life to the student perspective in a new blog post.

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DisinfoLab

In a blog post published earlier this month, Megan Hogan '21 and Thomas Plant '22 share the mission and activities of DisinfoLab, which received support through a GRI funding window dedicated to supporting innovative student research ideas. Through DisinfoLab, Hogan and Plant aim to improve nationwide media literacy rates and to expose false, dangerous, and malicious information online.

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Blockchain Lab

A recent event about NFTs, hosted by the Blockchain Lab, is now available online. The event featured guest speakers Aftab Hossain '03, MPP '05 and Daniel Payne '06 and included a robust discussion of NFTs. Watch the video linked below to learn more about why non-fungible tokens matter and dive deeper than recent headlines about digital art selling for millions.

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American Bosnian Collaboration Project

Amelia Grossman '22 shared her perspective about the ABC Project's pivot to remote programming in a W&M blog: "Even when we go back in person, we’re going to try to have a remote delivery in our summer camps for Bosnian children...We want to try to make sure that we expand our offerings to people living all over Bosnia and Herzegovina and...be more accessible.”

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International Justice Lab

Dr. Zvobgo coauthored an article in The Washington Post with USC colleague Kyle Rapp on President Joe Biden's reversal of Trump-era sanctions on International Criminal Court officials. In the piece, they address why ICC personnel were sanctioned in the first place, how the international community responded, and what the change in policy means for U.S.-ICC relations.