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PIPS Fellows 2012-2013

Michael AikenMichael Aiken
The Promise of Sack Farming: Promoting Urban Agriculture to Address Food Insecurity in West Africa

White Paper (pdf)

Deteriorating food security threatens to destabilize West African democracies by inciting anti-government violence and civil unrest, similar to recent food riots in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. In response, the United States should promote sack farming—an emerging form of urban agriculture—in poor, densely populated areas that are most susceptible to food insecurity. By growing seedlings in large sacks filled with soil, sack farming’s innovative use of vertical space will increase food security for slum populations, lowering the risk of food riots.

In an age of austerity, sack farming gives the United States a new tool to address the issue of food insecurity in a practical, economical, and sustainable way. By promoting this practice in the most vulnerable urban areas, the United States will assist West African democracies in becoming more stable by mitigating chronic food insecurity. This report recommends Ghana as the ideal test case to demonstrate the promise of sack farming, with the ultimate goal of encouraging the widespread practice of urban agriculture in other African countries.

Madeline De SimoneMadeleine De Simone
On the Forecast: Easing Tensions over Hydraulic Power along the Mekong

White Paper (pdf)

Dam construction along the Mekong River is generating upstream-downstream tension between riparian neighbors in Southeast Asia. The viability of proposed mainstream, run-of-the-river dams in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam depends on the release of water from Chinese reservoir dams. China’s potential unwillingness to release sufficient water from the dams threatens the livelihoods of millions by damaging the utility of downstream dams and altering the river’s ecology.

This report proposes an expansion of Forecast Mekong, a recent climate-modeling tool established by the U.S. Department of State’s Lower Mekong Initiative. To date, China has been reluctant to provide information on the operation of their dams. An expanded Forecast Mekong, however, would provide estimates on the impact of Chinese dam operation and water management to downstream neighbors.  Such estimates will increase the transparency of Chinese water usage and provide downstream states with a valuable tool for pressuring Beijing to cooperate.

Libby Hennemuth

Elizabeth Hennemuth
Unintended Consequences: Considering Mexico’s Stability when Designing U.S. Immigration Reform

White Paper (pdf)

Despite its many positive effects, U.S. comprehensive immigration reform has the potential to unintentionally undermine Mexico’s long-term stability by increasing middle-class Mexican immigration to the United States. As current and future technocrats, entrepreneurs, and skilled laborers seek safety and prosperity in the United States, they will create a leadership deficit in a society struggling to enact its own institutional reforms. This brain drain also will limit job creation in Mexico.  Moreover, middle-class migrants are less likely to send remittances, contrary to the expectations of the Mexican government. This paper highlights the potential effects of proposed immigration reforms on Mexico’s political and economic stability so that policymakers can take these factors into account when formulating and responding to changes in U.S. immigration policy.

Robert Marty

Robert Marty
Climate Change and Disease-Induced Instability: Challenges and Opportunities

White Paper (pdf)

Global climate change will alter and amplify disease trends due to rising temperatures, new rainfall patterns, ecological disturbances, and increasingly severe weather events. This increased health burden threatens stability in developing states as worsening health conditions overwhelm existing health infrastructure, stunt economic growth, and cause greater sectarian conflict.

This report identifies emerging hotspots of disease-related instability in sub-Saharan Africa. Among the hotspots, East Africa is uniquely positioned to prepare for the looming health challenges. Recent natural gas discoveries along the East African coast can provide the necessary funding to launch and build public health initiatives and infrastructure. The international community should partner with states benefiting from natural gas discoveries to ensure funds are effectively invested in public health sectors.

David NewbranderDavid Newbrander
Special Economic Zones in Algeria: Promoting Growth and Mitigating Economic Instability

White Paper (pdf)

Algeria’s high youth unemployment rate, reliance on hydrocarbon exports, and unattractive business climate are sources of economic instability. These factors increase regional political instability, incentivize migration to Europe, and heighten the potential for radicalization of the population. Special economic zones (SEZs) allow for incremental economic liberalization without risking political instability. This report argues that Algeria should create a hybrid export processing zone, a type of SEZ focused on private sector investment, in the Armez region to promote job creation, diversify the economy, and attract foreign investment. Such a zone would reduce Algeria’s vulnerability to economically motivated civil unrest that has the potential to erupt into civil war.

Wesley Stukenbroeker

Wesley Stukenbroeker
Information-Based Public Outreach: Winning the Pacific in an Era of Austerity

White Paper (pdf)

China’s rise highlights the importance of maintaining U.S. influence and strategic access in the Asia-Pacific region. With a shrinking budget, however, the U.S. Department of Defense faces a dilemma: reduce public humanitarian assistance or divert scarce resources from other programs to pay for outreach efforts.

This report introduces Information-Based Public Outreach, a third option in which the U.S. military leverages its expertise in information technology to provide low-cost public goods to the Asia-Pacific region. For example, the U.S. Air Force could provide cell sites and wireless internet pods mounted on unmanned aerial vehicles in the initial days of disaster relief operations to enable communication among locals, government officials, and international relief organizations. Such technology provides an inexpensive alternative to traditional disaster relief, while also building goodwill and partner capacity in the Asia-Pacific region.