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For the November Current Affairs Competition, the Academic Review Board invites all Project Firefly members to suggest a featured topic.
Which topic do you perceive as being highly relevant? Share your thoughts and reasoning in a short statement, and we'll forward your ideas to the ARB for selection on Thursday, Oct 29 at 5pm CET. 

The chosen topic will be presented as developed by you in collaboration with the Academic Review Board!


Russian intervention in Syria: motives and consequences

The topic is arguably of greatest importance in the unfolding mess called Middle East. The intervention is crucial for several reasons: potential conflict with NATO and Arab forces, America's response to the intervention (whether there will be accelerated support to pro-US rebels), Russia's ultimate motive behind the intervention (besides protection of Russian naval bases, whether it is to save Assad or to ensure a safe passage for him), impact on ISIS, Russia's ability to meet its intended goals.

1. TTP & TTIP - Current Negotiations & Predictions
- As information on both trade policies trickles out, the number of both supporters and detractors for each has increased exponentially. Some see the lack of transparency in negotiations as a tactic to deceive citizens, others argue that keeping these negotiations secret before an official draft has been released is a necessary part of policy-making. Similar points of contention exist when debating the potential repercussions for the environment, intellectual property, the power of corporations and their relationship to foreign countries, etc. Possible topics for discussion could include arguments for or against any of the above points (or on the agreements as a whole), a prediction of global socioeconomic effects that could arise from the passage of one or both agreements, the similarities and differences between the two agreements, the roles and interests of each involved nation, or a host of other topics related to trade (particularly free trade and protectionism) and/or economic policy.

2. China's Increasing Role in the UN Millennium Development Goals
- In a September address to a UN summit on development goals, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged that his country would absolve the debts to China of several of the world's least developed nations, donate $2B to developing countries (a figure that Jinping hopes to increase sixfold by 2030), and engage in a host of other major strategies to help alleviate global poverty. The US is currently the leader in foreign development assistance, donating $32 billion last year, but China may give the US a run for its money as its power grows internationally. Possible topics for discussion could include the progress and feasibility of the Millennium Development Goals themselves, the impact of President Jinping's pledges on China's international standing as an emerging superpower as it takes on greater global responsibility, Chinese strategies to spur economic development in some of the least developed nations, or the role these strategies play in strengthening China's own economy and foreign relations power.

Benjamin, I also really like these topics for coming months, particularly TTP and TTIP.

I think a predication of the socioeconomic effects in the US that might arise from the passage of one or both of these agreements, and lessons learned from NAFTA, would also make for an interesting discussion topic.

Seconding Prabhat Singh

Suggested topic for November - Russia's engagement in Syria: What are President Vladimir Putin's motivations and what might the consequences of his strategy be?

I think that this topic is highly relevant and would be a good one for November because President Putin's strategy is likely to have near-term consequences for the Assad regime, rebels supported by the United States, the US itself, Islamic State, NATO and Arab forces, continental Europe, people from the Middle East migrating to continental Europe, and oil exporting countries in the Middle East looking to ensure their continued prosperity. Surely President Putin has a larger plan than the simple protection of Russia's physical assets in Syria and the Middle East.

Questions that contributors might address independently or in combination:
-Is President Putin seeking to establish a de facto puppet government in Syria?
-Is President Putin looking to humiliate the US by doing what President Barack Obama couldn't in the way of Islamic State and the Syrian Civil War?
-Is President Putin looking to keep the EU busy with the real security and economic challenges of mass immigration in order to shift diplomatic resources away from Russia's annexation of Ukraine and compel the EU to negotiate?
-Is President Putin looking to position Russia, and himself, as the hero that quashed IS and returned the Middle East to relative stability?
-Is President Putin looking to lay a foundation for a Russia-Middle East oil exporting block?

The following comment was written on 8th September, after the debate because of the published photos with Aylan
A Geopolitical Glance on Syria
After so many years of war and increasing number of refugees (around three millions), do we wonder which is the reason behind this? Or in other words, why we focus only on the effects (e.g. photographs with Aylan) and not on the real causes?
In Syria we have just three wars in one, a Civil War, a Cold War and a Holy War, so we are talking about a war on three geographical levels - local - regional and international.
Civil War: Between Rebel Forces, who are Sunis Muslims & the Loyalist Forces (Assad supporters), who are Shiites Muslims. For those who do not know, the above distinction is the main one within Islam and maybe that perpetuates the whole situation.
After the Civil War, then we have also a Cold War, since the "Big Players" entered the “game”. This Cold War takes places between the USA-EU & Russia-China. USA-EU support the Rebel Forces and the "Syrian National Coalition" opposed to Assad. But USA does not agree with a military invasion of Syria. On the other hand, Russia supports Assad due to economic, but also geopolitical interests (the port of Tartus is the only exodus of Russia in the Mediterranean Sea).
Finally, we have a Holy War between Saudi Arabia-Qatar - Kuwait & Iran, with the first group that supplies Rebel Forces with weapons and Iran that supports Assad with money and weapons.
So, it is more than a civil war.

1. Human Rights condition in UAE & other Middle-Eastern Countries
UAE has a record of wide spread human rights violation such as ill treatment of migrant workers who are forced to work long hours at low wages. UAE was recently elected for UN Human Rights Council for second term. Qatar has been criticized for appalling conditions of migrant workers working in scorching heat to prepare for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Do we intentionally take decisions to favor these countries as we are too dependent on the resources like oil ignoring all the massive human rights violations? What steps international organizations should take to improve human rights condition? What stringent actions should be taken against countries who are serious violators of human rights?


2. Hate Crimes in the US
After 9/11, there has been a rise in the number of hate crimes particularly against minorities, African-Americans and people from South Asian origin. Churches, temples, and mosques have been regularly attacked and innocent worshipers killed. Until recently, FBI was not tracking hate crimes against the minorities. Not only these attacks have been limited to religious places, but also colleges and universities have been targeted. What steps should government take to reduce hate crimes and spread peace and harmony, which is a must for stability of any country? What actions should we as citizens should take to educate ourselves as well as others to learn about different cultures, faiths and traditions?


My suggestion, " Will Oil Crash invite next recession" .

Dramatic slide in oil crash benefits oil importing countries which include U.S, Western Europe and Asia. But at another end it also inviting to deflation. Further drops in oil price, will cause problem to oil exporting countries like Russia, UAE, Saudi Arabia. It can trigger next recession.