The threat spectrum

Planet A

More than 113 million Africans will be displaced by 2050 due to the effects of climate change, according to a report released by the Africa Climate Mobility Initiative, a joint UN group assisted by the African Union Commission and the World Bank. Rising temperatures and other climate stressors are forecast to force displacement primarily within countries rather than across borders.

The African continent has experienced some of the worst weather events in a decade this year, with floods in West Africa destroying food production and droughts in East Africa affecting nearly 50 million people. These effects have prompted some African nations to push for major polluting states to compensate for climate-change-linked damages at the COP27 summit underway in Egypt.

The cumulative effects of ongoing violence are also likely to amplify displacement in Africa. For example, fighting against jihadist groups has displaced nearly 400,000 people in Mali. The combined effects of violence and climate change are likely to weaken African stability and could potentially force even greater mass people movements than those that are currently projected.

Democracy watch

Thousands of Peruvians have protested in the capital demanding the resignation of President Pedro Castillo. Since the left-wing leader took office in July last year, there have been two attempts to impeach him and a third is underway. He is subject to six corruption investigations, but under Peruvian law can’t be prosecuted while serving as president.

Castillo denies the allegations, instead saying they are the result of ‘disinformation, false accusations and unimaginable slander’. He has also described those in opposition to his government as ‘enemies of the people’. There have been no reports of injuries in the protests, but demonstrators have been met with police in riot gear and tear gas in an attempt to disperse them.

Peru has faced domestic instability recently, including having three heads of state in five days in November 2020. Economic issues like poverty and the spiralling cost of living have had major effects on large parts of the population. Castillo promised to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor before his election, but his policy agenda has been blocked by a congress dominated by opposition lawmakers.

Information operations

WhatsApp, the Meta-owned messaging app with more than two billion users, rolled out its ‘Community’ feature last Thursday. It allows people to connect multiple groups together and organise different conversations under one umbrella group. The update is now available to selected users and will be rolled out worldwide over the next few months. In a video announcing the launch, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg called the new update a ‘major evolution for WhatsApp’ and promised end-to-end encryption for all messages in the ‘Community’.

There are concerns, however, that the new feature could facilitate the spread of dis- and misinformation, especially in countries like India and Brazil, where political parties rely on elaborate networks of WhatsApp groups to build political narratives. David Nemer, professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, believes that the lack of practical tools to limit false and misleading information in WhatsApp would make it easy for the people who manage dis- and misinformation networks to ply their trade unimpeded.

Follow the money

As Ukraine’s war effort continues, the government has taken direct control of five strategic enterprises broadly operating in the energy production and vehicle manufacturing sectors. Officials insist that the seizures don’t amount to nationalisation, since they were executed under martial law provisions and the assets will be returned once the need subsides.

This development represents a further escalation of the conflict between Ukraine’s president and the country’s wealthy elites. Volodymyr Zelensky was elected on promises to curb the influence of Ukraine’s oligarchs, but analysts argue that before the war broke out in February, there had been little progress made. The situation has changed considerably during Russia’s invasion, however. One member of the elite was arrested last month on treason charges, and even a former Zelensky ally and staunchly pro-Ukrainian magnate, Ilhor Kolomoyskyi, has not been immune from probes into his business dealings.

The state takeovers have raised some eyebrows in Ukraine, and the government has left open the possibility of further seizures. While it’s difficult to discern at this point, this development may be a signal of the changing influence of Ukraine’s economic elite in the country’s politics.

Terror byte

A recent petrol bomb attack on an immigration centre in Dover in the UK has now been classified as a right-wing terror attack by British police despite not being treated as such in the initial aftermath. Analysis of the attacker’s social media accounts found violent anti-immigration posts, including a tweet posted an hour before the bombing revealing plans to ‘obliterate’ Muslim women and children.

Authorities’ slowness to classify the Dover attack as an act of terrorism reflects concern about the disproportionate way in which the media report terrorist attacks perpetrated by the extreme right in comparison to Islamic-inspired attacks. Reporting and political debates often downplay the ideological motivation associated with right-wing terrorism in favour of ‘other factors’ like the mental ill health of a single person, as was the case with the Dover attack. This can result in a misleading portrayal of the prevalence of right-wing extremism in Western countries, with clear implications for public sentiment, policymaking and the wider national security environment.