Publications

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This working paper, the second in a series on the global illicit economy, focuses on the “dark pharma” trade in Central America, where no country has been spared the problem of counterfeit and contraband pharmaceuticals making their way to consumers. As this paper argues, the illicit sale of pharmaceutical drugs is a growing global concern, most particularly in developing countries such as in Central America, where the lack of adequate healthcare forces people to seek cheaper drugs. In the absence of effective systems of regulation and access to affordable pharmaceuticals, the demand for cheap medicines drives a criminal market.

In “Dark Pharma: Counterfeit and Contraband Pharmaceuticals in Central America,” Peter Tinti notes that the damage caused by such markets relates not only to the quality of the medicines available to consumers but also to the corruption these markets create and reinforce, reducing citizens’ confidence in the public health sector and the government. These substandard and ineffective drugs may worsen the condition of sick individuals, hinder medical professionals’ ability to make accurate diagnoses, accelerate the spread of communicable diseases, increase drug resistance, and ultimately kill people.


The desire to search for broad solutions to a global problem like counterfeit and contraband pharmaceuticals must at the same time be matched with locally calibrated strategies, given that each region, sub-region, and individual country requires solutions tailored to their realties. Tackling the “dark pharma” problem requires concurrent responses and implementing systems that can provide solutions to local problems while scaling upward regionally and globally.
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This groundbreaking study of the illicit tobacco trade in southern Africa explores how this trade supports organized crime, helps enable official corruption, and erodes state structures. A major feature of South Africa’s, and to a lesser extent Zimbabwe’s, political economy revolves around conflict—overt and covert, violent and non-violent—over who makes the most money from the illicit tobacco trade, who controls that trade, and how the state responds to it. This conflict now takes places in the midst of huge political transitions within the ruling parties of both countries.

The study maps the key dimensions of the illicit cigarette trade in Zimbabwe and South Africa, including the key actors, the pathways of trade and the accompanying ‘modalities’ of criminality, as well as other important dimensions of the illicit cigarette market in southern Africa. It identifies “good-faith actors,” primarily in South Africa, whose positions could be strengthened by policy and technical interventions, explores opportunities for such intervention, and assesses the practical solutions that can be applied to combat illicit trade and tax evasion in the tobacco industry.



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The Global Innovation Sweepstakes: A Quest to Win the Future examines how emerging technologies will remake the global order and explores strategies for how the United States can retain its innovative edge. Tech-based innovation—in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, green energy, and biotechnology—will reshape the future of human civilization. Those nations that can create and adapt to cutting-edge technologies will realize enormous economic and geostrategic benefits in the decades to come. It is with this realization that the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, in partnership with Qualcomm, embarked on a global tour of technology hubs to find out which ones are at the cutting edges of innovation and which are at risk of falling behind.
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For the first time since the global financial crisis, every major economy in the world is projected to grow, and President Trump says the US is “open for business.” As of early 2018, business leaders have been generally buoyant. The Global CFO Survey conducted for this report found CFOs to be optimistic about the economic outlook for the US; 61% of respondents indicated they are confident or extremely confident about investing in the US, and 71% expect continued improvement in the US business environment in the next one to three years.

Get beyond those exclamation points, though, and you start to see the question marks and concerns — about global shifts in power, a potential wave of protectionism, and warnings that business leaders and policymakers should be “on guard” for the next recession and that global growth may be masking systemic financial, social and geographical risks. Economic volatility and policy uncertainty in the first quarter of 2018 have only increased those concerns.
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The United States faces threats from outside its borders, but also from within. While domestic issues including healthcare, immigration, and tax reform occupy the media, a more sinister threat exists underfoot. The political system that once created a strong, prosperous, and united nation now sows division. Many of the country’s public institutions, most notably Congress, seem increasingly inept and dangerously dysfunctional. Permanent campaign mode is distracting the country’s institutions from their responsibilities, alienating the public from civic processes, and leaving the country vulnerable to foreign interference.

 
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No one can know the future. China and Russia—who are currently challenging, albeit in different ways, the Western liberal order—face difficulties at home and could become inward-focused and disengaged. Nonetheless, almost thirty years after the end of the Cold War, geopolitics looks like it is poised for another turn of the wheel that may not be as favorable to Western interests.

 
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If the twentieth century could be characterized as the “Trans-Atlantic Century,” the twenty-first century may well become known as the “Trans-Pacific Century.” According to some projections, the majority of all global economic activity could take place within Asia by 2050. Military might often follows economic power, and Asian countries are already spending more than European states on defense. Both of these developments reflect a broader shift in global power from West to East.
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No one can be complacent about geopolitical risks these days. The shocks and surprises of the past few years show how easily assumptions about liberal markets, international relations, conflict, and democracy can be shaken. Geopolitical volatility has become a key driver of uncertainty, and will remain one over the next few years.

 
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Keeping America’s Innovative Edge lays out a strategic framework for how the United States can reinvigorate its innovative edge. As global competition in the tech space increases, this comprehensive roadmap comes at a critical time for the country. The report includes detailed policy recommendations spanning a wide range of key areas: research and development, emerging technologies, national security, education, skills training, diversity and inclusion, intellectual property, and more. Based on research conducted on-the-ground in US tech hubs, this in-depth study is relevant to stakeholders across federal, state, and local governments; scientists, engineers, and lab workers; university officials, administrators, and educators; and entrepreneurs, business leaders, and venture capitalists.

 
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Sixty years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, Europe faces its greatest challenges, and possibly its sharpest turning point, since World War II. The spectrum of possible futures for Europe is wide, encompassing everything from rebirth to disintegration. But, a strong leap toward greater EU-wide integration—as was sometimes the outcome of earlier crises—seems unlikely at best. Instead, this seems a time for smaller steps toward more integration, most likely in response to specific challenges, including: stronger external border controls; enhanced eurozone governance; or a more capable Common Security and Defense Policy. If the positive option is modest integration, the alternative future is one dominated by a clear break with past integration. A presidential victory in May by France’s Marine Le Pen could splinter the European Union, sending it into a tailspin toward disintegration. Even if this dire forecast is avoided, Europe—and especially the European Union (EU)—will face challenges that push it into entirely new directions. If the United States withdraws from Europe, for example, will Europe be forced to accommodate Russian demands? Or will that challenge foster stronger security cooperation among a core set of nations, to counterbalance a weakening NATO? And if Europe’s economy continues on a slow-growth path, will it be able to afford to respond to the challenges it faces?

 


    

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