Americas: Ecuador’s CONAIE abandons government talks, demands Lasso’s resignation
Sectors: all; cargo transport
Key Risks: political stability; civil unrest
In Ecuador, on 24 February the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) announced that it had ended talks with President Guillermo Lasso’s government, stating that the latter had not complied with the agreements reached in end-June 2022 that ended almost three weeks of disruptive anti-government protests. CONAIE’s leader Leonidas Iza stated that the organisations were demanding Lasso’s resignation over alleged corruption and for lawmakers to hold impeachment proceedings. Lasso – whose public approval rating stands at around just 20 per cent – has repeatedly clashed with the opposition-controlled National Assembly, where some lawmakers tried to oust him during the 2022 demonstrations. Although CONAIE abstained from calling for nationwide protests, there is a strong potential for unrest to resume should the government not take immediate drastic action. The risk of political instability and civil unrest will remain heightened in the coming weeks.
Asia Pacific: Lynas launches appeals to Malaysian government over operating licence conditions
Sectors: all; mining
Key Risks: regulatory changes; business disruptions; frustration of process; supply chain disruptions
In Malaysia, on 27 February Australian mining firm Lynas announced that it had lodged two appeals to the Malaysian government after it imposed conditions under their renewed operating licence, including a prohibition on importing and processing lanthanide concentrate from July onwards. Lynas alleged that the Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) failed to consider its application for the prohibition’s removal and is subsequently seeking an administrative review of the conditions. The conditions – motivated by government concerns over radiation levels and radioactive waste – would result in Lynas closing its cracking and leaching operations at its Gebeng facility in Kuantan, Pahang state. Lynas is the world’s largest rare earths producer outside of China and a halt to its aforementioned operations could interrupt the supply of neodymium and praseodymium – key minerals for the manufacture of high-power magnets essential in modern electronic devices.
Eurasia: Ruling Georgian Dream party backs foreign agent bill that resembles Russian law
Key risks: political stability
In Georgia, on 20 February the ruling Georgian Dream party voiced its support for a ‘foreign agent’ law that would allow Tbilisi to label media and civil society organisations as ‘foreign agents’ for receiving funds from abroad. The bill was proposed to parliament by the pro-government People’s Power party on 14 February and echoes the foreign agent law introduced in Russia in 2012, which has been heavily used to suppress dissent and press freedoms. Georgian Dream is increasingly seen as being pro-Russian in a country with strong public support for Ukraine and EU accession. The government’s ambiguous stance on the war in Ukraine has sparked strong public backlash. Tbilisi may attempt to make further similar moves aimed at restricting public criticism. Increased civil unrest is likely in response to such moves.
Europe: UK and EU agree to changes to the Northern Ireland protocol
Key Risks: trade disruptions; political instability
In the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak agreed a deal with Brussels to reform the Northern Ireland protocol. The protocol, which was part of the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the EU, created customs checks from goods travelling from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland. Although full details of the agreement have yet to emerge, the reforms appear to simplify customs checks. However, it appears that the European Court of Justice will continue to be the body that enforces the protocol. While the agreement is likely to win majority support in Parliament, it could increase ruptures within Sunak’s Conservative Party for not going far enough. The changes may also be inadequate to convince the Democratic Unionist Party – one of the largest parties in Northern Ireland – to rejoin the region’s power-sharing executive.
MENA: Violence in the West Bank escalates
Key Risks: political violence; internal conflict
In the West Bank, Israeli forces have continued to intensify operations against Palestinians. On 22 February 11 Palestinians were killed and 102 others were injured during an Israeli security raid in Nablus in the northern West Bank. As the new right-wing Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, cracks down on Palestinian militants in the West Bank, Gaza-based Palestinian armed groups pledged to retaliate. Moreover, despite strong objections from its allies, Tel Aviv announced plans to expand Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories and to legalise several settlement outposts. Israeli settlers increasingly carry out attacks on Palestinian towns and villages, often inflicting significant material damage. In 2023 63 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the West Bank. Tensions are likely to further escalate, with Palestinian armed groups expected to respond to increased settler violence and Israeli raids.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Nigerians await 25 February presidential election results
Key Risks: political stability
In Nigeria, on 27 February the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) began releasing state-by-state results of the 25 February presidential election. The INEC has 14 days to officially announce the election results, although they are expected to be released by 3 March. Voting was extended into 26 February following technical errors at polling stations, including glitches on the new electronic voter ID verification system and electronic voting machines failing to work in some parts of Borno state. Opposition parties have complained of irregularities, including some polling stations failing to upload results directly from each polling unit to the INEC website – as the INEC had promised to do to guarantee transparency. AKE maintains that Bola Tinubu of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) is most likely to win the vote. Localised protests by supporters of the losing candidates are likely, although widespread unrest is not expected.