World House Student Fellows Policy Projects

A focal point of our World House Student Fellows program is a year-long policy project. Our Student Fellows group into smaller teams to collaborate on a policy-relevant research project, exploring a particular global issue that they identify under faculty supervision.

Policy Projects 2018-19

by Lauren Kahn, Joshua Cristine, Archit Dhar, Elizabeth Peartree, and Andrej Patoski

China’s Social Credit System (SCS) augments the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) existing political control methods, which already include massive information collection and surveillance efforts. China created a social credit system to establish “the idea of a sincerity culture, and carrying forward sincerity and traditional virtues…[by utilizing] encouragement to keep trust and constraints against breaking trust as incentive mechanisms, and its objective is raising the honest mentality and credit levels of the entire society.” As of November 2018, 41 cities and 31 provinces across China had implemented localized, individualized versions of the SCS, but it is still unclear as to how (or if) these platforms will be integrated or rolled into the program at the national level. Ultimately world leaders must come together to collectively shun this type of system and the state surveillance apparatus and censorship which laid the groundwork for it. This collective shaming must come not just in the form of national laws and policy behavior, but also externally through the media and the international community. Thus, it is vital that the international community take a stand against such usage of technology and disincentive not only the CCP for its use but other politically vulnerable nations around the globe who may seek to mimic (or buy into) the Chinese system. Transparency, while not a solution, will help to identify breaches and to prosecute abuses where necessary. Steps must be taken to shield overseas Chinese communities from the kinds of CCP encroachment that will only proliferate with functioning and technology-enabled SCS.

Read the Policy Project here.

Listen to their Podcast with Perry World House distinguished global leader-in-residence and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein here

Listen to their Podcast with Brooking Fellows and Former NSC Director for Strategic Planning Tarun Chhabra here

By Arnav Jagasia, Przemyslaw Macholak, Julia Ciocca, and Karina Shah

The National Defense Strategy of the United States of America published in 2018, Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge, shifted US national security priorities to counterbalancing the threat of other great powers, including Russia and China. As suggested in the strategy itself, this change in focus requires “a clear-eyed appraisal of the threats [the United States faces], acknowledgment of the changing character of warfare, and a transformation of how the Department [of Defense] conducts business.” Over the coming decades, the militarization of space is one such threat and a source of the changing character of warfare that the United States must consider. While the launch of the V-2 rocket in 1944 was the first foray into militarizing space, US-Soviet conflict during the Cold War further propelled its militarization. With the advent of space militarization, then, the United States and Soviet Union spearheaded international agreements to regulate activities in space. Both the rise of commercial activity in space and recent developments in Russian, Chinese, and Indian anti-satellite weapons programs, however, necessitate remodeling of the regulatory order established by the United States and the Soviet Union fifty years ago. Specifically, military actions and commercial activities in space in the present-day are fundamentally distinct from those that policymakers addressed at the height of the Cold War. Space is an evolving domain, featuring significant technological change, but the current legal and regulatory approach remains rooted in the twentieth century.

Read the Policy Project here.

Listen to their Podcast with University of Pennsylvania Law School Faculty Mark Nevitt here

By Gavin Alcott, Anunya Bahanda, Jay Cammon, and Tari Clement

Lagos is a megacity in the southwest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with indigenous roots to the Yoruba ethnic group. Lagos holds 20 local governmental jurisdictions, which translate to counties. Together, these counties built Africa’s leading megacity with a growing population of at least 17.5 million (World Population Review, 2019). Before the 1991 transition to Abuja, Lagos was the capital city of Nigeria. Although Abuja now holds most of the political power, Lagos is arguably Nigeria’s most important city for commerce. In fact, although it is the smallest Nigerian state by area, it holds the greatest populous of any Nigerian state, with 27.4% of the nation’s population (Lagos State Government, 2019). Due to the economic potential generated by such a large population, many companies have headquartered there. It is the most populous city in Africa and is a major financial center with one of the busiest trading ports on the continent. Studying Lagos as a case study is useful for analyzing the challenges facing rapidly urbanizing cities in the developing world more generally. Many of the problems facing Lagos such as weak governmental capacity, rapid economic and population growth, insufficient capital for desperately needed infrastructure expansion, issues with informal economies, and concerns of environmental sustainability are common in developing cities across the world. Understanding how some of these challenges can be overcome in the context of Lagos may provide insight in similar situations across the world.

Read the Policy Project here.

Listen to their Podcast with University of Pennsylvania Professor of City and Regional Planning Erick Guerra here.

By Oliver Chan, Annie Hsu, Justin Iannacone, Akosua Mante, and Akanksha Santdasani

The trade war between the United States and China marks a significant development in the two powers’ ongoing balance between competition and cooperation. While President Trump’s rhetoric is not radically new, the measures undertaken in pursuit of his policy goals have come under greater criticism - particularly, the choice to impose blanket tariffs, selective disengagement from the WTO, and the abrupt style in which these policies have been implemented. The effects these policies have on China and the US’ peripheral trading partners are central to our project. In particular, the economies of Southeast Asia have been incredibly intertwined with China and are historically linked to the United States. By nature of the size asymmetry between the major powers and their neighbors, the trade and investment policies of major economic powers often have an outsize impact on regional growth and economic stability. For instance, amidst the current US-China trade war, many Asian economies’ trade-to-GDP ratios are significantly more susceptible to changes in trade balances than China’s.

Read the Policy Project here.

Listen to their podcast with University of Pennsylvania Professor of Law Jacques deLisle here

By Frida Aloo, Stephen Damianos, Ruth Lee, and Tiffany Wang

By nature of their status, refugees face numerous challenges to their health, livelihoods, and wellbeing, many of which receive media attention and strategic innovation from politicians and policymakers alike. One challenge, however, operates quietly and in the dark, steeped with stigma and power dynamics: sex work. Many refugees around the world engage in survival sex work as a means of subsistence, and in doing so, subject themselves to dangerous environments that often result in the perpetration of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Refugees are especially vulnerable to SGBV and sexual exploitation due to their legal status and position of marginalization in society. Poverty and related circumstances of being displaced can push refugees into sex work, and host countries often have stringent regulations and laws that present refugees from joining formal labor economies. This paper proposes potential solutions in three concrete spheres: livelihood, accountability, and support.

Read the Policy Project here.

Listen to their Podcast with Roxani Krystali, a program manager at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University, here

By Daniel Brennan, Aneri Kinariwalla, Bryce Klehm, and Eliana Salmon

This project was undertaken and is now presented, in two distinct portions: a situation assessment of the relationship between Russia and Iran, and a policy proposal to address the challenges that the Russo-Iranian relationship presents to the United States and its interests. In our situation assessment, we identified four key pillars of Russo-Iranian cooperation, provided a brief summary of the significance of each, and offered insights into how each particular domain was likely to develop going forward. The four domains of Russo-Iranian cooperation we examined are: nuclear technology transfers from Russia to Iran, joint ventures in the exploitation of regional oil reserves, military operations in the Syrian Civil War, and diplomatic efforts each country is making separately to court regional players Israel and Saudi Arabia. We found that while each one of these regions of cooperation posed concerns for U.S. interests, they were not part of a coordinated relationship-building campaign but rather a series of collaborations between two opportunistic states looking to advance their own, diverging, long term interests in the Middle East. When considered collectively these areas of cooperation do not indicate Russia and Iran are moving towards a lasting strategic alliance. Iran’s interest in securing regional prominence on its own terms will cause Tehran to remain skeptical of Moscow, whose involvement in the region is reminiscent of past Soviet and Imperial incursions into the Middle East. Meanwhile, Moscow’s preoccupation with countering the United States will make it unlikely to court an ally whose contribution to Russia’s global efforts would be marginal. However, given that these pillars of cooperation are currently presenting challenges to United States interests, a policy response to protect these interests is still warranted.

Read the Policy Project here.

Listen to their podcast with University of Pennsylvania Professor of Russian and East European Studies Mitchell A. Orenstein here. 

Policy Projects 2017-18

By Alexis Montouris Ciambotti, Conner Evans, Przemek Macholak, Benjamin Perla, Akanksha Santdasani, Kamelia Stavreva, Vishnu Rachakonda, and Wenjia Zhu

This project examined recent trends in how artificial intelligence techology is developed and deployed, and the potential effects these could have. It examined private sector partnerships with the U.S. armed forces on new technologies; how A.I. could lead to the automation of many tasks currently done by humans, and how this may impact the economy; how China is heavily investing in A.I. research and development; and more. This project also puts forward economic and defense policy recommendations to offset the potential negative effects of A.I.

Read the Policy Project here

By Mathilde Beniflah, Alex Kaplan, Elizabeth Peartree, Madiha Samadi, and Hani Warith

This project explored the issue of climate migration, as growing numbers of people around the world are forced from their homes by climate change. With cities playing an increasingly important role in global governance, the team focused on how cities can react to this issue, looking at what can be done at the municipal level to effectively accommodate climate refugees, and what frameworks are already in place to support them. The project includes a number of case studies, including Houston, Texas, which took in around 250,000 people after Hurricane Katrina in 2005; and Dhaka, Bangladesh, which gains 2,000 new residents a day, many of whom are climate migrants. 

Read the full Policy Project here. 

By Gavin Alcott, Christian Butts, Navya Dasari, Andro Mathewson, and Ji Yoon

In 1994, Rwanda was engulfed by a bloody genocide that took the lives of up to 800,000 people in just 100 days, despite the presence of UN peacekeeping forces and the attention of the international community. Following this and other failures to intervene effectively in humanitarian crises, UN member nations voted to adopt the 'Responsibility to Protect' doctrine in 2005, which created a precedent for responding to such crises. But how effective has this initiative been? This policy project looked at the practical question of how best to implement interventions in humanitarian crises, and put forward strategies for intervention that could be used by a wide range of actors in the international space. 

Read the full Policy Project here

By Daniel De Varona Brennan, Julia Ciocca, Kathryn Dura, Karina Shah, Jake van Arkel, and Maxim Yulis

In recent years, Russia has adopted 'hybrid warfare' - a broad strategy of attack which covers tactics from meddling in U.S. presidential elections,. to a nerve agent attack in the U.K., to military deployments in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Given the effectiveness of this strategy, how can the international community fight back? This policy project looks at how U.S. authorities can effectively craft international sanctions against the Russian government to counter hybrid warfare. 

Read the full Policy Project here

By Sarah Baer, Oliver Chan, Carter Goodwin, Arnav Jagasia, Aneri Kinariwalla, and Akosua Mante

According to recent estimates, just over 10% of the world's population lives on less than $1.90 per day, and hundreds of millions of people die each year due to lack of access to food, clean water, and adequate healthcare. The gap between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' continues to grow in an increasingly globalized economy, and climate change is expected to further worsen humanitarian crises around the world. Community development is often seen as a solution to these issues, but what is the best approach? This project compares two schools of thought in development policy - breadth-based aid versus depth-based aid - and aims to illuminate the most effective strategies. 

Read the full Policy Project here

Policy Projects 2016-17

By Mathilde Beniflah, I Vivek Kai-Wen, Alex Kaplan, and Akanksha Santdasani

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, or AIIB, is one of the most recent additions to a long list of multilateral development institutions. But what is its ultimate purpose, and how will it fit into the existing development ecosystem? This policy project offers a comprehensive analysis of the AIIB, drawing on historical evidence, official documents, press releases, comparative cases, and interviews with experts and current and former AIIB staff members. It looks at how some elements of the AIIB's structure make it a good candidate for filling the gap on infrastructure financing in the Asia-Pacific region, but that its financing could become problematic. 

Read the full Policy Project here

By Conner Evans, Andrew Parsons, Madiha Samadi, Jamie Seah, and Caroline Wallace

By the end of 2015, over 65 million people around the world had been displaced by conflict, persecution, violence, or human rights violations. More than 21 million of these people were refugees, many of them seeking refuge in another country. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) works with governments in these host countries to run camps that provide shelter and services to refugees, and to facilitate refugee integration. This policy project provides recommendations for UNHCR on how to leverage new technologies like drones, smartphones, and online platforms to alleviate the many challenges facing refugees.

Read the full Policy Project here

By Miebaka Anga, Sarah Baer, Du'Aa Moharram, Stephanie Petrella, and Aminata Sy

Throughout world history, women have been underrepresented in politics, and this has led to women having less access to the political process. In turn, this lack of access enables continuing social, political, and economic inequality based on gender. Looking at case studies and specific laws in countries like Argentina, Rwanda, and France, this project explores how democratic countries can increase women's political participation, and puts forward recommendations to amplify women's voices in the political sphere. 

Read the full Policy Project here

By Carter Goodwin, Kamelia Stavreva, Hani Warith, and Viviane Weinstabl

The UNHCR estimates that over 60% of refugees live in urban environments. While refugee camps usually offer protection, shelter, food, and healthcare, they are ultimately temporary structures with great limitations. It is imperative that refugees have fundamental rights in their home country, including the ability to work, so that they can integrate economically and avoid exploitation. This project conducts case studies of three diverse cities that have become resettlement hot spots for refugees, and offers recommendations to successfully integrate refugees into foreign workforces. 

Read the full Policy Project here

By Itai Barside, Louis Davis, Kathryn Dura, Rodrigo Ornelas, and Ariel Smith

One of the most important trends in international politics over the last generation is the development of cyber capabilities, which can advance a number of state and non-state actor objectives - from industrial espionage, to political interference. This policy paper develops a five-stage model of cyber activities, and uses this to explain key risks and possibilities in the cyber domain, and looks at how risks can be countered.

Read the full Policy Project here