The Foreign Service Journal, April 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2022 19 should be at the forefront of fostering positive relations with federal employee unions and improving communica- tions with labor groups. The task force, established by executive order last year and chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Sec- retary Marty Walsh, is made up of more than 20 federal agency heads. Its first report to the president in early February contains nearly 70 recommendations. “The Biden-Harris administration will be the first to take a comprehensive approach to [empowering workers and strengthening their rights] with the exist- ing authority of the executive branch,” the task force wrote. “Our goal is … to model practices that can be followed by state and local governments, private sector employers, and others. “Workers face increasing barriers to organizing and bargaining collectively with their employers, and in 2021, only 10.3 percent of the workforce was repre- sented by a union, down frommore than 30 percent in the 1950s.” The report’s recommendations center on two points. First, federal agencies should set an example for other employ- ers by engaging labor groups through labor-management forums before policy decisions are finalized, and removing barriers from unions trying to increase membership or organize new bargaining units. Second, agencies should be more transparent with unions and employees alike, and coordinate with each other to be more transparent on labor issues. Spate of Coups in Africa T he past two years have seen seven coups and coup attempts in African nations. In Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali and Sudan, military leaders suc- ceeded in seizing power; in Niger and Guinea-Bissau, they did not. The current wave of uprisings began in Mali in August 2020 after former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was arrested at gunpoint by government forces. Nine months later, in what many deemed a “coup within a coup,” Mali’s military arrested the interim civilian president and prime minister whose appointments the military had overseen. The most recent attempt took place in Guinea-Bissau in February, when Presi- dent Umaro Sissoco Embaló said heavily armed men attacked the government palace in an attempt to kill him, the prime minister and the cabinet. Local media reported deaths among attackers and the government’s security team. Embaló later accused a former navy chief with links to the drug trade of orches- trating the assassination attempt. While the underlying causes and mechanics of attempted takeovers are different from one nation to another, the trend has renewed unease about corrup- tion and economic and political instability in parts of the African continent. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, this unrest opens the door for countries such as Russia, China, Turkey and some Persian Gulf States to exploit instability and support regimes that allow them to exer- cise influence, extract resources and legitimize their own anti- democratic systems. FreedomHouse reported in late 2020 that democracy in dozens of countries across Africa is worse off amid the pan- demic. Afghanistan’s Humanitarian Emergency O n Jan. 30, SIGAR, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, released to Congress its 54th quarterly report, the first since the U.S. exit from the country. The 189-page document highlights the crisis facing the Afghan population as the result of record drought, rising food prices, internal displacement and the severe economic downturn and collapse of public services following the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021. The United Nations Development Pro-