Master's Program in International Affairs (MPIA) Capstones
During their final semester, MPIA students participate in a capstone research course. These courses allow students to tackle a problem or project in the real world, often working in conjunction with a government agency or nonprofit organization. Designed to test the knowledge and abilities students have developed through their previous classes and experiences, capstones necessitate strong teamwork, careful research, writing ability, and often a large amount of ingenuity in identifying ways to approach an issue or find a solution.
Armstrong, Iain; Berry, Erin; Bitter, Alexander; Colburn, Leland; Karika, Kathleen; Paulino, Jose; Redden, Rebekah; Vien, Thomas "Tex"; Williams, Lodrick (May 20, 2015)[more][less]
Abstract: Biological incidents, both man-made and naturally occurring, represent a significant threat to the national security of the United States. Identifying these crises begins with the detection and reporting of essential biological disease information, known as biosurveillance. As the first of its kind, the 2012 National Strategy for Biosurveillance targets the process essential information should take to reach decisionmakers. Although there are points of strength in the system, extensive research finds the current biosurveillance infrastructure does not adequately transmit information to decisionmakers. Therefore, this report recommends three improvements to the biosurveillance system: increase incorporation of information, improve interagency relationships, and strengthen governance in the biosurveillance community.
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Environmental Impacts of China Outward Foreign Direct Investment: Case Studies in Latin America, Mongolia, Myanmar, and ZambiaAl-Aameri, Nour; Fu, Lingxiao; Garcia, Nicole; Mak, Ryan; McGill, Caitlin; Reynolds, Amanda; Vinze, Lucas ( 2012)[more][less]
Abstract: China’s rapid increase of outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) over the past decade has garnered worldwide attention for a variety of reasons. Of particular concern is the concentration of Chinese OFDI in extractive industries, especially in developing countries. Generally, developing countries have fewer and weaker regulations than developed nations, exposing them to more severe environmental degradation. As the environmental consequences of such growth and investment become more visible, governments, companies, and communities pursue better environmental management and protection policies. Increasing environmental awareness and protection measures are evident in China’s 11th and 12th five-year plans, which suggests that domestically China is pursuing a more efficient and sustainable growth than in previous decades. China plans to implement policies to increase accountability and capacity to improve environmental protection. While challenges still exist, namely China’s growing demands for energy, such policies will provide a framework to advance environmental protection. China’s growing demand for and consumption of energy drives Chinese OFDI. The concentration of China’s investment in extractive industries leads to substantial environmental degradation. The majority of investment takes place through large state-owned enterprises. Despite improving its domestic environmental policies, China lacks any environmental regulation of OFDI. Though it promotes corporate social responsibility (CSR) and recently released legal guidelines for OFDI, such practices rely on the initiative of the investing company. The domestic policy environment interacts with the regulations of the recipient countries, resulting in differing environmental impacts. 3 An examination of several countries from varying regions illustrates how investments interact with recipient countries’ regulations. The increase of Chinese investment has affected the environment of South America, Mongolia, Myanmar and Zambia. Chinese investment in South America has allowed China to secure natural resources by increasing petroleum and mining production. Investment has impacted both small and established producers throughout the continent. South America, in particular Peru, shows how political development and improved financial markets can improve the regulatory environment, allowing FDI to benefit recipient countries. Most Chinese FDI entering Mongolia is in the mining sector to meet China’s growing demand for minerals. Investors in this sector include large Chinese state-owned mining enterprises that dominate Mongolia’s largest deposits, as well as small and medium Chinese mining firms in the artisanal mining industry. Unlike their larger counterparts, these small and medium mining firms do not employ environmentally friendly technology to extract minerals. Hence, Chinese artisanal mining has harmed Mongolia’s environment by generating excess surface water, waste rock piles, tailings, and mercury pollution, which causes air and water pollution. Inadequate law enforcement and local government corruption, coupled with the increasing influence of China, have made it difficult for Mongolia’s central government to address these environmental issues. In Myanmar, FDI in the nation’s hydropower, oil and gas and mining sectors has resulted in water pollution, destruction of fisheries, loss of biodiversity and deforestation. Chinese investors and firms from other countries, whose investments predate those of China, caused these environmental issues. They can also be attributed to Naypyitaw’s ineffective environmental governance, resulting from underdeveloped institutions and flouting the of its own environmental 4 laws. To improve environmental governance, Myanmar’s government must develop its institutions, devote more resources to environmental protection and promote environmental education. In Zambia, Chinese investments are concentrated heavily in the country’s copper mining industry. In Zambia, the country’s reliance on the mining sector results in air and water pollution of the surrounding areas. Though Chinese companies are by no means the largest investors or polluters in Zambia’s mining sector, the rapid increase of investments has made China particularly influential. The legislative and regulatory framework exists for environmental protection in Zambia, but the country lacks capacity for enforcement and accountability mechanisms. As such, several international mining companies have no incentive to comply with environmental regulations, worsening environmental degradation. To generate recommendations for improved environmental performance through sustainable outward foreign direct investment, we analyzed several viewpoints. Using the country report, we identified existing regulations and discovered areas where regulations or environmental awareness is lacking. One major observation from the country report is that China does not impose environmental regulations on outward foreign direct investment; instead, the government expects firms to comply with the regulations of the host countries. This raises an interesting question about whether home countries have an incentive to regulate environmentally sensitive areas. We surveyed theory and the existing literature on the pollution haven hypothesis to see if host countries avoid environmental regulations to encourage investment. Although the theory remains popular, robust evidence of the hypothesis does not exist. After completing the theoretical approach, we chose to apply country case studies to see if any developed countries have taken the lead in imposing environmental regulations. After 5 studying the U.S., Canada, and Europe, we found that environmental regulations for in-country development are common. However, like China, these countries do not actively regulate OFDI. In the absence of a global regulatory environment, a collaborative effort is needed. Through the research, we discovered a multi-tiered relationship, in which the home government, the host government, NGOs, and investors can all coordinate to improve environmental outcomes. After noting that the two-way tie between governments and investors is not always sufficient for regulations, we looked into alternative third parties that can affect environmental awareness. Through a literature review, we identified NGOs as powerful actors that can affect information availability, policy, operations, assessment and monitoring, and environmental advocacy. The combination of country analysis, theoretical framework building, case studies, and player identification allows us to formulate recommendations from the macro to the micro level. Specifically, we identified several broad categories where improvements can occur: with local communities and NGOs, with regulatory bodies, and with investors. Some recommendations apply to China’s environmental regulations; some apply to our four country regions; and others apply to investors and NGOs. TNC can help local communities and NGOs develop institutions, increase awareness, and build capacity to enhance management of environmental resources. By partnering with regulatory bodies, TNC can work to improve monitoring of environmental regulations through additional training and providing access to accurate information. Where investors are concerned, TNC and government actors can help improve banking practices and provide incentives to encourage environmental protection.
Files in this item: 2Final Bush School Report_2012.pdf (1682.Kb)(more files)
U.S. Strategic Options towards Iran: Understanding the U.S.–Iranian Relations through Iranian Domestic PoliticsAbernathy, Jacob; Blanco, David; Kingsley, Marlee; Kramer, Michael; Lopacka, Karolina; Mauel, Heather; Peacock, Mike; Stotts, Katherine; Varela, Marques; Young, Krysten ( 2014)[more][less]
Abstract: The ongoing nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran have made greater progress on more substantial issues than any previous talks. This report argues that Iran’s unprecedented willingness to negotiate is strongly influenced by two factors: a united P5+1 and more importantly, a convergence of interests among Iran’s domestic factions. While there has long been knowledge of the challenges posed by Iran’s often-competing factions, no other study pinpoints them as a primary variable in the nuclear negotiations. Based on 50 interviews with high-level Iran experts and government officials and independent research, our study provides a unique framework for understanding the dynamics of Iranian domestic politics and its impact on the efficacy of U.S. policies. This study considers three scenarios the U.S. could encounter on July 20, 2014, when the current Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) expires: the P5+1 and Iran could sign a comprehensive deal; another interim deal could be reached; or negotiations could break down. The common thread throughout these recommendations is that the U.S. must find a way to capitalize on the factional convergence and avoid undermining it. The U.S. should always negotiate with Iran as a unitary actor, rather than favor certain factions; avoid measures that prompt one faction to undercut another faction; and understand that while not unique in having domestic competition, Iran’s political factions have a stronger effect on the success of negotiations than many have realized. If a comprehensive agreement is reached, we recommend pursuing limited engagement that seeks to broaden cooperation with Iran by working on issues that interest all Iranian factions, while also having deterrent threats in place should Iran renege. In the case of another interim deal, we recommend that the U.S. embrace balanced diplomacy, which increases the level of positive and negative inducements meant to persuade Iran to reach a comprehensive agreement. This recommendation, which mimics current U.S. policy, should focus solely on nuclear issues, unlike the first scenario. If nuclear negotiations break down, we recommend coercive diplomacy that involves gradual pressure, ranging from increased sanctions to authorizing the use of force. The challenge here is credibly threatening Iran without alienating the other P5+1 members or pushing Iran’s factions to unite against the United States. In all future negotiations, the U.S. should capitalize on Iranian domestic convergences and engage Iran as a whole.
Files in this item: 123 April Capstone Paper FINAL.pdf (309.5Kb)
CEFADES: An impact evaluation of a vocational and rehabilitation program for at-‐risk youth in Eastern DRCChen, Zike; Finnegan, Gavin; Hobson, David; Pinzon, Diego; Vander Hey, Gabriel ( 2013)[more][less]
Abstract: In the fall of 2013, a group of students at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University were approached to design and implement a survey to gauge the effectiveness of a youth employment program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the fundamental level, it was necessary to know if the program was helping the children find employment and if that employment was increasing the incomes earned by participants. Vocational programs such as the one described in this paper, are not uncommon and have been shown to be quite effective in setting around the world. For the first time though, an analysis of this type of program was implemented in the unique setting of Butembo, DR Congo. Butembo, as will be described later, is a unique hub of peace within an area that has been ravaged by civil conflict in recent decades. In this particular context, the conflict affects youth in the area through displacement, loss of education, as well as through recruitment into the conflict or other activities that support rebel groups. The research within this paper uses survey instruments in an effort to determine the level of effectiveness of the vocational program in the region that focuses on at risk and vulnerable youth. In this paper, our research team will describe the setting of both conflict in DRC and its effects on institutions and programs as well as the setting of this analysis. In addition, information on the program, CEFADES, will be given along research design and the analysis of our findings.
Files in this item: 1CEFADES-Youth-Article.pdf (519.1Kb)
Landrum, William W.; Llewellyn, Benjamin B.; Limesand, Craig M.; Miller, Dante J.; Morris, James P.; Nowell, Kathleen S.; Sherman, Charlotte L. ( 2010)[more][less]
Abstract: Eurasia is a major source of oil and natural gas, and events in the region have a great potential to destabilize global security patterns. Supplies of natural gas and oil from Eurasia are vital for the functioning of European economies, and also important to US efforts to reduce its reliance on Middle Eastern energy resources. Presently, pipelines in Eurasia stretch across thousands of miles throughout unstable political regions. Disruptions in gas and oil supplies negatively affect the economies and politics of the region. Future pipeline projects – such as the Nabucco pipeline – are highly controversial, and Russia’s efforts to control oil and gas supplies in the region have recently intensified. Russia has gained increased influence in its neighborhood by consolidating control of regional energy production and infrastructure. This project claims that Russia is using its energy monopoly to further its geostrategic aims: ensuring political influence in nearby countries, obtaining a rise in commodity prices, and returning to multi-polarity in which Russia maintains clear regional hegemony. On the other hand, the US has four key interests in Eurasia. These include averting tensions with Russia, stabilizing the flow of oil and natural gas to Western Europe, maintaining US regional access for counterterrorism operations, and promoting democratic regimes to reduce Russian influence. In this light, the report argues that the US must promote development of pipelines that bypass Russian control and advance alternative domestic sources. These actions will ease European dependence on Russian energy, shield Europe from disruptions in supply, and decrease Russia’s ability to exert influence through energy policy. Other options include promoting a common European Union energy policy to increase influence in energy markets, push for increased gas storage across Europe to provide temporary relief against gas disruptions, and explore increased US and European cooperation with Russia on energy market access.
Files in this item: 1Thornton_Fall2009.pdf (12.24Mb)