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The Real Story

BBC World Service

Global experts and decision makers discuss, debate and analyse a key news story, with regular presenter Carrie Gracie.

Global experts and decision makers discuss, debate and analyse a key news story, with regular presenter Carrie Gracie.
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Global experts and decision makers discuss, debate and analyse a key news story, with regular presenter Carrie Gracie.




Is the Nation State in Decline?

People around the world continue to want a nation to call their own. There have been recent independence referendums in Kurdistan, Catalonia and Scotland. This trend has being going on for a century, as empires have given way to nation states, and those states have further subdivided. For much of the 20th century this made sense. Politics, the economy, and communications were mostly organised at a national scale. National governments had actual powers to manage modern economies. But after...


Extreme Heat: The New Normal?

In many parts of the world this has been a season of extreme heat. Records have been broken from North America to Europe, from the Middle East to Japan and Korea. We know the climate is changing, and that many of the reasons are man-made. International commitments to limit the average rise in global temperature - to less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels - demand concerted action around the world. Chris Morris and a panel of expert guests discuss the science behind extreme heat....


Syria: Has Assad Won?

It has been over seven years since the uprising in Syria turned first into a civil war and then into a proxy war that has drawn in countries near and far. During that time at least 350,000 people have been killed, over 5 million have fled the country, and over 6 million have lost their homes. The war has seen sieges, artillery barrages and airstrikes on civilian neighbourhoods, hospitals and schools. With the help of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah, the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad has...


A New Dawn for Zimbabwe?

On Monday Zimbabwe will hold elections - the first to take place since former President Robert Mugabe was forced to stand down by the military after nearly forty years in office. Under his rule the southern African country went from being one of the brightest economies in the region to one of the weakest. Opposition parties were repeatedly frustrated at the polls with violence and intimidation. The country is currently being led by former minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, nicknamed "the...


How Political is the Mueller Probe?

It has been a torrid week for US-Russian relations. Days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election, President Trump met President Putin in Helsinki. In an extraordinary press conference Mr Trump said he preferred to believe Mr Putin rather than US intelligence agencies when it came to accusations of Russian meddling in the US election. Mr Trump’s comments have caused outrage across the US political...


Do Protests Still Work?

Donald Trump has arrived in England but he's not getting the red carpet treatment a US president might expect. Big protests are planned in London, featuring a march to Trafalgar Square and a six metre high balloon of Donald Trump as a snarling orange baby. The protests may let people vent their feelings about the US president’s controversial style and policies, but few expect much change as a result. So, while protests still occupy a prominent place in the drama of democracy, do they...


Poland Out in the Cold

Poland is one of Europe's economic success stories - and after Brexit, Poland stands to become the EU's fifth-largest state. France and Germany had hoped Poland would work with them to find solutions to the EU's big challenges, such as migration. But Poland is taking a different path. Since taking power in 2015, the Law and Justice Party has attacked EU institutions and criticised the German government in particular for being too welcoming to migrants. Tensions came to a head this week...


Can the EU Survive?

"The fragility of the EU is increasing," says EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, and, "the cracks are growing in size." The cracks appear in many forms. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel says migration is the issue that "could decide the EU's fate." Her French counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron, wants urgent economic reform and a "profound transformation" of the EU. His solution in part is to "give Europe back to its citizens." But what do European citizen want? Some want out,...


Who Should Be Let In?

Images of crying children separated from their parents at the US border with Mexico have brought a new urgency to the migration debate in the US. After a week of intense scrutiny on the issue, President Trump signed an executive order so that families apprehended trying to enter the US illegally would not be split up while criminal proceedings took place. In Europe, too, the migration debate is testing governments. This week, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, went to battle with her...


The Great Disruptor

What is Donald Trump thinking? In one week he calls Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ‘dishonest and weak’ and then proceeds to boast of his ‘terrific relationship’ with the dictator Kim Jong-Un. In just a few days, he riles America’s closest allies at the G7 summit and then signs a nuclear deal with the country considered one of the biggest threats to international security. The president’s critics say he is tearing up the rule book without considering the consequences. His...


The World Cup: Holy Grail or Poisoned Chalice?

All eyes will be on Russia shortly as it hosts the FIFA World Cup, one of the world's great sporting occasions. The country will get a boost as tourists visit Russia's many far flung cities and spend freely in hotels and restaurants. But staging the event is not cheap. Russia will be spending at least $12 billion at a time when its economy is suffering from sanctions. And - once the teams and their fans leave, the clean-up is expensive and the legacy uncertain. This week Ritula Shah and a...


Italy's Populist Future

After nearly three months of negotiations and disputes, Italy has a new government. The country that road-tested Trump-style populist politics before the Donald has handed power to a pair of anti-establishment parties, The League and the 5 Star Movement. Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, had blocked the coalition's choice of finance minister, Paolo Savona, claiming his views imperilled Italy's position in the Eurozone. But the coalition has backed down. Its new choice for finance...


The Coming Pandemic

Ebola is back. In 2014, it killed over 11,000 people in West Africa. Now the disease has struck once again in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This time doctors are better equipped, with a vaccine and immunisation campaign but the outbreak highlights the ever-present dangers posed by infectious diseases. One hundred years ago the Spanish flu killed over 50 million people in just one year. And doctors now say the next pandemic will be upon us in a matter of decades. We don't know where it...


How Do Monarchies Survive?

Hundreds of millions around the world will watch live coverage of the latest British Royal wedding. Queen Elizabeth's grandson Prince Harry is marrying Meghan Markle, an American actress. Divorced and biracial, she wouldn't have been considered British princess material 50 years ago. But times have changed and the British monarchy has had to change with them. The popularity of the Harry-Meghan match appears to show a recipe for a successful modern monarchy - equal parts tradition and...


What Next for Iran?

"This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made," said President Trump as he pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal. "It didn't bring calm, it didn't bring peace, and it never will." So what now for Iran, for the stability of the Middle East, and for future nuclear deals? So far Iran's President Rouhani has reacted cautiously but will the country's hardliners force him to resume enriching uranium, paving the way for a nuclear weapon? How will Iran's regional...


Does the Left have a Future in Latin America?

Thousands of Nicaraguans have been taking to the streets this week to protest against the killing of anti-government demonstrators. They say that Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista Front (FSLN) has lost touch with the people in whose name it once fought. For President Ortega, a one-time revolutionary icon, the unrest represents a dramatic reversal of fortunes. With the Castros now out of power in Cuba, Mr Ortega is the last of a generation of Latin American revolutionaries still in office. Ritula...


Crossing The Age Divide

The world's population is ageing. According to the UN the number of people aged 60 or over is growing faster than all younger age groups. This is putting new pressures on relationships between generations. In richer countries, younger people are not accumulating the wealth their predecessors did and that's causing tensions. In the developing world, urbanisation and technology are challenging traditional family dynamics. So, how can the young and the old stay connected in a fast changing...


What Justifies Military Intervention?

The decision by the US, France and Britain to bomb Syria after seeing evidence that President Bashar al-Assad had allegedly used chemical weapons on civilians has divided the international community. Are we living in a world where might, not right determines how states behave, or is a more moral legal framework in the process of being born? This week on the Real Story, Carrie Gracie and a panel of expert guests ask what can justify attacking another country.


The State of the Unions

The French President, Emmanuel Macron is taking on the country's powerful unions. The response to his proposed labour reforms has been a wave of public sector strikes across France. It's a battle that has played out many times over recent years in industrialised nations and trades unions have, without doubt, been losing influence globally. Why is this happening? Do workers no longer regard unions as an effective way of representing their interests? Have unions failed to adapt to the...


How Do We Cure Our Plastic Addiction?

We have a problem with plastic. We're making too much of it and not re-using and re-cycling enough of it. Plastic is contaminating our oceans and polluting our world. Until this year China took two thirds of the world's plastic waste, but now it's saying it will no longer be the world's dumping ground. The Chinese ban on low quality plastic has begun to bite with policy makers urgently looking for new solutions. So what happens now? What has the situation done to expose the way our...