Places in Conflict & at Peace

Thanks Maren, for sharing this excellent resource (re-blogged below – I’m re-blogging rather than commenting so I can add a few images to give example to my otherwise broad-brushed, unsubstantiated statements below!). I think this resource is an invaluable tool for reflecting upon the way in which we analyse armed conflict as well as the assumptions many of us (as researchers, policy makers and practitioners) have when it comes to armed conflict (being elsewhere, in places labelled fragile, at risk or developing). As you say, it also provides a useful analytical tool for analysing the links between armed violence, organised crime and street gang insurgencies, as well as the impact of globalisation and socio-economic inequalities on conflict and security.

Last week I returned from a trip to the US (Atlanta) and Colombia (Bogota and Medellin). I had only been to the US a few times fleetingly and never visited Colombia before now. The specific places I visited are unique and also not representative of the wider respective countries. However, what particularly struck me was that both demonstrated evidence of massive socio-economic inequalities, high levels of poverty, and anger among some groups towards their respective governments. I was most shocked (though unsurprised) at the extent and nature of the human rights violations and violence against civilians in Colombia, high levels of corruption and collusion between ostensibly opposing groups (government, paramilitary, guerrilla), and the disregard among many of the privileged for the suffering of the marginalised and impoverished (to the extent that you could hardly imagine a conflict was going on in some parts of Bogota).

IMG_4929However, I was more shocked at the tension and aggression which seemed to seep into the corners of everyday life in Atlanta. Here massive billboards portrayed the good life (buy a coke and your life will be meaningful) while people slept on the streets below; there was an onslaught of noise and people who demanded you say how wonderful your day was (OK so I’m a grumpy Brit!); Trump and his vitriol was blaring out from TVs which were everywhere (OK the hotel I was staying in happened to be in the same building as CNN!); people told me how fed up they were with politics and foreigners and women not sticking by their unfaithful men; signs told me I’d have to leave my gun at home if I wanted to get on a plane (which to me is strange in a country not at war, at least on its own soil); and the overwhelming majority of the thousands of participants at the Convention I was attending were white, which smacked of neo-colonialism given the theme was peace, while the majority of people working in the hotels and sleeping on the streets were black. Perhaps I simply didn’t get enough sleep, but I kept seeing messages  about about pride and equity, which took on a disturbingly ironic tone in this context (for contrast the third image is from the National Centre for Civil and Human Rights which was outstanding, moving and highly informative – located in the centre of the business district next to the Coca Cola Museum, which appeared to be significantly more popular among tourists – no comment!).

I left the US and Colombia reflecting a bit deeper on our assumptions about places in conflict and places at so-called peace; assumptions about the way in which violence permeates most if not all societies and disproportionately affects the marginalised; and assumptions about the engagement of governments in so-called peaceful states in the dynamics of exclusion, violence and indeed conflict.

So, in short, I think we have a lot to learn about conflict by looking at the machinations of societies where there is peace. Conversely, we also have a lot to learn about peace by looking at the efforts many civilians make to protect themselves and their families, promote peace, and create peaceful communities, in places at war (which I hope to write about soon).

Best wishes, Eleanor

Original post by Maren Moon:

The link below  directs readers to a recent article from the  Small Wars Journal. 

While the subject matter falls outside the discipline of post-conflict studies, it nevertheless provides an opportunity for widening understanding on conflict prevention as it intersects with organised crime,  street gang insurgency, transnational threats, proxy actors, and the infiltration and undermining of law enforcement, military, and criminal justice systems. The article also provides a window for examining the dynamics of globalisation and the New Wars paradigm as they potentially threaten  ‘first world’ realities.

America’s Unacknowledged Insurgency: Addressing Street Gangs as Threats to National Security

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