Category Archives: War and Peace

Dividing the Threat Multiplier: An Argument for Effective International Prosecution Against Grand Corruption and Kleptocratic Regimes – Maren Moon

The release of the Panama Papers by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has fuelled spectacular revelations regarding the scale of grand corruption and the wider system which enables it (ICIJ, 2016: np).  The scandal is exposing involvement by the very people and institutions who should feel morally and legally compelled to act with the highest integrity but who instead participate in a system all too frequently perpetrating wholesale crime, undue privilege, and the global erosion of security.  (Wolf, 2014: 3). They are doing so with impunity, and they are doing so while the world’s watchdogs cannot help but possess full knowledge that ‘the link between grand corruption and mass human rights violations is undeniable’ (Freedom House, 2014, and also Woodrow Wilson Center, 2016: np., and Transparency International: 2008, ).

No less than heads of states and global financial institutions linked to London, New York and Switzerland have now been connected to an enormous shadow economy responsible for: hiding assets; exercising bribery; facilitating tax evasion; practicing financial fraud; enabling drug trafficking; and participating in sexploitation. (See ICIJ, 2016 and Huffington Post a, 2016, Huffington Post b, 2016: np, and BBCb, 2016: np ). And no fewer than 11 million documents have laid bare the global elite’s participation in a system purposefully rigged to increase the gap between the absurdly wealthy and the tragically poor.  The international community would do well to note too that this is a system which facilitates crime in desperate and conflict-vulnerable settings while arming the insurgents and terrorists who operate from within such settings (Patrick, 2009 and Napoleoni, 2003). We should also recall the system intentionally erodes democratic principles of transparency, fair taxation, the right to peaceful protest, and the exercise of free speech (Woodrow Wilson Center, 2016: np and Wolf, 2014: 5-8).  In short, this is a system wherein leaders and criminals alike actively undermines everything to which the international community aspires, and for which it ultimately endeavours; sometimes selflessly and in conditions of great hardship.

It should not go unrecognised that the responses of those who have been unveiled as both witting and unwitting participants in the darker aspects of this economy, all too consistently reiterate a mantra which should give each of us a moment’s pause for reflection – that lawyers and financial experts alike still possess the legal means of perpetrating unfair, corrupt, and increasingly unfair and corrupting practices. Vested interests in lofty positions have suggested big businesses, and their high-flying personnel, need to work in the shadow economy even when it lowers opportunities for smaller businesses and honest entrepreneurs.  They argue further that legislation against bribery ‘puts British companies at a competitive disadvantage’ (Barrington, 2016: 4). And yet still too, others have intoned that society needs to tacitly accommodate unethical practices in the financial sector on the grounds that businesses in their countries are too big to fail, or too important to risk having relocate to another country. But in making these accommodations we will be enabling the capture of entire governments by organisations whose interests do not include the common citizens who eke by and sustain the infrastructure enjoyed by those who have rigged the system against them (Johnson, 2009: np).  Such accommodation could only serve to entrench profit for the few at the cost of the many. We are, in effect, now experiencing parallel attacks on democracy by the licit and illicit economies alike – both of whom are seemingly melding into a deeper, more committed relationship in an increasingly shady capacity and whose political-economy will forever thwart the international community’s efforts in bringing peace and security.

Those who evade tax legally are allowed to escape criminality by conveniently structured legal technicalities. This phenomena is relatively easy to rectify. But the Big King Kleptocrats who knowingly act outside the law, do so understanding that successful prosecution against their acts is nearly unheard of. History and statistics remain firmly on their side. This is occurring regardless of corruption’s increasingly evident role in destabilising entire continents such as Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Central and South America (Carnegie, 2015).  These actors smile comfortably while insinuating that exposure of their misdeeds might expose a larger, darker reality in which too many purportedly clean-skinned actors may also be complicit.

And while they may not be kind, they most certainly are proving wise.

Indeed, these same kleptocrats, and their advisors, will have followed closely the freedom and riches once more enjoyed by Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak who has now escaped charges of corruption and murder on a mere technicality (Reuters, 2015: np). Mubarak was a kleptocratic despot whose legacy includes death, blood, fear, and a deeply troubled country. He did not operate in a vacuum, and he was aided by the most powerful regimes in the world. But that does not excuse the outcome – nor does it justify the continuance of such behaviour. Those choosing to play in the dirty sandbox of blood and money in today’s shadow economy will have either dismissed the importance of the Arab Spring’s impact on security and human rights or cynically regarded the situation as yet another opportunity from which to leverage additional millions.  I argue that humanity can no longer afford such cynicism.

I further assert these same actors will have understood President Goodluck Jonathan’s dismissal of his bank governor following the well-intended public servant’s disclosure to the ‘Nigerian Senate that the treasury was missing billions of dollars in expected oil revenue’ (Wolf, 2014: 5). Indeed, Jonathan and his cronies seemed content to turn a blind eye to the networks which channelled money and arms to Boko Haram while leaving security forces ill equipped to quell an uprising which has now left more than 10,000 civilians and security personnel dead at the hands of Islamist savagery (Foreign Policy, 2015: np).

The kleptocrats will have further monitored the toppling of corrupt regimes in Tunisia and the Ukraine and reacted like narcissistic sociopaths unable to emotionally register the gravity of their actions, while concurrently making plans to fly to safety while maintaining access to their ill-gotten gains if the same danger knocks on their door.

The impunity enjoyed by this cohort, and structured into our globalised economy, has paved the way for much of the harm we see unfolding on the world’s stage. It has also provided resonant and compelling reasons from which the so called Islamic State, Boko Haram, and the Taliban find a seemingly endless supply of recruits (Chayes, 2007: 22, and Woodrow Wilson Center, 2016: np, and Schirch as cited in Mertus and Helsing, 2009: 68).

Whether knowingly or not, every last player in the shadow economy has contributed to an encroaching threat against humanity and which serves as nothing short of a security threat multiplier. It is of epic and global proportions.

The 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa provides an immediate example of how easily corruption might impact security on a global scale. UN donor contributions topping $5.2bn were dispersed to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.  Almost all of it vanished, and only a fraction of the disbursement was ever audited. ‘In all three countries, no individual has been tried, much less convicted, for their role in the mismanagement of money meant to save the lives of the dying’ (Al Jazeera, 2016: np.).  These funds were also intended to contain the outbreak and prevent its spread.  The UN’s Global Ebola Response data refers to the outbreak’s nature as having been of ‘widespread and intense transmission’ (UN, 2014: np). But to date, the myriad pages and resources on their website speak only of a level of need and the current status of the situation.  Their silence of the flagrant misappropriation of funds perpetuates impunity.  And such complicit behaviour could very well facilitate a new pandemic of Ebola or some other virus, which experts warn could be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to halt if not contained early, and with the utmost care; care which could never result in the face of another round of missing but badly needs funds (Oxford Martin School, 2012: np).

Grand Corruption further impacts security by destabilising regions in concussive shock waves. As migrants flee corrupt regimes and insurgencies (again, simultaneously fostered by the shadow economy), we see communities decimated, resentments grow, borders close, and trust diminish. (BBCa 2015: np,). Actions originating thousands of miles away from Europe’s shores are now threatening the cohesiveness of European states and the long architected interdependence of the EU.   The Schengen Agreement is further threatened as once ceded sovereignty is being repossessed by politicians seeking to erect borders and control the influx of desperate people fleeing the regimes which grand corruption has enabled.

Finally, kleptocracy feeds the thickening of the crime-conflict nexus as human traffickers, arms dealers, and smugglers share mutually beneficial relationships with terrorists, insurgents and the ruling elite. The nexus will continue to thicken so long as the chaotic conditions and lack of governance resulting from unabated kleptocracy ensures the conditions favourable to its growth.  (see Patrick, 2009,  and Lacher, 2012, and McMullin, 2009, and Jesperson, 2015 and Sloan and Cockayne, 2011).

And it is for these reasons, and so many more, that we must strive to end impunity for grand corruption – and the shadow economy in which it thrives.   Such a task will require concerted, relentless multilateral efforts and incredible political will.  But it can, and must be done.

We can begin by seizing opportunity from the momentum gathering in the wake of the Panama Papers and the associated Unaoil scandals in current headlines.  We can further reach out across the international community and form inter-organisational working teams to apply pressure on host-countries, the Bretton Woods institutions, and home governments.   We can institute training programs which dispel the activities which remain shrouded in mystery but whose reality can be unpacked in simple terms.  But most of all, we must challenge the sovereignty of those countries who refuse to participate in fair trade and good governance – and we must have an international court with both the will and capacity to challenge the problem.  And that court must somehow operate separately from the arbitrary and political interests of the United Nations Permanent 5.

But it has to start. Impunity has to end. And accountability must follow. And never has there been a more pressing time.

Post-script

As a post-script to my previous position piece, I would like to gently assert that the International Community has understandably tolerated grand corruption in the theatres of peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations. The conditions in many of these theatres have necessitated that our precious resources be used first to protect lives and second to institute the ground-level security needed to maintain sufficient equilibrium from which to begin the long, hard institutionalisation of security sector reform, transitional justice, and micro-development projects.  But this too provides another reason why the solution to grand corruption requires an international effort outside the influence of the P5 (whose own members might be guilty of grand corruption or geopolitics).  We must seek a solution which can pre-empt the looting of banks and act independently of outside political agendas which might situate a vulnerable country between winning and losing scenarios as powerful countries battle for control by proxy. We need a solution which sends a clear signal to corrupt elites across the entire world, and not simply those situated in areas of conflict, that corruption will no longer be tolerated, nor paid for by blood of innocent people.  But we, the donor countries, must see to our own houses first.  We must ensure our hands are clean and that any authority we exercise is comprised of substance and never hollow in its nature. We must lead from the front, and from genuine experience.  But we simply cannot afford to turn away from this issue – at home or abroad.  People are dying by guns and by starvation; and they are dying by torture when taking action to stop the atrocity at hand while having inadequate support behind and beside them.  We must be that support.

References

Al Jazeera Media (2016) The plunder of west Africa Ebola funds. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/01/plunder-west-africa-ebola-funds-160125140155872.html (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

BBC (2016) Migration and citizenship, start the week – BBC radio 4. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06ybg7h (Accessed: 3 April 2016).

BBC (2016) Panama papers: What the documents reveal. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-35956055 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Barrington, R. (2016) ‘Spot the Difference: Corruption Research, Academies and NGOs’, British Academy: British Academy. pp. 1–7.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (2014) Corruption: The Unrecognized Threat to International Security. Available at: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/corruption_and_security.pdf (Accessed: 14 March 2015).

Chayes, S. (2007) ‘Days of Lies and Roses: Selling Out Afghanistan’, Boston Review, , pp. 21–23.

Foreign Policy (2015) In Nigeria, $2 Billion in Stolen Funds is Just a Drop in the Corruption Bucket. Available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/11/18/in-nigeria-2-billion-in-stolen-funds-is-just-a-drop-in-the-corruption-bucket/ (Accessed: 20 November 2015).

Freedom House (2014) ‘Combating Impunity: Transnational Justice and Anti-Corruption’, Washington, DC: Freedom House. pp. 1–10.

Huffington Post (2016) Big Banks Aided Firm at Center of International Bribery Scandal. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/unaoil-citibank-hsbc_us_56feba02e4b0daf53aefa1da (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Huffington Post (2016) There’s A huge new corporate corruption scandal. Here’s why everyone should care. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/unaoil-bribery-scandal-corruption_us_56fa2b06e4b014d3fe2408b9 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

ICIJ (2016) Giant leak of offshore financial records exposes global array of crime and corruption. Available at: https://panamapapers.icij.org/20160403-panama-papers-global-overview.html (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

ICIJ (2016) The Panama papers. Available at: https://panamapapers.icij.org/ (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Jesperson, S. (2015) ‘Development Engagement with Organized Crime: a Necessary Shift or Further Securitisation?’, Conflict, Security, & Development, 15(1), pp. 23–50.

Johnson, S. (2009) The Quiet Coup. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/05/the-quiet-coup/307364/ (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Lacher, W. (2012) Organized Crime and Conflict in the Sahel-Sahara Region.

McMullin, J. (2009) ‘Organised Criminal Groups and Conflicts: The Nature and Consequences of Interdependence’, Civil Wars, 11(1), pp. 75–102.

Napoleoni, L. (2003) Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks. London: Pluto Press.

Oxfam International (2015) Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016. Available at: https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2015-01-19/richest-1-will-own-more-all-rest-2016 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Oxford Martin School (2012) Pandemics – can we eliminate major worldwide epidemics? | videos. Available at: http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/videos/view/208 (Accessed: 4 April 2016).

Patrick, S. (2011) Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Reuters (2015) Egypt’s high court overturns last conviction against Mubarak. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-mubarak-idUSKBN0KM0O620150113 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Schirch, L. (2006) Human Rights & Conflict: Exploring the Links between Rights, Law, and Peacebuilding. Edited by Julie A Mertus and Jeffrey W Helsing. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.

Sloan, B. and Cockayne, J. (2011) ‘Terrorism, Crime, and Conflict: Exploiting the Differences Among Transnational Threats?’, Policy Brief, , pp. 1–11.

Transparency International (2008) ‘Human Rights and Corruption’, Working Paper, 05, pp. 1–6.

United Nations (2014) Global Ebola crisis response | data. Available at: http://www.un.org/ebolaresponse/data.shtml (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Wolf, M.L. (2014) ‘The Case for an International Anti-Corruption Court’, Governance Studies at Brookings, July, pp. 1–15.

Woodrow Wilson Center (2016) Combatting grand corruption internationally. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GN6HDEgiSc8 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Deployment of Police Officers for United Nations Peace Operations – Samveka Tadius

Societies emerging from conflict face a myriad of security threats from extremists and other criminal organisations (Gowlland-Debbas and Pergantis, 2009). However, indigenous capacity by local security institutions to meet these challenges is always inadequate and sometimes non-existent (Dobbins, et al, 2007). Deployment of police officers on peace operations has been one of instrumental ways that has been used by United Nations to re-establish rule of law. With non-executive mission mandate, the police among other things, provide expert assistance, conduct operational assessments and train and develop host country policing capacity while in executive mandate police protects law and order while also building up national police capacity. These tasks require deployment of officers who have the best skills and knowledge in conducting police duties specific to the mission. However, this is not the case as observed by some authors and also through personal experience as a peacekeeper with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

Dobbins, et al (2007) observe that international police have different policing techniques and understanding on human rights and democratic policing. Besides, policing is always understood from national perspective (Hills, 2009:65) and that there is no agreement to what constitutes appropriate policing. Bellamy and Williams (2010) also note that there is great demand in the role and responsibilities of UN Police but laments that most contributing countries are reluctant to send their most qualified officers for peacekeeping operations. This has resulted in ‘unqualified, inexperienced and underperforming officers to be deployed in the mission’ (Serafino, 2004:14). This was witnessed at Sanniquellie Police Station also at the UNMIL Police Division Headquarters between 2006 and 2007. Most officers lacked requisite skills to carry out the task of transferring skills to a ‘police force riddled with corruption, lack of professionalism and accountability’ (Human Rights Watch, 2013: 2).

Co-location, a strategy that required international police to work side by side with local police did not yield intended results because some of the UN Police Officers had little experience and knowledge compared to the local police officers. This happened for, example, in the area of community policing since this policing strategy was not known to police officers from some countries. This observation was also made by Smith, et al. (2007) who state that ‘the majority of candidates in the UNMIL mission failed to meet basic UN standards with little knowledge of international norms and standards for democratic policing with some having less professional experience and competence than the local police’. This lack of experience will be analysed through experience with some officers in Malawi when applying for peacekeeping duties especially at the time of preparing the Personal History (PH-11) forms.

When officers are preparing the PH-11 forms, they are guided by officers assigned to work in the Peace Support Operations Office who know the kind of skills that are required in particular mission area. Consequently, officers tailor their ‘experiences’ to meet the requirements of the mission. This finds officers who have served all their time in the police service as anti-riot officers, for instance, indicating working in community policing roles because they know that this is one key experience required in the specific mission. However, the problem of not having the right officers in peace operations can be resolved if the suggestions indicated below can be implemented.

The assessment that is made through the Selection Assistance Team to select officers eligible to go to peace operations should test requisite police function skills rather than mere comprehension, listening, report writing and driving abilities. Pre-deployment training is one tool used to bridge this gap in skills. The training should address specific issues such as democratic and community policing including legal systems applicable in the mission area and that this should be assessed through formal examination. Marking of the examinations be done by independent people rather than trainers and only those that pass with some level of proficiency be deployed.

In addition, regional bodies such as the African Union should have robust training for officers on deployment roster and such training should not be confined to the two weeks period they take. Inculcating professional knowledge and skills necessary for a post-conflict environment requires adequate time if these officers would be of relevance rather just being in the mission to get the Daily Subsistence Allowance which most officers focus on rather than transforming the local police.

There should also be a way of providing an incentive to member states that provide the best officers by promulgating them through such forum as United Nations General Assembly or any other means of appreciating their unreserved support. This would help to avert the problem of providing below standard officers.

It has been established that some officers that are sent on peace operations do not have required skills necessary for post-conflict environments. This can be rectified if appropriate measures can be put in place from selection criteria to pre-deployment training. This will assist the indigenous police to handle security issues that affect environments emerging from conflict through appropriate skills transfer.

Postscript

The problem of sending some unqualified or officers without requisite skills for a post-conflict environment has not been resolved for a number of reasons. Budgetary constraints by the organisations responsible for the deployed officers is key among the reasons. The United Nations is the main organisation deploying officers but it has been noted that all it does is sending officers to assist in the selection process of officers to be on the roster for deployment. The selection process only focuses on listening, comprehension and report writing which are not the only skills that police officers require in the mission.

The quality of officers deployed has also been compromised because training institutions conducting pre-deployment training use the number of officers trained as their performance indicator. The performance indicator should change from the number of officers trained to level of understanding of policing requirements in environments emerging from conflicts. Therefore, those who do not satisfactorily show understanding of the needs of the police in the mission should not be allowed to be deployed in the mission area.

Another reason is that strict measures are not followed from the selection process to training because of the fear that it will reduce number of available officers for deployment taking into consideration the fact that already the demand for officers is higher than supply by member states. It may be important to focus on the quality rather than the quantity because apart from inefficiencies by the officers lacking required skills, the UN spends its money on officers that do not provide any value in assisting the indigenous police officers.

References

Bellamy, A.J., and Williams, P.D. (2010) Understanding Peacekeeping. Cambridge: Polity.

Dobbins, J., Jones, S.G., Crane, K. and DeGrasse, B.C. (2007) The Beginner’s Guide to Nation-Building. Arlington: Rand Corporations.

Gowlland-Debbas, V. and Pergantis, V. (2009) ‘Rule of Law’ in V. Chetail (Ed) Post-Conflict Peacekeeping: A lexicon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hills, A. (2009) Policing in Post-Conflict Cities. New York: Zed Books Limited.

Human Rights Watch (2013) No Money No Justice: Police Corruption and Abuse in Liberia [Online]. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/liberia0813_forUpload_0.pdf   [Accessed on 30 December 2015].

Serafino, N. (2004) Policing in Peacekeeping and Stability Operations: Problems and Proposed Solutions. Washington DC: Library of Congress Library.

Smith, J.G., Holt, V.K. and Dutch, W.J. (2007) From Timor Leste to Darfur: New Initiative for Enhancing UN Civilian Policing Capacity. Washington DC: Henry L. Stimson Centre. Issue Brief, August.

 

Demobilisation, Disarmament and Rehabilitation Programmes – Martin Rix

It is vital that in post-conflict planning adequate provision is given Demobilisation, Disarmament and Rehabilitation (DDR) programmes. Ensuring combatants and weapons are no longer in the field, coupled with effective reintegration – as those alienated from their communities may eventually decide to re-take arms – has consistently proven to reduce the possibility of hostilities resuming. Additionally, DDR assists in creating a secure space in which wider post-conflict reconstruction can take place to ensure long-term security and economic development.

However, DDR programmes can often be too narrow in focus or attempt a one-size-fits-all approach (Wessells, 2015), ignoring the differences between male, female and child-focused programmes. In many cases programmes may only provide tokenism (Gordon, Cleland Welch and Roos, 2015), which creates an illusion of inclusion – often to appease donors – but fails to provide the assistance actually required.

Our NGO is committed to a fully encompassing DDR that, while developing bespoke programmes for male, female and child ex-combatants, does so equally, acknowledging the similar and different requirements each of these groups have to allow appropriate planning and implementation.

Distinction between these three groups is vital, as each may require niche elements. For example, the longevity of adult and child programmes differ widely (Muggah, 2010), with child-focused programmes requiring long-term commitment that may not produce immediately measurable results (Save The Children, 2005), while careful consideration is required regarding the different levels of stigma received by male and female ex-combatants over their involvement in armed conflict – as well as requirements regarding childcare or the provision of traditional clothing (Bouta, 2005; World Bank, 2013).

We believe that timings are also key. Prolonging the commencement of programmes may test ex-combatants’ commitment to peace, while adult-focused programmes should begin at the earliest opportunity to ensure that ex-combatants are disarmed and re-assimilated into society before post-conflict democratic processes begin (Banholzer, 2014). Failure to ensure ex-combatants are reintegrated in order to partake in elections may result in further marginalisation and the re-emergence of old grievances. Equally, for child-focused DDR it is important to ensure participants are included on educational programmes as soon as possible.

We view the provision of education as integral. For children this should consist of school education and life skills. For example, programmes in Liberia focused on reading, writing and mathematics but also included practical skills in ‘agriculture…mechanics, carpentry, cosmetology, masonry, tailoring and baking’ (UNICEF, 2006). Adult-focused programmes should primarily focus on vocational training, but, depending on literacy levels, may include reading and writing education, which would utilise existing teaching contacts and resources.

We recognise that many of the foundations required for effective DDR programmes equate across all programme types. Regardless of age or sex, ex-combatants alienated from society may decide to re-take arms, so there must be education and training to raise awareness within wider society, promoting understanding of why ex-combatants require assistance and how programmes may differ in structure and design. These outreach programmes should be delivered by local politicians, business owners, teachers and religious leaders (Nilsson, 2005). It may also be perceived that those who perpetrated crimes during the conflict are taking jobs in a limited market (World Bank, 2013; Wessells, 2015) or are receiving funding, so print media, radio and television campaigns should be designed (World Bank, 2013) to reach a wider audience.

Our NGO also believes in shaping programmes to provide the support that ex-combatants actually require, not what it’s perceived they do. Every conflict zone is different and may involve a range of cultures or religions. To ensure our programmes effectively reflect this guidance and advice should be sought from male, female and child ex-combatants at each stage of the process (Wessells, 2015), from initial planning through to implementation, to ensure that programmes provide the correct support and are constantly improved.

Finally, no single element of a DDR programme can function without support from donors. Our NGO requires support from external and internal donors to ensure programmes provide a complete level of support for ex-combatants (Nilsson, 2005). It is vital that donors recognise that without providing adequate and equal resources for DDR programmes for men, women and children the risks of a resumption of violence increases.

DDR has consistently proved to be an effective tool in post-conflict rebuilding, however, programmes designed for only a selection of ex-combatants will not produce sufficient results. Providing bespoke DDR for men, women and children is pivotal for ensuring post-conflict security and that all ex-combatants are successfully reintegrated into society.

Postscript

Demobilisation, Disarmament and Rehabilitation (DDR) programmes have become integral to post-conflict development, however, while boasting many successes they have also failed in a number of key areas.

DDR is a three-step process, but often planners only focus on demobilisation. For example, during Sierra Leone’s 2003 programme 72,490 combatants were disarmed and 71,043 demobilised (Kaldor and Vincent, 2006) and while this helped ensure security, the process was, effectively, one of demobilisation, with estimates that only 2-10 percent of weapons in the country were collected (Kaldor and Vincent, 2006).

As men make up the majority of armed personnel, programmes often place the focus upon them, with requirements for women and children becoming an afterthought. There can be a general reluctance amongst female ex-combatants to register for DDR (Nilsson, 2005) as planners often fail to provide women-only centres and solutions to women’s issues, such as difficulty in securing work in traditional societies where the woman’s role is perceived to be in the home (World Bank, 2013).

For child-focused DDR, a lack of funding is a common problem. In 2004, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported that donors had generally failed to fund children’s programmes to the same extent as other projects (Save The Children, 2005). It is argued that child DDR funding should not be reliant on adult programmes, as any setbacks will affect it (Muggah, 2010), but subsequently means planners overlook child-focused programmes as they can contradict donor priorities and may not provide headline results, particularly due to longer timescales.

References

Banholzer, L. (2014) When Do Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Programmes Succeed?, Bonn: German Development Institute, https://www.die-gdi.de/uploads/media/DP_8.2014.pdf, (accessed 25th September 2016)

Bouta, T. (2005) Gender and Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration: Building Blocs for Dutch Policy, http://www.oecd.org/derec/netherlands/35112187.pdf, (accessed 13th August 2015).

Gordon, E., Cleland Welch, A. and Roos, E. (2015) Security Sector Reform and the Paradoxical Tension between Local Ownership and Gender Equality, University of Leicester, https://lra.le.ac.uk/bitstream/2381/33542/4/SSR%20Gender%20and%20LO%20-%20final%20draft%20-%20published%20version.pdf, (accessed 21st March 2016).

Kaldor, M. and Vincent, J. (2006) Evaluation of UNDP Assistance to Conflict-Affected Countries: Case Study Sierra Leone, http://web.undp.org/evaluation/documents/thematic/conflict/sierraleone.pdf, (accessed 3 September 2015).

Muggah, R. (2010) ‘Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration’ in V. Chetail (ed.) Post-conflict Peacebuilding: A Lexicon, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 123-137.

Nilsson, A. (2005) Reintegrating Ex-Combatants in Post-Conflict Societies, http://www.pcr.uu.se/digitalAssets/67/67211_1sida4715en_ex_combatants.pdf, (accessed 13th August 2015).

Save The Children (2005) Protecting Children in Emergencies: Escalating Threats To Children Must Be Addressed, http://www.savethechildren.org/atf/cf/%7B9def2ebe-10ae-432c-9bd0-df91d2eba74a%7D/policy_brief_final.pdf, (accessed 2nd May 2016).

UNICEF (2006) Protecting Children During Armed Conflict, http://www.unicef.org/chinese/protection/files/Armed_Conflict.pdf, (accessed 26th April 2016).

Wessells, M. (2015) Children and Armed Conflict. [Podcast] The Clarke Forum. 17th Feb 2016, https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/clarke-forum-for-contemporary/id719533242?mt=10, (accessed 7th May 2016).

World Bank (2013) Female Ex-Combatants Find Livelihoods and Acceptance in Burundi, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPYpJMuqQFA, (accessed 13th August 2015).

The Need to Negotiate – Suzanne Fenton

‘Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.’ So said John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address as President in 1961. It is a sentiment that could have significant and positive repercussions today given the protracted conflicts that we see in the Middle East in particular and the increasing rise of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

This position paper will focus on the lessons that may be learned from past conflicts and countries living in negative peace. It will attempt to explain why it is time for states involved in current conflicts to sit at the negotiating table and jointly develop a framework for peace.

In the case of Palestine, arguably the world’s most protracted conflict, Abu-Nimer and Kaufman (2006) argue that basic rights of Palestinians are violated on a daily basis. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge the ‘other’; in this case, the Israelis who are equally in fear of Palestinian suicide attacks so both the perceived and actual security of both sides is continuously violated. Peace and understanding has no hope of succeeding in such as atmosphere of mistrust and a vicious cycle of violence. Any future political agreement must tackle these issues in a more effective, pragmatic way. As human needs of identity, security and access to political power are at the core of protracted communal conflicts, Abu-Nimer and Kaufman support a human rights framework combined with the Dual Concern Model whereby a party must consider the rights and needs of the ‘other’. “Addressing the psychological dimension of protracted social conflict is key to its resolution,” argue Abu-Nimer and Kaufman.

It is a subject that Powell (2014), chief broker of the Northern Ireland peace deal, is familiar with, and a principle he has applied in practice. He stresses the need to speak with the enemy, saying there can be no purely military solution to a political problem. Powell acknowledges the issue that, for many, talking to terrorists may give them legitimacy. A case in point is the world’s response to ISIS thus far is an emotional one, a human one of horror and disgust, and therefore the very notion of negotiating with ISIS, the act of reaching out, is abhorrent to most. However, it is impossible to generate any form of peace in Iraq and Syria, without negotiations forming part of the action plan. However, this is easier said than done. Both parties must be willing to lay out also to directly address the grievances of Sunnis who were marginalised for years by Baghdad. For some Sunnis therefore, ISIS is an improvement and there is simply no viable alternative currently (Collard 2015). Referring to peacebuilding in Afghanistan, Duffield (2007) argues that politics is now at the forefront of peacebuilding efforts. In the case of ISIS then, the political solution is to first understand it.

Yet still there are many civilians and politicians that recoil at the thought of negotiating with illegitimate groups that commit such horrific acts. While this is human nature, it is important to understand that ethically speaking, talking to terrorists may eventually help save lives. What politicians have done so far has had almost no effect. Surely it is worth trying a method that has proved instrumental in the past and one that could transform not only the political landscape of the Middle East, but also the lives of its people.

Unless this is done in a practical and immediate way, there will never be an end to the many conflicts we see today. We owe it to future generations to start talking.

Postscript

Powell notes that actions such as setting false deadlines can cause already-fragile negotiations to fail in the past. Successful actions of focusing negotiations is to have the common goal of agreeing general principles or framework agreement. Having a skeleton agreement in place in Northern Ireland, while causing initial upset, actually helped to make the Good Friday agreement possible by including issues and demands and ruling out others.

Another key issue that often causes a barrier to negotiating is explaining to the public that the government is talking to terrorists. Given the current political climate and the fact that ISIS commits such atrocious acts and in the full glare of the world’s media, this would be a challenge today.

The move towards a real peace deal is when both sides can see a viable political way forward. There must also be a shift from the military faction to the political. Without the move from military to political, peace is not possible. With the conflict in Iraq and Syria still in the hands of the military, there is still a definite political element at play.

References

Abu-Nimer, M. and Kaufman, E. (2006) ‘Bridging Conflict and Transformation and Human Rights: Lessons from the Israeli-Palestinian Process’ in J. Mertus and J. Helsing [Eds] Human Rights & Conflict: Exploring the Links between Rights, Law and Peacebuilding, Washington: USIP, 277-307

Collard, R. (2015) ‘What We Have Learned Since ISIS Declared A Caliphate One Year Ago’, TIME magazine. Available at http://time.com/3933568/isis-caliphate-one-year/. Accessed on 20 June 2016

Duffield, M. (2007) Development, Security and Unending War: Governing the World of Peoples, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Kennedy, J.F. (1961) ‘Inaugural address of President John F. Kennedy’, available at https://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/Ready-Reference/JFK-Quotations/Inaugural-Address.aspx

Powell, J. (2014) ‘How to talk to terrorists’, The Guardian. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/07/-sp-how-to-talk-to-terrorists-isis-al-qaida. Accessed on 19 June 2016.

Powell, J. (2014) Talking to Terrorists: How to end armed conflicts, London: The Bodley Head

Cyber Warfare – Olivier Dubois

Surprisingly enough, the SCID program is relatively silent on cyber warfare. It is briefly referred to in relation with the so-called new terrorism: terrorist groups would have the ability to carry out ‘electronic terrorist attack targeting critical infrastructure’ (Department of Criminology, 2013). This is a very narrow part of what constitutes nowadays cyber warfare and by no means does it capture the stakes of the current cyber arm race.

As with many new concepts, there is no universal accepted definition of the term. Most definitions underline the use of computers and digital means in a coordinated manner by a government or a non-state group with a purpose of causing disruption and/or damage (Sakharian, 2013; Andress, 2013). The target of a cyberwar is computers, networks and digitally controlled devices. If the objective may not be destructing physical infrastructure or killing people, the impacts of cyber operations cannot be contained to the digital world. It is not solely about offering a bloodless military superiority or an economic advantage (Kirsch, 2012). To the contrary, the US department of defence’s Laws of War manual (DoD, 2015) is explicit in recognising that certain cyber operation do constitute use of force in the meaning of Art. 2 § 4 of the UN charter. It cites Operations ‘ that: (1) trigger a nuclear plant meltdown; (2) open a dam above a populated area, causing destruction; or (3) disable air traffic control services, resulting in airplane crashes’ (DoD, 2015: 989). It is reported that more than 100 States are developing some forms of cyberwar capacity (Limnell, 2016).

As in our daily lives, the frontier between the digital and physical world is increasingly becoming difficult to identify. Cyber operations are equally challenging legal and policy boundaries. From a legal standpoint, the fact that a major military power like USA explicitly consider that cyber operations are submitted to both Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello (IHL) does not solve everything. Recognising a cyber operation as an act of war is important as it may influence the type of counter measure the victims may consider. It may as well contain policy makers in taking aggressive actions (Lin 2012). However, this restraining frame may be completely ineffective as the imputability or the attribution of a cyber operation to its perpetrator remains extremely difficult (Dortmans 2015, Lin 2012). As a result, waging an cyber attack is extremely low-cost and risk-free compared to the pay off (Limnell, 2016). States have still to learn to operate an adapted range of countermeasures to cyber attack in avoiding to make mistake that could jeopardise their political credit or cause an unwanted escalation in the conflict (Limnell, 2016). The danger of unwanted escalation is real. As a technological arm race is ongoing, states have little time to properly assess the effect of the arsenal and could be nevertheless tempted to unleash it.

The layers are at a loss. Applying IHL rules on the conduct of hostilities to cyber attack is thus extremely difficult and efforts of experts who have proposed to NATO the Tallinn Manual on the International Law applicable to Cyber Warfare is not entirely convincing (Schmitt, 2013). In the absence of precise knowledge on the offensive capacities of cyber weapons, it is very difficult to operationalise and respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions (Droege, 2012). There is an urgent need for a new treaty banning certain cyber weapons and/or creating new regulatory and surveillance authority such as the one existing for chemical weapons or for atomic energy.

Political scientists are at bay, too. Policy framework and guidance have to be adapted to this new reality to ensure that cyberspace is not transformed in a wild battlefield. Regional or collective early warning system for aggressive cyber activity are inexistent. Cybersecurity and cyber warfare are ‘team sport’ where international cooperation is key. Old times alliances created for responding to threats in the physical world need to be shaken up to meet the challenge. International commission of investigation or international fact-finding missions on alleged cyber warfare activities are yet to be created or even suggested in the corridors of New York. Is it so utopian to imagine negotiating cyber cease-fire and mandating cyber observers, to be nicknamed the “Blue Tablets”, as modern peacekeepers for monitoring it? The new wars of the nineties have shaken the whole approach to peacebuilding. Cyber warfare offers a similar shift of paradigm. Let us not wait a ‘Cyber-Srebrenica’. Let us prevent it by thinking and acting out of the box now.

References

Andress, J. (2013) Cyber Warfare Techniques, Tactics and Tools for Security Practitioners, 2nd ed., Burlington: Elsevier Science.

Department of Criminology (2013), SCID module 6 Unit 3, Resource 1, Leicester: University of Leicester.

Department of Defence (2015) Law of War Manual, Washington DC: Department of Defence, available at http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/DoD_Law_of_War_Manual-June_2015_Updated_May_2016.pdf (last accessed 21 September 2016).

Dortmans, P., Thakur, N. and Ween, A. (2015) ‘Conjectures for framing cyberwarfare’ Defense & Security Analysis 31(3): 172-184.

Droege, C. (2012) ‘Get off my cloud: cyber warfare, international humanitarian law, and the protection of civilians’ International Review Of The Red Cross 94(886): 533-578.

Kirsch, C. (2012) ‘Science fiction no more: cyber warfare and the United States’ Denver Journal of International Law and Policy 40(4): 620-686.

Limnéll, J. (2016) ‘The cyber arms race is accelerating- what are the consequences?’ Journal of Cyber Policy, (1)1: 50-60.

Lin, H. (2012) ‘Cyber conflict and international humanitarian law’ International Review of the Red Cross, 94(886): 515-531.

Shakarian, P. (2013) Introduction to Cyber-Warfare A Multidisciplinary Approach, Burlington: Elsevier Science.

Schmitt, M. (2013) Tallinn manual on the international law applicable to cyber warfare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Politics of Separatism and Violent Conflict

“Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and then it turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name.” – William Morris

sudan-referendum-2011

A Southern Sudanese voter casts her ballot on 9 January 2011, the first day of independence referendum that led to the creation of UN’s 193rd member state (Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Wars, not much peace

Have you noticed that we live in the age of continuous violent conflict fought simultaneously under various banners in different places? Virtually there is no a single day when we do not hear news about small, big, short or long wars (mostly about attacks and casualties, much rear so about successful peace deals). And this trend has been in making for quite a long time; modern time globalisation and technology advances made information about them readily available but also made the wars more intense and devastating, and rapidly escalating.

These are staggering facts, but in the course of past two centuries (from 1816) more than three hundred civil wars have been fought across the globe. Consider now that vast majority of them take months and years, and some last for decades (and this does not mean that the conflict is settled once and for all)—and you will realise that the humanity has not lived in even a short peace period for at least two hundred years.

Separatism as political manifestation

More than one-fifth of civil wars have been conflicts related to or originating from separatist demands. It does not come as surprise though—the very process of state creation and nation building over centuries, which left many cultural groups and nations stateless or residing as minority on the territories controlled by other groups, made it unavoidable. Political process of the 20th century, especially the collapse of empires, redrawing borders and creating new states after both World Wars, and decolonisation have both created conditions for tensions between various groups within newly formed states and boosted the nationalist and separatist ideas and movements.

The results of most of those state creation and recreation experiments are irreversible, for various reasons ranging from the resistance (or resilience) of internal political structures to regional and global security considerations and international law provisions and practices (which are not unambiguous, in turn). Therefore separatism is here to stay, and each generation of those groups seeking autonomy will take up their fight, as has been the case all along. If so, it makes sense taking a close look at separatism—to understand why it results in violent conflicts and what could be done to prevent it from turning into civil wars, and what could be done to end those wars once they occur.

“Separatist conflict is inherently political but not necessarily violent. Better we understand the interplay between its agents and their ideas, the underlying institutions and structures, and appreciate the role of externalities and contingencies at given point in time—higher the chances to prevent it from turning violent or to end the war once it occurred.”

First, separatism is an inherently political movement. Politically organised distinct cultural groups (for example, ethnic, racial, religious, tribal) advocate and act upon their claims for greater autonomy or independence from the state on which territory they reside in compact, as a minority. Material incentives play small, if any, role in this kind of contest: that is why greed and grievances of political economy analysis fall short of explaining the drivers of separatist conflict.

Second, separatism means conflict, but not necessarily violent. There are many separatist groups which pursue their goals of greater autonomy by peaceful means. And there are many states which engage in talks and concessions to meet those demands, instead of resorting to repressions outright. A lot depends on political culture and tradition of a given country and a combination of various contexts at a given time. And finally there are also various external actors which, in pursuit of their own agendas, may calm down or fuel the violent conflict.

[*On a related but separate note: the end of hostilities and eventual secession does not necessarily or immediately mean peace and prosperity for newly established states. From one civil war they may move into another war–this time within their borders and driven by another political struggle, separatist or otherwise. Think of South Sudan.]

Basics of separatism

All the above, backed by recent literature and evidence on the ground bring us to conclusion that separatism-inspired or driven civil wars shall be understood, studied and dealt with in terms of political science, by employing such categories as institutions, contexts, structures, agents, ideas, and contingency. Below is a summary of basics on contemporary separatist conflict, as informed by evidence:

  • There are different types of separatist groups and movements (or agents)
  • There are different kinds of separatist demands (or ideas)
  • There are different local contexts (or institutions and structures)
  • There are different exogenous factors (or externalities)
  • There are numerous points in time when individual decisions randomly coincide to produce unpredictable outcomes (or contingency ).

This post is first in a series where I will look at each of these statements separately.

1- Different types of (including potentially) separatist groups and movements (or agents)

Most of research conducted on separatism use the most complete database operated by Minorities at Risk (MAR) project of the University of Maryland. According to generally accepted definitions, there are six ethnopolitical groups identified in terms of their potential relevance to separatism. Under relevance it is meant that those groups have a potential for seeking autonomy, due to their historical past or current conditions.

As of 2006, there were estimated 283 such ethnopolitical groups across the globe (out of estimated 1,200 ethnic minorities recorded):

politics-separatism-violent-conflict_fig-1

Ethnonationalists are regionally concentrated peoples with a history of organized political autonomy with their own state, traditional ruler, or regional government, who have supported political movements for autonomy at some time since 1945.

Examples include: Kashmiris in India; Jews in Argentina; Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey; Turk Cypriots; Tatars in Russia; Zanzibaris in Tanzania; Scotts and Northern Ireland Catholics in the UK; Sardinians in Italy; Basques in Spain.

Indigenous groups are conquered descendants of earlier inhabitants of a region who live mainly in conformity with traditional social, economic, and cultural customs that are sharply distinct from those of dominant groups.

Examples include: Rohingya in Myanmar; Mayas in Mexico; Berbers in Morocco; Chechens in Russia; Nuba in Sudan; Native Americans in the US and First Nations in Canada; Maori in New Zealand.

National minorities are segments of a trans-state people with a history of organised political autonomy whose kindred control an adjacent state, but who now constitute a minority in the state in which they reside.

Examples include: Biharis in Bangladesh; Azerbaijanis in Iran; Crimean Russians; Catalans in Spain; Serbs and Croats in Bosnia; Baluchis in Pakistan.

Religious sects are communal groups that differ from others principally in their religious beliefs and related cultural practices, and whose political status and activities are centered on the defense of their beliefs.

Examples include: Ahmadis in Pakistan; Copts in Egypt; Shi’a in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Communal contenders are culturally distinct peoples, tribes, or clans in heterogeneous societies who hold or seek a share in state power. Disadvantaged communal contenders are subject to some degree of political, economic, or cultural discrimination but lack offsetting advantages. Advantaged communal contenders are those with political advantages over other groups in their society. Dominant communal contenders are those with a preponderance of both political and economic power.

Examples include: Hazaras in Afghanistan; Druze in Lebanon; Zulus in South Africa; Hutus in Burundi; Ashanti in Ghana.

Ethnoclasses are ethnically or culturally distinct peoples, usually descended from slaves or immigrants, most of whom occupy a distinct social and economic stratum or niche.

Examples include: Sri Lankan Tamilis; Roma in Romania, Hungary, Serbia; Tutsis in Congo (DRC); Hispanics in the US; Turks in Germany; Koreans in Japan; Chinese in Vietnam and Thailand.

*                  *                  *

Each of these groups has its own identity and shared history, present-day circumstances, and ideas about their future as political entity. I will explore them in the next piece.

This article was first published on PolicyLabs

Colombian People Reject Peace Deal with FARC

Last Sunday, 02 October 2016, the Colombian people voted against the peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), which was signed a week earlier on 26 September. This significantly undermines the prospects of ending one of the world’s most intractable conflicts, which the recent historic peace agreement had the promise of doing.

The Plebiscite

A little over half (50.2%) of those who voted in the plebiscite on 02 October, voted against the peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and FARC. Many of those who voted against the peace agreement are thought to have done so because the agreement was seen as enabling FARC guerrillas, who are seen by many as terrorists or criminals, to avoid punishment for wrong-doing and even secure legitimate places in the political administration; there is a distrust of those who have reached the agreement and a fear of what the agreement will lead to (Miroff, 2016). In general terms, the vote against the peace agreement is viewed as lack of confidence in the agreement rather than in a lack of commitment to securing a sustainable peace.

Crucially, less than 40% of Colombians voted (in part due to adverse weather conditions which made it difficult to travel to voting polls, especially in rural areas). Of those who did vote, the majority were from rural areas, which are generally the most affected by the conflict – with the notable exception of Bogotá, which voted in favour of the peace deal (Idler, 2016).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Peace Agreement

The peace agreement was historic, signalling the end of one of the longest-running armed conflict in the world. It followed the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement three months previously, on 23 June, which followed the General Agreement for the Termination of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Lasting Peace, which was signed by the parties to the conflict on 26 August 2012.

The General Agreement established a six-point agenda for the negotiations. The most politically-charged agenda point concerned the rights of victims. On 15 December 2015, an Agreement on the Victims of the Conflict was reached. Upon coming into affects, this agreement would establish a number of transitional justice mechanisms. These include a Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition Commission and a Special Jurisdiction for Peace with chambers, a Tribunal for Peace and a Unit for Investigation. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace will have jurisdiction for prosecuting members of FARC and the state armed forces for grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed while participating “directly or indirectly” in the armed conflict. Focus will be on those with command responsibility and, in an effort to promote peace, sentences will be significantly reduced including non-custodial sentences for those who acknowledged their responsibility.

The Agreement on the Victims of the Conflict was positive in that it was negotiated rather than imposed and uniquely built upon considerable contributions from representatives of victims associations. However, as the plebiscite result reveals, there is considerable disquiet that many members of FARC will not be held accountable for crimes committed (if the crimes they committed carried less gravity, or they did not have command responsibility or even if they can show they did not know what was happening under their command). The plebiscite result also shows that while the agreement negotiations were inclusive and consultative processes, they were clearly not wholly inclusive or responsive to the needs and concerns of all groups.

Intractable Conflict

The conflict between the Government armed forces and FARC has lasted for 52 years. It is both one of the longest internal conflicts in the world and has a magnitude of harm surpassed by few other conflicts, although often overlooked beyond Latin America. Approximately 220,000 people have been killed, about 80% of whom were civilians, and there have been over 100,000 registered forcibly disappeared persons, and tens of thousands of kidnappings (BBC 2016; Bouvier and Haugaard 2016). For many years, Colombia has recorded the second highest number of recorded deaths from mines or explosive remnants of war (ERW) among all countries, with more deaths only in Afghanistan (Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor 2016). Colombia also has one of the world’s highest number of internally displaced persons (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre 2016). By the summer of 2016, the Unit for Victims’ Reparation counted over 8 million officially-registered victims (Rueda 2016). The UN also estimates that there are 5.8 million people currently in need of humanitarian assistance (UNOCHA 2016).

Even though the Government of Colombia and FARC have expressed commitment to the ceasefire, there is significant cause for concern that what has been achieved over the last 4 years of peace negotiations may be undone. The ‘no’ vote is an added challenge to the many facing Colombia as it transitions to peace.

IMG_4992

Peacebuilding Challenges

The ‘no’ vote has demonstrated that there are significant socio-psychological challenges associated with moving away from a conflict that has lasted over half a century. In the first instance, accepting that there has been an armed conflict rather than efforts to counter terrorism and organised crime – as has often been portrayed by the state and accepted by large sections of the population – will be a challenge. It is necessary, of course, to accept there has been a conflict if the peace process is to be successful. While it is important that people feel justice has prevailed and those who have been responsible for atrocities are held to account, there is little hope that FARC will commit to a new peace agreement which results in criminal prosecutions for many of their members. This may mean that even before a new peace deal is negotiated, FARC members may join other guerrilla or armed criminal groups.

Moreover, the results of the plebiscite indicate that it is not, in fact, those people who may been victims of the conflict that have voted against what they see as treating FARC too leniently; aside from the capital, it was generally the urban centres rather than the rural locations, which the conflict has tended to hit hardest, that people voted against the peace agreement. There is a need, therefore, to encourage those from urban centres, who may have seen less of the conflict than their compatriots in rural locations, to consider that there has indeed been a conflict, which needs to be addressed by peacebuilding measures, rather than a fight against terrorist activities, which needs to be addressed with criminal sanctions.

Even moving beyond the ‘no’ vote and engaging in peace education among all groups, there are many other immediate challenges to the prospective peacebuilding process.

In the first instance, any agreement between the Government of Colombia and FARC will only address the conflict with FARC and not the other guerrilla groups active in Colombia, notably, Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN – in English, National Liberation Army), the second largest guerrilla group after FARC. The peace deal will also not address the presence and activities of armed criminal groups (former/quasi paramilitary groups) or BACRIM as referred to in Colombia (bandas criminales emergentes – ‘emerging criminal bands’). The prospective demobilisation of FARC also carries the risk of other guerrilla or criminal groups taking control of formerly-FARC controlled territory and criminal enterprises. Preparations are already afoot for such reorganisation, which is likely to result, at least in the short-term, in increased levels of violence associated with organised crime.

Organised crime in itself poses one of the greatest threats to the prospective peacebuilding process. Organised crime has a stranglehold on Colombian society, and has helped sustain and escalate the conflict and undermine security and the rule of law. High levels of impunity and links between guerrilla forces, armed criminal groups and the state in organised criminal networks will continue to undermine security and the prospect for peace.

Other threats to the peace process are typical of a post-conflict environment, and include the proliferation of small arms; the normalisation of violence; the psychological impact of trauma engendering distrust and fear; insecurity and an absence of the rule of law; and lack of confidence in the state and its ability to provide services. In many parts of Colombia, particularly rural, peripheral and border areas the state and its institutions lack any presence or legitimacy. These places have tended to be trapped in cycles of violence and poverty, and exploited by illegal armed groups.

Extremely high levels of human rights violations – notably against human rights defenders, women, indigenous leaders, Afro-descendant community leaders, trade union representatives, and journalists – also threaten to jeopardise a prospective peace. Colombia has one of the worst records of assassinations of human rights defenders: last year, over 54 human rights defenders were killed (The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 2016). This constitutes about a third of all global deaths of human rights defenders that year (Front Line Defenders 2016). High levels of impunity and corruption, widespread presence of guerrilla and armed criminal groups, and lack of state presence or legitimacy, combine to help ensure the high level of human rights violations will continue – even after a peace agreement comes into effect– unless these enabling and causal factors are addressed. And unless they are, any peace secured will be piecemeal and short-term.

In addition, there are significant socio-economic inequalities and a huge gap between the rich and the poor. These factors can fuel grievances. They can also leave the poor vulnerable to further victimisation and creates the conditions which justify or deny crimes against them. Unless a peace agreement addresses these socio-economic disparities, the peace process will not bring peace and security to those who remain the most vulnerable to insecurity and violence. Consequently, any peace will be fragmentary and unsustainable, and the poor will remain vulnerable to exploitation, violence and other crimes.

There are also significant humanitarian challenges as a result of the conflict and a concern that those in need of humanitarian assistance may be overlooked in the peace process. These challenges are also likely to test a prospective fragile peace.

Even if agreements are renegotiated and received broad-based support, implementation of those agreements will be much more difficult than the process of reaching those agreements. Issues concerning transitional justice, land restitution and the demilitarisation, demobilisation and reintegration of FARC combatants will always be highly sensitive and pose challenges to the peace process. These challenges are compounded by poor economic conditions and limited resources to invest in peacebuilding. Generating additional funds to support peacebuilding internally will be difficult as it will involve raising taxes among those who have – in large part – regarded FARC as terrorists rather than combatants engaged in armed conflict.

Nonetheless, there is the promise the negotiations between the Government of Colombia and FARC will recommence and include former president Álvaro Uribe, an influential leader of the ‘no’ campaign. More inclusive peace talks, including those who campaigned against the peace agreement, could result in a more workable agreement and one which responds to the concerns and fears of all groups. There is still the commitment of parties to the conflict to negotiate a peace agreement. Now what is required is public commitment to a proposed peace. This requires that the public are more engaged in the negotiation process – to both be informed by it and inform it.

IMG_4630

References

BBC (2016) ‘Colombia Farc: Ceasefire signed to end five decades of war’, BBC News, 23 June 2016. Available online at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-36611952 (accessed 05 October 2016).

Bouvier, V. and Haugaard, L. (2016) ‘Colombia’s Peace Accord on the Missing’, USIP Peace Brief 211, July 2016, Washington: USIP. Available online at http://www.usip.org/publications/2016/07/25/colombia-s-peace-accord-the-missing#.V5ZS9Jsj1-Q.twitter (accessed 05 October 2016).

Front Line Defenders (2016) Annual Report 2016. Dublin: Front Line, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Available online at https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/resource-publication/2016-annual-report (accessed 25 July 2016).

Idler, A. (2016) ‘Colombia just voted no on its plebiscite for peace. Here’s why and what it means’, The Washington Post, 02 October 2016. Available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/10/03/colombia-just-voted-no-on-its-referendum-for-peace-heres-why-and-what-it-means/ (accessed 05 October 2016).

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) (2016) ‘IACHR Condemns Killings and Threats Directed against Human Rights Defenders in Colombia’, Press Release, 25 February 2015. Available online at http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2016/021.asp (accessed 25 July 2016).

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (2016) Global Report in Internal Displacement. Geneva: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). Available online at http://www.internal-displacement.org/assets/publications/2016/2016-global-report-internal-displacement-IDMC.pdf (accessed 05 October 2016).

Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor (2016) ‘Colombia’, Country Profile, Geneva: Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor. Available online at http://www.the-monitor.org/en-gb/reports/2016/colombia/casualties-and-victim-assistance.aspx (accessed 05 October 2016).

Miroff, N. (2016) ‘Colombians vote against historic peace agreement with FARC rebels’, The Washington Post, 02 October 2016. Available online at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/colombians-vote-on-historic-peace-agreement-with-farc-rebels/2016/10/02/8ef1a2a2-84b4-11e6-b57d-dd49277af02f_story.html?tid=a_inl#comments (accessed 05 October 2016).

Rueda, L. (2016) ‘One step closer to peace in Colombia: implications for accountability’, Centre for International Criminal Justice (CICJ) Commentary, Amsterdam: CICJ. Available online at https://cicj.org/2016/06/one-step-closer-to-peace-in-colombia-implications-for-the-accountability-for-international-crimes/ (accessed 05 October 2016).

UNOCHA (2016) Humanitarian Needs Overview: 2016. Bogotá: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). Available online at http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/2016_colombia_hno.pdf (accessed 05 October 2016).