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).

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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).

 

 

Iraq at Crossroads: The Test of State Resilience

The problems of Iraq are multiple, but most of them seem to originate from few deep rooted and long suppressed causes that, once released in 2003, started their uncontrollable tornado-like movement. However, in spite of their scary manifestations, neither the problems nor their effects are inherently deadly—they do not pose an existential threat to the present Iraqi state. There is a real danger though, that if not properly addressed they would keep unfolding and paralysing the state and the society and, as a result, bringing more dysfunctionality, misery and suffering.

VIDEO: Top Iraqi Cleric’s Followers Continue Protest inside Green Zone

Popular protests in Baghdad’s Green Zone demanding govenrnment reform, February 2016

Two alternatives

The only way out of the current impasse is for the country’s polity, backed by regional and global powers, to negotiate and enforce a set of political arrangements that reflect both the historic tradition and political culture, and the aspirations of contemporary Iraq’s diverse populations. Theoretically, there are two alternatives to consider:

— One is to disintegrate, partition into independent states with dominant ethnic or sectarian population in each. There are three scenarios: two states—Arab and Kurd; three states—Sunni, Shi’a, and Kurd; and four states–Sunni, Shi’a, Kurd and Turkmen.

— Another alternative is to preserve the Iraqi state in terms of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, through undergoing political reforms. Under this alternative one can distinguish two scenarios: to create a fully federal state with much power devolved to autonomous entities; and to strengthen resilience of the present state through institution building and decentralisation.

Neither of these alternatives is easy, straightforward or free from limitations and controversies. They will demand a commitment to concerted and sustained effort of all major sides concerned.

Partitioning

Although it may look to some as a quick-fix solution, the partitioning of Iraq does not appear a feasible solution when brought to close light, for a number of reasons.

First, the issue of borders is contentious. Each side claims more ground (and thus more resources) than others would give up. Mosul is the case in point. Unsettled land and border disputes have caused tensions and fighting in the past and present. Moreover, no third party would dare engaging in this dispute.

Second, it does not solve the issue of minorities, ethnic and sectarian divides, since the population elsewhere across the country is heterogeneous. Therefore, the sense of insecurity will remain as it cannot be solved automatically in such a set-up, and inter-group tensions will be inherited by now newly established states. Exchange of population runs risks of abuse, forceful deportation bordering with ethnic cleansing.

Third, divisions within each ethnic or sectarian group won’t disappear with the creation of new states. To the contrary, chances are high that once left on their own the local factions will fight each other for controlling the power even more fiercely. This rivalry tends to be quite violent and destructive, considering that each group has own militia at disposal.

Further, there is a risk that violent confrontation will weaken and put their survival as sovereign states into question. On the one hand, various extremist groups will take advantage and fill the power vacuum. On the other hand, small states with predominantly mono-ethnic or mono-sectarian population and weak political institutions may easily become satellites of influential neighbours.

There is also an international dimension to partitioning. Creation of new states based on ethnic and sectarian principle would raise tensions in the region: inspire calls for independence and alert the governments which are afraid of those aspirations as threatening the integrity of their states. Think of sectarian minorities across the Middle East and North Africa region. Think also of reactions of the governments in Ankara, Damascus and Tehran to creating an independent Kurdistan state. Today no one is ready to deal with this issue, under constraint of other pressing problems and the uncertainty of outcome—neither among various Kurdish groups, nor in the countries with Kurdish population in the region and in Europe, United States and Russia.

And finally, from economic perspective this option does not look attractive either. The new economies will be vulnerable due to their heavy reliance on oil and non-mineral exports. Industrial production and agriculture are at rudimentary levels, while for building technology-driven production and services they lack basic components such as communications infrastructure and skilled labour. The fact is that today the Iraqi economy is immature and thus cutting it in smaller pieces and distorting even those tiny existing value chains will further expose weaknesses and limit the capabilities for economic regeneration and growth in those states.

Most probably, this all will lead to even more inequality in wealth distribution, higher poverty and disenfranchisement of ordinary people. To sum up, the partitioning risks creating three failed states in place of the one struggling to avoid failing.

Federalism

By the constitution of 2005, Iraq is a federal state whereby Kurdistan region is an autonomous federal unit with its own government. The relations between Baghdad and Erbil haven’t been always smooth and have been marked by numerous tag-of-war-like situations when important decisions and pieces of legislation were blocked in the Parliament or in the Council of Ministers. This rather tactical manoeuvring notwithstanding, it is right to say that federalism in Iraq has survived its test thus far.

Under this scenario Iraq would comprise three or four federal units with majority ethnic/sectarian population, respectively. This set-up is not impossible but requires a new constitutional arrangement with new devolved powers clearly stipulated. If properly designed and, most importantly, respected and implemented afterwards this constitution and the system it introduces may well work. It will to certain degree equalise the rights of Kurds, Sunni and Shi’a Arabs, in exercising the power and control of resources while (again, to certain degree) guaranteeing the rights of minorities in each federal unit. What it will not solve in and by itself is patrimonialism, corruption, divides between the country’s multiple political players, and the inefficiency of its public administration.

There are two features of federalism that must be accepted by Iraq’s political elites (especially its Shi’a establishment) before they all decide to endeavour in this direction. One is that, although federalism offers a solution through decreased ethno-sectarian tensions (especially in a short term), it also encourages and fosters demands for secession over time. To borrow from the English constitutional theorist A.V. Dicey, ‘there is no midway between federalism and independence.’  This is already an issue in Kurdistan, where the leadership has announced their intention to take course on the independence referendum—a move that makes Baghdad’s political establishment feeling uneasy. How would they react if two entities decide to secede one day? These are not easy things to digest. Therefore, accepting a legitimate right of each federal entity to break away through a popular vote at some point is one precondition to this scenario.

Another feature is about the degree of decentralisation. How much power does the federal government retain? In which policy and decision making domains, areas? And how deep down the hierarchy the power would devolve (entity, region, province, municipality, community)? What about tax collection? Which provisions would allow federal government taking full control and command and how do they define those exceptional and extraordinary circumstances (like wars and natural disasters)? These questions sound rather technical, but as ever the devil is in this sort of details. Finding the right balance between the empowering of federal units and the limiting of central government’s powers is a delicate business, but also vital one for the functionality of the future federal state. More clarity is there from the start, more of these are agreed upon and stipulated formally higher chances are that it will work smoothly.

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Institution building

The real problem of Iraq lies in its institutions, which struggle to adapt to the changed regime type, on the one hand, and to the fast evolving external circumstances, on the other hand. This puts the state’s resilience under serious test. Iraq is undergoing an evolutionary process, albeit under extreme circumstances, where it has to transition into a stable and modern democratic state. Take, for example, the recent political deadlock when the attempts of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to reform to improve the effectiveness of government were met with unanimous resistance of political elites who benefit from existing institutional arrangements. The fact that the collision between political decay and regeneration has taken an extreme, at times violent, forms does not change or deny the nature of this process—which is and remains inherently dialectical.

This scenario therefore aims at strengthening the regenerational, reformist forces within the Iraqi political system. It will do so by institution building and strengthening the resilience of current government apparatus without attempting to change the country’s constitutional set-up. In fact, it has been recognised by practitioners and in academic literature that the Iraqi constitution has all provisions in it to ensure democratisation and devolved governance, to guarantee the rights of minorities.  The problem, as frequently the case, is not with the constitution itself but with its implementation.

There are four factors necessary for the success of any reform. First is about the constellation of power—that is, how strong are the pro-reform forces, how well organised and cohesive is their coalition, and how inclusive it is in covering the geographic and administrative areas as well as various segments of society. Second is about the independence of bureaucracy (understood in Weberrian, technocratic terms) from undue political influence—that is, the ability of civil servants and public employees to do their job without being significantly constrained by political parties and blocs. Third factor is about technical capacity of government to perform. It concerns both the capacity of individuals and the quality of administrative processes. Fourth factor is about domestic ownership. It is driven by commitment to reform of politicians, public and private employees, entrepreneurs, citizenry at large and their organised groups who see the change necessary, not merely desirable.

I won’t speculate on the parameters under each factor, but analysis of available information and personal observations allow saying that all four factors are present in Iraq today, although neither is strong enough to make it through without sustained, long-term, and quite intensive and targeted effort.

The success of this scenario is strongly conditioned on performance and tangible outcomes. The government will need to achieve and convincingly demonstrate results continuously, in order to prove its effectiveness and maintain its legitimacy and credibility. To do so, the government, along with resources, will have to (a) fight the systemic corruption effectively; (b) endeavour in meaningful justice and rule of law reforms to enable reconciliation and enhance the sense of patriotism that crosses the ethnic and sectarian divides; and (c) adopt flexible approaches that would enable it to manage by discovery, timely adapt to the changing circumstances and to build the overall resilience of the system.

*                  *                  *

I do not conclude this piece with traditional summary of findings and recommendations; the aim was to outline the options with certain degree of detail on their advantages and limitations—this all is a work-in-progress, after all. However, it is clear from the above that I favour the institution building scenario.

Because political history of Iraq as a modern independent state in the course of last hundred years, since the end of World War I, makes a strong case for its resilient capabilities and thus, backs this scenario. From the Hashemite royalty set up by the British colonial rule, through pan-Arabism to Ba’athism, and most recently extremist political Islamism the Iraqi statehood has been put at test. The processes within these contestations have complicated the religious, ethnic, linguistic, national and regional identities. Nevertheless, every time Iraq struggled but bounced back to preserve its integrity.

Also, because this scenario points clearly to the way forward without grand theories behind (hardly anyone would agree that they are suited for Iraq today) and instead rests on a series of relatively small but manageable tactical interventions. And finally, because it is the only option which is practically implementable to deliver tangible results in the immediate term—and time matters.

A full version of this article was first posted on PolicyLabs under the title This is Iraq’s Call: The Road to Take. It is the last in a series of Political Crisis in Iraq: The Things Must Change.

Part I: Political institutions, Politics, Governance

Part II: Economic institutions, Financial stability

Part III: State security, Human security

Part IV: Alternatives, Scenario

I would like to thank Dr. Munqith Al Baker and Dr. Richard Huntington for their substantive comments, valuable conceptual insights and factual contributions made in the course of the work over this series of articles.

UN International Day of Peace

dan-smithOn the occasion of the UN International Day of Peace, Dan Smith (Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Manchester, and former Secretary General of International Alert) has uploaded an excellent blog post on the current state of global armed conflict and progress towards peace. There are some clear correlations with the conflict predictions and factors which are said to contribute to conflict risks, which are currently being posted to the Blackboard Discussion Board by newly-enrolled SCID students. I would suggest that while Colombia is one of the most positive current examples of how peace can be found in the most intractable of conflicts, there are still significant risks present in Colombia (notably high levels of organised crime and corruption, and massive socio-economic inequalities) which are not adequately addressed by the peace agreement and, if left unaddressed, may compromise the peacebuilding process.

This post also includes SIPRI’s summary reflection on conflict and peace building in 2016, which is also very informative –

 

 

 

Building Peace and Democracy in Myanmar, Brick by Brick

A series of posts on Democracy and Conflict: Real-life Solutions vs Models:

“Locally owned democratic reforms and peace building processes may not look as logical and attractive as externally promoted/imposed models, but they are effective — not the least because they derive from and are built in local culture, contexts, institutions.”

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21st Century Panglong Conference in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar 31 August, 2016. REUTERS

In this commentary on Myanmar’s recent progress toward establishing democratic governance and ending decades-long civil war, I will try to look beyond the known facts into the background of Burmese politics that frames, directs and conditions the course of developments, but is also continuously influenced by them. That is why this environment is neither static nor monolithic or heterogeneous. I will pick up some pieces of this dynamic puzzle to better understand what is happening in Myanmar and, more importantly, why it happens as it does.

Another milestone

In the course of four days, from 31 August to 4 September 2016, the government and military of Myanmar held a peace conference with rebel groups over the country’s future political and administrative set-up. The conference in the capital Nay Pyi Taw was the first broad based, inclusive of (almost) all stakeholders event dedicated to this issue in nearly seventy years, since gaining the independence in 1948.

The importance of this event is difficult to overestimate. It was the largest and most representative forum bringing together government officials, members of parliament, political party representatives, military officers, and representatives of ethnic armed groups in decades. Its significance is twofold, given that it demonstrated the legitimacy and credibility of the first democratically elected government and set the course toward the implementation of the negotiated peace that shall result in a new, federal political and administrative organisation of the Burmese State.

It was not perfect (what is in political realm?), for it did not live up to (rather elevated) expectations of achieving tangible outcomes except for demonstrating commitment, formally launching the process, and offering all the sides an opportunity to share their opinion. But that is already a firm step forward, in a manner that appears to be characteristic of political processes in Myanmar—testing ground and moving from one milestone to the next as conditions allow.

Conditions must be ripe for making a move to another milestone toward peace and democracy in Myanmar, and they grew so gradually over a number of recent years of painstakingly building momentum, to be ready by this point in time.

This kind of decision making based on ecological rationality (that is when inferences are made through exploiting the structure of information and the environment to arrive at adaptively useful outcomes) shows itself in many instances in Myanmar, including the timing of holding the conference. Many external observes grew impatient over the prolonged negotiations and the delay with holding this landmark event; they missed the point, I am afraid. The conditions must be ripe for making the move toward another milestone, and they grew so gradually over a number of recent years of painstakingly building momentum, to be ready by this point in time:

— The military have made another step on their ‘roadmap’, by allowing the democratically elected government to take public office; in so doing they retained their power and control of certain decision-making domains (such as defence, police and border control where they continue appointing the ministers and their deputies).

— The government is fresh and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi commands respect internally and internationally and enjoys credibility with majority of population; thus hopes and willingness to cooperate are high for the time being (this is not going to be always like that, because there will be unavoidable delays and failures in addressing the mounting problems that will eventually lead to certain frustration and disillusionment).

— The rebels are exhausted and they realise that they have achieved maximum of what they could have secured through the armed conflict. It is not a secret to either side that violence leads to more violence which only aggravates the situation but does not bring any result in and by itself. Since the signing of National Ceasefire Agreement in October 2015 all but three rebel groups in the north have put the arms down.

— This explains why all the rebel groups (even those who did not sign the agreement) agreed to its text last year. And in fact accepting the peace agreement is being kept firmly by the government and military, as a precondition for participating in the follow-up peace- and state-building process. On the other hand, the negotiation process was long enough (it took four years) for all the parties to hold internal consultations and to weigh all the pros and cons. In turn, the military’s powerful commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and his deputy signing the agreement in person had demonstrated their commitment.

— And finally, the process has got high level of attention and support from the international community. At the moment it is at its pick, which means strong political backing but also availability of financial and technical aid which are much needed to revitalise the economy and to address Myanmar’s numerous social problems (this should be taken with caution though, first, because of ever important to Myanmar strategic goal of balancing its relations with China, and second, recalling the waste in supply and spending when the country first opened for the external assistance in 2011, after the sanctions imposed back in the 1990s).

The fact that the agreement signing ceremony last year was attended by ambassadors of forty-five countries, the UN and World Bank in presence and co-signed by six international witnesses (among them the most important politically and economically neighbours China and India, along with Japan, Thailand, UN and the European Union) already speaks for itself. This year, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the conference, while the former SG Kofi Annan will head a commission for examining the situation with Rohingya Muslims and offering recommendations.

Recognizing the complexity of Burmese society

Any society represents a complex system due to broad variety of societal groups which constitute it and the diversity of their interests and intra-group and inter-group interactions (as stakeholders in an array of issues). Complex systems, as a rule, are characterized by the interaction of their components and therefore the resulting ‘emergent’ properties of the system as a whole cannot be derived from generalized quality of its components but reflect the properties of those numerous and multidimensional interactions between its constituent parts. Those interactions, in turn, tend to constantly change in their dynamics, directions, forms and magnitude. That is why it is so difficult to categorize any society, even when assessed against the criteria of one given category (for example, using political rights and civil liberties for judging the degree of democratic freedom).

Now imagine how complex is society where one-third of population is comprised of ethnic minorities. Moreover, there are more than a hundred of those minorities living together in these territories literally for ages. Add seven decades of most recent violent confrontation between them and the government led by military junta (of ethnic majority)—a civil war resulting in further erosion of social fabric and deeply running mistrust, physical destruction, economic backwardness, poverty, massive scale human rights abuses, hundreds of thousands of refugees abroad and displaced people in-country, and more than one hundred thousand of fighters belonging to a dozen-and-half of armed rebel groups spread across the land (which are linked to each other but do not form a single cohesive entity, thus may act independently).

Democracy and Peacemaking. It is impossible to meaningfully achieve one goal without attaining the other: there cannot be a democracy without equality and fundamental human rights and rights of minorities respected, and democracy seems to be the only system that can guarantee those rights to the Burmese society’s diverse populations. 

There are two processes running simultaneously in Myanmar, since its independence day. One is the process of political transformation (presumably toward democratic governance, but in a localised fashion). Another is civil war between the ethnic majority and minorities. In the shadows of it is taking place another localised violent conflict, driven by religious divides. These processes are intertwined, although may vary independently, and what happens is that only a solution (or rather, a set of solutions) that addresses core issues at the heart of them has a chance to be effective and sustainable. It is impossible to meaningfully achieve one goal without attaining the other: there cannot be a democracy without equality and fundamental human rights and rights of minorities respected, and democracy seems to be the only system that cannot guarantee those rights to the Burmese society’s diverse populations.

A REBEL SHAN SOLDIER GUARDS A MOBILE CAMP OF THE REBEL SHAN STATE ARMY IN NORTHEASTERN MYANMAR.

A rebel Shan soldier guards the heights of a hill outside a mobile camp of the Rebel Shan State Army (SSA) in north eastern Myanmar. PDN/TAN/JDP

Understanding the local contexts and institutions

This is a sketchy present-day portrait of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, set within the country’s unique contextual features and underlying institutions. Take just some of them, most prominent ones, and you will see the random events, individuals and groups as parts and parcels of political processes occurring in their natural environment.

The country has a long history of statehood—existed as an independent kingdom, at times strongly centralised, for centuries (since the mid of 11th century until British colonization in the end of 19th century). Therefore, sense of nationalism and pride of own history and traditions, in each ethnic group and nation-wide, runs very deep. Perhaps this is one reason that in spite of violent infighting, almost all the rebel ethnicity centred groups do not seek to secede but strive to have equal rights and autonomy thorough building a federal state within the present borders. They take pride of the fact that Burma did not join the Commonwealth because they ‘refused to accept the British sovereign as head of state’.

On the other hand, the colonial rule not only disrupted the continuity of sovereign rule but also exacerbated and exposed the country’s major social vulnerability by stressing its inter-communal ethnicity based differences. This was recognised at the time of gaining the independence, and political equality was reflected in an agreement of domestic forces. Unfortunately this agreement was not implemented, thus effectively leading to armed conflict between the ruling majority and ethnic minorities.

Religion (Buddhism) has been one of distinctive building blocks of identity in Burma over the course of its long history, and has greatly influenced the individual, group, and inter-community behaviour and relations. However, group identity is not a permanent ‘solid enduring fact’ but rather a ‘situational construct’ which, first, has many layers and, second, evolves as part of the advancement strategy in response to changing circumstances (for example, by changing the hierarchy of its ingredient parts/layers). Therefore the Buddhist identity has not always played a dominant or unifying role in inter-communal relations, especially in the framework of the civil war unfolding.

In addition to ethnic diversity, there is a religious minority of Muslim population living in compact pockets; they are seen as aliens and discriminated against by nationalist Buddhists, at times brutally. In the western state of Rakhine, about hundred and twenty thousand Rohingya Muslims are living in displacement camps after being driven from their communities four years ago (it is also indicative that no one represented them at the peace conference).

Economic inequality has been another driver of the conflict, since the minorities live in most remote and underdeveloped areas but also have been neglected by the central government for long. Decades of civil war have devastated the country’s resources and destroyed its economy’s productive infrastructure while creating the opportunities for illicit economic activities, especially drug related, thus contributing to the conflict’s sustainability.

The change from within

Myanmar has demonstrated that by following its own path it slowly by surely progresses toward the end goal. The goal itself is broadly defined; it is shaped and reshaped along the journey, with multiple intermediary milestones determining the pace, the direction and the current and possible future settlement formats. Its smooth transition from military rule to democratically elected government (even though with the power and special position of military constitutionally guaranteed) took too long in the eyes of many observers, but what is important is that it worked out and already started delivering its first results. Another process, of ending the civil war, has too, entered its maturity phase after many attempts, iterations, and prolonged negotiations.

It well may be that, after decades of dominating mostly grim news Myanmar is about presenting to the world a lesson on how internal differences could be overcome. Whatever comes in the end (both in terms of governance and peace), is going to be a Burmese product, a local model that may not (and most probably because of that won’t) fit into Western or any other models of democratic government and peacemaking or work as a model for replication elsewhere.

Revitalisation of a troubled society must come from within if there is to be a meaningful fulfilment of its various communities’ needs and aspirations and a workable mechanism to accommodate their diverse relationships.

I am convinced that the Burmese (and similar) experiences of dealing with their problems deserve to be closely studied and learnt from. I see the success factors of this approach in its domestically-driven energy and localised solutions, built with recognition of political culture, traditions and institutions, with adjustments made to local contexts and, through this interaction, influencing those contexts to allow the change occurring and taking root. The revitalisation of a troubled society must come from within if there is to be a meaningful fulfilment of its various communities’ needs and aspirations and a workable mechanism for their diverse relationships.

The country makes cautious steps in progression and there is a long way to go. But one thing is clear today is that they do it their own way in Myanmar, and even if it does not match everyone’s expectations or standards abroad, it may work well for their people. And that’s what matters in the end.

This article originally appeared as a blog on PolicyLabs under the headline ‘Myanmar: Building Peace and Democracy Brick by Brick’

About the Author: Dr. Elbay Alibayov is an international development professional specialising in state-building and political processes in post-conflict countries. He has worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Azerbaijan. Being posted in the field (such as office in Srebrenica) and headquarters of international projects and missions, he has designed, implemented and overseen a broad range of strategies and local and nation-wide initiatives, and have chaired and participated in the work of civil-military groups, political coordination boards at all levels.

Externality Fallacies in International Aid

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We like models, don’t we? We claim that they represent a simplified reality that helps us make sense of it and serve as guidance for taking action. Accepted, it does in many instances (especially in well ordered situations when the cause-effect relations are observable and/or future developments are mostly in line with the extrapolated past trend). But what happens when some developments do not fit into any existing model? Then in a customary manner we are quick to dismiss them as anomaly that has to be brought back to the norm of the known models.

Take, for example the notion of democracy promotion and democratic transition. All former colonies and, in the same vein, post-communist countries were expected to make a quick and effective transition from their non-democratic regimes to elected and then liberal democracies. It was assumed with little consideration given to unique cultural features of those societies and to their readiness to do so. The reality has shown that this is not the case. Then the notion of ‘grey areas’ was introduced to explain that those countries which did not make it to democracy were lost somewhere in-between but eventually would have to be driven on the predefined route, or otherwise they risk of reverting back to authoritarian rule—with no third option allowed. Not necessarily, it appears—at least not in such a simplistic manner.

What we failed to appreciate is the difference between the commonly accepted set of defined democratic values and the variety of forms that democracy as a governance regime based on those values may take, depending on local political culture and institutions. Also, the mechanistic understanding of such ‘transition’ fails to take into consideration that in order to become sustainable, the reforms will demand a cultural change which time-wise could be expected to take no less than a generational span (independently of the amount of effort, money and pressure invested externally).

And finally, we tried to model those transitions as flawless and irreversible—yet another failure to appreciate that even liberal democracies keep evolving and there is nothing surprising if at times this process turns into zigzagging and iterations, in an attempt of finding the optimal adjustment of political system to the changed external circumstances, let alone high-impact ‘surprises’.

(There are countries, such as Argentina, known for this kind of iterative democratic development. And it seems that the outcry of ‘illiberal democracy’ in Hungary and Poland is exaggerated; the policies of their elected governments signal more of a search of effective adaptive strategies in the face of daunting economic and social problems rather than of turning back to European liberalism).

The same holds true with regard to ending violent conflicts and peacebuilding. So frequently we tend to overestimate the effects of globalisation and see the interaction between local and global as a one-way street, although the evidence suggests that the influence is reciprocal, and to be absorbed by local contexts the global trend (or external influence) has to be ‘glocalised’. On the other hand, there is another fallacy of assuming that the solutions offered (if not imposed) by the developed/industrialised world actors are superior to those home-grown initiatives of local political players in the developing countries. Even driven by the best of intentions, external interventions may distort the inherent logic of internal conflict, which is a product of an interaction of many factors acting within a unique set of local political, economic, social contexts.

Locally owned democratic reforms and peacebuilding processes may not look as logical and attractive as externally promoted/imposed models, but they are effective–not the least because they derive from and are built in local culture, contexts, and institutions.

In any case, whether it is democratic reform or ending the conflict–only when the solutions are driven and owned by domestic actors, there is a chance that the meaningful development (including constitution building) or peace deal would be concluded, and respected and implemented afterwards. And we have to be ready to accept that it may take decades for them to come to realise that only through cooperative strategies they would achieve the final settlement (which is never a zero-sum outcome but something that demands concessions from all sides but still they can live with that)—if, of course, the democratic state and sustainable peace are the final goals and the contest/infighting has not turned into a self-sustaining endeavour when keeping the confrontation and thus status quo going is an end it itself and not a means to achieving the goal.

(These fallacies of international assistance have been recognised and pointed to on numerous occasions and by various institutional agents and leaders over years. For example, the latest, 2015 OECD report on the States of Fragility (formerly known as fragile states), lists fifty such states in Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa and Oceania and concludes that ‘far greater international political will is needed to support nationally owned and led plans, build national institutions’. Note that the majority of those fragile states have been recipients of international aid for decades.)

That said there are various types of internal conflict and a variety of conflict drivers interact in any given violent confrontation, and they are set in a certain external geopolitical field with many interests—so I am far from drawing yet another model here, but rather intend at pointing to some fundamental issues which have been somehow neglected in the international community’s involvement in domestic violent conflicts and civil wars across the globe.

Whether ‘give war a chance’ or ‘give peace a chance’ should not be formulated as a dilemma, in my opinion. There is another dimension to resolving internal conflicts, which may well amalgamate these two within a flexible, adaptive and ecologically rational approach—as demonstrated by some successful experiences in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Among most recent are Colombia and Myanmar—they may not look as attractive as models but they are real and effective. Not such examples in the Middle East yet… or are they in making?

This article originally appeared as a blog post on PolicyLabs under the headline ‘Democracy and Conflict: Real-life Solutions vs. Models

 

 

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.

Postscript

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).

Where are all the women? – Jane Townsley

Across the World there continue to be lost opportunities to build security and justice in post conflict environments by the marginalisation of women. It doesn’t make sense not to include those who can represent the needs and expectations of half the population. In the words of US Secretary of State John Kerry “no team can possibly win leaving half of the team on the bench” (Kerry, 2014 n.p.).

Women play a key role in our societies, they know what is happening within local communities and in many cases are able to influence others, including within traditional societies, where mothers have an important role to play in guiding the future path of their children. So when post conflict reform programs are being designed women need to be included in that process and in their subsequent delivery. There is evidence that when security actors take into account the differing needs of both men and women the likelihood of achieving their objectives is increased (Whiteman & O’Neill, 2012).

Focusing in particular on police reform the lack of involvement of women in certain environments particularly post conflict is shameful. According to Abbas (2016) the expansion of women’s role in law enforcement as well as the broader criminal justice system ‘Is the key necessary element to open the doors of peace and harmony around the globe. It is especially so in conflict zones and regions facing socioeconomic turbulence and instability”.

Gender responsive policing is about ensuring the needs of men and women, boys and girls are taken into account equally when delivering policing services as well as the needs of those men and women working within the police. In most cases the creation of a fully gender responsive police service within a post conflict environment requires not only increasing the number of women but also ensuring all officers are professionally trained and equipped to provide the best services to the communities they are there to protect. This does not mean that women should be restricted to non operational back office roles or that they alone should deal with women and children victims. Women officers can make a valuable contribution to operational roles, just their presence in hostile situations can defuse tensions. It is essential that male officers too have an awareness of the needs and expectations of women within society if trust and confidence is to be built for sustainable security and justice.  As stated by Bastick (2008:5) ”SSR efforts should, however not treat young men primarily as a security risk and women and girls primarily as victims”.

The status of women in law enforcement and governance is reflective of the status of women in communities which, in turn, determines a government’s ability to respond effectively to conflict (Bird, Townsley, 2015). Increasing access to justice for victims of gender based violence, something that is often prolific following conflict and disproportionately effects women and girls, is another benefit of gender responsive policing. In post-conflict societies it is far more likely that female victims would be dealt with by male officers, probably at police stations where there are no victim friendly facilities. More women officers can provide victims with the courage to take their first steps into the justice system however they need relevant training. For example, just staffing violence against women units with women officers who have had no specific training will do nothing to increase trust and confidence. Equally, professionally trained male officers can provide the necessary support and understanding required.

Where the numbers of women have been increased in policing within post-conflict environments they often are subject to discriminatory practices. In Pakistan, female officers make up less than 1% of police numbers and lack basic equipment, they are also discriminated against when it comes to nominations for training (Peters, Chughtai, 2014). In Afghanistan, where there is only 1 female officer for every 10,000 women (OXFAM, 2013) policewomen are often side lined into demeaning roles, abused and even killed (IAWP, 2014) “If you cannot safeguard women in the police, how can you possibly improve the situation for women in the community?” (IAWP, 2014: 1).

There is a disproportionate impact from conflict on women and girls when it comes to security and justice, yet they continue to be excluded from many post-conflict reform programs. Despite many advocates that the inclusion of women is essential for lasting peace, progress continues to be slow. Within security reform recruiting more women to the police alone will not solve the problem, policies and procedures need revising to create a fully inclusive police service. In order to achieve ‘real’ change, gender mainstreaming need to be replicated across the entire criminal justice system.

Postscript:

Why hasn’t effective action been taken to address the issues outlined above? A number of reasons exist but the overriding one is a lack of accountability. Who can hold governments to account? In post-conflict settings there is often at the start of reform and rebuilding processes institutions and government structures are broken if not totally collapsed. International actors including UN Peacekeepers can become involved but even then where does the true accountability lie? The only United Nations body with any ‘authority’ is the security council yet still atrocities persist across the globe, sometimes right under the noses of UN Peacekeepers such as in Rwanda and Bosnia.

The UNSC Resolution 1325 (2000) is specific about the role women should play in peacekeeping and peace building yet where is the accountability when so many member states still do not have National Action Plans 16 years after 1325 was accepted? Still only 60 member states have produced their plans (Institute for Inclusive Security, 2016n.p.). The achievement of the Millennium Development Goals did not succeed by 2015, again who holds governments to account? We now have the Sustainable Development Goals #16 ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’ (UN, 2016) being the most relevant to this paper. How will they be monitored and governments held to account? The UN Security Council was established following the end of WWII yet the World is a different place now and perhaps the make up of the permanent members of the security council is overdue a review something even Kofi Annan recognised whilst he was the UN Secretary General (Annan, 2013:142) as he stated, “For the Security Council to enjoy legitimacy in the twenty-first century, it needs to be not only effective but also representative” He went on to state, “The problem will not be that such countries will actively oppose the Security Council. It’s that they will ignore it” (Annan, 2013: 142).

References

Abbas, H. (2016) ‘Women Fighting for Peace: Lessons for Today’s Conflicts’ Committee on Foreign Affairs United States House of Representatives, Washington D.C.: USA, 22nd March 2016.

Annan, K. (2013) Interventions: A Life in War and Peace, New York: Penguin.

Bastick, M. (2008) Integrating Gender in Post-Conflict Security Sector Reform Policy Paper 29, Geneva: Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).

Bird, E. and Townsley, J. (2015) ‘Background’ Gender Agenda International, Sheffield: Flinch Design.

IAWP (International Association of Women Police) (2014) ‘Police Women in Afghanistan’ IAWP Campaign Briefing Paper, http://www.iawp.org/campaigns/Afghanistan/IAWPAfghanistanCampaign.pdf  (accessed 4th April 2016).

Institute for Inclusive Security (2016) National Action Plan Resource Centre http://actionplans.inclusivesecurity.org (accessed 4th Aril 2016).

Kerry, J. (2014) ‘Closing Remarks’ at Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, London: Excel Centre, London, UK, 13th June 2014.

OXFAM (2013) Women and the Afghan Police – Why a law enforcement agency that respects and protects females is crucial for progress, OXFAM Briefing Paper 173 http://www.oxfam.org/en/policy/women-afghan-police (accessed 4th April 2016).

Peters, A. and Chughtai, H. (2014) ‘Why Pakistan Needs a Few More Good Women’ Foreign Policy http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/07/29/why-pakistan-needs-a-few-more-good-women/ (accessed 4th April 2016).

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) S/Res/1325 (2000), New York: United Nations.

United Nations (2016) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org (accessed 4th April 2016).

Whiteman, T. and O’Neill, J. (2012) Attention to Gender Increases Security in Operations: Examples from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Washington D.C.: The Institute for Inclusive Security.

Prospects for Peace in Colombia: Inequalities, Denial and the Undeserving Poor

In the blog post linked at the end of this paragraph, Nathan Tuffin, Portfolio Manager with the Languages, Literature & International Engagement Section of AHRC talks about the experiences at the Post-Conflict Research Workshop, held in Bogota and Medellin, Colombia last month – Source: A Blog from Colombia – An AHRC perspective.

UK-Colombia Post-Conflict Research Workshop

I attended the Post-Conflict Research Workshop organised jointly by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the Government of Colombia, held last month in Colombia. During the Workshop the dynamics of the conflict and the prospective peacebuilding challenges were considered, and priorities were identified in terms of areas where academic researchers can help contribute to addressing these challenges. I thought the blog post linked to above might be of interest to some of you – I will share the identified priorities and outcomes once they are formalised. I also wanted to share some further thoughts on my visit to Colombia, in the hope that some of you will comment (which I would find very helpful) or write short blog posts on your views of a conflict-affected environment you work in, have visited, or have read about.

First Impressions of Colombia – Challenges, Complexity and Capacity

This Workshop and my short visit to Colombia left me with an impression of the enormity of the challenges facing a country that has seen 50 years of conflict. It is also a highly complex conflict, not least in terms of how it has changed over time; the hundreds of thousands of victims; the many different actors involved, their activities and alliances which also fluctuate over time; and the way in which the conflict affects different geographic areas and socio-economic groups differently. Indeed, it seems the only constant factor in the conflict has been that the poor and the marginalised have disproportionately suffered – even in places less afflicted by the conflict – as it often is in conflicts worldwide.

IMG_4916Aside from the enormity of the challenge, I was also struck by the capacity that exists within Colombia to address these challenges. Aside from the institutions (often afflicted by corruption) and the legislative framework (comprehensive but not always adhered to), the strength of civil society was what impressed me the most: the number of human rights defenders, lawyers, academics, journalists, as well as indigenous, Afro-Colombian, peasant farmer and other community leaders – and the quality of their work, their commitment to peace and their courage. While this capacity exists, many are threatened and have been killed by guerrilla and paramilitary groups, especially if their focus of attention is on the activities of powerful or clandestine groups. 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), which constitutes about a third of all deaths of human rights defenders that year across the world (Front Line Defenders, 2016).

False Positives

I was also left with two other lasting impressions; lasting because what I saw and heard I found hard to make sense of. Firstly, the issue of ‘false positives’: this concerns the routine execution of civilians (generally poor and marginalised males, including homeless people, disabled people, farmers, children) by the Army between 2002 and 2008, who were subsequently dressed up to look like guerrilla fighters. This was in response to pressure on the Army to show more combat kills and further to calls for the success of the Army in the fight against FARC and ELN to be judged in terms of blood shed or rather number of guerrillas killed. While the FARC and ELN were trained guerrilla fighters and, in some cases, in cahoots with the state armed forces, it was often more expedient to kill poor people and then dress them up as FARC or ELN soldiers. People were lured away to remote areas with the promise of jobs and then killed, dressed as guerrilla fighters with weapon placed in hands, and photographed. Evidence could no longer be ignored when photos showed a young disabled man who had been killed who had recently been reported missing in a city far away; he was clearly unable to properly hold let alone shoot a gun (and he, along with most of the other false positives, had never had any association with guerrilla groups). Other photos showed shoes on the wrong feet and uniforms without bullet holes over bodies that had been shot. Over 3,000 people were killed and evidence shows that engagement in extrajudicial killings was systematic and widespread throughout the Army (information from interviews – see also Human Rights Watch, 2015, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective (CAJAR), 2012).

Denial

Secondly, in parts of Colombia it is easy to overlook the fact that a conflict is on-going, and in parts of Bogota it is even easy to imagine there is no insecurity, violence or hardship. This is part psycho-social, part geo-political and part communications strategy employed by the Government. In Zona Rosa (Bogota’s Pink Zone) there are many malls, designer shops and restaurants. Only a kilometre or so away are slums and large, highly impoverished communities. It is from these communities that many men were taken away and killed and presented as fallen guerrilla fighters by the state armed forces. People living and working in Zona Rosa and similar privileged areas are more likely to believe Government rhetoric and media reportage of terrorists rather than guerrilla fighters, and the undeserving rather than victimised poor, precisely because they see little evidence of insecurity, injustice or conflict. They are less inclined to be supportive of the peace process, believing it constitutes negotiating with terrorists. They might also be assumed to be less supportive of an eventual peace process, if the voices of victims are to be heard, if history is to be examined and memorialised, and if financial support in the form of increased taxes is to be sought to pay for the necessary peacebuilding programmes (land restitution, transitional justice, DDR etc.).

Psychologically and socio-politically, it is very difficult to move beyond oppression, victimisation and atrocity without an acceptance that is has occurred and was wrong. In his outstanding book, Stanley Cohen (2001) talks about ‘states of denial’, which is when people, governments and societies know about atrocities but ignore them. To assume responsibility for not taking action, or taking a stand when it could have been taken, is very difficult at the individual level: narratives and stories are constructed, histories re-written, and blame reassigned, to avoid dealing with the pain or discomfort. In Colombia it was clear there was general awareness of the massive socio-economic inequalities that existed. I was also told that many members of the Army killed poor people not because they themselves were threatened if they did not but because they would be rewarded with a bonus, extra leave days or promotion. There was no denial of what was happening, and seemingly no insurmountable pressure to commit such atrocities; but there was a reconstruction of the poor as undeserving, as lesser, as not ‘the good ones’ (as I was told was the phrase used in Colombia) and thus seemingly dispensable and irrelevant.

Prospects for Peace

Coupled with the stranglehold of organised crime on Colombian society, it is hard to envisage effective peacebuilding where there are such inequalities and injustices and little evidence that there is the political will to address these – no matter whether an Accord can grapple with the challenges of land ownership and restitution, DDR and ‘concentration zones’, and bottom-up peacebuilding (paz territorial).

When there is such inequality and such apparent disregard of the suffering of the poor and marginalised, it is hard to envisage how there can be a stable platform upon which successful peacebuilding can occur. Of fundamental importance to successful peacebuilding is the need to address structural inequalities if the dynamics which lead to conflict, violence and insecurity are to be changed: those dynamics which create the conditions for further victimisation and which also compound grievances. If there is a reluctance to acknowledge the injustice of massive disparities in wealth and opportunity, to witness the crimes suffered by the poor and dispossessed, and to acknowledge personal responsibility in contributing to a better society for everyone, there is little hope for building a more peaceful society. There can be no peace, if large sections of the population live without security, justice and opportunity. Moreover, if some, privileged groups do not acknowledge that there is a conflict (but only see terrorists and criminals and the undeserving poor) it is hard to envisage that there will be little commitment to the means necessary to resolve the conflict and build peace. To resolve conflict and build peace it is first necessary, of course, to accept that there has been a conflict – and from there begin to unpick the causes of that conflict.

Best wishes, Eleanor

References:

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

Human Rights Watch (HRW) (2015) On Their Watch: Evidence of Senior Army Officers’ Responsibility for False Positive Killings in Colombia, New York: HRW, available at https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/06/24/their-watch/evidence-senior-army-officers-responsibility-false-positive-killings.

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 at http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2016/021.asp.

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective (CAJAR) (2012) Colombia: The War is Measured in Litres of Blood, FIDH and CAJAR, available at https://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/rapp_colombie__juin_2012_anglais_def.pdf.

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

The Centre for Security Governance (CSG)

csg feb 16Hi everyone

I’ve recently had the honour of being invited to become a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Security Governance (CSG). So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you a bit about this excellent think tank and the many invaluable resources and opportunities it offers.

The CSG is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to the study of security and governance transitions in fragile, failed and conflict-affected states. As detailed on its website, the CSG is based in Canada and maintains a global, multi-disciplinary network of researchers, practitioners and academics engaged in the international peace and security field. The CSG website has a wealth of resources that are of enormous value to the SCID students as well as practitioners and others in this field.

The CSG also hosts free eSeminars, on subjects related to peacebuilding, together with the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA) and Wilfrid Laurier University Global Studies Department (WLU). I would highly recommend participating in these eSeminars and, if unable to, accessing the recordings on their website. Previous eSeminars have been on statebuilding, resource conflicts and displacement in the Middle East, and can be accessed here. The next eSeminar is being held on 26 February (12:00PM to 1:30PM EST) and is on the subject of Climate Change, the Environment and Peacebuilding – so especially pertinent to the final Module of the SCID Programme. The panellists for this event are:

– Dr. Mark Sedra, Centre for Security Governance (Moderator)
– Anna Brach,Geneva Centre for Security Policy (Panellist)
– Dr. Simon Dalby, Wilfrid Laurier University (Panellist)
– Dr. Richard Matthew, University of California at Irvine (Panellist)

More details on this eSeminar can be found here and below.

The CSG also now manages Stability: International Journal of Security & Development. This is a leading open-access journal focusing on security and development challenges in fragile, failed and conflict-affected states. Stability is also unique in that it connects policymakers, practitioners, academics and others with timely, peer-reviewed research on a wide range of issues related to peacebuilding, stabilisation, peacekeeping, statebuilding, crime and violence prevention, development cooperation and humanitarian action. If you are looking for an innovative journal to publish your research, I would highly recommend Stability.

Finally, you may be interested to know that the CSG will be posting a call for internships this Spring, and they have said that they have had good experience in the past with Master’s students and graduates from the UK.

Best wishes, Eleanor

 

ABOUT THE EVENT

Climate change poses a series of catastrophic threats to the planet, from rising sea levels that could swallow coastlines to the increasing prevalence of drought that could devastate agriculture and fresh water supplies. While these direct environmental challenges are clear and omnipresent, less attention is often paid to the secondary effects of climate change, such as its impact on peace and security dynamics. Climate change is already emerging as a major driver of conflict and insecurity in many parts of the world, and this phenomenon will only worsen in the future as the environmental impacts of the changing climate become more pronounced.

This presents new challenges to the global peacebuilding architecture that have yet to be fully addressed by its key stakeholders. As we enter an era that could be marked by climate-driven war and instability, it is important to explore the potential impacts of climate change on global peace and security and how the existing peacebuilding agenda can be adapted to confront them. This will be the central question addressed at the fourth instalment of the Centre for Security Governance’s eSeminar series on “Contemporary Debates on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding,” presented in collaboration with the Balsillie School of International Affairs and Wilfrid Laurier University’s Department of Global Studies.

Our distinguished panellists will each give brief introductory remarks, followed by an open Q&A period where participants will be able to engage the panel directly. The event, which will take place on Friday February 26 from 12:00PM to 1:30PM EST, will be open to the public and free to attend.

 

Language, War and Peace

This post by Phil Vernon of International Alert – The anti-lexicon of peacebuilding: listening to Edward Saïd and George Orwell – raises some excellent points about the need for language to be clear in the field of peacebuilding (and elsewhere) to avoid ‘misunderstandings and misdiagnoses’.

It is agreed that in order for conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts to be successful, regularly used concepts need to be unpacked and each enjoy a shared, specific and clear meaning. Without a shared understanding of such concepts it is hard for action to be co-ordinated, coherent, efficient and effective. It is also hard to monitor and evaluate progress, identify and utilise lessons learned and best practice, and ultimately improve efforts to prevent and respond to conflict and its challenges. Actions and outputs are less likely to be ambiguous, conflicting and ineffective if communication is clear and the language used to describe aims and outputs is shared and unambiguous.

However, aims and outputs of various actors in conflict-affected environments are not always harmonious, and a shared – if ambiguous – language can be used (and often is) to disguise competing agendas and real priorities. The language of peacebuilding can often be used by those engaged in this field to disguise the politics of intervention. It can also be used to reinforce power relations within the field, which tend to marginalise ‘other’ voices – including those directly affected by conflict and those whose future’s most depend upon the success of peacebuilding.

It is also important to recognise the policy implications of certain concepts and understand the reasons why certain concepts are ascribed to certain phenomena, states or processes above others. As the beginning of the SCID Course addresses, describing a state as failed or fragile may be motivated more out of a desire on the part of other states to intervene (and control threats, or extend their own influence and power, or distract domestic populations from other issues/other threats), rather than ‘concern for the inability of some states to provide for their own population’s security, welfare and rights’ (Call, 2008: 1504). Similarly, describing governance as ‘weak’ may be unhelpful insofar as it often overlooks informal systems of governance and insofar as it is often used as shorthand (and thus specific details or supporting evidence need not be provided). However, it is precisely this value – overlooking the specificities of each system of governance – that makes the term ‘weak governance’ so useful, and tends to generate similar policy responses.

It is suggested that it is necessary to recognise the complexity, power and political dimensions of language – and the ways that it can be used to reinforce or challenge power relations; legitimise actions and intervention; and rationalise, exploit or hide competing agendas. Perhaps we need to accept that the language used in peacebuilding – as elsewhere – can be ambiguous with the same concept being used to mean different things by different people, for instance – just as peace and conflict are experience and mean different things to different people. Rather than aiming to be objective and specific in our use of language, perhaps we need to accept that language is a social construct: it is as part of conflict and peace as it is the tool used to understand these phenomena; it is a means through which conflicts are fought, and peace is forged; it reinforces or shifts power relations and as such is at the heart of conflict. It is informed by our specific experiences as well as shared histories and cultures, as much as it reflects our aspirations and intentions (whether at the micro or macro level). It is suggested that there can be no objectivity when it comes to the language we use: what is important is that we become aware of our subjectivity and how it is reflected in the language we use. In that way we can start to accept the legitimacy of ‘other’ perspectives as well as start to question the validity of metanarratives about conflict and peace – and in such a way potentially better contribute to building more peaceful societies (however we might define them).

Eleanor

Reference: Call, C. (2008) ‘The Fallacy of the “Failed State”’, Third World Quarterly, 28(8): 1491-1507.

Phil Vernon's blog

I think Edward Saïd wrote somewhere that the USA can never hope to contribute to sustainable peace in the Middle East until it is willing and able to describe the situation there objectively, comprehensively and accurately. Good advice for President Obama and his new Secretary of State as they embark on four challenging years in the region. And good advice meanwhile for anyone, be they doctor, secretary of state, international NGO staff member or anyone else, who takes on responsibility to help others fix their problems.

George Orwell, in his 1940s essay, Politics and the English Language (downloadable freely through Google), developed six golden rules for writing clearly about politics:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut…

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