Tag Archives: conflict

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.


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.


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 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


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):


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*                  *                  *

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

This article was first published on PolicyLabs

Colombian People Reject Peace Deal with FARC

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

The Plebiscite

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Peace Agreement

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

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

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

Intractable Conflict

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

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


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.



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).



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.”


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 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


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



Syrian ‘Perfect War’: A Game Changer

Children ride in carts on the third day of Eid al-Adha in the rebel controlled city of Idlib

Children ride in carts on the third day of Eid al-Adha in the rebel controlled city of Idlib, Syria September 14, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

What is happening in Syria today is not yet ‘another violent conflict fought in the volatile Middle East’. It started five years ago in line with scenario played in many other places over centuries. However, due to internal political dynamics, regional rivalries and cross-border influences, competing geopolitical interests of many actors, as well as the active presence of global terrorist organisations this conflict has grown in something the world has not seen before—it is surely moving toward becoming a Perfect War, the kind of world war of the twenty-first century.

Ending the Syrian War by traditional methods is already impossible; it has been proven by numerous failures and the deterioration further into the abyss of uncontrollable fighting. New approaches must be explored and tested on the ground—this will demand new, unorthodox ways of decision making, cooperation, and implementation.


  • There are many wars fought in Syria today, with different agendas and actors involved, but all have one thing in common—they are driven by political power and influence.
  • These wars become increasingly integrated and evolve toward becoming one single multifaceted violent conflict, which no one can control and with no end in sight.
  • Solution to this conundrum is only one—to abandon the idea of achieving a comprehensive peace in one move and instead decompose the problem into small parts, and implement sets of limited tasks to effectively address them, in order to progress toward the ultimate goal over time.

Looking Beyond the Events:

There are many wars fought in Syria today, with different agendas and actors involved, but all of them are about political power and influence. Today, Syria is a battleground for a number of wars. Each has it its own contexts, underlying conflict drivers, prize at stake, and actors involved directly and covertly. They are fought by a large group of local, regional, national, and transnational actors. Many are involved in more than one war and the aims they pursue and alliances they make in each war are different. Therefore the phrase Syrian War refers to conglomerate of wars closely related to and reinforcing each other.

Three wars are fought for direct power control in Syria. One is civil war. It started from the violent confrontation between the opposition-turned rebels and the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad, in 2011. The government does not intend to give up the power while the opposition wants to take it all. This zero sum game has a number of implications. More protracted it is, more resources it demands, more atrocities are committed, and fewer chances are left for its ultimate resolution (which extends to post-war stabilisation, reconciliation, and rebuilding the country).

Another war is initiated by militant Islamist groups who took advantage of power vacuum and mess created by civil war in pursuit of their own goals: ISIL to establish a self-ruled caliphate; al-Qaeda and other jihadists to exert influence over Syrian state. Originally it alien to Syrian political context, but in the course of five-and-half years managed to become part of it.

Initially in the shadow of these two but growing prominent and creating yet another set of proxy wars is the war of Syrian Kurds. The Kurds, too, aim at reshaping the power balance in Syria in their own favour—getting a recognised autonomous region. By establishing Rojava under their control in the north, they advanced their cause but further complicated the issues for external actors working to end the war (e.g. two NATO members, Turkey and the US).

Proxy wars derive from those three wars and are overlapping, confusing and conflicting with each other. Take a few examples. Regime of Assad is supported by Russia and Iran, while the opposition is backed by the US, Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf countries. On the other hand US, Turkey, Russia and Iran fight against ISIL. Saudi Arabia also backs non-ISIL Islamist groups which in turn support al-Qaeda’s affiliate. It appears that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are also backing jihadist groups that fight Assad. The US strongly backs the Kurdish forces, but Turkey has drawn its troops to the north to counter them under premise of fighting ISIL. And the list goes on and on, with these and many other smaller players entering the game.

The wars become increasingly integrated and evolve toward becoming one single multifaceted violent conflict, with no end in sight. The wars overlap geographically and in their drivers, incentives, and aims. They overlap in terms of actors involved, from government forces, to various governments sponsored militia, to mercenaries and terrorists on almost all sides. They keep adapting to fast changing circumstances on the ground, pursuing their goals by multiple tactical means, switching sides, merging campaigns with those whom they have seemingly irreconcilable differences at strategic level—and thus contributing to increased integration of wars.

The uncompromising stand of Syrian government and opposition only strengthens the hand of those who want to proliferate from this situation, by offering them an opportunity to dig deeper into political process at the expense of Syrian moderate opposition groups. Jihadists gradually become part of the civil war, mix with rebels and thus pose a risk of highjacking the political contest.

Syrian opposition movement has not been homogeneous from the outset. However, certain categorisation of them, in terms of ideologies and the means they employed was still possible. Today, it is very difficult to distinguish between ‘moderate’ rebels and ‘extremists’ as the former are increasingly radicalised and in desperation many of them join forces with jihadist groups.

The result of this integration is that, by compensating each other’s limitations, the Syrian wars evolve into one self-sustaining conflict—the Perfect War—that is fought for its own sake, is self-sufficient in terms of attracting resources and satisfying its needs, and can last permanently.

Solution to this conundrum is only one—to abandon the idea of achieving a comprehensive peace in one move and instead decompose the problem into small parts and develop and implement a series of limited tasks to address them. The situation in Syria is out of control and there is no such power in the world—individual or collective—that can control it. Before the full integration of Syrian wars a fundamentally new approach to finding solution must be employed.

In complex situations with high risk and uncertainty, many alternatives, and small information available the decision making shall be simple and tactical. For that, small manageable tasks are adapted to environment and then multiple moves carried out simultaneously or subsequently, in various places and directions. Another condition is that the tasks shall be decoupled (but well coordinated) to extent possible so that to isolate their failures from affecting other tasks. This is where less becomes more, in terms of outcome.

Interestingly, this approach is already being tested in the Syrian war framework. Take, for example, the successful attempts of US and Russia (in spite of principal differences in stands with regard to the future of Assad) to establish a ceasefire in Aleppo, to allow delivering humanitarian aid and to share the US intelligence in order to target Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. Or consider the recent deal between the Syrian government and the rebels, on surrendering the Damascus suburb Daraya. These examples prove that small-scale, localised tasks are manageable.

The adversaries have been ahead of the game in terms of decoupling, though. Their recent manoeuvring with rebranding Jabhat al-Nusra into Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (thus pretending to dissociate from al-Qaeda) and subsequent ‘defection’ of a fraction from it to create their own group clearly demonstrate that.

The goal of establishing lasting peace in Syria can be achieved by redefining the engagement strategy. Large scale military campaigns are one of a means to an end: pulling out ISIL form occupied territories and decapitating militant groups are necessary but not sufficient. Neither are high-level (presumably representative and all-inclusive) peace talks. The daily job of progressing toward the desirable end-state in Syria is through numerous, random, tactical interventions aimed at searching for, understanding, and building on the existing opportunities for peace and strengthening local resilient capacity.

Full version of this post was published on PolicyLabs: A Potential Game Changer in Syrian ‘Perfect War’.

For the analysis of scenarios see: The Syrian War: How to Move from Chaos to Peace