Tag Archives: 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).

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.”

myanmar-conference-2016

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.

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.

Summary:

  • 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  

Ending the War in Colombia: Understanding Conflict, Preparing for Peace

On 24 August, Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) have reached a comprehensive peace agreement. It is too early to celebrate the end of the long-lasting war—the deal has to be ratified through referendum and even then its success will be conditional on implementation. At this point, we can reflect on some insights from this 52-year-long conflict and looking forward try to anticipate what we have yet to learn from the Colombian experience.

colombia-peace-accord

Insights

Each conflict has its own internal dynamics (which are shaped and fed by local political institutions and contemporary contexts). Any conflict therefore may take as long as its internal logic dictates, be iterative, with many failed attempts to establish peace.

Whatever external influences they will have an effect on the conflict as long as its contextual fabric absorbs and localises them. This makes any given conflict unique, and therefore no imported solutions will work without being first adapted to and ‘digested’ by local contexts. The same goes for ‘lessons learned’.

Interventions of external actors tend to complicate the situation and make the conflict’s natural maturation process confused. Active interventions (except for humanitarian aid and facilitation of peace talks) complicate the conflict for many reasons; they also tend to transfer into proxy wars, given different interests and agendas of external actors.

Military interventions of external (individual or collective) actors must be avoided, except for limited tasks by international stabilisation forces. Even then, the UN mandate should be limited to such tasks as ensuring cessation of hostilities, maintaining ceasefire, enabling delivery of humanitarian aid, etc.

For a comprehensive peace deal to materialise the conditions must be ripe, first of all the goodwill of both sides along with their readiness to make concessions. Not an easy task considering that there is never full agreement in either camp, as ensuring coherence is always a challenge.

It also takes a leader who is brave enough and ready to put his/her political career at risk of concluding the deal—which is always subject to imperfection, scrutiny, disbelief, and controversy, and won’t be met by all people positively.

Challenges ahead

There are many questions and many concerns. Not many answers. Quite understandably—only practice will provide them (and even then, these would not be timeless truth).

– Does the peace agreement mean the end to hostilities between Colombian security and all rebels?

  • Bilateral permanent ceasefire between FARC and the government became effective as of Monday, 29 August.
  • Other rebel groups are not part of the peace deal and some will seek strengthen their ranks at the account of FARC members who disagree with disarmament. Parallel talks are planned with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the second-largest guerrilla group.

What are the peace deal’s success factors? Once ratified, the sustainable peace will depend on:

  • how all the agreed reforms and reintegration points are delivered by the government;
  • how effective transitional justice works, for all sides;
  • how society accepts ex-combatants and their supporters;
  • how population of formerly FARC controlled areas accepts the government’s legitimacy; and
  • how FARC members go through the process of reintegration into society.

– What are challenges faced by the Colombian government? Most immediate are:

  • political opposition undermining the process;
  • population not happy with special treatment offered to ex-combatants and with softness of measures against crimes committed;
  • financial problems with regards to investing into reintegration, public services and rebuilding infrastructure in former FARC areas.

– What kind of dilemmas will FARC face? They have to be understood along the drivers of conflict:

  • politically: accepting that they have to become part of political system they have fought for ideological reasons;
  • economically: making transition to licit income generation, learn new skills;
  • psychologically: overcoming self-aggrandisement but also frustration from the change in social status;
  • socially: adapting to new places if relocated (especially with families), finding their new role in community life.

– What are the issues for citizens to overcome? Different groups of stakeholders to peace and reconciliation will have to cope with common dilemmas (such as overcoming mistrust and forgiving) but also specific to them problems:

  • changing allegiance but also the lifestyle (areas formerly controlled by FARC);
  • accepting former fighters as equal community members, whatever past experiences and grievances (localities of resettlement);
  • repossession of property and land, reintegration (returnee population);
  • overcoming envy as ex-combatants and returnees, as well as former rebel areas will receive financial support from the government (domiciles of resettlement localities; people in remote rural areas across country who won’t receive additional investment);
  • complying with transitional justice measures (former guerrillas but also security officers facing prosecution).

– What are some tough tests before the international community? There will be at least three challenges, neither of them new to international affairs:

  • diplomatic: after decades of taking side of the government to adopt a balanced approach in order not to distort a very fragile balance necessary for integration and lasting stability;
  • political: to respect the democratic process and choice of Colombian people in terms of new government priorities (including in foreign policy), as influenced by FARC’s participation in the legislative and executive.
  • aid coordination: to ensure maximum possible level of coordination between development agencies, sponsors, implementers in order not to confuse and harm the otherwise sensitive political processes of disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration.

– What are challenges to international development experts deployed to Colombia?

  • working in the field (and this is where the real job is done): will be under pressure of all sorts—life conditions in remote rural areas, security, and above all unpredictability of developments. Decisions often-time shall be taken spontaneously, urgently and with limited prior knowledge. Exhibiting highest levels of impartiality, integrity, political and cultural sensitivity to navigate through at times turbulent local waters while keeping the delivery of assistance at expected professional standard is not easy;
  • project owners: development specialists shall be allowed more independence in decision making, thoughtful experimentation, and flexible forms of planning, delivery and monitoring—adapted to local circumstances.

There is a long way to go for Colombia in terms of peacebuilding, and for all those who want to make violent conflict there and elsewhere on the face of the Earth part of history, not future. Understanding local contexts, making timely adjustments, and focusing on the drivers of change can greatly help making this path more effective.

The full version of this article was posted on PolicyLabs: The Colombian Peace Accord: Food for Thought

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.

Building Security and Justice After Conflict – Student Position Papers

At the end of the SCID Course, students are asked to reflect upon the whole Course and write a position paper (of about 750 words). The paper should be on an issue related to building security and justice in post-conflict environments that they feel most passionate about which requires attention by, at least an element of, the international community. The postscript to the paper summarises reasons why effective action has not been taken to date. Students are asked to draw on their own experience and knowledge as well as academic material, with the aim of persuading the reader to agree with the position put forward and, if necessary, to act, while displaying academic writing and analytical skills.

Those papers that secured a Merit or Distinction (i.e. above 60%) are reproduced on this Blog (below and on a new page entitled Building Security and Justice after Conflict – Student Position Papers). Congratulations to all students who did so well and to everyone in the September 2014 intake for completing the whole course – and all the very best with your dissertations.

Best wishes, Eleanor

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

SCID Panel of Experts – Online Guest Lecture – Dr Punam Yadav – Impacts of Armed Conflict on Women: Lived Experiences of Women in Nepal

This is the 13th Online Guest Lecture by members of the SCID Panel of Experts. Dr Punam Yadav presents a lecture entitled Impacts of Armed Conflict on Women: Lived Experiences of Women in Nepal.

Punam’s lecture considers the impact of armed conflict on women, with specific regard to the lived experiences of women in Nepal. The lecture also looks at the changing role of women after the recent conflict in Nepal and concludes that despite sufferings and hardships, women have benefited from the civil war in Nepal. The lecture also argues that programmes to support post-conflict societies need to focus on the emerging needs of people, not just on a narrow definition of recovery – as can been seen when looking at the case of women in post-conflict Nepal.

Punam Yadav Guest LecturePunam is a new member of the SCID Panel of Experts and is currently a Visiting Scholar at the new Centre for Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics (LSE). Punam has conducted research widely in the field of gender, peace and security, and her book Social Transformation in Post Conflict Nepal: A Gender Perspective is being published by Routledge in May (2016).

Click on the link below to access Punam’s Lecture. NB Should the presentation not run automatically or the audio not work, please click ‘Save As’ (and then open once you have saved on your computer) rather than ‘Open’. Alternatively try a different browser (Firefox rather than Internet Explorer).

Women and Armed Conflict – February 2016

Please submit any questions or comments within the next two weeks for Punam’s attention and/or discussion by other SCID Panel members, students and staff.

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.

 

New Forms of Emancipatory Peace: Arbitrage, everyday mobility and networks

Prof. Oliver P. Richmond Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, University of Manchester

We know a lot about an emancipatory peace by now, both in terms of war settlements since Westphalia, and in terms of structural violence and inequality after the Cold War. We know that military security and law and order are required. From the…

Source: New Forms of Emancipatory Peace: Arbitrage, everyday mobility and networks

Peace is what we make of it? Peace-shaping events and ‘non-events’

Dr Gëzim Visoka, Lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies, Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction (IICRR), School of Law and Government, Dublin City University, Ireland has written an excellent article on peace-shaping events and “non-events” which has just been posted to PAX In Nuce: Peace is what we make of it? Peace-shaping events and ‘non-events’. In this article, Visoka argues that policy makers tend to ignore or class as ‘non-events’ those events or phenomena which make them/the wider international community look less successful (such as parallel structures in Kosovo post-’99, the control of police structures in Bosnia and Herzegovina by nationalist parties and their involvement in organised crime, and dissatisfaction in Timor-Leste with recruitment policy for the police and defence forces). As Visoko argues, ‘reducing inconvenient events to “non-events”‘, of course, limits the extent to which conflict-affected environments can be understood and the extent to which positive and sustainable peace can be built.

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…

View original post 1,207 more words