Tag Archives: peacebuilding

Position Paper on the Proliferation and Misuse of Small Arms and Light Weapons in West Africa – Claude Kondor

It has become increasingly clear that as complex security challenges emerge and evolve, old ones still persist. The end of the cold war witnessed the significant proliferation of intrastate conflicts, including guerrilla warfare wherein Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) became the preferred choice of warlords to pursue their brutal aspirations (Peace Building Initiatives, 2011a). Saferworld (2011) argues that SALW are desirable because they are highly portable, deadly, easy to conceal and manipulated to kill millions of people.  Therefore, the fundamental issue that requires increased international attention is “The Proliferation and Misuse of Small Arms and Light Weapons in West Africa”, which according to the Department of Criminology (2015) is the most tangible threat that undermines international peace and security. The Department of Criminology (2013) further highlights that the availability of SALW especially in post-conflict environment undermines security and the rule of law, and has adverse effects on the promotion of democracy and good governance, national reconciliation, the protection of human rights, and socio-economic development.

Frey (2004) notes that the global estimated figure of firearms is 640 million which are utilised to kill thousands of people every year. The Small Arms Survey (2003; 2004),  cited in the report of the UN Secretary-General (2008), states that over 1,000 companies in about 100 countries are involved in the manufacture of nearly 8 million small arms annually. It further estimates that at least 300,000 people are killed annually as a result of the misuse of these weapons. For instance, SALW account for between 60 and 90 percent of loss of lives during conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Cote d’ Ivoire and Mali.  Therefore it is not shocking that they have been described by the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as “weapons of mass destruction in slow motion” (Krause, 2007a:1).

It is against this backdrop that Campaign for Security Everywhere (CASE), a non-governmental organisation working in the areas of security, human rights and justice in Sierra Leone, makes its position very clear in terms of combating the illicit proliferation, circulation and trafficking of SALW, which is in accordance with the 1999 ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and other related Materials (Aning, 2008).    This was well-intentioned by the Authority of Heads of State in order to achieve sustainable peace, stability and development in West Africa. However, ECOWAS has been confronted with numerous challenges, including violent conflicts, in its bid to achieve its initial objective of regional economic integration since its establishment in 1975. It is nevertheless glaring that all these conflicts have been underpinned by the proliferation and misuse of SALW.

To this end, CASE seeks to assist ECOWAS member states in combating the illicit proliferation, circulation and misuse of SALW through advocacy and sensitisation, lobbying of authorities, and also strengthen relevant institutions and civil society actors through capacity building to put an end to this complex and multidimensional phenomenon. The Peace Building Initiative (2011b) suggests tangible ways of regulating the flow and use of illicit SALW including their production and control of movement, regulating civilian possession and use of weapons, and the collection and destruction of weapons as means of getting out of this security conundrum at the national, regional and global levels. Overall, the effective and efficient coordination and collaboration among relevant actors are also quite significant in yielding the synergistic effect of combating the proliferation and misuse of SALW.

Experience has shown that security vacuum frequently follows the end of armed conflict. During this period, people trust SALW for self-protection especially in situations where the security forces are part of the conflict. In addition, some regard their weapons as means of livelihood and are therefore confident in keeping them. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (2003) notes that while it is indeed acceptable that licit arms are quite essential in the maintenance of law and order, the uncontrolled proliferation and misuse of such items grossly undermines stability. Consequently, the effective and efficient control of SALW is without doubt a prerequisite for sustainable peace, security and stability in any post-conflict environment.

In a nutshell, the complete eradication of SALW is a significant step in restoring justice and security in post-conflict environments, and therefore should be the utmost priority of the relevant actors including the international community. Arms do not distinguish between sexes, age, tribe, rich, poor, disabled, educated, illiterate, or religious denomination. So let us all join hands together in harmony to completely eradicate this complex reality for the sake of ourselves and posterity.

Postscript

The issue of SALW is transnational in nature which further complicates the matter especially due to cultural and legislative disparities, and lack of political will on the part of member states to end the menace (OECD, 2007). Moreover, Krause (2007b) argues that contextual differences on the issue of SALW pose a major challenge especially in post-conflict situations where the proliferation of SALW undermines peace, security and development.

Additionally, despite clear international standards that have been well articulated, members of the security forces including the police, military, intelligence forces, and other state agents, are in most cases found guilty of committing serious human rights violations using SALW. A typical example of this occurred in Guinea where pro-democracy demonstrators were shot and killed at the stadium on 28th September 2011.   Another fundamental problem in the control of SALW is that actors involved in the sales and trafficking of SALW including terrorist groups, drug barons, and other organised criminal groups are politically and economically powerful, and have the resources to bulldoze their ways to achieve their selfish interests.

In conclusion, the issue of SALW is highly political involving numerous gladiators especially at the strategic level, and the complexities involved make it very difficult to address. However, these are likely surmountable if national accountability, transparency and control mechanisms are strengthened, coupled with strong political will at all levels of implementing the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (IPI, 2009).

References

Aning, K. (2008) ‘From ‘voluntary’ to a ‘binding’ process: towards the securitisation of small arms’, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 26 (2):169-181.

Department of Criminology (2013) Security and Rule of Law in Post-Conflict States, Leicester: Department of Criminology, University of Leicester.

Department of Criminology (updated 2015) Conflict and Global Risks, Leicester: Department of Criminology, University of Leicester.

Frey, B. (2004) ‘Small Arms and Light Weapons: The Tools Used to Violate Human Rights’, Human Rights, Human Security, and Disarmament 3: 37-46.

IPI (2009) ‘Small Arms and Light Weapons: Task Forces on Strengthening Multilateral Security Capacity’, IPI Blue Paper No. 5, New York: IPI, available at http://www.ipacademy.org/media/pdf/publications/salw_epub.pdf.

Krause, K. (2007) ‘Small Arms and Light Weapons: Towards Global Public Policy’, Coping with Crisis Working Paper Series, New York: IPA.

OECD (2007) OECD DAC Handbook of Security System Reform: Supporting Security and Justice, Paris: OECD, available at http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/43/25/38406485.pdf.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (2003) Handbook of Best Practices on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Vienna: OSCE, available at http://www.osce.org/fsc/13616.

Peace Building Initiative (2011) Small Arms and Light Weapons, Peace Building Initiative website, accessed on 11 January 2016, available at http://www.peacebuildinginitiative.org/index.cfm?pageId=1732.

Saferworld (2011) Small arms and light weapons, Saferworld website, accessed on 12 January 2016, available at http://www.saferworld.org.uk/what/small-arms-and-light-weapons.

UNSG (2008) ‘Small Arms’, S/2008/258, New York: UN, available at http://www.un.org/disarmament/convarms/SALW/Docs/SGReportonSmallArms2008.pdf.

Corruption – Gregory Pye

Reflecting on the course content carefully, the author has selected corruption as a topic for further discussion. Although included in course content, it is the view of the author that the subject does not have the degree of prominence necessary, to reflect the true reality and importance of corruptive practices, with which individuals working and living in post conflict situations, have to contend on a daily basis. Having lived and worked in Afghanistan for a number of years, the author is confronted by corruptive behaviours, at all levels of society, as an integral part of daily living and working experiences. Beyond the daily expectations of IED,s, Taliban attacks, suicide bombers and hashish fuelled hostility, the single foremost element which generates antagonism, frustration and personal conflict amongst international workers, is the endemic corruption, which prevails across the country. Corruption, by its very nature can be difficult to detect, as the serious Fraud Office indicates (Serious Fraud Office, 2015) the process involves two or more people entering into a secret agreement. Corruption watchdog of transparency International, indicate that corruption can involve abuse of power and resources at any level, within any sector, including businesses, public institutions and the government. (Transparency International global coalition against corruption, 2014). Corruption poses a fundamental threat by diverting public resources into private hands, away from those who should be benefiting directly in post conflict environments and continues to be a major obstacle to poverty alleviation, development and the building of security and justice. The range of activities can be considerable, encompassing as it does, accepting bribes, double dealing, under table transactions, diverting funds, manipulating officials and elections, money laundering and defrauding investors (Investopedia, 2015).

Achieving stability and security is a top priority for any intervention by the international community in an unstable post conflict country. Corruption is potentially fatal to long term stability and security and therefore countering it should be considered a pressing fundamental objective. It is difficult to read accounts about Afghanistan, without reference to multiple references to corruption. Afghanistan remains one of the worst performing countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, ranking in the bottom four in 2014, along with Sudan, North Korea and Somalia (Transparency International, 2014). Scandals range from the Kabul Bank misappropriation of 93 million dollars and the suspension of IMF support, (BBC, 2014) to articles concerning provincial and district police chiefs buying their positions for$100,000. Incredulous as these reports may seem, the author can recount numerous occasions where he has had to fight against corruption at great personal threat to his life. For example in March 2014 the Medium Tax office (MTO) , based in Kabul, received $165,000 in ‘consultants tax’, this money never reached the company tax compliance account, it was taken by an MTO employee, who paid off the National Security Directorate (NDS), who then arrested the author and warned him that this matter should be ‘left alone’! A further reality is the need to carry $1000 in a money belt in order to deal with daily confrontations by police and officials. The levels of corruption in the country are extreme. According to a recent Asia Foundation Study, in 2014, 62.4% of Afghans reported that corruption was a major problem (Asia Foundation, 2014)

In 2012, the Afghan population considered corruption, together with insecurity and unemployment, to be one of the principal challenges facing their country, ahead of even poverty, security, external influence and government inefficiency (UNODC, 2012). Afghanistan has national anti corruption plans, laws, executive decrees and Government instruments all devoted to the fight against corruption, particular the High Office of Oversight and Anti Corruption (HOO), is mandated to co-ordinate and implement the national strategy. Inspite of the continuing efforts of this body, together with the Police, courts, Attorney General’s Office and a plethora of other related organisations, corruption continues to escalate unabated.

The causes are variable and complex. In an attempt to determine and analyse underlying processes, an insight into the historical, economy, social structure, cultural and religious practices of the Afghan Nation is elemental. Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, weak government, drug trafficking and fear, are all instrumental factors in perpetuating an apparently intractable situation. As Lockheart, 2014, suggested, ‘The nexus of security, conflict and international development is new and a comparatively understudied area of work’ (Lockheart, 2014).

The same level of limited academic scrutiny can also be said to exist in the field of corruption research. Solutions are multifaceted, lengthy to implement and many lessons are yet to emerge from work being conducted in combating corruption in a number of post conflict countries, which may be significant in addressing the problems in Afghanistan. However, a positive approach and concerted actions, must be maintained, coupled with the encouragement of greater transparency, surveillance, detection, prosecution and eradication of corrupt norms, at all levels. The work of anti-corruption bodies requires enhanced governmental support, manpower and financial underpinning. This must be married to important associate long term strategies, such as employment creation, increase in public employee wages, reduction in poverty, eradication of drug trafficking, development of robust judicial systems and most crucially the regeneration of trust amongst the populous.

Postscript

Corruption persists in highly corrupt countries because it is not only difficult to monitor and therefore, prosecute, but also, when it is systematically pervasive, people may lack the incentives or initiative, to instigate counter measures. When considering corruption as a deep seated problem, it is perhaps important to examine two sets of dynamics which may be at interplay amongst those contemplating corruptive behaviour. Decisions to indulge in corruption are based on personal choice, coercion or group dynamics and at the same time, surveillance, monitoring, transparency and systems of prosecution, are all variables which may influence an individual’s calculations of whether to engage in corruption.

Anti-corruption activities need to be tailored to context and a thorough understanding of the dynamics of contextual factors is required. For example, greater transparency could be resisted by those in power for fear of exposure of wider pervasive practices.

Individual character, honesty and trust are vitally important, when considering suitability for key appointments. Individuals who are prepared to work within acceptable norms within culture, society, business, legal systems and government Clean up campaigns are only successful when there is a moral consensus behind them.

Measures which will undoubtedly assist in reducing corruption, should be actively engendered. Such measures include inclusiveness, increased dialogue between all stakeholders and continuing review and amendment of anti-corruption plans. Scrutiny should address roles, responsibilities, resourcing and effectiveness. Intractable problems such as corruption cannot always be eliminated completely but with commitment, dedication and resilience, it should be possible over time to contain the problem within acceptable limits.

References

BBC . (2011). Afghan row over failed bank threatens salaries. Available: http//www.bbc.co.uk/newa/world-south-east-asia-13847292). Last accessed 14th February 2015.

Lockheart, C. (2014). Building Security and Justice in Post Conflict Environmen. : A Reader.Proceedings of 2014 Security, Conflict and International Development (SCID) Symposium.. 1 (14), 4-8.

Serious Fraud Office . (2015). Bribery Corruption. Available: http://www.sfo.gov.uk>bribery & corruption. Last accessed 22nd March 2015.

Transparency International. (2014). Transparency International global coalition against corruption. 2014).. Available: http://cpi.trancparency.org/cpi2013/results/). Last accessed 14th February 2015.

UNODC. (2012). Afghanistan: Recent Patterns and Trends. Available: http://anti-corruption.gov.af/en/page/1783/8477.2015). In. Last accessed 15th February 2015.

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

Dr Punam Yadav -White Sari—Transforming Widowhood in Nepal

Dr Punam Yadav, who delivered the most recent Online Guest Lecture Impacts of Armed Conflict on Women: Lived Experiences of Women in Nepal (which you can still comment on or ask questions of Punam) has recently had an article published in Gender Technology & Development. This article is entitled ‘White Sari – Transforming Widowhood in Nepal‘ (click on the link to open the attachment or you can find online here).

punam articleAbstract: Before the People’s War (1996) in Nepal, widows were not allowed to wear anything other than the white sari, especially in Hindu families. It was a common practice even among highly educated women. Widows were considered impure and carriers of bad luck as a result of which they were excluded from public events, such as weddings and religious ceremonies. This belief system was deeply entrenched in the history of the country spanning thousands of years. However, when hundreds of women became widows during the People’s War in Nepal, they started organizing themselves and resisting the discriminatory practice of the white sari. This article explores how widows of Nepal subverted thousands of years of this oppressive practice. It also examines the challenges that they faced in the era of the white sari and the citizenship benefits that they have achieved after liberating themselves from the shroud of widowhood.

 

 

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.

 

Collaborative Monitoring – Afghanistan

Coll Mon.PNGA former SCID student, now working for the United Nations Risk Management Unit (RMU) in Afghanistan, has been in touch to share news on a resource which is likely to be of significant interest to many SCID students. The RMU was established in Afghanistan at the beginning of 2014, is the second of its kind in the UN system, and is based on the original RMU which was established in Somalia (which this former SCID student has also worked for). The Unit aims to help all UN agencies improve accountability, and to better identify and manage programmatic and institutional risks. The Unit also works with Donors, NGOs, and Afghan Civil Society.

One of the key areas RMU Afghanistan has been working on over the last 8 months is what they call ‘Collaborative Monitoring’. The idea is that in recognition of the fact that access to a number of areas is decreasing – primarily due to insecurity – there is a greater need to find effective / creative ways to enable monitoring of projects. The Collaborative Monitoring website was established as one way in which to monitor and manage some of the risks present. It is an open source resource for practitioners, aimed to capture and share information and documents. The site is focused on the context of Afghanistan, however draws from material which can be applied more generally. It is located here:

http://collaborativemonitoring.com/

 

The Forgotten Voices of War: Providing Access to Security and Justice for Male Victims of Sexual Violence – Rinret Dabeng (Student Position Paper)

Today, sexual violence in times of conflict is considered one of the most traumatic and egregious human rights violations. The consequences of sexual violence are deep, that they have the power to destroy individuals and tear communities apart (Nguyen, 2014). While UNSC Resolution 2106 (2013) recognizes that men and boys can be victims of sexual violence, in practice, policy initiatives and programmatic approaches have been based on the misguided assumptions that victims of sexual violence are almost exclusively female. Even when male victims are acknowledged, it is done so in passing, resulting in the minimization of the problem (Carpenter, 2006). The recent recognition of male-directed sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings presents us with a unique opportunity to widen the debate on ways to address sexual violence against civilians in post-conflict settings and to recognize male survivors’ needs as a public health and international security issue worldwide (SVRI, 2011). While some of the content of this paper are explicit and disturbing, it has become necessary to dissect the open secrets of war.

Over the last two decades, sexual violence against men has been noted in several armed conflicts, including Burundi, Croatia, Liberia, Rwanda and former Yugoslavia. Data shows that between 1998-2008 alone, male-directed sexual violence was reported in over 25 conflict-affected countries. Since then reports of sexual violence against men has emerged from major conflicts in Libya, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic (Sivakumaran, 2007; Dolan, 2014). Sexual violence against men and boys- including rape, enforced rape (in which men are forced to rape or perform other sexual acts against other men), sexual and physical torture such as castration and other forms of genital violence, sexual humiliation such as enforced nudity and enforced masturbation often accompanied by sexual psychological torture and threats, forced incest and sexual slavery is a pervasive feature of armed conflicts worldwide. In some instances, sexual violence against men can be committed with the express intent of causing the victim’s death (Glassborow, 2008; Lewis, 2009) while in others, it is committed with the express intention of transmitting harmful sexual diseases such as HIV/AIDS (Sivakumaran, 2007).

While the scope and extent of sexual violence against men is unclear, a growing body of anecdotal evidence shows that male-directed sexual violence can occur in any form of conflict and in any cultural context (Russell, 2008). In Afghanistan, the culture of ‘bacha baazi’ (directly translated as “boy for play”) involves men who collectively exploit, enslave and/or rape boys. Young boys are forced to dress in female clothes for the entertainment of other men and are eventually sold to the highest bidder or shared sexually amongst wealthy or politically influential Afghan men including former warlords and government officials (Jones, 2015). In Sri Lanka, male victims of sexual violence have reported being raped anally, often with the use of foreign instruments or forced to perform fellatio or masturbate soldiers or other victims for entertainment (Sivakumaran, 2007). In former Yugoslavia, numerous reports found that victims were forced to bite each other’s testicles off. In addition, cases emerged in which men were held at gunpoint and forced to perform sexual assaults on others, including on family members, others were raped using objects like police truncheons or sticks (UNSCR, 1994). Deliberate genital violence and mutilation through beatings and electroshock in order to prevent reproduction were reported in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Northern Ireland (Sivakumaran, 2007). Reports of mass rape by multiple perpetrators have been reports in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Dolan, 2014; Gettleman, 2009).

Aside from being victimized, male victims of sexual violence are often unprotected by national laws. Up to 90% of male victims of conflict-related sexual violence are from countries that offer no protection for men. 63 countries acknowledge only female victims of rape and 70 states criminalize men who report being raped and in 28 countries, only males (Nguyen, 2014; Dolan, 2014). Indeed, “not only do these frameworks make justice for male victims an impossibility in many countries, they can actively deter first-instance reporting to police and service providers by male victims” (Dolan, 2014:5). Men suffer a myriad of physical consequences such as reproductive health issues, genital and rectal injuries and sexually transmitted diseases (Tewksbury, 2007). They may experience trauma, feelings of shame, confusion, guilt and isolation. They are likely to have suicidal thoughts and even attempt to commit suicide (SVRI, 2011). They often express hostility and in some instances can even become abusive towards their spouses or children in efforts to reaffirm their masculinity (Manivannan, 2013).

A general misconception exists that in conflict and post-conflict settings, women are more likely to be displaced or sexually assaulted, and that men are more susceptible to physical violence and forced recruitment. Such assumptions are both difficult to confirm without the compilation of data that includes the experiences of men and women in humanitarian emergencies. More research on scope of sexual violence, its perpetrators and its victims in order to build a reliable quantitative and qualitative evidence base is needed. Sensitization and public awareness campaigns can be used a method to encourage reporting, identification and punishment of sexual violence against men (Manivannan, 2013). In addition, revised training needs to be provided for all humanitarian, peacekeeping and developmental actors on gender-inclusive and gender-sensitive approaches to responding and preventing sexual violence. Men’s needs for culturally sensitive medical assistance, psychosocial support and reintegration initiatives needs must be addressed in humanitarian programming, including appropriate ways to identify and classify sexual violence against men (Carpenter, 2006). Post conflict-countries should contemplate conducting trials and truth commissions in cooperation with medical and psychosocial interventions. This facilitates reporting and recognition of sexual violence and grants the victim justice by ending impunity. Alongside women, men must be represented in post-conflict and international justice initiatives- and not just as perpetrators (Russell, 2007; Manivannan, 2013). The post-conflict period offers a space to rewrite legislation and review domestic systems so that victims can be afforded access to legal protection and reparations.

POST SCRIPT

Even though both male and female victims of sexual violence experience obstacles in achieving justice, arguably, male victims face even greater challenges than females. These challenges are part of the many reasons that the international community has failed to act affectively to address male sexual violence. Firstly, while no specific definition of gender-based violence has been adopted, definitions in international criminal law, most transitional justice mechanisms and international humanitarian law tend to perpetuate existing gender stereotypes that exclude men as victims and women as perpetrators. Common amongst NGOs, inter-governmental organizations and the victims themselves, these stereotypes only serve to stigmatize men even more and discourage them from reporting crimes committed against them. Under reporting influenced by shame, guilt and emasculation; fear of community rejection and ostracism; and male victims’ misunderstanding of what constitutes sexual assault is arguably one of the biggest challenges to addressing male sexual violence because it creates the illusion that sexual violence seldom experience sexual violence. In addition, medical and mental health professionals, court staff and other stakeholders are not particularly interested in addressing cases of sexual violence (Manivannan, 2013). Victims have reported that they often hold homophobic notions that male victims are gay (Dolan, 2014).

Linked to lack of reporting, under-recognition is another challenge to effective action. Medical and psychosocial professionals and humanitarian workers arwe not appropriately trained to search, identify and classify symptoms of sexual abuse in men. As a result, sexual violence against men is often mis-characterized as physical violence or torture (Sivakumaran, 2007) and profesionals often look for indicators common to women: penetrative rape (Manivannan, 2013). In certain instances, international organizations purposefully do not acknowledge male victims conflict-related sexual violence. The political nature of donor funding from governments or private companies prefer to focus on sexual violence against women. In fact, some NGOs have explicitly stated that their bias for female victims of sexual violence is influenced by their desire to secure and maintain funding (Manivannan, 2013).

Finally, in post-conflict settings, survivors of sexual violence face many challenges to accessing care and gaining justice, further complicated by socio-cultural dynamics such as stigmatization and institutional failures. In the face of weakened state institutions and breakdown in the rule of law, perpetrators of sexual violence are seldom punished by any justice mechanism, leading to a culture of impunity. Impunity is further worsened by lack of reporting and recognition of sexual violence- leading to a vicious cycle of violence and subliminally reinforcing the notion that sexual violence against men is less important (Manivannan, 2010).

REFERENCES

Carpenter, R. (2006) ‘Recognizing Gender-based Violence Against Civilian Men and Boys in Conflict Situations’ Security Dialogue 37(1): 83-103. Available through: http://sdi.sagepub.com/content/37/1/83 (accessed on 23 October 2015).

Dolan, C. (2014) Into the Mainstream: Addressing Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys in Conflict, 14 May, http://www.refugeelawproject.org/files/briefing_papers/Into_The_Mainstream-Addressing_Sexual_Violence_against_Men_and_Boys_in_Conflict.pdf, (accessed on 25 October 2015).

Gettleman, J (2009) ‘Symbol of Unhealed Congo: Male Rape Victims’, The New York Times, 4 August, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/05/world/africa/05congo.html?_r=2 (accessed on 26 October 2015).

Glassborow, K. (2008) ‘Call for Lubanga Charges to Cover Rape’, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 12 May, http://www.iwpr.net/?p=acr&s=f&o=344590&apc_state=henh (accessed on 26 October 2015).

Jones, S. (2015) ‘Ending Bacha Bazi: Boy Sex Slavery and the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine’ Indiana International and Comparative Law Review 25(1): 63-78. Available through: http://repository.jmls.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1595&context=facpubs (accessed through 26 October 2015).

Lewis, D. (2009) ‘Unrecognized Victims: Sexual Violence Against Men in Conflict Settings Under International Law’ Wisconsin International Law Journal 27(1): 1-49. Available through: https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/9823975/Lewis_2009_UnrecognizedVictims.pdf?sequence=1 (accessed on 26 October 2015).

Manivannan, A. (2013) ‘Seeking Justice for Male Victims of Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict’ International Law and Politics 46: 635-679. Available through: http://nyujilp.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/46.2-Manivannan.pdf (accessed on 26 October 2015).

Nguyen, K. (2014) ‘Powerful Myths Silence Male Victims of Rape in War’, Thompson Reuters Foundation, 15 May, http://www.trust.org/item/20140515154437-het27/ (accessed on 26 October 2015).

Russell, W. (2007) Conflict-related Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys, January 2007, http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Wynne_Russell/publication/260002638_Conflict-related_sexual_violence_against_men_and_boys/links/0a85e52f027dc4de22000000.pdf (accessed on 26 October 2015).

Sivakumaran, S. (2007) ‘Sexual Violence Against Men in Armed Conflict’ European Journal of International Law 18(2): 253-276. Available through: http://ejil.oxfordjournals.org/content/18/2/253.full.pdf (accessed on 26 October 2015)

SVRI (2011) Care and Support of Male Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, South Africa: South African Medical Research Council. Available through: http://www.svri.org/CareSupportofMaleSurviv.pdf (accessed on 26 October 2015).

Tewksbury, R. (2007) ‘Effects of Sexual Assaults on Men: Physical, Mental and Sexual Consequences’ International Journal of Men’s Health 46(1): 22-35. Available through: http://www.prearesourcecenter.org/sites/default/files/library/effectsofsexualassaultsonmen-physicalmentalandsexualconsequences.pdf (accessed on 27 October 2015).

United Nations Security Council (1994) Final Report of the Commission of Experts Established Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 780 (1992), 27 May 1994, http://www.icty.org/x/file/About/OTP/un_commission_of_experts_report1994_en.pdf (accessed on 20 October 2015).

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 March 2014 intake for completing the whole course – and all the very best with your dissertations.

Best wishes, Eleanor

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

2015 SCID Reader

2015 SCID Reader – Working and Researching in Conflict-Affected Environments

The 2015 SCID Reader: Researching and Working in Conflict-Affected Environments has just been published. The Reader includes papers presented at the second SCID Symposium, held on 12 March 2015 at the University of Leicester, as well as supplementary papers resonating with the theme of the Symposium. The video recordings of the presentations can be found on this Blog as well as the Departmental website.

SCID 2015 Reader cover picThe theme of the Symposium/Reader ties into one of the core aims of the SCID Course and one of the main reasons for establishing the SCID Panel of Experts: to help bridge the divide between the worlds of academia and practice in the field of peacebuilding and broader international development. This is particularly important given the Course aims to equip its students with the knowledge and skills to pursue or advance their careers in this field. Ultimately, it is hoped that by bridging this gap, efforts to understand and, thus, better respond to the challenges posed by conflict can be more successful.

Papers included in the Reader consider some of the skills, dynamics and challenges associated with researching in conflict-affected environments, as well as those (often similar) skills, dynamics and challenges associated with working as a practitioner in these environments. Part of the aim of the Symposium and subsequent Reader was to identify some of the common challenges and skills required for researching and working in the field, in an effort to identify lessons and enhance both research and practice.

Contributors to this Reader include film directors, retired senior police chiefs and military officers, government advisers, international human rights and humanitarian law barristers, senior officials in the UN system and other leading international experts in the field of conflict resolution and recovery.

It is hoped that the Symposium presentations and this Reader will be of significant value to the SCID student and others associated with the SCID programme, as well as other practitioners and scholars engaged in conflict-affected environments. It is also hoped that the publication of this Reader will provoke further discussion of some of the challenges associated with conducting research and working in conflict-affected environments and ways in which they can be overcome. Thank you very much to everyone who contributed to the Symposium and the Reader.

Please post any comments or questions that you may have here, or in reply to any of the individual Symposium presentations on the Blog.

http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/criminology/news-and-events/scid-symposium-2015-reader-released

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