The CSS Blog Network

Migratory Labor for Extractive Industries Creating “Sons of Soil” Conflict in China

Miners entering a coal mine. Image: Unsplash/Pixabay

This article was originally published by New Security Beat on 13 October, 2015.

In May 2011, two weeks before I was scheduled to start research in the region, a Mongol herder named Mergen was hit by a mining truck while protecting his pastureland in Xilingol, Inner Mongolia. He was dragged 140 feet and killed. His death sparked a month of protests.

It was not the first or last time extractive industries have collided with ethnic minorities in northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, an area nearly twice the size of Texas and home to 25 million people, 17 percent of whom are ethnic Mongols. Several studies have shown that natural resources – whether through abundance or scarcity – are sometimes linked to the onset, duration, and intensity of armed conflict. Yet, the identity of those who exploit natural resources has been largely ignored. A closer look at tensions surrounding China’s voracious appetite for nature resources reveals this may be mistake. » More

What Are ‘Hotspots’? The Inevitable Rise of Detention in the Quest for Asylum Solutions in the EU

Migrants in Hungary near the Serbian border, August 2015. Image: Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS) on 16 October, 2015.

The Syrian refugee crisis has finally grabbed the world’s attention and is testing the sustainability of the European Union and its common asylum adjudication procedures. Policymakers are struggling to find solutions from under a complex latticework of administering and securitizing refugee and immigration admissions policy.

This struggle is amplified by the revelation that the influx may represent only the tip of a much larger cohort. As president of the European Council Donald Tusk predicted at a recent EU leaders summit: ‘The greatest tide of refugees and migrants is yet to come.’ These future asylum seekers are not only from Syria but also from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other impoverished, violent, and at-war states. » More

Mediation Perspectives: Building Consensus on Security Sector Transformation in Zimbabwe

Traditional leaders in Zimbabwe preparing a mediation role play exercise. Image: Valerie Sticher/Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zürich.

This article was originally published in the Bulletin on Swiss Security Policy, a publication of the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich, on 27 October, 2015.

After years of estrangement, Zimbabwe and the West have slowly started to re-engage with each other. The popular approval of a new constitution in 2013 – which introduced significant civil rights – and the subsequent peaceful elections provided the impetus for the thawing of relations. This included the easing of European Union (EU) restrictive measures imposed in 2002 following Zimbabwe’s controversial land reforms.

But that’s not to say that the country’s myriad challenges have been resolved once and for all. The unresolved succession of 91-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, continues to paralyze the country’s politics and economy. High levels of unemployment and empty state coffers make economic survival most Zimbabweans’ main concern. Finally, there’s a growing need to undertake a series of far-reaching institutional reforms, particularly when it comes to Zimbabwe’s security sector. But how do you tackle such an undertaking in a country where there is a lack of political will and capacity for such sensitive reforms? » More

‘Ungoverned Space’: the Concept that Puts Humanitarian Aid in the Firing Line of the War on Terror

Syrian Hospital. Source: Syrian Hospital, courtesy of Freedom House

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 16 October, 2015.

The hospital bombed by US troops in Kunduz, Afghanistan, treated trauma patients, no matter whether they were civilians or Taliban fighters. The bombing happened as Afghan and US forces fought to drive Taliban out of the city the latter had captured just days before.

If the targeting of the hospital, which killed at least 22 people, had been an accident, it would leave no doubt about the return of war to the urban centres of Afghanistan. But knowledge of the hospital’s GPS coordinates by the US and Afghan armies and the precision of the attack suggest otherwise.

Both Afghan and US officials at one point in the aftermath suggested that they were targeting Taliban fighters on the hospital’s grounds, something that Médecins Sans Frontières‎, which runs the hospital, denies was the case. If the attack was in fact intentional, how can we make sense of such a breach of the Geneva conventions that forbid attacking humanitarian structures? » More

The CIA Battled the Kremlin With Books and Movies

Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency. Image: Truthout.org/Flickr

This article was originally published by War is Boring on 2 May, 2015.

During the Cold War, Moscow’s Ministry of Culture was a master of censorship. The Kremlin’s cultural bulwark screened non-Russian films, suppressed literature and shaped the lives of Soviet artists.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency also dabbled in the dark arts of cultural influence. Except it preferred the carrot to the stick.

Words matter. A society’s books and movies impact the world. Books, in particular were often internationally influential during the Cold War. Both the ministry and the agency understood this.

The CIA funded the production and distribution of individual literary projects. It made sure Russian-language copies of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago flooded into the Soviet Union. Further, the agency directed more comprehensive operations. » More

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