Mediation Perspectives: Reframing the Ukraine Crisis

Poroshenko, Merkel and Putin at the 70th annual D-Day commemoration. Image: www.kremlin.ru/Wikimedia

“They say the next big thing is here,
that the revolution’s near,
but to me it seems quite clear
that it’s all just a little bit of history repeating”

Shirley Bassey ~ “History Repeating”

The board game Risk: The Game of Global Domination is an extreme representation of geopolitical power dynamics. It pits players against each other on a simplified map of the world controlled by soldiers, cannons and cavalry. Although simplified and exaggerated, Risk is a crude model of thousands of years of international history: the rise and fall of empires, shifting balances of power, alliances, betrayals and perhaps the most disturbing factor – that the widespread death and destruction controlled by the ‘players’ is portrayed as a normal and inevitable part of geopolitics. » More

Time to Abandon the Greed-Grievance Debate

Police confront rioters during 2012 Rohingya riots in Burma. Image: Hmuu Zaw/Wikimedia

Over the past ten years, the question of whether violent conflicts are the result of genuine grievances or the product of an environment in which rebellion is an attractive and/or viable option has been  at the heart of a fierce theoretical controversy known as the greed versus grievance debate. The debate was sparked when Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler claimed that rebellion cannot be explained by grievances resulting from ethnic animosities or economic and political inequalities, because situations in which people want to rebel are ubiquitous, whereas the circumstances in which people are able to rebel (weak states, rough terrain, the presence of lootable resources etc.) are sufficiently rare to constitute the explanation.

This claim and its morally charged phrasing in terms of “greed” and “grievance” posed a tough challenge to the dominant view of many political scientists and to conventional wisdom more generally. While many scholars subsequently shifted their attention to studying the opportunities for conflict, others put their efforts into finding better ways to measure people’s grievances. An award-winning book on Inequality, Grievances, and Civil War, published in 2013, testifies to the fact that the jury in this debate is still out. » More

Mediation Perspectives: the Need for a New Syrian Narrative

A Syrian man runs for cover during heavy fighting between Free Syrian Army fighters and government forces in Aleppo, on December 3, 2012. Image: Freedom House/Flickr

The conflict in Syria is entering its fifth year, and the Syrian suffering continues. In the last week it was reported that the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) had attacked the Khabur region in the northeast of the country, kidnapped more than two hundred Assyrian Christians, including women and children, destroyed churches and provoked a mass exodus from these communities.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres,  the Syrian situation is “the most dramatic humanitarian crisis the world has faced in a very long time.” Syrians are now the largest refugee population under UNHCR’s mandate. Further, more than 6.5 million Syrians are internally displaced persons (IDPs). Together, refugees and IDPs account for 40 per cent of the country’s pre-conflict population, and at least half of that number is children.

» More

Debacle at Debaltsevo Calls For a New Approach to Ukraine

Anti-Putin grafitti in Debaltsevo. Image: Pryshutova Viktoria/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS) on 18 February, 2015.

Before coming up with solutions it is first advisable to determine the nature of the problem. Right now the United States is considering sending arms to Ukraine, while here in Canada the Defence Minister, Jason Kenney, has been mulling the deployment of Canadian soldiers to train the Ukrainian Army. But is a lack of arms or training the real reason for the Ukrainian Army’s defeats?

To answer that question, it is worth looking at what has been happening in the town of Debaltsevo, where a large Ukrainian contingent, possibly several thousand strong, was encircled by rebel forces. The government in Kiev has repeatedly denied that its troops were surrounded, but even Ukrainian military journalists acknowledge that the main road out of Debaltsevo is in rebel hands and that troops of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics have captured most of the town, as well as a substantial number of prisoners. On the night of February 17-18, a large part of the garrison escaped through gaps in rebel lines, but Ukrainian sources report heavy casualties in the process. Substantial quantities of equipment have been destroyed or have fallen into rebel hands. Ukraine has suffered a serious defeat. » More

Drones: From Technology to Policy, Security to Ethics

«Drones: From Technology to Policy, Security to Ethics». Poster for the conference organized by the ISN and ETH Global. Image: ISN

Rapid technological advances are making drones cheaper, more accessible and highly adaptable. Once the exclusive preserve of the world’s most advanced armed forces, unmanned platforms are now being used by civilian actors for a wide range of applications. Yet, while members of the technical community have tended to emphasize the opportunities that this technology offers, their counterparts in international relations and other fields have increasingly raised questions about the legal, ethical, humanitarian and security implications of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Against this backdrop, ETH Global and the ISN recently hosted a one-day conference that brought together over 160 experts from the fields of robotics, environmental science, law and ethics, and international relations and security. Since ETH Zurich is considered one of the world’s leading ‘competence centers’ in the field of robotics systems and control, its activities offer a glimpse into emerging UAS technologies and their potential social impact in the future.

» More

Page 1 of 38