The CSS Blog Network

Swiss Humanitarian Aid: Sharing Responsibility

Workshop on making metal silos for grain storage, Kenya. Image from cimmyt/Flickr.

Drought forces thousands of people to cross the border from Somalia to Kenya every day. Violence erupts in a refugee camp in Ethiopia due to insufficient shelter. Rebel groups evict people from their homes. Insufficient water supply causes death and illness. Children turn to painting to depict the trauma caused by the massacres which they have witnessed.

The Annual Conference of the Humanitarian Aid held in Basel on 23 March 2012 addressed these issues under the motto “sharing responsibility” and explored how Switzerland can help to relieve people from such suffering. » More

Kony 2012 – How 100 Million Clicks Went to Waste

Image from invisible.tumblr.com

The Kony 2012 video produced by Invisible Children has attracted somewhere between 80 and 100 million views by now. No matter what your position on the campaign is, it is undeniable that it managed to tap a huge reservoir of public attention. The viral campaign and reactions to the video quickly spilled over from internet blogs to the classic medias, with basically all big newspapers, TV stations and radio stations running a story on Kony 2012 at least once. And that’s when it all went wrong.

The simplified and – as many rightly point out – to some extent even dangerous message of the video was answered with a global smear campaign that started picking apart not only Kony 2012 but also Invisible Children’s organizational structures and accounting practices. In the end, Kony 2012 has left behind only losers. The current victims of the LRA in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan remain largely ignored, the formerly war affected communities in northern Uganda feel deeply offended by the video, the work of Invisible Children has been discredited, its co-founder and Kony 2012 producer Jason Russel had a mental breakdown in public, and a huge potential of public awareness that could have really made a difference in Central Africa has been squandered. » More

Are Domestic Factors Relevant in Deciding to Join a Military Coalition?

‘Stop the War Coalition’ event against a military assault in Iran by the US, UK and Israel. Image: moblog.net

Atsushi Tago claims that they are. His presentation at the CIS Colloquium series on Thursday (March 15, 2012) aimed to challenge mainstream opinion – including the results of his own previous research – and prove that, apart from solely international factors, domestic factors also matter in explaining why a country chooses to join an ad-hoc military coalition. With the quantitative analysis he presented, he was trying to validate a particular hypothesis: that in an election year, in an economic recession, or in period of domestic riots, a country is less likely to join a military coalition. In view of the upcoming elections in Israel and the US, Tago’s research could be of considerable interest for professionals and academics working with the Iranian nuclear issue.

Tago’s logic is threefold: first, he claims that the true benefits (or detriments) of joining a coalition force are often hidden from the electorate. Therefore, in an election year, governments will be reluctant to participate in armed coalitions for fear that the people will voice their disapproval at the ballot. » More

Singling Out Forgotten Conflicts

Demonstration against FARC held in Madrid. Picture: kozumel/flickr

A popular method for identifying which conflicts necessitate more attention from the international community is to estimate the difference between supply and demand of humanitarian assistance in these conflicts. Supply and demand, however, are very hard to measure in emergencies. This has led to the development of several indicators used to measure ‘forgotten conflicts’.

These indicators are often applied on an annual basis and are intended to generate media attention (to increase donations) and/or support donor operations (to comply with impartiality). Have these efforts been successful? Have they effectively singled out and buttressed forgotten conflicts? Looking back on the past decade, in this blog post I’ll assess which conflicts received the least (and most) attention from international actors.

» More

Unpacking Kony 2012

Child soldiers, Image: k-ideas/flickr

On Monday, March 5th, the advocacy organization Invisible Children released a 30 minute video titled “Kony 2012“. The goal of the video is to raise awareness of Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group, a wanted war criminal, in the hopes of bringing him to justice.

By Thursday, March 8th, the video had been viewed more than 26 million times, and almost 12 million more times on Vimeo. It has opened up a fascinating and complicated discussion not just about the Lord’s Resistance Army and instability in northern Uganda and bordering states, but on the nature of advocacy in a digital age.

My goal, in this (long) blogpost is to get a better understanding of how Invisible Children has harnessed social media to promote their cause, what the strengths and limits of that approach are, and what some unintended consequences of this campaign might be. For me, the Kony 2012 campaign is a story about simplification and framing. Whether you ultimately support Invisible Children’s campaign – and I do not – it’s important to think through why it has been so successful in attracting attention online and the limits to the methods used by Invisible Children.

Who’s Joseph Kony, and who are Invisible Children?

Joseph Kony emerged in the mid 1980s as the leader of an organization, the Lord’s Resistance Army, that positioned itself in opposition to Yoweri Museveni, who took control of Uganda in 1986 after leading rebellions against Idi Amin and Milton Obote, previous rulers of Uganda. Museveni, from southern Uganda, was opposed by several armed forces in the north of the country, including Kony’s group, the Lord’s Resistance Army. Since the mid-1980s, northern Uganda has been a dangerous and unstable area, with civilians displaced from their homes into refugee camps, seeking safety from both rebel groups and the Ugandan military.

Kony and the LRA distinguished themselves from other rebel groups by their bizarre ideology and their violent and brutal tactics. The LRA has repeatedly kidnapped children, training boys as child soldiers and sexually abusing girls, who become porters and slaves. The fear of abduction by the LRA led to the phenomenon of the “night commute“, where children left their villages and came to larger cities to sleep, where the risk of LRA abduction was lower. » More

Page 58 of 63