Prior focus: Academic Perspectives

Book Review: Referendums and Ethnic Conflict by Matt Qvortrup

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This article was originally published by the blog LSE Review of Books on 26 June 2014.

Drawing on political theory and descriptive case studies, Matt Qvortrup looks to create typologies of referendums that are held to endorse secession, redraw disputed borders, legitimize a policy of homogenization, or otherwise manage ethnic or national differences. He considers the circumstances that compel politicians to resort to direct democracy, such as regime change, and the conditions that might exacerbate a violent response. Gary Wilson believes the book will be of interest to political scientists and international relations scholars as some chapters are heavy with mathematical formulae used to predict the probability of various outcomes of referendums. » More

Prior focus: Partner Insights

The Geopolitics of Ramadan

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This article was originally published by Stratfor on 28 June 2014.

Ramadan for most people is a religious occasion when Muslims around the world fast from dawn until dusk. During this lunar month, the faithful also try to pray as much as possible and seek to maximize the practice of good deeds. However, Ramadan has a much less talked about geopolitical dimension.

Analysis

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, begins on June 28 in North America this year (2014 on the Gregorian calendar, 1435 on the Muslim Hijri calendar). As is always the case, there are variations in the calendar — usually of one or two days — for Muslims living in different parts of the world. For instance, Saudi Arabia has announced that it will start Ramadan on June 29.

The Koran is believed to have been revealed in this month. The last 10 days are considered the most blessed — especially Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power), which falls on the 27th night of the month. » More

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Prior focus: Global Views

The Agony of UNMISS

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This article was originally published by the IPI Global Observatory on 3 July 2014.

South Sudan celebrated its third year of independence on July 9, 2014. The United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) also marks its third year of operation. Designed to complement southern independence, UNMISS was tasked by the Security Council (UNSC) to consolidate peace and security in a country devastated by decades of war. UNMISS was formed under a mandate logic of peace consolidation through statebuilding; an ambitious agenda in a territory which had barely been touched by administration, and where formal institutions were the exception. Amidst widespread poverty and illiteracy, achieving independence was the first step for South Sudanese toward the realization of equal rights and the opportunity for self-governance, signaling for many an opportunity for stability and economic growth. » More

Prior focus: Our Perspectives

Europe’s Future as a Global Power

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As the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War draws closer, it must be remarked that the most significant change to the geopolitical map since 1914 was not the defeat of fascism, nor the death of Soviet-style communism, but the complete collapse of all the European imperialist systems of government. Of course, various forms of hegemony, colonialism, and suzerainty still exist in the modern world and European nations have not been above overseas conflict since the end of the Cold War. However, a century after the start of Europe’s bloodbath the continent, now at peace, has turned inwards in its thinking.

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Long-term Declines in Violence, Short-term Declines in Peace

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Steven Pinker, one of the world’s leading academics in peace and conflict studies, provides a sweeping summary of the history of violence and conflict since 10,000BCE in his book ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’. Using a wide array of case studies, historical evidence and statistics, Pinker concludes that, contrary to popular perceptions, since the dawn of civilization the world has become increasingly less violent.

For instance, the research of Manuel Eisner suggests that during the Middle Ages the rate of homicides in Europe lay somewhere between 20 to 40 per 100,000 persons, while in modern times estimates place the rate closer to 1 per 100,000. Similarly, we know that deaths relating to war have been trending downwards since 1946 as a consequence of a reduction in interstate and international armed conflict.

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