The CSS Blog Network

Notes from BRISMES

Tawakkol Karman, the women who sparked the Yemen protests into life.

Tawakkol Karman, the women who sparked the Yemen protests into life. Change Square, Sanaa, Yemen, 15 April 2011. Photo: Kate B Dixon/flickr.

The final outcome of the political unrest that continues to shake the Middle East remains far from certain. With that in mind, on 11thJune more than 140 young scholars and students met at the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Middle East Centre for the Annual Graduate Conference of the British Society of Middle Eastern Studies. Change and Continuity in the Middle East: Rethinking West-Asia, North Africa and the Gulf After 2011 – sponsored by the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) and other donors – provided a forum for their views on a number of key issues. » More

Business, Conflict – and Peace?

Participants at the workshop. Photo: Jennifer Giroux

On November 14, 2011 a workshop on the role of business in conflict zones took place at the Europainstitut in Basel. Jointly organized by the ETH’s Center for Security Studies (CSS), swisspeace and Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF/HSFK), various invited speakers examined the business-peacebuilding nexus from differing angles: Some discussed service industries, others legal concerns, conflict resolution, or human rights. The conference showcased the diversity of research being undertaken in the field of ‘business in conflict zones’ – and also highlighted that this is a relatively new, exciting and understudied subject with practical relevance to development and growth. » More

The Development Impact of Information and Communication Technologies

Libya Crisis Map deployed by the Standby Task Force (Standbytaskforce.com) using the Ushahidi platform.

From mobile applications to improve the livelihoods of illiterate farmers to water-management and crisis mapping, the broad spectrum of research and projects presented at the ICT4D – The development impact of information and communication technologies conference on 10 November in Zurich was representative of the wide range of applications and impacts information and communication technologies (ICT) can have in the field of development. Organized by the ETH’s North-South Centre (which has repeatedly focused on the question of how ICT can best serve as a driver for development), the conference highlighted the need for a shift away from a technology-led approach towards one that emphasizes the creative use of already established technologies. Speakers included researchers and practitioners who were not only addressing classical development questions but also shedding light on the political dimensions of the use of ICT.

You’ll find a list of all speakers and their presentations at the end of this blog post. For now, let me pick out a few key themes and challenges that kept recurring throughout the discussion. » More

Development Possibilities in the DPRK

Informal markets – pointing the way forward?

Informal markets – pointing the way forward? Image: fresh888/flickr

Next Tuesday, July 19th, ISN partner organization the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) will be hosting a one-day conference in Washington, DC exploring various transformations inside North Korea that will have significant implications for the regime, as well as for US policy toward North Korea. Speakers at the event include a group of Seoul-based North Korean defectors, as well as various USIP experts.

Informal Markets and Peacebuilding in North Korea” is part of a multi-stage USIP research project on informal markets in North Korea, drawing upon key findings from ongoing interviews with defectors, as well as the Northeast Asia Track 1.5 dialogues. With regard to North Korea, the role of informal markets is largely understudied: most research either focuses or speculates on nuclear weapons development, or troubled relations with South Korea, the US and other Asian states. This conference breaks new ground in examining the remarkable transformations that have been taking place at the local level: Informal markets constitute important coping mechanisms and survival strategies for members of diverse socioeconomic groups close to the Sino-North Korean border. » More

Making Sense of the Arab Spring

Arab spring, not flower revolution: Fawaz A Gerges (LSE) and Volker Perthes (SWP) on the opening panel of the 2011 International Security Forum. Photo: Tim Wendel/ISN

On Wednesday, 1 June, the 9th International Security Forum closed its doors to three days of intense political debate and passionate shoulder rubbing. The highlights were many and varied, yet the 450 participants will surely keep the fondest memories of the event’s first panel discussion, which put the conference on the right track, and set the tone for the following days.

“‘Let’s import a new government’ labor activists joked. This was after the regime threatened to import workers from Bangladesh, if we asked for higher wages”. Nehad Abul Komsan from the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) described the Egyptian revolution on the opening panel last Monday. Hosni Mubarak is gone but problems remain. According to Yossi Alpher from bitterlemons publications the socio-economic troubles, which are partially responsible for the upheaval in Northern Africa and the Middle East, will continue to pose a big challenge for any new leadership.

John W Limbert from the US Naval Academy examined Iran’s role in the Arab Spring in his statement. As in the past, Iran seems to be excluded from progressive developments taking place in its neighborhood. “Tunisia could, Iran not” is a slogan among Iranian progressives, who are again frustrated by their country’s backwardness. Ambassador Limbert went as far as to say that Iran’s leadership is humiliated by regional developments. It did not even manage to protect its Shiite fellows in Bahrain. » More

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