It seems paradoxical to regularly hear of “neglected” or “forgotten” conflicts. Jan Egeland, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, described the war in Northern Uganda as the “biggest forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency” in 2003. Our partners, such as the International Crisis Group, write about Congo’s forgotten Katanga crisis or Pakistan’s forgotten Balochistan conflict. And Forgotten Diaries, a multiple- award- winning project, has been exclusively covering forgotten conflicts since 2008. When policy makers, the media, and researchers talk about forgotten conflicts again and again, can we really call them forgotten?
Voices critical of Israel’s role in the Middle East sometimes argue that its occupation of the West Bank, much of the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip is imperialist in nature. Such criticism draws a parallel with 19th and 20th century European imperialism, casting the Palestinians as the indigenous inhabitants of the region and the Israelis as a hostile ‘foreign’ power. Another implication of this characterization, however, is that the occupation is economically motivated, or is best understood in economic terms. Today, to complement our discussion of ‘Economics, Politics and War’ last week, we examine some aspects of the political economy of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Specifically (and with the help of Miriam Qamar’s recent essay “Thoughts on the Dialectics of Revolution and Palestinian Nationalism”), we do so through a Marxist lens.
In his article ‘Why Developing Countries Prove so Resistant to the Rule of Law’, Barry Weingast notes that transplanting institutions and policies directly from developed societies into developing ones rarely helps to produce the long-term economic growth and rule of law that western donors want these countries to attain. As part of this week’s editorial plan focus on international public law in action, this blog will suggest that traditional justice systems can help build sustainable peace in post-conflict situations.
Weingast explains that the reason why western ideals of constructing fully fledged democracies under the rule of law fail to materialize lies in the fact that reform efforts do not understand the role of violence in structuring the ‘natural state’ (generally referred to as fragile state). In natural states – which most post conflict countries belong to – access to state privileges is limited to the elite, and the provision of services is limited to those that support the elite. Order and the absence of violence rest upon a system of rights and privileges that provides elites incentives to cooperate rather than fight. For those sections of society that do not belong to the elite, incentives like the provision of basic services are often used to quell unrest and maintain a semblance of stability. In such countries, the constitution is easily pushed aside for the sake of political leaders’ interests.
It was fitting that news and commentary on justice in Libya was thoroughly confusing today. The conflict in Libya and the post-Gaddafi era have been rife with contradictory storylines: Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was captured. Wait, he’s touring Tripoli! Abdullah al-Senussi has been detained in the south of the country, but we haven’t heard or seen from him since (he is almost certainly not in Libya). International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says Libya can try Saif and Senussi but the Pre-Trial Chamber says ‘hold your horses!’
In short, the narratives emerging from Libya as they pertain to the ICC have been anything but coherent. Even for the most keen observers and commentators, it has been tough to keep track of and distinguish between what was information and what was mis-information.
In reaction to the November 2011 kidnapping and killings of EU nationals in Northern Mali, Catherine Ashton, the High-Representative of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the EU, stated that: ‘These incidents show the need to continue and intensify the efforts against insecurity in the Sahel. Through its Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, the EU is committed to help the Sahel countries in this endeavor.” Nevertheless, the complexity of the terrorist threat in the Sahel region, and its connection to transnational criminal activities, makes me wonder whether the EU counter-terrorism strategy for the Sahel region is fit to confront this challenge.
The terrorist threat in the Sahel region is mainly posed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM has its origins in the Algerian Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédiction et le Combat (GSPC). Largely as a result of the effectiveness of the Algerian army’s counter-terrorism strategy, GSPC was forced to move its headquarters to northern Mali, where it associated itself with al-Qaeda in 2007. The GSPC — rebranded as AQIM — targets the foreign presence in the region, mainly kidnapping European tourists in order to destabilize the Algerian government and convince Western governments to withdraw their troops.