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 workshop Inequality, Grievances and Civil War took place on the 11th and 12th of November 2011 and was hosted by the Center for Comparative and International Studies (CIS) of the ETH and the University of Zurich. Bringing together some of the leading researchers on group equalities and civil war, the aim of the workshop was to present new research on the role of inequality, geography, mobilization and institutions in explaining conflict onset and termination. Highly anticipated amongst participants, however, was the unveiling of the new GROWup(Geographic Research on War: Unified Platform) data portal.
Friday’s first session addressed ‘Horizontal Inequalities’ and was kicked off by Dr. Frances Stewart of the University of Oxford, presenting her paper “Horizontal inequalities at a global level: the case of Muslims versus the rest”. By placing horizontal inequalities as inequalities in economic and political resources between culturally defined groups, Stewart argued that global horizontal inequalities have similar implications to national ones. Stewart stressed that existing inequalities are a source of insecurity and can raise the risk of conflict globally. Hence, horizontal inequalities, whether they are cultural, political or economic, need to be addressed both on the national and the international level. » More
On 4 and 5 November, the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH hosted an academic workshop entitled “The other sides of Afghanistan: A regional perspective on security issues in Afghanistan”. It was organized by Dr Stephen Aris and Dr Aglaya Snetkov (CSS) and supported by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation. The focus of the workshop was on the regional dimensions of the security situation in Afghanistan.
Ahead of the proposed US and NATO withdrawal from military operations in Afghanistan by 2014, many analysts are now arguing that the role and influence of regional powers and neighboring states in Afghanistan have become increasingly important and that an effective solution to the current instability in Afghanistan will require a coordinated regional approach. To evaluate the prospects for and likely nature of regional cooperation on Afghanistan, the goal of the workshop was to analyze the perceptions and responses of neighboring and regional states to the security situation in Afghanistan, as well as their views on the implications of the proposed Western withdrawal in 2014. To this end, area studies and country-experts on the states bordering Afghanistan (China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and regional powers and states in close proximity (Russia, India, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) gave presentations about these countries’ perceptions, strategies and policies towards Afghanistan. In addition, experts examined the view and approach of NATO and Afghanistan itself to a regional solution, while regional analysts examined the transnational security and economic dynamics between the states of the wider Afghan neighborhood. » More
Last month’s assassination of Kurdish activist Mashaal Tammo has put the spotlight on Syria’s almost forgotten Kurdish minority. Their involvement in the uprisings had been considerably low up to this point, propelled by fears that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad would ruthlessly put down Kurdish participation in the protests. But after the death of Tammo, a prominent opposition figure and founding member of the Syrian National Council, a wave of outrage has swept across the Kurdish population. This brought about the most intense protests and demonstrations of this ethnic minority since the beginning of the uprisings in March and might just mark a tipping point for the highly fragmented Syrian opposition.
While opposition movements of the Arab Spring have been characterized as heterogeneous and unstructured, Syria’s opposition seems particularly patchy. Approximately 40 percent of the population do not belong to the Sunni majority. Shia Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Jews and Ismaelites all have their own political agendas. One of the main reasons why Assad has managed to remain in power for so long is because he was backed by the country’s minorities. In exchange, he implemented laws and policies to secure the minorities from the Sunni majority. » More
On 27 and 28 October, the NCCR Democracy project managed by the University of Zurich, together with the Center for Comparative and International Studies at ETH, hosted a conference on the topic: “Transformation of the Arab World: Where is it heading to?” Adam Dempsey, Eveline Hoepli, Chantal Chastonay and I covered the event for the ISN.
The conference kicked off on Thursday morning with Roland Popp’s unscheduled presentation, “The Past as Prologue? Regional Dynamics and Revolutionary Trajectories in the Middle East.” Popp, a senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH and an expert in the international history of the Middle East, stressed the importance of looking beyond the unit-level to understand transformation. Citing the example of Egypt’s 1952 revolution, the fear of Arab nationalism it provoked in the other monarchies of the region, and Nasser’s subsequent isolation (which, as we know, ended up driving him closer politically to the United States), he argued that regional dynamics are essential to understanding many developments whose logic at first appears confined to individual countries. Wise counsel, no doubt, and of obvious significance for the remarks that would follow. » More