The CSS Blog Network

Making Peace in a Divided World: New Roles for the United Nations?

President Obama chairing a session in the UN Security Council. Image: The White House/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS) on 1 October, 2015.

There is no more annoying phrase in discussions of international affairs than “If the United Nations did not exist, we would have to invent it!” It is certainly true that the world urgently needs an effective collective security organization today. But the organization it needs bears only a passing resemblance to the UN we currently have.

A genuinely “fit for purpose” UN would have the tools to manage three dangerous trends in international conflict. The first is the resurgence of major power competition in trouble spots such as the eastern Ukraine, South China Sea and Syria. The second is the proliferation of transnational violent extremism in the Middle East and North Africa. The third is the problem of chronic instability in fragile states and regions such as the two Sudans. » More

Exploiting Minerals, Exploiting Communities

A mine worker holding up pieces of Wolframite. Image: Julien Harneis/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 18 May 2015.

In Africa, and indeed in most developing countries across the globe, extractive industries have sparked much controversy and debate.

While these industries bring with them the promise of economic growth and social development, they have, in many cases, instead contributed to the devastation of the countries’ governance systems and economic structures, which has led to an increase in poverty in resource-rich areas.

This has seen a rise in human rights abuses, and at times irreversible damage to the environment. Indeed, that promise of economic and social transformation has rarely come to fruition. » More

Refugee Crisis Tests Limits of Southeast Asian Cooperation

Rohingya Woman in the rain. Image: Steve Gumaer/Flickr

This article was originally published by the IPI Global Observatory on 15 May 2015.

A growing Southeast Asian refugee crisis largely involving Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority has strong echoes of the humanitarian disaster on Europe’s doorstep. International observers have similarly called on Myanmar; refugee destinations such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia; and regional bloc the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to face up to the challenge, as the European Union finally appears to be doing with its own crisis.

At first glance the Southeast Asian situation appears more easily managed: both the origin and intended destinations of the refugees are in the same region, and the main countries concerned are all members of ASEAN. This could theoretically provide the opportunity for a more coordinated response. The story is made more complex, however, by a history of limited official commitments to human rights in the region—and to refugees’ rights in particular—coupled with a traditional ASEAN policy of non-interference in member states’ domestic policies. » More

Guatemala Prosecutes a President, but Progress Falters

Cartoon image of Efraín Rios Montt (front) and President Ronald Reagan (back). Image: Truthout.org/Flickr

This article was originally published by OpenSecurity on 29 April, 2015.

Barring hurricanes, landslides and the occasional drug trafficking story, Guatemala doesn’t often reach our newspapers or TV screens. But in spring 2013, this small Central American country made the headlines when it put its former president on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. The charges against General Efraín Ríos Montt and his Intelligence Chief, General Rodríguez Sanchez, were based on a military campaign in 1982-3 that targeted indigenous Mayan civilians. This was not a case of rogue troops, but sophisticated and brutal social engineering thinly masked as counter-insurgency against leftist rebels. Unlike Yugoslavia and Rwanda however, Guatemala was not given an international tribunal, or even a ‘hybrid’ war crimes court like Sierra Leone or Bosnia. Instead, justice came only 30 years later and from the most unlikely of places: an official state tribunal. » More

Rwanda: How to Deal with a Million Genocide Suspects

Skulls of victims of the 1994 genocide. Image: Steve Evans/Flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 7 April, 2015.

Twenty-one years ago – on April 7, 1994 – the genocide that would kill up to one million people in Rwanda began. Another million individuals would be implicated as perpetrators, leaving Rwandans and many others to ask: how does a country begin to bring so many suspects to justice?

In 2002, the Rwandan government created the gacaca – or “grass” in the country’s official language of Kinyarwanda – court system to tackle this enormous problem. Based on a traditional form of community dispute resolution, the gacaca courts functioned for ten years – until 2012.

Despite receiving much international attention at their outset, little is known about what the courts actually accomplished. This is surprising. For the past three years, I have been analyzing court data and conducting research in Rwanda to better understand this unique legal system whose punishments for the “genocidaires” (or those involved in the genocide) would likely be seen as light in many other countries. » More

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