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Human Rights Humanitarian Issues

Syria: Appeasement in Disguise?

Kofi Annan was in New York on 16 March to brief the Security Council on the mess that is Syria. But whatever (limited) hopes there might be of his ability to negotiate an end to the violence, the humanitarian mission also disguises a depressing reality: short of appeasement, the international community has no good strategy for responding to a well-protected regime intent on committing criminal acts.

Debates on what to do about Syria have – on the surface at least – moved on apace since the China/Russia veto last month (which was, in any case, over-hyped). Everyone seems to agree that Bashar al-Assad needs to stop killing and torturing civilians. As Ban Ki Moon put it on the anniversary of the uprising, “the status quo in Syria is indefensible”. In the rarefied domain of international politics, the widespread acceptance of this point counts as a victory. But beyond this limited solidarity, there is scant agreement over what practical steps to take.

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Human Rights Humanitarian Issues Conflict

Singling Out Forgotten Conflicts

Demonstration against FARC held in Madrid. Picture: kozumel/flickr

A popular method for identifying which conflicts necessitate more attention from the international community is to estimate the difference between supply and demand of humanitarian assistance in these conflicts. Supply and demand, however, are very hard to measure in emergencies. This has led to the development of several indicators used to measure ‘forgotten conflicts’.

These indicators are often applied on an annual basis and are intended to generate media attention (to increase donations) and/or support donor operations (to comply with impartiality). Have these efforts been successful? Have they effectively singled out and buttressed forgotten conflicts? Looking back on the past decade, in this blog post I’ll assess which conflicts received the least (and most) attention from international actors.

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Human Rights Humanitarian Issues Conflict

Forgetting What?

Ongoing conflicts and wars in January 2011. Image: Wikimedia Commons

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?

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Social Media Internet Humanitarian Issues

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.

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Elections Keyword in Focus Humanitarian Issues Conflict

Keyword in Focus: Uganda & Conflict

Kampala
A view of Kampala.  Photo: hamoid/flickr

On Friday, the 14th of October, the State Department announced that the US was sending 100 military advisers to Uganda.  Their purpose: to help African troops pursue the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader, Joseph Kony, whom the ICC accuses of 21 counts of war crimes and 12 counts of crimes against humanity.  The deployment follows the unanimous passage and signing into law last year of legislation which makes it American policy to kill or capture Joseph Kony and defeat his army.