The CSS Blog Network

How Can Arms Embargoes be Made More Effective?

Gun

Courtesy Thomas Hawk/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies on 4 October 2016.

The AU is taking a well-timed look at how arms embargoes can be better implemented.

Arms embargoes are the most common type of sanction currently applied by the United Nations (UN), and one of the five main types of targeted or smart sanctions (others are diplomatic sanctions, travel bans, asset freezes and commodity interdiction).

The key aim of smart sanctions is to raise the regime’s costs of non-compliance (with the sanctions) without bringing about the wider suffering often associated with comprehensive sanctions, such as trade bans.

How effective these embargoes are in Africa is the subject of much debate; not least because the continent has been subjected to the majority of arms embargoes since the UN’s first stand-alone arms embargo against apartheid South Africa in 1977. Since then, several African countries have faced such embargoes; some repeatedly. Liberia, for example, experienced a series of UN-imposed arms embargoes in varying degrees and forms between 1992 and 2016. Despite this, illicit weapons continued to be trafficked into the country.

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From Curse to Blessing: How Africa’s Natural Resources Can Build Peace

Diamond

Courtesy Tim Samoff/Flickr

This article was originally published by the IPI Global Observatory on 18 July 2016.

While natural resource development can generate economic success, it can also increase the likelihood of conflict, particularly in Africa. Ongoing violence in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta is a good example of the so-called “resource curse” in action. In response, African governments continue to grapple with how best to use their resource endowments to foster both economic opportunity and peace. At a time of much soul-searching for the United Nations, there is a unique opportunity to put responsible and effective resource development at the heart of African peacebuilding. But how might local communities take greater ownership of these processes?

The UN Peacebuilding Commission is now examining where and how it can contribute to better management of natural resource development, as part of its newly enhanced mandate to seek prevention of global conflict. “We’ve been supporting the type of discussion that needs to happen between citizens and governments and between governments and companies,” Oscar Fernández-Taranco, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, told me.

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Commanding the Sahara to Retreat

Man in Sandstorm, courtesy A. Masood

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 19 May 2016.

The blueprint for the Great Green Wall is nothing if not ambitious. Quite Canute-like, it would seem.

The aim is to plant a forest of trees about 15km wide, snaking some 7 775km from Senegal on the Atlantic to Djibouti on the Red Sea – crossing another nine Sahelian states on the way – to halt the southward march of the Sahara into the Sahel. This elongated forest would cover about 11 662 500 hectares.

The idea was originally conceived by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005 and enthusiastically embraced by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. In 2007, the African Union Commission (AUC) took it up as the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI). Obasanjo seems to have borrowed the idea from China, yet the Chinese precedent is not entirely encouraging. Its bricks and mortar equivalent failed to keep out the Mongolian hordes from the north in the 13th century. And China’s Great Green Wall – launched in 1978 with the aim of creating a forest of trees 4 500km long – has also not stopped the southward drift of the Gobi and other deserts, despite the planting of about 70 billion trees to date.

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Autocrats United? Electing the African Union’s Peace and Security Council

Grafitti of Snipers, courtesy Am AMISOM Public Information/flickr

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 5 April 2016.

The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (PSC) is the most important African institution for the day-to-day management of peace and security issues facing the continent. It is the PSC, for example, that coordinates the AU’s conflict management strategies, decides when to authorize peace operations, rules on how to interpret “unconstitutional changes of government,” and determines when to impose sanctions against recalcitrant AU states.

Yet, at the last AU summit, under the headline banner: “2016: African Year of Human Rights,” African states elected arguably the most authoritarian cohort of countries ever to sit on the PSC. What consequences this will have for peace and security on the continent, as well as the AU’s relations with its principal external partners, remains to be seen.

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African Parliaments Lead the Continent’s Fight Against Weapons of Mass Destruction

Chemical Weapons

Pallets of 155 mm artillery shells containing “HD” mustard gas, courtesy US Government/wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies on 4 April 2016.

On 18 February, Moroccan police reportedly found chemical or biological agents while raiding a ‘safe house’ linked to Daesh in the province of El Jadida, on the Atlantic coast. It is presumed that the agents, possibly toxins, were intended for terrorist purposes.

Investigations are currently underway, spearheaded by the Moroccan Ministry of Interior’s Direction Générale de la Surveillance du Territoire. Official information remains scarce, but if confirmed, the discovery of a terrorist plot using chemical or biological weapons would mark a new milestone as extremists resort to more lethal and more devastating weapons, to spread violence with maximum casualties and the highest impact.

This development is not a surprise. Jihadist literature has, for a while, called for the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction – encouraging the production of ricin, botulinum and sarin. (An example of this can be found in the third edition of the magazine disseminated by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.)

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