Categories
Security Keyword in Focus

Keyword in Focus: Western Sahara

Antonio Achille, working with the Military Liaison Office of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), looks through binoculars during a ceasefire monitoring patrol in Oum Dreyg, Western Sahara.
MINURSO monitors ceasefire in Western Sahara, courtesy of UN Photo/Martine Perret

Resource-rich Western Sahara is at the top of the news this week, and the “last colonial conflict” in Africa is definitely an issue to watch.

Al Jazeera’s bureau in Morocco was closed down two weeks ago by the authorities. The news network gave its coverage of the Western Sahara issue as one of the main reasons. So if the Moroccan government doesn’t want us to know about what’s going on there, chances are it must be something interesting and worth digging deeper into.

Representatives of Morocco, the Polisario Front, Algeria and Mauritania are currently gathered in New York for a round of UN-brokered informal talks in an effort to end a conflict that has its roots in the 1970s. Just before the talks started, a raid by Moroccan forces on a Western Saharan refugee camp left dozens injured and four dead.

Western Sahara is likely to gain strategic importance as world reserves in phosphate are depleted, because it is one of the few regions in the world to hold large quantities of this key fertilizer. Moreover, the region possesses significant fisheries and offshore oil reserves, raising the strategic stakes further.

Morocco doesn’t want to let go of such a treasure vault, but the Polisario front has been pressing for a referendum on the independence of the region for years. The UN, on the other hand, has been monitoring a ceasefire between the two parties since 1991, keeping a fragile and unsustainable ‘peace’ of sorts in place.

But what does the recent raid and the closing down of Al Jazeera’s Morocco bureau say about Moroccan tactics in Western Sahara and will negotiations this time lead anywhere?

To learn more about the background to this conflict, explore our Digital Library holdings on Western Sahara. Some resources worth highlighting include:

  • A policy brief by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) outlining why the mediation process by the UN is not working
  • This situation report by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS)  presenting the perspectives of both Morocco and the Polisario Front on the conflict
  • This report by International Crisis Group describing the costs of this protracted frozen conflict
Categories
Government Environment

A Storm in the Works

Oil, growth and security in Latin America, photo courtesy of Hubert Guyon/flickr

“Peru provides a dramatic example of a growing trend across Latin America where indigenous groups are challenging governments’ economic development programs by raising their voices against extractive industries,” Patricia Vasquez argues in USIP Peace Brief 19.

Across Latin America, economic growth is happening at a steady clip.  Similar to many countries in Africa, sustained growth is spurred by a demand for commodities – think oil, iron, ore, copper, gas, etc. –  needed to feed burgeoning economies, especially those in Asia. Indeed, such growth is counter to the trends happening in other parts of the globe where countries, in particular the United States and members of the EU, continue to grapple with economic contraction that has brought about hard policy decisions in the form of bailouts, stimulus packages, and cuts to social programs. In fact, a recent article in the New York Times noted how this trend has not only surprised analysts but also “surpassed the expectations of many [Latin American] governments themselves.”

Narrowing the focus to Peru, the country I am currently traveling through, the growth is palatable. Though great economic disparities exist and poverty is pronounced one can’t help but feel a buzz in the air – one aided and sustained by the development of Peru’s hydrocarbon areas and plans for expansion in the oil and natural gas sector (ONG). In 2009, as Peru’s GDP experienced over five percent growth, multinational oil and gas companies poured $800 million into the economy – making up for 50 percent of the nations tax revenues. A viable future in liquefied natural gas (LNG) production ensures that another $1 billion will be invested in the next few years.

Categories
Security

ISN Quiz: Armed Non-State Actors

Test your knowledge of the ANSA ABC, the focus of our Special Report this week.

[QUIZZIN 7]

Categories
Uncategorized

ISN Weekly Theme: Power-sharing

Shaking hands, photo: Aidan Jones/flickr

This week the ISN explores the promises and pitfalls of power-sharing arrangements as they evolve from negotiation to implementation and functional reality.

This week’s Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Dr Nicole Töpperwien of Ximpulse examines the delicate progression from armed conflict to power sharing.
  • A Podcast interview with Dr Michael Kerr of King’s College London explores the important negotiating role played by parties external to a conflict.
  • Security Watch stories about power-sharing arrangements from Zimbabwe and Kenya to Tatarstan.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including a recent US Institute of Peace paper on ‘Lebanon’s Unstable Equilibrium,’ following the creation of a power-sharing government led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
  • Primary Resources, like the full texts of the Good Friday Agreement and the Zimbabwean power-sharing arrangement between the parties led by Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai.
  • Links to relevant websites, among them the BBC-run ‘Search for Peace’, which provides extensive information on the Northern Ireland peace process.
Categories
Security Culture

Is Peace (only) a Matter of Spirituality?

Beware of God
Beware of God / Photo : Synaptic Impulse - Flickr

Today is the International Day of Peace. Started by the General Assembly in 2002, it is supposed to celebrate peace worldwide.  According to the official calendar that lists all the events taking place in the world today to celebrate peace, at least 70% of the events are related to spirituality and to religious activities.

I find it quite ironic that peace is associated with religion when most of the conflicts that are currently taking place have at least a religious component if not a religious background: the civil war in Iraq, the insurgency in Afghanistan, civil war in Somalia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the insurgency in the southern Philippines and many more. I understand that religion and spiritual values can breed tolerance, cultural understanding and open-mindedness. Unfortunately this is not always the case and the most belligerent minds and groups often use religion as a justification for their distinctly unpeaceful agendas.

Wouldn’t it be possible to promote peace without including faith in the package? Couldn’t we establish a true understanding and a peaceful world by using different concepts? The ancient Greeks who invented democracy and laid the foundations for our modern civilization were also confronted with the need to make peace. At the time, peace was established on foundations of social justice, sound legislative processes and economic growth.

This ancient understanding of peace is one that the modern world would do well to keep in mind and it could serve as a useful alternative to spirituality for this International Day of Peace.