Oil in South Sudan: Turning Crisis Into Opportunity

This article was originally published May 5 2014, by New Security Beat, the blog of the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) at the Wilson Center.

Outside of donor and humanitarian aid, South Sudan’s economy is almost entirely dependent on the oil sector – and that sector is in crisis.

After a unilateral shutdown of the industry by the government in January 2012 that lasted 15 months, and ongoing partial shutdowns due to internal conflict, not only are current oil revenues drying up, but the prospects for new investment have been nearly destroyed.

As a result, demands on the donor community will grow rather than tail off in coming years. However, looking further afield, and if geology allows, a reformed South Sudan has the potential to turn what has until now been a developmentally detrimental oil industry – generating the finance and providing incentives for violent conflict – into one that generates positive change for its war-torn people.


Pakistan’s Political Renaissance

General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan
General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan. Photo: FSCEM45212/Wikimedia Commons

LAHORE – Pakistani institutions are evolving rapidly. With executive authority increasingly in the hands of elected representatives, rather than dispersed among various competing institutions, the political establishment has been revitalized – and it has taken three important steps toward strengthening democracy and the rule of law. Is Pakistan, a country long prone to military coups, finally developing a well-functioning political system?

On November 27, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain – acting on the prime minister’s advice, as the constitution dictates – announced that General Raheel Sharif would succeed General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as Chief of Army Staff, even though Sharif was not among the military establishment’s favored candidates. Unlike Kayani – who has directed the Directorate-General of Military Operations and the Inter-Services Intelligence (Pakistan’s spy agency) – Sharif has not served in any of the positions that typically prepare someone to lead Pakistan’s best-funded and most influential institution.

From Civil to Civic Conflict? Violence and the City in ‘Fragile States’

Belizian protests
Clash between protesters and police in Belize, 21 January 2005. Photo: Belizian/Wikimedia Commons.

For a fleeting moment during the final decade of the twentieth century, the general trajectory of conflict across the world seemed clear. With the Cold War over, the number of interstate wars was in free-fall and the dominant form of violence was internal, within fragmenting states no longer propped up by their superpower sponsors. The age of ‘total war’ between states had thus been largely superseded by a wave of civil conflicts, often characterised as ‘new wars’, fought for the most part in rural hinterlands and widely considered as limited in scope and scale.

Over a decade into the new millennium, however, the trajectory now looks far from straightforward. Like international wars, civil wars too have been steadily declining in number. Yet from Colombia to Cairo, Brazil to Baghdad and Kenya to Kandahar, each month brings new manifestations of what Arjun Appadurai (in)famously termed the ‘implosion of global and national politics into the urban world’. Although riots, gang crime, and terrorist attacks have afflicted cities for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, the increasing ubiquity of such events – even if not ‘wars’ in any conventional sense – suggest that the hallmark of the contemporary period is one of rising ‘urban conflict’ rather than ‘peace’.

How Organized Crime and UN Peace Operations Came to Converge In Fragile States

UN Peacekeepers and UN Police from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti
UN Peacekeepers and UN Police from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. Photo: MATEUS_27:24&25/flickr.

In 1948, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) was deployed as the first United Nations peacekeeping mission, mandated to monitor the Arab-Israeli ceasefire. In the aftermath of World War II, the international system had evolved into a bipolar order in which international actors were focused mostly on interstate disturbances and proxy wars. During this time, organized crime was mostly concentrated in cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Naples, Palermo, and Tokyo, and of little significance to the international community. Peace operations and organized crime were separate and unrelated issues.

A New Deal for Fragile States

A Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devise (VBIED) after exploding on a street
A Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devise (VBIED) after exploding on a street in Iraq. Photo: Eli J. Medellin/Wikimedia Commons.

PARIS – Today, roughly one-quarter of the world’s population lives in conflict-affected and fragile states. Despite vast sums of money spent aiding such states over the last 50 years, armed conflict and violence continue to blight the lives of millions of people around the world. International and national partners must radically change the way they engage such states.

I experienced firsthand the need for a new approach in 2004 in Sri Lanka. Within the first two months of the devastating tsunami that struck that December, close to 50 heads of state and foreign ministers visited the island. Each came with their own programs, their own civil-society organizations, and their own television crews. Few came with any deep understanding of the dynamics of the political conflict between militant Tamils and the Sri Lankan state. Big mistakes were made, fueling further violence.