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Venezuela’s Toxic Combination: Too Many Guns, Too Little Food

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Chavez, courtesy of mwausk/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by The International Crisis Group on 6 June 2016.

Venezuela is a country of almost 900,000 square kilometres with over 30 million inhabitants. But a few, run-down city blocks in the west of the capital, Caracas, carry a significance far beyond their size and population. Known as “el centro”, this part of Libertador municipality holds the presidential Miraflores palace, many ministry buildings, the Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, or TSJ) and the headquarters of the electoral authority (Consejo Nacional Electoral, or CNE). In the past few days “el centro” has been the scene of a variety of events that speak volumes about the depth of the combined political, economic, social and humanitarian conflict that seems finally to have caught the attention of the wider world. And about the difficulty of resolving it through dialogue.

Crisis Group has for years warned that authoritarian governance, economic mismanagement, violent crime and lawlessness in Venezuela would eventually prove a toxic combination. The crisis spiralled out of control following the untimely death from cancer of the country’s charismatic leader Hugo Chávez in 2013 and the near simultaneous plunge in the price of oil, on which the economy is almost wholly dependent. Acute shortages of food, triple-digit inflation, one of the world’s highest homicide rates and the collapse of public services, including health care, are signs of deeper dysfunction. This is a country on the verge of implosion.

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Against the Merger of Humanitarianism with Development and Security

This article was originally published by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) on 8 June 2016. 

In the recent World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul 23-24 May, the interconnections between humanitarianism, development and security were highlighted. Recognising that humanitarian assistance alone cannot address ‘the needs of over 130 million of the world’s most vulnerable people’, the conference chair’s summary report states: ‘A new and coherent approach is required based on addressing root causes, increasing political diplomacy for prevention and conflict resolution, and bringing humanitarian, development and peace-building efforts together’ (page 2). Similarly, the background report of the UN Secretary General – One Humanity: shared responsibility – prescribes the merger of humanitarian policies with peace and development agendas. These agendas include the prevention and management of conflict and disaster, the building of institutions conducive to ‘the protection of civilians’, the fight against terrorism, and the building of ‘resilient societies’.

Yet, while coordination across these policy domains is certainly needed, the current challenge for humanitarianism is rather to establish a clearer division of labour between them, where humanitarian relief retains its political neutrality, development aid its concern with justice, and where policies of peace and security maintain focused on the mitigation of international and civil war rather than a broader humanitarian agenda of ‘human security’.

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Burundi Crisis Year One

A number of machetes, courtesy Rene Passet/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project in May 2016.

As the crisis is Burundi officially enters its second year, the country remains unstable, as dead bodies (often with signs of torture) continue to be discovered throughout various provinces, high-profile assassinations are on the rise, and newly formed armed opposition groups become more active. The conflict has a current reported fatality count of 1,155 between 26 April 2015 and 25 April 2016 (as of the time of publishing); at least 690 of the reported dead (or approximately 60%) are civilians. More than 260,000 people have reportedly fled outside Burundi and thousands have disappeared without trace: approximately 137,000 Burundian refugees have crossed into Tanzania, 77,000 into Rwanda, 23,000 into Uganda, and 22,000 into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) (UNHCR, 29 April 2016).

Direction

In recent weeks, the crisis has become increasingly wide-spread throughout the country and increasingly varied with respect to actors targeted by violence – ranging from security forces, former soldiers, and members of various opposition groups. The consequences of the past year are stark, but the crisis is not materializing into a civil war, a coup, or any other form of instability that is immediately recognizable. Since June 2015, reports have been referring to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s actions as ‘trigger for civil war’ and ‘spiraling into chaos’, yet continue to use the term ‘political crisis’ rather than ‘civil war’ to describe ongoing events in the country ( Al Jazeera, 28 June 2015).

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How to Rebuild Trust in the Humanitarian System

Haitian relief workers assist service members embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) unload food and water to aid those affected by recent hurricanes that have struck Haiti.

This article was originally published by the Global Observatory (IPI) on 4 May 2016.

The international humanitarian system is suffering from a crisis of legitimacy, not only because it lacks the capacity and funds to respond to the volume and complexity of current humanitarian needs, but also because the “authorizing environment” has changed: the system no longer represents the interests of today’s humanitarians or is able to instill trust in aid recipients.

Take places like Syria, where approximately 700 local organizations and diaspora groups have filled the void left by the absence of international relief organizations, which have been largely unable to operate in besieged areas since the conflict began. In Yemen, suspicion and mistrust by governments, armed groups, and communities themselves compel international aid organizations to work almost exclusively through local partners. According to surveys done by the accountability project Ground Truth, only one in six of those affected by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal and one in 16 during the early response to the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa felt that their needs were being met by aid organizations. » More

War on Disease? Zika Sheds Light on Growing Military Role in Global Health

Administering a vaccine to a child

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

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern, with the potential to infect up to four million people in the Americas by year’s end. Under increasing pressure to slow the spread of the disease, the Brazilian government has stepped up its response, including mobilizing 220,000 military personnel to cities across the country.

According to Brazil’s ministry of health, the military will be used to spread awareness by going door-to-door, handling out pamphlets, and distributing mosquito repellent. However, it is believed that the troops will also use this opportunity to identify which homes are potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes and target those sites for surveillance and fumigation. Mosquitoes are known to carry the Zika virus, which has been linked with the rare congenital condition microcephaly in newborn babies.

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