There are no shortages of statistics and data on the increasing rapidity with which our climate is changing, or on its effects. While rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers, and extremes in temperature are well-chronicled, the cascading impacts that a transformed climate will have on global peace and security are less clearly understood. This is all the more important since the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provide frameworks for addressing climate change for the international community, yet stop short of including peace and security. In light of its mandate, the extent to which the United Nations Security Council can or should take steps on climate-related peace and security issues is an increasingly urgent question.
This article was originally published in Conflict Trends 2019/1 by the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) on 24 June 2019.
“The small is as important as the bigger picture. It is these smaller things, if they are coordinated, that can lead to the transformation of the bigger picture” (p. 10). These are the first two sentences of a recently published book on mediation in fragile contexts, written by Kenyan-Somali peacebuilder, Dekha Ibrahim Abdi, and Swiss researcher-practitioner, Simon Mason. These opening lines capture the essence of the book. The book is broadly concerned with how to deal with violent societal conflict ranging from intercommunity and community-state to nationwide ethnopolitical conflict. A common thread throughout the book is how small steps in peace processes taken by mediators and conflict parties from the bottom up can eventually lead to peace.
Central Europe received a major increase in refugees fleeing Syria in 2015. With the region’s politicians initially overwhelmed and claiming the situation was unforeseeable, civil society had to step into the breach on humanitarian assistance. Eventually, politicians did propose a broad range of solutions to cope with the phenomenon, typically informed by their political persuasions. Naturally, these were widely debated, and none were able to be categorically proven as effective.
But what if there was a way to evaluate the proposed solutions? What if the means existed to analyze the challenges faced and provide support for decision-makers? Existing computer simulation models are, in fact, quite capable of doing just that in a range of fields. Though their capabilities are not taken full advantage of at present, the situation appears to be changing.
One field—and a big one at that—starting to adopt large-scale computer modeling is healthcare. With many national health insurance programs facing the challenges of demographic shifts (an aging population and fewer contributors to the pool of available funds), the quest for cost efficiency has opened the door to healthcare technology assessment (HTA).
Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian President, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Price “for his efforts to bring a more than 50-year long civil war to an end.” While international observers might have chosen other candidates this year, Santos deserves this award.
First, he secretly started peace negotiations early in his first administration when political opinion was inclined to further debilitate the country’s already weakened guerrilla groups, most importantly the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Thanks to his experience as Minister of Defense in the previous government, he recognized that a military victory would have taken many more years and produced many more victims.
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.