The CSS Blog Network

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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Mediation Perspectives: Early Warning/Early Response: Top-Down or Bottom-Up?

Zanzibar. Courtesy Steven leach

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts.

Governments, researchers, and peacebuilders are constantly looking for ways to translate a renewed focus on and heightened awareness of grassroots knowledge into violence prevention and conflict transformation. At present, particular interest has returned to honing and implementing effective Early Warning/Early Response (EWER) mechanisms, but this quest raises a complex question: Should these mechanisms be community-based and originate at the grassroots level or should they be top-down and established as parts of larger structures? Advocates of the grassroots approach, for example, argue that it strengthens and supports the ability of local communities to anticipate and prevent violent conflict, while advocates of large centralized structures acknowledge the benefits of institutional support and broad mandates. The purpose of this blog is to compare these two approaches and ultimately identify the necessity for balance – both approaches have strengths and limitations.

Current trends in the development field suggest that a bottom-up approach, with its emphasis on local initiative and ownership, might be preferable to other options. After all, violence prevention and conflict transformation efforts at the local level can be highly contextual, which is a good thing. Such efforts can more confidently secure a community’s cooperation and support, and they typically identify more nuanced responses, including those that are sensitive to and incorporate traditional practices as well as involving key actors who are positioned to directly intervene in tense situations.

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Freeing Prevention From Conflict: Investing in Sustaining Peace

Courtesy Sasha Maksymenko/flickr

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 21 April 2016.

As the preparations for the May 2016 United Nations General Assembly’s high-level debate on peace and security intensify, prevention seems to be on everyone’s lips. The three 2015 UN global peace and security reviews that frame the debate have conveyed a common message: that the political instruments, tools, and mechanisms the world body deploys to address violent conflict all attest to the failure of early prevention. All three reports, not surprisingly, recommended a greater focus on prevention. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his follow-on report on the recommendations of one of these reviews, by the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO), wholeheartedly endorsed this.

The skeptics among political observers and those who have followed UN reforms over the years should not be blamed for asking, “So, what’s new?” This is not the first time that the UN and its member states, coming to grips with the woeful shortcomings of their responses to old and emerging global threats, have rediscovered the virtues of prevention. Nothing concentrates the mind more than imminent crisis and once that danger dissipates so does the political will needed, they would argue, to make prevention the first port of call before the outbreak of violence.

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For Lasting Peace, Exceptions Must Become Rule: Q&A with Séverine Autesserre

Peace dove/Mural azulejos día de la PAZ

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 12 January 2016.

Despite an increased spotlight on the disconnection between international peacebuilders and the communities in which they work, the situation does not appear to have improved dramatically in the past year, according to Séverine Autesserre, Associate Professor of Political Science at Columbia University’s Barnard College.

Dr. Autesserre, whose 2014 book Peaceland is credited with bringing the problem to wider attention, said there may have been a change in discourse, but not in practice.

A major issue is that many people and organizations think that they are the rare exceptions to the rule, she said in a conversation with International Peace Institute Policy Analyst Margaret Williams.

“People may agree with the analysis and the need for change, but they may feel it is only for other people,” she said. “That may be why we haven’t seen so many changes in the past year.”

She said policymakers, practitioners, peacebuilders, local authorities, local populations and others have at least shown a greater interest in the exceptions, and these could be highlighted as models for reform.

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Peace Goal Requires Bridge Building between Old and New Powers

American and Afghan soldiers in farah Province, Afghanistan. Image: Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) on 17 August, 2015.

The omission of violent conflict and fragility is one of the biggest shortcomings of the otherwise heralded Millennium Development Goals. The gap in MDG performance between fragile and conflict-affected states and other developing countries remains wide, and the OECD estimates that by 2020 extreme poverty will be concentrated mainly in fragile states. » More

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