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Community-based Approaches to Early Warning and Early Response: Re-thinking Violence Prevention

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s 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. To keep up to date with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here.

As a U.S. citizen living abroad, I have watched social media recently expose deep divisions in my country between particular communities and the authorities. (The documented and high profile killing of several black American men by law enforcement agents exemplifies the point.) What strikes me about this mutual estrangement is the parallels it has with communities around the world that suffer from weak or absent governance. In both cases, it is not surprising that individuals and communities would want to prevent further violence. One consensus-building tool they could use is the Early-Warning/Early Response (EWER) framework, which is designed to address tensions that might escalate into overt violence.

In a contribution I made to this blog series last year, I looked at top-down/bottom-up approaches to EWER. In today’s blog, I would like to elaborate on my CSS Mediation Resources publication, Preventing Violence: Community-based Approaches to Early Warning/Early Response, which provides a ‘best practices’ resource for communities, practitioners, policy makers, and researchers, looking at the successes, pitfalls and promises of EWER mechanisms. At its heart, the publication affirms the essential role of building relationships and trust within communities, and between them and the authorities that should ideally serve them.

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Living Off the Land: Food and the Logic of Violence in Civil War

Courtesy of 마음 심/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 6 February 2017.

Does food security increase the frequency of civilian killings in some developing countries? Or can it make such atrocities less likely? The answer to these questions depends on how troops and civilians view the prospects of long-term cooperation, and the strategies they employ.

Current theories on violence during civil war frequently associate it with previous enmities and discriminate violence. Yet, even within countries that are experiencing civil war, violence varies over space and time. Some villages might suffer many civilian killings by armed troops while others do not. These villages might go through years of relative peace followed by years of intense violence. New research shows that, in the developing world, food availability and farmland density can help explain violence against civilians.

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Preventing Violent Extremism: A New Paradigm or Evolving Approach?

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Courtesy by Thomas Hawk / Flickr

This article originally appeared in swisspeace’s à propos No. 148 which is published by swisspeace in November 2016.

In the wake of the 9/11 attack, members of the international community responded in a heavy handed and militarized way to terrorism and adopted a counter terrorism (CT) approach. Yet, terrorist attacks and fatalities have dramatically increased and more powerful terrorist groups have been created. With the emergence of the prevention of violent extremism (PVE) approach, a greater emphasis is now given to so-called “soft” alternatives. However, the question remains whether it is a change in content or just a semantic shift.

Multinational organizations and donor countries have been engaged in various counter terrorism (CT) initiatives particularly since the 9/11 terrorist attack as part of the Global War on Terror (GWOT). This simplistic approach viewed terrorism as a form of criminal and subversive activity that targeted the West and its values. However, CT practices increasingly showed a proclivity for grave violations of human rights and international law. Some countries have also manipulated CT measures to silence political opposition and criticism. The acts committed by US security personnel in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the widespread practice of illegal detentions and renditions, decades of arrest without charge in Guantanamo are all manifestations of the failures of this approach. Terrorist attacks and fatalities have dramatically increased, more powerful terrorist groups have been created, the landmass controlled by terrorist groups has expanded, the number of foreign fighters crossing borders to join terrorist groups has surged, and terrorist attacks have reached new heights of cruelty and depravity in the last few years.

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Lebanon on the Brink

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Courtesy Nicolas Raymond/flickr

This article was originally published by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) on 30 August 2016.

Summary

Gravely affected by the Syrian crisis, Lebanon has managed to remain relatively stable against all odds – despite the influx of some 1.5 million Syrian refugees and internal political crisis involving actors who support opposing Syrian factions. Lebanon’s resilience can be explained by the high opportunity cost of state breakdown for domestic, regional and international political actors. Moreover, international economic assistance, diaspora remittances and informal networks established by refugees help to prevent outright economic breakdown. Yet, stability remains extremely precarious. Important tipping points include (1) the IS strategy of spreading the conflict to Lebanon, and the consequent disintegration of the army along sectarian lines, (2) democratic decline and popular dissatisfaction, (3) Hizbullah’s domestic ambitions and Israeli fears over the group’s growing military power and (4) the potential for frustration between refugees and host communities turning into recurrent violence. However, (5) the slow economic decline and the worsening sanitary conditions stand out as the greatest challenges.

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Fragile Cities Rising

Aerial view fo a favela. Photo: Domenico Marchi/Flickr

Favela Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Domenico Marchi/Flickr.

A new social category recently emerged on the security and development landscape–the fragile city. The preoccupation with “fragile” and “failed” cities–at least in military circles–echoes many of the very same anxieties associated with failed and fragile states. Such cities are said to experience ruptures in the social contracts binding governments and citizens and a declining ability to regulate and monopolize legitimate violence across their territories. In extreme cases, municipal governance systems and security apparatus collapse altogether.

The dizzying pace of urbanization in the twenty-first century is believed to exacerbate fragility in large and intermediate cities. The United Nations estimates that the world’s slum population will reach two billion by 2030, accounting for the majority of all future global population growth. A growing cadre of relief and development specialists is also aware how some cities–Ciudad Juárez, Medellín, Karachi, and Tegucigalpa–are synonymous with a new kind of fragility with severe humanitarian implications. While not necessarily affected by armed conflict, these and other urban centers are seized by levels of violence on par with war-torn Abidjan, Benghazi, Damascus, or Mogadishu. » More

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