Categories
Coronavirus CSS Blog

Infectious Narratives: US, China, and COVID-19

Image courtesy of Morning Brew/Unsplash.

This blog belongs to the CSS’ coronavirus blog series, which forms a part of the center’s analysis of the security policy implications of the coronavirus crisis. See the CSS special theme page on the coronavirus for more.

Stories exert power by constructing one way of understanding the world and by effectively communicating that “reality” to others. Conflict actors understand this when they seek to define the terms in which a conflict takes place, representing themselves as morally sound and the other side as illegitimate.

Building on the work of narrative mediator Sara Cobb, we analyze how the respective governments of the US and China have depicted the origins and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic as the fault of the other side. In recent months, COVID-19 has become central to the US and China’s creation of “master narratives”. Master narratives hugely simplify the plot and characters, contain moral judgments, and form the basis for the generation and perpetuation of a conflict tale. This serves both governments in deflecting criticism away from their domestic responsibilities. Tensions have escalated between the two world powers as a result.

Categories
Peace Coronavirus CSS Blog

Mediation Perspectives: Why COVID-19 Ceasefires Remain an Exception

Image courtesy of Jeffery Harris/DVIDS

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors.

Humanitarian ceasefires are intended to open up windows of relief for affected civilians during armed conflict. With COVID-19 spreading across the world and the UN Secretary General’s call for a global ceasefire, hopes were high that ceasefires could help contain the pandemic and ease civilian suffering. The small number of COVID-19 ceasefires, however, is sobering. This might be explained by how a ceasefire declared in response to the coronavirus pandemic can appear to entail far-reaching commitments with uncertain benefits and high costs. In contrast to usual humanitarian ceasefires, pandemic ceasefires hence seem as too big of a risk to take. Tying ceasefire calls to concrete objectives with clear temporal and geographic limitations could help to counter this obstacle.

Categories
Religion Peace CSS Blog

Mediation Perspectives: Trump, the Bible, and the Instrumentalization of Religion

Image courtesy of The White House/Flickr

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors.

In the evening of 1 June, one week into nationwide protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, US President Donald Trump left the White House and made his way to nearby St. John’s Church. He stopped in front of the church and posed for the media holding a Bible.

Categories
Education Peace Coronavirus CSS Blog

Mediation Perspectives: Moving Training from Room to Zoom

Image courtesy of Team Tumult

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors.

In the context of COVID-19-related discussions about moving mediation training online, this blog reflects on key strategic and operational questions one should ask to make this decision. Takeaways include: 1) online training is not better or worse than in-person training, but they each have their own strengths and weaknesses; 2) developing quality online training requires intentional design rather than just the “shoveling” of existing resources onto the web; and 3) any decision to develop online training courses should be part of a long-term strategic decision rather than a short-term improvisation.

Categories
Peace CSS Blog

Mediation Perspectives: Understanding Self-immolation in Sri Lanka

Image courtesy of bestbauch/pixabay

Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors.

Since the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, representatives of the island’s Muslim minority and Buddhist majority have increasingly clashed violently. Attacks and counterattacks between the two communities have challenged the hope for peace on the island. Peacebuilding approaches to deal with the clashes between the religious communities require a better understanding of human non-material needs as motivation for political action. Considering the rationality of seemingly irrational acts such as self-immolation helps in understanding both these needs and the contentious issue at hand.