Book Review: Richard Caplan’s “Measuring Peace: Principles, Practices and Politics”
In Measuring Peace, Professor Richard Caplan of the University of Oxford has written an insightful guide for students and practitioners of peace. The book will help those who want to understand the fundamental principles and existing practices of how to assess peace while at the same time outlining some critical political constraints. Caplan provides a succinct and clear analysis of key approaches to peace measurements, their weaknesses and ways to move forward. Due to its accessibility and policy relevance, the book also stands out among other publications that have sought to evaluate and grapple with the question of how to judge the quality of existing peace. The key aim of the book is to give peacebuilders a ‘compass’ to navigate the post-war peace …
When the technical is political: Colombia’s export of security expertise
In a farewell speech to Colombia’s armed forces last year just prior to leaving office, ex-president Juan Manuel Santos boasted: “Today we have the best armed forces in our history.” Proudly, he added: “We’re a global reference!” And indeed, it seems as though Colombia had opened a new chapter. Since the 2016 peace accords with the country’s largest guerrilla organisation, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the nation appears to be on an uphill climb. With the FARC at the negotiation table, the story goes, the country was finally able to look ahead and dedicate its resources to transition and reconstruction: the reintegration of former combatants, the redistribution of formerly occupied territories, and the recovery of an economy weakened by decades …
The ‘border effect’ is allowing Venezuela’s crisis to fuel political violence in Colombia
As Venezuela’s crisis continues, so too do its serious repercussions for neighbouring countries. Of the four million Venezuelans that have left the country – the largest migrant crisis in the region’s recent history – more than 1.3 million have arrived in Colombia, on Venezuela’s western border. But this comes at a time when Colombia itself still faces high levels of violence. Though its government signed a peace deal with the FARC guerrilla group in 2016, their counterparts in the National Liberation Army (ELN) have yet to give up arms. Elsewhere, the number of FARC dissidents is rising, and other violent non-state groups – from right-wing paramilitaries to Mexican drug cartels – are jostling for position in the race to fill the void created by demobilisation of …
AMLO’s National Guard: More of the Same?
Mexico’s new national guard has been in the news recently because it plays a critical role stemming the flow of Central American migrants. However, it remains “a work in progress,” and has been the subject of severe criticism since its inception. Despite making promises to demilitarize Mexico during his campaign, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is going forward with continuing to rely on militarized public security under a different name. The Plan Nacional de Paz y Seguridad 2018-2024 – his plan to bring about ‘peace and security,’ entails the creation of a Guardia Nacional (national guard). Of course, improving public security is of vital importance, because the security situation in Mexico is dire: Last year set a new record for …
Why is important to understand the impact and responses required for sexual violence and torture survivors in conflict and post-conflict countries in Africa?
Since 1998 I have been carrying out applied research with colleagues and African organisations with survivors of sexual violence and torture. This research argues that sexual violence perpetrated in conflict and post-conflict settings causes devastating effects to individuals as well as whole communities. It results in extensive damage to survivors’ psychological, reproductive and gynaecological health. Ongoing research reveals that more women and girl-children survive conflicts than are killed; yet with tremendous wounds to their bodies and minds; assaults on their dignity, their feelings of self-worth and their future. In contrast, there are rarely consequences for the perpetrators. Applied research carried out in Uganda, Liberia and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo with colleagues and African organisations, argues that sexual violence is not solely a war crime and although extremely prevalent during conflicts, my research argues it has contaminated the post-conflict domestic sphere with high levels of community-perpetrated domestic violence and rape, particularly against young girls. Survivors’ shame and stigma is exacerbated by severe social rejection, particularly for women and girls who become pregnant from rape, former abductees and those with AIDS and HIV infection. Many resultant physical and mental health problems are not treatable by the grossly over-stretched and under-resourced health care systems. Capacity building within primary health care and justice services needs to address psychological trauma, increase resilience and recovery through support groups, trauma counselling and improvement to mental health policies. It is vitally important that service providers (who have also often experienced human rights abuses) are assisted to develop peer support and supervision groups and receive culturally sensitive training in supporting traumatised survivors and their children born from rape. In conjunction with greater protection for their work, and regular salaries this would assist to prevent ‘burn out’.
How civil wars end
There is a tendency, even among scholars, to view civil wars as involving two actors—the “government” and “rebels.” This presumption likely arises because historical civil wars that have received the most attention—such as the American and Chinese civil wars—were generally fought between two recognized, organized combatants. Yet, many civil wars (both historical and modern) involve more than two actors. Take the current civil war in Syria. The Syrian government battles a series of rebel groups that generate a large number of acronyms—ISIS, SLA, SIF, and so on—and that frequently fight amongst themselves. These groups often seek to form coalitions to coordinate their opposition, but the coalitions are unstable and have difficulty controlling their constituent parts. The Syrian conflict also has a large level of external involvement, with the government receiving direct military support from Iran and Hezbollah plus a large number of additional external states and non-state actors seeking to turn the course of the war. The Syrian opposition’s fragmentation is extreme, but the multiparty nature of the conflict is by no means unique. In fact, many of the wars that have received the most international attention in recent decades—such as in Afghanistan, Columbia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, the Palestinian conflict in Israel, the Darfuri war in Sudan, and Somalia—have involved several rebel groups and significant external involvement.
Paying your soldiers and building the state in post-genocide Rwanda
Ensuring soldiers have legal access to financial resources is crucial for the state to fulfil its primary mission: retain the monopoly of violence. As seen in the Democratic Republic of Congo, difficulties providing soldiers with adequate resources may result in deteriorating discipline, corruption, defection, and human rights abuses. Rwanda after the genocide faced the difficult task of paying its soldiers. The post-1994 situation made this challenge inescapable. The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took power in a ruined country. The economy was entirely destroyed, and fleeing officials of the previous regime had emptied state coffers. The resources to pay soldiers were virtually non-existent. In addition, following the RPF victory, many families returned from exile to Rwanda. Consequently, soldiers of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA, the armed wing of the RPF) were not just guerrilla fighters anymore: they became fathers, husbands, or brothers again. This new financial burden on soldiers’ shoulders created a form of indiscipline largely unknown until then in the RPA’s ranks. In addition, the meagre salaries were made in cash, transported by intermediaries from the Ministry of Defence to soldiers, which multiplied the opportunities for embezzlement and the creation of ‘ghost soldiers’. Worse, the opportunities for soldiers to borrow money were extremely limited at the time. Many had no property in Rwanda and consequently no collateral to offer to the few banks still functioning.
The End of the Arab Spring
In December 2010, a revolutionary spark in Tunisia initiated what is now referred to as the Arab Spring. Since then, many countries across the broader Middle East have been swept up in uprisings that have led to fundamental shifts in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. The same drive for change has also led to minor changes in Jordan, Morocco, and elsewhere. These events have drawn the attention of many regional and international observers, experts, and scholars. In many circles, there was a widespread optimism with respect to the nature and course of the Arab Spring, and some observers held to the domino theory, that is, if one revolution took hold, others would follow. Indeed, these expectations and interpretations have been proven true to some degree. First, the contemporary Arab uprisings were able to put an end to dictators and quasi-dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, such that the deposed presidents and parts of their cliques were arrested (e.g., Egypt), accused of state crimes and corruption (e.g., Tunisia), or caught and murdered (Libya). Second, these events put these countries on a path toward political transformation. In this way, we have seen in the major Spring-nations the establishment of new political parties and elections. Due to the modification of whole regimes, these states have completed successful transitions; a significant first step toward democratization.