Somalia – a difficult climate for peacebuilding

Somalia is showing encouraging signs of emerging from three decades of chaos and mayhem that themselves followed two decades of dictatorship and one of civil war. Problems abound still and there are over 5 million people in the country who need humanitarian assistance and well over 2 million displaced people. As well as trying to win territory back from the al-Shabab terrorists, the government and its regional and international supporters have to meet people’s basic needs, develop the economy and establish some kind of political normalcy with critically elections planned for this year.

Exerting pressure on all this and making it harder is climate change and an average of one natural disaster a year for the last 30 years ( 12 serious droughts and 18 major floods). SIPRI published a report in late 2019 – Climate-related security risks and peacebuilding in Somalia by Florian Krampe and Karolina Eklöw – and the Belgian Presidency of the UN Security Council invited me to brief the Council about the issues on 24 February as part of their session on the situation in the country.

What follows – in perhaps a somewhat more formal tone than readers of this blog are generally used to – is what I said in my briefing.

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The Trump administration on Israel and Palestine: is it a new peace plan?

We live in troubled and troubling times. Though we can, if we look, find reasons for optimism, many indicators are pointing in the wrong direction – more armed conflicts, more military spending, more arms trading. Worse, this unfolds against a seriously concerning background of long-term trends: increasingly toxic geopolitics, the crumbling of arms control and the climate crisis. The doomsday clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved 20 seconds closer to midnight; it has never been closer.

Amid the gloom, would it not be a welcome relief for a new peace vision for the Middle East to be launched, to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict, and open the door to a new possibility of political and social progress in the region?

Yes it would. But…

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Nine items of evidence for optimism

It’s that time of year, right? In fact, that time of the decade – the cusp between one and the next. From the teens to the twenties. So it’s time for my review of the last (what went wrong) and a forward perspective over what’s coming (trends to watch). Except, no.

Recently I asked a group of eminent and wise people for reasons for optimism. There is these days a bias towards pessimism that is simultaneously understandable, debilitating and tedious. I wanted to push back and get eminent wise help in doing so.

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SIPRI Yearbook 2019: Nuclear weapons and other key trends

The SIPRI Yearbook 2019 is now available on line. It registers key data in the world of peace and security in 2018 and establishes some of the basic indicators that let us track and assess the trends. It is not a comfortable picture.

You can get a quick take on it from my shorthand overview below and/or from the latest short film in our Peace Points series.

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2018: what just happened?

There we are, another year, full of puzzlement and uncertainty. Some things moving forward (détente on the Korean peninsula, peace talks at last about Yemen), others regressing (world hunger on the rise, arms control crumbling, impacts of climate change unfolding), and other things hard to interpret. In this short film, the closing one of 2018 in SIPRI’s Peace Points series, I give my view. in the first one of 2019, I will take a look ahead at hopes for the coming year.

For 2018, I don’t really have a total on the bottom line of the balance sheet. The question that gets put at the beginning is, are we moving towards or away from midnight on the Doomsday clock? And my answer is a cross between ‘I don’t know’ and ‘Neither’ (i.e., no movement for either good or bad).

Happy (and PEACEFUL) New Year greetings to everyone!

The Nobel Peace Prize and Sexual Violence in War

On Friday 5 October, the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee announced the laureates for 2018: Nadia Murad and Dr Denis Mukwege. These are two extraordinary people, brave, articulate and committed. Both Ms Murad and Dr Mukwege know atrocity close up. Both work to help the victims of wartime sexual crimes and, by denouncing the crime, helping to end it.

Here are my first thoughts on this, in a 3-minute film from SIPRI, part of our Peace Points series; I stress the development of awareness of the crime of sexual violence in war, growing from Susan Brownmiller’s 1975 book Against Our Will,* through UN Security Council Resolution 1820 in 2008, via the campaigning work of Angelina Jolie and former UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, to today:

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Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1975) – followed by many other editions, paperback, e-book etc.

The heat and its implications

Around the world, a series of new “hottest ever” local records have been set. Africa has experienced what is probably its hottest ever daily temperature. The world’s highest “daily minimum” temperature (i.e., the lowest temperature in that 24-hour period) has been recorded – over 42°C in Oman, for those of you trying to handle a modest mid-30s of an afternoon by the Med. Northern Arctic sea ice is breaking up for the first time on record. What are the trends and what are the implications for peace and security? Continue reading

Kim and Trump in Singapore: extraordinarily ordinary? – not quite

That was a surprise. The Sentosa Island summit on 12 June between President Trump and DPRK leader Kim Jong-un produced an undramatic yet hopeful agreement. Quite a turn-up for the books, coming from two leaders famed for unpredictability. But components of the summit outside of the signed agreement showed Trump continuing to be a disruptor in world politics. Continue reading