Peace is the big, under-reported good news story of the 20-plus years since the Cold War ended. There are fewer wars than in the 1980s. There have been more peace agreements, and an increasing proportion of them endure for longer.
Good. Because the next 20 years will make the last 20 seem like a rehearsal for the real thing. Continue reading
Today, 21 September, is the UN International Day of Peace. It’s a day to think about how peace is achieved, safeguarded and built. It is, of course, not the work of a day. Think of Syria, and how much rebuilding of all kinds will be needed when the opportunity of peace arrives. Or think of Rwanda, 19 years on from the genocide, and how it is still recovering and building a peaceful society. Here’s a brief video of (some of) my thoughts about it.
As Syria stays in our news, every day we can have access to new imagery – visual or verbal – of what is happening there. And from these images come discussions and positions that fuel our views in the controversy about what to do and what not to do, about how to help and what kind of assistance (and to whom) might be effective for the common good in Syria and the region.
Against that backdrop, International Alert organised a discussion – one of our series of PeaceTalks – in partnership with the University of Sussex, hosted and recorded at the Frontline Club in London on Wednesday 18 September. Our panel was almost uniquely qualified to discuss the issues. It comprised Martin Bell, renowned former reporter on war and peace; Timothy Large, Editor-in-Chief at Thomson Reuters Foundation, responsible among other things for the AlertNet news service; and international relations Professor Cynthia Weber of Sussex University, who is also a documentary film-maker. I was chairing.
In our wide ranging discussion we covered how stories are selected and shaped, why some imagery works and some doesn’t, the use of social media, what we want from journalism and whether news organisations are providing it, whether there is such a thing as peace journalism or really there’s just good or bad journalism, what we mean by truth and whose truth we mean. Take a look.
For the past two and half years, International Alert has been conducting field research in four South Asian countries on vulnerability to the effects of climate change, possibilities for adaptation, obstacles and how to overcome them. What shines out of these studies is the need for policies that integrate responses to climate and conflict challenges into developing a broadly based quality of resilience – in local communities and on the national stage. Continue reading
International Alert convenes an expert roundtable, Building resilience – building peace, in Kathmandu on Monday 8 July. It’s the culmination of two and half years of research on the impact of climate change on local communities in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. I can’t be there so we recorded four minutes to camera as my contribution to the day’s events.
My brief comments emphasise the importance of thinking about the impact of climate change on four critical system – supply of water, food security, energy availability and supply natural resources supply. Responding to the challenge of climate change is about building resilience in those systems on which people everywhere depend.
For a developing country facing high poverty levels, a growing population with high expectations despite a poor revenue base and weak institutions, but with an abundance of natural resources, exploiting them looks like the path to glory. Experience from a range of countries shows that, to put it mildly, it’s not so straightforward. The World Economic Forum has published a report on the topic – Natural Riches?. Continue reading
In both low and middle income countries, well established arguments and solid evidence confirm that there is no real development without peace and only the peace of the graveyard without development. These conclusions have shifted the fulcrum of discussion about development over the past several years. But they have not yet added up to telling anybody how to do it. Continue reading
Anybody can be forgiven for feeling these are gloomy times. National economies are largely sluggish, abysmal at worst. Political leaders can’t fix a range of problems from the Euro to carbon emissions. From Mali via Syria to the Korean peninsula, peace in the world seems at risk. So it’s important to find the positive news. Continue reading
The situation in Mali is quietly dropping out of the headlines. But last week Ban Ki-moon called for 11,000 peacekeeping troops, possibly backed by combat forces so it’s a good time to be thinking about what the peacebuilding needs are in Mali. The French intervention seems to have been driven by a very short-term view (or perhaps just by the hope for a quick result), based on seeing the problem in terms of terrorism and therefore concentrating on hard security measures. This seems to be backed by a superficial analysis of Mali’s political economy focusing on the north rather than on the whole country and how power is organised, and on the Tuaregs rather than all the different ethnic groups. International Alert has published a briefing paper that goes into the background and explores what is needed for peacebuilding. I have drawn on it for a shorter piece in the Huffington Post.
Today, Sunday 24 February, the heads of state of eleven countries have signed a peace and security agreement addressing the conflicts in and around eastern Congo. It’s a potentially important step – but it’s the start of a long process, not the end of it.