Showing posts tagged as "ICG"

Showing posts tagged ICG

28 Jun

Check out Crisis Group’s first Weekly Update on Storify

7 Jun
Erdogan can win by engaging Turkey’s park protesters | Bloomberg
By Hugh Pope
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been in tighter spots: He was thrown in jail for alleged Islamism, saw his last political party closed down and survived a showdown with the once all-powerful Turkish military.
Yet the street protests that erupted first in Istanbul and then across the country at the end of last month present a challenge he has never faced before. So far, he has mishandled the situation, and on June 6 showed no sign of backing down. That’s a mistake, because he has the ability to turn the protests to his advantage and the country’s.
Erdogan is Turkey’s most effective leader since the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and much of his success has been based on determination, populist rhetoric and a focus on business. Born into one of Istanbul’s notoriously tough neighborhoods, he is both the unyielding bulldozer of Turkish politics and the fix-it charmer. Almost 50 percent of the population voted for his Justice and Development Party two years ago.
What is happening in Turkey today is mostly about the other 50 percent of the country’s 76 million people. An opinion poll by academics at Istanbul’s Bilgi University found that 70 percent of the protesters had no strong political affiliation. The protests have been full of humor, volunteer enthusiasm, modern women, celebrities and bands of idealistic children skipping school. For the first week, the crowds were leaderless, the only things uniting them being social-media networks and a common slogan: “Tayyip, resign!”
FULL ARTICLE (Bloomberg)
Photo: Flickr/Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

Erdogan can win by engaging Turkey’s park protesters | Bloomberg

By Hugh Pope

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been in tighter spots: He was thrown in jail for alleged Islamism, saw his last political party closed down and survived a showdown with the once all-powerful Turkish military.

Yet the street protests that erupted first in Istanbul and then across the country at the end of last month present a challenge he has never faced before. So far, he has mishandled the situation, and on June 6 showed no sign of backing down. That’s a mistake, because he has the ability to turn the protests to his advantage and the country’s.

Erdogan is Turkey’s most effective leader since the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and much of his success has been based on determination, populist rhetoric and a focus on business. Born into one of Istanbul’s notoriously tough neighborhoods, he is both the unyielding bulldozer of Turkish politics and the fix-it charmer. Almost 50 percent of the population voted for his Justice and Development Party two years ago.

What is happening in Turkey today is mostly about the other 50 percent of the country’s 76 million people. An opinion poll by academics at Istanbul’s Bilgi University found that 70 percent of the protesters had no strong political affiliation. The protests have been full of humor, volunteer enthusiasm, modern women, celebrities and bands of idealistic children skipping school. For the first week, the crowds were leaderless, the only things uniting them being social-media networks and a common slogan: “Tayyip, resign!”

FULL ARTICLE (Bloomberg)

Photo: Flickr/Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

(Source: ekathimerini.com)

31 May
The Coming West Bank Instability | The Daily Beast
By Ali Gharib
Is the West Bank about to erupt into a dangerous unrest? According to the International Crisis Group, the answer is complicated. Ferment isn’t imminent, but the conditions for it are ripe, said the group in a new report out this week.
Protests began to rise last fall over economic conditions in the occupied territory, and spiked again this year as Palestinians took to the streets over the treatment of hunger-striking Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. While many predicted a third intifada—a mass uprising—the protests eventually subsided. If more, society-wide protests emerge, they could not only raise tensions with the occupying Israeli forces, but also bring down the Palestinian Authority, the territory’s limited self-government. Instability, in other words, remains a very real fear.
ICG identified the primary cause of the instability—as we have seen throughout the Arab Uprisings of the past two years—as the lack of the PA’s legitimacy. “[T]he latest demonstrations are a symptom of a much longer-term trend of Palestinian frustration with the absence of a political horizon—with the seeming interminability of an occupation soon to enter its 46th year and the sense that they have been cheated by the Oslo framework that many initially believed would bring about statehood,” said the report. That’s why the efforts to address the specific causes of protests—propping up the PA with just enough cash to get through its fiscal crisis or dealing with prisoner issues—act as mere band-aids. The threat of a future mass uprising won’t disappear until the larger issues plaguing the Palestinians do.
FULL ARTICLE (The Daily Beast)
Photo: Flickr/Olivier Pacteau

The Coming West Bank Instability | The Daily Beast

By Ali Gharib

Is the West Bank about to erupt into a dangerous unrest? According to the International Crisis Group, the answer is complicated. Ferment isn’t imminent, but the conditions for it are ripe, said the group in a new report out this week.

Protests began to rise last fall over economic conditions in the occupied territory, and spiked again this year as Palestinians took to the streets over the treatment of hunger-striking Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. While many predicted a third intifada—a mass uprising—the protests eventually subsided. If more, society-wide protests emerge, they could not only raise tensions with the occupying Israeli forces, but also bring down the Palestinian Authority, the territory’s limited self-government. Instability, in other words, remains a very real fear.

ICG identified the primary cause of the instability—as we have seen throughout the Arab Uprisings of the past two years—as the lack of the PA’s legitimacy. “[T]he latest demonstrations are a symptom of a much longer-term trend of Palestinian frustration with the absence of a political horizon—with the seeming interminability of an occupation soon to enter its 46th year and the sense that they have been cheated by the Oslo framework that many initially believed would bring about statehood,” said the report. That’s why the efforts to address the specific causes of protests—propping up the PA with just enough cash to get through its fiscal crisis or dealing with prisoner issues—act as mere band-aids. The threat of a future mass uprising won’t disappear until the larger issues plaguing the Palestinians do.

FULL ARTICLE (The Daily Beast)

Photo: Flickr/Olivier Pacteau

30 May
“Senseless, irrational, reactionary and extremist behaviour” in Myanmar
By Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s Asia Program  Director
“Whatever our prospects for a bright future may be, we are still at a sensitive stage in the reform process where there is little room for error; as such, senseless, irrational, reactionary and extremist behaviour and action by some of our citizens may lead to the failure of the reform process itself. I would like to seriously caution you that we, as citizens, must refrain from doing anything that will jeopardize our transition to a peaceful, democratic nation.”
This quote from President Thein Sein’s speech to the nation was not the manifesto of someone worried about his party gaining votes or being re-elected as president. Made after the release of the Rakhine Commission report on 6 May, it was a bold statement of vision for his country as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation. It came at a time of crisis as essentially Buddhist-on-Muslim violence has been spreading. It was not a view necessarily supported by many of his compatriots who share his Buddhist religion or Bamar ethnicity. The near-silence of the National League for Democracy’s Aung San Suu Kyi on this issue in recent months has only underlined how far out in front of popular opinion he has been in his rhetoric.
As the violence continues between majority Buddhists and minority Muslims in Myanmar, the time has come for the government to turn the president’s rhetoric into action. Thein Sein, a former general, needs to work harder to bring all levels of the government in line with his vision, including on behalf of the Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine State.
The recently reported decision of the local government in Rakhine State to restrict the number of children that Muslim Rohingya families can have is Exhibit A in the category of “senseless, irrational, reactionary and extremist behaviour” that needs to be avoided if Myanmar’s current transition is to bring stability to the nation and benefit all. The decision would revive of a military-era directive in Rakhine State that had stopped being applied some time ago. Abandoning her previous reticence on this issue, Aung San Suu Kyi has rightly condemned it as illegal and a violation of human rights. President Thein Sein now needs also to condemn the revival of this policy and ensure its implementation does not come to pass.
Whatever their genesis in local or national law-making, such discriminatory policies are forbidden by international human rights law, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, that Myanmar has ratified. Furthermore, the Rakhine State government’s pronouncement also goes against the spirit and the letter of Rakhine Commission report in April, which stated:
“If, as proposed [by local authorities], family-planning education is provided to the Bengali [Rohingya] population, the Government should refrain from implementing non-voluntary measures which may be seen as discriminatory or that would be inconsistent with human rights standards.”
The Rohingya, concentrated in northern Rakhine State, are the most repressed population in Myanmar. Referred to as Bengalis by many in Myanmar, they have lived in this area for generations, with most arriving during the British colonial period. Since independence in 1948, they have long faced restrictions and discrimination from the state as well as prejudice, even hatred, from the local Rakhine Buddhist population, which controls much of the provincial civil service. A restrictive 1982 citizenship law has not helped, but if it were more fairly applied most Rohingya would qualify for one of three levels of legal status, one of which is full citizenship. For decades, even that flawed law has not been fairly applied and, in the hands of prejudiced local officials, it has been a tool to marginalise the Rohingya. This discrimination has manifested itself in a range of ways, including through restrictions on travel outside the village-tract. This has meant limited work opportunities for the Rohingya and great difficulty accessing state services such as education and health. In addition, they are often denied essential documents for marriage and birth registration. Without these documents, their legal status is put in jeopardy and they are easily cast as outsiders. Even before the violence against the Rohingya in 2012 killed almost 200 people and displaced more than 100,000, they faced forced labour, arbitrary taxation, and land confiscation.
Among the restrictions is a ban on polygamy and registering more than two children, which applies in the Muslim-majority northern parts of Rakhine. This has apparently been in place at the local level since at least 2005, but by some accounts more than a decade before that. Rather than announcing a “new” policy, the local Rakhine State government has reactivated this old directive — which has always been contrary to international human rights law — which was no longer being actively applied. While such discrimination was accepted practice under previous authoritarian regimes, it should not be tolerated by an aspiring “peaceful, democratic nation”. It is exactly the kind of “senseless, irrational, reactionary and extremist behaviour and action by some of our citizens” that the president cautioned against in his speech. It is also inconsistent with his pledge that “the Government will take all necessary action to ensure the basic human rights of Muslims in the Rakhine State“.
While the president’s vision is long-term, the need for action is increasingly urgent. There is news of fresh violence and intercommunal tensions almost every week. On 29 May, intercommunal violence reportedly struck Lashio, the capital of northern Shan State, with a mosque and some Muslim shops burnt. Citizens in Myanmar of all religions, from the president down, need to think and act carefully. An important step towards stopping the spread of this violence is to prosecute all perpetrators, whatever their religion or societal status. With reports that some monks are involved in leading mobs or spreading hatred, this will not be easy. But firm action within the law is called for. As the president said in his 6 May address, the future of the country’s transition may be at stake.
The president’s words must become his government’s deeds. The Union or national government needs immediately to overturn the blatantly discriminatory restriction on the size of Rohingya families, just as it needs to do more to better protect them from violence and other forms of victimisation. This would be in line with his own pledge at the end of his speech: “I also want to inform you that the Government will provide genuine and decisive leadership in resolving the conflict in Rakhine State in ways that will ensure national security, promote rule of law and protect human rights.”
Fundamental human rights and democratic principles are at stake – and so is the president’s credibility.
from Crisis Group’s blog, Resolving Conflict in South East Asia 

“Senseless, irrational, reactionary and extremist behaviour” in Myanmar

By Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s Asia Program  Director

“Whatever our prospects for a bright future may be, we are still at a sensitive stage in the reform process where there is little room for error; as such, senseless, irrational, reactionary and extremist behaviour and action by some of our citizens may lead to the failure of the reform process itself. I would like to seriously caution you that we, as citizens, must refrain from doing anything that will jeopardize our transition to a peaceful, democratic nation.”

This quote from President Thein Sein’s speech to the nation was not the manifesto of someone worried about his party gaining votes or being re-elected as president. Made after the release of the Rakhine Commission report on 6 May, it was a bold statement of vision for his country as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation. It came at a time of crisis as essentially Buddhist-on-Muslim violence has been spreading. It was not a view necessarily supported by many of his compatriots who share his Buddhist religion or Bamar ethnicity. The near-silence of the National League for Democracy’s Aung San Suu Kyi on this issue in recent months has only underlined how far out in front of popular opinion he has been in his rhetoric.

As the violence continues between majority Buddhists and minority Muslims in Myanmar, the time has come for the government to turn the president’s rhetoric into action. Thein Sein, a former general, needs to work harder to bring all levels of the government in line with his vision, including on behalf of the Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine State.

The recently reported decision of the local government in Rakhine State to restrict the number of children that Muslim Rohingya families can have is Exhibit A in the category of “senseless, irrational, reactionary and extremist behaviour” that needs to be avoided if Myanmar’s current transition is to bring stability to the nation and benefit all. The decision would revive of a military-era directive in Rakhine State that had stopped being applied some time ago. Abandoning her previous reticence on this issue, Aung San Suu Kyi has rightly condemned it as illegal and a violation of human rights. President Thein Sein now needs also to condemn the revival of this policy and ensure its implementation does not come to pass.

Whatever their genesis in local or national law-making, such discriminatory policies are forbidden by international human rights law, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, that Myanmar has ratified. Furthermore, the Rakhine State government’s pronouncement also goes against the spirit and the letter of Rakhine Commission report in April, which stated:

“If, as proposed [by local authorities], family-planning education is provided to the Bengali [Rohingya] population, the Government should refrain from implementing non-voluntary measures which may be seen as discriminatory or that would be inconsistent with human rights standards.”

The Rohingya, concentrated in northern Rakhine State, are the most repressed population in Myanmar. Referred to as Bengalis by many in Myanmar, they have lived in this area for generations, with most arriving during the British colonial period. Since independence in 1948, they have long faced restrictions and discrimination from the state as well as prejudice, even hatred, from the local Rakhine Buddhist population, which controls much of the provincial civil service. A restrictive 1982 citizenship law has not helped, but if it were more fairly applied most Rohingya would qualify for one of three levels of legal status, one of which is full citizenship. For decades, even that flawed law has not been fairly applied and, in the hands of prejudiced local officials, it has been a tool to marginalise the Rohingya. This discrimination has manifested itself in a range of ways, including through restrictions on travel outside the village-tract. This has meant limited work opportunities for the Rohingya and great difficulty accessing state services such as education and health. In addition, they are often denied essential documents for marriage and birth registration. Without these documents, their legal status is put in jeopardy and they are easily cast as outsiders. Even before the violence against the Rohingya in 2012 killed almost 200 people and displaced more than 100,000, they faced forced labour, arbitrary taxation, and land confiscation.

Among the restrictions is a ban on polygamy and registering more than two children, which applies in the Muslim-majority northern parts of Rakhine. This has apparently been in place at the local level since at least 2005, but by some accounts more than a decade before that. Rather than announcing a “new” policy, the local Rakhine State government has reactivated this old directive — which has always been contrary to international human rights law — which was no longer being actively applied. While such discrimination was accepted practice under previous authoritarian regimes, it should not be tolerated by an aspiring “peaceful, democratic nation”. It is exactly the kind of “senseless, irrational, reactionary and extremist behaviour and action by some of our citizens” that the president cautioned against in his speech. It is also inconsistent with his pledge that “the Government will take all necessary action to ensure the basic human rights of Muslims in the Rakhine State“.

While the president’s vision is long-term, the need for action is increasingly urgent. There is news of fresh violence and intercommunal tensions almost every week. On 29 May, intercommunal violence reportedly struck Lashio, the capital of northern Shan State, with a mosque and some Muslim shops burnt. Citizens in Myanmar of all religions, from the president down, need to think and act carefully. An important step towards stopping the spread of this violence is to prosecute all perpetrators, whatever their religion or societal status. With reports that some monks are involved in leading mobs or spreading hatred, this will not be easy. But firm action within the law is called for. As the president said in his 6 May address, the future of the country’s transition may be at stake.

The president’s words must become his government’s deeds. The Union or national government needs immediately to overturn the blatantly discriminatory restriction on the size of Rohingya families, just as it needs to do more to better protect them from violence and other forms of victimisation. This would be in line with his own pledge at the end of his speech: “I also want to inform you that the Government will provide genuine and decisive leadership in resolving the conflict in Rakhine State in ways that will ensure national security, promote rule of law and protect human rights.”

Fundamental human rights and democratic principles are at stake – and so is the president’s credibility.

from Crisis Group’s blog, Resolving Conflict in South East Asia 

29 May
Buying Time? Money, Guns and Politics in the West Bank
Jerusalem/Ramallah/Brussels  |   29 May 2013
The West Bank is experiencing rising instability and insecurity that palliative measures can help contain but can neither reverse nor end in the absence of a broad political settlement.   
In its latest report, Buying Time? Money, Guns and Politics in the West Bank, the International Crisis Group examines political, economic and security conditions in the West Bank. The last year was the most tumultuous for the Palestinian Authority (PA) since Hamas seized Gaza in 2007. For now, the mood has quieted somewhat, but if relevant parties do not get beyond managing conflict triggers to addressing root issues, today’s superficial calm could well be fleeting.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
Several factors argue against a looming escalation: the Hamas-Fatah split has rendered popular mobilisation dangerous to both the West Bank and Gaza regimes; Palestinians remain tired from the consequences of the second intifada; and, importantly, foreign assistance has helped reshape the West Bank’s political economy while giving most of its residents an interest in preserving the system.
At the same time, many of the conditions for an uprising are in place: political discontent, the leadership’s loss of legitimacy, hopelessness, economic fragility, increased violence and an overwhelming sense that security cooperation serves an Israeli – not Palestinian – interest.
The “collapse” of the PA is less likely to be a discrete event, and its “dissolution” less a matter of conscious intent, than a process: the gradual hollowing out of institutions that were never particularly strong.
Steps such as regularising tax revenue transfers to the PA that Israel is obligated to make, as well as greater efforts by Israel to rein in settler attacks against Palestinians and to curtail incursions by its security forces into ostensibly Palestinian-controlled areas, could help stabilise the West Bank for now. But at some point Palestinians may well decide their long-run well-being would be better served by instability, and only by rocking the boat might they come closer to their desired destination. 
“There is an understandable temptation to renew negotiations as a way to address – or at least distract attention from – the deep causes of rising West Bank instability”, says Nathan Thrall, Middle East Senior Analyst. “But a breakdown in talks would risk accelerating the very dynamics that the negotiations are meant to forestall”.
“If aid money has bought time, time has not changed the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, cannot provide insurance against a deteriorating political-security situation and cannot purchase the kind of legitimacy the Palestinian leadership will need to control and guide its people”, says Robert Blecher, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Program Director. “The time that money buys comes at a price, since the progressive atrophy of the Palestinian political system inescapably will make any future peace process both less legitimate and more fragile”.
FULL REPORT

Buying Time? Money, Guns and Politics in the West Bank

Jerusalem/Ramallah/Brussels  |   29 May 2013

The West Bank is experiencing rising instability and insecurity that palliative measures can help contain but can neither reverse nor end in the absence of a broad political settlement.   

In its latest report, Buying Time? Money, Guns and Politics in the West Bank, the International Crisis Group examines political, economic and security conditions in the West Bank. The last year was the most tumultuous for the Palestinian Authority (PA) since Hamas seized Gaza in 2007. For now, the mood has quieted somewhat, but if relevant parties do not get beyond managing conflict triggers to addressing root issues, today’s superficial calm could well be fleeting.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • Several factors argue against a looming escalation: the Hamas-Fatah split has rendered popular mobilisation dangerous to both the West Bank and Gaza regimes; Palestinians remain tired from the consequences of the second intifada; and, importantly, foreign assistance has helped reshape the West Bank’s political economy while giving most of its residents an interest in preserving the system.
  • At the same time, many of the conditions for an uprising are in place: political discontent, the leadership’s loss of legitimacy, hopelessness, economic fragility, increased violence and an overwhelming sense that security cooperation serves an Israeli – not Palestinian – interest.
  • The “collapse” of the PA is less likely to be a discrete event, and its “dissolution” less a matter of conscious intent, than a process: the gradual hollowing out of institutions that were never particularly strong.
  • Steps such as regularising tax revenue transfers to the PA that Israel is obligated to make, as well as greater efforts by Israel to rein in settler attacks against Palestinians and to curtail incursions by its security forces into ostensibly Palestinian-controlled areas, could help stabilise the West Bank for now. But at some point Palestinians may well decide their long-run well-being would be better served by instability, and only by rocking the boat might they come closer to their desired destination. 

“There is an understandable temptation to renew negotiations as a way to address – or at least distract attention from – the deep causes of rising West Bank instability”, says Nathan Thrall, Middle East Senior Analyst. “But a breakdown in talks would risk accelerating the very dynamics that the negotiations are meant to forestall”.

“If aid money has bought time, time has not changed the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, cannot provide insurance against a deteriorating political-security situation and cannot purchase the kind of legitimacy the Palestinian leadership will need to control and guide its people”, says Robert Blecher, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Program Director. “The time that money buys comes at a price, since the progressive atrophy of the Palestinian political system inescapably will make any future peace process both less legitimate and more fragile”.

FULL REPORT

Watch Peter Harling, Crisis Group’s Iraq, Lebanon and Syria Project Director, discuss the Shia-Sunni rift and plans for an international peace conference on Syria with Cyril Vanier on France 24

Three Reasons why Colombia’s Land Reform Deal is Significant
By Christian Voelkel, Crisis Group’s Colombia/Andes Analyst 
After six months of bilateral negotiations in Havana, representatives from the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced on 26 May a breakthrough in their attempt to settle five decades of violent conflict. A joint statement heralded the conclusion of an agreement dubbed “Towards a New Colombian Countryside: Comprehensive Rural Reform” as the “beginning of radical transformations” in rural areas. It also said the parties had reached consensus on a set of measures that include land titling, improving access to land and the creation of a mechanism to solve conflicts over land use, among others.
With the negotiations operating under the rule that “nothing is agreed on until everything is agreed on,” further details will likely be kept private until there is an agreement on the entire six-point agenda, and both parties explicitly said its content could be adjusted in relation to accords reached on other agenda points. Without the agreement in its entirety, it is difficult to say whether the deal will ultimately provide the policy tools to address the deep seated problems of Colombia’s conflict-torn countryside. For instance, only one of two peasants possess titles for their land, and rural property is highly unequally distributed. In 2009, Colombia’s Gini coefficient for land stood at 0.86, one of the worst distributions worldwide, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Nonetheless, the announcement is significant in at least three ways:
1. The agreement is a much needed shot in the arm for the peace talks, which were suffering from a growing fear that the lack of visible progress was slowly derailing the process. After six-months of positive rhetoric from both sides, proving an ability to produce concrete results is a crucial boost to the credibility of the negotiating teams and the political legitimacy of the talks. As the Colombian government’s Peace Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo stressed, this is the first time that negotiations with FARC (which have occurred intermittently for a good part of the last three decades) have led to an agreement on any substantial policy issue. The agreement also contradicts the opponents of the peace negotiations, who have long forecast that the talks would eventually collapse because of a failure to produce outcomes. Their allegation that FARC is happy to negotiate, but unwilling to actually strike a peace deal, will now be much harder to sustain.
2. Land reform is not a minor problem—it is the issue at the heart of the Colombian conflict. FARC have long argued that their rebellion was sparked—and remains justified—by unjust landholding patterns that have forced peasant communities into political, social and economic marginalisation. While this stance hardly justifies the extent of FARC’s violence and the serious international crimes it has committed over the course of its insurgency, there is an increasing consensus that violence in the Colombian countryside has thrived upon land inequality and a failed model of rural development. There are other sources and causes of violence in Colombia, but reaching an agreement with FARC on rural development addresses the conflict at the deepest level possible.
Successfully completing discussions on land reform will also have a positive impact on the next stage of the negotiations. From FARC’s perspective, the best guarantee that land reform will move forward is actually being able to assume a role in its implementation. This sets the stage for the next agenda item that the two parties will begin to negotiate in June: political participation. The transition of FARC into a democratic political actor will be both controversial (as most Colombians see the guerrillas as criminals) and legally complex (as current constitutional rules raise doubts about the eligibility of FARC leaders). It is also a highly sensitive issue for FARC, given the catastrophic experience of the Patriotic Union (UP), a political party established as part of a peace process with FARC in the 1980s that was extinguished by targeted violence against its members. But the agreement on land reform has given the guerrillas, for the first time, a real stake in a future post-conflict Colombia, increasing the chances that an accord on political reintegration will be reached.
More broadly, the agreement raises the costs of breaking up the negotiations for both the government and FARC. This makes it more likely that talks will pick up speed and that a deal will be reached before the 2014 electoral campaigns provides for a more challenging environment. The Santos administration knows that a potential failure would probably cost it dearly in next year’s polls. This partial agreement should also increase FARC’s commitment to the talks. The guerrillas now have not just something to gain hypothetically from talking to the government; for the first time, they also have something to lose that they value highly, if negotiations were to collapse.
3. Finally, the agreement on land reform leaves transitional justice as the one make-or-break issue for the negotiations. With agrarian development out of the way, the long-term success of the talks will likely be defined by what agreement the two parties reach on transitional justice issues, such as the mandate of a truth commission, judicial accountability for serious international crimes committed by both state forces and the guerrillas, reparations, and a credible plan for institutional reform to prevent a return to violence in the future. All of these issues are highly controversial, but, as an upcoming Crisis Group report explains, both sides will need to muster the will to agree on a strong and holistic transitional justice model that unequivocally upholds the rights of all victims. Only then will the talks stand a chance to deliver the lasting peace that Colombia has so long deserved.
from Crisis Group’s blog, Latin America Crime & Politics

Three Reasons why Colombia’s Land Reform Deal is Significant

By Christian Voelkel, Crisis Group’s Colombia/Andes Analyst 

After six months of bilateral negotiations in Havana, representatives from the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced on 26 May a breakthrough in their attempt to settle five decades of violent conflict. A joint statement heralded the conclusion of an agreement dubbed “Towards a New Colombian Countryside: Comprehensive Rural Reform” as the “beginning of radical transformations” in rural areas. It also said the parties had reached consensus on a set of measures that include land titling, improving access to land and the creation of a mechanism to solve conflicts over land use, among others.

With the negotiations operating under the rule that “nothing is agreed on until everything is agreed on,” further details will likely be kept private until there is an agreement on the entire six-point agenda, and both parties explicitly said its content could be adjusted in relation to accords reached on other agenda points. Without the agreement in its entirety, it is difficult to say whether the deal will ultimately provide the policy tools to address the deep seated problems of Colombia’s conflict-torn countryside. For instance, only one of two peasants possess titles for their land, and rural property is highly unequally distributed. In 2009, Colombia’s Gini coefficient for land stood at 0.86, one of the worst distributions worldwide, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Nonetheless, the announcement is significant in at least three ways:

1. The agreement is a much needed shot in the arm for the peace talks, which were suffering from a growing fear that the lack of visible progress was slowly derailing the process. After six-months of positive rhetoric from both sides, proving an ability to produce concrete results is a crucial boost to the credibility of the negotiating teams and the political legitimacy of the talks. As the Colombian government’s Peace Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo stressed, this is the first time that negotiations with FARC (which have occurred intermittently for a good part of the last three decades) have led to an agreement on any substantial policy issue. The agreement also contradicts the opponents of the peace negotiations, who have long forecast that the talks would eventually collapse because of a failure to produce outcomes. Their allegation that FARC is happy to negotiate, but unwilling to actually strike a peace deal, will now be much harder to sustain.

2. Land reform is not a minor problem—it is the issue at the heart of the Colombian conflict. FARC have long argued that their rebellion was sparked—and remains justified—by unjust landholding patterns that have forced peasant communities into political, social and economic marginalisation. While this stance hardly justifies the extent of FARC’s violence and the serious international crimes it has committed over the course of its insurgency, there is an increasing consensus that violence in the Colombian countryside has thrived upon land inequality and a failed model of rural development. There are other sources and causes of violence in Colombia, but reaching an agreement with FARC on rural development addresses the conflict at the deepest level possible.

Successfully completing discussions on land reform will also have a positive impact on the next stage of the negotiations. From FARC’s perspective, the best guarantee that land reform will move forward is actually being able to assume a role in its implementation. This sets the stage for the next agenda item that the two parties will begin to negotiate in June: political participation. The transition of FARC into a democratic political actor will be both controversial (as most Colombians see the guerrillas as criminals) and legally complex (as current constitutional rules raise doubts about the eligibility of FARC leaders). It is also a highly sensitive issue for FARC, given the catastrophic experience of the Patriotic Union (UP), a political party established as part of a peace process with FARC in the 1980s that was extinguished by targeted violence against its members. But the agreement on land reform has given the guerrillas, for the first time, a real stake in a future post-conflict Colombia, increasing the chances that an accord on political reintegration will be reached.

More broadly, the agreement raises the costs of breaking up the negotiations for both the government and FARC. This makes it more likely that talks will pick up speed and that a deal will be reached before the 2014 electoral campaigns provides for a more challenging environment. The Santos administration knows that a potential failure would probably cost it dearly in next year’s polls. This partial agreement should also increase FARC’s commitment to the talks. The guerrillas now have not just something to gain hypothetically from talking to the government; for the first time, they also have something to lose that they value highly, if negotiations were to collapse.

3. Finally, the agreement on land reform leaves transitional justice as the one make-or-break issue for the negotiations. With agrarian development out of the way, the long-term success of the talks will likely be defined by what agreement the two parties reach on transitional justice issues, such as the mandate of a truth commission, judicial accountability for serious international crimes committed by both state forces and the guerrillas, reparations, and a credible plan for institutional reform to prevent a return to violence in the future. All of these issues are highly controversial, but, as an upcoming Crisis Group report explains, both sides will need to muster the will to agree on a strong and holistic transitional justice model that unequivocally upholds the rights of all victims. Only then will the talks stand a chance to deliver the lasting peace that Colombia has so long deserved.

from Crisis Group’s blog, Latin America Crime & Politics

21 May
Drones: Myths and Reality in Pakistan
Islamabad/Washington/Brussels  |   21 May 2013
Drone strikes alone will not eliminate the jihadi threat in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Extension of Pakistani law and full constitutional rights to the region is the only long-term solution.
In its latest report, Drones: Myths and Reality in Pakistan, the International Crisis Group examines the extensive CIA-led program of drone strikes in Pakistan. The report argues that the U.S. needs to be transparent about its drone policies and bring them in accord with legality and enhanced congressional oversight and judicial accountability, while Pakistan must live up to its responsibility for governance and security in FATA.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
Pakistan’s new civilian leadership under PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif must make the extension of the state’s writ in FATA the centrepiece of its counter-terrorism agenda, bringing violent extremists to justice and thus diminishing Washington’s perceived need to conduct drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt.
Drones are not a long-term solution to the problem they are being deployed to address, since the jihadi groups in FATA will continue to recruit as long as the region remains an ungoverned no-man’s land.
The U.S., while pressuring the Pakistan military to end all support to violent extremists, should also support civilian efforts to bring FATA into the constitutional and legal mainstream.
The lack of candour from the U.S. and Pakistan governments on the drone program undermines efforts to assess its legality or its full impact on FATA’s population. The U.S. refuses to officially acknowledge the program; Pakistan portrays it as a violation of national sovereignty, but ample evidence exists of tacit Pakistani consent and, at times, active cooperation.
Pakistan must ensure that its actions and those of the U.S. comply with the principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law. Independent observers should have access to targeted areas, where significant military and militant-imposed barriers have made accurate assessments of the program’s impact, including collateral damage, nearly impossible.
The U.S. should cease any practices, such as “signature strikes”, that do not comply with international humanitarian law. The U.S. should develop a legal framework that defines clear roles for the executive, legislative and judicial branches, converting the drone program from a covert CIA operation to a military-run program with a meaningful level of judicial and Congressional oversight.
“The core of any Pakistani counter-terrorism strategy in this area should be to incorporate FATA into the country’s legal and constitutional mainstream”, says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s Senior Asia Adviser. “For Pakistan, the solution lies in overhauling an anachronistic governance system so as to establish fundamental constitutional rights and genuine political enfranchisement in FATA, along with a state apparatus capable of upholding the rule of law and bringing violent extremists to justice”.
FULL REPORT

Drones: Myths and Reality in Pakistan

Islamabad/Washington/Brussels  |   21 May 2013

Drone strikes alone will not eliminate the jihadi threat in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Extension of Pakistani law and full constitutional rights to the region is the only long-term solution.

In its latest report, Drones: Myths and Reality in Pakistan, the International Crisis Group examines the extensive CIA-led program of drone strikes in Pakistan. The report argues that the U.S. needs to be transparent about its drone policies and bring them in accord with legality and enhanced congressional oversight and judicial accountability, while Pakistan must live up to its responsibility for governance and security in FATA.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • Pakistan’s new civilian leadership under PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif must make the extension of the state’s writ in FATA the centrepiece of its counter-terrorism agenda, bringing violent extremists to justice and thus diminishing Washington’s perceived need to conduct drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt.
  • Drones are not a long-term solution to the problem they are being deployed to address, since the jihadi groups in FATA will continue to recruit as long as the region remains an ungoverned no-man’s land.
  • The U.S., while pressuring the Pakistan military to end all support to violent extremists, should also support civilian efforts to bring FATA into the constitutional and legal mainstream.
  • The lack of candour from the U.S. and Pakistan governments on the drone program undermines efforts to assess its legality or its full impact on FATA’s population. The U.S. refuses to officially acknowledge the program; Pakistan portrays it as a violation of national sovereignty, but ample evidence exists of tacit Pakistani consent and, at times, active cooperation.
  • Pakistan must ensure that its actions and those of the U.S. comply with the principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law. Independent observers should have access to targeted areas, where significant military and militant-imposed barriers have made accurate assessments of the program’s impact, including collateral damage, nearly impossible.
  • The U.S. should cease any practices, such as “signature strikes”, that do not comply with international humanitarian law. The U.S. should develop a legal framework that defines clear roles for the executive, legislative and judicial branches, converting the drone program from a covert CIA operation to a military-run program with a meaningful level of judicial and Congressional oversight.

“The core of any Pakistani counter-terrorism strategy in this area should be to incorporate FATA into the country’s legal and constitutional mainstream”, says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s Senior Asia Adviser. “For Pakistan, the solution lies in overhauling an anachronistic governance system so as to establish fundamental constitutional rights and genuine political enfranchisement in FATA, along with a state apparatus capable of upholding the rule of law and bringing violent extremists to justice”.

FULL REPORT

20 May
Our President, Louise Arbour, signed this open letter, calling for the end of the taboo “that blocked for so long the debate on more humane and efficient drug policy”. Read in full on the Guardian.
Photo: Flickr/UN Photo Geneva

Our President, Louise Arbour, signed this open letter, calling for the end of the taboo “that blocked for so long the debate on more humane and efficient drug policy”. Read in full on the Guardian.

Photo: Flickr/UN Photo Geneva

16 May
The Flawed Logic Behind Beijing’s Senkaku/Diaoyu Policy | The Diplomat
By Yaping Wang
Beijing has responded to Japan’s recent nationalization of the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, with activities on the ground (or water) designed to undermine Japan’s de-facto control of the islands. Beijing’s actions were rightly captured as “reactive assertiveness” by an International Crisis Group report, where “[China] exploits perceived provocations in disputed areas by other countries to take strong countermeasures to change the status quo in its favor.”
By inducing costs on the ground, Beijing’s goal is to make Tokyo recognize the existence of the dispute and agree to negotiate. However, this “reactive assertive” approach makes flawed calculations of risks and gains.
Beijing does have some logical reasons to pursue this course. One, inaction would be difficult to reconcile with boiling domestic nationalism. Two, Japan’s control of the islands does not give Tokyo any motive to recognize the existence of the dispute, much less the willingness to negotiate. Unless China gains some leverage vis-à-vis Japan, chances are thin that this issue will ever even reach the negotiating table. Three, Japan’s initial provocation may have inflamed China, but it offered Beijing the chance to retaliate by challenging Japan’s de-facto control of the islands while still claiming the moral high ground. Four, the economic ties between China and Japan, as well as U.S. interests, seem strong enough to keep potential armed conflicts at bay. To the extent that the U.S. is involved, its interests in these tiny, uninhabited rocks are marginal. Although its security treaty obligations with Japan bind it to action should the islands be attacked, the U.S. will attempt to deter the use of force. Finally, a strong and consistent response would effectively showcase to China’s other disputants, in the South China Sea for example, its resolve to defend its position in territorial disputes.  
FULL ARTICLE (The Diplomat)
Photo: Flickr/Al Jazeera English

The Flawed Logic Behind Beijing’s Senkaku/Diaoyu Policy | The Diplomat

By Yaping Wang

Beijing has responded to Japan’s recent nationalization of the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, with activities on the ground (or water) designed to undermine Japan’s de-facto control of the islands. Beijing’s actions were rightly captured as “reactive assertiveness” by an International Crisis Group report, where “[China] exploits perceived provocations in disputed areas by other countries to take strong countermeasures to change the status quo in its favor.”

By inducing costs on the ground, Beijing’s goal is to make Tokyo recognize the existence of the dispute and agree to negotiate. However, this “reactive assertive” approach makes flawed calculations of risks and gains.

Beijing does have some logical reasons to pursue this course. One, inaction would be difficult to reconcile with boiling domestic nationalism. Two, Japan’s control of the islands does not give Tokyo any motive to recognize the existence of the dispute, much less the willingness to negotiate. Unless China gains some leverage vis-à-vis Japan, chances are thin that this issue will ever even reach the negotiating table. Three, Japan’s initial provocation may have inflamed China, but it offered Beijing the chance to retaliate by challenging Japan’s de-facto control of the islands while still claiming the moral high ground. Four, the economic ties between China and Japan, as well as U.S. interests, seem strong enough to keep potential armed conflicts at bay. To the extent that the U.S. is involved, its interests in these tiny, uninhabited rocks are marginal. Although its security treaty obligations with Japan bind it to action should the islands be attacked, the U.S. will attempt to deter the use of force. Finally, a strong and consistent response would effectively showcase to China’s other disputants, in the South China Sea for example, its resolve to defend its position in territorial disputes.  

FULL ARTICLE (The Diplomat)

Photo: Flickr/Al Jazeera English