Showing posts tagged as "robert templer"

Showing posts tagged robert templer

8 Sep
Peace in Afghanistan, the Civil Society Way | IPS
By Giuliano Battiston
More than a decade after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan is still in the midst of an irregular war. Talking peace is difficult because no one quite knows who to talk to.
The efforts gain significance coming ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting Sep. 14 on promoting a culture of peace. As officials talk, more ground-level efforts are being led by civil society groups.
FULL ARTICLE (IPS)
Photo: UK Ministry of Defence/Flickr

Peace in Afghanistan, the Civil Society Way | IPS

By Giuliano Battiston

More than a decade after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan is still in the midst of an irregular war. Talking peace is difficult because no one quite knows who to talk to.

The efforts gain significance coming ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting Sep. 14 on promoting a culture of peace. As officials talk, more ground-level efforts are being led by civil society groups.

FULL ARTICLE (IPS)

Photo: UK Ministry of Defence/Flickr

29 Mar
Bishkek/Brussels  |   29 Mar 2012
Kyrgyzstan’s disregard for its Uzbek community is pushing the ethnic minority to breaking point.
Kyrgyzstan : Widening Ethnic Divisions in the South, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines how the Kyrgyz government has failed to calm ethnic tensions in the south and warns of the consequences if the problem is not resolved. Few efforts at reconciliation have been made since the 2010 violence. Osh, the second city, where more than 420 people died in ethnic clashes in June that year, remains dominated by its powerful mayor,  Melis Myrzakmatov. He is an ardent Kyrgyz nationalist who pays little attention to leaders in the capital.
“A superficial quiet has settled on the city, but neither the Kyrgyz nor Uzbek community feels it can hold”, says Paul Quinn-Judge, Central Asia Project Director. “Uzbeks are increasingly withdrawing into themselves. They say they are marginalised by the Kyrgyz majority, forced out of public life and the professions. Most Uzbek-language media have been closed, and prominent nationalists often refer to Uzbeks as a diaspora, emphasising their separate and subordinate status”.
The nationalist discourse that emerged after the Osh violence unnerved the interim government that replaced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April 2010. Until the end of its term in late 2011, it was largely ignored, and sometimes openly defied, by Myrzakmatov. He is the standard-bearer of a Kyrgyz-first policy and the most successful radical nationalist leader to emerge after the killings. This did not change when President Almazbek Atambayev, a northerner, took office in December 2011. Senior members of Atam­bayev’s administration express dismay at tensions in the south but say they have no way of influencing the situation there.
Many of Kyrgyzstan’s estimated 700,000 ethnic Uzbeks live in the south, and though few express theological or political sympathies with radical jihadis being trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan, some are more favourably inclined to them, out of sheer anger, than before. If jihadism in the south is boosted by the Western pullout from Afghanistan in 2014, and if southern Uzbeks become further alienated from the regime, the Kyrgyz government will struggle for control. Its security forces, among the region’s weakest, already have a difficult time. It is thus in the government’s interest to reassure Uzbeks that they have a place in Kyrgyzstan’s future. International criticism has been quite muted, but the UN, donors and other organisations that were relatively slow or ineffective in responding to the 2010 violence could help now by tying economic aid to democratic benchmarks.
“Failure to address either the ethnic problem or the question of who controls the south could have very serious negative consequences: deterioration of ethnic relations and an entrenchment of a defiant and dangerous political leadership there that is determined to set its own political agenda”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. 
FULL REPORT
Photo: surrealpenguin/flickr

Bishkek/Brussels  |   29 Mar 2012

Kyrgyzstan’s disregard for its Uzbek community is pushing the ethnic minority to breaking point.

Kyrgyzstan : Widening Ethnic Divisions in the South, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines how the Kyrgyz government has failed to calm ethnic tensions in the south and warns of the consequences if the problem is not resolved. Few efforts at reconciliation have been made since the 2010 violence. Osh, the second city, where more than 420 people died in ethnic clashes in June that year, remains dominated by its powerful mayor,  Melis Myrzakmatov. He is an ardent Kyrgyz nationalist who pays little attention to leaders in the capital.

“A superficial quiet has settled on the city, but neither the Kyrgyz nor Uzbek community feels it can hold”, says Paul Quinn-Judge, Central Asia Project Director. “Uzbeks are increasingly withdrawing into themselves. They say they are marginalised by the Kyrgyz majority, forced out of public life and the professions. Most Uzbek-language media have been closed, and prominent nationalists often refer to Uzbeks as a diaspora, emphasising their separate and subordinate status”.

The nationalist discourse that emerged after the Osh violence unnerved the interim government that replaced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April 2010. Until the end of its term in late 2011, it was largely ignored, and sometimes openly defied, by Myrzakmatov. He is the standard-bearer of a Kyrgyz-first policy and the most successful radical nationalist leader to emerge after the killings. This did not change when President Almazbek Atambayev, a northerner, took office in December 2011. Senior members of Atam­bayev’s administration express dismay at tensions in the south but say they have no way of influencing the situation there.

Many of Kyrgyzstan’s estimated 700,000 ethnic Uzbeks live in the south, and though few express theological or political sympathies with radical jihadis being trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan, some are more favourably inclined to them, out of sheer anger, than before. If jihadism in the south is boosted by the Western pullout from Afghanistan in 2014, and if southern Uzbeks become further alienated from the regime, the Kyrgyz government will struggle for control. Its security forces, among the region’s weakest, already have a difficult time. It is thus in the government’s interest to reassure Uzbeks that they have a place in Kyrgyzstan’s future. International criticism has been quite muted, but the UN, donors and other organisations that were relatively slow or ineffective in responding to the 2010 violence could help now by tying economic aid to democratic benchmarks.

“Failure to address either the ethnic problem or the question of who controls the south could have very serious negative consequences: deterioration of ethnic relations and an entrenchment of a defiant and dangerous political leadership there that is determined to set its own political agenda”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. 

FULL REPORT

Photo: surrealpenguin/flickr

20 Dec
Women in Sri Lanka’s predominantly Tamil-speaking north and east are facing a desperate lack of security in the aftermath of the long civil war.
Sri Lanka: Women’s Insecurity in the North and East, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, warns that the heavily militarised and centralised control of those areas – with almost exclusively male, Sinhalese security forces – creates serious problems for women’s safety, sense of security and ability to access assistance. They have little control over their lives and no reliable institutions to turn to. The Sri Lankan government has mostly dismissed women’s security issues and exacerbated fears, while the international community has failed to appreciate and respond effectively to the challenges they face.
“More than two years after the end of the war, many women still live in fear of violence by the state and from within their own communities”, says Alan Keenan, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst and Sri Lanka Project Director. “The conflict has badly damaged the social fabric and has left women and girls vulnerable at multiple levels. A concerted and immediate effort to empower and protect them is needed”.
Thirty years of civil war between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has resulted in tens of thousands of female-headed households in the north and east. They struggle daily to cope with the detention or absence of family members, continuing displacement and desperate poverty.  Militarisation and the government’s refusal to devolve power or restore local civilian administration in those areas have directly contributed to complex societal distress, which comes on the heels of the collapse of the preceding repressive regime run by the LTTE.
The consequences for women and girls have been severe. There have been alarming incidents of gender-based violence, and many women have been forced into prostitution or coercive sexual relationships. Fear of abuse and the reassertion of patriarchal norms within the Tamil community have further restricted women’s movement and impinged on education and employment opportunities. The fact that women must rely on the military for everyday needs not only puts them at greater risk of gender-based violence, but also prevents them from building capacity within communities.
The current situation comes in the wake of serious accusations of sexual violence by the military against Tamil women at the end of the war and in the months thereafter. The long-awaited report of the government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), delivered to the president on 20 November 2011 and released to the public on 16 December, largely ignores the issue of sexual violence except to recommend yet another “independent investigation” into video footage that shows what appears to be Sinhalese soldiers making sexual comments while handling the dead, naked bodies of female suspected LTTE – footage that government officials repeatedly have said was “faked”.
“The LLRC’s report acknowledges important grievances and makes a number of sensible recommendations, but ultimately fails to question the government’s version of events with any rigour”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “The crisis of security for women in the north and east warrants a serious financial and political commitment by the government and its international partners, as well as renewed efforts to ensure transparency and accountability, especially around the issue of sexual violence. Without such efforts, the government risks feeding Tamil fears of such violence and the exploitation of those fears by some diaspora activists, both of which could increase the risk of a return to violence”.
FULL REPORT

Women in Sri Lanka’s predominantly Tamil-speaking north and east are facing a desperate lack of security in the aftermath of the long civil war.

Sri Lanka: Women’s Insecurity in the North and East, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, warns that the heavily militarised and centralised control of those areas – with almost exclusively male, Sinhalese security forces – creates serious problems for women’s safety, sense of security and ability to access assistance. They have little control over their lives and no reliable institutions to turn to. The Sri Lankan government has mostly dismissed women’s security issues and exacerbated fears, while the international community has failed to appreciate and respond effectively to the challenges they face.

“More than two years after the end of the war, many women still live in fear of violence by the state and from within their own communities”, says Alan Keenan, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst and Sri Lanka Project Director. “The conflict has badly damaged the social fabric and has left women and girls vulnerable at multiple levels. A concerted and immediate effort to empower and protect them is needed”.

Thirty years of civil war between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has resulted in tens of thousands of female-headed households in the north and east. They struggle daily to cope with the detention or absence of family members, continuing displacement and desperate poverty.  Militarisation and the government’s refusal to devolve power or restore local civilian administration in those areas have directly contributed to complex societal distress, which comes on the heels of the collapse of the preceding repressive regime run by the LTTE.

The consequences for women and girls have been severe. There have been alarming incidents of gender-based violence, and many women have been forced into prostitution or coercive sexual relationships. Fear of abuse and the reassertion of patriarchal norms within the Tamil community have further restricted women’s movement and impinged on education and employment opportunities. The fact that women must rely on the military for everyday needs not only puts them at greater risk of gender-based violence, but also prevents them from building capacity within communities.

The current situation comes in the wake of serious accusations of sexual violence by the military against Tamil women at the end of the war and in the months thereafter. The long-awaited report of the government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), delivered to the president on 20 November 2011 and released to the public on 16 December, largely ignores the issue of sexual violence except to recommend yet another “independent investigation” into video footage that shows what appears to be Sinhalese soldiers making sexual comments while handling the dead, naked bodies of female suspected LTTE – footage that government officials repeatedly have said was “faked”.

“The LLRC’s report acknowledges important grievances and makes a number of sensible recommendations, but ultimately fails to question the government’s version of events with any rigour”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “The crisis of security for women in the north and east warrants a serious financial and political commitment by the government and its international partners, as well as renewed efforts to ensure transparency and accountability, especially around the issue of sexual violence. Without such efforts, the government risks feeding Tamil fears of such violence and the exploitation of those fears by some diaspora activists, both of which could increase the risk of a return to violence”.

FULL REPORT

13 Dec

Nepal’s Peace Process: The Endgame Nears

Kathmandu/Brussels  |   13 Dec 2011

With the future of the Maoist combatants finally settled, Nepal’s peace process has gained momentum after a long stalemate, but challenges remain, particularly the design of a new federal state and evolving coalition and factional dynamics of the parties.

Nepal’s Peace Process: The Endgame Nears , the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the new alliances and compulsions that enabled the 1 November agreement which restarted the stalled peace process. The Maoist combatants have finally been surveyed to see how many want to enter the Nepal Army and how many want civilian life. Further negotiations will have to take place on ranks and standards for entry into the army. Combatants with disabilities and women who do not qualify for the army will also push for more appropriate retirement packages. Not all combatants are happy with the Maoist leadership. These issues need thoughtful solutions, but are unlikely to result in another prolonged stalemate.

The parties now have to deliver on their major promise of restructuring the state to acknowledge different identities and become more representative and decentralised. The Constituent Assembly (CA), which was renewed for six months until the end of May 2012, will have to balance maximalist demands from both pro- and anti-federalism constituencies. Beyond the capital, identity-based groups have been mobilising for some time. As the future landscape becomes clearer, resistance could also come from traditionally powerful constituencies that are outside the CA and see the proposed changes as a zero-sum game. Kathmandu’s political class will have to ensure the buy-in of these diverse groups, as elite-driven, top-down decisions are unlikely to go down well.

“Although complex negotiations lie ahead, this is still the best chance the parties have had in the peace process to institute some fundamental changes”,  says Anagha Neelakantan, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Nepal. “Federalism goes to the heart of ordinary Nepalis’ expectations and anxieties, and as discussions proceed, groups within and outside the Constituent Assembly will see their options narrow. Political leaders and civil society of all hues will have to resist the urge to sharpen the social polarisation as a way of influencing the debate or gaining points.”

The other major challenge is power-sharing, the most tangible dividend political actors expect from the peace process. The Maoists are ruling in coalition with the Samykuta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, an alliance of five Madhes-based parties, while the second and third largest parties, the Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), are in opposition. All parties will have to work toward a government of national unity to adopt the constitution. Traditionally conservative parliamentary parties are also re-organising and could play a greater role.

The parties have been slow to meet other major peace process commitments beyond federalism. The disappearance and truth and reconciliation commissions must be formed urgently, before ad hoc decisions on war-era abuses become the norm. The promised land reform commission is not being discussed widely. The commitment to democratise the Nepal Army appears to have been dropped entirely.

“Despite naysayers and sceptics, the peace process is finally moving forward in substantial ways and remains relevant and essential”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “Politicians must now be alert to the dangers of abandoning the promises they made to the Nepali people of a deep transformation of the state”.

FULL REPORT

12 Dec

Islamic Parties in Pakistan

Islamabad/Brussels  |   12 Dec 2011

Religious intolerance, sectarian violence and radical Islamic parties threaten to undermine the democratic reforms on which Pakistan’s stability depends.

Islamic Parties in Pakistan, the latest International Crisis Group report, examines the internal workings, policies and agendas of these parties, and their relationship with the state, particularly the military, in order to assess how they maintain political influence despite limited electoral support. Due to their ability to mobilise street power and influence public institutions, Islamic parties, particularly the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F), but also the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) remain significant political entities with narrow partisan agendas that they are willing to defend through violence. Equally important, they share the ideological goal of enforcing Sharia (Islamic law), while maintaining sizeable madrasa and mosque networks that are breeding grounds for extremist groups that threaten the country’s stability.

“Sectarian politics are, in fact, becoming increasingly violent, as more Islamic parties and groups espouse militancy as the most effective method to promote their interests”, says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s South Asia Project Director. “The majority of Islamic parties are far from abandoning the concept of militant jihad or cutting their ties to local and regional militants, including sectarian extremists, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked jihadi outfits”.

Reforms during military rule, particularly General Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamisation process (1979-1986), fundamentally altered the structure of the constitution and the legal system, giving Islamist forces new sources of influence and a political role disproportionate to their popular support. Around 25 Islamic parties are now involved in domestic politics in some form. A large part of their agenda is to prevent a rollback of those reforms.  Largely independent of electoral results, their influence lies in their ability to pressure governments from outside parliament or by entering into politically expedient alliances with the two largest mainstream parties that are moderate on religious issues: the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

While their agenda and hence their popular appeal remain limited, the Islamic parties could still benefit from destabilisation of the democratic transition. To reduce religious intolerance and sectarian violence, enforce the rule of law, and strengthen democratic governance, the PPP, which controls the central government in Islamabad, should adopt a policy of zero tolerance towards all forms of religious discrimination, prosecute any individual or political party encouraging or supporting violence and require Islamic parties to disband their militant wings.

Zia’s discriminatory legislation remains one of the biggest tests for the PPP, a party that has repeatedly pledged to uphold the basic rights of all citizens and curb religious extremism. If the Pakistani state is to tackle these issues, its legislative branch should prioritise ameliorating discriminatory Islamic laws still in effect and pass a constitutional amendment to abolish the Federal Shariat Court.

“An Islamist takeover in Pakistan is highly unlikely, whether through militant violence or the ballot box”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “But as long as the Islamic parties are able to pressure governments, through parliamentary and/or often violent street politics, they will continue to obstruct vital democratic reforms, thus reinforcing an environment in which religious intolerance, vigilantism, and militancy thrive, the rule of law continues to deteriorate, and elected governments are unable to stabilise that vital country”.

FULL REPORT

2 Dec

Korea Times: Koreas may brace for imminent military clashes: think tank

The risk of conflict remains serious on the Korean Peninsula, especially near their western sea border, as the South Korean government maintains a tough policy line towards the North ahead of a year of general and presidential elections, an international security think tank said Thursday.

The International Crisis Group (ICG), a nongovernmental research institute, warned that “relations on the peninsula remain tense… The disputed maritime area remains a flashpoint that could spark new clashes.”

The two Koreas had several naval skirmishes in the Yellow Sea around the Northern Limit Line (NLL), which Seoul views as the sea border but Pyongyang refuses to accept.

In 2010, a submarine from the North torpedoed a South Korean warship patrolling the area, killing 46 sailors, followed by a deadly shelling across the NLL.

The Brussels-based ICG, however, said South Korea seems to be shifting towards a more conciliatory stance as it enters an election season.

"North-South relations have played a role in past polls: both sides have attempted to use insecurity to influence results," Daniel Pinkston, ICG’s North East Asia deputy project director, said in a report.

Although voters tend to favor more hawkish policies in times of insecurity, the South’s conservative ruling party is facing the paradox that voters may blame President Lee Myung-bak’s tough policy for the increased tensions, he added.

Robert Templer, the organization’s Asia program director, also said, “North Korea policy is not a prominent issue for the average voter unless a sudden and serious inter-Korean crisis emerges around the time of the elections.”

1 Dec

South Korea: The Shifting Sands of Security Policy

Seoul/Brussels  |   1 Dec 2011

Although North Korea has offered unconditional dialogue since January, South Korea is maintaining a tough policy line towards the North as Seoul approaches a year of electoral campaign politics. The risk of conflict remains serious, particularly in the area near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the military demarcation in the Yellow Sea.  

South Korea: The Shifting Sands of Security Policy, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, warns that relations on the peninsula remain tense, especially around the NLL. The disputed maritime area remains a flashpoint that could spark new clashes, following the deadly incidents of 2010, the sinking of the South Korean ship Ch’ŏnan in March and the shelling of Yŏnp’yŏng Island in November. But the political atmosphere in the South is changing as it enters an election season, with the mood shifting towards a more conciliatory position, including renewed interest in pacifying the NLL.

“North-South relations have played a role in past polls: both sides have attempted to use insecurity to influence results”, says Daniel Pinkston, Crisis Group North East Asia Deputy Project Director. “Although voters tend to favour more hawkish policies at times of insecurity, the right in the South is facing the paradox that voters may blame President Lee’s tough line for the increased tensions”. Threat perceptions in the South are complex: much of the noise that emanates from the North is discounted, but a hard line from the South can raise anxieties.  

Elections for the National Assembly will be held in April 2012 followed by the presidential poll in December. Public opinion seems to be swinging away from the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) and electoral victories by the Democratic Party (DP) or a leftist coalition could lead to significant changes in policy towards Pyongyang. However, even though the South Korean President has strong executive powers over national security and North Korea policy, future policy adjustments may be constrained by opposition control of the National Assembly.

Opposition victories and a radical shift in policy towards the North are far from certain. The deep rage that North Korea feels against Lee and his party raises the risk of a pre-election provocation. Another attack, a missile launch or a nuclear test would have a significant impact on the South and the region.

The rival claims over the NLL are unlikely to be solved in any easy or quick manner. A significant rethinking of security policy and engagement with the North, including greater efforts to develop solutions to the NLL issue, is needed. To gain public and political support in the South, any resolution of this problem will require a comprehensive agreement with issue linkage to ensure that South Koreans do not perceive it to be a simple territorial concession to the North.

“North Korea policy is not a prominent issue for the average voter unless a sudden and serious inter-Korean crisis emerges around the time of the elections”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “If a liberal candidate can gain broad public support and capture the presidential election, the implementation of the Yellow Sea peace zone initiative might be only a matter of time”. Whether this will succeed also depends on the North’s reaction, but as it is preparing for a power transfer to Kim Jŏng-ŭn, the possibilities are as broad as the uncertainties.

Read the full report here.

30 Nov

Myanmar: A New Peace Initiative

Jakarta/Brussels  |   30 Nov 2011

After demonstrating commitment to an extraordinary series of social, economic and political reforms, Myanmar’s new government has launched a bold peace initiative with potential to resolve the devastating 60-year civil war with ethnic groups.

Myanmar: A New Peace Initiative , the latest report from the International Crisis Group, comes on the eve of the first visit to the country by a U.S. Secretary of State in a half century and days after ceasefires have been reached or agreed in principle with a number of ethnic armed groups. It examines the opportunity for a sustainable end of the ethnic turmoil and armed conflicts that have been devastating the country since the early days of its independence.

President Thein Sein has recognised the importance of the ethnic situation and pledged to make it a national priority. Myanmar now has an opportunity to comprehensively resolve these conflicts. The President has opened a dialogue with all armed groups and dropped key preconditions, such as the scheme to convert their armies into border guards. He has also offered an unprecedented national conference to seek political solutions to ethnic divisions. Despite serious clashes in Kachin State and parts of Shan State, momentum is now clearly building behind the government’s peace initiative.

“A lasting solution to the problem requires going beyond just stopping the wars”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. “Multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious Myanmar can only achieve genuine national unity and reconciliation by embracing its diversity”.

But lasting peace is by no means assured. Ethnic minority grievances run deep since the independence of Myanmar in 1948. The military regime of the State Law and Order Restoration Council that came to power in 1988 temporarily neutralised its largest military threat in the borderlands by signing ceasefire agreements with a number of armed ethnic groups. Those ceasefires should have been a watershed, from war to peace and armed to political struggle, but this failed to happen. Instead, the agreements grew stale, as promised political talks never materialised. They collapsed when the military government tried by decree to incorporate ethnic armies into a border guard force ahead of a long-planned transition to a new structure of constitutional government.

Ensuring greater peace will take more than reaching ceasefire agreements with armed groups. It requires addressing the grievances and aspirations of all minority populations, guaranteeing equal rights, supporting socio-economic developments, granting greater regional autonomy and building trust between the communities.

The international community has an important role to play in support of peace and development in Myanmar. It should understand the complexities of the conflict and support conflict resolution without making the attainment of peace a prerequisite for improving bilateral relations or beginning to lift sanctions. Encouraging the protagonists to find their own way to stop the fighting and make headway on a political settlement would simultaneously help meet key Western benchmarks on political prisoners, human rights, and democracy.

“If major conflict persists, successful reform will remain elusive”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “That would be to the detriment of the whole country. Every effort must be made to ensure that all groups are part of this process, or it could be the beginning of a new era of conflict rather than the end of an old one”.

To read the full report, click here.

17 Nov

Several international conferences on Afghanistan are trying to chart the country’s future after the planned 2014 U.S. withdrawal. Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director, warns of the deteriorating security and regional interference likely to accompany the U.S. drawdown of troops.

(Source: vimeo.com)