All posts in Analysis

Analysis Paper – UN Sanctions and Selective Security: Targeting Terrorists

Posted by / 20th December 2017 / Categories: Analysis / -

Counterterrorism is among the top priorities of the United Nations’ policy agenda. Under UNSCR 1267 (1999) and 2253 (2015), the United Nations have imposed targeted sanctions on more than four hundred individuals and over 150 groups and entities, 22 of which are recognized as terrorist organizations. Together, these sanctioned organizations are responsible for roughly 86.000 deaths since 2001 worldwide. International terrorism and Islamic extremism are rightly recognized by the United Nations as a treat to the peace, and imposing sanctions on terrorist organizations effectively signals that the perpetrators of terrorism constitute a threat to the peace much like wars of aggression or civil wars do.

But are the efforts of the UN to counter terrorism proportionate to the threat? And has the UN been coherent in their policies of adding groups to their list of designated terrorist organizations? Or does the track-record of sanctioning terrorist organizations rather reflect a selective logic, influenced by the political interests of those who impose sanctions? This paper will answer both of the questions posed above. Firstly, we will consider the threat posed by international terrorism in relation to other ‘threats to the peace’ that the UN Security Council has sanctioned since 1990, including wars of aggression, coups d’état, and civil wars. Secondly, we will consider the 27 terrorist groups that were sanctioned by the UN under UNSCR 1267 and 2253, and compare them to a total 67 other terrorist organizations that were arguably equally ‘sanctionable’, but that were nonetheless not sanctioned. In total, 88 groups are analyzed on the basis of the amount of deaths produced and on their claimed objectives, categorizing the objectives in order to distinguish groups who aim for regional autonomy or to overthrow their government from those who want to implement sharia law or establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate, among others.

Our research leads us to conclude that UN sanctions do not respond to the act of terrorism as such, but rather to the objectives that organizations claim to pursue. As a result, relatively minor Islamic extremist groups are sanctioned, whereas separatists, nationalists, and communists who commit brutal acts of terror are left off the hook. The UN’s focus on words rather than deeds is partially explainable; after all, words matter, and some objectives are more dangerous to international security than others, especially when they threaten the modern international sovereign state system. Nevertheless, the track-record of UN sanctions on terrorist organizations seems to be a disproportionate result of political considerations within the institutional boundaries of the UN Charter than a reflection of humanitarian concerns.

A ReSeT Analysis Paper authored by Thomas Kruiper and Federico Fargion

For the full paper, please click here.

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Analysis Paper – UN Sanctions and Islamic Terrorism: An Association with Fatal Repercussions

Posted by / 20th December 2017 / Categories: Analysis / -

The focus of this paper is the aftermath that the association between terrorism and Islam has created within the UN’s listing of designated terrorist organizations. First, we compare the religious background of the 26 terrorist organizations sanctioned under UNSCR’s 1267 to 62 similarly ‘sanctionable’ terrorist organizations that were not sanctioned. Subsequently, for those organizations that were sanctioned we compare their death counts before and after being sanctioned, allowing us to draw some conclusions about the effects of UN sanctions on their targets.

In order to measure deadliness, we use data from the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) database. In order to establish whether a terrorist organization can be defined as ‘sanctionable’, we rely on the Sanctionable Offences Database. To establish the ‘religious background’ of each organization we rely on our own research.

All in all, the organisations that have been sanctioned under UNSCRs 1267 and 2253 in contrast to sanctionable organisations that have not been listed since 2001, we have exposed that the UN is not anti-Islam as such but rather against a creation of a new Islamic Caliphate by organisations that commit acts of terror as it poses a threat to the current international balance of power. In addition, it would appear that the UNSCR 1267 is unsuccessful in deterring further acts of terror after organisations have been listed, with a majority of organisations in fact having an increase in their overall deadliness over time.

ReSeT Analysis Paper authored by Eleanor Manley and Thomas Kruiper

For the full paper, please click here.

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Analysis Paper – The US Military Drone Programme: Obama’s Gift to Trump

Posted by / 20th December 2017 / Categories: Analysis, Opinion / -

The current Trump White House inherited an aggressive and secretive military drone programme, developed by the previous two administrations. This previously allowed President Obama to satisfy his security community through active killings of suspected terrorists, while at the same time maintaining the image of being a peacemaker to the outside world. Now, in 2017, his successor- facing significant resistance both domestically as well as internationally- seems content to let the security community make its own decisions on how to employ this programme. As a result, these drones are a mostly forgotten yet still deadly tool, with very little oversight or accountability for who gets killed and why.

ReSeT Analysis Paper authored by Kristine Bondevik Westlie and Balder Hageraats

For the full paper, please click here.

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Connecting Local Realities: The case of women’s groups in Kenya

Posted by / 1st June 2015 / Categories: Analysis, Polis / Tags: , , , / -

In recent years, there has been increasing focus on the role of women in development. A number of countries have committed themselves to tackling gender issues with the goal of improving the socio-economic status of women. This position of women is seen to be crucial for achieving wider developmental and social goals. Kenya, for example, has initiated a number of activities and policies that address the socio-economic empowerment of women, ensuring its integration in national development strategies aimed at achieving targets such as the Millennium Development Goals. Furthermore, efforts from International Organisations (IOs) and Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have also contributed to the advancement of gender equality, especially within the education sector. However, their efforts do not always reach local women’s groups in rural Kenya, who themselves struggle to access the necessary information available to them. Although there exist initiatives that attempt to resolve this crucial chasm, improving connectivity is the key to local women’s groups partnering up with other actors in order to strengthen rural development.

Since the 1990s, an increasing number of women’s groups have been formed at both the grassroots and the national level in Kenya. Women’s groups make up the majority of local initiatives in rural development and they can play a fundamental role in the alleviation of poverty and addressing the social problems in their local communities. The motivations behind the formation of these groups vary from groups and communities: some groups are formed primarily to improve the living standards of their members, and some often in response to challenging situations faced by the community at the time, such as prolonged drought, famine or at times of socio-economic stress.  Some groups, such as the Mwethya women’s groups of Machakos District, are known for their commitment to water and soil conservation activities. On top of the need to conserve land, the key factors for the groups’ motivations is also the training, education and advice they receive.

Many women’s groups have multiple agendas, and act as catalysts for manifold national development targets. These include poverty alleviation and the eradication of hunger, promote gender equality and empower women. A number of women’s groups in Nyamusi Division in Nyamira County, that undertake women economic empowerment programs engage in activities of income generation such as merry-go-rounds, known as a chama. A chama is a scheme where members pool their resources for investment, allowing them to access the resources to address individual, family or community challenges. Women’s groups in the Nyamusi Division also run programs that range from household poverty reduction programs; education programs, for example to address the need for equal opportunities for boys and girls in schools; or health initiatives to raise awareness in the community of the importance of good nutrition and hygiene, and the effects of HIV/AIDs; as well as social initiatives to raise awareness and tackle gender-based violence.

And yet despite evidence reporting the contributions of women’s groups to community-based activities and socio-economic and national development, there is still a crucial gap between the national and international entities working towards universal development goals, and the women’s groups who are contributing to these same goals. Efforts have certainly been made by governemental organisations, IOs and NGOs to increase funding and support for women in Kenya. NGOs have contributed to the facilitation and support of women’s groups, many of which provide guidance, loans, materials or training. Governmental efforts have also contributed to the economic empowerment of women, such as the Uwezo Fund and Women Enterprise Fund, are initiatives to finance and support women-led businesses and enterprises throughout the country.

However, these governmental initiatives are not reaching many women, let alone many rural women’s groups. Studies reflect that there are still barriers impeding the success of these women’s groups, and inadequate funding is a primary concern. For the women’s groups in the Nyamusi Division, this is certainly one of the leading obstacles they face. Lack of funding along with high levels of poverty mean that many programs, including merry-go rounds and income generation activities struggle to remain sustainable and effective, especially when individual members are unable to contribute financially and are obliged to leave the group. A problem that often occurs with NGOs supporting women’s groups is the traditional structure and approach that still drives many NGOs. They have a tendency to create dependency through non-local leadership. NGOs setting their own agendas instead of listening to the agendas set by local groups, make the latter adapt to the former. This then leads to a donor-recipient relationship, with the relationship turning into one of one-directional need, rather than partnership. Other constraints that can hinder their potential advancement include certain cultural norms, which can prohibit the full participation of women in rural development, such as women’s rights to land and property. Despite the elimination of gender bias in Kenya’s legal framework, many women are still unaware of laws that protect their rights to property ownership.

In addition to these barriers, there is another important question to explore: if the government’s incentive is there, why is it not going to the women that need its support? For many women’s groups, the answer is simple: they lack access to the knowledge and the tools necessary to connect to these opportunities. Many women’s groups lack the information to access funding and support; in fact, rural women’s access to current information in general is one of the major challenges facing women in developing countries. Access to relevant and affordable information is particularly scarce for those who are marginalized either by their locality, gender or due to limited access to other resources. Another important factor is poor infrastructure, which imposes constraints on women’s groups.

The importance of access to information cannot be underestimated, it is the gateway to finding essential knowledge, resources and funding required for the success and sustainability of women’s groups. There have been some innovative approaches to tackle the lack of access to information, such as the Association of Media Women in Kenya who set up the ‘radio listening groups’ initiative to make information more accessible to marginalized communities. Through these, some women have learned how to access the UWEZO Fund, as well as information on government services. But initiatives that focus on connectivity are too scarce.

Connections to multiple sources of information increases women’s awareness of their rights to land and property, to available funding, to resources and materials, to knowledge and ideas. Connectivity would enable women’s groups to proactively find and choose the resources that will allow them to proceed with their initiatives, without relying on a third party, without depending on external approaches, but with direct connections to partners beyond regional borders. It is fundamental to bridge that chasm between national and international partners on the one hand, and local partners on the other. Both sides are strengthened through these relationships; with this connectivity comes access to information, and with information comes further growth.

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Localising the Post-2015 Debate: What are the realities?

Posted by / 1st June 2015 / Categories: Analysis, Polis / Tags: , / -

On my flight to Nairobi, Kenya in March this year, I sat next to Lydia, a director of a subsidised maternal health centre in the outskirts of Nairobi. I was itching to find out if the waiver of maternity fees in all public hospitals in Kenya as declared by president Uhuru Kenyatta two years ago, was making a difference as far reducing maternal deaths is concerned (Millennium Development Goal (MDG) no.5 – improve maternal health care). Lydia spoke of the doubts that many Kenyan women continue to have about the quality of maternal health care in public hospitals now that it has been made free. When I asked her whether there was awareness on MDG no.5 among the health professionals she has interacted with, she mentioned the health goals are not known by many local health workers and are usually first encountered when seeking for funding from international foundations and thus perceived as donor-driven. She pointed out that the health goals amongst others needed to be better communicated and ‘localised’ with incentives for them to be achieved.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) akin to MDGs, are discussed and agreed upon between United Nations, international organisations and country representatives. However their successful uptake and implementation depend on the involvement of ordinary local people who are not always aware of the objectives nor included in the decision making process. The anecdote above begs for a more detailed account of why localising SDGs is important and what simply the breaking down of these goals to locals implies for their achievement. Localising the SDGs is about getting the message understood and put to action beyond the national level. It is about making sure locals or ordinary citizens, businesses and community based organisations have a clear understanding of what these global development goals are for in order to fuse the goals with their own ideas or businesses. It is about them seeing that they have a stake in them and are hence motivated to insist that their leaders work with them towards making them a reality.

One of the key reasons to localise SDGs is that regional or local governments as well as other local actors (private sector, informal groups and community based organisations) are best placed to inspire and monitor ownership and commitment to realise these goals. Understanding that SDGs are not externally driven but part of improving livelihoods, can create an incentive for the locals to participate in their uptake. A localised approach of SDGs follows a multilevel and multi-stakeholder approach in enabling transformative agendas at the local level and a strong national commitment that provides adequate legal frameworks and institutional financial capacity to local and regional. The lower tier of government in many developing countries enjoys closeness to ordinary citizens and therefore serves as an essential partner and agent for change on the ground. The realities on the ground whether man-made or environmental cannot escape the observation of local leaders, and they are far better placed to understand which groups are marginalised, and how to involve them in bringing about change. The access of local actors is particularly essential in reaching out to invisible and ignored  groups who have for a long time been the subject in international development. Furthermore, national governments in most cases rely on local authorities for an assessment of the local requirements as well as capabilities.

Localising SDGs can also be a vehicle to building legitimacy of the national and local governments. Local governments play a fundamental role in ensuring that there is accountability, equity, transparency and rule of law when it comes to service delivery to citizens. When services are delivered to locals and they are content, citizens gain confidence and trust in government activities in their lives. Moreover, being on the frontline and affiliated to central government, local governments possess legitimacy; the SDGs demand national commitment to provide the necessary legal framework and financial as well as institutional capacity to local and regional governments. This ‘call-to-action’ to central governments pushes the implementation beyond the adoption of goals only in the national agendas but decentralising it to the local level, which was not done nor mentioned in the MDGs.

Duncan Green and his colleagues have underscored the importance of examining whether MDGs strengthened or weakened the social contract between citizens and the state, i.e. the impact of MDGs at the national level and what kind of decisions were made from the national to the local levels. The MDGs and SDGs stemmed from principles of the Millennium Declaration aimed at according various rights to people globally. Engaging locals and their leaders to understand and implement SDGs presents an opportunity to strengthen the social contract between the state and its citizens. By raising awareness of the goals, and creating the climate for people to follow through with the adoption of SDGs which can then feed into their own personal development, local involvement is likely to be guaranteed and government would have also in a sense fulfilled their role.

Accepting and acting on the fact that local communities understand their situation and can best articulate what is needed to make their lives better, is yet to take firm root in international development. Beyond 2015, an aggregate of ongoing Post-2015 debates equally shows that evidence for the goals to ensure involvement of locals abounds. Initiatives such as the Ground Level Panels which were held in Uganda, Brazil, Egypt and India, revealed the importance the groups surveyed put on inclusion, rights and identity and less attention on gender or water or energy or aid which were more emphasised by the High Level Panel.Localising SDGs in this case means recognising the potential of, or ongoing projects led by groups commonly perceived as vulnerable or marginalised. It calls for a shift from solely focusing on the vulnerabilities of these communities and moving on to harmonising their ideas with the targets of the SDGs.  As sharply articulated by GCAP Co-Chair Marta Benavides  ‘it is not for these people to accompany development but for development to accompany these people’.

In translating the SDGs into practice, local governments will inevitably face challenges. One of these challenges with particular relevance to implementation to be conducted by local governments touches on choosing the relevant targets and setting them at the local level. The targets that could be taken up will ultimately depend on country policies, priorities and decentralisation and how they can also be aligned with national and local development plans. This alignment requires governments to set aside funding – an issue which remains thorny in many developing countries, some of which express that SDGs similar to MDGs did not take into account voices of those in developing countries.  The question of financing SDGs is also problematic because the goal setting has been primarily externally led, and there is a high probability of SDGs being perceived as another excuse to channel aid into developing countries, which reinforces traditional narrative of development with ‘beneficiaries’ and ‘donors‘. In a recent consultative meeting on Post-2015, some government officials complained that during the MDGs, donors did not provide funds to support ‘their’ MDG. Therefore in some circles, the feeling that SDGs are still donor driven remains strong and is hindering the ownership of these goals contrary to what localisation is advocating for. Recent debates on how to pay for the SDGs by the big financiers also unveiled the interests by different international organisations to channel money to specific sectors and not to others. These interests contravene the core goals of the SDGs meaning that for the local needs to be given priority, the narrative of development also needs to change to one that puts people first.

The means of implementing SDGs is a chance for member countries particularly in developing countries to mould the goals into country-specific development agendas and find ways of financing them. That way, local ownership will also be assured and the development narrative that speaks of partners is likely to develop in the long run. Several domestic options to finance SDGs have been tabled ranging from foreign direct investment, impact investment, tax collection from natural resources (put forth by the African Union) and close collaboration with the private sector. These domestic resource mobilisation options are also more likely to better take into account the needs of local actors and propose what kind of collaboration will be necessary with international actors. By focusing on local alternatives to finance the goals, Lydia and other health professionals in Kenya will understand the relevance of SDGs in their work.

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Global Problems, Local Solutions: The Case of C.A.R. and the International Community

Posted by / 29th May 2015 / Categories: Analysis, Polis / Tags: , , , / -

We live in turbulent times, where new crises hit anytime and anywhere,” said Christos Stylianides, the European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management. “But our attention must not shift from ongoing humanitarian crises such as this one. The people of the Central African Republic (CAR) continue to need our help to survive and rebuild their lives.” According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, 2.7 million people are in need of aid in CAR, 436,000 are internally displaced, while more than 460,000 people are living as refugees in neighbouring countries. The humanitarian community has received only about a fifth of the total funds required for the UN strategic response plan. On Tuesday 26 May, the European Union announced a new assistance package for CAR worth €72m following the call by interim President Catherine Samba-Panza urging European countries to help CAR to return to democracy by the end of the year. “CAR lacks a lot of money” she said, which is needed to re-establish security and long lasting peace and to organise elections. She added that CAR “cannot go to the polls without having security in the country”. All of this typifies a reaction from the international community that is too little, too late and possibly even counterproductive.

As is all too common in the case of sub-Saharan conflicts, the upheaval in CAR has been accompanied by headlines describing it as a “forgotten humanitarian crisis” and “ignored emergencies“. These types of phrases are not all that hyperbolic, with the wider world only showing moderate interest at best. What is even more “forgotten” and “ignored”, however, are underlying local dynamics before and after such crises hit their peak. The current meek reaction of the international community- with peacekeeping intervention and diplomatic pressure- is still an improvement on the status quo. Engaging local communities during those times that no imminent crisis looms, engaging local communities would go a long way in avoiding humanitarian crises in the first place, but those are hardly ever priorities. Unfortunately, without humanitarian victims, interests in long-term dynamics tend to be deep down on the agenda. As a result, international information and knowledge on grassroots realities on a country such as CAR are minimal. When a crisis then forces a reaction, national governments and other parties that can hardly be considered neutral and constructive counterparts are the only partners the international community focuses on. The result is insufficient and ineffective action. CAR is a clear example of this lack of local connections.

The international community has always had this tendency to react to conflicts, rather than help preventing them in the first place. This has direct consequences during the crisis itself. Without a network and local engagement mechanisms in place, the reaction of outsiders is almost completely dependent on their direct and centralised counterparts: government officials, rebel groups and large scale actors. They are the primary source of information, and the go-to actors for understanding the underlying problems. The true social and economic factors- only clearly understood at a local level- are unknown to, or simply ignored by, a reactive international community. As a result, any solutions brought forward from the outside tends to be a patch to stem the bleeding, rather than a constructive contribution to long-term stability and wellbeing. And thus the cycle continues in perpetuity: ignored local and national problems fester; crisis hits, political and humanitarian reaction from the international community; underlying local realities and causes are ignored; most visible problems are hastily dealt with; international community withdraws; local and national problems continue.

In these situations, the fact that central counterparts are the only negotiating partners as well as sources of information is a major obstacle for an international community not knowledgeable on the very issues they pretend to solve. With very few attempts at talking to people at a grassroots level, any action taken is biased towards those responsible for the crisis in the first place. Since the beginning of the conflict in 2013, the privileged interlocutors of the international community have been the transitional government and the main opposing armed groups (the Séléka and anti-balaka). Due to their role in the conflict these actors were given a monopolistic space within the negotiating sphere. Given that these parties are both responsible for any violence as well as using it to their advantage- as is the case in any of these conflicts- not involving and representing grassroots actors means dealing with the rotten surface, rather than finding true answers. Without representation from the wider population it is hard to believe there is a real support for reconciliation and national cohesion. Finally, this month, the CAR took an important step toward fostering national cohesion through its Bangui Forum on National Reconciliation. The Bangui Forum brought together nearly 700 leaders from diverse groups within the CAR’s society—including the transitional government, national political parties, the main opposing armed groups, the private sector, civil society, traditional chiefs, and religious groups—to define their collective vision for the country’s future. Although peace and national reconciliation have not been achieved yet, the conclusions of the forum seem to mark the beginning of a new chapter for CAR.

A good example of how, from the beginning of the conflict, the international community’s interests were to stabilise the conflict and avoid bloodshed while undervaluing the importance of local realities and its complexity, is the deployment of the peacekeeping operation MINUSCA (the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic). The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) established it by its resolution 2149 of 10 April 2014 with the mandate to protect Central African Republic civilians. If the reasons that pushed the UNSC to create the MINUSCA are understandable with regards to the violence of the conflict, it is by no means a long-term solution. Then again, the language used suggested that MINUSCA was a profound solution to the problems faced by the country. The text includes indeed the full “peacekeeping package” with sentences such as “to assist the Transitional Authorities in mediation and reconciliation processes at both the national and local levels (…)” and “to provide good offices and political support for the efforts to address root causes of the conflict and establish lasting peace and security in the CAR”. Without any deeper understanding of what those root causes were, these phrases were fanciful at best, and disingenuous at worst. Sub-Sahara African history is littered with all too many similar cases of pretension trumping reality.

More than a year after the establishment of the MINUSCA, the expected impact of the peacekeeping operation is still uncertain. The mandate of the operation is too ambitious and does not correspond to the complexity of the field. In most places in the Central African Republic, reconciliation has started between the different communities but it stays fragile. The country is still working to end the cycles of violence and reunite its people. 436,000 people are internally displaced and most cannot go back to their hometown because they fear the re-eruption of violence. On top of that, the peacekeepers’ first mission is to protect civilians, but the latest scandal about the UN covering up the sexual assault of children by French troops raises the question of trust. The success of peacekeeping operations depends on creating a bond of trust with local populations. What kind of message does an institution that covers up sexual assault on minors send to vulnerable populations? They may stop other types of violence in the short run, but the long-term outcomes may be to exacerbate the very human insecurity that leads to conflict. The unholy mix of an unrealistic mandate, absence of long-term solutions and a lack of trust by local populations is the ideal cocktail for ineffective and counterproductive outcomes.

Sadly, CAR is an all too typical example of an international community uninterested in- and therefore out of touch with- local realities in sub-Saharan Africa. Lingering conflicts that require long-term international approaches based on local networks are instead ignored until a humanitarian crisis can no longer be avoided. Reacting to the symptoms rather than the causes means a perpetual cycle of violence in which the international community is at risk of being a perpetuating influence by strengthening centralised and warmongering actors, rather than representing those suffering the consequences. Greater investment in grassroots networks and development of local human security before conflicts escalate is essential for sustainable social development. That is where the international community’s priorities need to be, rather than using the military to bring only temporary short-lived peace.

This article was written by Isadora Loreto and Balder Hageraats.

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