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On February 8, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) held an event in London to launch “Network Paper 72, Local to Global Protection in Myanmar, Sudan, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.” Per the ODI:

The Local to Global Protection Project (L2GP) is an initiative to document and promote local perspectives on protection in major humanitarian crises. Based on research in Myanmar, Sudan, South Sudan and Zimbabwe, L2GP explores how people living in areas affected by natural disaster and armed conflict understand ‘protection’ – what they value, and how they go about protecting themselves, their families and their communities. The research also examines how people view the roles of others, including the state, non-state actors, community-based organisations and national and international aid agencies.

Speaking at the event were Justin Corbett, author of the South Kordofan/Nuba, Sudan Study; Simon Harragin, author of the Jonglei, South Sudan Study; Ashley South, author of the two Myanmar (Burma) studies; and Nils Carstensen (ACT Alliance), L2GP manager and co-author of Network Paper 72. Also in attendance were Dr. Sara Pantuliano, head of the Humanitarian Policy Group at ODI, and Wendy Fenton, coordinator of the Humanitarian Practice Network.

The impetus behind the project was namely the disconnect between protection activities at the local and global levels. The findings were consistent with the rationale, as the majority of local communities considered their own actions to protect themselves as more important than anything done by outsiders. The most common first line of defense was for people to get out of the way, whether that meant fleeing into the jungle, mountains, refugee camps or crossing the border into another country. Another popular survival strategy component was allying oneself with political or religious leaders who have connections and negotiating power. However, the study found that self-protection strategies often had negative consequences for local populations.

The Zimbabwe case study stressed the importance of “capturing local cultural and religious phenomena in assessing protection threats…includ[ing] witchcraft, religious sects and cult beliefs.” Outside actors largely ignore such issues, but they represent real protection threats for local respondents. In the cases of Myanmar, respondents hardly distinguished between immediate protection concerns pertaining to physical safety and security, and longer-term livelihood security issues. National actors tended to rank assistance priorities differently than communities and aid, and how it was targeted, was sometimes in conflict with local values and realities. This “illustrated the challenge of identifying the local voice.” As such, it is important to be mindful of “the inevitable presence of prejudices in the analysis and presentation of local perceptions,” necessitating greater interaction between international humanitarian actors and local actors.

Research for the South Kordofan/Nuba case study was conducted from 2005 (the beginning of a ceasefire ending a 20-year civil war) to 2011 (when violence flared up again). In accordance with the other case studies, “attempting to separate physical safety, rights and livelihoods, as international agencies commonly do, was not relevant to local understandings of protection.” Over the past six months, efforts have been made to lessen these ideological and practical gaps. Initiatives included “setting up local protection teams in Nuba, consisting of young male and female volunteers, whose role is to share local knowledge of wild foods or medicinal plants which may exist in one particular village, with other villages… the teams also disseminate advice on what actions to take during bombing raids to protect physical safety based on lessons generated from the previous period of conflict.”

Ultimately, international actors should heed the “predictive capacity of local actors who know what the protection threats are, and can articulate when they will happen,” since the former lack the capacity to respond to these.

Photo: hic-mena.org

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Furthering AIPR’s long-term goal of having genocide prevention taught as part of the required curriculum at every college and university in the United States, AIPR and Professor Alex Hinton created a class on genocide prevention taught this spring at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. Taught by Prof. Hinton in the anthropology department, the course examined genocide prevention in the realms of public policy and academia.

The following websites were created by students of the class in May; as such, they do not reflect more recent events.

1) Cambodia: Anatomy of a Genocide
Divided into five sections (Origins, Processes, International Response, Justice, and Memory and Education), this site critically approaches the Cambodian genocide, examining whether it could have been prevented, and if so, why not?

2) Côte d’Ivoire: Genocide Watch
This site explains the origins of the conflict in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), in addition to discussing current diplomatic efforts there. The site’s creators seek to provide varied perspectives on, and solutions to, the situation in the country.

3) LIBYA: [IN]ACTION
With a timeline that ends as NATO took control of the UN-backed no-fly zone over Libya earlier this year, these students discuss the international community’s inefficient and delayed response to the Libyan state’s atrocities against its own citizenry. They then go on to analyze whether or not Qaddafi’s actions are in fact genocide, using R2P as part of their framework.

4) Nuba Mountains, Sudan
With the recent genocide in Darfur and successful secession of South Sudan dominating news from that region, this site seeks to ensure that the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Nuba is not forgotten or overshadowed. This website also goes beyond the scope of the genocide to help explain and preserve the culture and identity of the Nuba.

Sudan: Southern Independence, Northern Aggression

The Republic of Southern Sudan officially became the world’s newest nation on July 9. An overwhelming majority of voters supported independence from the North in a January referendum. The event was marked by huge celebrations across the new country. The New York Times reported that by dawn thousands had poured into the streets of the capital, Juba. Dignitaries from all over the world arrived there as well to partake in the festivities.

Officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, and China were among those who spoke at a ceremony hosted by the government of the new state. They offered encouragement and support, promising to open embassies in the capital as soon as possible.

After his swearing in, South Sudanese president Salva Kiir spoke to the thousands gathered. “We were bombed, maimed, enslaved, treated worse than a refugee in our own country,” he told the crowd, “but we have to forgive, although we will not forget.”

South Sudan’s independence comes after two decades of civil war and mass atrocities at the hands of the government led by President Omar al-Bashir. Military operations into areas considered friendly to southern rebels often resulted in the murder and arrest of civilians. Forced displacement was used to clear out huge tracts of land. For these actions and others, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in 2010 for genocide.

Bashir also delivered a speech at the independence day ceremony. But the world’s newest nation has little time to celebrate as it faces the resurgence of some very old problems.

A new frontline is beginning to appear on the North–South border, as unsettled territorial claims escalate into violent confrontation. The oil-rich regions of South Kordofan, specifically the town of Abyei, have been the epicenters of this resurgence of violence. Northern forces entered Abyei in May, amid government claims of attacks by southern militias. Fighting spread further into the Nuba mountains region, and there are now reports of ethnic cleansing against the people there. Deadly bombardments, house-to-house arrests, executions, and a blockade against humanitarian aid have left hundreds of Nuba dead and tens of thousands displaced. Many of the Nuba have fled their homes to the safety of caves to avoid the the deadly government offensive.

While Bashir claims the North is responding to rebel aggression, others believe he has more sinister intentions. According to columnist Eric Reeves, Khartoum plans to “seize Abyei as far south as possible, then negotiate final status of the region from a position of military strength.”

Many agree with this analysis based on one very important fact: The border regions are oil-rich, and North Sudan stands to lose billions of dollars of revenue now that the South has seceded. The already debt-laden government is trying to ensure that it has a heavy presence in an area that could be vital to the regime’s survival—and by all appearances, it is willing to restart war to do so.

Photo: David Azia/Associated Press

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