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HLEFBy JARED KNOLL

Cullen Hendrix and Henk-Jan Brinkman authored a candid but comprehensive report in September 2012 for the HLEF forum on Food Insecurity in Protracted Crisis, to compel greater focus on the interdependent forces of food insecurity, violence, and genocidal processes. Last month, they expanded their findings and published them in a revised paper, Food Insecurity and Conflict Dynamics: Causal Linkages and Complex Feedbacks, in which they focus on salient and emerging cases in the Sahel region of Africa. The questions which need considering are, “What lineages exist between food insecurity and conflict?”, “What role can food security interventions play?”, and How can food security-related international policies be crafted in such a way to prevent genocidal processes?” The authors argue for the possibility of responsible interventions and effective policy to transform violence and insecurity into stability and peace, given the international community’s willingness and commitment to encouraging peacebuilding with mindfulness to food security.

Food insecurity, violent conflict, and genocidal processes are interconnected and each support and exacerbate the others, the report argues, with conflict itself being a cause of food insecurity, and food insecurity potentially causing and increasing conflict. The real complexity comes into play when, in some cases, a food security intervention can resolve and even transform conflict by alleviating grievances and desperation, but in other cases it can escalate the violent efforts of a rebellion that would otherwise have insufficient resources to wage war.

  • Chronic food insecurity: a persistent lack of food, either due to empty markets, or food prices too high for a population to afford it. Can lead to grievances against the state, which may lead to rebellion and open conflict.
  • Acute food insecurity: sudden lack of food, such as from a draught or crop failure. Can be a direct cause of rebellion, especially when scarce resources are distributed unfairly, but can also reduce a dissatisfied population’s capacity to rebel if militants cannot maintain logistics.
  • Strategic denial: deliberate disruption or blockade of food, either from local sources or foreign aid. The report focuses on the case of South Kourdofan as an example, where two years ago the Sudanese army closed off the World Food Programme’s stockpiles, and somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 refugees were displaced to surrounding states.

These variances each require an entirely different approach; the report urges that interventions may have positive or negative impacts in each circumstance, depending on steps taken. Any policy-based solution is further stymied by the type of conflict. In a communal conflict with acute food insecurity, an intervention may be likely to transform the conflict, but in a civil one it can reescalate. In chronic situations, the opposite results can be true. Intervening in food prices can have a very different effect if the state in crisis is democratic, or non-democratic. This is all before taking into consideration cultural, historical and sociopolitical factors specific to a region.

Recommendations to “The International Community” for Peacebuilding and Prevention

  1. Act as a third party to negotiations, encouraging inclusive political processes and DDR.
  2. Ensure food security interventions address issues of inequality on as permanent a basis as possible, through measures such as school feeding programmes and agricultural extension services.
  3. Support development capacities and public administration systems by empowering access to social services in vulnerable communities.
  4. Take an outcome-centric approach with safety net systems, like food-for-work programmes, that focus on (re)building infrastructure and improving sustainable livelihoods.
  5. Aim to improve social cohesion by working closely with communities and encouraging participatory programmes, which can help reintegrate IDPs.

The Hendrix-Brinkman report and subsequent publication may not be breaking new ground or providing revelation, but it achieved what it’s meant to – comprehensively break down a highly complex set of factors contributing to violence conflict and genocidal processes, and make a call to policymakers in the international community to integrate a food insecurity lens. The authors’ recommendations aren’t complex or revolutionary – their stark simplicity should be a challenge for all members of the international community to turn knowledge into action.

Photo: fao.org

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By MARISSA GOLDFADEN

disarmamentIn November 2012, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs released a publication, Civil Society and Disarmament 2012 – Applying a Disarmament Lens to Gender, Human Rights, Development, Security, Education and Communication: Six Essays. Given the Auschwitz Institute’s mission, this post focuses on the essay, “Minimizing the impact of illicit small arms and diverted weapons transfers in the commission of atrocity crimes, human rights violations and other violence” by Hector Guerra of International Action Network on Small Arms and Robert Zuber of Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict.

This piece centers on illicit small arms and the ways in which they contribute to mass atrocity crimes and community violence throughout the world. One statistic states that “of the 740,000 people who die each year as a result of armed violence, 500,000 are fatalities related to situations of violence other than armed conflicts, fatalities largely related to the use of small arms and light weapons.” The United Nations has endeavored to solve the problem of illicit weapons via various programs and protocols; this past summer, an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was negotiated. However, agreement on a final text was elusive and a new meeting will take place in March 2013.

According to the authors, “the irresponsible transfer of weapons and ammunition and the proliferation of illicit small arms have direct implications for our ability to secure our streets, deliver aid to unstable areas, prevent abuses of human rights and the commission of mass atrocities, and create environments conducive to full political and policy participation by women and cultural minorities.” Many ‘illicit’ weapons originate in the legal sector before moving through unregulated transfers into the wrong hands. The uses of such weapons have far-reaching dangerous impacts, including:

  • Illicit arms perpetuate conflicts that could otherwise be resolved.
  • Illicit arms undermine development and inhibit the flow of assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, and others in dire need.
  • Illicit arms in the hands of both State and non-State actors have been used to violate civilian populations’ human rights and impede efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. 
  • Illicit arms and ammunition hinder the ability of governments to carry out some of their most important functions, including the primary responsibility to protect civilians from violence.
  • Illicit arms “undermine the integrity of the security sector, creating or exacerbating levels of unacceptable risk for women and others seeking their proper place in society.”
  • Illicit arms “contribute to cycles of violence and criminality that reinforce structures of poverty as women and men continue to expend large amounts of energy on security needs that could more beneficially be spent on pursuing educational and economic opportunity.”

All of the above is in addition to the immeasurable physical and psychological damage suffered by civilians as a result of illicit weapons access by criminals, insurgents, or other non-State actors. One of the most serious aspects of the proliferation of illicit weapons is “related to the role those weapons play in the commission of mass violence, including the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999 and the massacre at Utoya, Norway in 2011.”

The UN has had the prevention of mass violence, both at the community level and within broader international legal frameworks, at the forefront of its agenda since its inception. Urgency in this area escalated in 2005 with the advent of the Responsibility to Protect norm. This is because the illicit trade in conventional weapons and ammunition severely complicates efforts to build State capacity and otherwise help governments fulfill their primary responsibility to protect their civilian populations. Moreover, their are staggering costs to fragile States from mass atrocity and other conflicts fueled in part by illicit weapons. For example, Africa loses ~$18 billion per year due to wars, civil wars, and insurgencies. Conservatively, armed conflict shrinks an African nation’s economy by 15%. 

In order to combat the multitude of problems outlined above, governments, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders must work together. Concrete steps include:

  • Exploring local and regional linkages between the presence of illicit arms and the threat of mass violence/human rights abuses.
  • Calling attention to and addressing the linkages between legal arms sales diverted to non-State actors and criminal elements, and “the commission of human rights abuses, the suppression of access to jobs and services, and the chilling impacts of a compromised security sector on women’s participation in political and social life.”
  • “Assist States, especially fragile States, to guarantee the security of existing weapons stockpiles (or remove them altogether), and help ensure marking, tracing and record keeping of arms that is cost-effective and sufficiently interactive with the highest international standards in this area.”
  • Restricting the illicit flow/diversion of ammunition for small arms.
  • Assisting States in promoting citizen disarmament.
  • Assisting States in implementing important responsibilities resulting from the illicit arms trade, e.g., provide victims’ assistance and flag potentially diverted transfers.

Other resources include the UN’s recently revised Disarmament: A Basic Guide, and voices from impacted communities.

Photo: un.org

The Foundation for the International Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities has put forth an Initiative for the Improvement of European Union Capabilities to Prevent Genocide and Mass Atrocities. The rationale behind it is the importance of distinguishing between preventing conflict and preventing mass atrocities. The aim of the initiative is

“raising the awareness of the need to respond more effectively to the threats of genocide and mass atrocities by establishing a dedicated Task Force of European academics, experts and practitioners that will launch a series of consultations at the European level. This round of consultations and research will result in the elaboration of a Report assessing the current EU capabilities in the realm to prevent mass atrocities, which will be submitted to EU institutions and Member States.”

The Report has three main goals–to review and evaluate the EU’s existing tools for preventing mass atrocities, to develop practical policy recommendations to enhance responses to emerging threats of mass atrocities, and to highlight genocide prevention as a mainstream EU priority. It is slated to be released in December 2012 and will consist of five core chapters:

  1. Warning/Current Intelligence: warning about and verification of atrocities;
  2. Pre-Crisis Engagement: promoting security and human rights in countries under stress;
  3. Preventive Diplomacy: halting and reversing escalation toward mass violence;
  4. Intervention: intervening to stop ongoing atrocities;
  5. International Cooperation: creating synergies between the EU and the wider international community,

each of which will “consider the extent to which the EU’s current capabilities are adequate vis-à-vis the ideal requirements of an integrated genocide prevention strategy.” The 70-page Report will also include conclusions and recommendations.

Photo: foreignpolicy.com

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