Reading list – News round up

United Nations

–  Trends in Uniformed Contributions to UN Peacekeeping: A New Dataset, 1991–2012

A very interesting project by the International Peace Institute. Since the creation of the United Nations, peace operations have been one of the body’s integral components: sixty-seven operations in forty-two countries. Thanks to UN members’ investment in human capital and resources, there is evidence that peacekeeping operations have had a positive impact on the prevention or resumption of conflict. However, not a lot of data has been made available to researchers. In order to fill this gap, the International Peace Institute has therefore developed a Peacekeeping Database. One the focus of the database is to analyze the factors that encourage or discourage states from contributing to UN peacekeeping operations and to look at contribution patterns among regions (such as number and type of personnel), and over certain periods. The IPI wants to disseminate the results of the research and data based in order to improve the capacity of troop- and police-contributing countries. The database will be updated on a monthly basis. What is interesting to look at is geographic disaggregation over the years and whether personnel contributions are being shared more equally or less equally.

– Defying the UN Security Council: Last week, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Lithuania, Chad and Chile were elected to nonpermanent seats at the UN Security Council. However, in a astonishing diplomatic move Saudi Arabia declined the offer, citing the UN’s failure to face its responsibilities, especially in Syria and Palestine: “Work mechanisms and double-standards on the Security Council prevent it from carrying out its duties and assuming its responsibilities in keeping world peace”. Saudi Arabia’s Civil Disobedience at the United Nations analyzes and speculates on the short-term and long-term implications for the UN. The author suggests that, in the future, this kind of diplomatic move may be used by member states who want to put pressure on the UN to reform the structure of the Security Council



Three interesting analyses of the current situation in Syria. “The Four Things We Know About How Civil Wars End (and What This Tells Us About Syria)” analyzes the war from a theoretical point of view, or rather from our experiences of civil wars in general, and concludes that the chances of a negotiated agreement are null.

“The Syrian War in three capitals” end on a more positive note and looks at the war from three different angles (four even if you count Damascus): Teheran, Washington, Moscow. Looking at the interests and strategies of these three capitals, Marc Pierini argues that their best option is the diplomatic avenue.

Syria’ s entry into the chemical weapon conventions and the regime’s agreement to remove chemical weapons has allowed Assad to stay in power – at least for now. In Tracking the “Arab Spring”: Syria and the Future of Authoritarianism Steve Heydemann of Georgetown and the U.S. Institute of Peace analyze the regime’s capacity to adapt to the challenges, including by crushing protest from the start (unlike Egypt and Tunisia). According to the authors, Assad regime had to “reconfigure its social base, tighten its dependency on global authoritarian networks, adapt is modes of economic governance, and restructure its military and security apparatus.” More grimly, they state that “What seems more plausible is that the repressive and corrupt authoritarian regime that entered civil war in 2011 will emerge from it as an even more brutal, narrowly sectarian, and militarized version of its former self,” he writes. The article goes further by analyzing the way other governments in the region have responded to the Arab Spring or the threat of uprisings.



The World Peace Foundation is going to run a number of article on patterns of violence in Somalia. In “Clan Cleansing in Somalia: The Ruinous Turn of 1991 (2013)” , Lidwien Kapteijns looks at the divisive policies of the Barre regime and the resulting clan-based violence against civilians between 1978-1992, and identifies 1991 as a key shift in the history of Somalia . For the first time, politico-military leaders purposely incited civilians to become perpetrators which had the effect to make clan-affiliation much stronger. According to Kapteijns, clan cleansing is widely denied, which undermines state building. As she rightly states “recent work in the fields of new genocide studies and the anthropology of violence have shown that silences, misrepresentations, and denials have been an integral part of acts and campaigns of genocide and ethnic cleansing.” The solution, Kapteijns argues, is to engage with the past and encourage a dialog on the clan cleansing violence.


Advancing the Responsibility to Protect

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the Cardozo School of Law s-worked together on a report that seeks to advance the Responsibility to Protect. “A Common Standard for Applying the Responsibility to Protect”

– Addresses the need to systematically develop a common standard against which relevant actors can assess information in relation to potential mass atrocities and R2P;

– Develops guiding principles for the application of the standard;

– Assesses the benefits of, and challenges to, adopting a common standard.


The dilemma of engaging with armed group

Engaging armed groups: challenging preconceptions and expanding options

“You can’t make peace without talking to those doing the fighting” but engaging with non-state armed groups is complex. The parties in the conflict have contradictory motives and objectives. The article is based on the premise that governments often lack expertise and tools on how to engage with armed groups. When it comes to choosing options, governments need to look at conflict dynamics, potential obstacles, at the objectives of armed groups, and the role outside local and international actors could play.  Teresa Dumasy offers a balanced reflection on the complexity of engaging with armed groups and the need to broaden the range of options available. More importantly I think, Dumasy also underlines the need for good practice guide.


Gender and Conflict

The World Peace Foundation will release occasional paper on Gender, Conflict, and Peace. In the first paper, Dyan Mazurana and Keith Proctor provide a useful summary of the literature on the subject. More specifically they focus on five major themes:

– Culturally-inscribed notions of gender as an analytical framework for understanding conflict-related violence 

– How experiences of conflict and levels of vulnerability vary according to gender.

– Gender and non-violent resistance

– Looking at gender and peace in order to understand how local groups can influence national agendas and to promote a bottom-up approach to peace.

– Gender and transitional justice: transitional justice programs consistently fail to incorporate women and girls’ specific needs.

 On the same subject, Women Under Siege suggests “10 must-read books on sexualized violence in war”. You’ll find case studies (the Balkans, Vietnam, Romania, Nanking), analyses of the causes, consequences, and responses to sexualized violence in wartime, and policy recommendations. I would also add “Sexual Violence as a Weapon of War? Perceptions, Prescriptions, Problems in the Congo and Beyond” by Maria Eriksson Baaz and Maria Stern.


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