Tag: South Sudan

Ain’t happening

Bill Burns, Michele Flournoy, and Nancy Lindborg unveiled this morning a report on U.S. Leadership and the Challenge of State Fragility. It says all the right things: we should be strategic in choosing where we engage, systemic and selective in our engagement, and sustain the the effort for however long it takes. Its all about partnerships (within the US government, between the US government and fragile states, and within fragile states). The aim is inclusive, legitimate, accountable states. What’s to complain about?

My main complaint is that isn’t happening. Asked about the considerable capacity the US built up in Iraq and Afghanistan in Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), Bill replied that yes, we need to make sure that the experience acquired in the last 15 years is preserved. I don’t think the State Department could name even its own officers who had PRT jobs, never mind the many contractors and Defense Department people involved. Asked about how to deal with a country like Turkey that is turning towards autocracy, no one had much to say. Never mind Egypt. Audience members, not panelists, were quick to point out that President Obama’s budget requests have not emphasized fragile states or the programs aimed at repairing them.

The sad fact is that the Obama Administration has dismantled many of the capacities in the US government to deal with fragile states and reduced use of diplomatic leverage (sanctions, conditionality, etc.) to counter human rights violations and other international abuses associated with them. Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel are all enjoying to one extent or another immunity. All these states fail to provide full inclusion to portions of their populations, but at least in public Washington has pulled its punches in order to achieve high priority security objectives. We are seeing in South Sudan the results of immunity. When will we seem them in Rwanda? What do you do when local authorities simply aren’t willing to acknowledge or act on the problems we see all to clearly?

The two positive examples the study provides are instructive: Colombia and Myanmar. Plan Colombia was extraordinarily expensive and sustained over a long period, but the study group rightly emphasizes the importance of local political and financial commitment. The October 2 referendum on the peace agreement is still pending, but we can hope things will turn out all right. Myanmar has been far less expensive, but the outcome is still in doubt. It will be at least another 5-10 years before we can really say whether it has been able to overcome its internal conflicts and make the transition to a democratic state and society.

How do we get to the point of being able to make such long-term commitments?

The Study Group wants a strategic foresight cell at the National Security Council, consultation with Congress to identify priority fragile states and provide necessary resources, and personnel policies intended to enhance interagency cooperation. It also wants to expand the partnership model based on the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, build local capacity in fragile states, and increase US government capabilities in a grab bag of areas: security sector reform, conflict mediation, anti-corruption, assistance to support peaceful elections, civil society support, public-private partnerships, sanctions implementation, international education and exchanges, as well as the de rigeur learning and evaluation.

I’m fine with all of this, even if I’d have included things this report skips. I’d certainly want to think about whether our current institutions–State, Defense and AID–are suitable to the tasks defined. I doubt it. I would also want a much clearer definition of the end states we should seek in fragile states–that among other things is what makes the New Deal compelling. “Inclusive, legitimate, accountable” are nice, but how would we recognize them? What is required to achieve them? What indicators are most appropriate, or are they entirely context dependent?

But my main concern is just that it ain’t happening.

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Success in an unlikely place

Three years ago, peacefare.net published Patricia Powers Thomson’s A call to action from South Sudan, which advocated founding of a School of Public Service in South Sudan. Despite all the difficulties since, the aspiration has been fulfilled. Here is her account of how: 

Q: It has been three years since you called for a School of Public Service in South Sudan. What has been accomplished?

A: The major accomplishment is that the School has been established and is now in its second year.  We recently prepared a Status Report comparing our progress to the path laid out in our Strategic Plan, and it goes into a lot more detail about our efforts.

In a nutshell, after releasing A Call to Action: Establishing the South Sudan School of Public Service in October 2013, I recruited a Board of Advisors through the good auspices of the Ebony Center and their Development Policy Forum.  This Board was instrumental in establishing the School.  After a competition, the Board  decided to house the School at the University of Juba –the country’s flagship university.  We spent about a year developing our programs and courses. By late 2014, the University’s Dean’s Board and Senate had approved the School. The University Council officially established it on June 13, 2015. So in less than 2 years we were up-and-running.

Q: What programs does the School offer?

A: Our first program is a 2-year MPA.  Our pioneer class of 41 finished their first year in May.  In September they were joined by a second class of about 50 students.  I really believe our students represent the best of South Sudan – smart, committed public servants. They come from all its regions, and work with government, nongovernmental organizations, and international organizations.

Q: These three years have been difficult ones, marred in particular by the power struggle between South Sudan’s President and Vice President, including widespread violence. How has that affected your project?

A: The last three years have been heartbreaking.  Everyone in the country has been touched by the recent conflicts.   Actually, let me correct myself. The conflicts are not “recent.” They have been simmering for a very long time, but ignited into violence in December 2013.   Amazingly, SPS continued to operate without disruption during and after the 2013 fighting, as well as the fighting this past July.  The credit for this really belongs to my outstanding team and to the University’s leadership, particularly Dr. John Akec who has been one of our strongest advocates since the beginning.

Q: You say the conflict has been simmering for a very long time.  What do you see as the drivers of this conflict?

A: I have lived in South Sudan for 5 years, and the situation here is one of the most complicated I’ve encountered.  I see at least four related drivers. Many people in the international community have come to believe kleptocracy is behind much of the country’s instability. I agree. Minimizing kleptocracy is fundamental to creating  a stable state, but even more fundamental is building capacity. You can’t fight kleptocracy without capacity. Quite frankly, there isn’t a critical mass of competent people working in the public sector. People with the mindsets, as well as skillsets they need to succeed, including management and leadership skills.

Let me be more specific, most  of  the provisions of the current peace agreement require skilled South Sudanese working within government and civil society.  And when peace comes, when we succeed in making  “war more costly than peace,” South Sudan will still be faced with the challenges of building effective institutions and engaging in long-term development. Again, both require a cadre of capable public servants.

So yes, greed and the quest for power are a big part of the problem, but so, too, is lack of capacity. There are many smart, motivated, and honest people in South Sudan who are unable to impact the mammoth problems their country faces because they do not have the necessary skillsets and mindsets.

Q: You mentioned four things driving the conflict, including lack of skills and kleptocracy. What are the other two?

A: There is definitely an element of tribal competition, age-old animosities between tribes. This is driven by fear, as well as pride; when people are insecure they tend to coalesce along familiar ethnic, tribal, and familial groups.  And lastly, there has been a lack of consistent political will to make peace.  This lack of will is fed by the first three drivers, as well as trauma and exhaustion.  Read more

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Peace picks August 3-7

The Washington Monument.  In April 2015, the nearby Office of Personnel Management was hacked by the Chinese government, causing a huge data breach.  PC: Eddie Grove
The Washington Monument. In April 2015, the nearby Office of Personnel Management was hacked by the Chinese government, causing a huge data breach. PC: Eddie Grove

1. Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare: An Evolving Challenge | Monday, August 3rd | 11:30 – 2:00 | Hudson Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The U.S. government has established an arsenal of economic warfare tools aimed at weakening rogue actors, isolating illicit finance, and protecting the global economy. Washington’s playbook is filled with asset freezes, sanctions, trade embargoes, and blacklists. At the same time, the Information Age has led to a transformative development in the realm of economic warfare: the potential use of cyberattacks to cause the U.S. substantial economic harm and weaken its national security capacity.  With the exception of cyberterrorism, cyberattacks on U.S. economic targets have been treated as vexing nuisances and a cost of doing business, but have not been viewed as a strategic national security threat. The changing nature and increased volume of cybercrime, espionage, hacking, and sabotage raises the question: Is there lurking a new type of action aimed specifically at undermining American economic power, destabilizing the global economic system, and threatening U.S. allies?  What are America’s vulnerabilities and how can the U.S. government and private sector recognize, monitor, deter, defend against, and defeat such warfare? A new report, Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare: An Evolving Challenge, edited by Dr. Samantha Ravich seeks to address these questions. Leading experts will come together on August 3rd to discuss and debate the report’s critical findings in an event hosted by Hudson Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance.  Speakers include: The Honorable Juan C. Zarate, Chairman & Senior Counselor, Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Congressman Mike Rogers, Distinguished Fellow, Hudson Institute, Former U.S. Representative, Michigan, and Former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Steven Chabinsky, General Counsel & Chief Risk Officer, CrowdStrike, Dr. Michael Hsieh, Program Manager, DARPA, Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director, Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Director, Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Mark Tucker, CEO, Temporal Defense Systems.  Dr. Samantha Ravich, Editor, Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare: An Evolving Challenge and Board of Advisors Member, Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, Foundation for Defense of Democracies will moderate.

2. The Role of IGAD: A Regional Approach to the Crisis in South Sudan Tuesday, August 4st | 2:00-3:30 | Wilson Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Soon after it achieved independence in 2011, South Sudan erupted into civil war resulting in thousands of people killed and another 2.2 million displaced. There have been several international and national mediation efforts have done little to stem the violence and arrive at a viable solutions. One of the key actors in these efforts has been the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which is one of the African Union’s eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs). This session will assess IGAD’s role in mediating the crisis in South Sudan, the challenges that IGAD has faced (including how regional dynamics and interests have impacted IGAD’s mediating efforts), and offer recommendatios and options for international actors and IGAD for more effective mediation of the South Sudan crisis.  Speakers include: Southern Voices Network Scholar Dr. Getachew Zeru Gebrekidan, Lecturer at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia and Mr. John Prendergast, Founding Director, the Enough Project.

A view towards the Afghan border, which is 20 miles away, from Chiluchor Chashma, Tajikistan.  Fears of ISIS in the region were compounded when Tajikistan's security chief, Gumurod Halimov, disappeared in April and joined ISIS in Syria.  PC: Eddie Grove
A view towards the Afghan border, which is 20 miles away, from Chiluchor Chashma, Tajikistan. Fears of ISIS in the region were compounded when Tajikistan’s security chief, Gumurod Halimov, disappeared in April and joined ISIS in Syria. PC: Eddie Grove

3. The State of Afghanistan and Prospects for the Future: A Discussion with General John Campbell | Tuesday, August 4st | 3:00 – 4:30 | Brookings | REGISTER TO ATTEND | While the combat mission in Afghanistan concluded in late 2014, U.S. involvement remains significant and critical to security in the country. In recent weeks, talk of a settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government has gained momentum. At the same time, however, increased U.S. air strikes against insurgents have taken place, and Afghan soldiers continue to take their heaviest losses of the war as intense fighting continues in a number of Afghan provinces. Additionally, concerns over ISIS moving into the region are also mounting. General John F. Campbell, commander of Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, will discuss the country’s security landscape. Michael O’Hanlon, co-director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, will moderate.

Bab Al-Bahrain in Manama, Bahrain.  Bahrain hosts the US 5th Fleet.  PC: Eddie Grove
Bab Al-Bahrain in Manama, Bahrain. Bahrain hosts the US 5th Fleet. PC: Eddie Grove

4. The Future of Naval Capabilities | Tuesday, July 21st | 10:00-11:00 | CSIS | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Please join us for a discussion with Admirals Aucoin and Winter on the U.S. Navy’s efforts to develop new capabilities above, on, and under the sea.  Speakers include: Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin, USN, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems and Rear Admiral Mathias W. Winter, USN, Chief of Naval Research, Director, Innovation, Technology Requirements, and Test & Evaluation.  Moderated by: Andrew P. Hunter, Director, Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group, Senior Fellow, International Security Program, CSIS.  The Maritime Security Dialogue brings together CSIS and U.S. Naval Institute, two of the nation’s most respected non-partisan institutions. The series is intended to highlight the particular challenges facing the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, from national level maritime policy to naval concept development and program design. Given budgetary challenges, technological opportunities, and ongoing strategic adjustments, the nature and employment of U.S. maritime forces are likely to undergo significant change over the next ten to fifteen years. The Maritime Security Dialogue provides an unmatched forum for discussion of these issues with the nation’s maritime leaders.

If more Americans visit Iran in the aftermath of the deal, they may be amused by one of their laundry detergent brands.  Washing your clothes with barf makes more sense when you consider that barf means snow in Persian.  PC: Eddie Grove
If more Americans visit Iran in the aftermath of the deal, they may be amused by one of their laundry detergent brands. Washing your clothes with barf makes more sense when you consider that barf means snow in Persian. PC: Eddie Grove

5. After the Deal: A Veteran Journalist’s View from Tehran | Wednesday, August 5th | 12:00-1:00 | Johns Hopkins SAIS – Rome Building | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Roy Gutman, Middle East bureau chief of the McClatchy newspapers, will share his insights from Tehran, after which respondent Joyce Karam, Washington Bureau Chief for Al-Hayat Newspaper, an international Arabic daily based in London, will comment on reaction to the deal in the Arab press and concern about increased regional turmoil. SAIS faculty member and MEI scholar Daniel Serwer will moderate the conversation.

6. Beyond Afghanistan’s Dangerous Summer | Wednesday, August 5th | 1:3o-2:30 | USIP | REGISTER TO ATTEND | As the one-year anniversary approaches for the inauguration of Afghanistan’s national unity government, the country is in the midst of a dangerous summer as its security forces battle an intensified insurgency. Despite these risks, the government in some ways has been transformative. President Ashraf Ghani’s outreach towards Pakistan has offered the possibility of a relationship based on mutual benefit rather than mistrust. Significant progress has been made by the Afghan government in its effort to open peace talks with the Taliban, after years of stalled attempts. Internal governance reforms have begun.  Yet in an increasingly complex security environment, the government seems to be in a race against time. Ambassador Dan Feldman will discuss these developments and what the United States can do to help ensure these transformations lead to a stable Afghanistan that can act as a strategic partner for the United States in the region. Comments will also be provided by Stephen J. Hadley and Andrew Wilder, and then the discussion will be opened up to the audience. Opening remarks by Nancy Lindborg, President, USIP. Speakers include: Ambassador Dan Feldman, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. Department of State, Stephen J. Hadley, Chairman, Board of Directors, USIP and Dr. Andrew Wilder, Vice President for South and Central Asia, USIP.

7. Managing Tensions in Asia | Thursday, August 6th | 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm | PS21 | REGISTER TO ATTEND | As a rising China becomes ever more assertive over its claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea and beyond, regional tensions are rising faster than ever before in recent history. PS21 brings together a great panel of Washington-based experts to discuss how conflict can be avoided and where the risks really lie.  Panelists include: Ali Wyne, Member of the Adjunct Staff, RAND Corporation, PS21 Global Fellow, Harry Kazianis, Executive Editor, The National Interest, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Center for the National Interest and Scott Cheney-Peters, Chairman, Centre for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC).

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When displacement isn’t temporary

Kammi Scheeler, a master’s student in my post-war reconstruction and transition course at SAIS, writes:

The World Bank hosted a panel Wednesday on the need for alternatives to refugee camps, as part of its three-day forum on Fragility, Conflict and Violence. Three themes emerged from the speakers’ presentations:

  1. Displacement should be treated as a development issue, not a humanitarian one. National development planning should take into account all populations in the area, including displaced persons.
  2. Displaced persons must be recognized as active participants in development with the capacity to contribute to host communities.
  3. Government capacities to process and support refugees in alternative ways need to be strengthened.

The first presenter on the panel was Steven Corliss, Director of the UNHCR Division of Programme Support and Management. He discussed UNHCR’s policy to seek alternatives to camps in as many circumstances as possible. Where not possible, the UNHCR still works to protect the rights of refugees and create living conditions that foster individual empowerment and dignity.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said “anyone who thinks refugee camps are a good idea has never lived in one.” Camps will not disappear, as they remain needed to meet immediate needs in emergency situations. The problem, Corliss believes, is when camps are used as an automatic response to displacement, or when host governments do not have the tools to provide alternatives.

One of the primary pitfalls of camps is the loss of human capital. Typical refugee camps operate as temporary, emergency relief, providing little opportunity for inhabitants to utilize or develop skills. In protracted situations, their inhabitants lose the ability to manage their own livelihoods.

There is a persistent concern among hosts that allowing refugees to integrate will deter them from returning home. Camps will remain as host governments insist upon them. But when refugees are better integrated into local communities and labor markets, they are able to contribute economically and maintain independent livelihoods, encouraging earlier repatriation and better reintegration upon return.

The second speaker, David Apollo Kazungu, is the Commissioner of Refugees for the Ugandan Government. Uganda’s shared borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and South Sudan have led to a persistent influx of refugees escaping conflict since the 1950s. Uganda is now host to 415,000 refugees, with more expected from South Sudan in coming months. Refugees in Uganda are predominantly settlement-based, living alongside and sharing resources and services with Ugandan nationals. Although refugee status is meant to be a temporary solution, the persistent conflicts and instability of Uganda’s neighbors has led to more protracted situations.

This has necessitated a shift from humanitarian support to development support. Uganda’s Settlement Transformation Agenda is a uniquely comprehensive and progressive approach to refugee integration. Its key tenets include security enhancement, access to justice, settlement survey and planning, infrastructure development, refugee and host community empowerment, and peace building and conflict resolution initiatives.

Commissioner Kazungu stressed the importance of these last two programs saying, “refugeehood should be a chance to reconcile and learn to live side by side.”Since most of Uganda’s refugees fled their homes due to conflict, the government of Uganda is making a stronger effort to facilitate conflict resolution among diverse refugee populations so that they may create more stable communities upon return to their home countries. Although Uganda has shown a great deal of openness and commitment to receiving and integrating refugees, they face challenges such as encroachment, land inelasticity, and dwindling resources with no signs of decline in refugee inflows.

The remaining panelists included Niels Harild, the lead social development specialist for the World Bank’s Global Program on Forced Displacement, who reiterated the importance of viewing displacement as a development issue rather than merely a humanitarian one. The second half of the event provided examples of alternatives in action, with World Bank project leaders sharing data from programs in Turkey and Azerbaijan. In Turkey, the Bank is assessing the impact of Syrian refugees on host communities and recommending policies for integrating refugees outside camps. Azerbaijan has approximately 600,000 internally displaced persons supported by a Social Fund for the Development of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). This project provides settlements and services to raise the standard of living for IDPs and also creates income-generation opportunities. Both cases highlight the range of possible ways to incorporate displaced persons into longer-term national development planning.

PS: In response to a comment on this piece, here is Killian Kleinschmidt at TedX Hamburg:

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Peace picks November 17 – 21

  1. Liberalism and Authoritarianism: Islam and Politics in Southeast Asia | Monday, November 17th | 12:00 – 1:45 | Georgetown University | Southeast Asia is one of the most religiously diverse regions on the planet. While history abounds with examples of pluralism and diversity, competing nationalisms have led to tensions between majority and minority groups, frequently couched in the language of religion. As democratic transitions transform the social and political landscape of countries in the region, religion can play both constructive and destructive roles in building strong civil society and cohesion. Anwar Ibrahim, author of The Asian Renaissance, will discuss some of these trends as they relate to Islam and his expertise as a decades long active participant in the political developments of the region.
  2. Violence in Jerusalem and the Future of the Two-state Solution | Tuesday, November 18th | 10:00 – 11:30 | Brookings Institution | REGISTER TO ATTEND | After the collapse of peace negotiations and the devastating armed conflict that followed, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are again on the rise. The growing frequency of attacks by Palestinians and the subsequent heavy response by Israeli security forces portend a slide toward deeper violence. The violence is also occurring against the backdrop of high-profile settlement activity, especially in sensitive areas in and around Jerusalem, and a renewed push by Palestinians for international recognition at the United Nations. These moves, and growing calls for unilateralism, suggest that the two-state solution is facing unprecedented and perhaps insurmountable challenges. Fellows from the Brookings Institution, Natan Sachs and Khaled Elgindy, will share their observations and insights. Tamara Wittes, director of the Center for Middle East Policy, will chair the discussion.
  3. South Sudan: Political Crisis, Humanitarian Disaster | Tuesday, November 18th | 10:00 – 11:30 | Center for Strategic and and International Studies | REGISTER TO ATTEND | a panel discussion on the political crisis in South Sudan and the devastating impact the conflict is having on the country’s people. Now in its eleventh month, the conflict has killed thousands of civilians and left nearly 2 million displaced from their homes, with projections of worsening food insecurity that could put 2.5 million in crisis or emergency status. Panelists will provide an update of the political, security, and humanitarian situation and discuss U.S. and international engagement to end the conflict and mitigate its human impact. Melanie Teff of the International Rescue Committee will present the findings and recommendations of a new IRC report.
  4. The Global Response to Managing the Humanitarian Crisis: Lessons from Syria | Tuesday, November 18th | 10:00 – 2:30 | Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies | REGISTER TO ATTENDAntónio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, will be the keynote speaker and various speakers will discuss this topic on two panels during the conference.
  5. Turkish Foreign Policy under Erdogan’s Presidency | Tuesday, November 18th | 5:00 – 7:00 | Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies | This topic will be discussed by Behlul Ozkan, assistant professor in the department of political science and international relations at Marmara University, and Svante Cornell, research director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center and a co-director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy.
  6. Implications of a Nuclear Agreement with Iran | Wednesday, November 19th | 4:00 – 6:00 | Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | A discussion with Thomas Pickering, former US Ambassador to Israel and the United Nations; and Former US Undersecretary of State, and Brig. Gen. Uzi Eilam, former Director of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission and Former Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Defense Mission to Europe, about the wide-ranging implications of a nuclear agreement with Iran. With the Nov. 24 deadline for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program looming, the stakes for a deal between Iran and the international community are high. Many in Israel and in the United States are concerned about the implications for Israel’s security of an agreement and whether it will verifiably prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Some members of Congress may also seek to vote on legislation imposing new sanctions on Iran if an agreement is not reached soon or if they are dissatisfied with the provisions of an agreement. The event will be moderated by Stuart Eizenstat,  former US Ambassador to the European Union and Former US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.
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Peace picks April 28 – May 2

1. American Energy Prowess in a Strategic Foreign Policy Perspective

Monday, April 28 | 12 – 4:30pm

12th floor, The Atlantic Council; 1030 15th Street NW


The Atlantic Council and the Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrad Group invite you to an upcoming two-day conference titled American Energy Prowess in a Strategic Foreign Policy Perspective. The aim of the conference is to discuss and debate the strategic foreign policy aspects of the American shale gas revolution and its effect on the transatlantic relationship and the Central and Eastern European region. The Ukraine crisis has brought European energy security back into the forefront. The conference will bring together leaders from the US government, Central and Eastern Europe, and the energy industry to determine ways to strengthen European energy security and the transatlantic alliance through reinforced energy ties.

The conference begins with a luncheon discussion on Monday, April 28 at the Atlantic Council. The following day, participants will continue over breakfast on Capitol Hill to engage with key congressional decision-makers.

A full agenda of the event can be found here 

Read more

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