Im November hat das entwicklungspolitische Magazin Welt-Sichten eine Ausgabe zu UN Friedensmissionen veröffentlicht. Die ganze Ausgabe kann hier runtergeladen werden, mein Artikel zu der Situation im Kongo ist hier einsehbar. Lustigerweise ist unter den ausgesuchten Bildern mein indischer Arzt vertreten. Viel Spaß bei der Lektüre, Feedback und Kommentare sind wie immer Willkommen.
UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians
Last week I watched the 18th “Open Debate on Protection of Civilians” in armed conflict at the UN Security council. This event takes place once a year and represents an important forum for member states, i.e. the world’s governments, to discuss the issue and position themselves. As this month’s president of the Security Council, Uruguay chaired the debate, and UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, the ICRC’s Vice President Christine Beerli and Oxfam Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor Eveline Rooijmans provided briefings. Subsequently, many member states’ representatives, including Iran, Montenegro and the Holy See, gave their respective statements. As usual, these statements expressed great concern for civilian victims of today’s armed conflicts, but there also seemed to be a sense that “civilians in conflict are in greater risk now than at any time in the UN’s history” (New Zealand), which is reflected by the record high of 60 million displaced people. Statements also referred to this year’s worrying trends. Virtually every speaker condemned the attacks on hospitals in Afghanistan and Yemen, the use of starvation as a weapon of war in Madaya and 14 other areas in Syria, the increasing attacks against journalists and the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas.
Speakers were also in agreement concerning the solutions to civilian’s plight in armed conflict, again, referring to the above mentioned documents. Accordingly, they stressed the need for political solutions, specifically for dedicating more attention to preventing and meditating violent conflict. Burundi was often mentioned as a case in point, as the Security Council mission left for the country the next day – quite late but hopefully able to avoid worse. Speakers agreed that compliance to International Humanitarian Law needs to be ensured through applying and reinforcing the existing accountability tools of (international) criminal justice. Statements also referred to a number of operational issues for UN peacekeeping, such as the need for realistic and clear mandates, more engagement with local communities and regional organizations, well-equipped and quickly deployable peacekeepers, and a commitment to zero tolerance for sexual abuse and exploitation by UN staff. Speakers expressed hope that the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul (May 23/24) would lead to fruitful discussions.
As someone who is interested in practice-theory, I am also trying to make sense of the event on the basis of what actually happened. First, as Jan Eliasson remarked, the high number of speakers suggests that the topic is important for many of the world’s governments. Actually, there were so many registered speakers that the chair urged orators to keep their statements brief and provide longer versions online. Second, this was not a “debate” in the classical sense. Rather statements were given about the same topic but without referring to each other. The Uruguayan delegation had provided a briefing note beforehand, which obviously guided the statements alongside three other documents: the Secretary General’s report on the protection of civilians, the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) report and the SG’s report on the implementation of its recommendations. Consequently, statements mirrored each other. What was more interesting and differentiated the statements from each other was when speakers took the opportunity to connect PoC to their country’s history and interests. For example, Rwanda focused on the FDLR, Israel mentioned that Hezbollah was responsible for much of the violence in Syria, China stressed the neutrality and impartiality of UN peacekeeping, India talked about its experience in PoC since ONUC, Ukraine described Russian aggression and South Africa underlined the success of the FIB, etc. Third, speakers obviously adhered to a set of shared norms, spending a good portion of their limited time to thank everyone and subsequently acknowledge previously stated facts and generally agreed-upon points of reference. Finally, the debate was a bit lengthy and repetitive. Some speakers made more relevant connections or, like Samantha Powers, depicted situations skilfully, but you were getting the gist of it after a couple statements. I must be one of the only people that followed it from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and quite frankly that wasn’t necessary. Many of the diplomats just came in for their statement and even the chair rotated several times.
It can be concluded that the “debate” did not seem to be about rethinking PoC or exchanging information, but should be seen more as a political process where member states expressed their commitment to the protection of civilians and broadly agreed to an agenda. While falling short of committing to tangible steps, the strong condemnation of the practice of starvation, for instance, will increase the pressure on Assad. Nevertheless, it should be taken with a grain of salt when many of the member states’ representatives ended by pointing to the forthcoming Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul (May 23/24) as “an excellent opportunity to address the issue in a more in depth and comprehensive manner”.
Confessions of a humanitarian: I’ve never met a meeting I couldn’t sleep through
As you might know, my research is on inter-agency coordination. So, today’s expressive description of coordination meetings in the guardians ‘confessions of a humanitarian’ series drew my attention. The pseudonym aid worker Dara Passano starts her amusing rant with a telling opener “I’ve never walked into a development meeting that I couldn’t fall asleep in. Sometimes I resist; often I don’t.“ She continues to describe how she has tried everything to stay awake in these meetings from drinking caffeinated beverages to inflicting self-harm, but to no avail. Clearly, the author has not stayed objective but instead indulged into the full subjectiveness of her experiences. And probably, she exaggerated and simplified the spectrum of her own perceptions to one important argument: there is something fundamentally wrong with these meetings.
Some people have gotten stuck in the details, reproaching here to have invented some of these stories. In seems unlikely that she ever really invented data, and who cares? Her point is that no one would notice if she did, so it does not matter what the detailed truth is. Besides following the series’ title of making a confession, the literary writing style is probably more effective in bringing the point across. It definitely is more entertaining than a thorough analysis and finger-pointing (that is about to follow).
Some people could be offended by her text. It mocks many hard working people that spend a lot of time and energy to communicate across institutional divides. Some of the conveners, for instance Goma’s former protection cluster coordinator, are incredibly dedicated and capable. In addition, it ridicules development work which makes working in the sector increasingly difficult. Through the feedback loop of public opinion and policy-making, tarnishing the aid world’s reputation reduces trust and might just result in tightened regulations. Sympathetically, I would argue that the author is very much aware of the urgency and the consequences of flawed coordination (beyond the level of individual meeting participants). Arguably it is this awareness that motivated the piece.
Nevertheless, I have two issues with this text:
1) She does not really say why these meetings are so boring. The closest she gets to an analysis is by stating that “some organisations mandate ‘active participation’ in order to raise their profile; staff must create complications in order to be recorded, in the all-important meeting minutes”. She adds general stuff about people that like to talk, repeat themselves etc. But, if her criticism is not just making fun, then she misses out on telling us what is wrong. Is her messages so banal as that sitting in meeting is boring? Or does she think that there is something peculiar about the aid sector? I think the half-done analysis would have much more bang if she would actually address a problem. But then again, this is my interpretation, the author does not claim such a thing as an agenda.
2) Connected to the lacking identification of an issue, the character doesn’t do jack about this non-issue. The Zen challenge of the character is to sit in these meetings, not to do anything about them. Yes, the story is honest and exaggerated at the same time; the reader quickly understands how challenging and frustrating such meetings must be, but it remains a story. So then, why does the aid worker have to be mainly cynical? Given that this series is probably read mainly by aid workers, why can there not be something more inspirational than staying awake long enough to see the others napping off? Or did I just miss the wake-up call?
Lessons from Field Work
One thing that I have really learned the hard way is to always, ALWAYS do interview transcriptions and analytical notes immediately. We have all heard this before, but it really gets painful when weeks or months after your fieldwork there is so much raw data. Of course, you forget much of the context, some statements don’t really make sense anymore or you simply can’t read what you wrote. Plus a pile of transcriptions becomes really daunting to do, so starting does not get easier. Remember, you won’t have more time unless you seriously planned for it, and even then your professional and private obligations are likely to creep in, because this part of the work is simply not taken seriously enough. Instead of planning a tour de force to push through with this rather boring work, I advice to do a few hours every day. More experienced colleagues have added that you can always benefit from the data at a later point in time, which is why you need to do full transcriptions including the stuff that does not seem so relevant right now. And don’t forget to organize everything (voice recordings, transcriptions, memos) neatly so that you will intuitively find it in three years (probably form a new computer). Here is a little oath that I will make this whole process a lot easier for myself during future fieldwork.
Crisis Group Report 225: Is Democratic change possible?
International interventions can operate pretty independently from local contexts. In Congo, most of the staff from international organizations do not know much about the country’s politics, and I would argue that this is because they don’t have to. A good way to exemplify this is asking “who is Boshab”? Having failed this test myself in the past, I want to highlight that many staff members have technical professions far removed from diplomatic interaction and that a lack of (quality) Congolese media make it difficult to follow local politics. Yet, knowing the name of the Deputy Prime minister, former Speaker of Parliament (till 2012) and former Secretary General of the ruling party (till last week), might be considered good style when you are attempting to “help” another country.
During recent fieldwork in Congo, my attention was drawn to the other extreme – the “Congo nerds”. These are westerners, typically researchers and journalists, who have an applaudable knowledge about the country. These people know the army regiments and hundreds of commanders within them; they know national, provincial and local politicians and are sometimes intimate with armed groups. They talk about these things, are curious and ask questions. Although the name-dropping can get a little irritating, the knowledge and underlying experience is enviable.
The upcoming local/ provincial (2015) and national (2016) elections in Congo are the reason behind the Report at hand. The comprehensive report situates the analysis of the election preparations in a description of the key political moments during the recent years such as the “national consultations” and the M23 rebellion. It also explains the structural and institutional issues of Congolese politics, such as the lack of independence by the electoral commission (CENI), the highly fragmented political landscape and the tightly controlled security apparatus. In this manner, the report identifies several risks connected to the decentralization process, the overly ambitious electoral calendar and divisions within both the opposition and the ruling majority. Some of these aspects, such as the voter role, are quite technical, but nevertheless important for understanding the framework in which action takes place.
The report does justice to the role of key actors from politicians, to police, military, civil society and church leaders. More than 30 individual stakeholders are introduced. Being still quite ignorant on the Congolese actors, I appreciate this thirty something pages full of background knowledge, names and institutions as a great opportunity to study up. However, I am wondering how effective this detailed description is for people who merely want to get the bigger picture. It might divert attention from the analysis, which could have benefitted from a more central argument as organizing principle.
With a coup attempt and on-going fighting in Burundi, the intentions and action of Congo’s president deserve scrutiny. Just as in the case of Burundi and Rwanda, Congo’s constitution foresees President Kabila stepping down after having served two terms in office. But like Pierre Nkurunziza and Paul Kagame, Kabila seems to be decided to continue. He has not publicly clarified his intentions, which in itself is oil in the fire of pre-election tensions. However, there are clear indications that the regime tries to stay in power by all means. The report identifies three subsequent strategies: first, the regime attempted to amend the constitution. When that did not work, Kabila attempted to create legal obstacles to delay the elections. Since the new electoral law was abandoned due to widespread protests, the Congolese Government is now deliberately trying to produce chaos through pushing ahead with the elections and the decentralization process: “The sheer magnitude of the electoral agenda, in particular the local and provincial elections, combined with the sudden urgency in the otherwise stalled establishment of the new provinces, is likely to result in massive confusion and disarray…Such a scenario would justify an indefinite delay of the elections.” (P. 17)
The report naturally ends on recommendations. And here I see a big discrepancy between the analysis and the proposed action: While the report develops a picture of a power-hungry, Machiavellian Kabila regime, it suggests that this very regime could be compelled to a turn around through the threat of the withdrawal of international support. To be successful, this step requires that the regime would care. However, the earlier descriptions as well as other sources suggest that these men are primarily concerned with holding on to power. From the very beginning, they have been beneficiaries of this predatory state and are likely to cherish continuing more than they fear the withdrawal of international support. If they are attempting to compel the regime to anything, international negotiators ought to imply consequences for personal assets and traveling freedoms.
Moving forward against the FDLR
On Wednesday the International Crisis Group (ICG) published a new briefing on the current stalemate in DRCongo. The twenty-page report highlights that the hopes of moving towards peace and stability through regional cooperation and Congolese reforms are essentially shipwrecked by diverging interests between DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa. The briefing identifies the handling of the Rwandan Hutu rebel group FDLR as the “stumbling block” for the Peace Security and Cooperation framework – an agreement between the states of the region signed in February 2013. As a result no meaningful action can be taken against the plethora of armed groups, which continue to kill civilians, tarnishing the legitimacy of the peacekeeping mission and the Southern African Development Community. The briefing concludes that instead of being played by these regional actors, the UN should threaten to withdrawal the Force Intervention Brigade and incentivize the DRC, Tanzania and South Africa into finally taking effective action against the FDLR.
Book review: Thomas Turner (2013) “Congo”
I have just finished a review of Thomas Turner’s book ‘Congo’ that will be published as a slightly different and edited version. Turner is an American academic who works as a DRC country specialist for Amnesty International. He has taught in Congolese, Rwandan and Kenyan Universities and is married to a Congolese. It is probably this mix of academic background, relevant research experience and special ties to the region that enabled him to write this comprehensive yet compact and accessible book. Excellently researched and well-written, the text comes with many advantages, but none of the disadvantages of its academic peers. I recommend it as a substantial but digestible introduction for everyone working in and on the country that also offers a large number of facts and interesting reflections to those that are more familiar with it.
The chapters are organized along the lines of the most pressing issues – resources, identity, sexual violence and external involvement – yet their analysis is far from simplistic and goes beyond the usual headlines. The author skilfully draws from a substantial knowledge of the country’s different historical periods, from pre-colonial times to the Congo Free State and Zaire, to ask the right questions. He wonders, for instance, how the exploitive Belgian regime relates to Mobutu’s dictatorship and the status quo. But Turner also convinces with the way he makes his arguments: Instead of giving simple answers, he carefully balances the work of other scholars to make sense of complex realities. So when responding to the above question, Turner refrains from establishing direct causal links and instead summarizes psychological, structural, traditional and economic explanations for the persistence of structural and physical violence in the country. The particularly captivating concept of a ‘chosen trauma’ by psychoanalyst Vamik Volkan is, for instance, introduced to explain the trans-generational transmission of memory and behaviour. According to Volkan “trauma tends to generate or reinforce a political ideology of entitlement to violence” (p.135), which leads subsequent generations to respond to the pain and humiliations of the past. Through oversimplifications of the violent events, each side denies the chosen trauma of the other and instead focuses on their own victimhood, as it is tragically the case with Hutu and Tutsi.
The idea of Congo as “a playing field” for powerful Western states as well as its African neighbours, particularly during the ‘Congo Wars’, is developed over two chapters. While the analysis of western hegemony in Congo is painted in classical realist terms, the games of pawns and proxies are presented more complex in the intra-African context as “central African states are dependent on the more powerful” to advance their interests (p.72). When reflecting on the violence of the two Congo wars, Turner highlights “the number game” stating that “the topics of “mass deaths and mass rapes have generated international controversies, pitting researchers and humanitarian activists against each other” (p.212). Many readers will be familiar with the contested estimation by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) of five million war related deaths in Congo between 1998 and 2008. In a similar vein, a 2011 article published in the American Journal of Public Health estimated the number of rapes at 48 per hour. Turner holds that it is undisputed that too many people have died from hunger or disease and that the number and style of rapes have taken horrendous forms. But he also clarifies that these numbers have severe flaws given the absence of population statistics, the generalization of limited data and the interests of beneficiaries and aid agencies.
In another chapter, Turner explains how identity factors such as ethnicity, language and religion have been developed and reinforced through colonial favouritism and subsequently used by Congolese politicians to play different groups against each other (e.g. Mobutu) and gain electoral advantages (e.g. Bemba). After describing the dynamics between autochtones and allochtones in Katanga and the Kivus, Turner highlights the striking absence of class in Congolese analysis and policy-making despite the Marxist background of many Congolese intellectuals. He suggests that Congo’s Ethno-nationalism obscures questions of landownership and control over the means of production. This remark is typical for the book in so far as it demonstrates great understanding of the Congolese context, while also bringing in new perspectives. It is thus unsurprising that Turner ends on the important question of who will be protecting Congolese civilians. In the last chapter he examines the interaction between protection norms and practices, and draws a grim picture of the future. While clearly outlining the failure of the international community to bring change to Congo, the author also highlights the responsibility of the Congolese. Going beyond the standard and somewhat empty wisdom that the protection of civilians primarily is the responsibility of the Congolese state, Turner writes that “they will have to stop promoting the “myth of the yoke”, according to which all their problems come from outside, even though this myth is partly valid” (p.204). Having heard many similar stories about how the Rwandans are responsible for the current economic, political and social situation, and/or how peacekeepers are not doing there job, I full agree to this. To be sure, it is not a question of blaming my Congolese friends into being passive. Taking action in this context is easy said from the outside but difficult to implement from within. Rather, the idea is to nuance discourses on responsibility so that claiming protection or accountability from officials becomes conceivable for ordinary people.
Review of Séverine Autesserre’s new book ‘Peaceland’ – an ethnography of peacebuilding
International peacebuilding efforts regularly fail to be effective for a variety of reasons such as lack of political will and resources, complex dynamics of conflict, and vested interests. Instead of following these more established pathways of peacebuilding research, Séverine Autesserre has opted for investigating the way international peacebuilding interventions function on the ground. Her new book – Peaceland – is an ethnography of international interveners, explaining how their everyday impacts peacebuilding outcomes. The book draws on the author’s extensive, almost fifteen-year experience as a researcher and practitioner in various peacebuilding contexts. While most of the ethnographic research was conducted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Autesserre tested her global argument and its underlying observations in six other theaters of intervention.
Building on Raymond Apthorpe and the recent Anthropology of aid, Autesserre defines ‘Peaceland’ as a separate world with its own time, space and economics, and as she insists, its own “system of meaning”. The author explains that practices, habits and narratives shape interveners’ understanding of the world as well as their perception of appropriate, legitimate and effective actions. In return, these actions reproduce and reinforce existing practices, habits and narratives. Based on the notion that outsiders are needed to solve the complicated problems of conflict-ridden states, interveners, for instance, assume the superiority of thematic expertise over local knowledge. This attitude leads to, and is reinforced by, a number of practices. Autesserre argues that it results in the depreciation of local voices and input, and that it inherently gives interveners the moral high ground, sometimes leading to condescending behavior. She also states that within international circles, the acquirement of local expertise is disincentivized: It is not a required qualification for recruitment and the quick turnover rate does not make it worthwhile. The head of recruitment in a peacebuilding institution once told me that country expertise is generally not helpful as it makes implementation much more difficult. In practice this means that many of my colleagues in the DRC did not master French and almost no one spoke Swahili or Lingala. They largely remained unaware about the country’s history, the political dynamics in Kinshasa or background of armed groups. Most of them, however, had served in other conflict areas and knew a thing or two about international organizations, their terminologies and activities.
The inhabitants of Peaceland normally do not see themselves as a homogeneous group. They are recruited globally and represent various organizations with different values and positions. Autesserre, however, points out that these people form a “transnational community of expatriates” which has much more in common with each other than with host populations. This expat bubble is constructed and maintained through dinner parties, coordination meetings and tight security regulations. In many places, interveners are discouraged or even forbidden to interact with locals. From my own experience, I remember that one of my friends from MONUSCO thought that the West African music that we usually danced to was from Congo. Living and working in a fenced-off parallel world, he had no clue what Congolese music was despite its huuuuge importance for the country and the continent. Ironically his name is featured in a song known practically by every Congolese as the term for a man that does not own anything and depends on a sugar-mama. Being aware of this image would probably be important when introducing himself to a bunch of locals and actually be a great ice breaker.
This is not to say that the interaction with locals is easy. Quite to the contrary, differences in education, culture and income in a post-violence context make it often challenging. Most expats have made disappointing experiences and value their time after a long and stressful day. But depending on the culture of the place activities like dancing, soccer or religion would offer the opportunity for positive interaction. It is for similar reasons that I argue against R&R (Rest and Recuperation) – the custom that internationals in conflict areas take enforced vacations after six to ten weeks of service. Of course these environments are stressful but working even more intensely to then fly to some distant and totally unrelated place like Zanzibar does not change the stress factors. Would it not make sense for interveners to regularly take more time and pick up a habit that supports you in being less stressed and better integrated?
It follows that most interveners are not exactly country experts, which is why they generally adhere to simplified understandings and often depend on biased informants. Autesserre builds this part of the book on her excellent work on narratives (2009, 2010, 2012) : In the DRC, mineral resources have for the longest time been understood as the course of conflict, sexual violence as its worst effect and statebuilding as its solution. Although minerals, sexual violence and a weak state are all important factors in the country’s tragedy, reducing the focus on them has not been helpful for addressing them. The legislation that meant to impede the traffic of blood minerals has made things worse. The extreme attention to sexual violence has lead war lords to increase the number of rapes in order to increase their bargaining position. Finally, reinforcing the oppressive and exploitative state also had a variety of negative consequences that Autesserre does not fall short to give examples for.
Autesserre’s argument that minimal local input, ignorance and being perceived as arrogant do not contribute to successful interventions seems plausible. If interveners are insufficiently aware of the realities in the field and how they should be addressed appropriately, they can’t implement or even manage others to do so successfully. Autesserre gives numerous examples of practices that reduce to effectiveness of international interventions. The obsession on quantifiable results, for instance, leads interveners to focus on outputs instead of impact. The need to be visible, runs contrary to local ownership and also ensures that most interveners are present in the same areas (where they can be seen). And neutrality is not necessarily something that comes intuitive to people emerging from violent conflict. Naturally host populations react with resistance, contestation and adaption to programs that they do not perceive to be in their interest. Autesserre describes how some overlook problems to benefit from the resources that interveners might provide. In fact the buy-in for international programs can be so low that “local stakeholders will care mostly about the material benefits that they can get for themselves – the funds hey can gain or steal, the bribes they can extract, the jobs they can provide to friends and relatives – and little about the actual impact of the program for the broader population”. Autesserre found the majority to “drag their feet” by cancelling meetings, forgetting to attend them or creating structures for the sole purpose of pleasing international donors without the intent of using them. From my own experience, the latter form of passive resistance is probably one of the most frustrating experiences in Peaceland and interveners are often pissed off without understanding why these people are not cooperating.
According to Autesserre the dominant modes of operation in Peaceland prevail even when they are counter-productive, because they are part of the culture of intervention. Very rarely are the habits and underlying assumptions acknowledged or questioned, and thus continue “leading well-meaning and intelligent people to contribute to less than optimal outcomes”. Of course, exceptions do happen – people that hang out with locals, learn languages or stay in one country over prolonged time periods. Autesserre states that those at the margins of the interveners club, such as newcomers or people with strong ties to the region are most likely to contest Peaceland. But she also states that by their nature, these people are also the easiest to be brushed aside as unreasonable or broken socially and professionally.
Autesserre believes that change in Peaceland is possible, if individuals discover the detrimental effects of their habits. The difficulty is, of course, that they take their habits for granted and see them as “natural and the only conceivable modes of thinking and acting.” To break with this circular causality between individual and system, Autesserre proposes several steps: First, we are to raise awareness of the existence of these problems and their possible solutions. I like to think that I did my part by summarizing the argument of the book in great detail and sharing this with you. Second, these phenomena should be studied further and collaborative research projects should be established to develop alternative approaches. In this regard, I hope to do my part by possible contributions of the next years. Thirdly, combined top-down and bottom-up reform strategies have to be applied that tackle the ideas front and the practical front.
While waiting for the more elaborate results of future research, Autesserre outlines some tentative policy recommendations that were derived from her observations: recruitment and promotion practices should be changed, local stakeholders should receive more responsibilities, the reporting burden for expats should be reduced so that they can spend more time in the field, social interaction with the host country’s population should be fostered, etc.. While these practical steps are logical conclusions of the argument and probably doable, I would object that they are also to a large degree already part of the discourses in Peaceland. Nobody would argue against reducing reporting, spending more time in the field or the advantage of speaking local languages. Yet it rarely happens.
Here I would argue for a more critical perspective on the systematic reasons for these unhelpful practices. Autesserre seems to suggest that they are merely coincidental. But what if the negative parts of interventions are substantial parts and can thus not easily be changed? It seems essential to take a closer look at their purpose. As Autesserre highlights, these practices in fact enable interveners to function in very difficult contexts. Their negative outcomes thus need to be balanced against the advantages they bring – a professional class of impartial interveners that are able to work under the most difficult conditions. That would suggest that by trial and error we could find alternative practices with less negative impact. However, the persistence of these practices urges us to dig a little deeper. Michel Foucault’s work is thought-provoking in this context as he highlighted that the prison system is maintained although it has long become obvious that it does not reform prisoners. What then is that purpose of the current way interventions are run? Or put differently – what would happen if all interveners were motivated, well-qualified country experts?
These considerations are by no means an argument against the book or the practical changes that Autesserre proposes. It will come to no surprise for the reader that I concur with Autesserre and I assume that most practitioners would. As in her previous book, she uses simple concepts to build a powerful argument which she delivers well and supports with rich empirical evidence. Her contribution is to peacebuilding practice and academia alike by explaining not only why counter-productive habits prevail, but also how they shape the overall intervention from the bottom up. This is a novel perspective for political scientist and worthwhile as it plays an important part in understanding how policies, institutions and discourses are enabled and maintained.
16th Humanitarian Congress Berlin
This weekend I participated in the Humanitarian Congress in Berlin. The two-day event is the biggest of its kind, this year’s theme being ‘Protection: A Broken Promise’. The keynote speech was held by Roméo Dallaire, commander of the UN Peacekeeping troops in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. Unsurprisingly he critiqued “the problem of prioritization” during humanitarian interventions, stating that geostrategic interests of powerful states count more than human lives. According to Dallaire, 450 peacekeepers had been deployed during the on-going Rwandan genocide, while around the same time 67.000 troops were deployed in the former Yugoslavia, although more people were killed in 100 days in Rwanda than in 5 years of Yugoslavia. Hence the need for objective criteria, as formulated in R2P concept, that give clear guidelines when the international community needs to intervene. Dallaire proposed to include the use of child soldiers as one such criterion, as it generally indicates that “these guys” are going to commit a lot of human rights violations.
The rest of the two days meant difficult choices between 24 sessions that were partly organized parallel in four different venues. It was quiet crowded, a lot of the participants being humanitarian practitioners (mainly MSF and ICRC) and many students interested to know more about the issue-area and its job opportunities. In a friendly and open atmosphere a wide array of important protection issues were discussed, from medical protection to the use of force to protect and possibilities of evaluating protection efforts. Personally, I appreciated the case studies of Syria and Central African Republic, although they would have benefitted from more a more analytical approach. The question of perceptions and expectations towards protectors was also treated, and it was concluded that although nobody seems to actively promise protection anymore, interveners should become a lot more modest for themselves and towards populations (an interesting issue, which I will formulate some thoughts on during the next days).
CLA Best Practice Review
So finally one product of many months of hard work with MONUSCO is out – the CLA Best Practice Review. In September 2013, I was recruited to conduct such a study on this protection instrument developed by the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo. It was a great experience including travelling all of the Eastern provinces with helicopters, military escorts and the like. In the process, I learned a lot about peacekeeping and the UN, which if known before, would have spared me a lot of the difficulties. Hopefully, I will be able to produce something out of these observations in the upcoming (busy) months. For now, I would like to share this CLA review.
Note that this is not an independent review as my bosses were involved in the making. On top of that, final rounds of editing were done without me. Although I wish they had given it to a graphic designer instead of keeping my phony text boxes and word picture add-ins, I am pretty comfortable with the content. Thanks are due to my colleagues from Civil Affairs and MONUSCO’s Strategic Planing Cell for the editing, Daniel for being a great friend and to Victry for giving invaluable support.
Here is the link to the file for people within the UN system.
Here is the PDF for everybody else.
do not hesitate to contact me for information and expertise on the instrument or its implementation.