Topic: Conflict and Security

Working in Fragile States, as seen from Australia and New Zealand

I’m currently nearing the end of my three weeks in Australia and New Zealand. These trips typically involve several meetings a day with government officials, politicians, NGOs and journalists. The to and fro produces a churn of topics and ideas, out of which emerge some themes, but you never know in advance which ones are […]

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This will make your day. Especially if you are a humanitarian with fantasies of being the subject of a rock anthem.

I really should be writing something more intelligent, but this video has destroyed any hope of that. Jan Egeland, a Norwegian Labour party politician, was the United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator from 2003-2006. He is currently Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. But most importantly, he is the subject of this […]

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Why is football such a successful (and replicable) institution?

My visit to Australia and New Zealand has been full of discussion of fragile states – how might durable, effective, accountable institutions emerge in the Pacific islands that are the focus of much of the aid (and thinking) here? I’ll need time to process those conversations, but in the meantime, here’s a more immediate question, […]

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How realtime evaluation can sharpen our work in fragile states

Pity the poor development worker. All the signs are that their future lies in working in ‘fragile and conflict-affected states’ (FRACAS) – the DRCs, Somalias, Afghanistans and Haitis. As more stable countries grow and lift their people out of poverty, that’s where an increasing percentage of the world’s poor people will live. And (not unconnected) […]

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Today’s grimfographic: how many people die a violent death, where and how?

From Action on Armed Violence using data from the Geneva Declaration’s Global Burden of Armed Violence report (whose link seems to be down at the moment). Key points to note: Only one in 8 violent deaths occur in the ‘conflict settings’ so beloved of news coverage. Most of the rest are ‘intentional homicides’ committed in […]

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The Act of Killing: the most astonishing, disturbing, original film I’ve seen in years

We interrupt this blog to urge you to go and see an extraordinary film about Indonesia’s aging executioners. Here’s an extract from an NPR review, the wikipedia synopsis and the trailer, which gives a sense of its unique combination of the ‘banality of evil‘ of the old men, and the surreal quality of their reenaction. […]

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Some good news (and lots of guidance) on tackling Violence Against Women

I’m just finalising the first draft of a paper on how states have empowered excluded groups of people (more on that to follow). It’s pretty wide-ranging, as you can imagine, but one of the most striking areas of my reading was on Violence Against Women – a critical barrier to empowerment in far too many […]

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The best thing I’ve read on Syria’s nightmare: Five conflicts in one; don’t send arms

Some excerpts from a great overview of the Syrian conflict in the London Review of Books by Patrick Cockburn. Read the whole piece if you can. It helped confirm for me that Oxfam’s right to oppose the EU’s ending of its arms embargo. Simon Jenkins’ polemic in the Guardian also helped. ‘That Assad’s government is […]

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Are illicit drugs a development issue and if so, what should we do about it?

I spent Wednesday morning taking drugs seriously. OK that’s the last of the lame do/take drug jokes. What I actually did was have a coffee with Danny Kushlick and Martin Powell of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, and then attend a Christian Aid seminar on drugs and development. Both conversations addressed the same questions: are […]

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Why building ‘resilience’ matters, and needs to confront injustice and inequality

Debbie Hillier, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Policy Adviser (right), introduces ‘No Accident’, Oxfam’s new paper on resilience and inequality Asking 50 Oxfam staff what they think of resilience will get 50 different responses. These will range all the way from the Sceptics (“just the latest buzzword, keep your head down and it’ll go away”), to the Deniers (“really […]

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The state of Africa – report from a 23 country road trip (and I’m in South Africa for a couple of weeks)

I’m in South Africa this week, speaking at various events, including a panel on the developmental state and inequality at Wits in Johannesburg (Tuesday 12th), a book launch in Durban on Thursday 14th, a panel on active citizenship and food justice at the Sustainability Institute in Cape Town on Monday 18th and a lecture on […]

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Bad Governance leads to bad land deals – the link between politics and land grabs

Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva (right) and Marloes Nicholls (left) crunch the numbers to find that big land investments sniff out countries with ‘weak governance’ – aka no accountability, no regulation, no rule of law, and a green light for corruption. If you had bags full of money and wanted to buy land, where would you go for […]

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