Zimbabwe: from Coup to Democratization?

In the early hours of the morning on 15 November, the Zimbabwean military placed President Mugabe under house arrest. The coup against one of the longest serving rulers in Africa appears to have been a reaction to Mugabe’s ouster of his vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, to pave the way for his wife as the successor to his rule.

Robert and Grace Mugabe. Wikimedia Commons

Dictators are often deposed in military coups, and historically as many as 2/3 of all deposed dictators suffer this fate. The question now is: what kind of rule will Zimbabwe see after the fall of Mugabe? In a best-case scenario, this coup could be the beginning of the end of dictatorial rule in Zimbabwe.

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Europe’s Quiet Offensive Against People Helping Refugees

A look back on three years since the end of Operation Mare Nostrum.

Three years ago today, pressure by the European Union on Italy forced the end of one of the EU’s most successful humanitarian missions, Mare Nostrum, a search-and-rescue operation that in just one year brought 130,000 refugees safely to Europe’s shores.

Photo: Seawatch.org

As the death toll mounted in the wake of this decision, including 1,200 victims at sea five months later, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) stepped into the breach, launching their own rescue missions in a desperate attempt to save lives. Their efforts were part of a wave of compassion across Europe that year, as people organised convoys to refugee reception centers, warmly greeted arrivals at German train stations and lined highways to provide food and water to those making the arduous trek from war-torn regions of Syria and elsewhere.Read More

Migrant Smugglers Are Winning. Here’s Why

Migrant smuggling: moving people across borders for profit, is reported to be one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative forms of organized criminal activity.

Smugglers crowd their human cargo into shipping containers and onto boats and trucks. Many migrants arrive safely and consider the investment well spent. But migrant smuggling is a dirty business: excessive profiteering and exploitation routinely place the lives and wellbeing of smuggled migrants at serious risk.

Photo: UNODC

The current international narrative around migrant smuggling, most clearly spelled out in the ongoing negotiations around a Global Compact for Migration, identifies smuggling as a criminal enterprise that must be stopped at all costs – and clearly asserts that it can be stopped with sufficient resources and cooperation between states.

This analysis reflects a distorted view of reality. It makes the challenge seem straightforward, but it is fundamentally misguided. Smugglers are winning and they will continue to do so for the following reasons.Read More

Conflict Portrait: Afghanistan

The armed conflict between the Afghan government, along with its international allies, and armed radical Islamist insurgents intensified after 2014. At the end of that year, the mandate of the NATO-led ISAF combat mission expired, and the responsibility for security was officially handed over to the Afghan authorities.

ISAF was replaced by a far smaller follow-on mission, “Resolute Support” (RS), and a separate US anti-terrorism mission, “Freedom’s Sentinel”. RS will continue to train, advise and contribute logistical support to the Afghan armed forces. The largest RS contingent comes from the US, with the official number at 8,400 troops, as well as an additional 3,500 soldiers on short-term deployments and an unknown number of Special Operations Forces and other agencies’ forces. There are also 23,500 military contractors, 4,500 of which are trainers and on security duty.

Street scribe in Kunduz. Afghanistan has the highest illiteracy rate in the region and worldwide, yet currently in Afghanistan, only 3.7% of GDP is being spent on education. Photo:Thomas Ruttig

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What to Expect from India at COP23?

Climate change is not a one-way street of cause and effect. International negotiations on climate change and the reduction of emissions are equally complex. A consistent Indian demand has been  green technology transfer from “high-emitting” developed countries. An equally longstanding principle is that of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities, or CBDR-RC.

Despite the continuities, India´s negotiating position on the reduction of CO2 emissions is not easily summarized. At times, there haven been rapid shifts and apparent mismatches between statements of principle and action. India´s position and it’s involvement in Conference of the Parties (COP) summits has also developed over the years.

What can we expect from India at the COP23 Summit in Bonn? Find out more at the Hilton Bonn, 17 November 2017: Register here

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“No backsliding” on Women’s Inclusion in Peace Mediation

Last week, Norway made history with Ine Eriksen Søreide becoming the country’s first female foreign minister. Even in relatively gender-equal countries like Norway it is still rare to find women holding top positions in the so-called “hard issue” sectors of foreign affairs and peace and security. Barriers to the full involvement of women in work to prevent and resolve violent conflicts still persist.

Elisabeth Slåttum, former Norwegian Special Envoy for the Philippines peace process, invites the Philippines Government delegation and National Democratic Front of the Philippines delegation back to the peace table, April 2017. Credit: NOREF

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Totalitarianism Closing in on China

The only drama in the “two sessions” jamboree in Beijing this spring is that there was no drama at all. Each year the Chinese political élite, 5000 men and a few women strong, congregate in the capital for a week of meetings of the legislature, the National People’s Congress, and its advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. This year the choreography was faultless. Even reporters who were assigned to provide their editors at least some copy, could find next to nothing to write about. In Beijing, all is steady and all is under control.

18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The gathering was the dress rehearsal for the upcoming Communist Party’s National Congress in a few days, the once every five year event where real power is at play. We can expect that meeting to be equally orchestrated with no irregularities to suggest confusion in the leadership. The “core” leader, Xi Jinping (as he is now officially designated), will be anointed for another five years, more of his cronies will take positions in the leadership reshuffle, and ways will be found for his ally, Wang Qishan, now in charge of Party discipline and anti-corruption, to stay on in a top post although he by age-rules should be obliged to retire. Again, there will be no drama.

So what is the nature of the regime that holds the grip on national politics that no ripples are allowed to disturb the harmony? We know enough to give a reasonably clear answer to that question, although there are also remaining unknowns on which we can only speculate.Read More

Nuclear Disarmament and The Nobel Peace Prize

Since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Linus Pauling in 1962, contributions to nuclear disarmament have recurrently been an explicit motivation for granting the Prize.1

According to the Nobel Peace Prize committee, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) received the Prize this year for creating new momentum in disarmament efforts by again drawing “…attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

The motivation of the 2017 Peace Prize follows that of earlier Prizes for nuclear disarmament, for example, the one awarded to Alva Myrdal in 1982. Myrdal received the Prize for her contributions to the nuclear disarmament negotiations in Geneva and for her broader efforts to raise awareness, not least through her book, The Game of Disarmament (published in 1976). The book, which also draws on information obtained in discussions with the future Nobel Laureates in the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (recipients in 1995), graphically describes both the catastrophic consequences of a global nuclear war and critically picks apart the arguments made in support of nuclear weapons; a similar approach for which ICAN was awarded in 2017, this time underlining the humanitarian impact of any use of nuclear weapons.Read More

A Daring Peace Prize

In selecting the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has made a daring move.

The Norwegian Nobel Institute, 2017

This year’s laureate was the driving force behind the recently concluded Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

As of last Friday, October 6, the date of the prize announcement, the Treaty has been ratified by only three states (Guyana, Thailand, and Vatican City), far short of the 50 needed for it to enter into force. And even should that number be met in the near future, it remains that the Treaty will be binding solely on those states that have endorsed it.

Unless a state possessing nuclear weapons is soon willing to join their ranks – a highly improbable scenario given that no such state was among the 122 signatories of the Treaty, and indeed the nine members of the nuclear club entirely boycotted the proceedings – the Treaty will have application only to those without nuclear weaponry, hardly a glorious result.Read More

This Week in South Sudan – Week 40

Tuesday 3 October After clashes in Waat, the warring factions file contradicting reports as they both claimed victory, before more fighting ensued later in the week. Wednesday 4 October To boost bilateral trade and the South Sudanese economy, the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) is negotiating with the Government of Sudan to reopen river transportation… Read more »