Big Data Applications for Climate-Conflict Research

‘Big data’ analytics – the collection and analysis of large amounts of data – is having a transformative impact on scientific research across disciplines. Although there is no single and consistent definition, there are three commonly agreed upon indicators of big data, the three ‘V’s: volume, velocity and variety. Volume refers to the massive amounts… Read more »

The Rise and Fall of the Twitter Revolution

The year 2019 ended with a new wave of non-violent protests. In every corner of the world there have been huge movements gathering. This marks the end of a decade that opened with the Arab Spring; a decade that might go down in history as the decade of mass protests.

A Free Hong Kong protest in January 2020. Photo: Etan Liam via Flickr CC BY

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Lewis F Richardson – An Exceptional Scholar

Lewis Fry Richardson (1881–1953) was an extraordinary scholar. Trained as a physicist, he became world famous in two rather different fields, meteorology and peace research. Academic prizes have been named for him in both areas. He also made important contributions to psychology. My just-published edited volume reviews Richardson’s contributions to peace research and related disciplines and assesses the impact he has had in various areas.

Richardson developed a model of two-way arms races and discussed the conditions under which they were likely to escalate into armed conflict. In his model, each country increases its arms levels relative to the level of the other side (the threat) tempered by a negative reaction to its own arms levels (the burden). As Ron Smith argues in his chapter in this book, ‘the model has an immediate common-sense plausibility as a description of interaction between hostile neighbors’. The model is quite general and open to many specifications. This notwithstanding, Smith notes that there is some time-series evidence that the such models well describe measures of military expenditure between countries such as India and Pakistan. The Richardson arms race model is also a nice tool for teaching differential equations.

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Ethiopia After the Peace Prize

A worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize has returned home to Addis Ababa; home to a country that has seen economic growth between 8 and 11 percent for several years, and where four Ethiopians make their way out of poverty every day; home to a people who have seen child mortality reduced by two thirds since 2000, and where access to clean drinking water has doubled in the same time period; a country which is politically freer than ever before.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Photo: Aron Simeneh / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0

But the challenges are also enormous.

The next months will determine whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed manages to secure stability in the country, and over time is able to win the trust of the entire Ethiopian population.

Ethiopia is characterized by ethnic and religious diversity. The population of over 105 million is divided into over 90 ethnic groups. Nevertheless, the country has been characterized by ethnic hegemony through authoritarian control. First there was the Amhara-dominated period under Emperor Haile Selassi, and to a somewhat lesser extent the Marxist regime of Mengistu, and later the Tigray-dominated period under the EPRDF coalition. There are deep scars in Ethiopian society. This is the source of much of the ethnic polarization we find today, and the deep mistrust between the ethnic groups of the country.

At the same time Ethiopia is governed through ethnic federalism. The country is divided into regions by ethnicity, with regional state governments that also have their own security forces. When the country was controlled by the EPRDF (in reality the TPLF) they had full control, right down to the village level. They placed their own people in key institutions both centrally and at the regional state level. After 27 years the Oromo’s continuous protests affected change, and Prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn handed over power to Abiy Ahmed, who represented the Oromo party, an ally within the EPRDF-coalition in Parliament.Read More

Pioneer and Patron of Social Science and Peace Research: A Portrait of Erik Rinde (1919–1994) by Lars Even Andersen

Erik Rinde (1919–1994), a portrait written by Lars Even Andersen

The Norwegian version is available here (.pdf).

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Citizenship in Scandinavia – What are reasonable demands for full membership?

How difficult should it be to obtain citizenship in Scandinavia? And are there differences in the attitudes of majority populations, immigrants, and their descendants, when it comes to this question? The first Scandinavian survey to look at these questions shows astonishingly small differences across countries and groups, despite polarization of both politics and debate in the region.

Hege CC BY via Flickr

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This may be the largest wave of nonviolent mass movements in world history. What comes next?

Around the globe, mass nonviolent protests are demanding that national leaders step down. Evo Morales, Bolivia’s three-term leftist president, is the latest casualty of mass demonstrations, after being abandoned by the military. Beyond Bolivia, people are rising up against their governments in places as varied as Chile, Lebanon, Ecuador, Argentina, Hong Kong, Iraq and Britain. This follows remarkable protests in Sudan and Algeria in the spring, in which protest movements effectively toppled entrenched dictators, and in Puerto Rico, where a mass movement deposed an unpopular governor. Beyond Puerto Rico, the United States has also hosted a steady stream of protest since January 2017 against the Trump administration and its policies.

We may be in the midst of the largest wave of nonviolent mass movements in world history. Social media has made mass protests easier to organize — but, perhaps paradoxically, harder to resolve. As these movements escalate more rapidly around the world, some common challenges may make it harder for them to succeed beyond winning short-term concessions. That’s especially true when they are leaderless or unorganized. Let’s look at why.

Photo: Studio Incendo via Flickr

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Gender in Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Processes

When women are victims of violence and rape in civil war – which happens sadly often – the media jumps at it. When men are victims of the same atrocities, we hardly hear about it. On the other hand, male military leaders are often referred to in the media. However, when was the last time you listened to an interview with a female commander of an armed group? Female leaders and actors are nearly as invisible as are male victims of war. The consequences of these stereotypes are seen in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes – familiarly known as DDR processes.

Photo: Shoaib SR via Unsplash

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Common climate impact assessments underestimate future vulnerability

Climate-related disasters are a major source of human and material losses. Poverty and low level of economic development are important determinants of environmental vulnerability. Achieving stable and sustainable development thus represents an important strategy to reduce adverse impacts of climate change. However, present efforts to evaluate possible consequences of climate change in the future suffer… Read more »