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 »

This Week in South Sudan – Week 39

Tuesday 26 September US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley called on South Sudan’s leaders to achieve peace while urging the UN Security Council and regional actors to do more to resolve the country’s suffering. Wednesday 27 September Salva Kiir ordered the country’s security organs to fully cooperate with the UN Regional Protection Force, saying… Read more »

Alva Myrdal, Research, and Nuclear Disarmament

The time for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize is coming up, and as identified by PRIO’s Director, there are many worthy laureates.

Alva Myrdal in 1966. Photo: Dutch National Archives / Wikimedia Commons

35 years ago, Alva Myrdal (1902-1986) received the prize for her work with nuclear disarmament – a question that has unfortunately resurfaced and is again a likely theme for the peace prize. To a peace researcher, Alva Myrdal’s approach and attitude towards the role of knowledge in reversing a negative conflict trend is inspiring, particularly at a time when darkness appears to be drawing ever closer. As expressed by the Nobel committee chairman,

“…her name has become a rallying point for men and women who still cling to the belief that in the last resort, mind is bound to triumph over matter.”

Read More

This Week in South Sudan – Week 38

Monday 18 September SPLM (IO) criticized IGAD’s plan to revitalize the 2015 peace accord. (IO) claim the approach is biased in favour of President Kiir and calls for a new peace and mediation process. Tuesday 19 September South Sudan’s High Court acquitted six former presidential aides who were initially sentenced to life in prison in… Read more »

This Week in South Sudan – Week 37

Monday 11 September New report from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS): “How the AU can promote transitional justice in South Sudan” The Government of South Sudan (GoSS) summoned the U.S. Embassy’s charge d’affaires to formally protest the recent US sanctions against three current and former GoSS officials. During his recent visit to Juba, the… Read more »

Education and Systematic Group Inequalities in Nigeria

On the night between 14 and 15 April, 2014, 276 girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram from their school in Chibok in Borno State in Northeastern Nigeria. The Islamist terrorist group does not believe that girls should attend school, and these girls were targeted precisely because they were in school.

An event to commemorate the first anniversary of the abduction of Chibok school girls in Northern Nigeria. Photo: Cee Hope / Wikimedia Commons

However, conservative views on gender and education is only one reason why many girls in Northern
Nigeria are missing out on education.

Due to large systematic inequalities related to religion, ethnicity and region, many girls are suffering from a triple disadvantage when it comes to educational inequality. Here, we provide an overview of the types and magnitudes of educational inequalities in Nigeria and offers some policy recommendations on how to respond to these inequalities.Read More

Education and Conflict: What the Evidence Says

These are the key conclusions from the first systematical review of the empirical, quantitative literature on the relationship between education and civil conflict.

School girls in Kenya. Photo: Gudrun Østby / PRIO

Evidence from 30 statistical studies indicate that

  • Increasing education levels overall have pacifying effects
  • Rapid expansions of higher education is not a threat
  • Education inequalities between groups increase conflict risk
  • The quality and content of education  may spur conflict
  • Terrorists are well above average educated

Read More