Norway Has Chauvinistic Tunnel Vision When It Comes to Congo. The Country Has Great Possibilities.

On 10 December, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Nadia Murad and to Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynaecologist. For 10 years though, the Norwegian media and politicians, including the prime minister, have viewed the Democratic Republic of the Congo as Joshua French’s prison.*

This view derives from a chauvinistic tunnel vision. We will celebrate Mukwege best by acknowledging that this view is historically, geopolitically, and ethically unacceptable.

Hill fields in North Kivu, DRC. The Kivu Provinces have been the site of frequent conflict, partly due to being rich in minerals. Photo: LM TP via Flickr

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Feminism and Empiricism: Two Contributions to Improving Women’s Inclusion in Peace Processes

Academics and policymakers can probably agree on the need for a more solid research base in order to effectively support the inclusion of women in peace processes. Our chapter in the newly released Oxford Handbook on Women, Peace and Security, argues that improving dialogue among scholars and practitioners requires acknowledging that different forms of research contribute with different pieces of the puzzle.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women briefs the Security Council on WPS in October 2018; a meeting where improving women’s meaningful participation was a key theme. Photo: UN Photo

While different categorizations exist in the debate (see for example, Reiter 2014 or Kennedy and Dingli 2016), we here argue for the usefulness of discussing the contributions of two forms of approaches: first, a conceptual critical feminist research (henceforth called feminist research) often identifying and deliberating on underlying political discourses affecting perceptions and performance; and second, systematic empirical research on gender (hereafter empirical research) collecting disaggregated data and information in order to examine causes and understand trends useful for evidence-based recommendations. We have spent the last decade assisting the progression of the latter approach.

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The Clash of Guns and Swords: Game of Thrones and Reality

Are there any similarities between the bloody war in Game of Thrones (GoT) and modern conflicts? The battle fields are certainly quite different, and dragons have very little to do with today’s conflicts (although they may allude to weapons of mass destruction). However, if we look beyond the fighting and fantasy, and study the logic of where and when violence and conflict occur, there are a surprising number of similarities.

As a conflict researcher, I find GoT fascinating. I wanted to see if I could use the series to shed light on the logic of conflict and violence, to use it as a tool to help people comprehend conflict patterns and theories. I compare the logic of violence – why do we see these types of conflicts? Why do they happen?

If people can understand a series as complex and convoluted as GoT, with myriad shifting alliances and a staggering cast of characters (or number of actors, both state and non-state), then they can understand conflict patterns today.

Figure 1: The world of Game of Thrones. Source: woiaf.westeros.org

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Children Born of War Are Not the Enemy. How Can They Be Integrated into Society?

This year, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded jointly to the Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege and the Iraqi human rights activist, and witness and survivor of human-trafficking, Nadia Murad. These two voices are an extremely important contribution to ongoing efforts to combat war-related sexual violence. We are among the many people who are delighted that the two prize-winners are getting the recognition that their courage and efforts deserve. At the same time, there are other voices that are seldom heard and who have few spokespersons. These are the voices of the children who have been conceived as the result of conflict-related sexual violence. Scarcely any statistics or overviews exist of how many children are involved, about what happens to them, and how their lives are shaped by the manner of their conception.

Civil War Graveyard in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Photo: Inger Skjelsbæk.

These children are known as Children Born of War (CBOW). They are often seen as the ‘children of the enemy’, both by their families and by their local communities and society in general. Every so often we hear stories about shunning and gross breaches of these children’s basic human rights. But the fact is that we know very little about their actual situations, and how their mothers, families and local communities take care of them – or reject them.

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This Week in South Sudan – Week 49

Tuesday 4 December The Government of South Sudan (GoSS) launched a mobile payment platform to reduce the reliance on cash. The SPLMA-IO accused government forces of instigating violent clashes in Unity. Wednesday 5 December The South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) suspended the election of Peter Gatdet Yaka as a new leader, reportedly due to the… Read more »

When Will We End Sexual Violence in Conflict?

The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad in recognition of their work combatting sexual violence as a weapon of war. This acknowledgement should serve as a rallying cry to end sexual violence in conflict — commonly perpetrated by non-state groups, but also states or entities aspiring to statehood.

UN Soldier in the DRC. Photo: Nic Marsh / PRIO.

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The Unintended Consequences of Killing Jamal Khashoggi: A Backgrounder on the Yemeni Peace Talks

This week the spotlight is on Sweden and UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths: On Wednesday representatives of the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels arrived in Stockholm to find solutions to what the UN described as the ‘worst [humanitarian] crisis in the world’.

The Saudi Arabia-led nine-member coalition has been at war with the Yemeni Houthis since March 2015. The coalition’s aim is to restore the rule of the internationally recognized president of Yemen, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and to halt the Iranian support for the Houthis, whose existence and extent has been put under scrutiny. Both the UN’s Human Rights Council and the Human Rights Watch have concluded that both sides could be prosecuted for acts that amount to international crimes. Sexual violence by UAE forces, hostage taking and torture by the Houthis, or a Saudi airstrike that killed 29 children are sad reminders of three years of inaction by the international community.

Small Arms Trader in Yemen, 2004. Photo: Christian Gahre / PRIO.

One man’s death might save thousands

October proved to be a decisive month for the Yemeni Civil War. Not because of any battlefield related developments, but by the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The murder, which took place inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, has received unprecedented media attention. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS, opened Pandora’s box: Western governments were deeply disturbed by the brutal murder of the journalist and decided to hurt MBS where it’s painful: arms sales.

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Achieving Sustainable Peace and the Climate Target of 1.5°C

Presently, the 24th Convention of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is occurring in Katowice, Poland and the negotiators are pressed to complete the negotiations on the implementation of the Paris Agreement. While fewer world leaders and substantially less fanfare is accompanying this meeting than the 2015 COP in… Read more »

Rethinking security through sound

Security has become an increasingly prominent part of everyday life, impacting us as we travel, interact in community spaces, or consider options for communication.  While physical barriers, passports, and technologies such as X-ray machines and metal detectors are commonly accepted as integral parts of the evolving security sector, ambient sound is rarely imagined as salient… Read more »

#HearMeToo: Analyzing Reports to Prevent Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

#HearMeToo is the theme of this year’s 16 days of activism to end violence against women. Responding to this catch-cry, as researchers, there is much we can do to link analysis to a theory of change. Reports of sexual and gender-based violence can deliver protection to victims. But there is also the potential to predict where and when sexual violence in conflict will take place from more in-depth analysis of sexual and gender-based violence reports. Moreover, this knowledge raises the question: if we can predict sexual violence in conflicts by looking at patterns and counts of reported violence, then don’t we also have the moral responsibility to prevent that violence in the first place?

Analysing conflict-related sexual violence reports – even though they may reflect only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the violence – gives us the when, where, and who, and the way forward to prevent such violence. What are the early warning signs of sexual violence in armed conflict in conflicts with different levels of intensity? There is a large volume of research on sexual violence in wars, particularly within Sub-Saharan Africa and increasingly the Middle East. But our knowledge is relatively limited when it comes to understanding incidence and reporting conditions in the protracted conflicts that often experience waves of ‘low-level’ violence over many years, coupled with short episodes of intense violence – such as Myanmar.

Women in an ethnic minority state in Myanmar.