Resisting Civil Society Repression in Zambia and Bangladesh

In recent years, dozens of countries around the world have been closing civil society space, clamping down on the ability of civil society organizations (CSOs) to operate freely. Alarmingly, this trend is taking place not only in countries with autocratic governments, but also in democratic countries. How are CSOs being impacted, and how are they coping?

Health education in Dhaka. Photo: waterdotorg via Flickr

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Peace Is More Than the Absence of War: Inger Skjelsbæk Interviewed by Cindy Horst

Inger Skjelsbæk, interviewed by Cindy Horst

Photo: PRIO

We focus a lot more on conflict than we do on what peace actually is. What is it that creates well-being? What is it that makes you feel at ease in your own skin, in your own life, in your own sociopolitical context? What does it take? All narratives about who you are and what your prospects are, and how that impacts your well-being, depend on how these stories are reinforced or challenged by the communities you live in. If peace is just the absence of war, then you have peace lots of places. But if peace is also well-being and resilience to conflicts, then it is more challenging.

I meet Inger Skjelsbæk at a café in central Oslo, early in the morning when things are still quiet and we can speak undisturbed. I have known Inger since I started working at PRIO more than a decade ago, and in that period, she has been my boss and I have been hers. An interesting fact about Inger is that she pretty much grew up with PRIO, being the daughter of former PRIO director and researcher Kjell Skjelsbæk.

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Managing Peace Researchers: Lene Kristin Borg and Grete Thingelstad in Conversation with Stein Tønnesson

Herding cats. / Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Lene Kristin Borg and Grete Thingelstad in Conversation with Stein Tønnesson

At a farewell lunch organized for PRIO Director Sverre Lodgaard at the end of his term in 1992, someone said that, under his leadership, PRIO had made a transition from anarchy to dictatorship. The speaker who said this expressed herself in favour of the dictatorship, which according to her had been necessary. Another speaker quoted Mao Zedong for stating that to make an omelette you need to break a few eggs. Some eggs had indeed been broken.

This comment comes from Grete Thingelstad, who served as Administrative Director (kontorsjef) at PRIO during the transformation period from 1989–95.

Lene Kristin Borg, PRIO’s current Administrative Director, adds the following remark:

PRIO’s anarchic past had completely vanished when I arrived in 1998. I came to a well-ordered institute, and it may surprise those who have heard about PRIO’s past but not about its present that after running PRIO for more than twenty years, I have not yet met Johan Galtung.

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How does the Japan and South Korea feud intensify, and is the U.S. able to help?

Japan and South Korea are facing the worst deterioration of bilateral ties in history after the 1965 normalization treaty came into force. Unfortunately, people in both countries seem to have forgotten that they successfully co-hosted a FIFA World Cup in 2002.

Flags flying during the 2014 World Cup. Photo: Elliott Brown via Flickr

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Trump calls, Israel answers

President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu at the Israel Museum. Jerusalem May 23, 2017. Photo: US Embassy Tel Aviv, public domain.

On Thursday President Trump made the unprecedented move to use a foreign power to punish domestic political actors. He tweeted that Israel should bar two congresswomen from entering the country. Prior to this tweet Prime Minister Netanyahu had decided that the congresswomen should be allowed to enter, but after the tweet he changed his mind. After the decision to deny them entry was made Israel approved Rashida Tlaib’s visit because she made a humanitarian appeal that she should be allowed to visit her grandmother – a Palestinian woman in her nineties living in the occupied West Bank. This was granted on the condition not to “promote boycotts against Israel” on the trip, conditions which she refused, saying “visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in … It would kill a piece of me.”  Ilhan Omar is still barred from entering.

Israel’s decision to bar US congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering the state is a culmination of three trends in both the United States and Israel: weakening of the bipartisan nature of the US-Israeli relationship; illiberal developments in Israel; and an increasing criticism of Israeli politics in the US mainstream. In the short run these developments are cause for concern as they stifle open debate about Israel. In the long run this could be a signpost in a process away from unconditional US support for Israel.

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The First Steps in the PRIO-Uppsala Connection: Peter Wallensteen Interviewed by Siri Aas Rustad

Peter Wallensteen in 2016. Photo: Barbara Johnston / University of Notre Dame

Peter Wallensteen, interviewed by Siri Aas Rustad

PRIO was the engine of our Nordic peace research network. To ‘go to PRIO’ meant to be updated on the state of the art, to find out what was going on. The ideas generated could then be taken back home and used to build up one’s own activities.

Siri Aas Rustad: You have been immensely important for the development of peace research. You have made your mark in Sweden, but also internationally as a pioneer in gender, peace and security studies and through the creation of the leading data collection project, the Uppsala Conflict Data Program. If you think back on your childhood, was there anything in particular that influenced you in the direction of international relations and peace research?

Peter Wallensteen: I was born in 1945. My family had always been interested in international questions, and we travelled a fair bit. For example, when I was 10, we went by boat and car to England. The large political event that made me interested in international politics was the Suez Crisis with invasion of Egypt by Israel, France and the United Kingdom in 1956, at the same time as the Soviet Union invaded Hungary.

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Facing terror: The possibility of hope and the need to confront hatred

In the wake of the foiled terrorist attack at a mosque outside Oslo on 10 August, and the widespread solidarity seen outside mosques around Norway on the morning of Eid, we reflect on the prospects for hope and for the endurance of social fabric. We do so by drawing on our research on responses to the July 22 terror in 2011, and on our migration research.

A group gathered in support outside Thon Hotel August 11 where Al-Noor Islamic Center had moved Eid celebrations after the attack. Many held signs reading #tryggibønn (safe in prayer). Photo: Samarbeidsrådet for tros- og livssynssamfunn, used with permission.

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Racially-Motivated Violence in the United States: What We Call It and Why It Matters

A memorial for shooting victims in El Paso. Photo: Ruperto Miller, public domain.

An August 3, 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Texas highlights the continuing presence of racially-motivated violence in the United States. The shooter expressed white nationalist and anti-immigrant sentiments in a manifesto written prior to the attack, and the American news media has begun to frame the attack as one of “domestic terrorism.” As the American public waits to learn how the shooter will be formally charged, how the attack is discussed and described in the media has implications for the public perception of and response to such violence. The language used to describe attacks like this, including the attack in Norway just before Eid, is important for recognizing them as a part of a much larger trend of white-nationalist violence.

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Why should the Sudanese cautiously celebrate the political declaration?

As the Sudanese have ever more reason to celebrate the political declaration signed by the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) and Transitional Military Council (TMC), one may have some reservations and concerns but with optimism of a better future for Sudan.

Protestors in Sudan in April. Photo: Hind Mekki via Flickr

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Beyond False Dichotomies in Debates on Migration

Is there really an inherent conflict between pursuing national interests and acting in globally responsible ways on migration?

We call for a debate that moves beyond an artificial dichotomy between the “headless heart” and the “heartless head”. A good start would be to acknowledge the salience and value of binding international agreements, regarding refugees and other migrants.

Photo: ResoluteSupportMedia / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Since 2015, debates about migration in Europe have increasingly been dominated by voices urging to avoid that our hearts rule our heads on migration policy. Often, these calls have explicitly referenced the ongoing humanitarian crisis at Europe’s borders, where people continue to drown at sea. In the Scandinavian context, a concern for the future of welfare states is often connected to an alleged need for stricter policy on immigration. However, the dichotomy between a “headless heart” and a “heartless head” , as advocated by Paul Collier, among others, contributes neither to informed debate, nor to realistic policy. On the occasion of the World Refugee Day, we argue for the need to go beyond such simple dichotomies and instead consider both national interests and states international responsibilities in migration policy.Read More