The COVID-19 Crisis Spotlights Criticality of Women’s Participation and UNSCR 1325: A Policy-Research Exchange

Women are often on the periphery of formal peace and political solutions with limited decision-making power.

We argue that the current COVID-19 crisis has spotlighted three critical elements affecting women’s participation which need to be tackled in the upcoming 20th anniversary of Resolution 1325, the first UN Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security; a process itself under pressure. We consider strengthened policy-research exchange, such as the #Beyond13252020 cooperation and the FBA, PRIO and UN Women Research-Policy Dialogue, central in providing an impetus to move beyond existing challenges.

Major Ajok and Alokiir Malual, South Sudan, 2018. Photo: UN/UNMISS/Isaac Billy

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Compounding Fragmentation: New PRIO Policy Paper on Security Force Assistance to the Sahel and Horn of Africa

U.S. Army Sergeant Vincent Merriman, Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, Texas National Guard, demonstrates a proper pushup for a Djiboutian soldier at a training site outside Djibouti City, April 19, 2018. U.S. service members have been training the Djiboutian Army’s Rapid Intervention Battalion, a newly formed crisis response unit. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Ahearn) CC BY

Since 2010 there has been an increase in both the intensity of conflict in the Sahel and Horn of Africa, and of the level of Western military intervention in the regions. Islamist insurgency has received most external attention, but the region has also been affected by inter-communal violence, organised crime, and trafficking. One of the most important forms of intervention is the provision of security force assistance (SFA), during which members of recipient security forces are provided with training or equipment. As part of an ongoing initiative at PRIO researching SFA to fragile states, we have published a PRIO policy paper which investigates SFA to these regions. We ask if SFA has increased the capacity and professionalism of the recipient security forces, but also whether this assistance has had any unintended adverse effects such as exacerbating the instability it is was intended to address.

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Is 2020 = 1968?

People around the world are grappling to understand events in the United States at the moment regarding the current wave of protest and protest policing.  A few events readily come to mind in this comparison but the one that probably carries the greatest resonance would be the uprisings/disturbances/riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. (hereafter MLK).  Are these events similar though?

Black Lives Matter protest in New York, in 2020. Photo: duluoz cats via Flickr

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Silence, Complicity, and Violence in the American Political System

Protests in the United States, and around the world, have drawn attention to state-sponsored violence against black people in particular and people of color in general. As Black Lives Matter protests continue, the names of the many people, whose deaths sparked this collective outrage, ring out. Social media posts tag the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery, among many others – individuals killed by state, and non-state, actors.

A Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, D.C. in June 2020. Photo: Geoff Livingston via Flickr CC BY

While important to identify these specific people, it is also important to note that the current protests are bigger than these individuals. The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis, Minnesota police has been seen as a catalyst for an unprecedented discussion of policing, reforming police, and defunding police in the United States. It is also, however, one of many instances of hesitation and indecision in the pursuit of justice for black people. These protests can be seen as a result of repressive state action – a vicious cycle of police use of force against citizens – but, they can also be understood as the result of what action has not been taken.

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Organizing for Peace: Mari Holmboe Ruge Interviewed by Kristian Berg Harpviken

From left: Assistant Professor Helga Hernes, Lecturer Hanne Haavind, and Mari Holmboe Ruge from the Norwegian Research Council for Science and the Humanities (NAVF), working on the study Research on Women in a committee under the Council for Social Science Research, 21 June 1976. Photo: NTB Scanpix

Mari Holmboe Ruge, interviewed by Kristian Berg Harpviken

Mari Holmboe Ruge’s life has been guided by the radical vision of a peaceful world, and a pragmatic conviction that robust organization is the key to achieving it. Mari played a critical role in PRIO’s first decade – analyzing, administering, advocating – to build the foundations for a knowledge-based global order. She later held posts in research funding, research policy, and research administration, where the same basic commitments prevailed. Throughout it all, in parallel to her professional career, Mari has been actively engaged in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

Born on 20 July 1934, Mari was a child of 11 at the close of the Second World War. During the war, her father was a leading figure in the non-violent Teachers’ Resistance. Her future husband, Herman Ruge, became a conscientious objector despite descending from a family of military officers – as did Johan Galtung, who was a close friend of the family and a prime force in founding PRIO.

Interviewing Mari Holmboe Ruge at her home in Oslo on 19 December 2018, I sensed the contours of a radical student collective, rooted in networks of family and friendship, and highly active in the debates of the Norwegian Students’ Society. It was this collective that became the core of PRIO.

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Toward a Social-Democratic Peace?

The post–World War II period has shown a clear, albeit erratic, decline of organized violence.

Violence in this period peaked during the Chinese Civil War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and most recently the Syrian Civil War, but the peaks are declining over time and the long-term trend in absolute numbers is clearly downward.

One peak of violence was the Chinese Civil War 1927-1949. Source unknown

In relative terms, as a share of world population, the decline is even more striking. We are far from achieving world peace, as evidenced by the protracted and internationalized civil war in Afghanistan, the numerous violent conflicts in the Middle East, and periodic belligerent threats of fire and fury from regional and global powers.

But we may at least be hopeful that the world is moving in the right direction. How did we get this far, and where do we move next?

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Overcoming Mistrust in Afghanistan’s Peace Process

The hope of pathways to peace in Afghanistan, following the Doha Agreement on 29 February, has been crushed by mutual mistrust. Over a decade of my research on comparative peace process suggests that while all peace processes are fragile in the early phase, successful ones are characterized by political and rebel leaders with a high level of trust in the process and a willingness to interact more frequently to deliver on the commitment.

Signing ceremony for the Afghan Peace Agreement in Doha, Qatar, on February 29, 2020. Photo: State Department via Wikimedia Commons

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‘It should change’: Young people on skin colour and national belonging in Norway

The fight against racism and discrimination cannot be won without the silent, non-targeted, majorities’ active contribution and participation – recognizing one another as equal human beings, but significantly also going beyond this, to call out and change the structures and practices that prevent real equality. This is true whether we look to the US, in Norway, or Denmark and Sweden, France or the UK, or anywhere around the world.

Youth march in a Black Lives Matter demonstration in June 2020 in Oslo. although recent demonstrations have made this research newly relevant, these findings are from 2015 and still resonate today. Photo: Teuta Kukleci

Opening any newspaper in Norway over the past week, as well as on social media, the stories of experiences of discrimination and racism, often intertwined in an everyday life which was not completely defined by such experiences, are courageously and with a sense of purpose being shared. Our research about migration-related diversity in Norway at PRIO, has time and time again confirmed what everyone should know by now: people of colour living in Norway, not least those born in Norway, experience unwarranted attention and questions, experience co-citizens implicit bias and overt racism. Mostly, these experiences are also mixed-in with other impressions – of inclusion, of opportunities which are made equal, of individual humans who see, who try to understand, who go that extra mile, who act justly.

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The Role of State-Supported Disinformation in the Wake of COVID-19

Photo: Charles Deluvio via Unsplash

On April 1 the European External Action Service (EEA) released a report alleging China and Russia had carried out a coordinated disinformation campaign around the origin and the spread of COVID-19 to sway public opinion abroad and create divisions among EU members. The report claims that China and Russia are spreading targeted disinformation through their media channels and official statements. In a subsequent report released by the EEA China, Russia and Iran are accused of converging their narratives, collectively alluding that the virus is a Western bioweapon and spreading false information around public health efforts in the EU.

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