Afghanistan at a Crossroads

Can the conflict in Afghanistan be resolved politically, or must the war continue until one of the parties has won? The conflict in Afghanistan is now the world’s deadliest. The United States and the Taliban negotiated a peace agreement that never got signed. The recent exchange of prisoners may signal a restart of talks. Afghanistan is in desperate need of political solutions, but the path to peace is going to be winded and fraught with dilemmas.

A U.S. military helicopter flies in Afghanistan. Photo: The U.S. Army

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Meet the ‘Good Citizen’

The question of what constitutes the “good citizen” has received renewed interest in Western Europe in connection with increasing pressure on the welfare state, concerns over migration-related diversity, and growing anxiety about a crisis of democracy. In a recently published article, ‘The “good citizen”: asserting and contesting norms of participation and belonging in Oslo’, we draw on data from fifty in-depth interviews and six focus group discussions with residents of Oslo to study the impact of the normative public debate on citizenship on everyday perceptions of good citizenship.

A typical example of what some think of as “active citizenship”: making waffles for school fundraisers. Photo: Tresting via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

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Humanitarian governance and localization: What kind of world is being imagined and produced?

Photo: ResoluteSupportMedia / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

While localization is high on the agenda for humanitarian actors, at present, humanitarian governance does not support the localization agenda. To understand better why, we explore three issues underpinning humanitarian governance: the problem construction, consolidation and growth of the sector, and the sorting of civilians. We conclude that the localization agenda is important, but for it to succeed a fundamental change of the humanitarian system is needed.

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A Social Security Scandal with Deep Roots

The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service, NAV, has been simultaneously complying with and breaking EEA rules. During 2015 and 2016, I gained detailed insight into how individual bureaucrats were handling exports of sickness benefits. I also heard stories about rules being applied inconsistently.

Trygdekontor in 1980 (the former name of NAV). Photo: Municipal Archives of Trondheim

A major social security scandal is currently unfolding in Norway. It is primarily a tragedy for the people who are affected, but also for the trust-based Norwegian welfare system. There are clear signs of a systemic failure, and many people are asking: How could this happen?

I’ve spent the past four years researching how NAV deals with users who live in more than one country. These users – known in the jargon as ‘transnationals’ – include people who export benefits out of Norway, as is the case with the victims of the social security scandal.

Following hours of conversations with case handlers working throughout what is known in NAV as the “international branch”, the scandal that is currently unfolding comes as no surprise.

I could not have envisaged the scale of the problem, but the fact that defects in the system resulted in inconsistent, unsatisfactory and erroneous case-handling corresponds well with my impression of the state of affairs.Read More

Freezing time, preparing for the future: The stockpile as a temporal matter of security

My paper on stockpiling, published in Security Dialogue, began with party conversations. When I told people that I work on catastrophe preparedness, the conversation inevitably shifted towards stockpiling. Concerned friends would ask how much food, water, and candles you have to store to be safe during an emergency. The gentrification critic would remark that we… Read more »

Accountable to Whom? Reflecting on the ethics of doing migration research

Who are we accountable to when doing research on migration and mobility? Many scholars, ourselves included, do research with – rather than about – refugees and other migrants, or indeed communities and individuals in origin or destination country. But to whom are we accountable? And what can and should accountability entail in practice, in research ethical terms?

In the classroom. All photos: Marta Bivand Erdal

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The Weaponization of Killer Trucks: Vehicular Terror and Vehicular Crypts

On October 23, 2019, 39 bodies were found inside a refrigerator lorry on an industrial estate in Essex. The vehicle was registered in Varna, Bulgaria, had entered the UK four days before and was driven by a man from Northern-Ireland. The victims – 38 adults and a teenager – were identified as Vietnamese. This incident is just the latest example of vehicle-induced migrant mass fatalities.

Photo: Seb Creativo via Unsplash

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Peace with a Human Rights Perspective: Asbjørn Eide Interviewed by Helge Øystein Pharo

Asbjørn Eide and Nils Petter Gleditsch in 2019, admiring the younger versions of themselves as the ‘Directors Wall’ was unveiled during PRIO’s 60th Anniversary. Photo: Agnete Schjønsby / PRIO

Asbjørn Eide, interviewed by Helge Øystein Pharo

Former PRIO Director Asbjørn Eide was only seven years old when he experienced war at first hand. In a surprise attack on the morning of 9 April 1940, the Germans began to invade Norway. As a result, Norwegian forces in the Bergen area retreated eastwards towards Voss. At Bulken, the Germans were temporarily halted. They retaliated by firebombing Vossevangen. Within a few days, the Eide family found the situation so precarious that they left for Eksingedalen, somewhat west of Voss. After two days of walking through deep snow, they reached the family farm. In retrospect, Asbjørn Eide muses that his interest in the causes of conflict and how they may be prevented can probably be traced back to that harrowing experience of April 1940.

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New Directions in Humanitarian Governance: Technology, Juridification and Criminalization

According to an influential conception, humanitarian governance entails ‘the increasingly organized and internationalized attempt to save the lives, enhance the welfare, and reduce the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable populations.’ The actors involved in humanitarian governance include affected populations, civil society, host governments, the military, the private sector, international organisations and NGOs, and donors. Much of this governance is associated with the intended as well as the unintended consequences of humanitarian action.

Photo: Jørgen Carling/PRIO

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