A Painful Dialogue with the Taliban

A year has passed since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

The number of lives lost due to war has fallen drastically. But the Taliban’s dismantling of democracy, their gross breaches of human rights, their exclusion of women from education and work, and their hosting of al-Qaeda and other terror networks, give few grounds for optimism.

How should Norway and the rest of the world respond to the Taliban regime?

Those who have the most to lose from a Western policy of isolation are Afghanistan’s 40 million citizens. Photo: Jan Chipchase. CC BY-SA 3.0

Many had hoped that the 2021 version of the Taliban would impose less oppressive policies than they did when they last held power in Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001.

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Is Digital Peace Mediation Here to Stay?

International peace mediation has undergone many changes in the past decade. While its fundamental principles have remained the same, the increased digitalization of peace mediation coupled with the practical challenges of peacebuilding during a global pandemic has necessitated the introduction of digital tools and virtual platforms.

These developments have accelerated the use of digital technologies in national consultations and in mediation work, making them important and unavoidable considerations for mediators.

Photo: SandisterTei. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons

While two years of a global pandemic have undoubtedly demonstrated the inherent benefits of digital technologies, they have also revealed its weaknesses. From the spread of misinformation in fragile contexts to undermining trust and confidentiality during negotiations, the potential pitfalls of digital mediation are numerous.

Therefore, the question remains whether digital platforms and tools will continue to be relied upon by mediators as the world gradually recovers from the pandemic. Do the potential benefits of digital mediation outweigh its drawbacks, and is digital mediation here to stay?

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Are Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping Two of a Kind?

Democracy and separation of powers are in decline.

In many countries, individuals have taken all the power into their own hands. This is true not least of Russia and China. Vladimir Putin has used his power to invade Ukraine. Recently, Xi Jinping practised encircling Taiwan.

Could Xi be as willing to take risks as Putin?

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. Photo: The Russian Presidential Press and Information Office

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Rohingya Refugees Still Desperate, Five Years after a Genocide

Without access to education, work, healthcare, and citizenship, the Rohingya are calling on the world to act.

The start of the brutal massacre of the Rohingya people in Myanmar marks its anniversary on 25 August. It has been five years since thousands of men and children were piled up by the Myanmar military, many viciously slaughtered or burned to death.

Photo: Abdullah Khin Maung Thein. With permission.

Countless women were gang raped and molested by soldiers as the world watched an endless stream of traumatised and severely injured people flee to the Bangladesh border to escape the carnage behind them. As they walked, thick smoke filled the sky as their villages in northern Rakhine State turned to ash.Read More

War and the Preference for a Strong Leader

Investigating what kind of leader Ukrainians want.

  • During wars and other crises, people tend to want to be led by a strong, dominant leader.
  • A survey among Ukrainians finds support for the strong leader preference, especially among those who feel more anger and aggression.
  • Current president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is not seen as particularly dominant, though he is hugely popular.
  • When thinking about a peaceful future for their country, Ukrainians report a desire for a warm and competent leader.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Photo: President of Ukraine / Flickr

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, an actor and comedian turned politician and president of Ukraine, has astonished the world with his remarkable leadership since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. His popularity surged — based on our data, trust in Zelenskyy increased from 30 percent in December 2020 to over 80 percent in March 2022.Read More

The Myanmar Military’s Roadmap to Survival

As massive resistance against military rule in Myanmar continues, the besieged military administration lays out three priorities in its strategy to survive.

SAC Chairman Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. Photo: Vadim Savitsky, mil.ru / Wikimedia Commons

As expected, Myanmar’s State Administration Council (SAC), also known as the military junta, last week extended the country’s state of emergency for another six months. Along with the extension, SAC Chairman Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing delivered a public address outlining the SAC’s challenges and the long list of tasks that it hopes to complete over the next six months.

The speech outlined three main areas of priority for the military junta going forward.

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2021 – A Bad Year for World Peace

After a declining trend since 2014 for the number of people killed in armed conflict, approximately 84,000 people died last year.

Asia was the hardest-hit region in 2021, largely due to the escalating violence in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban took control in Afghanistan, the number of deaths has fallen to a lower level. Photo: AP Photo/Rahmat Gul / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Since 2014, we have seen a global declining trend for the number of people killed in armed conflict, but in 2021 this trend experienced a sharp reversal. New figures from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) at Uppsala University, published in the Journal of Peace Research in June 2022 show that approximately 84,000 people died in conflicts in 2021. The trend of the preceding years was reversed even before Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.Read More

Putin’s Next Miscalculation: Russia’s Readiness for a Long War

As Russian aggression against Ukraine approaches the half-year mark and combat operations appear to be at a standstill, a new calculus has been developed in the Kremlin: A long war suits Moscow’s interests and can eventually be won.

Photo: the Kremlin

This self-serving proposition follows the failure of two previous war plans: a quick and total victory by several offensives of armored columns and a conquest of Donbas and southern Ukraine by an irresistible push of replenished battalions behind massive artillery barrages.

A fiasco with the long-war vision might take more time to become apparent, but it will be shaped by the same basic miscalculations of Ukraine’s capacity for withstanding brutal attacks, Western commitment to support this costly struggle, the strength of Russia’s sanctions-resilient economy and the irreducible public readiness to follow the course set by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Ukraine Food Export Agreement: Not Yet Delivering

The Russian invasion of Ukraine resulted in the reduction of Ukraine’s grain exports by a third.

As part of its attack Russia had taken or damaged Ukrainian ports, threatened merchant ships, struck Ukraine’s rail and road infrastructure and destroyed farms.

The Russian invasion was followed by rapid increases in global food prices which reached record levels during March to May 2022.

The port of Odessa. Photo: George Chernilevsky / Wikimedia Commons

On 22 July 2022 Russia and Ukraine separately signed parallel agreements brokered by the UN and Turkey which allow the export of food crops from Ukraine and fertilizer from Russia. The agreement allows for the ships to be escorted and cargoes monitored and was hailed as a major step toward mitigating the 2022 food crisis which has seen basic stables reach record prices around the world.

It was described by the UN Secretary General as a ‘beacon of hope’ that would help tackle the world food crisis.Read More

Erdogan and Putin Cordially Probe One Another’s Faults and Failures

The meeting in Sochi, Russia, on August 5 between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was more than just another chapter in the long track record of bargaining and testing the limits of mutual patience between the two leaders.

Erdogan and Putin in 2020. Photo: Kremlin.ru / wikimedia commons

Putin’s war in Ukraine has badly damaged Russia’s international positions, and Erdogan can harvest benefits from transactional maneuvering in the margins of Moscow’s confrontation with the West.

The Turkish president has become an indispensable interlocutor for the Russian leader, who has not received a habitual phone call from French President Emmanuel Macron since late May and only rarely is granted the privilege of a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Erdogan decided not to stay for dinner in Sochi and cancelled the planned joint press conference, which he usually enjoys for dropping a sensationalist remark or two, leaving commentators guessing about the real outcome of the four-hour talks (Kommersant, August 6).Read More