This Week in South Sudan – Week 21

  Monday 22 May The Guardian op-ed by Payton Knopf, former coordinator of the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan: “If Trump does nothing, 50% of South Sudan’s population could soon be gone” President Salva Kiir declared a unilateral ceasefire and promised to release political prisoners. However, such a ceasefire is unlikely to hold… Read more »

Turkey’s Turn Toward Russia

Despite tensions over Syria, Turkey is increasingly turning to Russia to secure its foreign and domestic policy needs.

Meeting between Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President of Russia Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Photo: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office / Wikimedia Commons

Though anticipated, the May 9 announcement by the Donald Trump administration that the United States would arm fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in preparation for an advance on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa in Syria brought a swift and angry response from Turkey.

Demanding a policy reversal, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu noted ominously that any arms obtained by the YPG were a direct threat to Turkey — strong words from one NATO ally to another.

For Turkey, U.S. support for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and its armed wings, the YPG and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), is framed domestically as a deliberate effort to strengthen Turkey’s perceived internal enemy, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This fallout with the United States benefits Russia. Since the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been stepping in to capitalize on the worsening Turkish–American relationship, reviving the prevailing Western concern over “losing Turkey.”Read More

“Fake Science” Has Arrived

How did we get into a situation where “the press is lying” and “research is rubbish”?

Banner at the March for Science, Washington, D.C. Photo: becker1999 @ Flickr

Society is now experiencing a “storm of distrust” that is “powerful and unpredictable”, with growing resistance to established institutions, if we are to believe the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, published in January. This distrust also affects research.

Climate researchers have long encountered distrust, but researchers in other fields – particularly fields relating to immigration and health – are also encountering growing scepticism. Their research is often criticized on ideological or political grounds.Read More

This Week in South Sudan – Week 20

Monday 15 May UN agencies increased their 2017 appeal for South Sudan to US $1.4 billion in order address what has become the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. The UN Security Council (UNSC) reduced the UN Interim Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and warned it may withdraw its support to the Joint Border Verification & Monitoring… Read more »

The East Asian Peace

The 6-year East Asian Peace (EAP) program at Uppsala University led by Stein Tønnesson of PRIO and Uppsala University has been undertaken in a period with increased uncertainty about peace and stability in East Asia.

China’s rise and increased rivalry in the region has made stability in East Asia the most important topic in current international affairs, and the content of the EAP program even more relevant. On May 9th, two books from this research program were launched at PRIO. One is a monograph by the program director, Stein Tønnesson, Explaining the East Asian Peace, the other a volume edited by Elin Bjarnegård & Joakim Kreutz, Debating the East Asian Peace. I am very grateful for the invitation to comment on these two books.

Book launch. Marte Nilsen, Stein Tønnesson, Jo Inge Bekkevold & Nils Petter Gleditsch. Photo: Ebba Tellander / PRIO

The editors of the anthology Debating the East Asian Peace provide three overarching conclusions.

  • First, that East Asia has maybe not been that peaceful after all, depending on how you define peace.
  • Second, the current peace is shallow.
  • And third, threats to the current peace can come from within nations as well as from interstate relations.

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This Week in South Sudan – Week 19

 Monday 8 May The Government of South Sudan (GoSS) has put the National Dialogue process on hold after the steering committee failed to reach a quorum, as appointed members have not yet reported to duty. The Guardian: “Juba in the spotlight: ongoing turmoil in the world’s youngest capital” Tuesday 9 May Unknown gunmen attacked Taban… Read more »

The East Asian Peace – Two New Books

Two books were launched earlier this week from the East Asian Peace (EAP) program at Uppsala University, led by Stein Tønnesson of PRIO and Uppsala University. One is a monograph by the program director, Stein Tønnesson, Explaining the East Asian Peace, the other a volume edited by Elin Bjarnegård & Joakim Kreutz, Debating the East Asian Peace.

The EAP is a very impressive program. The two books take on a key issue in the debate about the decline of war, the disproportionate reduction in conflict in East Asia. They provide a large range of different explanations for the East Asian Peace. They combine statistical analysis with illuminating case studies of individual countries and their bilateral and regional relations. And they are very up to date.Read More

Can the East Asian Peace Survive?

Uncertainty concerning President Donald Trump’s China and North Korea policies have instilled new fears of war in East Asia, a region that has enjoyed a surprising level of peace for almost four decades. Yet, if China treats Trump with care, the region may remain peaceful.

Photo: Futureatlas

The Story of the East Asian Peace

In order to assess the future of peace in East Asia we need to understand how it came about. As can be seen in the below graph, East Asia (Northeast and Southeast Asia) dominated world warfare in the period 1946–79, with 80 per cent of all the world’s battle related deaths. This was the period of the Chinese Civil War, the Korean War, the First and Second Indochina War (Vietnam War), and national liberation struggles mixed with civil war, in much of Southeast Asia.

The last war in the region was the Chinese invasion of Vietnam in 1979, following a Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia.Read More

A Double Message about Safety and Security for Field Research: “Protection Is Crucial” and “Don’t Overdo It”

In January 2016, Giulio Regeni, PhD candidate of Cambridge University studying labour movement in Egypt went missing in Cairo where he did his fieldwork.

His body was found a week later in a ditch near the city showing signs of torture and a slow death. His killers have not been found. His death has sent a ripple through academia, adding to growing concern among researchers and administrators about safety and security.

Photo: Ebba Tellander / PRIO

When conducting field-based research or fieldwork, researchers often operate within complex and dynamic social and political contexts, and derive their data from that environment.

Until recently, there was little or no attention to issues of safety during fieldwork in hazardous, remote or complex environments. Cases like Giulio Regeni are extreme and rare, but researchers can also encounter risks that are much more prevalent, including traffic accidents or sexual harassment. This is the case for researchers working in their home country as well as foreigners.

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