In memoriam: Arthur H. Westing (1928–2020)

Arthur Westing joined PRIO in January 1988. Sverre Lodgaard, who had worked at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) for the past six years, returned to Oslo to take over the position as Director of PRIO.

As a bonus, he was able to bring Arthur to Oslo at the same time, along with his project on ‘Peace, Security, and Environment’ funded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). SIPRI’s loss was PRIO’s gain.

At PRIO Arthur edited a volume on Environmental Hazards of War, which dealt with the planned or inadvertent release of pollutants following the destruction of major industries in war. A year earlier, he had finished another volume, Comprehensive Security for the Baltic, also published in PRIO’s book series at Sage. This volume focused on security in the Baltic region as seen through the lens of an extended concept of security. Arthur did not invent the concept of environmental security. But his work was (and remains) one of the most thorough and thoughtful expositions of it.Read More

Afghanistan’s Corona Threat Contagion Knows No Borders

During March, 145,000 Afghans returned from Iran, many infected with coronavirus. In Afghanistan, the number of people infected with the virus is increasing every day. This is bad news for Afghan children, who already live in the world’s most dangerous country.

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Drones in the Time of Pandemic: Caution Behind the Hype

Photo: Denis Agati via Unsplash

The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has mobilized national and international resources of all types, from funding of medical research to financial rescue plans, and has led to widespread state of emergency declarations. While the approaches adopted all over the world have differed from one country to another, an underlying trend connecting many of the measures implemented during the last weeks has been the growing importance of technological solutions. Essential assets in time of crisis, emerging technologies such as drones, Artificial intelligence (AI), robots, perform specific tasks (geolocate people to impose lockdowns, for example) and generate data for specific purposes, for example to create patterns of dispersion of the contagion to anticipate future outbreaks.

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Women’s Leadership Could Enhance Global Recovery From COVID-19

Clockwise from top left: Jacinda Ardern, Erna Solberg, Tsai Ing-wen, Mette Frederiksen, Angela Merkel. Photos from Wikimedia Commons: Ulysse Bellier, Pernille Ingebrigtsen / Arctic Frontiers, Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan), News Oresund, Johannes Maximilian

As countries consider how to recover from COVID-19 without a vaccine, technologies for testing and contact tracing are seen as crucial to enable us to return to work and school. But the one ingredient often missing in the strategy to contain (or eliminate) Coronavirus is effective leadership. Where leadership is evident globally, it is often coming from women leaders. It also comes from leadership that is gender-balanced, in that it exhibits both traditionally feminine qualities of empathy and care and traditionally masculine qualities of decisiveness and use of rational science.

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Context matters – Why Africa should tailor its own measures to fight COVID-19

African governments have been faster than most of their European counterparts in imposing measures to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak despite dealing with numerous other challenges. However, context matters, and for Africa, the political and socioeconomic consequences of the lockdown measures may cause more havoc than the actual virus. This brief identifies political, economic and social risks related to coronavirus responses in Africa and emphasises the disproportionate burden carried by women. It argues that localised measures, which include dialogue, transparency and flexibility, may be the only realistic way forward, while underlining the need for wealthier states to provide generous aid packages, debt cancellations and continued investments, in spite of current challenges, in order for Africa to pull through yet another challenge.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visits Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation COVID-19 Command Centre. Photo: GovernmentZA via Flickr

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The COVID-19 Resettlement Freeze: Towards a Permanent Suspension?

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the suspension of international resettlement for refugees. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), resettlement-related travel will resume as soon as prudence and logistics permit. Meanwhile, individuals and families that were set to go are in limbo for the foreseeable future. However, this is not the first time that resettlement has been suspended on account of a public health emergency – and it may not be the last.

Migrants boarding the bus headed towards the processing center in Amman, Jordan 2015. Photo: IOM/Muse Mohammed via Flickr

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A Global Call: Will COVID-19 bring more peace to the world?

“The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.” Those were UN Secretary General António Guterres’ words on 23 March when he launched a global call addressed to armed actors around the world to declare ceasefires. According to Guterres, the coronavirus crisis demands a redirection of all attention and resources, as well as facilitating the work of health personnel and humanitarian actors to allow access to the most vulnerable populations affected by violence and now the pandemic. The call spread widely; perhaps it was the first viral call created by the United Nations.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Photo: UN Geneva via Flickr

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Ceasefires in the Time of COVID-19

On 23rd March the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, called for a global ceasefire to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The appeal quickly gathered widespread support, and has already led to ceasefires by conflict parties in more than 12 countries. Strikingly, this includes a arrangements in Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria, three countries that have recently experienced some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts. But why do parties agree to ceasefires, and can they make a difference during this crisis?

Afghan Soldiers in 2010. Photo: ResoluteSupportMedia via Flickr

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The Specter of Post-Pandemic Revolutions Haunts Russia

A scene from the 2018 Armenian Velvet Revolution. Photo: Albergo via Wikimedia Commons


In these anxious days, it doesn’t necessarily take a flight of imagination to envisage some consequences of the still-expanding COVID-19 pandemic. The societies that had experienced turmoil before the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis will quite probably experience a re-energized surge of protests temporarily subdued by the health concerns. The unfolding economic recession is set to aggravate the preexisting tensions, so unstable governments will face heavy odds. Russia is sinking into an ugly crisis but can try to forestall and deter the threat of revolutions.

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