The Paradox of 2014

In recent weeks, a number of people have asked me whether I think we’re headed for World War III. Maybe it’s the intense media coverage of the centennial of WWI. Maybe it’s all the violence heating up in Israel & Gaza, Iraq, and Ukraine, and wars raging in Syria, Nigeria, and DRC.

The sculpture “Non-Violence” in front of the United Nations building in New York. Courtesy of Luke Redmond/Flickr.

Maybe it’s the fact that several of these wars are activating great power tensions in ways that haven’t been seen since the Cold War, or that diplomatic crises are shaking the United States’ friendships with foundational allies. Maybe it’s the speculation by some pundits that we are, indeed, teetering on the precipice of a new world war.Read More

This Week in South Sudan – Week 29

Monday 14 July Salva Kiir accused Riek Machar of using ‘spiritual powers’ to mobilise. SPLM/A-in-Opposition claimed they killed 15 government troops who attempted to raid cattle in Unity State. SPLM/A-in-Opposition claimed SPLA launched new attacks in Unity State last weekend. The IGAD official who has been reported calling Machar and Kiir “stupid” claimed he was… Read more »

Putin tours Latin America, but his fate is decided in Ukraine

The upcoming BRICS (a loose political-economic grouping of the large emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit, scheduled to take place in Fortaleza, Brazil, on July 15–17, provided an occasion for President Vladimir Putin to make a lengthy tour around Latin America, starting from Cuba last Friday and making a short unscheduled detour to Nicaragua on Saturday. Meetings with the Castro brothers as well as with Daniel Ortega did little to restore Putin’s international prestige, but they allowed him to make a grand gesture of writing off Cuba’s debt amounting to no less than $35 billion (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 8;, July 11). The next destination was Argentina, which can perhaps serve as a useful illustration of a protracted economic disaster aggravated by entrenched populism (Kommersant-Dengi, April 28). Putin is hardly receptive to such lessons and has to play down his trademark counter-revolutionary rhetoric, emphasizing instead the determination to stand firm against US hegemony and interventionism. This discourse certainly resonates in Latin America; but the BRICS summit is focused on economic dynamism. And Russia’s anemic economic growth makes Moscow’s claims for a major role on the international arena questionable (, July 10).

The full article is in Eurasia Daily Monitor, July 14.

Fidel has something to say to Putin. Photo: Alex Castro

This Week in South Sudan – Week 28

Monday 7 July Shoot-to-kill orders against curfew violators were issued. South Sudan security confiscated newspapers covering the federalism debate. Two people were killed when a grenade exploded in Yida camp, Unity State. Tuesday 8 July 12 people were killed in an attack on the UN camp in Bor. International Crisis Group urged the UN Security… Read more »

A Humanitarian Technology Policy Agenda for 2016

world_humanitarian_summit_logoThe World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 will feature transformation through innovation as a key theme. Leading up to the summit, OCHA has voiced the need to “identify and implement….positions that address operational challenges and opportunities” (OCHA 2013) relating to the use of information technology, big data and innovations in humanitarian action. In this blog post we sketch out four areas in need of further research over the next two years to provide policymakers, humanitarian actors and other stakeholders with up to date and relevant research and knowledge.Read More

Moscow Pulls a Diplomatic Pause as the War in Ukraine Rages

Insurgents occupy the City Council of Slavyansk in April. Photo: Wikipedia

The most dramatic turn in the protracted Ukrainian calamity last week was the decision of President Petro Poroshenko to end the ceasefire and resume the offensive against separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Poroshenko had every reason to conclude that the cessation of combat operations plays into rebel hands, since Ukraine’s control over the border with Russia was not restored and reinforcements from Russia were pouring into the motley gangs of pretentious warlords (RBC Daily, July 2). Heavy fighting brought casualties among civilians, so Poroshenko had to dismiss the top brass and appoint a new defense minister, while insisting on forceful measures (, July 4). The success of this new attempt to bring the “civil war” to an end was by no means guaranteed, but on Saturday the government troops scored a major victory by capturing Slavyansk, which had been a symbolic stronghold of the separatist cause (, July 5).Read More

Ministry for the Arctic affairs?

A project for setting a ministry for the Arctic region – similar to the recently created ministries for the Far East, the North Caucasus, and the Crimea – is under consideration in the government, according to Nezavisimaya. Any bureaucratic analogy with the Crimean issue should better be avoided, but the article argues proudly that “Events around… Read more »

Invisible Aid

Muslims pay 15 times more “religious tax” than the rest of the world gives in humanitarian aid.

Ramadan: The joy of giving is never as great as during these 40 days, when Muslims give 2.5 per cent of their income to the poor and needy. Photo: Zakat Foundation of America. Ramadan 2013 in Syria

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, has just started. A time of fasting for devout Muslims, this is also the time of year when most Muslims pay their annual zakat. Zakat is a form of compulsory almsgiving, a kind of “religious tax.” The amount due is 2.5 per cent of a Muslim’s wealth at the start of Ramadan, subject to a minimum threshold. The Koran contains clear rules about who is eligible to receive zakat: in general, these are people who are poor or otherwise needy. The meaning of the word zakat is associated with the concept of purification. Sharing one’s wealth with the poor brings about a kind of religious purification.

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Introducing State Briefings

Through a series of short briefs on developments at state level since the start of the civil war in 2013, the team behind Monitoring South Sudan hopes to provide a more comprehensive overview of the nature of the conflict and the impact of violence. As always, through the commentary field we encourage our readers to… Read more »

State Briefing: Upper Nile State

Capital: Malakal Approximate population: 964,353  Internally Displaced People (IDP) sheltering in Upper Nile: 194,200 Upper Nile State is situated in the north-east, bordering Ethiopia and Sudan. It is considered a marginalised state, heavily affected by decades of civil war and with poor infrastructure and accessibility (especially in the rainy season). Although imbuing areas around Renk… Read more »