Yemen Peace Talks
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is cause for despair; however, the recent Yemen peace talks in Sweden and outreach programs providing humanitarian aid are offering new hope to those suffering from the conflict. Through the Yemen peace talks, the United Nations was able to negotiate a ceasefire agreement on December 18, putting at least a pause on the war until countries can reach a further agreement. This finally opens the door to providing humanitarian aid.

Opposed to War in Yemen

Despite President Trump’s wishes, the Senate ended all aid in military assistance to Saudi Arabia following the peace talks. Thanks to Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for writing the agreement, the War Powers Act was used to assert Congress’ role in military power, overriding the White House. According to the New York Times, Trump was against the end of military assistance in fear that it would cost America “billions” of dollars in arms sales, putting the fear of losing money in front of regard for human life (a reference to the Saudi Prince having allegedly killed American journalist Jamal Khashoggi).

The humanitarian crisis currently taking place in Yemen was caused by war, and the only way to stop it is to end the war and promote peace. Humanitarian organizations such as Save the Children and CARE, along with several other organizations, wrote a letter to the U.S. government to use their influence to end the war. Providing more military support will only perpetuate the problem; whereas, peace will resolve it. Lise Grande, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, stated that the priority must be to increase access to currency and ensure that Yemenis are able to access shipments of food.

Humanitarian Aid

With the ceasefire in play, the focus can be shifted to the humanitarian crisis and helping the suffering people in Yemen. About half of Yemen’s population is subject to starvation and is in dire need of aid as a result of the war. “The big countries say they are fighting each other in Yemen, but it feels to us like they are fighting the poor people,” said Mr. Hajaji to the New York Times. Hajaji is a father who has already lost one child to starvation and is afraid of losing his second, who is struggling to stay alive.

According to Save the Children’s fact sheet, about 85,000 children are estimated to have died from starvation and disease since the beginning of the war in Yemen. Despite the high numbers of people who have died or are suffering from starvation, organizations like Save the Children are making a difference and increasing the number of survivors. This organization has treated nearly 100,000 children suffering from malnutrition and is operating mobile health clinics in the hardest-to-reach areas.

Ways to Help

People from the U.S. can help alleviate this issue in numerous ways. One such method is by contacting Senators and U.S. representatives through the United States Senate website and urge them to give aid and resources to Yemen. Since Yemen’s famine is income based, the best thing the people can do to aid is to donate money to those in need to survive. Organizations like Save the Children are also distributing cash and vouchers for food to families as well as education and safe spaces for children to keep getting an education despite the harsh circumstances and ongoing recovery from war trauma.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is providing outreach through healthcare, nutrition, water/sanitation services and by providing financial assistance to those struggling survive. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is providing education, food security, shelter and water outreach to many Yemenis. Volunteer and/or donating to these organizations will help their work reach more people.

The resolution of the Yemen peace talks to enact a cease-fire and the U.S. halting its military assistance to Saudi Arabia serve as a positive catalyst for change in the right direction. The ongoing battle is now the aid for Yemenis in an attempt to end their critical condition of poverty. Organizations such as Save the Children, IRC, NRC and UNICEF are providing outreach and saving people’s lives, making significant progress in the work to end Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.

– Anna Power

Photo: Flickr

UN Peacekeeping Mission Celebrates its 70th Anniversary

Raising awareness of human rights is one of the key missions of the United Nations (U.N.), founded in 1945. Part of the mission’s responsibilities is to promote peace in conflict-stricken areas such as the African continent. The U.N. peacekeeping mission plays a crucial role with 14 active operations worldwide, and its 70th anniversary in May 2018 was a just cause for celebration due to its impressively impactful efforts.

U.N. Mission’s Main Functions

One relevant fact about the U.N. peacekeeping mission is that it does not interfere with a country’s authority during a conflict; rather, it works as a peace-promoting partner.

U.N. peacekeepers are members of the local military force who can be distinguished by the use of a blue U.N. helmet or beret, and a badge. These workers also have the role of aiding post-conflict areas with extra support so as to rebuild a safe community.

Reestablishing Peace in Côte d’Ivoire

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire, located in West Africa, is one such example of success. When a second civil war broke out right after the election of President Alassane Ouattara, 2011 became an increasingly intense year for the already-weakened country.

The former president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to let the newly-elected President Ouattara take office. As a result, numerous conflicts between their supporters caused the exodus of about 200,000 people to Libya. The death of 400 people marked the three-month period after the 2010 election.

The early days of the U.N. peacekeeping mission consisted of ensuring the implementation of a cease-fire agreement after the 2002-2003 conflicts between the religiously-divided northern and southern regions.

The conflicts kept increasing after the first civil war in 2002, but so did the U.N. peacekeepers — their ranks eventually totaled 11,792 in 2011 in Côte d’Ivoire.

The rape of women and torture were some of the human rights violations the mission worked to combat, and in 2011, 1,726 human rights violations were reported. Thankfully, the presence of the U.N. troops reduced them to the impressive number of 88 in 2016.

Due to such consistent efforts, the refugees that fled the region during the long civil war period could finally return and have the chance to live a stable life again. The mission was successfully closed on June 30, 2017, and Côte d’Ivoire now has a promising future as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

U.N. Mission Challenges in South Sudan

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011, but its citizens have struggled with the effects of never-ending conflicts among President Salva Kiir, and his former Vice President Riek Machar.

Tension escalated between the two parties, leading to the formation of a rebel group lead by ex-Vice President Marchar. Ethnic disputes from the Dinka and Nuer groups marked a series of manifestations of violence such as village pillages and the murder of 50,000 people since 2013.   

The U.N. peacekeeping mission has 16,987 members serving in the area while South Sudan has 2 million refugees. The troops have the responsibility to provide a safe environment for the 210,000 displaced citizens who temporarily live in the Protection of Civilian (POC) sites located in the country.   

Peacekeeping Challenges

Peacekeepers face numerous challenges, one of which being that they were implemented for aid on a short-term level, but as the conflicts continue to grow the sites have become a long-term refuge to the citizens. In fact, $50 million has been allocated to the implementation of POC units as of 2014.    

Another problem for the peacekeepers is the violence that sometimes erupts inside their own camps. In 2016, tension between the ethnic groups Dinka and Shilluk caused the damage of a POC unit located in Malakal. Unfortunately, 1,521 shelters were burned, along with clinics and medical schools.

Women’s Role in Peacekeeping Missions

Women serving in U.N. peacekeeping missions have the important role of bridging relations with groups that can not be easily reached due to national cultural norms.

Female victims of violence have a higher probability of reporting cases to women holding peacekeeping positions. A teenage rape victim in Monrovia, Liberia, opens up: “I can be scared to talk to a man; a woman is better. She is like an auntie or mother.”

The recently closed U.N. peacekeeping mission in Liberia is an example of how women can empower each other through service — 125 female officers from India positively influenced and helped foster success for Liberian women between 2007 and 2016.

Their work was so remarkable, in fact, that the country had an increase in the number of women interested in serving as police officers. This new group of officers will continue to ensure that other females can have a voice if future conflicts emerge.

Maintaining Stability

Women also hold a crucial function in maintaining stability in war-torn areas. Armed robberies went down to 65 percent in Monrovia because of the presence of Indian female officers patrolling the city on foot.

Gerard J. DeGroot, a professor from the University of Saint Andrews who studied cases of women in the armed forces, stated: “Any conflict where you have an all-male army, it’s like a holiday from reality. If you inject women into that situation, they do have a civilizing effect.” 

Global Influence of the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission

World leaders can strongly benefit from seeking partnerships with the United Nations peacekeeping missions. Despite the challenges some of these missions faced, the efforts have provided well-structured plans overall to post-war countries.

The restoration of peace in many communities could have taken much longer without the U.N. peacekeepers’ help. The years of service the peacekeepers have dedicated to the world is an example that selfless acts produce the best results when it comes to crisis response.

– Nijessia Cerqueira
Photo: Flickr

Bosnian War Facts

The Bosnian War was incredibly brutal and impacted millions of lives. Below are 10 important Bosnian War facts: how it began, what happened and how it ended.

Top 10 Bosnian War Facts

  1. The state of affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina began declining when politics became chaotic with the rapid decline of the Yugoslavian economy. Also playing a role was the collapse of communism and a structured government and various ethnic groups vying for control of the area. The Serbs, Muslims and Croats living in Bosnia each desired to appropriate Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territory for their own countries and take control of the government and political field.
  2. Bosnian Croats and Muslims feared that Milošević, the leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia, would take their land, so they called for the independence of Herzeg-Bosnia. The Serbs, however, had the same idea. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s independence was declared on March 3, 1992, and was recognized by the U.S. and the European Community on April 6, 1992.
  3. On April 6, 1992, the Serbs began the Siege of Sarajevo, which lasted until Feb. 29, 1996. The Serbian paramilitary forces began the siege by holding positions inside the city and in the hills surrounding Sarajevo. By the first week of May, the Serbs had surrounded the whole city, which cut Sarajevo off from food, medicine, water, electricity, fuel and other supplies. The Serbs began firing on Sarajevo with advanced artillery but faced heavy defense from those mobilized with weapons within the city. Because the Serbs were facing opposition, they began to terrorize the city with intense gunfire and snipers. The Siege of Sarajevo lasted for 47 months and remains the longest siege in modern history.
  4. With Sarajevo, as well as several other cities isolated by force, the supply of food, utilities and communication became extremely limited and spread thin throughout the territory. This caused many cases of malnutrition and many citizens lost an average of up to 33 pounds while some others lost their lives due to lack of access to supplies.
  5. Bosnian Serbs began ethnic cleansing of large areas occupied by non-Serbs. The genocide destroyed entire villages and thousands of Bosnians were forced out of their homes and taken to detention camps where they were raped, tortured, deported or killed. The Serbians used rape in the Bosnian War as a tactic to destroy relationships, families and communities.
  6. One of the most lethal Bosnian War facts came when Gen. Ratko Mladic led Serbian troops in capturing Srebrenica, previously declared by the U.N. as a safe area, and killed almost 8,000 Muslim men. The U.N. later indicted Radovan Karadžić, orchestrator of the attack on Sarajevo, and General Mladic for genocidal war crimes.
  7. The Bosnian government was prohibited from providing updated and necessary weaponry that the Serbian and Croatian armies maintained due to an international arms embargo imposed throughout the Bosnian War.
  8. Although the U.N. Protection Force sent troops to supervise humanitarian aid and protect declared safe areas, the U.N. overall refused to intercede in the Bosnian War.
  9. After NATO’s negotiations in Dayton, Ohio, in 1995, a final ceasefire was imposed and declared to bring an end to the Bosnian War. NATO enforced this through air strikes until the leaders agreed to the ceasefire and signed the Dayton Peace Accords in Paris on Dec. 14, 1995. The agreement allowed for a NATO peacekeeping enforcement group to maintain a permanent presence and oversight in the country.
  10. Throughout the Bosnian War, more than 250,000 people lost their lives and many more were displaced from their homes.

Even today, as a result of these Bosnian War facts, the territory remains highly divided between two sections: Muslim-Croat and the Serbian Republic. Both sections face a continuous fight against poverty, unemployment and ethnic discord.

Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid Is a Matter of National Security
In February of 2018, the Trump administration released a budget proposal indicating deep 29 percent budget cuts to the state department and steady 13 percent increases to the defense department. These state department cuts materialize into $16.2 billion taken away from the previous $55.6 billion allocated in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. The Trump Administration justifies the cuts by stating that aid will remain in the accounts of “friends” of our future foreign policy decisions.

Ramifications of the 2018 Budget Proposal

Meanwhile, the proposed budget increases the amount of money spent on national defense by 13 percent, raising the $600 billion budget to nearly $690 billion. The increased defense budget will be used to completely update the United States’ nuclear arsenal and increase the amount of ground-based missile interceptors in Alaska working to address the increased threat of the Korean Peninsula.

Assessing nuclear threats is a fair concern and position for the United States government to take, however it should not come at the expense of drastically decreasing foreign aid. In truth, foreign aid is a matter of national security.

Foreign Aid is a Matter of National Security

While it may not appear obvious at first, foreign aid is known and regarded by many U.S. military officials as beneficial to United States foreign policy and national security. To illustrate, in 2017-retired General Mike Mullen and retired Admiral James Jones wrote a piece explaining the hands-on benefits they saw foreign aid bring in leading American troops.

Both officials explain that military power alone cannot prevent despair within vulnerable countries from turning into outbursts of violence and instability. Robust foreign aid should not be looked upon as a no-strings-attached giveaway to the poorest nations in the world, but rather as stability enhancement to places most susceptible to radical influence.

Threat of Extremism

The generals explain that countries with limited social hope and foreign assistance are the most prone to radicalization that materializes into extremism. Terror organizations like Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, Boko Haram and ISIS take root in countries with common characteristics — instability and poor governance. These terror cells bring about a sense of social support that citizens do not believe their public officials and service programs will be able to provide them.

The former military officials further explain that Congress can, and should, fully fund the International Affairs Budget, as the funding leads to active approaches from the U.S. government, non-government organizations and in-country support to provide services that meet citizens’ basic needs.

Foreign Aid and the Military

Moreover, foreign aid goes hand-in-hand with a strong military. Without support after a strong U.S. military presence, countries can remain unstable and vulnerable to extremist influence. Therefore, foreign aid creates proactive conflict-prevention strategies which are far less expensive in resources and expended lives than reactionary use of United States Armed Forces.

In 2013, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis bluntly summarized the words of the retired officials and explains why foreign aid is a matter of national security: “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately. So I think it’s a cost benefit ratio. The more that we put into the State Department’s diplomacy, hopefully the less we have to put into a military budget…”

Diplomacy is ultimately less expensive than the wars that a lack of diplomacy brings about. While a strong military is considerably important in 2018 and beyond, cutting foreign aid to increase military spending weakens our strength as a nation, a role model and peacekeeper.

The words of these military officials should be kept in mind in future policy decisions so as to clearly explain why foreign aid is a matter of national security.

– Daniel Levy
Photo: Unsplash

most dangerous countries in the worldAs of January 2018, the State Department currently categorizes 11 countries with a level 4 travel advisory. The advisory recommends that U.S. citizens refrain from traveling to that individual country due to dangerous conditions. Level 4 travel warnings are issued for various reasons, which include terrorism, armed conflict, health, civil unrest and crime. The seven most dangerous countries in the world detailed here all have high poverty rates due to the unsafe and unstable living conditions in the country.

The Most Dangerous Countries in the World

  1. Afghanistan
    In recent years, Afghanistan has experienced prolonged armed conflict between NATO forces and domestic terrorist groups such as the Taliban and ISIL. Al-Qaida and other foreign terrorist organizations have maintained a presence in the conflict as well. Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, continually faces the threat of terrorist attacks, which include suicide bombings, kidnappings and armed conflict. A portion of these attacks explicitly target government buildings, hotels, restaurants and other areas frequented by foreign visitors.
  2. Syria
    According to the State Department travel advisory for Syria, “No part of Syria is safe from violence. Kidnappings, the use of chemical warfare and aerial bombardment have significantly raised the risk of death or serious injury.” As of February 2012, the U.S. Embassy in Damascus has ceased all operations.

    Originally, the Syrian conflict began as an extension of the Arab Spring, which sought to remove Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s current president. Over the course of the last seven years, the nature of the conflict has changed with U.S., Turkish and Russian involvement. Armed conflict continues among multiple militia groups. As a result of the continued crisis, a large number of refugees have sought asylum in Europe, North America and other regions of the Middle East. It is unclear as to when a peace agreement can be reached between the current opposing forces.

  3. Yemen
    With the removal of President Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi by Huthi forces in 2015, Yemen has suffered from continuous internal conflict between tribal groups and political parties. As a consequence, Yemen’s infrastructure of medical facilities, schools, housing, power and water utilities have been massively damaged.Between April and July 2017, more than 400,000 cases of cholera were reported. During that same period, close to 2,000 individuals died of cholera. In 2016, the U.N. attempted to reach a peace agreement for the cessation of hostilities, which ultimately failed.

    Sporadic fighting persists within Yemen, along with a domestic presence of terrorist groups such as al-Qaida.

  4. Mali
    Violent crime and terrorism are prevalent issues in northern and central Mali. The State Department warns foreign visitors that both kidnapping and armed robbery are major concerns when traveling to the country. Hotels, nightclubs, places of worship and restaurants are frequent places for domestic terrorist attacks.It is advised to avoid traveling at night due to random police checkpoints and illegal roadblocks. Seasonal holidays have also seen increased violent activity.
  5. Somalia
    Somalia has seen great progress in recent years with the creation of a 275-member parliament and a presidential election in 2012. However, the continued presence of the terrorist group al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida affiliate, presents dangerous conditions for Somali citizens and foreign visitors.

    On October 14, 2017, Somalia saw its deadliest attack ever recorded in its prolonged war against Islamic extremists. Two truck bombs were detonated in the capital city of Mogadishu, resulting in approximately 280 casualties and more than 300 wounded. Illegal roadblocks are common throughout the country, posing dangers to travelers. Also, the issue of piracy continues to threaten the security of those traveling by sea.

  6. Central African Republic
    In its report on the Central African Republic, the State Department warns visitors of crime and civil unrest. Currently, large areas of the country are under the control of armed groups, preventing safe travel. Notable violent crimes are listed, such as armed robbery, aggravated battery and homicide. The fragmented nature of the country is a result of a civil war launched in 2013 which ousted President Francois Bozize, who seized power through a military coup in 2003.

    As of 2016, the current president, Faustin-Archange Touadera, has sought to establish peace with the various rebel groups through a program which aims to reintegrate the armed groups into society.

  7. Iraq
    Upon the removal of Saddam Hussein by U.S.-led coalition forces, an Iraqi government was formally established. However, Iraq has continued to be a hotbed for armed conflict and terrorist activity, most notably the invasion of Mosul by the forces of ISIS and their eventual defeat in late 2017. Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, continues to be the target of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks. Due to the current security crisis throughout Iraq and the civil war in neighboring Syria, Iraq remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

    As the security situation remains largely unsolved, the State Department continues to list Iraq as a level 4 travel warning, urging potential visitors to avoid travel for the foreseeable future.

Primarily, the current security climate in these states is a direct result of various types of armed conflict. As a result of armed conflict, critical health issues have also arisen. However, this is cause for hope. Continued support from the world’s wealthiest nations in the form of development and aid can help bring armed conflict to an end. A different future is possible, one in which these war-torn nations will no longer be classified as the most dangerous countries in the world.

– Colby McCoy

Photo: Flickr

Colombia's Class WarIn 2016, Senators Ben Cardin, Bob Corker and 14 co-sponsoring senators of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution to help Colombia end its armed conflict of about 50 years. The violence of Colombia’s class war between the rebel militias Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) and right-wing paramilitaries has resulted in the displacement of three million people and the harming of more than eight million people.

The resolution reaffirms its commitment to the continued partnership between the United States and Colombia on issues of mutual security. These include counternarcotics cooperation, combating transnational organized crime and ensuring justice for those who caused indelible harm to our populations. In addition, it commands effort to end Colombia’s armed conflict and encourages informed public debate about the details of potential peace in advance of voter verification.

After deliberation, the United States Agency for International Development commenced the resolution called Justice for a Sustainable Peace (JSP). Responding to Colombia’s class war, JSP is a four-year commitment to expand Colombia’s justice institutions in order to serve justice at the local level. Therefore, it strengthens local civil society organizations that will increase citizen participation and support. The resolution is implemented in 45 municipalities in Cauca, Choco, Narino, Norte de Santander and Putumayo.

USAID explains that JSP promotes the rule of law in targeted areas by:

  • increasing citizen awareness of justice sector institutions and services
  • strengthening civil society engagement with government on justice issues
  • increasing citizen use of formal and informal justice services
  • strengthening ethnic justice and community conflict resolution mechanisms
  • developing effective judicial services and remedies
  • improving the effectiveness and transparency of land restitution judicial processes
  • addressing impunity for crimes such as gender-based violence, forced displacement, enforced disappearance, child recruitment, kidnapping and homicide.

Rebels and the government have been speaking on many topics, such as rural development, guaranteeing the exercise of political opposition and citizen participation, the end of armed conflict, drug trafficking and the rights of the conflict victims. Amplified communication between the people of Colombia and their government will surely produce mutuality. The methods of JSP will allow the resolution of abuses caused by Colombia’s class war and unify the people.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Flickr

FARC Peace Deal

In Colombia, the conflict between the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has officially ended as of September, after 52 years of unrest. From Havana, Cuba, the historic FARC peace deal between the left-wing rebels and the Columbian government is a vital step on Colombia’s path to prosperity. For Colombians, peace has been given a chance at last, and it is now time for society to create new hope for its children.

According to the Fitch Ratings, the peace deal is already paying dividends, and will allow the government to rebuild its revenue base while also reducing debt. The cessation of conflict in previously-uninhabitable areas would prompt investment and allow space for new international markets, especially in mining and agriculture.

Furthermore, President Obama pledged $450 million in aid to Colombia in the next year. While many analysts do not expect a quick change, the economy itself has been recovering for the past decade. With the coming peace package, the economy will receive a much-needed boost.

The peace deal heralds great opportunities for Colombia, but progress will not come without considerable challenges. Reintegration, disarmament and a period of stabilization will have high costs to begin with. Alberto Ramos, head of Latin American Economics at Goldman Sachs, said that “over time, the economic peace dividend is expected to more than offset the initial costs associated with the disarmament and integration of the rebel forces into civil society.”

One possible threat to the FARC peace deal is the reconfiguration of rebel groups, since nothing is stopping guerrilla fighters from forming new extremist political groups and alliances. Violent groups and non-state actors could mobilize individuals to their cause, and set their sights on any political power vacuum created by the emerging peace. Therefore, a new security game plan for Colombia is required.

 

Noman Ashraf

Photo: Flickr

The Role of Unofficial Diplomacy in Peacekeeping
The role of unofficial diplomacy, also known as Track II diplomacy, became increasingly helpful for state crafting. This method of diplomacy started in the U.S. by a group of academics, state department bureaucrats and public intellectuals during the 1970s.

The methods grew out of the conflicts of the Cold War including Soviet-U.S. spy scandals and the Arab-Israeli conflict. By the 1980s and 1990s, many individuals and public institutions were taking part of unofficial diplomacy. Currently, Track II diplomacy is taught in several graduate programs.

The method encourages negotiators and private individuals to meet in an informal and unofficial setting to make common ground where normal diplomatic negotiators can’t.

Governments started worrying that Track II diplomacy is taking over freelance diplomacy but scholars insist that unconventional problems require unconventional solutions. Track II diplomacy efforts help to bring solutions to problems such as in Kashmir, China and North Korea.

An example where Track II diplomacy is used to resolve conflict is in India. For decades, India and Pakistan are fighting for the disputed Kashmir. The tension could escalate again into a conflict between the two countries.

In order to prevent such a situation, Track II diplomacy could bring more stakeholders to the negotiations table. According to the Diplomat, a genuine people-to-people approach would only help reach long-term peace among the two nuclear countries.

In order for unofficial diplomacy process to succeed in the conflict of Kashmir, Track II efforts should include groups who are not necessarily on either side. This includes diverse media and not just local media of both sides.

Also, diplomacy efforts should be conducted in local areas of the conflicts. This includes suburban towns that are not major cities. Agendas for prospective agreements should be open and not limited to biased goals.

A more practical example of the use of unofficial diplomacy is the resolved disputes between the U.S. and Iran. The tensions were high after the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis.

However, during the time from 1997 to 2005, Track II diplomacy efforts were taken to provide space for productive talk. These talks provided ground to discuss topics that government officials were not ready or willing to discuss. This was unique since the governments were not willing to discuss many issues.

Through implementing frequent use, the role of unofficial diplomacy will aid in the ability to civilly resolve disputes.

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr

Female Peacekeepers
Nearly 16 years ago, in response to the disproportionate amount of violence against women in countries enduring post-war conflicts, the U.N. adopted resolution 1325. The resolution targets the issue that when countries that have achieved reform, the post-war conflicts frequently bring more violence, specifically more violence toward women.

The U.N. Security Council resolution 1325 calls for the inclusion of women in all efforts maintaining and promoting peace and security. Even though the likelihood of achieving peace increases when female peacekeepers are included in the discussion, women living in countries that are at war often remain ignored.

Research has confirmed that women are a significant influence in promoting peace. Also, humanitarian efforts are more effective with women’s participation. The inclusion of female peacekeepers yields stronger protection efforts for U.N. peacekeepers, contributes to the implementation of peace talks, and accelerates economic recovery.

Experience has shown the inclusion of women in U.N. peacekeeping missions elicits more trust in communities and result in peace operations that are more customarily fit to a communities’ protection needs. Peace negotiations recommended by women are more likely to be accepted and retained.

However, women in countries where terrorism and extremism are prevalent face disparity, and the fragile state contexts affect their rights. Women often are forced into marriage, forced to engage in sexually based crimes prohibited to get an education or get a job or even engage in public life.

Despite the strides made by the U.N. to integrate women into the peace-building agenda to combat these problems, there has not been much progress since the resolution was first adopted by countries in 2000. There have been reports of incidents wherein U.N. peacekeepers preserved sexual violence and stood by as women were raped. The inclusion of women in peacekeeping operations could diminish the chances of this occurring.

In order to better serve women, the individuals most affected by post-war conflicts, there must be women within the peacekeeping force. Having female peacekeepers who can understand the difficulties and threats women face will better enable the effort to ensure safety. Thus, enforcing a concrete number of women to be included in peace operations is a way to hold U.N. peacekeeping operations accountable.

Although war impacts all, women can address this issue and improve conditions for women more so than men, yet women continue to be excluded from peace talks. 55 countries have adopted national strategies to implement the resolution, and an additional 10 have pledged to do so.

It is still up in the air whether these countries’ political wills for the inclusion of women in peace talks be translated into political action. In order for U.N. peacekeepers to actually fulfill their political wills, it would be accommodating for them to provide a target number of female peacekeepers to include in their peacekeeping operations.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

Sharing Land DRCSharing the Land is a peacekeeping initiative started by the Christian Bilingual University of Congo in January 2015. Funded by Texas A&M University’s Center for Conflict and Development (ConDev) and USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network, the organization has made enormous strides in peacefully settling land disputes in one of Beni’s 30 quarters in eastern Congo.

Sharing the Land uses GIS and GPS mapping technology to compile land claim and conflict data as well as road names, neighborhood boundaries, geographic features and points of interest. Data comes from household surveys and government records. The maps are already being used to settle land disputes between individuals, families and large companies in Beni.

Archip Lobo, Sharing the Land’s project leader, grew up in eastern Congo amidst violence and severe abuse of human rights, much of which revolved around land disputes. Though the country has a tragic and ongoing history of violence, Lobo felt that land disputes were preventable and not a grounds for continued, unhindered violence.

Rampant conflicts over land began when King Leopold of Belgium usurped much of the land from Congolese chiefs and initiated a tyrannous rule over eastern Congo in the late 1800s. With a new form of governance entangled in the traditional ways of land management, violence became prevalent.

In the years since Congo gained its independence from Belgium on Jun. 30, 1960, the country has endured great instability, insecurity, corruption and pervasive violation of human rights. Removing land disputes as a cause for violence is a step in the right direction for bringing Congo towards a peaceful future.

Sharing the Land provides Beni with data-driven land management practices instead of relying on differing traditions or interpretations of inheritance rights. While the project aims to bring peace through nonviolent land dispute resolutions, it is also reducing disputes in the first place by making the information publicly available and educating all those involved in urban planning.

According to Texas A&M, 85 percent of court cases in Beni relate to land disputes. The Sharing the Land initiative is already making progress to reduce this statistic in Beni.

This project has two immediate benefits. First, official maps using government data help to standardize the land purchasing process. It also enables land managers to continue to add and update data on the stable ArcGIS platform so that land ownership can be accurately and reliably documented.

Aside from using GIS software to map the land, the Sharing the Land project is encouraging community leaders, government professionals, civil society organization representatives, lawyers and the greater community to collaborate in understanding the origins and consequences of land conflict and together engineer viable solutions.

To date, with the help of ConDev and USAID, Sharing the Land has mapped 531 land parcels and documented 29 conflicts. This year, the organization will collaborate with UN-Habitat to provide land management training to government officials in several Congo provinces in an effort to strengthen and standardize urban planning.

Sharing the Land envisions that this new aspect of the project will position a new generation of government officials to enforce and continue to develop peaceful and sustainable land management practices.

Mary Furth

Sources: IRIUCBC, Codev Center 1, USAID, Codev Center 2, USAID, Eastern Congo