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Geospatial Mapping
Without the help of development agencies, peacekeepers may always have to participate in the never-ending cycle of peacekeeping. With 50% of the world’s poor projected to live in counties where violence casts its constant shadow, peacekeeping efforts can only stand to scale, but at what cost, and to what end? Fortunately, technological advancements, such as geospatial mapping, can allow peacekeepers to help expand options for development agencies that danger constantly repels.

Accessibility to Hostile Territory

Lack of security defines development agencies’ diminishing hopes of lasting presence, demanding the perpetual presence of peacekeepers. Development projects thus deal with constant mission suspensions, limits on the number of authorized personnel and the inability to conduct crucial work. A review of relief operations in Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria have recorded a multitude of resources in safer areas that are not in need due to reluctance to transgress into “red zones.”

Access limitations are not a characteristic of peacekeeping efforts for obvious reasons. Without development agencies in the arena of conflict, peacekeepers merely provide greater tolerance for conflict since development is not within their capacity, serving to encourage scaling conflict which exposes more poor people to violence.

The World Bank’s Geo-Enabling for Monitoring and Supervision Initiative (GEMS)

The World Bank’s Geo-Enabling for Monitoring and Supervision initiative (GEMS) facilitates for government agencies the ability to use tech innovations such as KoBoToolbox, an open-source data collection software that the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative developed, to amass data and analysis in states defined, at least in part, by conflict to improve monitoring and evaluation. Government representatives and partner organizations receive training to develop and mete out a platform for data collection that usually takes place during field visits and undergoes acquisition with the assistance of mobile devices and can cover any topic relevant to the goals of a project. Such a process helps developers monitor a project’s progress while maintaining safety.

How Geospatial Mapping Tools for Peacekeepers Works

Geospatial mapping tools for peacekeepers serve the relevant function of sharing categorized data regarding violence and insecurity to apprise development experts. These sorts of data collection efforts include identifying the number, type and intensity of violent occurrences in conflicted areas where peacekeepers often work.

Security maps in conjunction with poverty can provide development agencies the ability to develop access strategies for projects that specialize in the delivery of commodities to the poor who are in conflict. Because security administration is a public service, data that peacekeepers amass can help governments measure the degree of necessity regarding providing accountable and effective security services. Allowing peacekeepers of the U.N. the capability of strengthening their data-gathering capabilities aid the U.N. in determining its efficacy regarding deployments.

U.N. peacekeepers have made progress regarding the protection of civilians policy (POC) in recent years. Notwithstanding, peacekeepers will linger in a state of perpetual peacekeeping if systems that can monitor and evaluate progress fail to undergo initiation. These maps, which initiatives like GEMS are implementing, provide an advantage for peacemaking and development efforts.

– Mohamed Makalou
Photo: Rawpixel

Save the State Protests

Liberia, or officially the Republic of Liberia, is a small country located on the western coast of Africa. Coming from a rich history of international involvement, the nation holds the title of the first African state to declare independence and, therefore, is the oldest African modern republic. The Save the State protests are currently gripping Liberia.

On June 7, 2019, in the capital city of Monrovia, ongoing tensions and disappointment in the current regime reached a head, resulting in the largest anti-government protest since the end of the civil war in 2003. This was the first of the Save the State protests, which a coalition of politicians, professionals, students and regular citizens called the Council of Patriots organized.

The main goal of the demonstration was to protest high inflation rates and governmental corruption. These two points of frustration have been amplified during the current presidential administration, as these were the two major campaign promises behind the 2018 election of President George Weah. However, these issues merely represent the breaking point of decades-long tensions and it is necessary to understand the socio-economic situation in Liberia which has caused so much unrest, especially as protests continue.

A Damaged Economy

Liberia has continued to feel the effects of two civil wars that took place between 1989 and 2003 and resulted in the death of a quarter of a million people. The wars crippled the Liberian economy by 90 percent and the economy has struggled to fully recover ever since. It suffered another blow with the outbreak of Ebola from 2014 to 2015 that claimed the lives of thousands.

After these crises, foreign aid flowed into the country to help in the restoration of the economy and offer assistance to those struggling in the aftermath. But, as international funding began to dissipate – most recently with the withdrawal of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in 2018 – the country has struggled to develop on its own.

The country continues to rank among the poorest nations in the world, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook. The fact that inflation reached a record high of 28.5 percent in 2018 and an International Monetary Fund growth rate projection of only 0.4 percent in 2019 compounds this.

Disillusioned Voters

The socio-economic situation of sustained, long-term poverty and poor living conditions due to rising prices and financial mismanagement have escalated since the election of President Weah. This is as a result of the lack of changes he made following his campaign promises. His connection to the people of Liberia as a former football star who achieved international acclaim initially spurred people’s excitement for his presidency.

However, hope for improvement has soured as prices continue to rise, fiscal growth continues to slow and the president’s personal wealth appears to be growing. This dissatisfaction brewed alongside a huge scandal where $102 million in new banknotes was allegedly missing. Although no one found evidence to support this claim in an investigation, people cited accuracy and completeness as major issues in the central bank’s records.

As 64 percent of Liberians continue to live below the poverty line and the people have planned more Save the State for the coming months, it is clear that long-term poverty engenders long-term instability and, therefore, a constant state of tension. This kind of unstable environment becomes a powder keg for tensions to erupt, making the future of these peaceful protests uncertain.

Despite President Weah’s opposition to the demands of the protestors thus far, their message remains clear: they want to save their state and improve the lives of their compatriots. It is a prime example of citizens wanting their voices be heard.

– Alexandra Schulman
Photo: Flickr