Jul 7 2014

Tim Allen on the Importance of Fieldwork

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In an interview with The Economist‘s Prospero blog, JSRP Research Director Tim Allen underlines the crucial role serious fieldwork should play in underpinning international development policy and practice, arguing that: “There are systems of scholarship and discourses of power that are grounded in ignorance”, but ultimately concluding that “it’s possible to change things by bringing evidence from the ground”.

Read the full interview here.

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Jun 23 2014

The International Rule of Law Movement: A Crisis of Legitimacy and the Way Forward

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By David Marshall

rule of law

Ahead of its LSE launch on Thursday 26th June (6-7.30pm, Room 1.04, New Academic Building, free and open to all), editor David Marshall introduces The International Rule of Law Movement: A Crisis of Legitimacy and the Way Forward, which includes a new chapter by JSRP researcher Mareike Schomerus.

In 2011–2012, I was deployed to South Sudan to lead the United Nations’ development of the country’s justice and prisons system. It was a startling experience. Though the international community has been engaged in rule of law reform since 2005, there was a profound knowledge deficit regarding the justice “system,” its actors, and its processes. Moreover, there appeared to be little interest in understanding, or learning from, years of international rule of law programming in the country—what worked, what did not, and why—or in applying lessons learned from similar contexts. Much of the assistance focused on “law and order” issues, with most support going to police and prisons. The international community’s rule of law assistance seemed trapped in an “impoverished” view of the rule of law and appeared to have little, if any, impact in actually addressing injustices in the country. Continue reading

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Jun 10 2014

Conference at LSE: Can Politics and Evidence Work Together in International Development?

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Can Politics and Evidence Work Together in International Development? Insights from Security and Justice Programmes in Conflict-Affected Areas

1.30 – 6.30, Tuesday July 1st 2014, Room 4.02, Clement House, LSE

‘Working politically’ and ‘evidence-based policy’ often co-exist as buzzwords within development discourse and policy documents, but can they genuinely complement each other in practice, since the requirements, and timelines, of rigorous evidence production would seem to run counter to the notion of political agility? An emphasis on research and evidence implies a degree of openness, whereas working politically may necessitate a lack of transparency for practitioners. How can these two approaches work together, especially in conflict-affected regions where the tensions and trade-offs involved are likely to be heightened? How can we know whether programmes, particularly those on justice and security, have had a positive political impact?

Time Topic Speakers
13.30 – 15.00 Are the agendas on ‘working politically’ and ‘evidence-based policy’ compatible? Chair: Mary Kaldor, LSE/JSRP Rosalind Eyben (IDS), Duncan Green (Oxfam), Stephen Rood (TAF)
15.00 – 15.45 Coffee and breakout discussions:

  • How can we measure success in political development engagement?
  • What kind of evidence is relevant to practice that works politically?
  • How do we balance a quest for research transparency with the need for political work to happen quietly outside the spotlight?
  • ‘There is no difference between the current push to work politically and previous practice.’  So how can we make the current trend in the debate useful for research and practice?


Facilitators:Jaime Chua (TAF), Susan Marx (TAF),
Craig Valters (ODI),
George Varughese (TAF)
15.45 – 16.45 Security in conflict-affected contexts. Chair: Vesna Bojicic-Dzelilovic, JSRP Freddie Carver, (Stabilisation Unit), Mareike Schomerus (JSRP),
John Sidel (LSE),
Thomas Wheeler (Saferworld)
16.45 – 17.45 Justice in conflict-affected contexts. Chair: Tim Allen, LSE/JSRP Lisa Denney (ODI), Macha Farrant (DfID CHASE),
Rachel Ibreck (Justice Africa),
Barbara Smith (TAF)
17.45 – 18.30 How to work politically with better evidence: concluding remarks and lessons learnt Patrick Barron (TAF),
Mary Kaldor (JSRP),
Iain King (DFID)


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May 8 2014

Can ‘Context-Specific’ Security Programming Handle the Reality of Dynamic Circumstances?

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By Mareike Schomerus

This piece originally appeared as part of ODI’s Development Progress series ‘What role for security in development progress?’.

It’s an easy point to make: current programmes on security and development do not pay enough attention to context. I myself have tried to land that punch during past discussions. Now I cringe when I hear about ‘context-sensitivity’ because it implies that understanding and recording ‘context’ is both achievable and measurable. It also suggests that ‘context’ can be taken into account when planning policies to improve security for those caught up in conflict or violence.

I am not advocating ignorance of what actually happens where the population faces severe challenges to their security. Instead I propose that if we want to measure progress in security, we need to find better ways to work with the notion of ‘context.’ Continue reading

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May 6 2014

JSRP Survey Report on Western Equatoria, South Sudan

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By Anouk S. Rigterink, John J. Kenyi and Mareike Schomerus

JSRP-South-Sudan-report-page-001Our new report describes the findings of a survey conducted by the Justice and Security Research Programme (JSRP) in Western Equatoria State, South Sudan, in 2013. The survey is based on a representative sample of 433 individuals in the Ezo County and the two southern-most payams of Tambura County. The purpose of this survey is to provide data for the following lines of research: (a) an investigation into the impact of community-driven development programming on trust in government and willingness to contribute to public goods; (b) a study into how security information that is broadcast on the local radio station Yambio FM influences people’s fear of an attack by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and shapes their attitudes towards a local protection force, the Arrow Boys, and the South Sudanese army (SPLA); (c) research into the ways in which being exposed to violence shapes preferences, as expressed through political participation and contribution to public goods; (d) an investigation into the persistent effects of the historical Zande Cotton Scheme. In addition, the survey provides an insight into how individuals in Western Equatoria State live their daily lives, including their security situation and how they are served by various forms of public authority.

The following topics are covered in the survey: 1. Demographics; 2. Contribution to public goods; 3. Interactions with authority; 4. Security (called ‘resilience’ in the questionnaire); 5. Past experiences of violence; 6. Perceptions and opinions of South Sudan’s central government; 7. Access to information

Some key findings:

  • The population of Ezo and Tambura Counties is relatively homogenous in terms of first language spoken (which can be considered a proxy for ethnic group) and nationality. More than 90 per cent of respondents indicated Pazande as their first language, with only a small section indicating English, Dinka or Balanda. More than 95 per cent identify their nationality as South Sudanese.
  • Overall, the level of education is low: on (weighted) average, respondents completed 4.1 years of education whilst 28.3 per cent of respondents indicated they did not have any education.
  • The population of Ezo and Tambura Counties has been subject to substantial displacement; only 35.6 per cent of respondents classified themselves as a continuous resident. For those who left, it was common to come back to their original boma of residence. Only 7.2 per cent of respondents are classified as a ‘movee’, which means they are now living in a boma in which they have not previously lived. Continue reading
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Apr 28 2014

1st May 2014 Book Launch: ‘Negotiating Borders: Defining South Sudan’

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Chair: Mareike Schomerus, LSE
Speakers: Oystein Rolandsen, Edward Thomas, Christopher Vaughan, Lotje de Vries

Room 2.02, Clement House, LSE, 6-8pm

The Justice and Security Research Programme is delighted to welcome five of the authors of the recently published book The Borderlands of South Sudan: Authority and Identity in Contemporary and Historical Perspective to debate a range of issues raised by South Sudan’s contested border negotiations and border management. The authors take an anthropological and historically informed perspective to examine the realities of border governance, which in both past and present has been conducted through a range of authorities working in parallel or in competition.

This event is free and open to all.

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Apr 24 2014

Governance Vacuums and Local Responses in Pajok, South Sudan: The Pajok Community People’s Committee


By Ryan O’Byrne


Photograph: Marie Canny


Although the personal and political conflicts currently eviscerating the SPLA continue to play out largely in terms of increasingly extreme ethno-communal violence in the northeast part of the world’s newest nation, the most obvious and violent effects of this dispute are yet to reach many of the communities living in the country’s south and west. Pajok Payam is one such place, where the fires that have burnt continuously here throughout the late November to early March dry period were not started by warfare but rather as part of the annual cultivation cycle, the dominant focus of life in this remote area of Eastern Equatoria State.

As I have written elsewhere (O’Byrne, in press), despite the outbreak of political violence in Juba in mid-December, life in Pajok has continued as normal: while people continue to listen to the news closely in an attempt to keep abreast of events happening elsewhere, there is very much a feeling that this conflict is ethnically based, even if politically derived, the results of the increasing ethnicisation and rampant corruption at the heart of the South Sudanese governmental and military systems. Continue reading

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Apr 7 2014

Unravelling Public Authority: Paths of Hybrid Governance in Africa

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10 IOB-LSE-JSRP hybrid governance in Africa-page-001The meaning and policy implications of ‘hybrid governance’ were debated in a recent workshop at the London School of Economics, entitled ‘Unravelling Public Authority: Paths of Hybrid Governance in Africa’.  Held on 6-7 December 2013, this workshop involved international collaboration between the Department of International Development and the Institute of Development Policy Management (IOB, University of Antwerp), with significant support and engagement from the IS Academy Human Security and Fragile States (Wageningen University) and the Justice and Security Research Programme (LSE).  The workshop brought together specialists from Europe and Africa to explore the empirical realities of hybrid governance in a range of fragile and more dynamic African contexts, focusing on the factors that shape positive as well as negative paths of hybrid governance in contemporary Africa.

Drawing on current empirical research in a range of fragile and more stable African states, including DR Congo, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Somaliland, South Sudan and Uganda, participants explored what hybrid governance means, how it operates, and what it offers to national officials, development practitioners, and local populations.  Discussions centred around a number of key issues exploring the differential understanding, power dynamics and implications of hybrid governance arrangements in varying national contexts.  The research and debates emerging from the workshop have been examined by Kate Meagher, Tom De Herdt and Kristof Titeca in a research brief that considers how to improve the effectiveness of hybrid governance as an analytical and policy tool.

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Apr 3 2014

(In)security Groups and Governance in Gulu, Uganda

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By Holly Porter & Rebecca Tapscott[1]

Last November, at three in the morning, a man was murdered on the street not far outside Gulu Town. There were tens of witnesses, yet there was no investigation, no prosecution, and no compensation provided to the victim’s family. A common reflection on the event was that the victim “did good to die”.

People recount the story in different ways: one version describes the victim as a notorious and unrepentant drug dealer and crook. On the night he was finally caught, a mob of frustrated neighbours banded together and beat him with a machete, resulting in his unintentional, if not surprising, death. Another version explains that the murdered man was a petty thief and marijuana smoker who made enemies with a community leader. That night, he either burnt the kitchen of the leader or was framed for arson.  The more powerful man responded immediately, taking the law into his own hands and brutally murdering the victim in public, thereby asserting authority over the jurisdiction.

Such stories of people taking justice “into their own hands” are common in northern Uganda. This particular instance happened just outside Holly’s house. In the past two weeks, as we have looked closer at local responses to community insecurity, people have recounted other recent events of citizen-driven violence. Among these stories, there is wide variation in the victims’ personal details (professionals to lay-people, men and women, adults and youth) and originating crime (theft, prostitution, over-drinking or drug abuse, violating curfew, etc.). Some can be categorized as “mob justice” or “mob violence”— they share a collective, spontaneous, and potentially fatal, beating. Continue reading

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Feb 13 2014

Practice Without Evidence: interrogating conflict resolution approaches and assumptions

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By Tatiana Carayannis, Vesna Bojicic-Dzelilovic, Nathaniel Olin, Anouk Rigterink and Mareike Schomerus

JSRP-Paper-11-page-001What is the evidence that existing approaches to the resolution of violent conflict have achieved their intended effects to improve the lives of conflict-affected populations? Violent conflict is one of the greatest challenges to development. Two decades of concentrated interventions to mediate, end, or transform violent conflict have generated heated debates and produced a burgeoning field of new scholarship as well as new tools on conflict resolution. Yet, communities worldwide continue to experience conflict every day. It is often unclear whether they experience attempts to resolve violent conflict as successful, or as improving their lives.

Our new JSRP Paper, ‘Practice Without Evidence: interrogating conflict resolution approaches and assumptions’, seeks to highlight the experiences of people at the receiving end of practices of conflict resolution, especially international activities. It reviews the evidence base that undergirds contemporary approaches to the resolution of violent conflict in an effort to improve the lives of conflict-affected populations. Through a systematic literature review, the paper explores academic work as well as grey literature that focus on the experiences of the ‘end-users’ of conflict resolution efforts.

Two overarching themes emerge from the literature surveyed. The first is the overwhelming yet under-addressed need to manage conflict complexity, including trans-national dynamics and the proliferation of non-state actors in conflict. The second theme is the omnipresence of normative concepts of conflict resolution, which describe how conflict resolution ought to work based on the liberal principles underpinning it, rather than the actual impact it has.

Despite notable advances that academic literature has made in certain areas of the conflict resolution field, the empirical knowledge base supporting the scholarship has overall been insufficiently robust. In particular, based on the findings from the literature reviewed, there is a need to pursue further research into, and strengthen the evidence base of three inter-related topics which are under-theorised, poorly-understood, or both. Namely: the changing nature of conflict and its diverse origins and manifestations; the conflict networks that emerge and develop through bargaining in the political marketplace; the resulting (and often hybrid) governance and authority structures.

Key findings:

Conceptualisations of governance

Contemporary conflict resolution frameworks revolve around the triangulation of governance, democracy and market-building as a way to stabilise conflict-affected societies.  Most of the works on conflict resolution we surveyed do not interrogate what seem to be pre-defined notions of key governance and post-conflict reconstruction ‘outputs’ – for example, security, political stability, economic recovery, and more generally ‘good governance’ and the implied benchmarks for achieving these outputs (Luckham and Kirk 2012). Everyday concerns and priorities of diverse local populations seem to be largely absent from these notions. Similar observations apply to other key concepts within post-war reconstruction frameworks, such as civil society and justice (which are discussed further in the next sections). In fact, the meaning of such concepts is plausibly shaped by the idiosyncrasies of local context. Continue reading

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