Dec 8 2014

Citizen-Led Accountability and Inclusivity in Pakistan

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Read Tom Kirk’s new JSRP Paper, ‘Citizen-Led Accountability and Inclusivity in Pakistan’, here.

Abstract: This ‘theory in practice’ paper examines the experiences of citizens groups seeking to hold Pakistan’s elected representatives and governance institutions accountable. A sustained period of democracy, ongoing devolution plans and increasing space for civil society suggest the beginnings of a favourable context to improve the demand side of governance. At the same time, however, Pakistan continues to score low on development indexes and parts of the country suffer from insecurity. The latter reflects state-society relations, with various groups fighting to change national and local distributions of political and economic opportunities. Nonetheless a recent citizen-led accountability programme across both conflict-affected and peaceful constituencies has reported significant success in mobilising volunteer groups to demand the resolution of local issues. This paper asks how these groups organised and examines the strategies that contributed to their successes. In particular, it focuses on the tensions between the programme’s drive for ‘inclusive’ citizens groups that raise demands, and the need for such groups to work in ways that acknowledge the power and politics of their local contexts. While in some cases this led to innovative solutions to local problems, in others it may have strengthened the divisions and networks that support unaccountable governance. It is hoped the findings will add to debates over the worth of citizen-led accountability programmes where strong societies, weak states and conflict shape governance.    

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Nov 12 2014

Alex de Waal on Ebola and the Militarization of Global Health

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Read JSRP Research Director Alex de Waal’s powerful new piece in the Boston Review here.

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Nov 10 2014

Seeking Justice in Nimule, South Sudan

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By Rachel Ibreck

‘There is no law in South Sudan’, a resident of the town of Nimule, Eastern Equatoria, explained: ‘You see the police cell there is for those who are very poor. You will never see a rich person in that prison for the rest of your life. Trust me, this is true.’ This elder echoed views expressed by many other participants in research for the Justice and Security Research Programme in Nimule that ‘some people are above the law’, protected by their economic status, political allegiance or ethnic identity. In many instances, when crimes are reported or ‘referred up’ from the customary courts, ‘no action is taken’. There are also practical obstacles, including the financial costs: a victim of a crime may need to pay to open the case, to fund transport for police to make the arrest, or even to provide food for the accused once in prison. And there is fear of retribution, especially if the perpetrator is associated with the security forces or is politically influential. People spoke of occasions when they, or a member of their community, endured further suffering on the floor of a police cell or a beating in the barracks following a complaint. If you ask ordinary citizens about their experiences of the justice system in Nimule, you will hear of cases that never reached the courts, illegal detentions, intimidation, torture and violence. Continue reading

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Nov 10 2014

Analyzing the Impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on Congolese Livelihoods

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Read the new report by Jeroen Cuvelier, Steven Van Bockstael, Koen Vlassenroot and Claude Iguma, ‘Analyzing the Impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on Congolese Livelihoods’, on the SSRC website.

The report presents a detailed study of how the Dodd-Frank Act in particular has affected several mining communities in eastern Congo, and the extent to which various conflict minerals initiatives have been implemented on the ground.

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Nov 5 2014

The UN’s Darfur “Cover-up” and the Need for Reliable Conflict Data

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By Alex de Waal

International peacekeeping operations are deployed to complicated and troubled places. Often, reliable information is scarce, rumors and poorly-founded allegations are common, and interpretation of events is highly politicized. Recent controversies around what is going on in Darfur illuminate the need for much better data.

A former UN official, Aicha Elbasri, has made much-publicized allegations that the UN-African Union hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) covered up evidence of attacks by the Government of Sudan. The magazine Foreign Policy took up the issue. The UN investigated sixteen incidents of alleged cover-up, and last week published a summary of its findings. The summary did not support Elbasri’s claims, finding only “a tendency to under-report unless absolutely certain of the facts,” but the full report has not been released. Elbasri has accused the UN of a “cover-up of a cover-up.”

Press coverage of this controversy has not yet included a basic point: peacekeeping operations collect vast amounts of data, and have the capacity to collect more, but rarely analyze those data in a rigorous manner. This is a missed opportunity. Continue reading

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Oct 31 2014

Justice at the Margins: Witches, Poisoners, and Social Accountability in Northern Uganda

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Read the new article by Tim Allen and Kyla Reid, ‘Justice at the Margins: Witches, Poisoners, and Social Accountability in Northern Uganda’, in Medical Anthropology here.

Abstract: Recent responses to people alleged to be ‘witches’ or ‘poisoners’ among the Madi of northern Uganda are compared with those of the 1980s. The extreme violence of past incidents is set in the context of contemporary upheavals and, in effect, encouragement from Catholic and governmental attitudes and initiatives. Mob justice has subsequently become less common. From 2006, a democratic system for dealing with suspects was introduced, whereby those receiving the highest number of votes are expelled from the neighborhood or punished in other ways. These developments are assessed with reference to trends in supporting ‘traditional’ approaches to social accountability and social healing as alternatives to more conventional measures. Caution is required. Locally acceptable hybrid systems may emerge, but when things turn nasty, it is usually the weak and vulnerable that suffer.

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Sep 15 2014

The Security that People Get Is Often Not What They Want

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By Erwin van Veen

Erwin van Veen is a senior research fellow in the Conflict Research Unit at Clingendael. This guest post builds on the author’s longer policy brief: Securing its success, justifying its relevance: Mapping a way forward for Security Sector Reform.’  Follow Erwin on Twitter @ErwinVeen

Erwin van Veen July 2013

The recent incidents in Ferguson, US, have highlighted two similarities in the provision of security across the world. First, people often don’t get the security they want. Although the facts have not yet been fully established, the perception out in Ferguson is of a heavy-handed, brutal police response to a minor offence – possibly with racial bias. Second, external actors, in this case the US ministries of defense and justice that provide American police with heavy weaponry at attractive prices, often influence the type of security people get without having sufficiently thought through the consequences of their actions.

If the provision of security faces such issues in the US, it is safe to multiply them manifold in fragile environments, which are typically characterized by an ever-present threat of violence and poor levels of accountability and trust, as well as high levels of poverty. Here, the uniformed agents of the state are often a threat instead of a provider of security. Because insecurity hampers development and can create significant negative spill-over effects, richer states (such as the UK in Sierra Leone) and international organizations (such as the United Nations in Timor-Leste) have invested heavily in improving the provision of security in fragile environments. This has happened in large part on the basis of the notion of Security Sector Reform (SSR), which focuses on the joint and parallel improvement of both the effectiveness of security provision and the quality of its governance where its under-supply forms a barrier to broader development. Generally, such investments have generated poor results in that they have only marginally improved the security of those living under such conditions. In fact, three aspects of the policy and practice of SSR have often made external actors complicit in ensuring that people don’t get the security they want. Continue reading

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Aug 26 2014

Understanding Violence by African Government Forces: The Need for a Micro-Dynamics Approach

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By Judith Verweijen

Photo: Judith Verweijen

Photo: Judith Verweijen

Remarkably, there are few in-depth studies of the forms and processes underlying violent practices enacted by African government forces. This indicates that the research programme of the microdynamics of violent conflict has made few inroads on the study of militaries in Africa. Calling for an empirically grounded approach that disaggregates the study of conflict from the study of violence, this programme focuses on processes and phenomena at the subnational level, including the micro-foundations of the production of violence and of relations between civilians and armed forces.

One of the crucial contributions of this new research programme, as strongly brought into the limelight by one of its movers and shakers, Stathis Kalyvas, is to have uncovered the importance of local and personal conflicts in the dynamics of conflict and violence. Too often, analysts have interpreted violent events solely through the lens of overarching conflict narratives, commonly framed in political-ideological or identity-based terms, or monolithic motivations like greed. This has caused a certain blindness to the crucial role of civilians in instigating or directing violence by armed forces, commonly mobilised for settling personal conflicts and scores. Similar reductionist analyses have been made in relation to violence enacted by African government forces, often ascribed to hunger for resources, ill discipline, limited training, or, echoing tropes of  a “new barbarianism”, their brutal nature.

Yet, as I demonstrate in a recent article in Third World Quarterly co-authored with Maria Eriksson Baaz, civilians also play a crucial role in instigating certain forms of violence enacted by government troops. As our research on the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) shows, civilians sometimes co-produce certain of the military’s non-combat related violent practices, like unlawful arrests, beatings, intimidation and forceful seizure of belongings. In particular, in the eastern part of the DR Congo, plagued by the ongoing activity of dozens of armed groups, it has become a relatively widespread practice for civilians to solicit the FARDC for intervention in all types of conflicts. This includes disputes related to infractions and commercial disagreements, such as unpaid debts, conflicts surrounding family affairs, including dowries and divorce, and grievances related to personal rivalries, grudges, revenge and retribution. Civilians approach the military to interfere in such disputes either as a commercial transaction, offering them money or the promise of gain accruing from the intervention, or as a favor in the framework of existing social ties, which often have a strong patronage-based dimension. While not all of the forms of military intervention thus solicited are violent, many have a pronounced coercive character. Continue reading

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Aug 18 2014

Six Key Findings on the Use of Theories of Change in International Development

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By Craig Valters

JSRP17.Valters-page-001The Theory of Change approach is becoming a pervasive part of development practice: as an artefact, as a management tool, and increasingly as a common discourse which implementers use to explain and explore their interventions. My new JSRP paper, ‘Theories of Change in international development: communication, learning or accountability?’ seeks to address a critical gap in understanding the actual effects of using a Theory of Change approach in international development work and considers how the approach may be better understood, if its aim is to improve development policy and practice. It does so through an analysis of the emerging findings of a collaboration between the JSRP and The Asia Foundation. Six key findings have emerged from this research:

  1. A Theory of Change approach can create space for critical reflection, but there is a danger that this is an illusory process.

Many have welcomed the introduction of a Theory of Change approach, specifically because it provides space for reflection on their assumptions and the context in which they work, particularly in comparison to logframes. Such attempts to situate programmes in larger ecosystems of social change should be applauded, not dismissed. Yet a Theory of Change approach can also create an illusion of serious reflection by being a superficial process of critical thought, where people who engage with the theories (donors as well as  implementers) do not actually reflect sufficiently on how power dynamics change in practice and how local people see change happen. Continue reading

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Jul 30 2014

When Kleptocracy Becomes Insolvent: Brute Causes of the Civil War in South Sudan

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In a new article published in African Affairs, Alex de Waal argues that South Sudan obtained independence in July 2011 as a kleptocracy – a militarized, corrupt neo-patrimonial system of governance. By the time of independence, the South Sudanese ‘political marketplace’ was so expensive that the country’s comparatively copious revenue was consumed by the military-political patronage system, with almost nothing left for public services, development or institution building. The efforts of national technocrats and foreign donors produced bubbles of institutional integrity but the system as a whole was entirely resistant to reform. The January 2012 shutdown of oil production bankrupted the system. Even an experienced and talented political business manager would have struggled, and President Salva Kiir did not display the required skills. No sooner had shots been fired than the compact holding the SPLA together fell apart and civil war ensued. Drawing upon long-term observation of elite politics in South Sudan, this article explains both the roots of kleptocratic government and its dire consequences.

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