Conflict

Allan G. Hill, Cari Jo Clark, Ismail Lubbad, and Claude Bruderlein. 10/2006. “Hope and Despair over Health in Gaza.” BMJ, 333.Abstract

The Israeli re-invasion of Gaza this July has redrawn the world’s attention to the dire straits of the population living in the Gaza Strip. There, within an area the size of the Isle of Wight, 1.4 million people live without free access to the outside world. Contrary to international hopes, the Israeli decision to withdraw from Gaza in September 2005 has led to increasingly tight control over the movement of goods and people. The destruction of the Gaza power station in addition to the damage to bridges, roads, and other infrastructure can only worsen the plight of Gazans in the coming months.

Phuong Pham, Patrick Vinck, Marieke Wierda, Eric Stover, and Adrian di Giovanni. 7/2005. Forgotten Voices: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes About Peace and Justice in Northern Uganda.Abstract

After two decades of armed conflict waged by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Northern Uganda, Ugandans and the international community remain divided on how to effectively pursue and obtain peace and justice. This study presents Ugandans’ exposures to violence, the needs and concerns of displaced peoples, and opinions on specific transitional justice mechanisms as the country moves forward. Additionally, the study proposes that controversies over interventions in the region may be resolved by the local and international adoption of a comprehensive strategy that aims to achieve both peace and justice.

Macartan Humphreys. 2/2003. Economics and Violent Conflict.Abstract

This essay reviews recent research on the relationships between economies and violent conflict. The type of economic policies that governments choose plays a significant role in determining the likelihood of conflict. Policies that induce conflict may result from deliberate decisions to weaken state institutions so that leaders can more easily enrich themselves. Sometimes however conflict may result from attempts to increase economic efficiency. There is for example ample anecdotal evidence about how the World Bank and IMF’s structural adjustment programs of the 1980’s and 1990’s spawned civil conflicts. This review however has found no systematic support linking structural adjustment to war. It begins by considering the economic factors that make some societies susceptible to conflict. One of the main factors is poverty, though this is mostly a feature in civil wars, not international ones. Economic growth is also associated with lower levels of conflict. Thus, policies that aim to promote growth in developing countries are, in effect, also likely to act as agents for conflict prevention. However, although wealth reduces the chances of conflict, the rise in global economic prosperity throughout the 20th Century has corresponded with an increase rather than a fall in the number of civil wars. This is likely due to the rise in other conflict-inducing factors, such as population levels, and the fact that global growth has been unbalanced. Another feature of economies that is often related to levels of conflict is trade. There is strong evidence that countries that trade with each other are less likely to fight each other, though no comparable work has yet been Also considered is whether violent conflict is caused by undertaken on the effects of internal trade. economic inequality. Statistical research has not found evidence for such a relationship, though that may be because researchers are not working with the right data. While qualitative studies suggest that inequality between regions or groups – known as “horizontal inequality” – is what matters for violent conflict, econometric research has used a measure of “overall inequality” – that is, inequality between individuals irrespective of their group membership The two types of inequality need not be in any way correlated. Also covered in this essay is research that has been undertaken on the ways in which economies function once violent conflicts have broken out, including attempts to quantify the economic costs of conflicts. Some conflicts reduce the levels of investment within zones where fighting takes place; others spur technological innovation and growth. Different studies have tried to estimate aggregate costs and benefits of conflict, using a model of economic production that uses information on levels and rates of change of physical capital, population, human capital, and “total factor productivity.” No study however has yet measured the aggregate costs that arise from all these different channels. And while recent work has focused much on looting activities of groups there has not been much work studying the effects those activities have on economic producers. The ways in which economies are structured is also found to matter. Countries that depend on the sale of primary commodities, for example, are more likely to have wars. In particular the role of natural resources, such as oil and diamonds, has been widely discussed but there is a lack of consensus on the nature of their relationship to conflict. Researchers at the World Bank suggest that natural resources lead to wars because greedy citizens take up arms to capture them. But there are alternative explanations that are at least as plausible. These explanations suggest alternative policy responses on the part of governments and international organizations. Researchers have also studied the economic behavior of different groups during conflicts. Many have focused on ways rebel groups finance themselves. Some rebels do it by gaining control of natural resources, others are supported financially in part by emigrant populations (although this link is still poorly understood) and from third party sources such as foreign governments. Agricultural production is often as important for rebel financing as natural resources, although it is largely ignored by policy makers. The requirements for financing and the form of financing depend however on the relations between rebel groups and civilian populations. When rebels have popular support, they may benefit from donations in cash or in kind. Otherwise, they may rely on extortion. Unfortunately however, research is relatively sparse on the different ways rebels relate to civilian populations even though such variation is likely to have implications for financing, for forms of peace settlements and for war duration. Some political scientists have tried to distinguish between different types of natural resources in order to explore the mechanisms that link resources to conflict. Their research distinguishes between different commodities based on dimensions such as the extent to which production is centralized, the geographic distances between zones of production and the seat of government, and the extent to which trade in the resource is legal. It has also been argued that the institutional capacity of governments alters relationships between natural resources and conflict. These different lines of research have been developed through the examination of case study evidence, but their conclusions have not been tested using statistical techniques. 

Vincenzo Bollettino. 10/2006. Designing Security.Abstract

Humanitarian organizations operate in increasingly hostile environments. Although authoritative statistics are scarce, anecdotal evidence suggests that aid workers face life-threatening risks that are exacerbated by the growing number of humanitarian organizations operating in the field with varying mandates, without common professional security standards and with limited success with inter-agency security coordination. The ability of humanitarian organizations to fulfill their mandates in the future will depend in part on their individual success in improving internal security management practices and in finding ways to coordinate their efforts on building common security standards and security coordination across agencies. To meet this challenge, humanitarian organizations must implement improved security management methods and find ways to coordinate their security operations and planning. Despite broad acceptance of the need to develop better security management and coordination, many humanitarian organizations remain ambivalent about coordinating their security activities and few have instituted robust measures for improving their own security management practices. Further, efforts to improve security management practices are hampered by a critical lack of basic empirical knowledge about the field security environment. In discussions about humanitarian staff safety and security, the least common denominator continues to be cumulative anecdotal evidence provided by the many security personnel working for humanitarian organizations in the field. This policy brief reviews the literature on humanitarian organization security management, highlighting common misconceptions about the field security environment, reviews the main structural and procedural issues impeding more effective security management, and illustrates why current initiatives to improve security management practices will remain only partial successes if they do not include a serious effort to replace anecdotal reporting on the field security environment with systematic collection and analysis of field security data. It argues that staff security requires a common professional approach based on sound security expertise adapted to meet the operational needs of humanitarian organizations. A model is developed for creating a network of security professionals responsible for guiding the design and implementation of common security standards and security information sharing protocol.

Derek Jinks. 6/2004. The Temporal Scope of Application of International Humanitarian Law in Contemporary Conflicts.Abstract

When does the application of international humanitarian law properly begin and end in modern conflicts? Classical international law distinguished three types of armed conflict: (1) war; (2) civil war; and (3) armed hostilities short of war. The laws of war were applicable in time of war--from the declaration of war until the formal reestablishment of peace (for example, by the signing of a peace treaty). The laws of war were not applicable in civil wars--which were considered internal matters--unless a state formally recognized the insurgency as a belligerent. And, of course, the laws of war were not applicable as a formal matter in hostilities short of war. Prior to the drafting of the Geneva Conventions in 1949, the applicability of the “law of war” was, therefore, delimited by formal acts of state such as a formal declaration of war or a formal recognition of belligerency. The Geneva Conventions substantially revised this formalistic, de jure approach--making contemporary international humanitarian law applicable during armed hostilities that de facto constitute “armed conflicts.” In both international and non-international armed conflicts, the Geneva Conventions, in general, govern the conduct of hostilities for the duration of the “armed conflict.” This background note briefly outlines the regime established in the Geneva Conventions and summarizes several ambiguities in these rules. Because the scope of application regimes differ sharply between international and non-international armed conflict, these two types of conflict are analyzed separately. 

Claude Bruderlein. 2006. Towards a Common Security Framework: Securing Access and Managing Risks in Hazardous Missions.Abstract

International agencies are facing increasing levels of threats against their staff and activities in many of their operations. Since the end of the Cold War, these agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental alike, have been called to work more intensely in conflict areas.1 These areas have become singularly more dangerous in recent years, exposing staff to greater risks. The threats of attack, as well as recurring levels of criminal violence, are now part of the daily life of international agencies’ workers in many of these situations, hindering their work and limiting their access to people in need. Although significant resources have been invested recently in building the security capabilities of international agencies, the escalation in security threats has not been matched with the development of corresponding institutional strategies to mitigate operational risks and reduce the exposure of international agencies. Despite serious flaws in existing security systems, international agencies have been inclined to expand their security capacity at a technical level rather than reviewing the relevance of their security strategies. As a response to the attacks against United Nations (UN) headquarters in Baghdad and other field missions, the United Nations is planning to expand significantly the capacity of the UN security system by creating a Directorate of Security, which will centralize all UN security systems, and by adding a number of staff and layers of technical responsibilities to an already bureaucratic and over-procedural security apparatus. While most operational managers agree that the security environment of UN agencies has evolved considerably over the recent years, this significant expansion in security capabilities is being considered without a clear and proper understanding of the types or sources of threats the UN will face in the coming decades.2 There are few discussions on global and local threats against UN operations or the role that agencies can play to mitigate exposure to risks. Similarly, other agencies, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), are increasingly tying their security response to conservative interpretations of their mission — relying significantly, in the process, on the neutral character of their activities and the acceptance of the communities. Many organizations, however, fail to acknowledge the changing perceptions of international assistance in some areas of the world and the changing profile of the security threats that endanger not only their operators but the recipient communities as well. For these agencies, the current security developments represent a major challenge 

Marco Sassòli. 2/2006. Transnational Armed Groups and International Humanitarian Law.Abstract

The concept of ‘transnational armed groups’ has been used increasingly since September 11, 2001 by those who consider the ‘war on terror’ to be an armed conflict and who wish to apply the laws of armed conflict, called international humanitarian law (IHL), to that conflict (rather than human rights domestic legislation and international law on cooperation in criminal matters). In this debate, it is often claimed that IHL, as it stands, is inadequate to cover such a conflict and such ‘transnational armed groups’. This paper discusses, firstly, when IHL applies to transnational armed groups. Concretely, this involves the question of whether, and to what extent, the ‘war’ against Al Qaeda can be classified as an armed conflict. It is argued, that under international humanitarian law, the ‘war on terror’ must be split into different components. In some cases, the law of international armed conflicts applies. In others, the law of non‐international armed conflicts applies. In most situations of the ‘war on terror’, IHL does not apply at all. Secondly, this paper looks at the related issue of what determines the existence of an armed group as an addressee of IHL of non‐international armed conflicts. According to what criteria can Al Qaeda be considered an armed group for the purpose of making IHL applicable? When are members of such a group covered by IHL, even though said group is not fulfilling those identified criteria? Thirdly, the rules of IHL covering an armed conflict between a transnational armed group and a state are summarized, in particular the status and treatment of members of such groups. Most importantly, this paper examines whether and how the existing rules of IHL should or could be adapted to (more) adequately cover transnational armed groups. In this context, few concrete proposals suggesting which rules should be adapted, and in what sense, were found. Nevertheless, as a fourth issue, this paper tries to identify certain areas where the existing IHL of non‐international armed conflicts is not entirely adequate because of the extraterritorial character of the fight against transnational armed groups. Fifth, skepticism is expressed about the possibility of extending IHL and of applying it beyond armed conflicts as currently defined when transnational groups are involved. Sixth, as for the mechanisms of implementation, several proposals are brought forward regarding ways by which respect for existing (or any new rules of) IHL by transnational or any other armed groups can be improved. It is argued, centrally, that if armed groups are addressees of IHL, it is indispensable to involve them in the development and implementation of the rules. Finally, the article explores ways, obstacles, and the risks of developing new rules and mechanisms of IHL specific to armed conflicts with transnational armed groups. The author remains skeptical about the realism and utility of any attempt to develop specific rules for such conflicts.

HPCR. 4/2006. Transnationality, War and the Law - Roundtable Report.Abstract

On October 30, 2005, the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University (HPCR) brought together a select group of international experts for a discussion on the theme of “The Transformation of Warfare, International Law, and the Role of Transnational Armed Groups.” The meeting was hosted by the Geneva Center for Security Policy in their offices in Geneva, Switzerland. This project grew out of a research interest identified at the High-Level Informal Expert Meeting on International Humanitarian Law at Harvard University in June 2004 which gathered representatives of twenty-eight governments and international organizations, as well as distinguished scholars, to examine the legal and policy challenges faced by international humanitarian law (IHL). The purpose of the meeting in Geneva was to explore the changed landscape of transnational wars and the prominent geopolitical role played by transnational non-state armed groups as well as their impact on interpretations and responses of international law to the new warfare. Built around three pillars of changing war, changing actors, and static law, the discussion in Geneva was organized along sessions on the transformation of war, the regulation of new conflicts, the current gaps and limitations of international humanitarian law, and the challenge of compliance and protection in the new environment. Starting from the decolonization wars of the twentieth century, armed conflicts have been departing gradually from the classical, state-centered paradigm embodied in the Geneva Convention of 1949 to the current framework in which non-state actors have acquired a larger, if not yet central, role. That fluctuation constitutes a bending of the traditional tactics of war brought about by the rise of comparatively weaker non-state actors and a modification in the space taken up by the new wars. Participants to the Geneva meeting stressed that non-state actors have been fighting states throughout the history of the state. However, in previous eras they fit more clearly into the realm of domestic law enforcement, as states sought to quell “internal disturbances.” The new conflicts are driven across state borders and represent a true challenge in terms of regulating the behaviors of both transnational non-state armed groups and the corresponding territorial and extraterritorial response of states.

Michael N. Schmitt, Heather A. Harrison Dinniss, and Thomas C. Wingfield. 2004. Computers and War: The Legal Battlespace.Abstract

The use of computers in modern warfare stretches back over decades. Computers have been employed for functions that range from managing materiel and personnel flows into an area of operations to sorting intelligence data and improving the precision capabilities of weapons. In recent conflicts, however, we have witnessed their transformation into a “means of warfare” (weapon) and modern militaries are busily developing information technology “methods of warfare.” This article briefly addresses the legal issues surrounding computer use in classic kinetic-based warfare. Attention then turns to the most significant phenomenon for humanitarian law, namely the employment of information technology during network-centric, four-dimensional operations, which increasingly characterize twentieth-first century conflict.

Colonel K.W. Watkin. 1/2005. Combatants, Unprivileged Belligerents and Conflicts in the 21st Century.Abstract

At the dawn of the 21st century international humanitarian law is facing a number of significant challenges. The events since 11 September 2001 in particular have focused a bright spotlight on issues such as: the law governing conflict between states and nonstate actors; the criteria to be applied for qualification as a combatant; the identification and targeting of the enemy; and the status and treatment to be afforded to captured “noncombatants” who participate in hostilities. The campaign on terrorism is in many ways a reflection of a broader transformation of modern conflict. The conduct of asymmetric warfare, which has been defined as “acting, organizing and thinking differently than opponents in order to maximize one’s own advantages, exploit an opponent’s weaknesses, attain the initiative, or gain greater freedom of action” is challenging traditional notions of armed conflict. 

The transnational reach of information warfare, the growth of global terrorism, the blending of domestic and international criminal acts and easier access to weapons of mass destruction have raised the stakes in terms of the types of threats posed to states and their citizens. The ability of both states and non-state actors to act asymmetrically has been enhanced by the technological leap into the information age and the so-called revolution in military affairs. The capacity of international humanitarian law to adequately address conflict in its modern form is being grappled with by government officials and legal practitioners, undergoing judicial review, carefully being analyzed by legal scholars and receiving close scrutiny by the media. In meeting its goal of limiting the effects and suffering of armed conflict international humanitarian law shares many of the same principles and concepts as human rights. However, international humanitarian law differs from human rights law in its requirement to interface with “military necessity”. At the heart of military necessity is the goal of the submission of the enemy at the earliest possible moment with the least possible expenditure of personnel and resources. It justifies the application of force not prohibited by international law. The balancing of military necessity and humanity is often the most challenging aspect of finding agreement on the norms of international humanitarian law. In balancing these two concepts the requirement to distinguish between those who can participate in armed conflict and those who are to be protected from its dangers is perhaps its most fundamental tenet. A careful analysis shows that much of the discussion about the adequacy of international humanitarian law is centered on the principle of distinction. 

William Boothby. 11/2005. Cluster Bombs: Is There a Case for New Law?.Abstract

The numerous unexploded bomblets, or submunitions, discarded on the battlefield as a result of cluster munition attacks have attracted widespread criticism, particularly from non‐governmental organizations, prompting suggestions that new international law arrangements should be agreed to address the problem. These ‘dud’ bomblets may pose a post‐conflict risk for troops and civilians alike. The humanitarian concerns raised by this hazard have been recognised for a number of years. An important debate is now under way, however, to try to identify a way of addressing the problem effectively while recognising the essential defense needs of states. Working out which, if any, developments in the law are appropriate to such a problem necessitates an analysis of existing, relevant law. There are numerous general legal principles that limit the weapons which states are permitted to employ in armed conflict. There are also important treaties applicable to particular technologies. There is, then, the legal obligation accepted by many states to review weapons plans to ensure they comply with applicable law. Of particular relevance to the cluster munition debate is the Conventional Weapons Convention (CCW), a framework treaty under which individual protocols have been negotiated to address such diverse technologies as mines and lasers. Following a seminal meeting in Nyon, Switzerland in September 2000, CCW member states started to discuss the problem of unexploded and abandoned explosive ordnance. Having clarified the nature of the problem, they negotiated a Protocol to the Convention. Its focus is the marking, clearance, removal, and destruction of explosive remnants of war.

Theresa Stichick and Claude Bruderlein. 5/2001. “Children Facing Insecurity: New Strategy of Survival in a Global Era”.Abstract

This paper explores the nature of children’s security within the context of modern threats from globalization and new forms of warfare. It analyzes the sources of insecurity faced by children and the survival strategies they and their families employ as a result. Through a number of case-studies, it questions the usefulness of assistance programs that focus on the physical needs of children in isolation of their social and communal environment. As children are in a constant state of development, protecting their security requires more than support against physical harm. The paper argues that four dimensions of security are important for the protection of children in times of war: physiological necessities, safety, communal relationships and opportunities for personal development. Efforts to promote children’s security must involve analysis of these core dimensions and treat the coping strategies of children and their families as a roadmap for protection. The focus of this paper is children affected by war but the analysis also applies to children at risk in other circumstances, from street children, to those living in extreme poverty. Children’s security is particularly at risk in those countries under economic embargo, afflicted by armed conflict or by extreme poverty. Today’s threats take place in the context of wars sustained by the import of small arms and light weapons and are often fought over the control of valuable resources – oil, minerals, timber, gems - whose major markets are in the North. The dislocation caused by these wars fragments families and isolates children. While few of these threats are new, their impact on the life and security of children has increased with the globalization of trade, migration and communication. Civilians, especially children and their families, have been forced to develop new coping mechanisms for their changed situations. Children can no longer be viewed merely as the victims of war. They have taken on new roles as heads of households, child combatants, student leaders and actors in peace building. This paper explores how globalization affects the security of children, particularly in conflict areas. It presents a framework to structure the core dimensions of children’s security and discusses how the survival strategies employed by families and children when protections fail may be used as a signal for improving security conditions for children. The paper was produced for the Human Security Network meeting in Amman, 11-12 May 2001, with a contribution from the Canadian Department for Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

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