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  • Author: Gerald Stang
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Union Institute for Security Studies
  • Abstract: Russia is often seen as a land of extremes – and the narratives for this month's Winter Olympics in Sochi reflect that view. From the record-length 65,000 km Olympic torch run (which included trips to outer space, the north pole and the bottom of the world's deepest lake) to the incredible $51 billion price tag and the Ian Flemingesque threat of attacks from black widow terrorists, the Sochi games have a distinctly Russian flavour. The Kremlin appears to have envisioned the games as a national triumph, not unlike the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with organisational, architectural and sporting successes that could unite the country. However, with global headlines dominated by stories of corruption, human rights abuses, anti-gay laws and the very real threat of terrorist attacks, one might be forgiven for wondering whether the Russian government regrets its decision to bid for the games.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Political Violence, Islam, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Scott Flower, Jim Leahy
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: This paper draws on fieldwork undertaken by the authors between January 2011 and January 2012 among local communities in Port Moresby and three of the more unstable highlands provinces of PNG (Southern Highlands, Western Highlands and Enga).
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Government, Politics, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: Asia, Australia/Pacific, Guinea
  • Author: Hannah Byam, Christopher Neu
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: With a rise in terrorist activity spreading fear through highly publicized attacks, Pakistan's media landscape has increasingly been used as a battleground between those seeking to promote violent conflict and others seeking to manage or deter it. Pakistan's media community has not yet developed an adequate or widely accepted strategy for responding to this context of persistent extremism and conflict. The rapid rise of extremist radio stations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) provinces has paralleled an increase in terrorist attacks, facilitated by affordable access to FM radio, loose government regulation of broadcast media and militant control of pockets in KPK and FATA. Negative media attitudes toward the Pakistan-U.S. relationship often reflect national political differences and market incentives for sensationalist coverage. These attitudes can be transformed through changes in the diplomatic relationship between the countries based on open communication rather than institutional media reform.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Political Violence, Terrorism, Mass Media
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, United States, Asia
  • Publication Date: 04-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Nearly a year after the crackdown on anti-establishment demonstrations, Thailand is preparing for a general election. Despite government efforts to suppress the Red Shirt movement, support remains strong and the deep political divide has not gone away. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's roadmap for reconciliation has led almost nowhere. Although there have been amateurish bomb attacks carried out by angry Red Shirts since the crackdown, fears of an underground battle have not materialised. On the other side, the Yellow Shirts have stepped up their nationalist campaigns against the Democrat Party-led government that their earlier rallies had helped bring to power. They are now claiming elections are useless in “dirty” politics and urging Thais to refuse to vote for any of the political parties. Even if the elections are free, fair and peaceful, it will still be a challenge for all sides to accept the results. If another coalition is pushed together under pressure from the royalist establishment, it will be a rallying cry for renewed mass protests by the Red Shirts that could plunge Thailand into more violent confrontation.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Asia
  • Author: Kaja Borchgrevink, Kristian Berg Harpviken
  • Publication Date: 03-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Afghanistan's thirty years of war have seen the gradual and heavy politicisation of religion. A number of new and distinct types of political movements – which can be characterised broadly as “fundamentalists”, “Islamists” and “neo-fundamentalists” – has emerged to challenge traditional expressions of Islam. This has transformed the religious landscape in Afghanistan, which is as a result more variegated than ever before. The different attitudes of these new currents to questions of religious authority, political process, and the Afghan statebuilding project need to be carefully distinguished. More generally, the appearance of such movements highlights the way that the role of religion, though often overlooked, is central to the attempt since the regime-change of late 2001 to build a viable Afghan state. The impact of the new actors (including the Taliban itself) is reflected in the way that President Hamid Karzai – struggling to balance the modernised secularists supporting the statebuilding project and the religious fundamentalists opposing it – has allowed several ex-jihadi Islamist factions into the government. The result of this accommodation has been both to sustain the former jihadi leaders' influence and contribute to the marginalisation of more moderate Islamic forces. At the same time, many religious leaders believe they could contribute positively to the statebuilding agenda by generating support among Afghan people. This complex situation makes an understanding of Afghanistan's diverse religious landscape and the various positions vis-à-vis the state all the more essential in the context of efforts to develop strategies for peace and reconciliation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Islam, War, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Asia
  • Author: Simon Henderson
  • Publication Date: 08-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: For nearly two weeks, the Persian Gulf island state of Bahrain has experienced near-daily disturbances following government arrests of opposition activists from the majority Shiite community. The timing of the arrests seemed geared toward preempting trouble in advance of the scheduled October 23 parliamentary and municipal elections, which minority Sunni parties and candidates are currently projected to win. The street violence and other incidents are of particular concern to the United States because Bahrain hosts the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet and Naval Forces Central Command, whose mission is to "deter and counter disruptive countries" -- a wording likely aimed at Iran, which claimed the island as its territory prior to 1970.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Asia, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 11-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The deadly conflict in Thailand's predominantly Malay Muslim South is at a stalemate. Although military operations might have contributed to the reduction in violence, the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has made little effort to tackle the political grievances that drive the insurgency. A limited unilateral suspension of hostilities offered by rebels has met no significant response. Draconian laws that grant security forces sweeping powers remain imposed while justice for serious cases of past abuse remains unaddressed and torture of suspects continues. As bloody anti-government protests in Bangkok distracted the nation in early 2010, the death toll in the six-year-long insurgency steadily climbed. The conflict in the Deep South remains on the margins of Thai politics and unresolved. A paradigm shift is needed to acknowledge that assimilation of Malay Muslims has failed and that recognition of their distinct ethno-religious identity is essential. Dialogue with insurgents and reform of governance structures remain two missing components of a comprehensive political solution.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Armed Struggle, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Asia, Thailand, Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Six months after the collapse of autonomy negotiations between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippines government, low-intensity conflict continues but moves are under way to resurrect talks. It is not clear whether negotiations will resume and if they do, with what agenda. Certainly no settlement is likely during the remaining tenure of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; the two sides are too far apart, the potential spoilers too numerous, and the political will too weak. The best that can be hoped for is progress around the edges.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, War
  • Political Geography: Israel, Asia, Philippines, Mindanao
  • Publication Date: 02-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A year after the near-fatal shooting of President José Ramos-Horta, security in Timor-Leste is strikingly improved. Armed rebels are no longer at large. The atmosphere on the streets of Dili is far less tense. The government does not seem to be facing any serious political threat to its survival. It has, at least temporarily, been able to address several of the most pressing security threats, in large part by buying off those it sees as potential troublemakers. Nevertheless, the current period of calm is not cause for complacency. Security sector reform is lagging, the justice system is weak, the government shows signs of intolerance towards dissenting voices, and it has not got a grip on corruption. These problems, which have been at the root of the instability facing Timor-Leste since independence, must be tackled if the country is to escape the cycle of conflict.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Political Violence
  • Political Geography: South Asia, Asia, Vienna
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Tensions in Aceh are high as elections approach, although they have receded somewhat from a peak in mid-February. The murders of three former combatants of the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM), other shootings and numerous grenade attacks over the last two months – all with unidentified perpetrators – have set the province on edge, and there remains a risk of sporadic, low-level violence before and after general elections on 9 April. Disputes over the results, with 44 parties competing for seats in district, provincial and national legislatures using a new and complicated system of voting, are also likely. There is little danger in the short term of violence escalating out of control, let alone a return to armed conflict, but the underlying causes of the tensions are not just election-related and need to be addressed if peace is to be preserved in the long term.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Political Violence, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia, Australia/Pacific, Southeast Asia