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  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The election for governor in Indonesia's North Maluku province was one of the most bitterly contested since direct elections for local government heads were introduced in 2005. Held in November 2007, it remains in dispute more than a year later, although a winner has been named and inaugurated. At one point it seemed as if violence between the two sides could escalate into serious communal conflict, in an area where thousands had died in religious violence a decade earlier. By early 2009, however, it looked as though Indonesia's democratic institutions would be resilient enough to cope with an election gone wrong, and the dispute would be quietly resolved in the Constitutional Court. The Court's decision is expected in early February. The dispute that many thought could trigger further turmoil may prove instead to be a minor wrangle in Indonesia's largely successful effort to choose local government leaders by direct popular vote.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil Society, Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, 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
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: North Korea says it is preparing to launch an experimental communications satellite using a rocket that is part of its ballistic missile program. This would be in the face of an international outcry, and of what is a strong though not definitive argument that it violates two UN Security Council resolutions. Japan has been most vocally opposed, saying it will shoot down the rocket if it threatens to fall on its territory. But even if the test is successful, it would only slightly increase security risks, while an overblown response would likely jeopardise the Six-Party Talks to end North Korea's nuclear program. What is needed is a calm, coordinated response from the key actors to raise pressure on Pyongyang to return to the talks rather than a divided reaction that only fulfils the North's desire to widen splits among its neighbours.
  • Topic: Security, Weapons of Mass Destruction, International Security
  • Political Geography: Israel, Asia, North Korea
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Indonesia has earned well-deserved praise for its handling of home-grown extremism, but the problem has not gone away. In April 2009, ten men involved in a jihadi group in Palembang, South Sumatra, were sent to prison on terrorism charges for killing a Christian teacher and planning more ambitious attacks. Their history provides an unusually detailed case study of radicalisation - the process by which law-abiding individuals become willing to use violence to achieve their goals. The sobering revelation from Palembang is how easy that transformation can be if the right ingredients are present: a core group of individuals, a charismatic leader, motivation and opportunity. Another ingredient, access to weapons, is important but not essential: the Palembang group carried out its first attack with a hammer and only later moved to making bombs.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam
  • Political Geography: Asia
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The motivations for North Korea's second nuclear test are, as with many of its actions, mostly impenetrable. It may be the latest step in an unrelenting drive to become a permanent nuclear state or it could be advertising nuclear wares to potential buyers. It may be driving up the price others will pay for the North to give up its weapons or it might be about ensuring that the military will accept whatever decision Kim Jong-il has made on his successor. Most likely, North Korea's nuclear weapons program serves multiple purposes for the leadership. Whatever the rationale, there are no good options in response. Finding a way to resume talks on ending the nuclear program may appear to reward Pyongyang's bad behaviour, but diplomacy is still the least bad option. At the same time, the UN Security Council's strong and united condemnation of the test in Resolution 1874 must be enforced, while containment of proliferation and deterrence of North Korean provocations need to be boosted.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Political Geography: Israel, Asia, North Korea
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In the wake of a conceptually flawed peace agreement, the Taliban takeover of large parts of Malakand division, subsequent military action in the area, almost three million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have fled to camps, homes, schools and other places of shelter across Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). The challenge for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government and international actors is to make relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts responsive to needs and empower local communities in Malakand Division. Failure to do so will reverse any gains on the battlefield and boost radical Islamist groups.
  • Topic: Terrorism, War, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Central Asia, Asia, Taliban
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: On 17 July 2009, suicide bombers attacked two hotels in the heart of a Jakarta business district, killing nine and injuring more than 50, the first successful terrorist attack in Indonesia in almost four years. While no one has claimed responsibility, police are virtually certain it was the work of Noordin Mohammed Top, who leads a breakaway group from Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the regional jihadi organisation responsible for the first Bali bombing in 2002. One of the hotels, the Marriott, was bombed by Noordin's group in 2003; this time, a meeting of mostly foreign businessmen appears to have been the target. The restaurant of the nearby Ritz-Carlton was also bombed.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: More than a month after the 17 July 2009 hotel bombings in Jakarta, Noordin Mohammed Top remains at large, but his network is proving to be larger and more sophisticated than previously thought. Not only was it responsible for coordinated bombings at two luxury hotels in the heart of Jakarta's business district, but it also was apparently contemplating a car bomb attack on President Yudhoyono's residence. As more information comes to light, it looks increasingly likely that Noordin sought and received Middle Eastern funding. While the extent of foreign involvement this time around remains unclear, recruitment in Indonesia has proved disturbingly easy. The salafi jihadi ideology that legitimises attacks on the U.S. and its allies, and Muslims who associate with them, remains confined to a tiny fringe, but that fringe includes disaffected factions of many different radical groups and impressionable youths with no history of violence.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Indonesia, Asia, Jakarta