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  • Publication Date: 02-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The violent crushing of protests led by Buddhist monks in Burma/Myanmar in late 2007 has caused even allies of the military government to recognise that change is desperately needed. China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have thrown their support behind the efforts by the UN Secretary-General's special envoy to re-open talks on national reconciliation, while the U.S. and others have stepped up their sanctions. But neither incomplete punitive measures nor intermittent talks are likely to bring about major reforms. Myanmar's neighbours and the West must press together for a sustainable process of national reconciliation. This will require a long-term effort by all who can make a difference, combining robust diplomacy with serious efforts to address the deep-seated structural obstacles to peace, democracy and development.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, War
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Burma, United Nations, Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 10-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended Sudan's generation-long North-South civil war in 2005 is at risk in Southern Kordofan state, where many of the same ingredients exist that produced the vicious Darfur conflict. Both parties to that agreement, the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), who together form the Government of National Unity in Khartoum, have been guilty of mistakes and misjudgements there as they manoeuvre for partisan advantage in advance of national elections scheduled for 2009. Any strategy for addressing the problems must recognise that time is short. Concrete progress on integration and reform is essential to address the prospect of what could be a devastating new conflict. Rapid interventions are needed, well before the national elections.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, Ethnic Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan
  • Publication Date: 10-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A long-festering conflict over Kirkuk and other disputed territories is threatening to disrupt the current fragile relative peace in Iraq by blocking legislative progress and political accommodation. Two events in particular stand out: a two-month stalemate in July-September in negotiations over a provincial elections law in which Kirkuk's unresolved status was the principal obstacle and, during this period, a campaign by the Iraqi army in and around the Kurdish-controlled disputed district of Khanaqin. To avoid a breakdown over the issue of Kirkuk, the current piecemeal approach should be discarded in favour of a grand bargain involving all core issues: Kirkuk and other disputed territories, revenue sharing and the hydrocarbons law, as well as federalism and constitutional revisions. Despite some progress, Iraq's legislative agenda, promoted by the U.S. in order to capitalise on recent security gains, is bogged down. The main culprit is a dispute over territories claimed by the Kurds as historically belonging to Kurdistan - territories that contain as much as 13 per cent of Iraq's proven oil reserves. This conflict reflects a deep schism between Arabs and Kurds that began with the creation of modern Iraq after World War I; has simmered for decades, marked by intermittent conflict and accommodation; and was revitalised due to the vacuum and resulting opportunities generated by the Baath regime's demise in 2003. In its ethnically-driven intensity, ability to drag in regional players such as Turkey and Iran and potentially devastating impact on efforts to rebuild a fragmented state, it matches and arguably exceeds the Sunni-Shiite divide that spawned the 2005-2007 sectarian war. Stymied in their quest to incorporate disputed territories into the Kurdistan region by constitutional means, Kurdish leaders have signalled their intent to hold politics in Baghdad hostage to their demands. At the same time, the Iraqi government's growing military assertiveness is challenging the Kurds' de facto control over these territories. Rising acrimony and frustration are jeopardising the current relative peace, undermining prospects for national unity and, in the longer term, threatening Iraq's territorial integrity. Rather than items that can be individually and sequentially addressed, Iraq's principal conflicts - concerning oil, disputed territories, federalism and constitutional revisions - have become thoroughly interwoven. Federalism cannot be implemented without agreement on how the oil industry will be managed and revenues will be distributed. Progress on a federal hydrocarbons law and a companion revenue-sharing law is inconceivable without agreement on the disposition of disputed territories that boast major oil fields, such as Kirkuk. And the constitution review has faltered over failure to settle all those questions, the solutions to which will need to be reflected in amendments reached by consensus. How to move forward? If there is a way out, it lies in a comprehensive approach that takes into account the principal stakeholders' core requirements. A sober assessment of these requirements suggests a possible package deal revolving around a fundamental "oil-for-soil" trade-off: in exchange for at least deferring their exclusive claim on Kirkuk for ten years, the Kurds would obtain demarcation and security guarantees for their internal boundary with the rest of Iraq, as well as the right to manage and profit from their own mineral wealth. Such a deal would codify the significant gains the Kurds have made since they achieved limited autonomy in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War and especially after April 2003, while simultaneously respecting an Arab-Iraqi - as well as neighbouring states' - red line regarding Kirkuk. This package entails painful concessions from all sides, which they are unlikely to make without strong international involvement. The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has been providing technical support on a range of issues and, since late 2007, has devoted the bulk of its efforts to the question of disputed internal boundaries. It will need stronger backing from the U.S. and its allies, which have an abiding interest in Iraq's stabilisation yet have played a passive bystander role that has confused Iraqi stakeholders and encouraged them to press maximalist demands. The U.S. should make it a priority to steer Iraq's political actors toward a grand bargain they are unlikely to reach on their own and to secure its outcome through political, financial and diplomatic support. There is little time to waste. As U.S. forces are set to draw down in the next couple of years, Washington's leverage will diminish and, along with it, chances for a workable deal. This serves no one's interest. The most likely alternative to an agreement is a new outbreak of violent strife over unsettled claims in a fragmented polity governed by chaos and fear.
  • Topic: Security, Ethnic Conflict, Oil
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Publication Date: 08-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The preferred strategy of the European Union (EU) and the U.S. to bring Kosovo to supervised independence through the United Nations Security Council has failed, following Russia's declared intention to veto. With Kosovo Albanians increasingly restive and likely soon to declare unilateral independence in the absence of a credible alternative, Europe risks a new bloody and destabilising conflict. To avoid chaos on its doorstep, the EU and its member states must now accept the primary responsibility for bringing Kosovo to supervised independence.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict
  • Political Geography: Europe, Kosovo, Balkans
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Throughout much of the 25-year Sri Lankan conflict, attention has focused on the confrontation between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils. The views of the country's Muslims, who are 8 per cent of the population and see themselves as a separate ethnic group, have largely been ignored. Understanding their role in the conflict and addressing their political aspirations are vital if there is to be a lasting peace settlement. Muslims need to be part of any renewed peace process but with both the government and LTTE intent on continuing the conflict, more immediate steps should be taken to ensure their security and political involvement. These include control of the Karuna faction, more responsive local and national government, improved human rights mechanisms and a serious political strategy that recognises minority concerns in the east.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Government
  • Political Geography: Asia, Sri Lanka
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Georgia is a multinational state, building democratic institutions and forging a civic identity. However, it has made little progress towards integrating Armenian and Azeri minorities, who constitute over 12 per cent of the population. Tensions are evident in the regions of Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo-Kartli, where the two predominantly live and which have seen demonstrations, alleged police brutality and killings during the past two years. While there is no risk of these situations becoming Ossetian or Abkhaz-like threats to the state's territorial integrity, Tbilisi needs to pay more attention to minority rights, including use of second languages, if it is to avoid further conflict.
  • Topic: Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Eastern Europe, Armenia, Georgia
  • Publication Date: 10-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Nigeria's federal system and politics are deeply flawed, contributing to rising violence that threatens to destabilise one of Africa's leading countries. Failing to encourage genuine power sharing, they have sparked dangerous rivalries between the centre and the 36 states over revenue from the country's oil and other natural resources; promoted no-holds-barred struggles between interests groups to capture the state and its attendant wealth; and facilitated the emergence of violent ethnic militias, while politicians play on and exacerbate inter-communal tensions to cover up their corruption. The government has been quick to brand many of the symptoms, especially the rise of militancy, as simple criminality to be dealt with by more police and more troops. But unless it engages with the underlying issues of resource control, equal rights, power sharing and accountability, Nigeria will f ace an internal crisis of increasing proportions.
  • Topic: Economics, Ethnic Conflict, Government
  • Political Geography: Africa, Nigeria
  • Publication Date: 03-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: La France a un problème avec ses musulmans, mais ce n'est pas celui qu'elle croit. L'embrasement des banlieues d'octobre-novembre 2005 ainsi que la vague d'arrestations dans les milieux jihadistes ont ramené l'Islam au centre des préoccupations françaises et ont donné du souffle à ceux qui brandissent la me nace d'un monde musulman s'organisant à partir de l'islamisme politique. Pourtant, c'est tout le contraire: paradoxalement, c'est l'essoufflement de l'islamisme politique plus que sa radicalisation qui explique les violences à prédominance musulmane et c'est la dépolitisation des jeunes musulmans bien plus que leur prétendue re-communautarisation sur des bases radicales qui de vrait inquiéter. Afin de minimiser les risques de l'émeute et du militantisme jihadiste, il faudrait à la fois s'attaquer aux problèmes socio-économiques dont souffren t les cités, réduire les violences qui s'exercent contre elles, et favoriser la participation politique de ceux qui y résident.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Human Welfare, Religion
  • Political Geography: Europe, France
  • Publication Date: 02-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The bomb attack on a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra on 22 February 2006 and subsequent reprisals against Sunni mosques and killings of Sunni Arabs is only the latest and bloodiest indication that Iraq is teetering on the threshold of wholesale disaster. Over the past year, social and political tensions evident since the removal of the Baathist regime have turned into deep rifts. Iraq's mosaic of communities has begun to fragment along ethnic, confessional and tribal lines, bringing in stability and violence to many areas, especially those with mixed populations. The most urgent of these incipient conflicts is a Sunni-Shiite schism that threatens to tear the country apart. Its most visible manifestation is a dirty war being fought between a small group of insurgents bent on fomenting sectarian strife by killing Shiites and certain government commando units carrying out reprisals against the Sunni Arab community in whose midst the insurgency continues to thrive. Iraqi political actors and the international community must act urgently to prevent a low-intensity conflict from escalating into an all-out civil war that could lead to Iraq's disintegration and destabilise the entire region.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Religion
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 03-2004
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: For much of its history, Israel has focused on the neighbouring Arab states and Palestinians living in the occupied territories. Too often overlooked has been the status of those Israeli citizens who are Arab. They have attracted national attention only at times of heightened crisis, and even then in a highly reactive fashion. Unless systemic inequities facing Arab Israelis are addressed and an inclusive process is launched to define the state's long-term attitude towards this segment of its citizenry, prospects for internal strife and instability will remain high.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Politics, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Israel, Arabia