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  • Publication Date: 08-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Uzbekistan remains a serious risk to itself and its region. While 69-year-old President Islom Karimov shows no signs of relinquishing power, despite the end of his legal term of office more than half a year ago, his eventual departure may lead to a violent power struggle. The economy remains tightly controlled, with regime stalwarts, including the security services and Karimov's daughter Gulnora, exerting excessive influence, which drives away investors and exacerbates poverty. The human rights situation is grave, and those who seek to flee abroad live in constant danger of attempts to return them forcibly. While the government cites the "war on terror" to justify many policies, its repression may in fact be creating greater future danger. Efforts at international engagement have been stymied by its refusal to reform and to allow an independent investigation of the May 2005 Andijon uprising. Little can be done presently to influence Tashkent but it is important to help ordinary Uzbeks as much as possible and to assist the country's neighbours build their capacity to cope with the instability that is likely to develop when Karimov goes.
  • Topic: Corruption, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Central Asia, Asia, Uzbekistan
  • Publication Date: 07-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: President Musharraf faces the most serious challenge to almost eight years of military rule. Opposition has gathered momentum following his failed attempt to remove the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Moderate political parties, all segments of civil society and the public at large are vociferously demanding restoration of democracy and rule of law and the military's withdrawal from politics. The choice is not whether a transition will come but whether it will be peaceful and orderly, through free and fair elections, or violent. Musharraf and the high command are tempted to retain their power at all costs. Several of their options - particularly emergency - could portend disaster. Rigged or stalled elections would destabilise Pakistan, with serious international security consequences. Especially the U.S., needs to recognise its own interests are no longer served by military rule (if they ever really were) and use its considerable leverage to persuade the generals to return to the barracks and accept a democratic transition through free and fair parliamentary, followed by presidential, elections this year.
  • Topic: Democratization, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Asia
  • Publication Date: 06-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: President Pervez Musharraf, facing his most serious challenge in nearly eight years of authoritarian rule, is likely to try to retain power despite growing opposition. Rumours abound in Pakistan that he will declare a state of emergency, which would suspend fundamental rights and in effect mean martial law. Given an increasingly assertive opposition following his 9 March 2007 decision to remove the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, it will be impossible for the president and his military backers to maintain the status quo. Western friends of Pakistan, most influentially the U.S., can tip the balance by delivering a clear message that emergency rule is unacceptable and Pakistan should return to democratic government by holding free, fair and democratic elections by the end of the year.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Government
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Asia
  • Publication Date: 07-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Unrest in the Tarai plains has exposed the weaknesses of Nepal's peace process, could derail elections for a constituent assembly in November and, if not properly addressed, could start a new form of conflict. Madhesis – plainspeople who are some one third of the country's population – have protested, sometimes violently, against the discrimination that has in effect excluded them from public life. Weeks of demonstrations and clashes between political rivals recently left several dozen dead. The government has offered to address issues such as increased electoral representation, affirmative action for marginalised groups and federalism but has dragged its feet over implementing dialogue. Tension had been building for several years but was largely ignored by the political elites and international observers, and the scale of the protest shocked even its own leaders. The problems will only be resolved by strengthening the national political process and making it both inclusive and responsive – starting with free and fair elections to a constituent assembly later this year.
  • Topic: Civil War, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: Asia, Nepal
  • 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: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Nepal's Maoists have changed their strategy and tactics but not yet their goals. In 1996 they launched a “people's war” to establish a communist republic but ten years later ended it by accepting multiparty democracy; their armed struggle targeted the parliamentary system but they are now working alongside their former enemies, the mainstream parties, in an interim legislature and coalition government. Their commitment to pluralistic politics and society is far from definitive, and their future course will depend on both internal and external factors. While they have signed up to a peaceful, multiparty transition, they continue to hone alternative plans for more revolutionary change.
  • Topic: Communism, Development, Government
  • Political Geography: Asia, Nepal
  • Publication Date: 04-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Almost six decades after Pakistan's independence, the constitutional status of the Federally Administered Northern Areas (Gilgit and Baltistan), once a part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir and now under Pakistani control, remains undetermined, with political autonomy a distant dream. The region's inhabitants are embittered by Islamabad's unwillingness to devolve power to its elected representatives, and a nationalist movement, which seeks independence, is gaining ground. The rise of sectarian extremism is an alarming consequence of this denial of basic political rights. Taking advantage of the weaknesses in the imposed dispensation, religious organisations espousing a narrow sectarian agenda are fanning the fires of sectarian hatred in a region where Sunnis, Shias and Ismailis have peacefully coexisted for several centuries.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Civil Society, Government
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Asia, Kashmir
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: More than five years after President Pervez Musharraf declared his intention to crack down on violent sectarian and jihadi groups and to regulate the network of madrasas (religious schools) on which they depend, his government's reform program is in shambles. Banned sectarian and jihadi groups, supported by networks of mosques and madrasas, continue to operate openly in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, and elsewhere. The international community needs to press President Musharraf to fulfil his commitments, in particular to enforce genuine controls on the madrasas and allow free and fair national elections in 2007. It should also shift the focus of its donor aid from helping the government's ineffectual efforts to reform the religious schools to improving the very weak public school sector.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Government, Religion
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Asia, Karachi
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: When local elections were held in Aceh on 11 December 2006, conventional wisdom (shared by Crisis Group) was that candidates from the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) would not do well. They might pick up two or three of the nineteen district races, but the biggest prize – the provincial governorship – was almost certainly out of reach. The old Jakarta-linked parties would benefit from deep pockets, established structures and a split in the former insurgency's leadership. Polls just before formal campaigning began showed GAM's governor/deputy governor slate – Irwandi Yusuf and Muhammad Nazar – virtually out of contention. But GAM won overwhelmingly, in what an analyst called “a perfect storm between the fallout from the peace accord and the failure of political parties to understand the changing times”. The challenge now is to govern effectively and cleanly in the face of high expectations, possible old elite obstructionism and some GAM members' sense of entitlement that it is their turn for power and wealth.
  • Topic: International Relations, Civil Society, Politics
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The September 2006 coup in Thailand, despite its damage to democratic development, opened the way for improved management of the conflict in the Muslim South. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont's interim government has overhauled some of its predecessor's worst policies and signalled willingness to address longstanding grievances. But verbal commitments in Bangkok have been difficult to translate into changes on the ground, and relations between security forces and local communities continue to be strained while violence mounts. Thais outside the South have exerted pressure for a return to heavy-handed crackdowns on suspected militants. The government must respond to the escalating attacks, but with care – widespread arbitrary arrests and civilian casualties would only increase support for insurgents.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Asia, Thailand, Bangkok
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: With the formation of an interim legislature incorporating mainstream parties and Maoists, Nepal's peace process hinges on writing a constitution that permanently ends the conflict, addresses the widespread grievances that fuelled it and guards against the eruption of new violence. Most political actors have accepted the Maoist demand for a constituent assembly (CA) tasked with framing a new dispensation, although royalists are worried over the future of the monarchy, which has in effect been suspended. The major challenge is to maintain leadership-level consensus while building a broad-based and inclusive process that limits room for spoilers and ensures long-term popular legitimacy. Recent unrest in the Tarai plains illustrates the dangers of ignoring popular discontent. Key political actors need to prepare more seriously for the CA. Led by the newly established United Nations mission in Nepal (UNMIN), the international community should pressure all sides to abide by their stated commitments and global norms and provide technical assistance to the electoral process.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peace Studies, Politics
  • Political Geography: Asia, Nepal, United Nations
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: After eight months of trying to induce surrenders, the Indonesian police have conducted two major raids this month in Poso, Central Sulawesi, to arrest a group of men, most local members of the terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), wanted for a range of bombings, beheadings and drive-by shootings. Peaceful efforts had clearly failed but the high death toll from the second raid has turned the wanted men into victims. A jihad that has been largely directed against local Christians could now be focused on the police as a thoghut (anti-Islamic force) and give a boost to Indonesia's weakened jihadi movement. The urgent task now is for the government to work with Muslim leaders to explain in detail who the suspects were and why force was used. It also should examine how police operations were conducted to see if further measures could have been taken to prevent casualties. Authorities likewise need to begin addressing a wide range of local grievances.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Religion, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia, Switzerland
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Fourteen years of negotiation, led alternately by the UN and Russia, have done little to resolve the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. There have been some successes on the ground: ceasefire violations are rare, approximately 45,000 internally displaced (IDP) Georgians have returned to homes in the Gali region, the two sides cooperate on operating the Inguri power plant, and a strategic railway through Abkhazia may restart. But the sharp deterioration in Russian-Georgian relations and a Georgian military adventure in the Kodori valley have contributed to a freeze in diplomacy over Abkhazia since mid-2006. In the absence of a new initiative, new violence is a real possibility. Because prospects are bleak for an early comprehensive settlement of the key political issues, in particular final status, the sides and international facilitators should shift their focus in 2007 to building confidence and cooperation in areas where there are realistic opportunities.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia, Georgia, Abkhazia
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Taliban and other foreign militants, including al-Qaeda sympathisers, have sheltered since 2001 in Pakistan's Pashtun-majority Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), seven administrative districts bordering on south eastern Afghanistan. Using the region to regroup, reorganise and rearm, they are launching increasingly severe cross-border attacks on Afghan and international military personnel, with the support and active involvement of Pakistani militants. The Musharraf government's ambivalent approach and failure to take effective action is destabilising Afghanistan; Kabul's allies, particularly the U.S. and NATO, which is now responsible for security in the bordering areas, should apply greater pressure on it to clamp down on the pro-Taliban militants. But the international community, too, bears responsibility by failing to support democratic governance in Pakistan, including within its troubled tribal belt.
  • Topic: Government, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Asia, Taliban, Tribal Areas
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: After four years of relative peace, Sri Lanka has again plunged into military conflict between the government and the separatist Tamil group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A 2002 ceasefire, negotiated with Norway's help, remains intact on paper but is flouted on the ground with increasing regularity and frequent brutality. More than 2,500 people, many of them civilians, have been killed since January. Human rights abuses and political killings are carried out with impunity by both sides. The humanitarian crisis in the north east is critical, with more than 200,000 fleeing their homes during the year. Until attitudes change on both sides, the immediate prospect is for worsening violence.
  • Topic: Government, Human Welfare, Peace Studies
  • Political Geography: Norway, Asia, Sri Lanka
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Fierce battles rage in southern Afghanistan, insurgent attacks in the east creep towards the provinces surrounding Kabul and a new campaign of terrorist violence targets urban centres. The country's democratic government is not immediately threatened but action is needed now. This includes putting more international forces into the battle zones but insurgencies are never beaten by military means alone, and there are no quick fixes. Diplomatic pressure on Pakistan is needed, and the government of President Karzai must show political will to respond to internal discontent with serious efforts to attack corruption, work with the elected National Assembly and extend the rule of law by ending the culture of impunity. Afghanistan needs a renewed, long-term effort to build an effective, fair government that provides real security to its people.
  • Topic: International Relations, Government, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Asia, Kabul
  • Publication Date: 10-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Scores of thousands of North Koreans have been risking their lives to escape their country's hardships in search of a better life, contributing to a humanitarian challenge that is playing out almost invisibly as the world focuses on North Korea's nuclear program. Only a little over 9,000 have made it to safety, mostly in South Korea but also in Japan, Europe and the U.S. Many more live in hiding from crackdowns and forcible repatriations by China and neighbouring countries, vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. If repatriated to the North, they face harsh punishment, possibly execution. China and South Korea have held back, even during the Security Council debate over post-test sanctions, from applying as much pressure as they might to persuade Pyongyang to reverse its dangerous nuclear policy, in part because they fear that the steady stream of North Koreans flowing into China and beyond would become a torrent if the North's economy were to collapse under the weight of tough measures. While there is marginally more hope Beijing will change its ways than Pyongyang, concerned governments can and must do far more to improve the situation of the border crossers.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Migration
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Publication Date: 10-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Bangladesh faces twin threats to its democracy and stability: the risk that its political system will founder in a deadlock over elections and the growing challenge of militant Islamism, which has brought a spate of violence. The issues are linked; Islamic militancy has flourished in a time of dysfunctional politics, popular discontent and violence. The questions of whether Bangladesh's traditional moderation and resilience will see it through or whether escalating violence and political confrontation could derail its democracy are vital ones. Serious instability in the world's third most populous Muslim country could not fail to have wider implications. The situation does not justify great anxiety about the outbreak of major conflict domestically or the nurturing of significant extremism and terrorism internationally but there are elements of fragility in the system which need close watching and engagement. The international community can help to address the graver risks but only if it takes Bangladesh seriously as a strategic partner and moves towards more mature political engagement.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Government
  • Political Geography: Bangladesh, Asia
  • Publication Date: 09-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: President Pervez Musharraf and the military are responsible for the worsening of the conflict in Balochistan. Tensions between the government and its Baloch opposition have grown because of Islamabad's heavy-handed armed response to Baloch militancy and its refusal to negotiate demands for political and economic autonomy. The killing of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti in August 2006 sparked riots and will likely lead to more confrontation. The conflict could escalate if the government insists on seeking a military solution to what is a political problem and the international community, especially the U.S., fails to recognise the price that is involved for security in neighbouring Afghanistan.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Economics, Government
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, Asia
  • Publication Date: 05-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The new National Assembly has the potential to play a vital role in stabilising Afghanistan, entrenching pluralism, institutionalising political competition and giving voice to the country's diverse population. By being accountable to the Afghan people it can demand accountability of the presidential government. However, the success of this fledgling institution remains delicately poised, particularly because of the absence of a formal role for political parties, essential for mediating internal tensions. The lack of such organised blocs has seen power-brokers of past eras try to dominate proceedings. New moderate forces need to move quickly now to establish formal groups within the houses to ensure their voices are heard.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Asia