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  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Bangladesh could face a protracted political crisis in the lead-up to the 2013 elections unless Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government changes course and takes a more conciliatory approach towards the political opposition and the military. In December 2008, following two years of a military-backed caretaker government, the Awami League (AL) secured a landslide victory in what were widely acknowledged to be the fairest elections in the country's history. The hope, both at home and abroad, was that Sheikh Hasina would use her mandate to revitalise democratic institutions and pursue national reconciliation, ending the pernicious cycle of zero-sum politics between her AL and its rival, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Three and a half years on, hope has been replaced by deep disillusionment, as two familiar threats to Bangladesh's democracy have returned: the prospect of election-related violence and the risks stemming from an unstable and hostile military.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Political Violence, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Bangladesh, Asia
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: International, particularly U.S., military and civilian aid has failed to improve Pakistan's performance against jihadi groups operating on its soil or to help stabilise its nascent democracy. Lopsided focus on security aid after the 11 September 2001 attacks has not delivered counterterrorism dividends, but entrenched the military's control over state institutions and policy, delaying reforms and aggravating Pakistani public perceptions that the U.S. is only interested in investing in a security client. Almost two-thirds of U.S. funding since 2002 ($15.8 billion) has been security-related, double the $7.8 billion of economic aid. Under an elected government, and with civilian aid levels at their highest in decades, the U.S. and other donors can still play a major part in improving service delivery, supporting key reforms and strengthening a fragile political transition vital to internal and regional stability. Re-orientation of funding from military security purposes to long-term democracy and capacity building support is the best way to guarantee the West's and Pakistan's longterm interests in a dangerous region. But aid policies must be better targeted, designed and executed.
  • Topic: Democratization, Terrorism, Foreign Aid, Counterinsurgency
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, United States, South Asia
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: As messy as it has been and unfinished as it remains, Yemen's transition accomplished two critical goals: avoiding a potentially devastating civil war and securing the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled the impoverished country for over three decades. It also cracked the regime's foundations, while making it possible to imagine new rules of the game. Still, much remains in doubt, notably the scope and direction of change. The nation essentially has witnessed a political game of musical chairs, one elite faction swapping places with the other but remaining at loggerheads. Important constituencies – northern Huthi, southern Hiraak, some independent youth movements – feel excluded and view the transition agreement with scepticism, if not distain. Al-Qaeda and other militants are taking advantage of a security vacuum. Socio-economic needs remain unmet. The new government must rapidly show tangible progress (security, economic, political) to contain centrifugal forces pulling Yemen apart, while reaching out to stakeholders and preparing the political environment for inclusive national dialogue.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Political Violence, Civil War, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Yemen, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Almost ten years after the Bali bombing that brought terrorism in Indonesia to international attention, the country's violent extremists are weak and divided but still active. In the face of strong police pressure, they are finding ways to regroup on the run, in prison and through internet forums, military training camps and arranged marriages. In many cases, the same individuals keep reappearing, using old networks to build new alliances. The fact that they have been singularly inept in their operations in recent years does not mean that the danger of attacks is over. There are signs that at least some are learning lessons from past failures and becoming more sophisticated in recruitment and fundrais-ing. Better understanding of how extremists regroup could lead to more effective counter-radicalisation programs.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Islam, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Although it should provide development opportunities, renewed oil interest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) represents a real threat to stability in a still vulnerable post-conflict country. Exploration has begun, but oil prospecting is nurturing old resentments among local communities and contributing to border tensions with neighbouring countries. If oil reserves are confirmed in the east, this would exacerbate deep-rooted conflict dynamics in the Kivus. An upsurge in fighting since the start of 2012, including the emergence of a new rebellion in North Kivu and the resumption of armed groups' territorial expansion, has further complicated stability in the east, which is the new focus for oil exploration. New oil reserves could also create new centres of power and question Katanga's (DRC's traditional economic hub) political influence. Preventive action is needed to turn a real threat to stability into a genuine development opportunity.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Development, Ethnic Conflict, Oil
  • Political Geography: Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Uncertainty over President Hugo Chávez's health adds to Venezuela's fragility in the run-up to October's presidential election. Amid deep polarisation, his illness overshadows the campaign, while the personalised nature of his rule, weakened institutions, and high levels of criminal violence bode ill for stability even beyond the polls. Brazen violation of the constitution would probably require army support, which not even the president can bank on; regional powers, too, would eye such action warily. But with much at stake, upheaval, even a violent political crisis, remain dangerous possibilities. Political leaders should condemn violence and pledge publicly to respect the constitution – whatever lies ahead. Venezuela's partners in the region should press for international observation and signal clearly they will not condone unconstitutional acts.
  • Topic: Democratization, Political Economy, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Latin America, Venezuela
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: After May's parliamentary elections, Armenia is preparing for a pivotal presidential vote in 2013 that will determine whether it has shed a nearly two-decade history of fraud-tainted elections and put in place a government with the legitimacy needed to implement comprehensive reform and resolve its problems with Azerbaijan. President Serzh Sargsyan has a brief opportunity to demonstrate statesmanship before he again faces the voters in what is likely to be a competitive contest. Sargsyan has demonstrated some courage to promote change, but like his predecessors, he has thus far failed to deal effectively with serious economic and governance problems, including the debilitating, albeit low-intensity, Nagorno-Karabakh war. Another election perceived as seriously flawed would serve as a further distraction from peace talks and severe economic problems. The likely consequences would then be ever more citizens opting out of democratic politics, including by emigration.
  • Topic: Civil War, Democratization, Development, Economics, Financial Crisis, Governance
  • Political Geography: Armenia, Azerbaijan
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The 25,000 members of the National Civil Police (PNC) are on the front lines of Guatemala's battle against crime. But all too often citizens distrust and fear the police – widely dismissed as inefficient, corrupt and abusive – as much as the criminals. Underfunded, poorly trained and often out-gunned, they are frequently incapable or unwilling to con-front criminals and gain the public trust needed to build a state based on rule of law. Drug traffickers, including Mex-ican cartels, move at will across porous borders, while criminal gangs dominate many urban areas. The government of President Otto Pérez Molina must reboot and revitalise police reform, as part of an overall effort to strengthen justice and law enforcement, with financial support from the U.S. and other countries interested in preventing Guatemala from becoming a haven for organised crime. Progress has been made, but achievements are fragile and easily reversed.
  • Topic: Security, Corruption, Crime, Law Enforcement
  • Political Geography: United States, Latin America
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Transitions often present risks to authoritarian regimes, but the succession in North Korea has apparently passed with few problems. With no opposition from the military and China's clear support, there are no signs to suggest that Kim Jŏng-ŭn, the young leader who replaced his father, Kim Jong-il, following his death in December 2011, is anything but in charge in his own right. Far from creating a regency of older family members or generals, the North Korean system has maintained its focus on a single leader and projected an image of stability and unity as it celebrates the centenary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il-sung. While that image appears to be accurate, there is nothing to suggest that the new leader is or will become inclined to take measures that would either improve the lot of the country's citizens or reduce the regional frictions that Pyongyang is at the centre of.
  • Topic: Security, Cold War, Nuclear Weapons, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: China, Israel, North Korea
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The South China Sea dispute between China and some of its South East Asian neighbours – Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei – has reached an impasse. Increasingly assertive positions among claimants have pushed regional tensions to new heights. Driven by potential hydrocarbon reserves and declining fish stocks, Vietnam and the Philippines in particular are taking a more confrontational posture with China. All claimants are expanding their military and law enforcement capabilities, while growing nationalism at home is empowering hardliners pushing for a tougher stance on territorial claims. In addition, claimants are pursuing divergent resolution mechanisms; Beijing insists on resolving the disputes bilaterally, while Vietnam and the Philippines are actively engaging the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). To counter diminishing prospects of resolution of the conflicts, the countries should strengthen efforts to promote joint development of hydrocarbon and fish resources and adopt a binding code of conduct for all parties to the dispute.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Maritime Commerce, Natural Resources, Food
  • Political Geography: China, Malaysia, Israel, Vietnam, Southeast Asia, Brunei
  • Publication Date: 07-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Myanmar has embarked on an ambitious program of sweeping reforms to end its isolation and integrate its economy with the global system. Closely entwined with its dramatic political transition, the end of longstanding Western sanctions is supporting this reconfiguration. If the reforms are done well, many across the country stand to benefit, but those who profited most from the old regime's restrictions and privileges will lose access to windfall profits and guaranteed monopolies. The crony businessmen, military and party elite will still do well but will need to play by new rules, meet domestic and foreign competition and even pay taxes. Perhaps recognising the opportunities a more vibrant economy in a fast-growing region will bring for all, there is no major pushback to these changes, rather attempts to adapt to the new economy. The challenges and risks are numerous for a government with little experience juggling the many changes required, but it cannot resist the pent-up political pressure for change it has already unleashed.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Globalization, Government, International Trade and Finance, Politics
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: At a distance, Syria's conflict can resemble a slow, painful slog, punctuated by intermittent accelerations and apparent tipping points, influenced by international activity. Zoom in, and one can cast such impressions aside. Diplomatic manoeuvrings have ended up being little more than inertia masquerading as motion. The West used them to pretend it was doing more than it was; Russia exploited them to feign it backed the Syrian regime less than it actually did. Meanwhile, in Syria, one sees neither deadlock nor abrupt transformation; virtually everything has been changing but at a steady pace: the shape of the conflict; civil society dynamics; sectarian relations; and the very nature of the regime the opposition seeks to depose.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Armed Struggle, Regime Change, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Haiti is now marking the eighth year of the UN Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Debate about its eventual withdrawal is intensifying under the one year-old administration of President Michel Martelly. Opposition to its presence stems from the country's nationalistic pride, anger at the cholera epidemic linked to UN peacekeepers and publicity surrounding unacceptable abuses by a small number of peacekeepers. Yet even its critics admit the country's still limited police force cannot guarantee the security needed to protect citizens, enforce the law and underpin political stability. The real debate is not whether MINUSTAH should leave but when, and what to change in Haiti and in the mission's mandate, structure and behaviour to ensure that a phased withdrawal is linked to stronger institutions and progress toward lasting stability and development.
  • Topic: Security, Health, United Nations, Fragile/Failed State, Law Enforcement, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Caribbean, Haiti
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A spate of violence in Papua in May and June 2012 exposed the lack of a coherent government strategy to address this multidimensional conflict. Shootings of non-Papuans in the provincial capital Jayapura in June, likely involving pro-independence militants, were followed by the death of one of those militants at police hands, highlighting the political dimension of the problem. In Wamena, a rampage by soldiers after the death of a comrade shows the depth of distrust between local communities and the army, and the absence of mechanisms to deal with crises. The shooting of five Papuans by newly arrived members of a paramilitary police unit (Brigade Mobile, Brimob) in a remote gold-mining area of Paniai highlights the violence linked to Papua's vast resource wealth and rent-seeking by the security apparatus with little oversight from Jakarta. While these events are still under investigation, they signal that unless the Yudhoyono government can address these very different aspects of the conflict, things may get worse. An overhaul of security policy would help.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Development, Ethnic Conflict, Post Colonialism
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Southeast Asia, Papua
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Guinea-Bissau took another dangerous turn on 12 April 2012, when the army arrested Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior, who was about to be elected president. A military junta accused him of conspiring with Angola to curtail the military's power and quickly installed transitional authorities, before officially stepping aside on 22 May. International condemnation was swift, but differences developed between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP). The former, pushed by Nigeria, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso, supports a year's transition, the latter, especially Portugal and Angola, immediate resumption of the presidential vote. Coup and transition may have opened a way for vital reforms, which must go beyond changes in the army and combating the drugs trade. But for that to happen, ECOWAS and CPLP must reach a consensus on working with international partners to mobilise resources for security, judicial and electoral reforms and refusing to validate Gomes Júnior's illegal exclusion from political life.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Post Colonialism, Power Politics, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Africa, Senegal, Nigeria, Portugal, Angola
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Nepal's peace process was to end with a new constitution. Yet, after four years of delays and disputes, the country's main political parties were unable to agree on federalism, a core demand of large constituencies. On 27 May 2012, the term of the Constituent Assembly, which also served as parliament, ended without the new constitution being completed. The parties must now decide what to do next: hold an election for a new assembly or revive the last one. This will be hard. Obduracy on federalism, bickering over a unity government, a changing political landscape and communal polarisation make for complex negotiations, amid a dangerous legislative vacuum. The parties must assess what went wrong and significantly revise the composition and design of negotiations, or risk positions hardening across the political spectrum. Talks and decision-making need to be transparent and inclusive, and leaders more accountable. The public needs much better information. None of this will necessarily mend the deep social rifts, but it would reduce space for extremists and provocateurs.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Peace Studies, Politics
  • Political Geography: South Asia
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The peace process and stalled constitution writing exercise, in particular the debate about federalism, have expanded Nepal's political matrix. Identity politics is a mainstream phenomenon and new ethnic-based and regional political forces are coalescing. Actors who want a federal structure that acknowledges Nepal's many identities have allied, overcoming other political differences. The Maoist party has split. Once centrist forces have moved to the right. All parties are grappling with factional and ideological divisions. Old monarchical forces are more visible. How these political shifts will settle depends on the parties' decisions on resuming constitution writing and future electoral calculations. The Constituent Assembly has been dissolved after failing to deliver the new constitution on the 27 May deadline. The constitution was to establish federalism and address the demands of marginalised groups. Social polarisation over these issues compounds constitutional uncertainty and the legislative vacuum. The tensions around federalism and fluid political equations threaten to provoke volatile confrontations.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Peace Studies, Politics
  • Political Geography: South Asia
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The stabilisation of Pakistan's democratic transition will depend to a considerable extent on the manner in which the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) conducts the next general elections. These are due when the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led coalition government ends its fiveyear term in March 2013, or earlier if it so decides. Rigged elections and distortions of the process by military regimes or military-controlled governments have left the ECP in an advanced state of institutional decay. If the next elections are to result in the smooth transfer of power from one elected government to another and be widely perceived as legitimate and democratic by all stakeholders, it is imperative that the ECP be truly independent, impartial and effective.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Local institutions in Indonesia, empowered by decentralisation, are defying the country's highest courts with impunity, undermining judicial authority and allowing local conflicts to fester. District councils, mayors and regional election commissions have learned that there is little cost to ignoring court rulings on electoral or religious disputes, pandering instead to local constituencies and pressure groups. Decisive leadership from the president could make a difference; instead, slow and ineffective responses from Jakarta brew more insubordination. If the regions become overconfident in their new powers and the central state continues to respond weakly, this lack of commitment to rule of law could encourage more conflict as the national political temperature rises ahead of the 2014 presidential election.
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Law Enforcement, Law
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Turkey's Kurdish conflict is becoming more violent, with more than 700 dead in fourteen months, the highest casualties in thirteen years. Prolonged clashes with militants in the south east, kidnappings and attacks on civilians suggest hardliners are gaining the upper hand in the insurgent PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). The government and mainstream media should resist the impulse to call for all out anti-terrorist war and focus instead, together with Kurds, on long-term conflict resolution. There is need to reform oppressive laws that jail legitimate Kurdish politicians and make amends for security forces' excess. The Kurdish movement, including PKK leaders, must abjure terrorist attacks and publicly commit to realistic political goals. Above all, politicians on all sides must legalise the rights most of Turkey's Kurds seek, including mother-language education; an end to discriminatory laws; fair political representation; and more decentralisation. Turkey's Kurds would then have full equality and rights, support for PKK violence would drop, and the government would be better placed to negotiate insurgent disarmament and demobilisation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Communism, Ethnic Conflict, Terrorism, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Central Asia, Turkey, Kurdistan