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  • Author: Engin Yüksel, Nancy Ezzeddine, Rena Netjes, Beatrice Noun, Erwin van Veen
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: The Middle East was already plagued by war, famine and death in the form of the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as the US, radical extremism, the Kurdish question and Iraq’s many travails – in large part a result of decades of autocracy, corruption and repression. The outbreak of Covid-19 added pestilence to this trio and makes for a harmful long-term mix. With this in mind, the purpose of the brief is twofold: first, to examine the longer-term impact of the virus on political tensions and conflict in the region; and second, to explore opportunities for innovative conflict resolution that might be seized in the wake of Covid-19. In this way, we hope to stimulate something good coming out of this trying period yet.
  • Topic: Fragile States, Conflict, Crisis Management, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Erwin van Veen
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: On 10 July 2020, UN Security Council Resolution 2504 expires.1 It authorises humanitarian access from Turkey into northwest Syria. Should it not be extended, a humanitarian catastrophe will almost certainly occur. Fortunately, intense lobbying is already underway to avoid such an outcome. But other actions are essential beyond the resolution’s renewal. Key among those is the need for a shift in approach: instead of handling northwest Syria as a humanitarian emergency, the area should be treated as a protracted crisis to reflect the absence of a short-term solution to the predicament of its four million residents, including 2.7 million internally displaced. In practice, this means that much more humanitarian aid should be delivered through local Syrian organisations, reliable mechanisms for cross-line aid operations should be introduced, and the ground should be prepared for more EU engagement with Turkey and Russia. Without such actions, human suffering and its exploitation are bound to increase.
  • Topic: United Nations, Syrian War, Crisis Management, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Anna Schmauder
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: The Malian peace agreement of 2015, known as the Algiers Agreement, aimed to improve relations between select representatives of northern Mali and central state authorities through decentralisation. Yet, in contrast to ongoing counterterrorism efforts, governance reform through the decentralisation process has received little attention from either the Malian government or its international partners. As a consequence, effective decentralisation in northern regions remains limited at this point in time. This policy brief contributes to the debate on decentralisation in Mali by illustrating how decentralisation in northern Mali has become an issue of contestation between central state authorities and armed signatories. Decentralisation remains captured in a logic of territorial control, in which the representation of armed signatories takes precedence before the needs and interests of marginalised tribes and communities in northern regions. Central state authorities and signatories have been reinforcing this logic of representation, each trying to hamper the influence of the other over territorial control in northern regions.
  • Topic: Governance, Fragile States, Conflict, Decentralization
  • Political Geography: Africa, Mali
  • Author: Loïc Bisson
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: Countries in West Africa were quick to take strong prevention and mitigation measures to stem the spread of COVID-19. But border closure, curfew, market closure and limited internal movement already impact key value chains in the region and threaten livelihoods. It risks lowering decent working conditions and labour rights and increasing child labour and gender violence. Informal, migrant and female workers are especially at risk and are likely to take the brunt of the economic downturn. Disruptions in the food value chain also endangers food security in the region. Instability in West Africa threatens both European and Dutch economic, security and geopolitical interests. By virtue of being involved in various West African value chains, European and Dutch consumers and companies bear both leverage and responsibilities in regard to secure livelihoods, good working conditions free of gender violence and respect for labour rights in West Africa.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Fragile States, Global Value Chains, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, West Africa
  • Author: Fransje Molenaar
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: Over the course of 2019, and despite being located in a region marked by violent conflict, the Inter collectivité du Sourou achieved a unique feat in the West African region. It developed an Integrated and Sustainable Development Programme (ISDP) that defined concrete actions to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Sourou river plain in Mali in an adaptive fashion and set itself up as the main coordinator for the implementation of this plan. Both achievements will help the region coordinate natural resource management – thereby addressing one of the region’s root causes of conflict. This policy brief outlines how the effective devolution of power was achieved through an inclusive rather than a ‘rubber stamp’ approach to the planning process and by having a donor that made the improvement of local governance a result of its own intrinsic value. For the long- term implementation of the ISDP, care should be taken to ensure the continued inclusivity and representativeness of local development and resource management while remaining mindful of the interaction of this new governance structure with existing governance and power structures.
  • Topic: Natural Resources, Governance, Sustainable Development Goals, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Africa, Mali, Sahel
  • Author: Karolien van Teijlingen, Barbara Hogenboom
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: COVID-19 struck Latin America in the middle of what was already a tough economic, political and social period. This policy brief looks into the effects of the pandemic on employment and labour rights in the Colombian and Peruvian large-scale mining sectors. Mining has been severely affected by low commodity prices and demand, interrupted supply chains, national lockdowns and the (partial) closure of operations. Companies have tried to cut costs on the back of their labour force, resulting in layoffs, renegotiations and suspension of contracts. Informal economies around mining operations also suffer from the fall in demand for services and goods. The most impacted groups are outsourced workers and workers in the informal economy, the latter being predominantly women. On the long-term, these countries risks a race to the bottom in terms of labour rights. The brief calls upon (Dutch) companies and investors working in the Latin American commodity sectors to put social and economic justice at the centre of their operations.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Mining, Global Value Chains, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: South America, Latin America
  • Author: Loïc Bisson
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: In the Sahel, market closures, border closures and movement restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19 have disrupted the structurally weak pastoral sector, already made vulnerable by conflict. There are several signs of the negative impacts of COVID-19, such as difficulties in moving food and people, poor access to markets, rising food prices and loss of livelihoods. In Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, the pandemic adds to ongoing problems of conflict and political instability. The threat to pastoralists is to lose their herds through overgrazing, zoo-sanitary diseases or lack of income to feed the animals. If pastoralists go bankrupt, they could be forced to sell their livestock at devastatingly low prices to large landholders or wealthy neo-pastoralists. This scenario would aggravate an already-growing trend in the region – escalating economic inequality and the consolidation of wealth among an elite. This risks fuelling inequality and deepening existing fault lines. The priority for Sahelian governments should be clear: keep food coming and people moving, and develop a post-COVID-19 strategy to tackle the vulnerabilities revealed by the pandemic.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Poverty, Conflict, Pastoralism, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sahel
  • Author: Paul Hofhuis
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: Greening the huge Corona recovery investments and the revised Multi Annual Framework is marketed as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The European Commission is keeping its Green Deal ideas at the heart of its Next Generation EU package, but meanwhile the recovery measures of individual Member States are aimed mostly at ensuring the jobs and businesses of the grey economy. Moreover, an east-west divide is emerging over the Commissions’ green ambitions. Successful implementation will certainly depend on the steering authority the Commission might acquire. This policy brief analyses the effectiveness of key steering instruments available to the Commission. And it analyses how this effectiveness is influenced by the political context of the European Council.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, European Union, Green Technology, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Alban Dafa, Wouter Zweers
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: In recent years the Netherlands has voiced security-related concerns about the involvement of Albanians nationals in organised crime in the Netherlands. These concerns culminated in a request to the European Commission to suspend visa-free travel for Albanians to the EU. This policy brief argues that the current Dutch approach does not provide the best means to address issues of organised crime, such as drug trafficking, related to Albanian nationals. It identifies several inadequacies in the crime data used to substantiate the Dutch position and the way Dutch authorities publicly communicate them. It posits that greater bilateral cooperation beyond the EU accession framework could improve efforts to fight transnational organised crime effectively. The opening of EU accession negotiations with Albania may offer a window of opportunity to formulate a constructive agenda of cooperation beyond the formal EU enlargement framework. This policy brief was written by Alban Dafa from the Institute for Democracy and Mediation and Wouter Zweers (the Clingendael Institute).
  • Topic: Security, Law Enforcement, Transnational Actors, Organized Crime
  • Political Geography: Europe, Albania, Netherlands
  • Author: Engin Yüksel
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: Recent Turkish interventions in parts of Syria, Iraq and Turkey itself, look like pushing various Kurdish armed forces and political groupings towards ‘defeat’ via a concerted regional strategy that combines battlefield action with repression and co-optation. But the ‘anti-terrorist’ frame and tactics that Ankara uses in a bid to solve its Kurdish problem feature many sticks and no compromises to improve Kurdish collective minority rights. It is likely that this approach will inhibit peaceful resistance and fail to reduce support for armed groups like the PKK and PYD despite their own authoritarian practices. Moreover, Turkey’s new regional militarism risks escalating conflict across the Middle East because of the complex international and transnational contexts in which Ankara’s interventions take place.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Non State Actors, Conflict, Kurds
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Syria