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  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Afghan War has entered a critical period in which the U.S. is actively seeking a peace settlement with the Taliban, and doing so in spite of the fact that it is negotiating without the full participation of the Afghan government. Its options now consist of finding some form of peace, leaving the country without any form of victory or security, or fighting indefinitely in a country whose central government has no near or mid-term capability to either defeat its opponents or survive without massive military and civil aid. Peace is a highly uncertain option. There are no official descriptions of the terms of the peace that the Administration is now seeking to negotiate, but media reports indicate that it may be considering a full withdrawal of its military support within one to two years of a ceasefire, and other reports indicate that it is considering a 50% cut in U.S. military personnel even if a peace is not negotiated. As of late-August 2019, the Taliban continued to reject any formal peace negotiations with the Afghan government, and its military activity and acts of violence while it negotiated with the United States. Terrorist groups like ISIS-K add to the threat, as do the many splits within the Afghani government and political structure. The Taliban has not encouraged further ceasefires, or shown any clear willingness to accept a lasting peace on any terms but its own. It may well see peace negotiations as a means of negotiating a withdrawal of U.S. and other allied forces and a prelude to a peace that it could exploit to win control of Afghanistan. At the same time, the other options are no better. They either mean leaving without a peace and the near certain collapse of the Afghan government, or continuing the war indefinitely with no clear timeframe for victory or the emergence of an Afghan government that can fight on its own or act as an effective civil government. Much of the analysis of these three options has focused on the possible terms of the peace, the immediate progress in the fighting, and/or the coming Afghan election and Afghanistan’s immediate political problems. These are all important issues, but they do not address the basic problems in Afghan security forces that will limit its military capabilities indefinitely into the future, or the scale of the civil problems in Afghanistan that have given it failed governance and made it the equivalent of a failed state, and that will shape its future in actually implementing any peace or in attempting to continue the war.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Peace
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The U.S. has learned many lessons in its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria—most of them the hard way. It has had to adapt the strategies, tactics, and force structures designed to fight regular wars to conflicts dominated by non-state actors. It has had to deal with threats shaped by ideological extremism far more radical than the communist movements it struggled against in countries like Vietnam. It has found that the kind of “Revolution in Military Affairs,” or RMA, that helped the U.S. deter and encourage the collapses of the former Soviet Union does not win such conflicts against non-state actors, and that it faces a different mix of threats in each such war—such as in cases like Libya, Yemen, Somalia and a number of states in West Africa. The U.S. does have other strategic priorities: competition with China and Russia, and direct military threats from states like Iran and North Korea. At the same time, the U.S. is still seeking to find some form of stable civil solution to the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria—as well as the conflicts Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and West Africa. Reporting by the UN, IMF, and World Bank also shows that the mix of demographic, political governance, and economic forces that created the extremist threats the U.S. and its strategic partners are now fighting have increased in much of the entire developing world since the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, and the political upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. The Burke Chair at CSIS has prepared a working paper that suggests the U.S. needs to build on the military lessons it has learned from its "long wars" in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries in order to carry out a new and different kind of “Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs,” or RCMA. This revolution involves very different kinds of warfighting and military efforts from the RMA. The U.S. must take full advantage of what it is learning about the need for different kinds of train and assist missions, the use of airpower, strategic communications, and ideological warfare. At the same time, the U.S. must integrate these military efforts with new civilian efforts that address the rise of extremist ideologies and internal civil conflicts. It must accept the reality that it is fighting "failed state" wars, where population pressures and unemployment, ethnic and sectarian differences, critical problems in politics and governance, and failures to meet basic economic needs are a key element of the conflict. In these elements of conflict, progress must be made in wartime to achieve any kind of victory, and that progress must continue if any stable form of resolution is to be successful.
  • Topic: Civil Society, United Nations, Military Strategy, Governance, Military Affairs, Developing World
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Iraq, Middle East, West Africa, Somalia, Sundan
  • Author: Jon B. Alterman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: n 2014, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) embarked on a bold experiment: It began drafting young men into the military. This move was not only a departure for the Emirates, it was a departure from world trends. Governments have been moving away from national service requirements for decades as military missions have changed and governments have sought to create highly skilled all-volunteer armies. But the UAE move to press young men into military service was meant to build the country, not just the army. Several factors contributed to the decision to adopt conscription. One was a deeply unsettled regional environment. Another was a drive to promote a stronger sense of shared Emirati identity. A third was a growing fear that young Emirati men were becoming lazy and “soft” just as the government eyed an increasing imperative to shape its workforce for a world less centered on oil. A fourth consideration was the UAE’s resolve to blunt the forces that contributed to the Arab uprisings in 2011. Staring down all of these factors, the UAE leadership decided a bold intervention was needed. The leadership constructed a program combining intensive physical fitness training with military training, national education, and character education. It did not only reach 18 year-olds. Everyone 30 years of age and younger is required to register, pulling men from their jobs and families to live with their peers in barracks, perform predawn calisthenics, and clean toilets. Those lacking the fitness for military training—nearly one in five—are not exempted, but rather are trained for civilian roles in vital sectors. The UAE drew from careful studies of other national service programs around the world—especially in Finland, Singapore, and South Korea—and had indirect knowledge of Israel’s program. Compared to these countries, the UAE has made innovations in its approach to citizenship education, workforce development, and public health. Women can volunteer, but fewer than 850 have done so, compared to 50,000 male conscripts. Women are cast largely in a supportive role as relatives of conscripts.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Women, Citizenship, Services
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Persian Gulf, UAE
  • Author: Lana Baydas, Shannon Green
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: To combat the global threat of terrorism, countries have passed and implemented numerous laws that inadvertently or intentionally diminished the space for civil society. States conflate terrorism with broader issues of national security, which is then used as a convenient justification to stifle dissent, including civil society actors that aim to hold governments accountable. As the global terror landscape becomes more complex and dire, attacks on the rights to the freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly only increase. This report analyzes the impact of counterterrorism efforts on civic space, examines its manifestations in various socioeconomic and political contexts, and explores various approaches to disentangle and reconcile security and civil society. It features case studies on Australia, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Hungary, and India. This report was published under the sponsorship of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), a coalition of scholars and experts from around the world that is developing concrete, evidence-based recommendations on how best to address and push back on closing space around civil society.
  • Topic: Security, Civil Society, Terrorism, Counter-terrorism
  • Political Geography: India, Hungary, Australia, Bahrain, Burkina Faso
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman, Nicholas Harrington
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Middle East has long been one of the most unstable regions in the world, and there are no present prospects for change in the near future. This instability is the result of ongoing conflicts and tensions, and a variety of political tensions and divisions. It also, however, is the result of a wide variety of long-term pressures growing out of poor governance, corruption, economic failures, demographic pressures and other forces within the civil sector.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Governance, Political stability, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Lana Baydas
  • Publication Date: 06-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: As the July 2018 elections approach, Cambodian civil society has faced an uptick in attacks and restrictions on their operations and funding. The government has increasingly attempted to stifle dissent and incite the opposition’s demise. As civil society grapples with the effects, some organizations have begun to organize their response, while others increasingly give way to self-censorship. In response, the international community, donors, and civil society must take action in order to halt further precipitation into a one-party autocracy and to preserve the remnants of Cambodian democratic framework that still remain.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Democracy, Protests, Repression
  • Political Geography: Asia, Cambodia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Yara Shahin
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Civil society plays a vital role in society. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) connect citizens and governments, hold governments accountable, and advocate for citizens’ interests. After being widely celebrated in the 1990s, civil society across the world is now facing shrinking support and growing restrictions. Drivers behind these restrictions in Tunisia include professed concerns about terrorism, a dominant security agenda, and the shift within civil society from service delivery to advocacy, which can seem threatening to governments. Government restrictions most often target the social justice sector and obstruct the work of NGOs through legal restrictions, financial measures, and direct threats to civic actors. Recently, many governments have intensified accusations that civil society and its activists are anti-development, work against economic security, or are terrorist sympathizers or supporters. This paper explores the status of civic space in Tunisia and its development from the most repressive civic space in the Middle East and North Africa during Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime to an open civic space following the 2011 Arab Spring. It also highlights the various ways in which civil society has responded to the closing of civic space, especially as it pertains to pushing back against problematic laws through the formation of domestic coalitions.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Space, NGOs, Social Order
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Tunisia
  • Author: Barbara Smith
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Amidst democratic backsliding globally, Poland has experienced a retreat from tolerance, inclusion, transparency, and government accountability. During interviews with some twenty individuals and groups in government, the private and non-profit sectors, and academic institutions, significant concerns about the future of Poland’s democratic institutions were expressed. In particular, respondents cited issues regarding the independence of the judiciary, a lack of tolerance by the ruling party as reflected in perceived xenophobic and discriminatory language, a growing deficit in transparency, and a lack of inclusion with respect to political processes. Finally, interviewees noted the government’s increasingly centralized control and perceived politicization of funding for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), especially with respect to traditional human rights CSOs. This report provides recommendations to CSOs, donors, the U.S. government, and Europe on how to help build the capacity of civil society, be that through new business models, funding streams, or fostering global and regional networks.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Human Rights, Accountability, Social Order
  • Political Geography: Europe, Poland
  • Author: Sarah Baumunk, Linnea Sandin
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Despite the occasional setback or spark of progress, civic space in Mexico has remained mostly stable since the country elected its first opposition president in 2000. While Mexico’s laws theoretically protect its citizens’ rights, their faulty implementation has failed to yield results at best and has increased the vulnerability of human rights defenders at worst. Some laws have imposed significant administrative restrictions in the form of complex reporting requirements, which can be a burden for civil society organizations (CSOs), especially for smaller grassroots human rights organizations. Controversial laws that restrict civic space, coupled with the country’s high levels of corruption, astronomical impunity rate, and lack of transparency, have caused many citizens to lose faith in the government’s ability and willingness to protect and fight for rights. Newly-elected President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (“AMLO”) seems to have a genuine interest in human rights, which is promising for the future of civic space in Mexico. However, the fact that he has already softened some of his policy stances on these topics, paired with the government’s history of involvement in human rights violations, should prompt caution. This report provides examples of how Mexican civil society has taken action to advocate for and protect themselves, through mechanisms such as community police and broad coalitions.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Human Rights, Social Movement, Social Order
  • Political Geography: North America, Mexico
  • Author: Fabian Hetz, Annika Elana Poppe
  • Publication Date: 12-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The global phenomenon of closing civic space is no longer new. How best to respond to this decade-long trend as governments increasingly restrict space for civil society activities? This question is continuously debated among activists, academics and professionals in the field. The restriction of civic space comes in many forms, ranging from ad hoc intimidation and harassment of civic activists to growing legal restrictions that make it difficult or impossible for civil society organizations (CSOs) to receive funding and carry out activities. Governments and non-governmental actors have pushed back against these restrictive measures in various ways, with varying degrees of success. This report captures some of their recent learning experiences by examining in particular the approaches of cross-border initiatives that are led by civil society organizations and operate globally, in order to make this knowledge available to other initiatives struggling to reclaim spaces. T‍he CSIS International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon) published “An Overview of Global Initiatives on Countering Closing Civic Space for Civil Society” in 2017. This report mapped several initiatives that emerged in response to the global phenomenon of closing civic space, striving to keep this space open or increase it. The report focused on approaches including advocacy on the international level, awareness-raising activities, peer-to-peer learning platforms, and technical assistance to civ­il society actors on the ground.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Space, Civil Society Organizations
  • Political Geography: Global Focus