Conflict Platform Podcasts

The Law and Practice of Cross-border Humanitarian Relief Operations: Syria as a Case Study

Dapo Akande, University of Oxford and Emanuela-Chiara Gilliard, University of Oxford, European University Institute

The extremely severe restrictions on humanitarian operations have been one of the defining features of the Syrian conflict. Humanitarian operations have been severely impeded by a range of constraints, including active hostilities, repeated attacks against those providing humanitarian and, in particular, medical assistance, shifting front lines, proliferation of parties to the conflict, and the instrumentalisation of assistance by all belligerents. It is unquestionable though that a principal impediment have been the constraints imposed by the Government of Syria, particularly, but not exclusively, on relief operations for people in opposition-held areas. These were so severe that, following repeated requests to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded access, that went unheeded, the Security Council took the unprecedented step of authorising cross-border and cross-line operations without the need for the consent of the Government of Syria, in Resolution 2165 (2014). Prof Dapo Akande and Emanuela Gillard will discuss the legal framework regulating cross-border relief operations and how it has been modified by the Security Council in the Syria crisis. They will offer some reflections on what this had meant operationally in Syria and beyond.

Gender, State-collapse, Conflict and State-building: Recent Research from the Somali Context

Judith Gardner, Rift Valley Institute

Prescribing and policing gender norms and relations, in other words controlling society’s experiences of femininity and masculinity, along with social exclusion practices, is arguably at the very heart of the protracted and violent struggle for political and ideological power in today’s Somalia. The research material that my session will be drawing on comes from two recent qualitative studies: the Impact of War on Somali Men (Rift Valley Institute) and Learning from Kismayo: a study of women’s roles and responsibilities in clan-related armed violence in the Somali conflict (Life & Peace with Peace Direct). The second study was prompted by the widespread exclusion of Somali women from peace processes and political settlements. Together, the studies’ findings provide a detailed picture of the gendered dynamics and impacts of Somalia's post-1991 violence. They deepen understanding of the complex power and gender relations at play in the context of an absent, weak or fragile state. At the same time, they give rise to many new questions, some of which we can perhaps discuss during the session.

A Westphalia for the Middle East?

Patrick Milton, University of Cambridge

This talk will discuss the parallels between the Thirty Years War and today’s Middle East and suggest ways in which lessons drawn from the congress and treaties of Westphalia. It was the original forever war, which went on interminably, fuelled by religious and constitutional disputes, personal ambition, fear of hegemony, and communal suspicion. It dragged in all the neighbouring powers. It was punctuated by repeated failed ceasefires. It inflicted suffering beyond belief and generated waves of refugees. This description could apply to Syria today, but actually refers to the Thirty Years War (1618-48), which turned much of central Europe into a disaster zone. The Thirty Years War is often cited as a parallel in discussions of current conflict in the Middle East. The Peace of Westphalia, which ended the war in Europe in 1648, has featured strongly in such discussions, usually with the observation that recent events in some parts of the region have seen the collapse of ideas of state sovereignty -ideas that supposedly originated with the 1648 settlement. This talk will discuss the parallels between the Thirty Years War and today’s Middle East and suggest ways in which lessons drawn from the congress and treaties of Westphalia might provide inspirations for a peace settlement for the Middle East’s new long wars. The talk is based on a recent book and ongoing collaborative project.

Responding to Sexual Violence in Conflict: Fighting Impunity in DRC

Chloe Lewis, University of Oxford

Sexual violence in conflict once again captured the international spotlight earlier this month when gynaecologist, Dr Denis Mukwege, and human rights activist, Nadia Murad, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Responding to sexual violence grew exponentially in importance on international policy agendas over the past decade, with clear implications for operational and programmatic practice across conflict-affected contexts. The adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1820 (2008) – establishing sexual violence as a threat to international peace and security – marked a clear turning point in this regard. While pervasive across many armed conflicts, testimonies of sexual violence documented in eastern DRC were an important focus of such institutional developments. In effect, these experiences became somewhat defining of the nature of the harm, its victims and its perpetrators. Focusing on the ‘male perpetrator,’ this paper first examines how, why, and with what effect gendered and raced imaginaries became encoded in international peace and security policy. Doing so, it emphasises the role of institutional imperatives and political dynamics in shaping international policy definitions of sexual violence in the Council. Subsequently, exploring efforts to fight impunity for sexual violence in DRC, presentation foregrounds how, and with what effect, this clearly delineated policy definition obscures more complex realities in DRC.

The Consequences of Refugee Repatriation for Stayees: A Threat to Stability and Sustainable Development?

Carlos Vargas-Silva, University of Oxford

Using longitudinal data from Burundi collected in 2011 and 2015, this paper explores the consequences of repatriation for stayee households i.e. those who never left the country during the conflict Large-scale refugee repatriation is sometimes considered a threat to stability and sustainable development because of the burden it could impose on receiving communities. Yet the empirical evidence on the impacts of refugee return is limited. Using longitudinal data from Burundi collected in 2011 and 2015, this paper explores the consequences of repatriation for stayee households (i.e. those who never left the country during the conflict). Burundi experienced large-scale repatriation during the 2000s, with the returning refugees unevenly spread across the country. We use geographical features of the communities of origin, including altitude and proximity to the border, for identification purposes. The results suggest that a higher share of returnees in a community is associated with less livestock ownership, the principal form of capital accumulation in the country, and worse subjective economic conditions for stayee households. Additional analysis suggests that refugee return had a negative impact on food security and land access for stayees. The negative impact on food security largely disappears between rounds of the survey. Refugee return had no significant effect on the health outcomes of stayees. The article finishes with a discussion of the implications of the results for policies that aim to support refugee repatriation and long-term sustainable development in post-conflict societies.

Introducing the Changing Character of Conflict Platform project: New approach to quantitative analysis of protracted conflicts

Katerina Tkacova, University of Oxford

The interdisciplinary project aims to create a knowledge-based platform for academics, practitioners, policy-makers and the wider public to understand the changing character of conflicts across different epistemologies and methodologies. While we might not be able to stop some conflicts, we may well be able to prevent a drastic increase in casualties or erosion of social fabric if we understand the main patterns of organized violence. In our work, we focus on the following dimensions of conflict and the changes within them: actors involved in conflicts, methods used in conflicts, resources that drive conflicts, environments in which conflict takes place, the impact of conflict on individuals and societies. In the presentation, we introduce a new approach to quantitative analysis of protracted conflicts, which is one of the components of the project. Those conflicts often change their location, spread across borders and create new spin-off conflicts or escalate the old ones. To capture the dynamic and complexity of protracted conflicts, we draw new geographical units based on the activity of carefully identified relevant conflict actors. Using data from various sources including the Georeferenced Events Dataset (UCDP) and the PRIO-GRID (PRIO), we select important indicators to convene a comprehensive yet concise analysis which is designed to inform policy-makers involved in violence reduction and conflict reconciliation. The new approach to quantitative conflict analysis allows us to identify patterns of changes in time and space in the five dimensions of conflicts – actors, methods, resources, environments and impact.