IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

A few more thoughts about “early warning”

Here is a very good overview of early warning in conflict resolution/prevention…and a few quotes to get you interested (hopefully):

“What is Early Warning?

“Effective preventive strategies rest on three principles: early reaction to signs of trouble; a comprehensive, balanced approach to alleviate the pressures, or risk factors, that trigger violent conflict; and an extended effort to resolve the underlying root causes of violence.”[2]

The goal of early warning is born from a hope to head off conflict before it becomes costly. ”


“A number of factors have been identified as potential early warning signs. They include:

  • sudden demographic changes and population displacement;
  • rising unemployment rates;
  • economic shocks or financial crises;
  • destruction or desecration of religious sites;
  • discrimination or legislation favoring one group over another;
  • government “clamp-downs”;
  • destabilizing referenda or elections;
  • a rise in “societal” intolerance and prejudice;
  • an increase in numbers of demonstrations or rallies;
  • foreign intervention;
  • contagion;
  • and an influx of  refugees.”

…in other words, fairly widespread human rights violations of various kinds.

This is very good stuff, and to me sort of points the direction we have to take, sooner or later.  As the article mentions there is great resistance to being proactive, but, put simply, the cost of deep seated, long lasting violent conflict is always too high.   The consequences just hang around forever:  parents pass on a thirst for vengeance to their children, the culture takes on an “us/them” mindset, there are songs glorifying killing the other and dying for the people, etc…What a  horrible mutation in human civilization!  So, why not just do what you need to do to stop “differences” from getting to this stage.  How hard can it be given what we know about conflict these days?

This is definitely worth thinking about (and acting on).

IGbarb says:   “Do it!”


May 20, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

The challenges of education

OK…that is a rather general title for this post, but it reflects how I’ve been feeling.  As I’ve mentioned, I teach graduate level courses on international affairs, including conflict management.  I have just finished my discussions (these are online courses btw) for a course on conflict management, and as always, my primarily American students tend to have a lot to say that is critical of the U.N. without apparently really understanding the background and context of the organization.

Most of the discussions this time around went something like this (I’m greatly oversimplifying, of course):

1.  The U.N is weak and the U.S. is strong

2.  The U.N. is inefficient and the U.S. gets things done

3.  The U.N. fails and the U.S. succeeds (think Rwanda vs the Bin Laden attack, maybe)

The conclusion, the “QED” if you will, is “who needs the U.N. when we have the U.S. Things would get done a lot better through unilateral U.S. actions, or U.S. led coalitions.”

There is some truth in all of these points (note:  I said “some”).  However, they also completely miss the point, in other ways.  At times I go into some of the background and context (and try to make sure that everybody reads the U.N. Charter before they engage in extensive critiques of the organization).  However, what has impressed me this “time around” is how intuitive and normal it seems to my (relatively well educated) American students to engage in this sort of discussion; even though they are poorly informed about the facts.  I’m starting to wonder if this is not somehow cultural (though that may not be the right word).  We all know that the U.S. has been isolationist in the past, and this seems to have an impact right down to the individual’s world view and mindset.

So, even though historically  the U.S. essentially created the U.N., it is very easy for Americans to start seeing the U.N. as “them”, as something rather alien on U.S. soil.  Also, when the U.N. is associated with a conspicuous failure/tragedy such as Rwanda, it is like pulling teeth to get such people to look at the facts:  ie peace and security is decided solely by the state members of the Security Council (not some faceless U.N. bureaucracy).  If things go well it is because those states (and obviously the permanent members of the Council bear the biggest responsibility here because of the veto) made the right decisions, and if things go badly the “buck” also stops with them (not the Secretary General, or the undersecretary for peacekeeping or any other UNocrat).

So, in fact, in regard to anything that concerns the big issues of war and peace it is to the policies of the major states one should look for explanations–whether those policies are pursued through or outside of the U.N..  Of course, there is also the question of certain countries very much wanting the U.N. to look (this is all about image) weak, while they look strong…but that is another story.

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

A peace measurement problem

I just received the post below from the Peace and Collaborative Development Network.   The issue is important for a number of reasons.  Consider, for instance, if you are an NGO (or even a government for that matter) funding a “reconciliation” project somewhere.  You would certainly want to know how much “return” you are getting on your “investment”. That sounds crass, but such outside actors only have so much to spend and the needs around the world are many and varied.  However, at the same time, one has to wonder if you can really measure this concept/experience.  I have some background in quantitative social science, where measurement of subtle concepts is always an issue, and I can affirm that such an index would be very helpful but also, potentially, problematic.  Why the latter?  Because you would need to be very sure that you were really measuring what you wanted to measure–ie the concept in its “essence”–and not something that might be related, but different; such as say, reductions in hostility between/among the actors involved.  There are all sorts of epistemological (the dreaded “e” word in social science 🙂 ) issues here, and I won’t go into them.  Suffice to say, this is a real challenge, but one that might (might) have a significant payoff.



Measure reconciliation?

Hi everyone,

I was wondering if I can get some feedback and support about an issue I am currently working at my job. I am helping the process of designing a tool or any kind of instrument that can allow us to measure the effectiveness of reconciliation. It started as an idea on building an index, but to be honest this seemed to me crazy and impossible regarding the nature of the process of reconciliation! Anyways, what we and other colleagues found out is that in fact there are some exercises that can give you an idea on how reconciliation has worked, or what people think as reconciliation, sometimes misunderstand with coexistence, peacefully living together, harmony, tolerance…and its has been obtained (this has been done in Colombia) through perception surveys, and though it is more feasible than an index, for me it is still vague and imprecise. Does anyone know of successful experiences, approaches, methodologies, regarding this issue? Respectful of the process and nature of reconciliation, I guess there has to be “something” that can allow us to know if we are somehow “going in the right way”, without meaning a measure of its results or impact.

Any idea, feedback, book reference, etc… will be of great help!


May 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Better trained and more serious

As any reader of this blog would know, I find the increasing number of training programs related to peace and conflict resolution to be a very positive sign.  After all, if we want peace we need to learn how to get it (it is not, apparently, adequately taught in most schools yet).  Here is one that looks very good.  It is both timely and has quality people and subjects.
IGbarb says:  “Check it out!”

“Courses in Advanced Mediation (3-5 Oct) and Conflict Prevention/Early Warning (6-7 Oct)

Engi is holding two courses in London in early October with the renowned Peace Action, Training and Research Institute of Romania (PATRIR).

One focuses on dialogue, mediation and peace processes; the other on conflict intelligence, early warning and conflict prevention.

We think one or both of these courses would be of great benefit to anyone involved in efforts to prevent, transform, resolve or heal/reconcile after conflict, so please click here for more information if that sounds like you. And please don’t hesitate to download the full brochures and application forms – there are generous discounts for early and multiple bookings.

There is a strictly limited number of places on each course – only 30 – and we anticipate them being filled very quickly. In the words of a participant from the UNDP:

‘I always encourage my colleagues to look into PATRIR programs, as I don’t think it gets much better.’


May 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Toward more/better early warning

This is a very important topic.  The “smart money” in conflict resolution has to be on “early warning” since the best approach to conflict is to stop it before it starts.  Why?  Well, because the cost of a serious violent conflict  ( ie lives and material) is just too high…and it takes forever to “get over” one.  The E.U. has been ahead of others by trying to do something in regard to EW…but more (probably much more) remains to be done to make the system work.



Early warning and conflict prevention

New publication on early warning and conflict prevention:

Walk the Talk
The EU needs an effective early warning system to match its ambitio…

Authors: Lucia Montanaro and Julia Schünemann

This paper argues that given the EU’s global ambitions in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, a number of changes are necessary to improve the EU early warning and response system. The reforms of the Lisbon Treaty and the establishment of the EEAS do not go far enough: The scattered strands of the EU early warning system need to be woven together so that the EU can be cost effective and maximise its potential impact. The current system suffers from weaknesses in the production, communication, warning receptivity and disconnects between its early warning and early action. This paper identifies the key constraints to an effective system and suggests ways to overcome them.


May 4, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment


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