Regional Conflict Insights


                                            Online Conflict Management

Conflict Resolution in Times of Disaster.

Background

A natural disaster is a conflict minefield. Disaster stirs up otherwise hidden problems in the national economy, the market place, building standards, general infrastructure, security, communications and social relations.

However I acknowledge that there are regional organisations such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), The Caribbean Disaster Management Agency (CEDEMA) ,  Caribbean Disaster Relief Unit (CDRU) and others which would have risen to the occasion with trained personnel , equipment , food, water medicines etc. to assist the disaster stricken islands. Part of their task will be to control outbreaks of conflict and to deliver relief of all kinds so that not too many citizens would be harvesting the conflict minefield.

During the month of September, 2017 the Caribbean has been hit by two category 5 hurricanes namely Irma and Maria in the space of 12 days.   Both hurricanes passed over the Leeward Islands, and the greater Antilles including Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and in the case of Irma the Bahamas, Cuba the southern part of North America, namely Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, leaving a trail of death and destruction.

As a resident of the Eastern Caribbean Island of Saint Lucia and a Barbadian who has also resided outside of Barbados in the Eastern Caribbean states of the British Virgin Islands, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica I feel qualified to speak about certain matters related to conflict in this region. You may note that among those islands listed are those which have recently suffered the impact of Irma and Maria and those which have been hit by hurricanes in the past such as “George”, in St Kitts and Nevis, “Ivan” in Grenada and earlier in the BVI “Louis” and “Marilyn” all of which I experienced personally .

One could say that I am a hurricane veteran. But I have no interest in boasting about my past experiences. I just want to reflect on the experiences I have had in order to possibly lend some assistance to those who now have to endure the serious impact of Irma and Maria on their lives. I wish to assist by applying my conflict resolution knowledge and skills to the present situation.

I cannot compare one hurricane with another. They are all bad. They all cause disruption of daily lives, both at work and at play. They disrupt communication and food supplies and separate families.  They disrupt the tourist industry, agriculture, manufacturing and retail businesses. Water and electricity are often shut off or badly damaged to the level of a severely reduced supply. It usually takes time to return these public utilities and others to normal service.

Clearly the disruption of lives leads to frustration which arouses feelings of apprehension and anger which may not always be addressed by the actions of others. Of course it takes time for the first responders to mobilize and begin to tackle the myriad problems which may be caused by a natural disaster such as a hurricane.

In all of the cases mentioned above and including Texas after hurricane Harvey, the British Virgin Islands after Irma and most recently in Dominica after the passage of Hurricane Maria the frustration levels grow. People don’t deal well with change. They miss electricity, running water, television, radio services and the internet via desk and lap top computers or handheld instruments.  They miss the ability to efficiently attend to personal hygiene and other health necessities which are severely challenged. We see evidence that people are unable to move around freely because of the presence of debris on the highways including utility poles and wires which remain potentially very dangerous until the relevant authorities take steps to remove them.

 Food where available may be limited in quantity and quality and related health issues could arise. Mosquitoes and other insects and pests will be plentiful and the ability to keep them at bay, diminished.

In the cases mentioned above, shops remained closed for extended periods of time and there was inevitable looting which caused shortages and forced the authorities to impose a curfew or similar measure to control the ability to protect private and public property. This step in turn prevents easy access to those goods and services which could be available immediately post-disaster. The situation adds the burden to private business of engaging private security which is costly.

 When faced with widespread destruction the authorities find themselves in the predicament of deciding where and to whom relief supplies should be first distributed without offending others.  Although it may be clear that the intention is to return the island as a whole to normalcy the annoyance due to the perception of not being included among the first recipients of relief supplies of necessities such as water, tarpaulin or generators would ignite feelings of resentment.

Disaster Response and Caribbean Social Relations

It is known that in every Caribbean island there is a perception of separation of the have and have nots, the better off and the not so well off. This in itself is a source of dissent and ill will.

People who are already hurting because off loss of employment  or in some cases low wages would be easily susceptible to the apprehension and  the fear that they would be the last on the list to receive amenities in light of perceived preferences being exercised in the process of distributing goods and services.

A curfew imposed in the midst of this fear and apprehension may initially make some persons feel that their chances of survival are challenged not by the lack of resources but by the choices being made by the authorities. It is therefore imperative that the authorities move swiftly to allay fears that some are being left out of the distribution process or the restoration of public utilities and other services by choice and not due to delayed response.

It is evident that the authorities take time to meet, plan mobilize personnel and deliver material to those in need. This delay would be perceived as “nothing being done” in the circumstances.  A community may experience a form of temporary social paralysis which makes delay from the authorities even more disturbing.

It is also evident that in the aftermath of Irma and Maria there was widespread destruction and hardly anyone was excluded , not the Governor of the BVI nor the Prime Minister of Dominica nor many other prominent citizens who would normally be involved in the mobilization process. Indeed in the BVI  even the headquarters of the Department of Disaster Management collapsed threatening the lives of 25 persons who were on duty to assist in disaster management pre and post hurricane Irma, but whom themselves had to be rescued in the middle of the hurricane. This level of widespread devastation was unprecedented in recent experience.

One of the most important things that the authorities have to do therefore is to inform the public about what is going on at all levels. It is not only important to speak to what is being done but also to reflect on the support being given by ordinary citizens and to thank citizens for their positive supportive gestures.

It is also essential that misinformation be addressed. Any public information about favouritism may be very detrimental to the stability of the recovery process. Another very important issue is that politics should be kept out of the recovery process as much as possible. Our islands are already divided along the lines of class, race, nationality and political affiliation. Any notion that these already divisive features of our communities are determinant of the ability to secure assistance in the distribution of goods and services should be immediately debunked.

In the larger islands there is a view that villages in the countryside may be neglected while cities and some towns are quickly attended to. This phenomenon has been apparent in Puerto Rico and Dominica.

Face to face meetings with those worst affected are very important in the immediate aftermath. It is easier for a person to relate to another human being who they know coming before them and explaining the real issues at stake as the days go by than to rely on a statement released to the news media.

 Persons on the frontline should be armed with the necessary information to address challenges being faced and explain reality while giving hope to those who may feel hopeless. Mere announcements and news reports, particularly those being picked up from the foreign media are not helpful.

Face to face meetings are also important to combat the rumor mill which can be very vicious and destructive at such times.  It is important to give people a sense of safety and security and the assurance that all affected persons’ needs are being addressed as swiftly as the country can achieve it. 

Cultural expression should be fostered as a way of mobilizing the community to adopt a spirit of unity. A jingle I recall hearing while I resided in Jamaica reminds me of the kind of message that needs to be sent out and repeated over and over again. The jingle went; “we’re all in this thing together and we got to work it out, we going to work it out!” This narrative needs to be consistent and uninterrupted and all means of messaging, direct and subliminal should reflect this.

This brings me to the importance of working with the media to get the message out.  The role of the media must be respected and the institutions of state should also be given their due respect as well. The media, where possible, should be conveying the news about the worst affected communities while relaying the messages of hope of relief where applicable. It is therefore very important that lines of information between the media and authorities be kept open at all times so that in times of disaster the terrestrial media would not be unnecessarily impeded by a poor working relationship and lack of trust.

Law and Order and Security

The security forces have to be mobilized to serve and protect and the notion of service to assist, to calm, and sooth hurt and pain should be paramount in the minds of all of those who are engaged to provide security. While law and order has to be maintained it must be understood that some services in this regard will be reduced. Courts may not function properly because of lack of personnel or damaged buildings. This provides an excellent opportunity for conflict resolution practitioners to use their skills to resolve conflict in every possible sphere of life outside of the court system. It should be noted that the court is an instrument of conflict resolution and even if it cannot function efficiently other lawful means of effective conflict management and resolution should be employed. In the aftermath of Irma and Maria courts in the BVI, Anguilla, and Dominica have been effectively shut down.  Such communities may have no choice but to resort to alternative means of dispute resolution.

This is not to say that the full force of the law should not be used to enforce the law against looting, for example, but naturally if the personnel and plant are affected then the process of adjudication of matters may be seriously crippled.

Insurance Claims

Arguments with insurance companies can be anticipated.  Insurance companies need to be understanding in their assessment of the causes of the damage. Although it is presumed that hurricane damage may be all embracing there may be cases where the companies expect detailed explanations of damage and loss which simply cannot be provided other than to say that it was caused by the hurricane.

Another technicality can occur in cases where storm surge and flooding is presumed to be the cause of damage rather than wind which is normally associated with hurricanes. Post hurricane damage may also be caused by looting and vandalism and claims based on this kind of damage should be met with some degree of understanding where clear proof cannot be provided.

Post Disaster Mobilisation

One matter which may be easily overlooked in the quest to return to normalcy is that patience must be exercised in rebuilding morale along the way. In the aftermath of Ivan in Grenada I had the responsibility of mobilizing the Court Connected Mediation Committee to get back to work in spite of personal losses and the loss of the brand new mediation office. Time had to be spent finding contact numbers and persons who could contact others face to face to let them know that it was time to get back to work in spite of the losses to them and to the court itself. Indeed we had been warned that it was unlikely that some persons would show any interest in returning to voluntary work but this turned out to be untrue.

On the issue of communication it has be noted that after the latest hurricanes the disaster management offices in at least one affected nation has been reminding residents that they should not forget the use of “ham radios” at the time of disaster which may be able to operate on batteries and would not be affected by the damage caused to telephone operators. Meanwhile the “ham” operators can speak to other operators within range of their operating systems to summon help or explain the nature of any emergency which has arisen. This is important because one of the most crucial means of managing and recovery from disaster is the ability to communicate. Communication in this form may also provide the kind of information that assists in the clarification of issues that may cause conflict.

In conclusion I must say that unfortunately the recent damage in the Virgin Islands, St Martin, Barbuda and Dominica has given rise to many of the issues mentioned above. To add insult to injury, possible inter island rivalry on the economic strategy of Citizenship by Investment has reared its head as one country has adjusted its qualifications for eligibility for economic citizenship post hurricanes Irma and Maria on the stated basis that a disaster recovery fund needs to be established. At the regional level we have to be prepared to address conflict even at the level of state to state co-operation which my give rise to inevitable resentment over the kind of assistance being rendered even in the limited form of steps such as temporary housing of convicted inmates from other countries.

In some countries students have to be relocated to continue their education, resulting in disruption and the separation of families. These issues may have to be dealt with at the level of counselling through social psychological services.

United We Stand

Having said all of the above it is worthy of note that in spite of the fear of conflict, the disasters also bring people together to participate in brave rescue work, delivery of aid, clean-up work, to console each other and to get going again after recovery. The task of conflict resolution practitioners is to ensure that the latter is more prevalent in the post disaster scenario than those destructive scenarios listed and discussed above. Individual citizens, rescue workers, security forces, governmental and non-governmental leaders including community leaders and private sector leaders should take heed and apply whatever conflict resolution skills they possess to produce the desired results.

This is a period in which regional organizations such as CDEMA, CARICOM, OECS and the Regional Security System (RSS) will be tested. It is hoped that as they meet and deliberate on the many issues arising from the recent  disasters they will  find it possible to devise programs capable of responding to what is promised to be a future of increasing natural disasters caused by climate change and in some cases bad planning. The future work of these regional institutions will therefore require dialogue and broad understanding to achieve consensus with regard to the needs of Caribbean people.

 

                                                                      Francis H V Belle

                                  Body Language

                                                                                     The ISIS Paradox

If we abandon the myopic view of history constantly thrust on us by mass media and political elites alike, it soon becomes apparent that ISIS is not only far from unique in the use of terror tactics and strategic violence to capture and control territory, but that its reliance on a peculiar brand of theologically-inspired ideology to further its political ends is also a tried and tested mechanism. Arecent article in the Washington Post by Texas University student Reyko Huang argues that "putting the Islamic State in a broader comparative perspective shows that the group is hardly unique among armed non-state organisations." Drawing comparisons with numerous other armed groups throughout history, including Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, Indonesia's Darul Islam movement,Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army and Nepal's Maoist insurgents, Huang makes the point that, "to unduly emphasise the Islamic State's distinctiveness is to distort its threat, inadvertently boost its legitimacy, and worst of all, to directly play into its leaders' hands."

Which, of course, begs the question as to why such "undue emphasis" has been so widely disseminated and propagated across the world, whether by the mass media, political elites, think tanks or other such powerful figures and institutions. Rather than play into the hands of conspiracy theorist who imagine there to be some sinister grand master plan orchestrating the behaviour of international states and actors (with the puppet strings invariably being pulled by the United States – or Iran, if you're of an Islamist inclination), it might be more fruitful to consider the underlying logic of identity politics and human psychology that contribute to a sense of purpose and meaning in the world.

Read the article at: https://www.oximity.com/article/The-ISIS-paradox-1?utm_campaign=it&utm_source=it-1-autoTw&utm_medium=twitter&utm_term=articleId-683312

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                                                                     The New Trend Revisited

In our 2013 Year in Review we made the following statement:

 

A Noted Political Trend

 Regionalconflictinsights.com has noted one identifiable trend in the global conflict news. That trend is the renewed tendency in some circles to see the military as the saviour of the nation. We have already identified this feature as “paternalism” in the case of Egypt. In Egypt the spectre of Gamel Abdel Nasser, the charismatic Egyptian President, 1956-1970 looms large over the body politic. But this is not the world of the 1960s or 70’s and the leadership of any country which thinks the country can make serious social and economic progress today under military rule is grossly mistaken. Indeed to start with it is left to be seen whether the Egyptian military will deliver on its promise to hold early elections and return the government to civilian rule. See:   http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/30/world/middleeast/egypt-may-elect-president-before-parliament-vote.html?_r=0

But major global agencies have made it clear that good governance is integrally connected to economic progress, so the idea that these forces will ignore the return to governance by decree under the military in any country is nothing but wishful thinking.

A similar trend has raised its head in Thailand where in a less universally debated situation the political opposition has called for military intervention to resolve the political crisis in that country. But the response from the military so far has been lukewarm. Again it is difficult to see where this is going. But some link to the historical role of the military in Thailand, which is responsible for several military coups, can be identified. However times have changed and again those calling for such a remedy need to understand that in today’s global society military rule has no future.

Our comment:

We note that the military has now granted the wish of the opposition in Thialand and staged a coup. We're reminded of the old saying: "Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it!"

The "it" in this case is many more years of destructive conflict which would be difficult to reverse!

Regionalconflictinsights , Editorial Board

                                                             Marx's Last Stand? Ukraine.

Editorial Note: This article is a good example of the difference an indepth cultural based analyis can make to the understanding of a conflict. This is the reason why the  conflict resolution "expert" in any conflict situation has to be someone who understands the local culture and the true context of the conflict. It is not about right and wrong, but about the best and most complete understanding of what is going on. The contextincludes an understanding of mental models and historical prejudices, archetypes, and social-psyhological issues such as "negative attribution."

Extracts from article by: Vladimir Golstein

One of the demands that St Petersburg workers articulated to their bosses prior to they embarked on the Russian Revolution of 1917 was the have to have to address them in polite type of "vy" and not the rude "ty". But that sort of respect was not coming from Kiev. Rather of politeness, there was sloppy tinkering with the Russian language, there was rewriting of history that attempted to present the tortured Ukrainian previous from the viewpoint of staunch anti-communists and Nazi collaborators, most of whom have been rewriting Ukrainian history in emigration. And there was the hostile, polarising rhetoric that would cast everyone not instantly agreeing with Kiev as "slaves", Russian lackeys, or even "creatures" as the deputy from Lviv in western Ukraine, Iryna Farion, likes to refer to Russian speakers.

This cultural denigration may well be less apparent to Western audiences, who rely on news reports or translations. They also cannot picture that any "Western-form" politician could get away with such language. As lately as April 17, the bank co-owned by the governor of Dnipropetrovsk region could not come up with something far better than to provide a reward of $10,000 for any "Moskal", which is a pejorative term for a Russian Western translation of this banner was "Ten thousand for a separatist". For anybody who reads things in the original, such rhetoric is fairly shocking. Even even though the Russian and Ukrainian operating class has been further denigrated with the collapse of the Soviet method, these more insults stung immediately after their expectations had been raised by Yanukovich's ouster. The cultural humiliation makes these workers suspicious of the new government, but the looming material degradation will certainly push them more than the edge. 

Delusional politicians

Delusional politicians in Kiev can blame Russian - or Putin's - interference, they can try to capture some soldiers and politicians, put them on their knees and otherwise humiliate them (as they did with the pro-Russian candidate, Tsarev, by beating him up and parading him in his underwear), but these attacks are as successful as Aztec human sacrifices when faced with Spanish arrival. Nearby workers hardly want Putin propaganda to know that lots of of their smoke stack plants will be closed as soon as Ukraine joins the EU. It is sufficient for Ukrainians to appear to other recent EU nations, from Hungary to Romania and the Baltic States, or even at Russia's own economy that switched to the export of organic resources at the expense of thousands of closed factories to know what will take place to the huge Soviet-style factories that still dominate the landscape of the Donbas region.

Nearby workers hardly have to have Putin propaganda to know that a lot of of their smoke stack plants will be closed as soon as Ukraine joins the EU.


The pro-Western Ukrainian government has done very tiny to dispel the fears of Donbas functioning class, be they ethnically Ukrainian, Russian, Armenian or Hungarian. Possibly the fanatics from western Ukraine can feed themselves on their hatred of all issues Russian, but the working guys and ladies of Donetsk, Lugansk, or Kharkiv want bread and butter on their tables. These staples are slipping away, nonetheless, as it is becoming a lot more and much more clear that the price of gas will go up, that Russia will quit obtaining their goods, and that the West will close their factories.

Furthermore, this population is so nicely organised, and is so angry, that even if Kiev decides to resort to violence against them, it would result in a really brutal civil war. So far, the Ukrainian government has a lot more or much less resisted employing violence, but the virulent rhetoric of a variety of Ukrainian publications doesn&rsquot look to abide even after the signing of the Geneva agreement.

Kiev can certainly exploit Ukrainian fears against Russia by invoking Holodomor (Stalin-induced starvation of millions of Ukrainians) or Stalinism or even Putinism. It is uncomplicated to tempt them with the promises of Western abundance or its advanced political and economic program. But all these historic anxieties and promises hardly dissuaded the fears of operating class guys and women who inhabit Eastern Ukraine.

I suspect they have already created their choice or will be pushed towards it quite soon by the incompetence of their new government, which in its reckless and impatient wish to join Europe could not come up with anything far better than to insult its personal challenging-functioning population ahead of sacrificing them on the bonfire of corporate capitalism, the economic technique that is barely functioning in the West, and will certainly fail in Ukraine.

Vladimir Golstein  teaches Russian literature and film at Brown University. He is the author of Lermontov's Narratives of Heroism (1999) and quite a few articles on all big Russian authors. He was born in Moscow, went to the US in 1979, and studied at Columbia and Yale Universities.


Read more at: http://www.dailynewsen.com/local/marxs-last-stand-eastern-ukraine-h2477677.html

The International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation is pleased to announce its 
1st Annual International Conference On Ethnic And Religious Conflict Resolution And Peacebuilding 


Theme: The Advantages of Ethnic & Religious Identity in Conflict 
Mediation and Peacebuilding 
Venue: 136 East 39th Street 
Between Lexington Avenue and 3rd Avenue 
New York, NY 10016, USA 
Date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 
Time: 9am – 5pm 


Conference Synopsis 

«Peace has a chance when despite history, despite politics, despite ethnicity or faith, and despite hardship, people learn to tap into their own cultural ethos of cooperation – Dr. Dianna Wuagneux» 

For our First Annual International Conference, we have chosen the theme: The Advantagesof Ethnic & Religious Identity in Conflict Mediation and Peacebuilding. Too often, differences in ethnicity and faith traditions are seen as a drawback to the peace process. It is time to turn these assumptions around and rediscover the benefits that these differences offer. It is our contention that societies made up of an amalgamation of ethnicities and faith traditions offer largely unexplored assets to the policy makers, donor & humanitarian agencies, and mediation practitioners working to assist them. 

It is the purpose of this conference to inspire new thinking, stimulate ideas, inquiry, and dialogue & share anecdotal and empirical accounts, which will introduce and support evidence of the numerous advantages that multi-ethnic & multi-faith populations offer to facilitate peace and advance social/economic well-being. 

All peoples have within their histories and customs practices designed to improve the health and cohesion of the community. All have rites, rituals and beliefs that shore up and maintain adaptive social relationships that include mutual obligations and responsibilities. All have tenets, ethics and boundaries establishing what is right, what is just, and what is honorable, which govern interpersonal and business relations. Throughout time, it has been these personal and shared doctrines that have cultivated the cooperation and collaboration necessary to have a better quality of life, promote innovation, build economies, nurture the arts, as well as foster advances in science, medicine, technology, civil society, and law. 

How can we identify and utilize the most beneficial aspects of these shared and individual beliefs, doctrines, principles and codes of conduct to mediate and mitigate conflict, stabilize relations, and move toward reconciliation between cultures and across borders? 

Which practices offer the greatest promise of success, and how/where/when/ under what circumstances are they best applied? What are the advantages of diversity in ethnicity, religion and culture to improving & sustaining of economies? How do/can these contributions become tools for compromise, cooperation & reconciliation?

  Dr. George Belle Speaks About Political Strategy for Change in Barbados

                                        On The Global Economic Crisis

I guess that some people will never understand that the person who suffers a heart attack sees it as a "Health Crisis." A doctor may call it a "myocardial infraction." The drug companies may see it as an opportunity to sell medication and the surgeon may see it as a test of surgical techniques. But the "sufferer" knows that it is a "crisis."

It is possible to find many ways to ignore reality. One way is to use euphemisms or innocuous language. Unfortunately it is the callous lack of empathy of this nature which supports repeated so called "risk-taking " at the expense of  others. There is another world out there  and it feels the crisis in the pocket, loss of housing , health care, education opportunity and even liberty and sometimes life. That reality is clearly outside of their box!

nuff said!

The Editors: regionalconflictinsights.com

 

                                Discussion and Revelations on New Era of Transparency 

                                                        On Law School Robots and Jobs


 On a recent online discussion among members of the Caribbean Forum, a group of intellectuals, professionals and thought leaders who discuss prevalent trends in the development of the Caribbean region and our survival in the global capitalist system, among other things, the discussion centred on the plight of the law school graduate in the USA but drifted inevitably to other issues relating to the loss of jobs in the legal industry including the jobs of judges.

There was a considerable number of exchanges on this matter.  Some of these exchanges focused on the special ability of lawyers and judges to discern subtle differences in circumstances, apply the law to those circumstances and to produce legal responses which lead to the development of the law. It was argued that these special features could not be reproduced by a computer or a robot. Another opinion was that as long as the cost of these legal functions was considered to be too high and it was necessary to lower that cost it was likely that technology would be used to solve that problem.

Arising out of that discussion regionalconflictinsights.com’s Editorial Board has been given permission to reproduce the following contribution from Hilbourne A. Watson, Professor Emeritus of the Department of International Relations, Bucknell University Pennsylvania, USA in which Professor Watson summarises the issues.

The Discussion: ‘I Consider Law School a Waste of My Life and an Extraordinary Waste of Money'

By Hilbourne Watson

“I would like to shift this discussion about law school, robots, etc. off dead center. The underlying point in all this discussion about robots, technology, law and the judicial system is that the scientific and technological revolution continues apace undermining everything that is taken to be sacred and capable of resisting the steam roller.   All that is holy is rendered profane and mankind is forced to rethink his existence and purpose in history—to paraphrase Marx and Engels.

It is worth reminding ourselves that dating back to the end of WWII in the USA there was a major move to objectify science and technology by shifting both outside the realm of human social determination—hence the fetish of technological determinism. You will recall also the rhetoric about a so-called objective, scientific, value-free, social science that could be studied apart from the producer of the theory and philosophy.

This "scientistic" (as opposed to scientific) ideological move was part of the so-called “behavioral revolution” that saw “cybernetics”, etc. being introduced to influence the study of social phenomena.  Behavioralism informed post-war cold war social science in the USA with all the rhetorical flourish about modernization and the logic of democracy.  This way of constructing the so-called "methodology" of the social sciences implied that human values could be left out of the equation in order to be able to study social phenomena in a “scientific manner.  It contributed to large-scale brutalization in the “Third World” at the hands of the US in its brutal wars in Southeast Asia to expand capitalism in the guise of fighting communism. It also saw the installation of the proto-fascist rule of the general in much of Latin America, the destruction of Chile under Allende and the creation of the brutal regime under Augusto Pinochet, all in the name of fighting communism to set up free societies.

Today, with the advancement of the scientific and technological revolution, based on artificial intelligence, robotics, etc., we see war in the age of intelligent machines as the new norm, with remote warfare, drone warfare, and the reduction in the number of “boots on the ground” and killing from a distance, so that seemingly amoral political and military leaders can study war and execute war and killing without moral pangs. This is not to come, rather it is here. They don’t have to see who is killed and they don’t have to do body counts of the enemies they invent and kill while they create new and very profitable business for capital in a high-tech world based on an open-ended global war on terror.

My point here is to suggest that all these things are inextricably connected and that what we are discussing about robots and artificial intelligence in relation to law schools and dwindling employment opportunities for many lawyers is in danger of missing an important point. I mean that while robots will not for some time replace humans in certain areas of work they have already replaced denizens in other areas.  The close to 100 million jobs lost in agriculture and manufacturing in China alone in recent decades is due to technological innovation.  In the USA since the 1970s the loss of one-third of the mass production labor force in the automobile industry alone was due to innovation based on robotization. 

Clearly, the idea of a jobless recovery, rising labor productivity and the increase in the rate of profit for the most advanced segments of transnational capital are definitely associated with new jobs created for machines rather than humans.  This is the new normal with structural unemployment as the norm.  In this environment the definition of full employment will surely be shifted upward to a higher percentage of the labor force. Neoclassical economists have a pretty low threshold price for expressing capital ideas.

I submit that the matter of the technicalities about psychological factors around how robots will administer law and how they might deal with issues of justice, while not irrelevant is a distraction, considering that in all societies today law works in the interest of the state and dominant class forces. The law is not neutral and could not be neutral. The state works today to depersonalize and depoliticize politics as well as to criminalize politics and develop other ways of separating the social from the other spheres of social life. This is what the global war on terror is about at the core.  You can’t effectively prescribe if you are not clear about the nature of the problem. Yesterday I noted that we can’t hope to see an expansion of liberal (bourgeois) democracy with the law of value – production based on labor exploitation – subordination under capital – expanding and commodifying more and more of social existence.

In other words, the systematic erosion of the space for social action means contracting the area for waging class struggle.  Artificial intelligence and robotization work to engender corporatism because every struggle and contradiction can be treated as technical problems in need of technical-market solutions. This is the norm under capitalism where humans are valued primarily for the degree that they add to the production of surplus value. Capital produces the technology to control labor and the state has a direct interest in controlling labor because the state’s own reproduction depends on rising labor productivity and capital has to control the labor process. This is why both must wage class struggle from above, and they are exploiting the new technology to intensify dehumanization and broaden the space for a new face of more or less friendly fascism administering bourgeois law and justice by means of machines. This requires much closer attention.

The law is the law of the state exercised on behalf of the dominant interests. You can’t maintain class society without class-based law no matter how desensitized and neutral the law might seem to be.  This is a fiction to gird domination and make it seem other than what it is. The state is always associated with some form of domination (Gulli). The world is organized on the basis of organized state power. As the late Howard Zinn observed –you can’t be neutral on a moving target – a metaphor for the dialectical motion of society. 

HW

                                                     The Therapeutic Nature Of Failure

This opinion piece by Professor Costica Bradatan of Texas Tech University may have some bearing on conflict resolution since it points to the fact that most of us are failures in some way and we should be humble and accept that our views may be flawed  thus opening the door to dialogue.

Regionalconflictinsights editorial board.

Whenever it occurs, failure reveals just how close our existence is to its opposite. Out of our survival instinct, or plain sightlessness, we tend to see the world as a solid, reliable, even indestructible place. And we find it extremely difficult to conceive of that world existing without us. “It is entirely impossible for a thinking being to think of its own non-existence, of the termination of its thinking and life,” observed Goethe. Self-deceived as we are, we forget how close to not being we always are. The failure of, say, a plane engine could be more than enough to put an end to everything; even a falling rock or a car’s faulty brakes can do the job. And while it may not be always fatal, failure always carries with it a certain degree of existential threat.

Failure is the sudden irruption of nothingness into the midst of existence. To experience failure is to start seeing the cracks in the fabric of being, and that’s precisely the moment when, properly digested, failure turns out to be a blessing in disguise. For it is this lurking, constant threat that should make us aware of the extraordinariness of our being: the miracle that we exist at all when there is no reason that we should. Knowing that gives us some dignity.

In this role, failure also possesses a distinct therapeutic function. Most of us (the most self-aware or enlightened excepted) suffer chronically from a poor adjustment to existence; we compulsively fancy ourselves much more important than we are and behave as though the world exists only for our sake; in our worst moments, we place ourselves like infants at the center of everything and expect the rest of the universe to be always at our service. We insatiably devour other species, denude the planet of life and fill it with trash. Failure could be a medicine against such arrogance and hubris, as it often brings humility.

 Read more at:http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/in-praise-of-failure/?smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0

                                            

                      Do Military Interventions Save Lives ?

 Matthew Yglesias writes:

27th August, 2013


Now of course just because intervention typically fails to reduce civilian deaths doesn't mean that intervention fails in all cases. But proponents of helping-by-killing seem to me to be mighty blithe in their estimates of the upsides of these endeavors. And you can see why that is. A mission is undertaken to help the good guys and stop the bad guys. If the bad guys kill even more good guys once your mission starts, the tendency is to put that in the "evidence that the bad guys are really bad" file rather than the "evidence that this intervention didn't work very well" file. By the same token, proponents of helping-by-killing are generally very eager to assert that killing bad guys (and their subordinates) will set valuable precedents for the future and tend to discount the risk that interventionscreate perverse incentives for rebel groups. For example, did this fierce civil war in Syria break out in part because the intervention in Libya led opposition figures to believe that even a low-probability-of-success military uprising stood a good chance of receiving a NATO bailout?

This is why I tend to think exceptionally poor cost-effectiveness of humanitarian militarismis important to think about. Whether any given intervention will on net do good or do harm is exceptionally difficult to predict in advance and it's even quite hard to assess in retrospect. Which leaves us with the question of whether, as a matter of policy, it makes sense to preserve sufficient military excess capacity to undertake helping-by-killing expeditions or should we try to have a military sized appropriately for a national defense mission. The fact that even successful interventions do poorly compared to non-military means of helping constitutes a very good reason to believe that preserving the military capacity for humanitarian undertakings is a bad idea.

Read more at:http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/08/27/military_interventions_increase_civilian_deaths.html

                                                                       Threat To Reporters

Alan Rusbridger Writes:

August 19th, 2013

 On Sunday morning David Miranda, the partner of Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, was detained as he was passing through Heathrow airport on his way back to Rio de Janeiro, where the couple live. Greenwald is the reporter who has broken most of the stories about state surveillance based on the leaks from the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Greenwald's work has undoubtedly been troublesome and embarrassing for western governments. But, as the debate in America and Europe has shown, there is considerable public interest in what his stories have revealed about the right balance between security, civil liberties, freedom of speech and privacy. He has raised acutely disturbing questions about the oversight of intelligence; about the use of closed courts; about the cosy and secret relationship between government and vast corporations; and about the extent to which millions of citizens now routinely have their communications intercepted, collected, analysed and stored.

In this work he is regularly helped by David Miranda. Miranda is not a journalist, but he still plays a valuable role in helping his partner do his journalistic work. Greenwald has his plate full reading and analysing the Snowden material, writing, and handling media and social media requests from around the world. He can certainly use this back-up. That work is immensely complicated by the certainty that it would be highly unadvisable for Greenwald (or any other journalist) to regard any electronic means of communication as safe. The Guardian's work on the Snowden story has involved many individuals taking a huge number of flights in order to have face-to-face meetings. Not good for the environment, but increasingly the only way to operate. Soon we will be back to pen and paper.

Miranda was held for nine hours under schedule 7 of the UK's terror laws, which give enormous discretion to stop, search and question people who have no connection with "terror", as ordinarily understood. Suspects have no right to legal representation and may have their property confiscated for up to seven days. Under this measure – uniquely crafted for ports and airport transit areas – there are none of the checks and balances that apply once someone is in Britain proper. There is no need to arrest or charge anyone and there is no protection for journalists or their material. A transit lounge in Heathrow is a dangerous place to be.

Miranda's professional status – much hand-wringing about whether or not he's a proper "journalist" – is largely irrelevant in these circumstances. Increasingly, the question about who deserves protection should be less "is this a journalist?" than "is the publication of this material in the public interest?"

The detention of Miranda has rightly caused international dismay because it feeds into a perception that the US and UK governments – while claiming to welcome the debate around state surveillance started by Snowden – are also intent on stemming the tide of leaks and on pursuing the whistleblower with a vengeance. That perception is right. Here follows a little background on the considerable obstacles being placed in the way of informing the public about what the intelligence agencies, governments and corporations are up to.

A little over two months ago I was contacted by a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister. There followed two meetings in which he demanded the return or destruction of all the material we were working on. The tone was steely, if cordial, but there was an implicit threat that others within government and Whitehall favoured a far more draconian approach.

The mood toughened just over a month ago, when I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: "You've had your fun. Now we want the stuff back." There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: hand the Snowden material back or destroy it. I explained that we could not research and report on this subject if we complied with this request. The man from Whitehall looked mystified. "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more."

During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian's reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government's intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK. But my experience over WikiLeaks – the thumb drive and the first amendment – had already prepared me for this moment. I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations and the way in which, these days, media organisations could take advantage of the most permissive legal environments. Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that Greenwald lived in Brazil?

The man was unmoved. And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian's basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. "We can call off the black helicopters," joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age. We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won't do it in London. The seizure of Miranda's laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald's work.

The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like "when".

Read more at:http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/19/david-miranda-schedule7-danger-reporters

 

The Coping Economy: What’s lurking in the shadows of informal employment in conflict affected situations?

13 August, 2013 : 17:55

The view that informal economies are detrimental must be reassessed in the face of examples which show the importance of such jobs in economically-challenged conflict affected situations.

Ruth Canagarajah [^], Researcher at US-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission.

When we think of conflict and its impact on employment and livelihoods, we tend to talk about the inevitable loss of job security and employment opportunities. Conflict impairs the functions and legitimacy of state institutions and creates an environment where transparency and accountability are non-existent. On the one hand, this climate creates a permissive setting for shadowy, unregulated activities, which can beexploited and manipulated [^], both by perpetrators of civil unrest, as well as victims. On the other hand, this climate is being utilised in less insidious ways; one of which is the increase in informal employment opportunities, allowing people to better secure their livelihoods in conflict affected situations.

When the state can’t ensure access to basic livelihoods and provisions, the informal sector will often step in and harness local resources, skills, and networks [^]. Yet there is limited analysis on how informal employment works in conflict-affected countries, and especially in areas affected by militarization, movement restrictions, and displacement.

It would be too simplistic to think of informal and formal economic activities as unambiguous [^] given the complex, mixed-mode labor arrangements between both sectors. So what does the informal sector actually look like? It is usually characterized by individual or household enterprises that are unregistered entities [^], thereby avoiding regulation and license requirements. The general belief is that these types of unregulated, untaxed jobs are a widespread phenomenon in countries affected by conflict, and the bigger the informal sector, the more it signals underlying problems of governance and security. This sector acts as a “coping economy [^]”, i.e. an economy in which people diversify their livelihood strategies in order to survive, and it typically offers irregular income and doesn't provide the legal benefits or the labor rights protection you would normally find in the formal employment sector. In a context where private sector investment is seen as a risky business, and can actually agitate conflict [^], informal employment can work as a positive means for providing job opportunities. Due to the general lack of regulation and low growth in formal enterprises, unofficial job creation initiatives flourish and tend to utilize social networks and the communities’ financial capital.

When a business closes down due to inadequate resources and destroyed infrastructure, laid-off workers may feel it’s too risky to jump straight back into formal employment. In this situation, home-based work and self-employment offer more autonomy and less vulnerability. In conflict situations, “informality” becomes an adaptive or coping strategy to secure livelihoods and survive. If we take Sri Lanka as an example, the official end of the 25 year civil war in 2009 saw the informal sector boom. The closing of the A9 road meant that the north of Sri Lanka was virtually inaccessible, which forced businesses in areas once considered to be economic hubs to relocate. Faced with an economic embargo for nearly three decades, northern Sri Lankans resorted to finding informal jobs as both coping and adaptive strategies. Renuka, now a 30-year old self-employed shop owner and house cleaner, once worked for a prawn manufacturing company. In  2000, her father, the family’s main breadwinner, suffered from severe injuries caused by shelling during the conflict and passed away. Soon after, Renuka  lost her job in the prawn company. Whilst searching for work she made use of her religious community ties to advertise her availability for housework, which she has continued to do for the last 13 years, whilst running a small shop attached to her house. Renuka is now hoping to increase her self-employment activities.

As we can see, some people who have lost their jobs in the formal sector have adopted informal employment as a permanent means for survival, whereas others are utilizing it as a temporary coping mechanism. The same can be seen in the fishing sector in the north of Sri Lanka. Years of conflict, displacement and isolation from markets, along with the seasonality of fishing, forced many families to seek out informal employment opportunities and they have continued this coping strategy post conflict.  Amongst vulnerable fish workers, there is evidence of a small trend to supplement fishing activities with masonry, construction work, paddy farming, and by setting up small shops when times are exceptionally tough. Since conflict affects the long-term strategies of big businesses and investment, the post-war period continues to see a reliance on informal employment.

A question that has yet to be addressed is: should there be incentives to pull a country out of its conflict economy and set up a more formal economic order to promote growth? Or is the informal sector a boon that post-conflict job creation plans can utilise? On the one hand, the informal sector can depress GDP growth, because it decreases tax revenues and public spending. The jobs in themselves are also known to offer less in terms of social security and are largely ignored by government agencies [^]. On the other hand, the sector’s impact on livelihoods could be significant during the early phases of transition in conflict-affected situations. It may even make the post-conflict economy more stable and efficient than one that’s solely dependent on the formal sector.

This “coping economy” in conflict situations demonstrates a pragmatic judgement made by people who, in the face of little alternatives, rely on themselves and their social networks to find a means of securing their livelihoods, as opposed to putting themselves at the mercy of often malfunctioning formal and state-run employment schemes. The view that these “shadow economies” are detrimental [^] must be reassessed in light of examples that show the necessity for such jobs in economically-challenged conflict affected situations, not only for the survival  of a household but also to support the transition towards community stability.

*This blog is the first of two installments; the first, above, provides a theoretical and broad look at informal employment in war environments; the second will analyze how specific sectors, such as fishing and agriculture play a role in the trend.

This is a guest post by Ruth Canagarajah, a Fulbright fellow in northern Sri Lanka who is researching the intersection of natural resources, livelihoods, and post-war challenges.

Taken from:http://www.securelivelihoods.org/blogpost/47/The-Coping-Economy-What%E2%80%99s-lurking-in-the-shadows-of-informal-employment-in-conflict-affected-situations?goback=%2Egde_2330349_member_266889765#%21

                                                        Democracy and Secrecy

Eric Posner writes: August 5th 2013

So then a court, too, cannot resolve the conflict between secrecy and transparency—or, as I have insisted on, democracy and democracy. But the solution is staring us in the face. Our representative (as opposed to direct) democracy does not require public knowledge of every government action. It is based on the idea that public intervention will be episodic, based largely on very broad outcomes (is the economy doing well? Do we feel secure?) and values (are government officials corrupt? Can we trust them?). It is not based on specific policy choices. An array of secret government actions will produce an observable outcome—prosperity and security at some level, or not—and on that (highly imperfect) basis the public votes. The risks associated with the loss of public control over specific policy choices in a large, representative democracy have been debated since the founding, but time and against this loss has been deemed a reasonable sacrifice in return for the benefits of living in a large, rich, and powerful country.

The row currently raging over the government’s prosecution of Manning and pursuit of Snowden may remind us of these sacrifices, but it will not change anyone’s minds about the advisability of them. Expect Congress to drop the subject or to legislate some narrow limits engraved with large loopholes. The government knows that the public will blame it for failing to stop a terrorist attack, and not for abstract harms like collecting and holding our metadata. Only real harms like the jailing of dissenters or harassment of innocents could lead to a substantial negative public reaction to NSA surveillance and meaningful changes in the law. For all their revelations, Manning and Snowden have not shown that such harms have occurred.


Read more at:http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/view_from_chicago/2013/08/the_nsa_snowden_and_bradley_manning_in_praise_of_government_secrecy_and.html

 AN OVERVIEW OF THE SCOPE OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION

 

The Parameters

The field of conflict resolution operates in three major spheres of conflict; these are (1) interpersonal conflict, (2) inter-group conflict, (3) international conflict. As different as these spheres may be, they all rely on the same base of theoretical work and practice. These theories and approaches are interdisciplinary, involving, psychology, sociological and political theory, systems analysis, and communications theory inter alia. I will argue that all of these theoretical bases contribute to an understanding of conflict and could assist practitioners in resolving conflict. I also maintain that since the practice of law is a form of conflict resolution the approaches are applicable to the practice of the law and litigation.

 

Interpersonal Conflict

The study and practice in the field of interpersonal conflict tends to focus on family relationships, relationships between children and adults in general, gender issues, communication issues and power relations in the family setting. Some authors have looked into the possible conflicts which may arise in relations between husband and wife, parents and children and between siblings. Family issues usually involve problems relating to values, family history, emotions and communication. Gender issues are also of some importance as they figure regularly in the problems between the sexes at home, at work and in other social groups.

 

The recent attention paid to domestic abuse has directed some study toward the issues relating to the management of anger, and the abuse of violence. Still further, these issues bring into focus the need for the diagnosis and treatment of post traumatic stress disorder and other psychological disorders which arise as a result of generations of problems in the family and are know to be symptoms found in the victims of violence, especially sexual violence.  

Some authors emphasize the need for improved communication skills to deal with various problems in relationships because of the way we tend to speak to each other. They expose the common use of blocks to communication by persons in their everyday discourse. These blocks to communication because they are so alienating, in turn make it difficult for parties to resolve their conflict by means of conversation or dialogue without third party intervention. Others emphasize the need to develop listening skills, the ability to empathize with others, and look for common needs and interests as problem solving tools. These are skills commonly taught in negotiation and mediation training. 

It is thought that whether at the workplace or at home or in other social groups we need to focus on the needs and interests of the parties in disputes and to recognize that we all contribute to heightened conflict by our own behaviour as disputes escalate. All in all, interpersonal relationships provide a bountiful source of information for the development of conflict resolution theory and practice, and the training of practitioners in conflict resolution skills. 

Group Conflict

This second sphere of conflict intervention at one level, involves organizational theory and analysis and theories of organizational development. In the course of assisting groups with their problems, practitioners may rely on theoretical approaches such as systems analysis and chaos theory. These theoretical approaches and the practices which are derived from them are of some importance to the business community in a fast changing and crisis prone market place.

Group conflict calls for an understanding of all of the issues which affect interpersonal relations, along with an understanding of micro-cultures and approaches to leadership, group learning, and development. Negotiation, mediation and facilitation skills are often used to assist subject groups with these matters. 

In recent times conflict resolution practitioners have been utilized to intervene to help groups create vision and mission statements. Central to successful formulation of such statements is an understanding of the purpose and values of the subject organization and the need to unite the group, by achieving by-in to the central themes of the vision or mission statements. 

A broader understanding of group conflict can be gleaned from the experiences of interest groups who compete to influence government policy or educate the community about problems which  could be resolved by the community itself. 

Many of the issues relevant to interpersonal conflicts are also relevant to group conflicts. However it is thought that group conflict may rely more heavily on the intervention of experts on broad areas of community interest such as the impact on the law on matters relating to the electoral process, the environment, health and education policies, labour policies and the use and distribution of resources. Such areas of dispute are hot spots of conflict which sometimes give way to violence and the victimization of minorities or the weak by the strong. 

Facilitators trained in mediation and negotiation skills will use these skills to guide groups towards solutions to their problems. Central to the modus operandi of the facilitator will be the attention paid to the laying down of ground rules during the process of intervention, to achieve the fullest possible participation in the dialogue, the avoidance of personal attacks, bullying and name calling, and the use of unbridled brainstorming to select the possible solutions to problems. This process is designed to achieve, free informed consent. 

To the extent that groups over a period of time may become embroiled in intractable conflict, violence is very possible and could break out as a symbol of defiance of the law, as is the case with some anti-abortion activists in North America. Values and interests will be central to the causes and solutions to the conflict. Violence intervention and crisis negotiation skills will be of some importance in those areas where violence has broken out over the disputed issues. Hot spots in group conflict may be the school, the workplace and the community in general where clashes may take place between those who perceive themselves as representatives of these conflicted groups. It is therefore in the interest of the community to identify potential hot spots and promote dialogue around the relevant issues. 

Of special note in this area of conflict resolution is the appearance of the “truth and reconciliation commission” as a mechanism in reconciling the conflicting parties as they seek to emerge from a period of protracted conflict which may have caused much suffering in the subject community. Truth and reconciliation commissions are legal devices formulated to combine dialogue with the process of reconciliation and restorative justice, for the purpose of bringing closure to the distress caused by injustice, and comfort for the loss suffered during the period of conflict. 

International Conflict 

The conflict practitioner who is involved in international conflict relies heavily on studies in international relations, ethnography, history and anthropology. It is useless to become involved in trying to resolve international conflict without some understanding of the foreign cultures with which one interfaces. In today’s world of globalization there is a greater likelihood of a clash of foreign cultures than ever before. 

Attitudes often differ from culture to culture and therefore modification of the theory and presumptions behind the practice of negotiation and mediation may have to be made to accommodate the nuances of various cultures. For example it is thought that in some cultures only authority figures can successfully resolve conflict. The intervening party is obliged to respect such a local cultural norm. 

As the caption suggests international conflict relies heavily on international relation skills and diplomacy. Special attention should be paid to the influence of contextual norms on particular kinds of behaviour in the conflicting cultures, along with the role of power and authority, religion and other value based systems which impact decision making and governance in the affected societies. 

International conflict is often based on negative attribution or the tendency to attribute bad motives to the acts of others rather than to consider other influences behind seemingly injurious acts. Often whole societies are dehumanized by prejudice and hatred grown out of intractable conflict. The skills of mediation and negotiation are greatly taxed to integrate all aspects of techniques and lessons learnt from the subject cultures themselves, thus affecting approaches and attitudes to resolving conflict. This is the reason why those who are involved in advanced mediation at this level should receive continuous training. 

Generally

In all of these matters issues of language, communication, belief systems, religion and culture tend to overlap. The skills utilized also tend to overlap. These include negotiation, mediation, facilitation, story telling and ethnography. Often violence intervention becomes of some importance as does victim reintegration, trauma diagnosis and treatment. 

The development of modes of dialogue around conflict issues has become the most sought after approach to conflict resolution generally. Dialogue differs from discussion in that; it reduces the prevalence of the use of intimidation and other fear tactics by more aggressive and boisterous parties. It encourages group empathy and the negation of negative attribution, prejudice and hatred and relies heavily on the use of creative tension, brainstorming expert intervention, and the selection of scientifically based criteria for the choice of solutions. As was previously stated, the aim is to bring about free informed consent and decision making by consensus. 

Mentoring

One special skill worth mentioning is that of mentoring. Mentoring involves the use of experience in a field to assist others in developing themselves and facing their problems as they grow in their respective field of activity. Good mentors help to teach people how to cope with difficult situations including conflict situations. Also of importance is the mentorship performed by change agents who set the course for others to follow in areas such as gender studies, labour and race relations. 

Application to Law Practice

Law practice is a form of conflict resolution. It is probably the most formal mode of conflict resolution one would find in any social system. It is less obvious that tools such as listening and assertion skills will assist lawyer and client alike in understanding and analyzing issues and personalities in any case at hand. 

Lawyers use concepts such as, “intention,” “inference,” and “presumption,” which all rely for their meaning, on context, culture, prejudice, and values. Also of relevance is the fact that emotions may sometimes cloud the meaning of certain acts and indeed the important issues and interests which are at stake. The field of conflict resolution provides the tools for in-depth analysis of these issues in the manner outlined above. 

Lawyers who wish to fully understand all relevant issues in a dispute at hand, especially where the matter is based on interpersonal conflict, should recognize that what is called for is a deep understanding of the social issues involved and these may not be seen at first glance but only after serious analysis. Successful articulation of the position of a witness in a witness statement for example may depend on the depth of understanding of the meaning the witness attributes to the entire dispute. This meaning is found after an examination of the issues outlined in the relevant subheads above. 

In the area of criminal law, conflict resolution has been used as a tool of restorative justice where the convicted person promises to embrace a process of repairing and restoring the losses suffered by the victim, and the victim in turn embraces reconciliation and forgiveness as part of a restorative process. 

Quite apart from the litigation arena, the management of conflict has been incorporated into the law by way of the inclusion of arbitration and mediation clauses in agreements. These clauses mandate that one of these modes of dispute resolution be utilized before filing suit or as an alternative to filing suit. This approach is very prevalent in construction contracts. However it may be useful to include such clauses in various kinds of contractual arrangements while maintaining the litigation option as a last resort. 

Mediation 

Finally it must be said that we have now become familiar with the use of mediation as a tool of conflict resolution in the civil courts of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. But mediation can be put to even broader use. Those familiar with the system would be aware that the rules of the court known as the CPR 2000 do not provide for mediation in family law matters. However the practice has developed that mediation is used informally in these matters and has proven to be quite successful in spite of the fact that the cadre of mediators on the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court roster have not been trained specifically for mediating matters which arise in divorces for example. 

 Outside of our region mediation has also proven itself useful in areas of family law, especially divorce settlements and the planning of the lives of children of the marriage after separation. No doubt mediation will grow from strength to strength in the matrimonial court’s work in the Eastern Caribbean. 

Conclusion 

Knowledge of the field and practice of conflict resolution will benefit the Caribbean community at large. Possible projects above and beyond training in negotiation and mediation could include developing listening and articulation skills, and fostering and developing dialogue among interest groups on issues which are critical to the guidance of social policy and governance. 

In this age of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), open markets and globalization, conflict will tend to grow rather than diminish. But there are also more mechanisms available for resolving them. No doubt the outcome of any conflict will largely depend on our ability to manage it. 

                                                                                                                         FRANCIS H V BELLE 

 

                                                                        Impunity In Egypt

By Dr. H.A Hellyer, 23rd July 2013

 During the night of 2 February, I was, as many others were, patrolling my streets in the ‘popular committees’ to defend my neighbourhood. I heard of the first causality – a young boy of eight years old, who was there simply because his father took him to see what a free and pluralistic Egypt could like, in an open, public square, in the centre of his country’s capital. My first reaction was sorrow – the reaction of one of my fellow patrollers was quite different. “What was he doing there?” he exclaimed. “His father should bear the blame!” For him, the state was inviolable – in terms of its narrative, but also in terms of questioning. If you did question it, then you deserved what you got – such is the trauma of living under a police state for too long, where independent means of accountability are absent. The narrative of the state was that these protesters were chaotic, had weapons, raped women (all untrue) – why wouldn’t you excuse those who attacked the square?

Of course, now we do not question who was a martyr and who was in the wrong that day. But it did not end with the downfall of Mubarak. Eight months later, protesters marched from Shubra in Cairo to Maspero, where the state media building is located. It was an entirely peaceful protest, composed of mostly Coptic but also Muslim Egyptians who were opposed to the rise in sectarianism in Egypt, and were calling for the end of military rule. The military responded with violence, and CNN broadcast images of armoured personnel carriers crushing protesters to death, with soldiers firing at the protesters. In the ensuing reports, Human Rights Watch called for an independent investigation, while noting that the violence left two dozen protesters and bystanders and at least one military officer dead.

Read more at:http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/07/23/days-of-impunity/

 

                                The Internet And Social Change

 by Monica Curca: An Extract.

It can also be said that the new tools of communications allow messages to be amplified and communication flows to become increasingly horizontal and democratizing. In addition, the huge amounts of shared open-source data and consistent interactions between participants has transformed seemingly disconnected peoples into a community.

These new media and digital technologies have also positively contributed to better and more organized humanitarian responses. For example, in Haiti, where within hours of the earthquake extensive visualizations and data maps were created to assist in saving lives and reconstruction. Activists have been equipped to organize and coordinate protest efforts in Egypt, Tunisia, and Occupy. In addition an important by-product of these new interactions have been the way in which the international community can act as human rights monitors via data posted onto YouTube and other social media platforms.

One substantive effect new technology has had is in a deeper participatory approach to media’s work in conflict contexts. Now the audience of a peace movement is global. Social change and peace movements/campaigns, once considered the dangerous work of local grassroots indigenous activists and civil society, have now transformed into “global crowdfunded-change your Twitter avatar-update your Facebook status-like my page” campaigns. It may be true that the future calls forengaging participants through online, offline and hybrid experiences and perhaps it will be the normative mode in which communication takes place.

And even if there has been a great shift from a rigid top-down hierarchical approach to social change, it has increasingly been characterized by a reliance on mobile, inclusive, and interactive tools. It is now where a wealth of information gathered from locals and those outside the traditional development, humanitarian and peacebuilding communities share information and mobilize for action.

But is this authentic? Should the peace movement be tweeted? Should it be re-tweeted? Can peace start as a Facebook status and go viral? Can peace be achieved the same way social change has thru the use of new media and digital technologies? First let us see what social change actually is and how it has actually laid the groundwork for peace to take place.

Read more at:http://www.insightonconflict.org/2013/06/internet-social-change/

                                   The Response to “Give Peace a Chance.”

In my last post the theme was “Give Peace A Chance.” The idea was to generate ideas about the peace building effort at the global level and to bridge the gap between cultures by using a slogan or methodology which could be used effectively on social media. “Give Peace a Chance” was selected as a possible vehicle for bringing it all together as a name for a blog or webpage which is geared with the best tools for effective communication and online intervention.

 That post provoked an interesting response. Firstly a colleague introduced me to “Klout” a web platform measures the influence of individuals on the net. This associate let me know what his “Klout” score was and invited me to join and discover my own “Klout” score. I did. I have some work to do.

Within a couple of days I received an email from the DM&E for Peace Learning, which is a portal on LinkedIn to which I signed up some months ago. The portal provided voluminous material on “Assessing Impact with media content analysis.” It would take a full post just to talk about that. But you can find it at: http://dmeforpeace.org/discuss/assessing-impact-media-content-analysis.   

 The information on the DM&E goes way beyond social media and includes television, newspaper and all media outlets. I then remembered that in November 2012 I had received a previous email from the same source in which the topic dealt with was “Designing Media Based Interventions” again a great resource of information. You can find it at: http://dmeforpeace.org/discuss/designing-media-based-interventions.

Part of the relevant information in terms of the general direction and tools being used by Peace Builders and which we must continue to develop is the so-called “campaign” platforms. The Campaign websites includes “Change.org “and “Do something.org” and there are several others. These websites offer opportunities for learning how to win support for specific campaigns whether they are environmental, consumer, or human rights oriented.

The conclusion is then that when integrated with Facebook and Twitter etc. the infrastructure for effective Peace-Building online interventions is very much in place. Peace Builders need to choose the right combination of these platforms and keep trying until the required impact is achieved.  These ideas can be further discussed using webinars or chat rooms or on a Facebook page designed for the purpose of designing the choice.  This of us who are interested can get together and fine tune the idea to suit our needs.

It took me some time to get this post out, but here it is ant here will be more as long as the ideas keep flowing.

Francis Belle

                                                                   Give Peace A Chance

The caption of this article is not original. But I am hoping that it is timely. We have discussed the search for words and phrases which may bridge the gap between cultures.  “Give Peace a Chance” may be a timely saying in this regard.

At the foundation of giving peace a chance is the notion of using the internet and social media to coordinate responses to conflict situations. Shared knowledge and analysis would play a part in formulating the ideas to be projected going forward.

If we take the recent tension between the USA and North and South Korea as an example we have no idea what role Online conflict resolution and social media played in responding to the crisis. But as the war of words began, I decided to begin copying and sharing articles which provided analyses of the situation.  Some of these articles had a military focus. Others focused on the dynamics of the conflict, its history, main characters and nations involved and their interests. In the midst of all of this I decided that my main focus would be to advocate de-escalation of the conflict.

Interestingly enough within days of making this decision the media reported that the US government had taken a decision to tone down their rhetoric. After this there was a gradual toning down of the war of words and finally it petered out.  In the United States other things such as the Boston bombing took over the headlines. The result of all of this is that North Korea’ s recent launch of medium range missiles was hardly  noticed.

Imagine then the work of millions of tweets, or shares on Facebook on the same topic. The issue is not whether it would reach the leaders of Korea but the impact the activity would have on leaders in China and the United States and the peace loving people in those countries. Indeed the occasion for such action may not be a location which is as well-known as the North Korean scenario. New analysis may be required. Quick fix actions may be suggested and the media may be full of sabre rattling and at that moment in steps “give peace a chance” and changes the conversation.

This is not to say that there is any monopoly in the right step when some perceived threat exists and nations spring into defence mode. But who is to say that considerations of diplomatic solutions or some kind of political solutions may not be correct in the case of most conflict situations?

If we take Syria as an example, it is becoming more and more popular to discuss a possible political settlement in Syria rather than a military settlement. The violent conflict has gone on for two years without any real indication of victory for either side. But death and destruction continue unabated. The major players have accepted that Syria is not the same as Libya where a military solution prevailed or Egypt where the ruling group capitulated relatively quickly. A different solution may apply in the case of Syria.  But so far no entity appears to have been able to convince the warring factions in Syria that a political settlement is feasible. Is this an opportunity for “Give Peace a Chance”?

This idea is just that, an idea. It is not even a prototype. Much work would have to be done to actually implement, “give peace a chance” as an intervention alternative. I am aware of other efforts such as the “peace is sexy”, campaign and the “white flag” movement which is set to distribute national flags in white for international day of peace in September. A consideration of the successes of their efforts will be of some importance for social media and conflict resolution.

A more traditional example of global co-ordination that has worked is Search for Common Ground. Search for Common ground is celebrating successes in recent work done in Nigeria. That organisation continues to garner support for further efforts to end violence in the world. They use the internet and social media to carry out this campaign. In the case of “give peace a chance” we would carry out our activity online. This would be less costly but not necessarily less effective.

This does not mean that ‘give peace a chance” would not be raising funds for projects. But using technology we would be able to monitor the fund raising online and obtain feedback on the effectiveness of the intervention when it takes place. In other words transparency would be an essential part of the model.

But what would be the nature of the intervention? Giving peace a chance would imply peaceful action in all of its possible shapes and forms, whether by supplying mediators, analysis, problem solving interventions, or campaigns to world leaders to consider peace rather than war. We would be using all of the media possible on social media and monitoring the analytics to be aware of the breadth and depth of the campaign.

This is just an idea. I await the prototype. It has taken months to come up with this idea after organising regionalconflictinsights.com and monitoring global conflict and possible responses. I have noted the spontaneous response to my own very fledgling efforts and I believe that bigger entities probably with deeper pockets may actually find the wherewithal to come up with the prototype which addresses the objectives of “give peace a chance.”

Any reader wishing to contribute more to this discussion may contract the author at: belle.francis26@gmail.com. I am looking forward to the dialogue.

 

 

 

 

Social Media and Conflict Resolution .3

I use this opportunity to congratulate some of those who had the vision to make their conflict resolution efforts truly global. PCDNetwork on LinkedIn internationalpeaceandconflict.org comes to mind as the gateway/clearing house that has introduced me to several others in the conflict resolution and peace-building world.

PCDNetwork accommodates individuals, practitioners, academics, journalists, opinion leaders, and organisations of various sorts from all over the world in descriptions of their work, promotion of meetings and training sessions, conferences and the like. Occasionally we see analyses of current issues such as the conflicts in Syria, Mali and Central African Republic.

I pause to congratulate PCDNetwork and Dr Craig Zelizer on the great work that they are doing. This LinkedIn group caught my interest some months ago and provided evidence of the true depth of the global conflict resolution community, on and offline.

The second organisation of note which I need to mention here and which is online but not an online entity is World Mediation Centre http://www.world mediation centre.org. This organisation has a unique approach to training and global out reach. World Mediation Centre does not just promote its courses it invites conflict resolution leaders from all over the world to be their “District Managers.”  As a District Manager one uses one’s own linkages with a particular region in the world to promote the work of the World Mediation Centre y introducing interested persons to the course offered by the World Mediation Centre.

I consider this to be innovative because in one act the World Mediation Centre not only promotes its own activities on and offline, but it also promotes the efforts of the District Manager at whatever levels these efforts may be made and wherever they may be made in the world.

This approach also paints the picture of mediation and conflict resolution as global phenomena and shatters the image that mediation is limited to a court or community system only. Indeed this is proof that people are thinking of mediation globally and practising conflict resolution globally.

World Mediation Centre does a lot of things but its recent effort to invite it several District Managers and other contributors to write articles for a Centre sponsored book is particularly interesting. Again the notion that we can speak with one voice about conflict resolution resonates with me at this time. I congratulate World Mediation Centre and its director Daniel Erdman for their efforts.

Finally I wish to recognise the work of Transconflict  http://www.transconflict.com which is based in the Europe. This organisation publishes many enlightening conflict and conflict transformation articles online and has recently extended an invitation to all followers and interested person to contribute to their great pool of scholarly articles on conflict from any part of the world. I am encouraged by this step and once again I note that the message of global collaboration for conflict resolution is taking place spontaneously. No doubt the internet and social media are facilitating this spontaneous growth which needs only to be harnessed. I congratulate Trans Conflict on this timely step.

These recent developments are responding to a need which has not yet been clearly articulated. Clearly conflict resolution and peace building are not part of any one philosophical group.  However this is the strength of the community. The world is put on notice that no great idea or religion is going to totally defeat any other any time soon.  We can see die- hards digging in for the long hall. In any event, the transgressions of the various persuasions are there to be seen. What we all have to learn is how to go on together.

The shared articles and ideas from different parts of the world will provide insight on solving seemingly insurmountable problems. Indeed the work of a coordinated mass is not the sum total of the individuals making up that mass but could be much more effective. The main idea behind this series of articles is to organise a coordinated mass.

Before we get started as an organised mass however we have to get our own analytics done.  Many questions have to be answered. How many people click on a conflict resolution website every day?  Trans Conflict alone is citing 1000 views per day.  But taking the analysis on a regional basis if we cannot answer this question for the Americas, perhaps the analysis can be done in Europe. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn among others seem to have the necessary tools for getting started on this work.

The second question could be, in any month what was the hot conflict resolution topic? What exactly did those who showed interest do? Did they view a conflict resolution website? Did they download material? Did they interact by liking, tweeting  re-tweeting or sharing? Have they consolidated relationships and collaborated on programs? Many questions must be answered if we are to know how we are doing as an online community.  But we are moving in the right direction.

 Social Media and Conflict Resolution .2

In our first article we spoke about the potential of conflict resolution online to bridge social gaps and spread the ideas of peace building throughout the world. The ideas expressed were premised on the view that a world of new paradigms is emerging. The global religions and political ideologies do not dominate in all spheres of life. The internet is making it possible for ideas to roam freely around the world and find rest on common ground.

This freedom may also be making it possible for persons to free themselves of traditional “roles” which would otherwise have dominated their lives. Eckhart Tolle in his works seems to imply that more genuine relationships will emerge when they are not be defined by roles. Of course being a peace builder may be a role, but I am of the view that it is a higher order along the evolutionary chain.  Peace building if practised  without a need or desire to control another is a genuine human effort to  bring people to the realisation that many of their previous views about being different  from others, being better or worse, more skilled etc. are destructive because they feed conflict.

However if we encourage people to believe that perhaps with some assistance they can resolve their own problems and manage their conflicts then they will begin to put their traditional roles in proper context and embrace more of the messages sent from the traditional “other” who is different.

The question then arises how does this approach affect the use of social media in the sphere of cultural exchange? I know that there is great potential there because on Twitter I have more followers from foreign cultures than from my own.  No doubt this has occurred because of my choice to focus on conflict resolution and to speak to global conflict from a regional perspective. I am therefore speaking a language that the followers, albeit foreign, understand both literally and figuratively.

But it must be said that this reach is largely limited by culture nevertheless. Indeed most of my followers are English speaking and from a Western cultural background. So my reach does not go very far into the Spanish or French speaking world for example. Neither has it reached China or Japan or even the Middle East. I would say it has limited scope on the African continent and Indian Sub-continent where English is spoken. The obvious barriers for my reach then are language and culture.

This is not surprising and neither does it mean that these foreign cultures are impenetrable. My own experience is that as I speak about matters that interest various cultures I attract responses from those cultures. In the case of the Indian continent for example I have access to Indian Supreme Court law reports on my Facebook Page (Global Conflict Insights). My Indian Facebook friends and those who may have an interest in Commonwealth Law therefore have something to look at on my page that may interest them every day.

Nevertheless there is a kind of social network apartheid going on. Maybe this cannot be helped as long as the language and cultural barrier exists. How do we bridge the gap online? The mechanical response is to employ translators to get our message across and invite the non-English speakers to do the same?  But this would be too expensive and cumbersome. In another sense it also misses the point which is to effect change within us which in turn affects the way we communicate. After achieving the change within us we can begin to focus on translation.

But why is this discussion important for achieving global networking online?

When I was introduced to conflict resolution theory at Nova South Eastern University I was taught that the skilled conflict resolver in any community is the expert in that community. She knows the language, the culture and indeed the people even at the personal level.  Some people may think that they can discover another culture by reading news reports for example because  in the news media we find it acceptable to embrace the news  on what is happening in other cultures from our own perspective via journalists and others who merely visit and report in English. An interesting critique of this kind of reporting can be seen on the this web-page , in an interview with investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill where he makes the point that good journalistic work from conflict zones is not being seen outside of those countries where the journalists operate. So how are we who don’t have “assets” on the ground to interpret what is going on globally with any confidence that our assumptions are based on accurate information?

Some of us who have had to encounter racism and cultural bias know that this kind of bias begins with an assumption of the inferiority or lower state of being of the “other.”  I therefore advocate that when we encounter foreign cultures, we do so with an open mind. It is in approaching these encounters with an open mind, stripped of the traditional roles and our own baggage that we embrace the culture for what it really is and open ourselves to change.

The first thing some may ask is what exactly are we hoping to gain from these relationships? Well in the same way that the United States decided decades ago to open the door to doing business with China in spite of its opposition to Chinese Communism, a move which was based largely on economic and political strategy, we may want to build relationships around the concept of dialogic potential rather than economic potential. The first step then is to understand the universal symbols of “friendship” as practised online.

Kenneth Gergen in his book Social Construction (Gergen 2002) coins the expression that meaning is an emergent property of coordinated action.  Hence an extended hand returned by another extended hand results in the friendly gesture of a handshake. If a hand is extended and there is no hand extended in return a totally different meaning is ascribed to the action. Meaning in the relationship is constructed through coordinated action.

This is why it is important to greet followers on Twitter with “thanks for following!” The exchange then becomes “friendly” even if there is no friendly “liking “of your website or other gesture which expresses such an emotion.

In the business world a handshake was all that was once required to seal a business deal. What deal are we sealing when we “like” somebody on Facebook? I would argue that liking the page is the first step towards “humanising” the relationship especially where the “friend” is not well known. Of course we know that likes on Facebook facilitate analytics for those who want to assess the popularity of their Facebook page. But the act of liking also starts a relationship in some cases.

It is easy for mere online names and even photographs which can be faked to be treated with an indifferent distance. “Liking” the page reduces the distance. But what has to be done next in the conflict resolution world is figuring out how to go on together building deeper meaning.

Social media with its “trending” and “viral” posts may very well have the potential for creating the catch phrases or linguistic handshakes which cross language and cultural barriers and assist in giving meaning to cross cultural encounters. Note the international cross-cultural appeal of pop culture song “Gangnam style.” Building on this experience there may be popular sayings which can be developed with such cross cultural appeal outside of the entertainment world. We know that “Gangdam style” is not the first in the entertainment world to find such a catch phrase, Bob Marley’s “One Love” still today resonates with many peace advocates and others who just want to feel at peace in a world of turmoil.

Online Conflict Resolution programmes and peace builders have the responsibility to consider doing more than selling their services. A new culture of understanding will not come about by just teaching skills, which may be used for insular or myopic advantage. The spontaneity of the internet and social media creates a whole new level of communication which goes beyond imparting skills. It is the opportunity to learn from each other about who we are, stripped of the traditional roles.

Imagine a world, perhaps a “cloud?” in which we communicate not about competing for services but simply about who we are stripped of the roles of  judges , lawyers, mediators, arbitrators, academics etc.  When we see others as a reflection of ourselves in perhaps a different context, we become much better prepared for genuine dialogue. Perhaps we should stop using the word “other” when referring to language and cultures, disciplines etc. in such communication altogether!

In this exchange nothing can beat continuing to express genuine love and thanks for sharing. Apart from that, the language needs to embrace our world, for a sustainable future; to secure peace, human rights, justice and fulfilled aspirations.

Francis Belle, Conflict Analyst.

                           The Ideas behind the book Dirty Wars 

                                            Social Media and Conflict Resolution

 

As the Cold War receded the divisions between capitalist and socialist became less important and religious and ethnic differences came to the fore. In some places such as Africa the conflict was mixed with power struggles surrounding the control of the continent’s mineral resources.

In some developed and developing countries conflict issues such as immigration, ethnic differences, labour struggles, governance and big business failures, the environment and the like continued to dominate. Conflict resolution institutions and resources responded to these challenges.

But as the new political and economic landscape developed the advent of the internet brought a new dimension to the social perspective. The internet began to feed the needs of whosoever wished to extend its reach. We marvelled when Microsoft introduced “Microsoft chat”, later Yahoo did same and then many other players entered the game.

We soon began to hear about social media networks which provided facilities for chatting, group meetings and the like. The names are too numerous to mention. Now there are so many social networks that there is probably one to service every need. But we hear mainly about Facebook and Twitter. Skype is also another very popular mode of communicating and sharing online.

Facebook seems to be the most intrusive of the networks, encouraging the users to post photographs, events, videos, personal thoughts, likes and dislikes and even form groups and play games. I lay no claim to be Facebook savvy when it comes to its many uses. What interests me is how these social networks affect the Conflict Resolution world.

I have encountered many conflict resolution enthusiasts on my recent journey into the world of conflict resolution online. It seems to me that most conflict resolution websites and organisations offer mediation services or training or both. Some offer arbitration services, and yet others, definitely the minority, offer conflict analysis. My fairly recent association within the LinkedIn conflict resolution group International Conflict Resolution Networks Portal (ICRNP) has provided one porthole view of the possible future prospects of conflict resolution online.

On ICRNP practitioners and interested groups share their views, promote and report on their events and invite feedback. There is some self-promotion and a great deal of event promotion. When you put it all together you get a view of where conflict resolution stands on social media. Clearly we have the ability to exchange views, discuss a few topics promote ourselves and promote events.  We can educate ourselves and others this way. We are functioning somewhat like the legal profession, just doing what we do and making sure that others know what we do. But can more be done?

Over the last two years we have heard of social media being used for political objectives. Groups mobilize their supporters via Facebook, Twitter and a number of other social media platforms. The Arab Spring may have benefited from this kind of use of social media as did the Occupy Movement. Of course Social Media has been used to mobilize for peace rallies and the like. So we know the potential in that regard. We also know of the effective use of social media in the election and re-election of President Barack Obama.

But social media has a greater significance. I discovered this when I started my own Twitter account. To my surprise I was attracting people who were interested in Leadership coaching, management, investment and of course website building. The latter is understandable because website builders are aggressively seeking clients and I happen to “own” a website called regionalconflictinsights.com.  But the interest of the leadership teachers, although not alien to what I was doing surprised me by so quickly embracing my presence.

Spontaneity

I assessed this event by saying to myself that firstly this showed my own potential as a leader. But secondly it also showed that wittingly or unwittingly my social network was being constructed spontaneously. I did not go out of my way to find people involved in leadership coaching, at least not with the same zeal that I investigated the breadth of the conflict resolution network. Nevertheless leadership coaching found me.

The internet therefore exposes the potential of ideas, and efforts in the context of the growth of many professions and vocations. My network in my real life community is not the same as network in my conflict resolution online community. My online community is much broader and more ideas based. This means that there is enormous potential for broadening horizons on the internet. For the time being this potential is social but restricted to the network where one interacts. The global potential of this interaction has not yet been assessed in the way that ideologies or religious faiths had been assessed in past decades.

Indeed religion and ideology played a role in social cohesion. Their ascendency occurred when it was thought that to be necessary to be part of some global movement or trend as a way of understanding and dominating the world. Today it appears that this is not a goal that a majority are pursuing.

People are congregating in smaller groups, which allow then to hone their interests and enjoy the company of like-minded persons wherever these persons may be in the world. Technology has made the world smaller in more ways than one. But it has also extended the reach of the individual, so that the individual’s world becomes larger.

Growth of individual choice

The rise of a middle class means greater individual choice. More freedoms also lead to the exploration of choices. So in a more prosperous and freer world we can expect a greater degree of diversity based on individual choices on a global scale. This diversity does not make life easy for political leaders or those who are in the business of building cohesion, which is one of the interests of conflict resolution practitioners, and indeed the leadership coaches.  This means that new strategies and categories have to be found to understand these diverse groups and bring them together for the purposes of achieving goals such as peace building on a national or international basis.

Can you build a strategy around spontaneity?  Indeed is the attempt to strategize a misconceived concept? The debate between those who believe that we make things happen versus responding to things that happen is of great relevance here. I think the best approach is to observe patterns and build around them. But that appears to be reactive rather than proactive.

In this regard the internet plays a contradictory role of dividing at one level and then exposing people to their natural online spontaneously created communities, at another level. Hence we have to see the internet not as destroying community cohesiveness but building new communities on a global scale and thus building new communication lines of global understanding. This ability to build new communities has to be seen as the key to global peace building online.

The Way Forward

It is now our task to use the technologies of the internet and social media to find the linkages between these diverse communities and build even larger social networks. Twitter and Facebook are assisting in this regard, but that is not their focus.

Some “postmodernists” may argue that it is wrong to assume that building global consensus is a necessary social enterprise. They would point, for example, to the incorrect assumptions about global consensus which lead to greater global exploitation and control. But the jury is still out on these arguments.

For the time being I continue to enjoy the spontaneity of the social networks. Those who interact on the internet will observe a fairly distinctive network developing around your activity even if you are not looking for it. Simply being analysing your “likes” for example you would learn something about the people who may support your ideas or efforts. You may also learn your weaknesses in attracting those whom you may have intended to attract. All in all we have to continue learning the potential of social media and construct our own models which fit our goals. Those who can see the benefit in constructing such models will inevitably find each other and as long as we communicate, the spontaneity of the social media will do the rest.

 

Francis Belle, Conflict Analyst.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                       One Writer's View of Pope Francis

                              

 

 (T)he former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio emerges from a Jesuit order that has been largely purged of its independent-minded or left-leaning intellectuals, and his reputation at home in Latin America is decidedly mixed. While Francis seems to be an appealing personality in some ways — albeit one with a shadowy relationship with the former military dictatorship in Argentina, along with a record on gay rights that borders on hate speech — it’s difficult to imagine that he can or will do anything to arrest the church’s long slide into cultural irrelevance and neo-medieval isolation. His papacy, I suspect, comes near the end of a thousand-year history of the Vatican’s global rise to power, ambiguous flourishing and rapid decline. It also comes after 40 years of internal counterrevolution under the previous two popes, during which a group of hardcore right-wing cardinals have consolidated power in the Curia and stamped out nearly all traces of the 1960s liberal reform agenda of Pope John XXIII and Vatican II. A handful of intellectuals, both inside and outside the church, quietly believe that means Pope Francis isn’t a legitimate pope at all

Read more at:http://www.salon.com/2013/03/16/is_pope_francis_a_fraud/

                                                  Conscientious Objector Tells His Story

                                                                       Coming Soon!

                   Interview with Retired General Stanley McChrystal

Foreign Affairs sends along an exclusive sneak preview of its interview with retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in which the former Commander addresses his legacy as well as the Obama administration's reliance on drone strikes.

"[M]any new presidents are initially enamored with the Central Intelligence Agency, because they are offered a covert fix for a complex problem," McChrystal tells Foreign Affairs editor Gideon Rose. "But if you go back in history, I can’t find a covert fix that solved a problem long term. There were some necessary covert actions, but there’s no “easy button” for some of these problems.

Read more at:http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2013/02/mcchrystal-on-drones-a-covert-fix-for-a-complex-problem-157126.html?hp=r1

 Conflict as an opportunity for change

In this CAOTICA newsletter I want to look at some examples of treating conflict as an opportunity for change. I've had a couple of great opportunities in the last few weeks to explore the idea of forgiveness and reconciliation through attending a film called 'Beyond Right and Wrong' and through seeing Jo Berry and Pat Magee give a talk about their experiences.

The film Beyond Right and Wrong (click to see a trailer) features Jo and Pat as one of the examples of people who have embarked on a journey of exploration of what it means to understand the perspectives of those who are involved in violence and who have suffered at its hands. In their case their experiences revolve around the same violent incident:


Building Bridges for Peace


Pat was known as the 'Brighton Bomber' after having planted the bomb that killed Jo's father in 1984 at the Grand Hotel in Brighton. It was humbling, fascinating, moving to see the connection that they have formed through sharing their experience from their very different starting points about what happened that day and how it relates to all of our responses to conflict in whatever form that takes. I highly recommend seeing Jo and Pat whenever you can (click on the image above for the website).....not to look at their experience from a 'moral' point of view or from an abstract academic perspective but from a personal 'how this relates to me in my own struggles of being someone who hurts others or has felt hurt by others' in our own lives.

For me, their journey isn't about 'doing good' it's about addressing important aspects of how we all relate to each other and how that can easily lead us to dehumanise each other when we are in conflict, sometimes to the extent that it opens the door to us killing each other. Here's a program made some years ago by the BBC about their story.


But the film Beyond Right and Wrong looks at a range of different settings where such journeys have started. We see people in Palestine and Israel who, through the death of their own loved ones, have been determined not to respond 'like with like' but to find a different way of responding - to see those who killed their loved ones as individuals who had their own reasons at the time for acting as they did, for justifying to themselves those reasons. And many of those interviewed in the film have come to see that had they been in a similar position they may have done the same things themselves.

This is a very strong example of what is meant by 'connection' in the '3-cheers for conflict' that I've referred to previously - where we can understand another's perspective without having to agree with it, or condone the actions that follow from it. This opens the door to change. A more common response in unresolved conflict situations is to dismiss others' viewpoints without any consideration that, from a particular perspective it can have validity. In such cases it is a manifestation of the competitive approach to conflict that can never lead to resolution.

Jo and Pat and all those shown in the film are actively seeking to create 'connection' (though this may not be their way of describing what they are doing). Their willingness to listen to each other's perspective rather than simply criticise it or dismiss it is a powerful example of how, even in the face of terrible suffering, we can create a more effective way of responding to conflict. They are, of course, also creating one of the other '3-Cheers for conflict' that of 'insight' into themselves and their own feelings and thoughts and seeking to support themselves with feelings and thoughts that are difficult.


As you will see, the film also includes interviews with Marina Cantacuzino - Founder/Director of The Forgiveness Project and I'd always recommend a visit to that project's website for many, many stories of people who have found different ways of responding to violence and trauma in their lives without simply repeating their own experience back on others.

Read CAOTICA AT: http://us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=fab51487bbe125fe2f23306c6&id=a727690522

 

                                                                  GET PEOPLE TALKING 

 West Africa’s Cross-Border Threats: Making sense of Mali’s Islamic Armed Groups

Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote D’Ivoire, Nigeria and Guinea-Bissau – West Africa has had a guaranteed spot on our international news screens for over two decades. At the heart of this resource-rich region is a legacy of colonisation that divided up into arbitrary countries, a web of tribal groups that to this day retain transnational identities, affiliations and loyalties. These trends have been exacerbated by a steady rise in organized crime activity, using West Africa’s extensive coastline to transport everything from drugs to diamonds and human trafficking.

Over the last three months, northern Mali has dominated our attention as an unlikely alliance of Islamic extremist groups, local Tuareg tribesmen and sections of deserting Mali army elements have succeeded in establishing an Al-Qaeda Islamic state, only months after the US succeeded in finally rooting out and eliminating Osama Bin Laden. One has to ask why northern Mali, given that some of these countries are replete with diamonds, minerals and gold?

Northern Mali has a huge amount of gold and the Gao Gold mines are famous in terms of the quality and the degree of deposits of gold under the yellow sands of the Sahel. Arms from Libya moved easily through unpatrolled borders into Mauritania and eventually across a sandy border to Mali. The heritage of transmigration and freedom of trade and movement in the Sahara and the Sahel region aided the free movement of guns and extremists. The prize was not only establishment of an Islamic state but the ready access to gold, a lucrative source of financing for individuals and extremist groups.

MAny Islamic groups came together to orchestrate Northern Mali and these groups have not dissipated. Like sand or water, they follow an insurgency model and organizational plan, blending in and out of local communities and moving rapidly and seemingly undetected over vast distances. See this Al Jazeera article for a wonderful summary of all of Mali’s extremist groups:

Making sense of Mali’s armed groups – Features – Al Jazeera English.

However, if Mali happened and then Algeria’s gas fields were attacked, given the regional nature of West Africa’s conflict trends over 30 years, this challenge will not end in Mali or in Algeria. Niger, Cote D’Ivoire and other countries in West Africa are also at risk of experiencing similar challenges and infiltrations. Now that the US has decided to locate a drone base in Niger, that country wi become a focus of Islamic Extremist insurgency. But the challenge is much larger than Niger or Mali – from Egypt to Guinea on the Atlantic and down to the southern tips of Somalia (where did the Al-Shabab go anyway?) and perhaps into Sudan, Islamic Extremist groups now will operate at will and will be able to do so, through the local patronage and support of indigenous Islamists who agree with the larger Islamic agenda of returning to core Islamic values. The challenge is for the US and the West to keep a very light footprint in the region while still supporting a local regional coalition of allies. A heavy presence with drones and boots on the ground will lead to exacerbate the case for Islamic extremism to draw more recruits and for an increasing number of localized islamic attacks and challenges to Western interests throughout the region.

Online address: http://politicoanalyst.com/2013/01/30/west-africas-cross-border-threats-making-sense-of-malis-islamic-armed-groups/?

 

Contribute to the Global Conflict Transformation Fund!

The fourth debate focuses on the principle that:

“4. Conflict transformation is a long-term, gradual and complex process, requiring sustained engagement and interaction.”

Professor Brian Walker, MBE, Winchester Centre of Religions for Reconciliation and Peace, University of Winchester

Freetown, January 2002: The Krio billboards cry out “De War Dun Dun!”; people sing and dance under the Cotton Tree; Freetown is free once more; free from a decade of Rebel War. Soon, people are enjoying democratic elections, and aid pours in as these delightful people of the world’s least developed country begin to rebuild their lives. Conflict is transformed – or is it?

The Muslim led government appoints a Christian, Bishop Humper, to chair their Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which explores in depth the root causes; what went wrong; what needs to change, and how. The Commission makes wide-ranging recommendations, laying foundations of reconciliation for all.

National reconciliation dawns with a cessation of armed conflict, a return to peace. To prevent renewed conflict, improvements in socioeconomic conditions commence; good governance is launched; strong, functional oversight institutions are instigated; and a reparations programme is initiated.

Community reconciliation starts with fostering understanding and sharing experiences; creating conditions for community acceptance of particular wrongs.

Individual reconciliation opens with victims and perpetrators meeting; not necessarily for forgiveness or remorse, but to rehumanise and recognise.

A decade on, Sierra Leone has climbed seven places up the UN Human Development Index, and peace remains throughout this month’s democratic General Election. However, life expectancy at birth remains less than 48 years; mean years at school are just 2.9; and average income per person is only US$2 per day.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission found the root cause of war was endemic greed, corruption and nepotism, with suppression of political expression and dissent a factor. Moreover, 45% of Sierra Leone’s population were 18 to 35 year old youths, who constituted the only viable opposition to government, and were the major perpetrators and victims of violence. Much of their conflict remains as a potential source of future violence.

 

How to prevent the escalation of inter-cultural violence?

Posted on September 18th, 2012 in the category Extremism, GCCT by TransConflict

The spate of protests in the Muslim world has once again demonstrated the need to re-think politics, peacebuilding, media and finance in order to prevent the escalation of inter-cultural hatred and violence.

Learn more about the Principles of Conflict Transformation!

By Thomas Röhlinger

Flames, demonstrations, guns – it is somewhat disconcerting to observe the uproar and violence in the Muslim world, as a reaction to a film obviously insulting prophet Mohamed.

Many of us are in a state of confusion, we are surrounded by rumors and assumptions that are spread via the media and the web: about the author of the films, about the possible reaction of the US, about the future of dialogue between the West and the Arab world.

Regardless of what may come, a few things are already clear:

First, we have to re-think politics. The peaceful dialogue of cultures is not something “nice to have” on sunny days – it has to be at the very heart of international decision-making. War and violence ruin all nations plans for development, growth and stability – so, it is very easy to see the need for change. In reality, however, grassroots activities for peace, intercultural exchange and peaceful conflict solutions are constantly underfunded – to a remarkable degree when compared to the military budgets worldwide. This is a shame for the civilized world.

Secondly, we have to re-think peacebuilding. We have to start much earlier – from childhood and youth onwards. Science has proven that the mental images of the world, empathy and a spirit of global citizenship are developed in early childhood and youth. Therefore, it is much easier and effective to intervene during this critical time than to un-program later. If we can help foster in our children a spirit of global respect and personal friendship, such films would maybe neither be produced nor would they gain such attention. Everybody would know that the vast majority “of the others” are not enemies. If we would have more and better funded intercultural exchange programs worldwide, many more young people would think “I have many friends in this region; I am sure they do not think like this, so let’s stay calm on both sides”. The virus of hatred and violence would not spread like wildfire as we see it today. This neglect towards younger generations – which will be the ones that have to face the consequences of the violent present – is an attitude that older generations should be ashamed of.

Thirdly, we have to re-think media and media education. The movie was made possible by independent funders and spread via social media. So, it is very clear how important it is to create and fund national and global media environments that encourage young people to produce attractive peer-to-peer media for peace and understanding. The “movie” had an incredible impact that it did not deserve. This shows how important intercultural media training is: an interculturally sensitive audience would not have a reaction like the one we saw.

If we agree on the things said, we have to re-think finance: the money to make the world a better place is there. Only two figures: according to the Global Peace Index of the Institute for Economics and Peace, $9 trillion could be saved if the armed conflicts worldwide were solved. Another $21 to $31 trillion are hidden in off-shore bank accounts, according to the research of James S. Henry, a former McKinsey & Co. chief economist and an economist for the Tax Justice Network.

So, it is pretty simple: If we can make such enormous financial resources accessible for development, dialogue and peace, we have very good chances of not seeing such events in future generations. Another world is possible.

Thomas Röhlinger is the founder and editor-in-chief of Radijojo and the World Children’s Radio Network. He initiated the World Children’s Media Foundation.

Read more at:http://www.transconflict.com

 

More Support for Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Voiced in Jamaica

In a tribute to Honourable  P.J. Patterson former prime minister of Jamaica delivered on 4th February 2012 , Honourable Dr.Kenny Anthony , Prime Minister of Saint Lucia had this to say about the CCJ and PJ Patterson:

“If PJ championed the consolidation of the region’s negotiating machinery, he did no less for the justice system. He was and remains an ardent advocate of the Caribbean Court of Justice, a cause close to my own heart, and one of the ties that bind us tangibly to each other at a deep personal level.

I believe as he does that it is anathema to any self-respecting people- particularly a people so valiantly throwing off the yoke of colonial domination- to place above our own judicial system an  appellate court of higher authority than our own. The illogic of perpetuating such a situation should slap us forcefully  in the face in the hope of restoring  us to reason . As PJ maintained, it was time:

To sever the last remaining vestiges to dependency which continued to reflect in a constitutional requirement for final determination to be made by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.

Yet the promulgation of the very idea of a Caribbean Court of Justice seemed fraught with doubt and fear and opposition. The arguments against were the usual mix of unsubstantiated rumblings, suggesting subterfuge and possible subversion of justice.

But then there was PJ to contend with. And , in a masterly combination of irrefutable logic, persuasion , political savvy and impeccable timing he held the detractors accountable for their actions, aimed his lance of enlightenment and struck a blow for an idea- indeed a principle- whose time had come.

If nothing else, he established as a matter of fact both at home and so in the rest of the region, the primacy of the CCJ as an indispensable requirement  of the integration movement and a prerequisite  for the successful establishment  of a single market and economy.”

 

In response Mr Patterson said among other things,

“The challenges which we face oblige us, not just out of a question of sentiment, but of shared necessity, to pool our collective strengths and combine all our resources in the development of the Caribbean to which we belong,”

Patterson argued that the questions surrounding the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) have been answered, and the countries within the region should embrace it as their final appellate court.

“We have already paid for the Caribbean Court of Justice in full, whether or not we use it as our final appellate court, so let’s embrace it. We have also had consultations now for nearly 20 years about the move from a monarchy to establishing a republic, where we choose as head of state, somebody with an embodiment of the highest pinnacle of achievement,”

Readers will recall that as is elsewhere reported on this website, OECS Heads of Government meeting last month in Saint Lucia set  an agenda for acceding to the appellate jurisdiction of the CCJ. 

The OECS decision was preceded by the pro CCJ sentiments expressed by the Prime Minster of Jamaica Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller in her inaugural speech after her election victory and is now followed by the statements quoted above. It therefore  appears that the political pendulum has swung in favour of the CCJ somewhat and the idea of a separate Court of Appeal for Jamaica touted by former Prime Minister of Jamaica  Bruce Golding before his retirement, has been firmly rejected.

The Editor,

Regionalconflictinsights.

 

 

The Purpose of Brainstorming

In a recent article written by Jonah Lehrer in the New Yorker, the writer seemed to gloat over the alleged proof that good old fashioned arguments produce more creative results than the controlled atmosphere of brainstorming.

I don’t doubt the results which the writer cites but I doubt that he has a good understanding of the impact of the research on the utility of brainstorming. The writer would need to understand how brainstorming has evolved beyond the intention of the founder.

It is noted that much of the research done to produce the material for the article was produced in circumstances where “equals” were involved in research in highly sanitized settings of universities and the like.

Persons who are academics, students, professional or vocational equals need not utilize the technique of brainstorming unless they feel that there is something being hidden from the group or that there are dominant personalities or persons in the group who would use unscrupulous means to prevent the group from achieving positive results. Brainstorming would then most likely be introduced by intervening facilitator who is made aware of the special circumstances.

Brainstorming, not unlike scientific experimentation seeks to find solutions to problems in a controlled environment. The more controlled the environment the less likely that the result would be the product of extraneous influences such as the need to play to the gallery, whether the gallery be in the house of parliament , a studio, a media audience or even a jury.

Brainstorming is but one example of the use of a controlled environment that does not permit inputs that have nothing to do with the effort to solve a particular problem.

In a court room setting the jury is always told to, as much as possible, put the things heard outside of the courtroom about the case out of their minds. In spite of the obvious difficulty in achieving this objective the effort is made to achieve clinical insulation.

In cultures, such as the Caribbean where charismatic politicians are a regular feature of the landscape, or where hero worship makes it impossible to promote ideas beyond a particular circle, brainstorming helps to at least make it possible to discover new options.

Some people may pretend that the forces which would render sensible ideas insignificant, or who would “shout down” ideas they don’t agree with, whether good or bad, are not prevalent in our culture. But they have their heads stuck in the sand.

When I say “shout down” I mean using “noise” to drown out a speaker rather than debating.

Brainstorming requires a clinical environment where people are not permitted to call each other names, to ridicule each other or appeal to extraneous factors and personalities to win support for their ideas. In extreme circumstances no disagreement or criticism may be allowed. This approach makes it possible for creative ideas to emerge from the group. Brainstorming removes the negative influences from the debate.

Yes, negativity may be based on a subjective judgement but logic assists in any determination of what is relevant or not relevant to any discussion and in my experience brainstorming is influenced by this kind of logic.

To criticize brainstorming outside of this context is to misunderstand the purpose of brainstorming.

Not every group that meets to thrash out an issue has a background of mutual respect or recognition of high achievement either at the behavioural or cognitive level. Sometimes there is mutual suspicion. Some people fear their peers and their superiors. The point I am making is that it is not a perfect world and the so-called liberals are well aware of that. The scientific intellectual thinkers should also be aware of that fact.

The interaction of any group including its approach to problem solving is based on its group culture/ dymanics. I agree with the author that we should not take it for granted that all group dynamics are the same.

I note the following passages from the article with keen interest:

“Jones’s explanation is that scientific advances have led to a situation where all the remaining problems are incredibly hard. Researchers are forced to become increasingly specialized, because there’s only so much information one mind can handle. And they have to collaborate, because the most interesting mysteries lie at the intersections of disciplines. “A hundred years ago, the Wright brothers could build an airplane all by themselves,” Jones says. “Now Boeing needs hundreds of engineers just to design and produce engines.” The larger lesson is that the increasing complexity of human knowledge, coupled with the escalating difficulty of those remaining questions, means that people must either work together or fail alone. But if brainstorming is useless, the question still remains: what’s the best template for group creativity?”

...................................................................................................................................“The fatal misconception behind brainstorming is that there is a particular script we should all follow in group interactions. The lesson of building 20 is that when the composition of the group is right –enough people with different perspectives running into one another in unpredictable ways- the group dynamic will take care of itself. All these errant discussions add up.”

Addressing the last part of the quotation first; I disagree that brainstorming assumes a particular script must be followed in human interactions. As I said earlier brainstorming is useful in certain conditions. The article itself demonstrates how the rules may be modified according to the circumstances. The building 20 example demonstrates the importance of clinical insulation around a working group with diverse ideas.

The United States with its freewheeling ideas has had to resort to non-free-wheeling inputs to keep certain industries alive. The real issue is whose interests do the brainstormed or debated ideas serve at the end of the day and where the creativity of free debates produces more ideas than brainstorming, how many of those ideas see the light of day in terms of being put to use in the market place, social or scientific problem solving?

The first quotation is more credible in my view. Yes we have to respect the inputs of various disciplines if we are to understand how things really work. I strongly support this view. Just like musicians coming together to create great harmonious music we have to search for the methods of group interaction which simulate some kind of harmony. But perhaps harmonious music is itself a discipline!  

Francis Belle 

 

Blogger Offers His Views on Syria

 How should the West react?

By Stephen Yolland

 

I am re-publishing my original article on the situation in Syria, originally published on 23rd December, and before Syria became the issue du jour on the nightly news, because my conclusion then seems even more pressing today.

Sadly, what I predicted them – a full-scale civil war that threatens to spill over into neighbouring countries and embroil the area in an unpredictable and murderous regional conflict – is even more likely than it was a couple of months ago, if it could not be said to be enthusiastically underway already.

I return to my thesis of before Christmas. Distasteful as it may be to contemplate, the Assad regime is not only vicious and cruel, it is also proving extraordinarily difficult to dislodge. Atrocity is heaped on atrocity – even if, sadly, we only really pay attention when brave western journalists are deliberately targeted and killed and injured – and the situation, already bloody in the extreme, threatens to spiral utterly out of control.

The simple fact is, if you thought the mess in Libya was protracted, and you are disappointed that the flowering of democracy in Egypt merely appears to have resulted in the same bad guys remaining in charge under a different name, then get used to being depressed, because the situation in Syria is infinitely more complex and even less likely to provide a neat solution sensible to Western tastes.

Whilst the rebellion is now unlikely to be put down successfully, the infinitely stronger and better equipped government forces can continue to wreak havoc on rebel areas for many months or years. There is no widespread desire to replace Assad in the capital as a whole, not because it is a highly successful regime, but merely because the capital of this relatively modern and essentially secular country fears the arrival of an incoming Islamic regime even more.

Whilst Assad and his cronies must, eventually, step aside for there to be a lasting settlement, with no obvious “out” they will cling to power – stubbornly – for a long time yet, and the country is rapidly degenerating into a “failed state” governed by competing factions and warlords. The stage is set for a humanitarian disaster that will make the civilian casualties in the Arab Spring thus far look like a merely prelude to the main tragic opera.

I repeat what I said below: there needs to be a circuit breaker, and the circuit breaker, much as even saying it sticks in my craw, is to create a safe haven for the Government and its more enmeshed Baathist fascists.

Many will remain behind, and de-Baathification of some future Syria is a myth. Just as with Iraq, the other country ruled for a generation by a brutal Baathist strongman, they will be needed to ensure a continuance of civil society after the Assad dynasty and its most ironed-on supporters have been spirited away – to Russia, perhaps, which has proven entirely disruptive of any attempt to bring its satellite to heel.

So shout “Assad out” for all you’re worth, by all means. He and the shadowy figures behind him will not be missed. But remember, as you do, that the only way to actually achieve “Assad out”  without tens of thousands of casualties will be exactly that – an out, for Assad, and the rest of his miserable crew.

And if you don’t want to re-read the original article, just flick to the bottom, and buy the damn tee shirt.

Ignore cafe society trudging on unconcerned in parts of Damascus. There is a genuine and widespread rebellion going on in Syria, yet the reporting of its scale to the west is patchy. Sadly, the regime’s determination to hang on is resulting in many more thousands of deaths than previously feared, at least 400 of which have been children. Read more here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/22/6200-killed-in-syrian-crackdown

 

It should also be said that the anti-Assad forces may well also be responsible for horrible atrocities.

The West’s response to all this, thus far, apart from some ineffectual chest beating, has been muted. Does this reflect that the West would rather a weak President Assad still in place that they can control rather than an unknown, unquantifiable and possibly pro-Islamic-extremist opposition?

Let us be clear. The longer the aspirations of the Syrian people are crushed, the more fundamentalist, non-secular and anti-Western the incoming regime will be. It is time for the West to be unambiguously on the side of the angels, and the angels are emphatically not Assad and his cronies.

No, no: I do not mean the West should invade Syria on behalf of the rebels, or any other sort of militarist posturing or adventuring. But back channels must now be used effectively to ensure that the true leaders in the military-Baathist alliance realise that the game is well and truly up, and they must make way for a new and more democratic Syria, or inevitably end up hanging from street lights themselves.

And if necessary – and let us say the unsayable here – safe haven must be found for current regime insiders – yes, including Assad and his family themselves – stomach-turning though that prospect may be – in order to prevent the possible loss of tens of thousands of innocent lives in a full-scale civil war.

Time is short. And as this article by the eminent British writer Robert Fisk enumerates, the fear of the coming conflict embroiling next-door Lebanon is very real too.

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/robert-fisk-shadow-of-syrian-conflict-stretching-into-lebanon-2630243.html

These are dangerous times indeed, and needless to say, if we do not manage them correctly, then the real losers will be – overwhelmingly – innocent men, woman and children who simply dream of living in peace and freedom. It would be easy to despair, but we cannot. This situation must be resolved, or we abandon the innocents to the militia, the armed lunatics, and fanatics, and the psychopaths.

On all sides.

You may also wish to consider purchasing this t-shirt. It is consistently one of the most popular I sell, and the most commented on when I wear it myself. Buy a shirt, change the world, one person’s opinion at a time. It might not seem much, but it’s better than doing nothing.

http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431249

 

Buy the shirt, change the world one person's opinion at a time.

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