The Olive Branch
May 17, 2013 | by Viola Gienger and Anand Varghese
The intense role of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in recording – and sometimes distorting – the searing Syrian conflict is raising some mind-bending questions about whether and how data analysis could help sift the information deluge to find ground truth and even help predict conflict in the future.
USIP’s Center of Innovation in Science, Technology and Peacebuilding recently co-hosted the latest meeting of experts in its “Blogs & Bullets” initiative with Stanford University and George Washington University to study the implications with specialists from technology companies, educational institutions, advocacy groups and others. Representatives included experts from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Bit.ly, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the U.S. government’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. | Read more
May 13, 2013 | by USIP Staff
In the wake of Pakistan’s general elections held on May 11, USIP experts comment on the vote’s high turnout and discuss the significance of the elections for Pakistan’s democratic future. It was the first Pakistan election in which a civilian government recognized as democratically elected completed a full term and will hand over to another democratically elected civilian administration.
Andrew Wilder, director of USIP’s Afghanistan and Pakistan programs, noted that the high rates of voter participation indicate the public is rejecting militant demands. | Read more
May 10, 2013 | by Nadia Naviwala
On the day before elections in Pakistan, it’s hard to tell what Pakistan’s near-term future will look like.
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) violence has turned the elections into a battle for the soul of the state. Relatively secular parties, which supported security operations against the Taliban while in power over the past five years, are seeing their candidates killed and rallies and offices attacked. This has boosted the odds for parties that favor negotiations and peaceful engagement with the TTP, including the party of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. How the next government will deal with growing militancy and violence is entirely unclear.
But as a heated campaign season comes to an end, one point has been missed: all political parties agree that Pakistan desperately needs governance. | Read more
May 10, 2013 | by Carla Ferstman
A new United Nations investigative report on massive human rights abuses committed by Congolese government soldiers and M23 rebels provides a much needed examination of atrocities perpetrated at the end of 2012. The U.N. is now reviewing its support to those units of the Congolese Army that were implicated in the abuses. Yet the report leaves unanswered significant questions about the U.N.’s peacekeeping work in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). And by implication, it raises the wider issue of why the U.N. does not apply the same human rights conditions to militaries that participate in its peacekeeping activities that it does to a host government’s military. | Read more
May 9, 2013 | by Virginia M. Bouvie
Colombia’s peace talks in Havana don’t directly involve representatives of civil society, but the Colombian government and the FARC anticipated limited roles for civic groups and the public since the negotiations began last November. In addition to the "official" venues for such input, there has been an upsurge of additional civil society initiatives that also seek to influence the peace process and may improve any potential agreement’s chances for success.
For Colombia, the formal channels were laid out in the "General Agreement for the End of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable, Durable Peace," signed in Havana, Cuba, on August 26, 2012. The peace process is a response to "the clamor of the population for peace," notes the preamble to the agreement. Moreover, the parties proclaimed that "the building of peace is a matter for the entire society and requires the participation of everyone, without distinction." | Read more
May 3, 2013 | by Viola Gienger
Seventeen of the world’s most eminent thinkers including Nobel laureates, academics and scientists contributed their thoughts to a 2002-2006 lecture series commissioned by the United Nations secretary-general at the time, Kofi Annan. Their reflections are now compiled into a book, "The Brilliant Art of Peace", that draws its title from a declaration of optimism by the renowned writer Toni Morrison.
Published this month by the U.S. Institute of Peace Press, the book was edited by Abiodun Williams, former senior vice president of USIP’s Center for Conflict Management, who has since become president of The Hague Institute for Global Justice in The Netherlands. He organized the lecture series in his position as Annan’s director of strategic planning.
Among the inspiring prose is the comment from Morrison in an essay entitled “The Humanities after 9/11”:
“I am convinced that the language that has the most force, that requires the most acumen, talent, grace, genius, and, yes, beauty, can never be, will never again be, found in paeans to the glory of war or erotic rallying cries to battle,” she writes. “The power of this alternative language does not arise from the tiresome, wasteful art of war, but, rather, from the demanding, brilliant art of peace.” | Read more
May 2, 2013 | by Manal Omar and Sarhang Hamasaeed
Unlike any time in the past 16 months, the threat of all-out chaos and violence in Iraq’s most volatile provinces is high and has a potential to return the country to the upheaval of 2005-2007 or worse, given the regional dynamics and the complications stemming from the war in neighboring Syria.
While interest in developments inside Iraq has shifted away for many experts, the country’s future is pivotal to the region. What had been just potential for the conflicts in Iraq and Syria to influence each other has escalated to a combined threat in many ways. Groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and Jabhat al-Nusra have already merged leadership, and fighting forces on both sides of the border are actively pursuing their political aspirations of mutual support. This rapidly evolving scenario will require far more effort and resources to contain if action is delayed. | Read more
Welcome to USIP's Olive Branch blog, a place for timely analysis, views from the field and an exchange of ideas about how to build peace and end or prevent conflict. Through its work in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and beyond, the Institute blends its expert analysis with its field work, a dynamic in which each must always inform the other on parallel tracks. We hope that this blog will reflect that spirit of combining thought with action. And we invite you to browse our posts and then send us your own ideas, comments or reflections.
Each blog post and comment posted on the Olive Branch represents the views of the author and not necessarily that of USIP, a non-partisan, congressionally-funded organization that does not advocate for policy positions.