If you only read one thing this week…


The hazards of working in Afghanistan by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
January 27, 2011, 2:59 pm
Filed under: conflict, Development theory, If you only have 15 mins

Over the past year, over 100 aid workers have been killed in Afghanistan. This NY Times article cracks open the debate about the impact that the US military and government contractors may have on the safety and security of humanitarian workers. Humanitarian aid agencies, such as Mercy Corps, mostly operate without the use of armed guards, whereas many government contractors work behind fortified compounds with armed guards. Despite the high number of deaths from aid workers, the number of injuries and deaths from contractors is almost four times as high, and the number of military casualties almost doubles that. Read the article to learn more about the intertwining of these ongoing initiatives in Afghanistan.

For Nick’s most recent literature review on incidents of violence against humanitarian workers see this post.



Transparency International’s 2010 report published by Nick
October 26, 2010, 8:33 am
Filed under: Articles, conflict, governance, If you only have 15 mins, Web sites

Check where your country falls on the perception of corruption by taking a look at the map, and reading the report here.

If you’re really pressed for time the BBC summarizes the results here with the headline numbers being a high correlation between war and corruption. Somalia tops the leader board for most corrupt, followed by Burma, Afghanistan then Iraq. Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore tie for least corrupt.



State-building and peace-building – Do they go hand-in-hand? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
September 16, 2010, 11:28 am
Filed under: conflict

This ODI briefing paper provides nice definitions of peace-building, state-building and political settlements. It talks about how the two approaches can complement each other but also how they can undermine each other. It is a useful and brief analysis, my only frustration is that the recommendations are the ones that you see at the end of many briefing papers (don’t create false expectations, understand the context more, commit long-term). While these are all good, solid recommendations it would be nice to see a little more sophistication and nuance.



Girls and Boys by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
December 8, 2009, 3:51 pm
Filed under: Articles, conflict, Development theory

So coincidentally I went to two different sites this week – one looking at boys and the other girls:

1. GIRLS:  Until recently I had only got as far as the slick video published by the Nike Foundation on the Girl Effect. My explorations this week led me further into their website and I found the “Your Move” section of their site useful in giving some practical tools and structures for thinking about how to include a girl-focussed approach in programs. In particular I liked the approaches to finding girls in the community on page 10 and the self assessments to allow different types of organizations to understand the degree to which they are including girls in their programs (page 19 onwards). I’m still looking for some materials that talk about how this fits with an overall youth approach but it gave me some food for thought.

2. BOYS: A recent World Bank paper finds a correlation between countries with high numbers of under-educated boys and violence and tests five hypotheses relating to education and young men. The full report is published here or you can get a summary from Foreign Policy here.   Our attention is drawn in particular to the challenges for Sub-Saharan Africa which faces the youngest age structure and the lowest educational attainment levels.



(Too) Great Expectations? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
August 17, 2009, 2:22 pm
Filed under: conflict, Development theory, If you only have 15 mins, Uncategorized

When sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn coined the term “youth bulge” during the 1990s, he provided definition of a dual-sided phenomena that has repeatedly emerged throughout history.  Countries or regions which see population booms in younger demographics (such as the Middle East where 65% of the population is now under thirty), are privy to mass labor forces useful for fueling economies. However, if not properly supported the youth bulge can turn dangerous as in Kenya, a country which expanded from only just under 3 million people less than a century ago to nearly 37 million people as of 2008, with the average age around eighteen. Without sufficient opportunities, the concern is that many of these “idle youths” will turn to violent or extremist groups leading to outbreaks of instability and violence.

A recent article by the International Rescue Committee points out that 12 of the 15 countries with the largest youth bulge are also home to violent conflict and/or large displaced populations. It identifies the fact that a large youth bulge, coupled with lack of opportunity creates a high risk for destabilization. Furthermore, the fact that 50% of all aid education in the last ten years has gone to basic education is now creating huge pressure on post-primary education options as expectations are created through the education channels for continuing education and/or employment that are not necessarily being met.

The article has some interesting facts and examples (and makes policy recommendations) on the challenges of creating opportunities for young people at the same time as raising education levels.

To help mitigate circumstances and better infrastructure to better support this youth bulge, the IRC calls for both governments and NGOs to reevaluate their approach and aid for education. Whereas many education programs may be put up in response to emergencies, often the support and benefits are only short-term. In response the IRC calls for aid givers and providers should better align policy and foresight with humanitarian and development plans. Additionally, as the education system is improved, the economy must be strengthened to match and support its educated workforce. Thirdly, the education program in any given country must be accessible and relevant to the youth and the opportunities that await them.



Emotions, Poverty, or Politics: US military perspectives on Islamic Movements by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
June 7, 2007, 9:03 pm
Filed under: Articles, conflict, If you only have 15 mins, Megatrend

Anne Marie Baylouny of the US Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey writes a fascinating article that sheds some light on how the US military is thinking about ‘violent movements in the name of Islam’ here. It’s a short, and interesting take. Without wanting to give away the punchline, Anne tells us that we need to spend more time understanding the issues – “Islamism is one of the most important foci of policy makers and scholars today, yet misconceptions about it abound. We lose a great deal by ignoring the knowledge generated through years of study in other parts of the world, data that could aid in correctly identifying what Islamism is, what causes it, when it turns violent, and how best to meet our policy aims.



Reducing urban violence through participatory methodologies by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
March 14, 2007, 11:15 pm
Filed under: conflict, Development theory, If you have 30 mins

Caroline Moser, Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution writes a fascinating paper on how participatory methodologies typically used for poverty reduction are being used to try to reduce urban violence in developing countries. The paper can be found as a pdf here, and a summary is posted below. Continue reading