Tag: conflict

Law and the Post-Conflict Protection of Women from Violence

The following is a guest post by Dr. Jillienne Haglund, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Haglund is a contributor to a forthcoming special issue in Conflict Management and Peace Science on gender and political violence. All of the articles in the special issue are now available on Online First and several are currently available to download for free.


In her 2015 statement, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bungura noted that conflict-related sexual violence is “not about sex; it is about violence and power,” further noting that the effect of such crimes is to silence victims. If one effect of sexual violence during conflict is to silence women victims, what efforts can states make to break the silence and address this devastating crime? After her 2015 mission to Colombia, Bungura released a statement detailing progress made in Colombia’s response to nearly 50 years of civil conflict plagued by widespread sexual violence. Particularly notable is Colombia’s adoption of groundbreaking legislation, including Law 1719, aimed at enhancing the status of sexual violence survivors so they can receive reparations, psychosocial support, and free medical care, as well as explicitly recognizing that sexual violence constitutes a crime against humanity. While challenges still remain, including the consistent implementation of laws and policies on the ground, legal reforms represent an important step in addressing conflict-related sexual violence against women.

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Affective or Effective? War Child’s Gamefication of Conflict Experience

Gamification is “is the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges”, to borrow the course description from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania’s Gamification MOOC.

The approach has been used to try and improve employee productivity, facilitate risk prevention education (and indeed many other forms of education) , resolve social conflict, and, perhaps less surprisingly, in marketing. And just in case you thought there were any contexts in which gamification couldn’t be used, militaries are already in on the act, with both the US military and the Israeli Defence Force using it to try and cultivate favourable attitudes and support and get their message out to target audiences. Gamifiying conflict by militaries was always going to be controversial, especially when they’re actively engaged in warfare as the IDF discovered in 2012, although gamification guru Yu-kai Chou argues that this is actually just coming full circle given that most games are predicated on mimicking the essential characteristics of war in the first place.

But if trying to make war appealing and “fun” will strike many people as a negative (or at least highly pragmatic) use of gamification, what about efforts aimed at highlighting the horrors of war? Helen Berents recently responded to the release of a viral advert from UK charity War Child that is designed to raise awareness of children’s experiences of conflict. Using Storify, this post presents the debate that ensued (minus the bit that happened on Facebook, which I’ll leave Helen to summarise), and considers the role and efficacy of emotion in trying to mobilize people in support of a particular cause.

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Not What We Bargained For: The Cyber Problem

Last week the New America Foundation hosted its launch for an interdisciplinary cybersecurity initiative. I was fortunate enough to be asked to attend and speak, but the real benefit was that I was afforded an opportunity to listen to some really remarkable people in the cyber community discuss cybersecurity, law, and war.   I listened to a few very interesting comments. For instance, Assistant Attorney General, John Carlin, claimed that “we” (i.e. the United States) have “solved the attribution problem, and the National Security Agency Director & Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) Commander, Admiral Mike Rogers, say that he will never act outside of the bounds of law in his two roles.   These statements got me to thinking about war, cyberspace and international relations (IR).

In particular, IR scholars have tended to argue over the definitions of “cyberwar,” and whether and to what extent we ought to view this new technology as a “game-changer” (Clarke and Knake 2010; Rid 2011; Stone 2011; Gartzke 2013; Kello 2013; Valeriano and Maness 2015).   Liff (2012), for instance, argues that cyber power is not a “new absolute weapon,” and it is instead beholden to the same rationale of the bargaining model of war. Of course, the problem for Liff is that the “absolute weapon” he utilizes as a foil for cyber weapons/war is not equivalent in any sense, as the “absolute weapon,” according to Brodie, is the nuclear weapon and so has a different and unique bargaining logic unto itself (Schelling 1977). Conventional weapons follow a different logic (George and Smoke 1974).

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Territoriality and Beyond

Stacie Goddard has a guest post at the IR Blog promoting her new book, Indivisible Territory and the Politics of Legitimacy:

In international relations, territory often appears indivisible: actors are unable to divide territory through negotiation, shared sovereignty, compensation, or other mechanisms of division… As the site of competing national and religious claims, it may seem little wonder that Jerusalem, Northern Ireland, Kashmir and Taiwan are indivisible; how could it be any other way?… It’s exactly this conventional wisdom that this book attempts to challenge.My central argument is that indivisible territory is a social construct: far from being inevitable or inherent to territory, indivisibility is a contingent outcome, one that is very much the product of human action. When bargaining over territory, politicians engage in a contentious legitimation process: in making their claims to territory, actors use rationales that explain why their territorial demands are legitimate.

As elites attempt to outbid each they are likely to turn to rhetoric—what I call “legitimation strategies”—that will give them an advantage over their opponent. Politicians use rhetoric that will build support at home. They turn to language designed to coerce their opponent into accepting their demands. In most cases, these politicians are not trying to instigate violent, intractable conflict—they are simply using whatever legitimation strategies help them further their own political interests. But once used, legitimation strategies can have unintended consequences. Most notably, a politicians’ choice of rhetoric can lead to lock-in effects: by resonating with some actors and not others, legitimation strategies can trap actors into bargaining positions where they are unable to recognize the legitimacy of their opponent’s demands. When this happens, actors come to negotiations with incompatible claims, constructing the territory as indivisible.

Viewed in this way indivisibility is tragic, but hardly inevitable: how actors choose to legitimate their interests can either create or destroy the possibility of dividing territory. The book traces this process through two significant cases of indivisible conflict: Ulster (and then Northern Ireland), and Jerusalem.

I haven’t read the book yet, but reading the short description made me think of another paradox of territoriality and conflict: the myth that love of indivisible territory must lead to conflict obscures not only the menu of valid political choices for resolving political claims by dividing territory, as Goddard argues, but also the ways that the indivisibility of territory can be used to dampen conflict and promote nonviolent conflict resolution. It is often common love of place-ness that binds people together in civic nationalist communities. The Bosnian city of Tuzla, for example, managed to avoid major ethnic clashes during the war in ex-Yugoslavia because its mayor promulgated, and its citizens espoused, a view that its people are citizens of the same city rather than members of distinct ethnic or nationalist groups. So I think the relationship of territorial myth and identity to conflict outcomes is quite complex. I look forward to reading Goddard’s contribution.

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