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  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The peace process to end the 30-year-old insurgency of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) against Turkey's government is at a turning point. It will either collapse as the sides squander years of work, or it will accelerate as they commit to real convergences. Both act as if they can still play for time – the government to win one more election, the PKK to further build up quasi-state structures in the country's predominantly- Kurdish south east. But despite a worrying upsurge in hostilities, they currently face few insuperable obstacles at home and have two strong leaders who can still see the process through. Without first achieving peace, they cannot cooperate in fighting their common enemy, the jihadi threat, particularly from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Increasing ceasefire violations, urban unrest and Islamist extremism spilling over into Turkey from regional conflicts underline the cost of delays. Both sides must put aside external pretexts and domestic inertia to compromise on the chief problem, the Turkey-PKK conflict inside Turkey.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Ethnic Conflict, Peace Studies, Treaties and Agreements, War, Armed Struggle
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The Palestinian refugee question, like the refugees themselves, has been politically marginalised and demoted on the diplomatic agenda. Yet, whenever the diplomatic process comes out of its current hiatus, the Palestinian leadership will be able to negotiate and sell a deal only if it wins the support or at least acquiescence of refugees – because if it does not, it will not bring along the rest of the Palestinian population. Refugees currently feel alienated from the Palestinian Authority (PA), which they regard with suspicion; doubt the intentions of Palestinian negotiators, whom they do not believe represent their interests; and, as one of the more impoverished Palestinian groups, resent the class structure that the PA and its economic policies have produced. As a result of their isolation, refugees in the West Bank and Gaza are making demands for services and representation that are reinforcing emerging divisions within Palestinian society and politics. There arguably are ways to address refugee needs, both diplomatic and practical, that are not mutually exclusive with core Israeli interests. This report examines what could be done on the Palestinian side to mitigate the risk that the Palestinian refugee question derails a future negotiation.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Refugee Issues, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The situation in Rakhine State contains a toxic mixture of historical centre-periphery tensions, serious intercommunal and inter-religious conflict with minority Muslim communities, and extreme poverty and under-development. This led to major violence in 2012 and further sporadic outbreaks since then. The political temperature is high, and likely to increase as Myanmar moves closer to national elections at the end of 2015. It represents a significant threat to the overall success of the transition, and has severely damaged the reputation of the government when it most needs international support and investment. Any policy approach must start from the recognition that there will be no easy fixes or quick solutions. The problems faced by Rakhine State are rooted in decades of armed violence, authoritarian rule and state-society conflict. This crisis has affected the whole of the state and all communities within it. It requires a sustained and multi-pronged response, as well as critical humanitarian and protection interventions in the interim.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Conflict Prevention, Political Violence, Post Colonialism, Religion, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Asia, Myanmar
  • Publication Date: 11-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Nigeria's presidential, parliamentary and state gubernatorial and assembly elections, scheduled for February 2015, will be more contentious than usual. Tensions within and between the two major political parties, competing claims to the presidency between northern and Niger Delta politicians and along religious lines, the grim radical Islamist Boko Haram insurgency and increasing communal violence in several northern states, along with inadequate preparations by the electoral commission and apparent bias by security agencies, suggest the country is heading toward a very volatile and vicious electoral contest. If this violent trend continues, and particularly if the vote is close, marred or followed by widespread violence, it would deepen Nigeria's already grave security and governance crises. The government, its agencies and all other national figures must work urgently to ensure that the vote is not conducted in an explosive situation as this could further destabilise the country.
  • Topic: Security, Political Violence, Ethnic Government, Governance, Sectarian violence, Self Determination
  • Political Geography: Africa, Nigeria
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: On 22 May, for the twelfth time in Thailand's history, the army seized power after months of political turbulence. This is not simply more of the same. The past decade has seen an intensifying cycle of election, protest and government downfall, whether at the hands of the courts or military, revealing deepening societal cleavages and elite rivalries, highlighting competing notions of legitimate authority. A looming royal succession, prohibited by law from being openly discussed, adds to the urgency. A failure to fix this dysfunction risks greater turmoil. The military's apparent prescription – gelding elected leaders in favour of unelected institutions – is more likely to bring conflict than cohesion, given a recent history of a newly empowered electorate. For the army, buyer's remorse is not an option, nor is open-ended autocracy; rather its legacy, and Thailand's stability, depend on its success in forging a path – thus far elusive – both respectful of majoritarian politics and in which all Thais can see their concerns acknowledged.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Democratization, Ethnic Conflict, Governance, Authoritarianism
  • Political Geography: Asia, Thailand
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The November 2013 defeat of the M23 armed group raised the hope that, after almost two decades of conflict, fundamental change and stabilisation were possible in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the region. This was the result of a rare convergence of interests between Kinshasa and major international and regional actors. However, the unity of vision and action that materialised in the February 2013 signing of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) agreement has now dissolved. It needs to be restored, if necessary through the UN Security Council (UNSC) convening a high-level meeting of DRC government, other key regional players and international actors to develop a shared and comprehensive strategy to deal with the armed groups still operating in eastern DRC. Failure to do so will prolong the tragic status quo of attacks and pillaging by armed groups against an already brutalised civilian population.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Nations
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In the midst of the Ebola crisis, Guinea is preparing for the presidential election due in 2015. The exact election date is just one of many points being contested by the government and opposition. The political debate is increasingly held along ethnic lines, rallying the vast majority of the Malinké behind President Alpha Condé's coalition and the Peul behind former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo's alliance. Violent protests around elections in 2012 and 2013, with highly contested results, brought both sides to the negotiating table, but the July 2014 talks about a future electoral framework quickly failed, marking the parties' deep suspicion and unwillingness to compromise. A highly flawed judiciary adds to the climate of uncertainty and the government is reluctant to listen to calls for a new round of dialogue and international mediation. In its latest briefing, Guinea's Other Emergency: Organising Elections, the International Crisis Group outlines the steps that should be taken to ensure peaceful elections.
  • Topic: Ethnic Conflict, Ethnic Government, Political Power Sharing, Self Determination
  • Political Geography: Africa, Guinea
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Jonglei state's combustible mix of armed political opposition, violent ethnic militias and dysfunctional political system were part of the tinder that led to the eruption of the civil war in South Sudan in late December 2013. Despite eleven months of peace talks, mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the war threatens to reintensify in the coming weeks. The negotiations do not reflect the diversity of armed groups and interests in South Sudan and the region, most of which are nominally allied with either President Salva Kiir's government or former Vice President Riek Machar's Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/ A-IO). The constellation of regional and South Sudanese armed groups in Jonglei is emblematic of the regional, national and local challenges to peace and the pattern of a war that cannot be resolved by engaging only two of the nearly two-dozen armed groups in the country and ignoring those that have not yet engaged in the fight.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Governance, Peacekeeping
  • Political Geography: Sudan
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: As a final peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) nears, negotiators face an elaborate juggling act if they are to lay out a sustainable path for guerrilla fighters to disarm and reintegrate into civilian life. A viable transition architecture not only needs to be credible in the eyes of FARC but must also reassure a society that remains deeply unconvinced of the group's willingness to lay down its arms, cut its links with organised crime and play by the rules of democracy. The failure of disarmament and reintegration would at best delay the implementation of reforms already agreed at the Havana talks since 2012. At worst, it could plunge the entire agreement into a downward spiral of renewed violence and eroding political support. Strong internal and external guarantees are needed to carry the process through a probably tumultuous and volatile period ahead. There is a lot that can go wrong. Most of the 7,000 or so combatants, and three times that number in support networks, are concentrated in peripheral zones with little civilian state presence and infrastructure. Some guerrilla fronts are involved in the drug economy and illegal mining. In most regions FARC operates in proximity to the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia's second guerrilla group, or other illegal armed groups, exposing its members to security threats and an array of options for rearmament, recruitment and defiance. Major doubts linger about the military's commitment to the peace process, and its readiness to take the steps necessary to end the conflict. Political violence has subsided from the paramilitary heyday but could grow again, and FARC has not forgotten the thousands of killings that decimated the Patriotic Union (UP), a party it created as part of peace talks in the 1980s. And after decades of conflict with a rising civilian toll and negotiation efforts that ended in bitter failure, the parties are feeling their way forward amid deep mutual distrust and strong political opposition. None of these problems has a perfect short-term fix. But the starting position is not all bad. Colombia can tap into three decades of experience in reintegrating members of illegal armed groups and it has more financial and human resources than most post-conflict countries. FARC's command and control structures are in decent shape and guerrilla leaders have a strong interest in a successful transition. The Havana agenda, which alongside the “end of the conflict” includes rural development, political reintegration, transitional justice and the fight against illicit drugs, is, at least on paper, broad enough to embed the reintegration of FARC into a long-term peace-building strategy, particularly focused on the most affected territories. Finally, in sharp contrast to the paramilitary demobilisation, the region and the wider international community are strongly supportive. Negotiators need to agree on a reintegration offer that allows FARC to close ranks behind a transition process riddled with uncertainty and ambiguity. Given its deep-seated distrust toward the state, the best way to achieve this is, probably, to give FARC a stake in reintegration, capitalising on its cohesion. This would minimise the risk that FARC could split over the transition. But the parties must also be aware of and care-fully manage the drawbacks to such a solution. To make a collective reintegration model palatable to a society disinclined to be generous to FARC and sceptical of its true intentions, negotiators should agree on strong measures of accountability, over sight and transparency. They also need to promote local transitional justice to avoid an intensification of communal tensions following the arrival of FARC combatants. Such a long-term reintegration offer would probably facilitate the fraught negotiations over the conditions under which FARC is willing to abandon the conflict early on in the transition. A bilateral ceasefire needs to go into effect immediately after a final accord has been signed. This will require military de-escalation well ahead of that, but a formal ceasefire will only be sustainable once FARC's forces have been concentrated in assembly zones. After the agreement has been ratified, measures for “leaving weapons behind” (or disarmament) should begin. These are irreversible, risky steps, and convincing the guerrillas to take the plunge will not be made easier by the government's refusal to negotiate broader changes to the security forces. But the shared interest in a stable post-conflict period should provide sufficient space to hammer out a workable solution. Alongside security safeguards and interim measures to stabilise territories with FARC presence, this should include early progress in implementing key elements of the peace agreement and the establishment of a joint follow-up committee to ensure that the accords will be honoured after disarmament has been completed. Implementing the agreements will largely be the responsibility of the government and FARC. But in Colombia's sharply polarised environment, international actors will have to play a crucial role. An international, civilian-led mission should be invited to monitor and verify the ceasefire and disarmament. For such monitoring to be successful, the mission needs to have the necessary autonomy from the parties and the technical as well as the political capacity to deal with the predictable setbacks and disputes. Beyond that, international actors should remain engaged by providing high-level implementation guarantees, political support for contentious reforms, including of the security sector, and long-term financial commitment. None of the elements needed to stabilise the immediate post-conflict period is entirely new in the Colombian context, but jointly they will break the mould of previous disarmament and reintegration programs. Flexibility and determination from the negotiators will be needed, alongside renewed government efforts to boost social ownership of the peace process, in particularin conflict regions. Previous transitions have faltered over high levels of violence, public indifference and timid international involvement. A bolder and faster response is needed this time to set Colombia on an irreversible path toward peace.
  • Political Geography: Colombia
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Alors que la communauté internationale et le gouvernement de transition ont le re- gard braqué sur la capitale, Bangui, une bonne partie du monde rural, notamment à l'ouest et au centre de la République centrafricaine (RCA), est devenue un terroir de violence. La lutte qui oppose les combattant s de l'ex-Seleka et les milices anti-balaka a conduit à une recrudescence des affrontements entre communautés d'éleveurs et d'agriculteurs depuis 2013. Ces affrontement s forment maintenant un conflit dans le conflit loin des yeux des acteurs internationa ux et du gouvernement de transition et déstabilisent davantage la Centrafrique. A l'aube d'une nouvelle saison de transhu- mance qui risque d'intensifier la guérilla rurale en cours, les acteurs internationaux et le gouvernement de transition doivent impérativement prendre en compte cette dimension de la crise dans leur stratégie de stabilisation et prévenir les risques im- médiats de violence entre communautés d'éleveurs et d'agriculteur