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  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? In August 2019, India unilaterally revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status, redrew its internal boundaries, and scrapped Kashmiris’ exclusive rights to immovable property and access to government jobs. To quell potential protests, the authorities ordered an unprecedented crackdown, which included detaining almost all local politicians and a months-long communications blackout. Why did it happen? Revocation of the Indian constitution’s Article 370, which gave Kashmir its previous status, had been on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s agenda for decades. Emboldened by its landslide win of a second term in May 2019, the government ordered the state’s overhaul soon afterward, without consulting Kashmiri politicians or society. Why does it matter? New Delhi claimed that its bold move would help bring peace and development to the region after three decades of conflict. One year later, its reforms, coupled with heavy-handed counter-insurgency tactics, have only exacerbated Kashmiri alienation and raised tensions with Pakistan. Kashmir’s youth continues to join militant ranks. What should be done? While New Delhi appears unlikely to reverse course, its international allies should strongly encourage it to restore Kashmiri statehood, free detained politicians and end security forces’ abuses against civilians. Pakistan’s partners should push harder for it to stop backing anti-India jihadists. Both countries should abide by their 2003 Kashmir ceasefire.
  • Topic: Development, Territorial Disputes, Crisis Management, Peace, Autonomy, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, South Asia, India, Jammu and Kashmir
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? On 29 February 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement meant to prompt peace talks between the militant group and the Afghan government. Many issues have delayed those talks, including widespread concerns about the Taliban’s willingness to compromise in a political settlement ending the war. Why does it matter? The U.S.-Taliban deal opened a fragile window of opportunity to settle the world’s deadliest conflict. But for talks among Afghans to progress, the Taliban will need to move beyond vague governing principles and put forth concrete negotiating positions on reconciliation, power sharing and governance. What should be done? The Taliban should swiftly determine clear negotiating positions and be prepared to debate – and eventually reach compromises – on these as intra-Afghan talks unfold. The U.S. and other donors should leverage prospects of post-transition assistance as encouragement, while the Afghan government and civil society should engage the group and its ideas.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Non State Actors, Taliban, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, South Asia, United States of America
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? A U.S. resolution seeking to extend UN arms restrictions on Iran beyond their October 2020 expiration failed at the Security Council. Washington has asserted that it will claim the right to unilaterally restore UN sanctions, which were terminated as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement. Why does it matter? Any U.S. attempt to reimpose sanctions will be controversial, given the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and likely to create deadlock at the Security Council. The administration’s goal is clear: kill the deal or make it that much harder for a successor administration to rejoin it. What should be done? The remaining parties to the deal should be united in resisting Washington’s efforts, as should other Security Council members. They should essentially disregard a U.S. “snapback” – restoring sanctions – as ineffectual, obstruct attempts to implement it and discourage Iran from overreacting to what will end up being a symbolic U.S. move.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, United Nations, Sanctions, UN Security Council
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? Turkey has to deal with thousands of citizens who travelled to join ISIS and have now returned. Of the few convicted, many will soon be released from jail. Others are under surveillance. The fate of the rest is murky. Why does it matter? ISIS’s diminished stature and measures adopted by the Turkish authorities have spared Turkey from ISIS attacks for more than three years. But while the threat should not be overplayed, it has not necessarily disappeared. That Turkish returnees turn their back on militancy is important for national and regional security. What should be done? Ankara’s approach toward returnees or others suspected of ties to jihadism relies mostly on surveillance and detention. The government could consider also offering support for returnees’ families, alternatives for youngsters at risk of being drawn into militancy and support for returnees released after serving ISIS-related jail time.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Law Enforcement, Violent Extremism, Islamic State
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? A COVID-19 outbreak has injected new energy into diplomatic efforts to end Yemen’s regionalised civil war, now in its sixth year. But the parties remain stubbornly opposed to compromise and the UN’s two-party mediation framework no longer provides a realistic pathway to peace given the country’s political and military fragmentation. Why does it matter? The war has killed more than 112,000 people and has left 24 million in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. The pandemic could further decimate a population lacking access to health care and particularly vulnerable due to malnutrition. The worst may be prevented if the war can be halted. What should be done? The Yemeni government and Huthis should right-size expectations regarding a political settlement and accept inclusion of other political and armed factions in UN-led negotiations. The UN Security Council should draft a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and inclusive settlement and table it if the parties stick to their positions.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Peace, Humanitarian Crisis, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Yemen, Gulf Nations
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? In President Nayib Bukele’s first year in office, El Salvador has seen a sharp drop in what long were sky-high murder rates. While the public celebrates his well-known “iron fist” policies, the reasons for success might lie in quiet, informal understandings between gangs and the government. Why does it matter? It is a major feat to reduce killings by the three main gangs in one of the world’s most violent countries. But the precise causes of the decline are complex and often unclear. Recent outbreaks of gang violence and political mudslinging underline the fragility and reversibility of this achievement. What should be done? Sustaining violence reduction is key. The government should prioritise community-focused development, rehabilitation of jailed gang members and more sophisticated policing efforts, including internal checks on security forces. Should gangs keep violence down and cooperate with authorities during the pandemic, Bukele should consider opening channels for local dialogue with them.
  • Topic: Crime, Governance, Law Enforcement, Reform, Violence, Gangs
  • Political Geography: South America, El Salvador
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? Hundreds of troops loyal to the Federal Government of Somalia, on one side, and Jubaland regional state, on the other, are locked in a tense showdown in the Gedo region of southern Somalia. Clashes between them have already resulted in fatalities and uprooted thousands from their homes. Why does it matter? Neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya, which are both troop contributors to the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia, seek to avoid direct confrontation but respectively support the opposing federal and Jubaland administrations. The situation plays into the hands of the Al-Shabaab Islamist insurgency, which is further entrenching its presence in Gedo. What should be done? The African Union, along with the eastern African sub-regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development, and Somalia’s bilateral partners, should lean on Ethiopia and Kenya to push the two sides to de-escalate tensions. Talks would allow the sides to refocus energies on stemming Al-Shabaab’s gains.
  • Topic: Conflict, Negotiation, Islamism, Al Shabaab, African Union
  • Political Geography: Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Horn of Africa
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: What’s new? Jihadists have repeatedly attacked schools in north-eastern Kenya in the last eighteen months. In response, the government has shuttered many schools and pulled most teachers out of a long-neglected region that is one of Al-Shabaab’s main recruiting centres outside Somalia. Why does it matter? The education crisis adds to an already existing sense of marginalisation in north-eastern Kenya. Thousands of out-of-school youngsters could constitute an attractive pool of recruits for Al-Shabaab, which is engaged in a long-term campaign to deepen its foothold in the region. What should be done? The Kenyan government should afford the north east’s residents, including police reservists, a greater role in tackling militancy and revive community-centred efforts that to some degree succeeded in rolling back Al-Shabaab in the past. It should also restore learning by providing stopgap funding so local administrations can hire replacement teachers.
  • Topic: Security, Education, Violence, Islamism, Al Shabaab
  • Political Geography: Kenya, Africa
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The threat of coronavirus looms large in six self-declared republics that have broken away from post-Soviet states. War and isolation have corroded health care infrastructure, while obstructing the inflow of assistance. International actors should work with local and regional leaders to let life-saving aid through. What’s new? Isolated and scarred by war, six de facto statelets that claim independence from successor states to the Soviet Union are acutely vulnerable to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Why does it matter? Immediate and long-term suffering will not only cost lives but could also harden divides between these entities and the states that claim them, posing further obstacles to eventual normalisation and peace. What should be done? All parties and stakeholders should cooperate across front lines to ensure international humanitarian access, the only way to stave off suffering in the near and longer term.
  • Topic: Health Care Policy, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Europe, Post-Soviet Europe
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: With the Syrian regime’s offensive in Idlib paused, the time is now for a deal sparing the rebellion’s last stronghold the full wrath of reconquest. The parties should pursue an improved ceasefire including the regime, Russia, Turkey and the Islamist militants entrenched in the province. What’s new? A Russian-backed Syrian regime offensive against rebel-held Idlib halted when Russia and Turkey negotiated a ceasefire in March. Turkey is sending reinforcements, signalling a military response to what it deems a national security threat. For now, this step may dissuade Russia from resuming the offensive, but the standoff appears untenable. Why does it matter? Successive Russian-Turkish ceasefires in Idlib have collapsed over incompatible objectives, diverging interpretations and exclusion of the dominant rebel group, Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is UN-sanctioned and considered by Russia and others a terrorist organisation. A Russian-backed regime offensive to retake Idlib likely would result in humanitarian catastrophe. What should be done? All actors should seek a more sustainable ceasefire – optimally including HTS, notwithstanding legitimate concerns about the group – that avoids the high military, political and humanitarian price of another offensive. Turkey should push HTS to continue distancing itself from transnational militancy and display greater tolerance for political and religious pluralism.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Conflict, Syrian War, Islamism, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Turkey, Middle East, Syria, Idlib