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  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Eighteen years after the U.S. war with Afghanistan’s Taliban began, all sides are taking the first formal steps toward a political settlement. From designating a neutral mediator to agreeing on “rules of the road”, Crisis Group lays out twelve prerequisites for keeping the talks going. What’s new? On 29 February, the U.S. and Taliban signed an agreement on a phased U.S. military drawdown, Taliban guarantees to sever ties with terrorist groups, and swift initiation of peace negotiations among Afghan parties to the war. These intra-Afghan negotiations could commence as soon as 10 March. Why does it matter? Intra-Afghan negotiations would be the first formal step to politically settle Afghanistan’s conflict since the U.S. toppled the Taliban regime in 2001. The U.S.-Taliban deal sets the stage for those talks, but it does not resolve issues among the Afghan parties that could prevent them from making progress. What should be done? All parties have crucial preparations to make, both before intra-Afghan negotiations start and during the talks’ early stages. Crisis Group has identified twelve key points that could make the difference between a successful beginning to a peace process and delays or early stagnation.
  • Topic: War, Taliban, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, South Asia
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Venezuela’s political showdown appears deadlocked. President Nicolás Maduro remains firmly in place over a year after the opposition behind Juan Guaidó mounted its campaign to supplant him. The gap between the sides is wide, but conversations with pragmatists reveal the outlines of a potential compromise. What’s new? Talks to resolve Venezuela’s political crisis broke down in September, and January’s government takeover of parliament dims prospects of their resumption. While the outlines of a possible agreement are visible, the government’s unwillingness to compromise and the opposition’s lack of realism have, so far, put a solution out of reach. Why does it matter? The country is mired in political conflict and continues to suffer from hyperinflation, high levels of criminal violence, crumbling public services, severe poverty and malnutrition. Millions have emigrated, provoking a regional refugee crisis. What should be done? Outside parties with ties to either side should put forward a possible settlement – including measures to ensure a level playing field ahead of 2020 parliamentary polls and, later, a presidential election, together with the gradual lifting of U.S. sanctions – and press both to accept it as a basis for negotiations.
  • Topic: Crisis Management, Unemployment, Nicholas Maduro
  • Political Geography: South America, Venezuela
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: A Huthi offensive threatens to engulf Marib, a province controlled by Yemen’s internationally recognised government and full of internally displaced people. Outside powers should act now to halt the fighting, which could deepen the existing humanitarian crisis and ruin peace efforts elsewhere in the country. What’s new? A showdown looms in Yemen’s Marib governorate between the Huthis, who control much of north-western Yemen, and forces allied with the internationally recognised Yemeni government. Why does it matter? An all-out battle for Marib could precipitate an enormous humanitarian disaster, as the province hosts at least 800,000 Yemenis already displaced from homes elsewhere. It could also scotch already dwindling chances of a nationwide de-escalation that in turn could lead to talks to end the war. What should be done? Outside powers should urgently convene an international contact group under UN auspices to press for a comprehensive ceasefire and inclusive negotiations to stop the war. The Huthis and Yemeni government should drop maximalist demands, and Saudi Arabia should work with the U.S., UN and others to halt the hostilities.
  • Topic: Conflict, Crisis Management, Peace, Houthis, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Yemen, Gulf Nations
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: In the years right after apartheid fell, South Africa was a leader in continental diplomacy, brokering peace accords and bolstering multilateral institutions. Its role subsequently diminished, but today it is well placed to make a positive difference in several trouble spots. What’s new? Midway through its term on the UN Security Council, and having just become chair of the African Union, the South African government led by Cyril Ramaphosa has a strong platform from which to reassert Pretoria’s continental leadership in efforts to mitigate Africa’s violent conflicts. Why does it matter? As Africa deals with more challenges to regional stability than it can readily handle, South Africa’s re-emergence as a leader in conflict prevention would be good for Pretoria, good for a continent that continues to prefer African solutions to African problems and good for the people of conflict-affected areas. What should be done? South Africa should enhance its focus on Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, which lie at the intersection of national, AU and UN priorities. Pretoria should also redouble efforts to steer neighbouring Zimbabwe away from crisis.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Negotiation
  • Political Geography: Africa, South Africa, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Isolated from the international community, Myanmar is deepening its dependence on China. But closer ties, Beijing-backed megaprojects and private Chinese investment carry both risks and opportunities. Both states should proceed carefully to ensure local communities benefit and avoid inflaming deadly armed conflicts. What’s new? The Rohingya crisis has strained Myanmar’s relations with the West and much of the Global South, pushing it to rely more on diplomatic and economic support from China. With a China-Myanmar Economic Corridor proceeding, and smaller private-sector projects proliferating, China’s investments in Myanmar are poised to shift into higher gear. Why does it matter? Many of these projects are located in or near areas of active armed conflict, and are often implemented without sufficient transparency, consultation with local communities or awareness of the local context. They risk empowering armed actors, heightening local grievances and amplifying anti-Chinese sentiment, which could lead to a popular backlash. What should be done? China needs to take more responsibility for ensuring that its projects benefit local communities and Myanmar’s economy, and do not exacerbate conflict. The Myanmar government should enhance its China expertise to negotiate and regulate projects more effectively. Both sides need to practice greater transparency and meaningful community consultation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Bilateral Relations, Conflict, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Trafficking – a catch-all term for illicit movement of goods and people – has long sustained livelihoods in northern Niger. But conflicts are emerging due to heightened competition and European pressure to curb migration. Authorities should persevere in managing the extralegal exchange to contain violence. What’s new? Niger’s informal systems for managing violence related to drug, gold and people trafficking in the country’s north are under strain – due in part to European pressure to curb migration and in part to increased competition over drug transport routes. The discovery of gold could bring new challenges. Why does it matter? Tacit understandings between the authorities and traffickers pose dangers, namely the state’s criminalisation as illicit trade and politics become more intertwined. But the collapse of those understandings would be still more perilous: if trafficking disputes descend into strife, they could destabilise Niger as they have neighbouring Mali. What should be done? Niger should reinforce its conflict management systems. Action against traffickers should focus on those who are heavily armed or engage in violence. Niamey and external actors should reinvigorate the north’s formal economy. European leaders should ensure that their policies avoid upsetting practices that have allowed Niger to escape major bloodshed.
  • Topic: Economy, Trafficking , Conflict, Violence
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Niger
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Talks to end the insurgency in Thailand’s southernmost provinces have repeatedly encountered obstacles, including the main rebel organisation’s abstention from the current round. With a new Thai official taking charge, and inviting that group to rejoin, both parties should drop objections that have hindered progress. What’s new? A peace dialogue process between the Thai government and Malay-Muslim separatists may be entering a new phase after stagnating for more than a year. A new Thai delegation chief has called for direct talks with the main insurgent group, Barisan Revolusi Nasional, which has rejected the existing dialogue. Why does it matter? Though the level of violence in Thailand’s deep south has declined over the years, recent attacks in Bangkok and Yala highlight the continuing threat. Meanwhile, civilians remain caught up in a protracted conflict that has claimed more than 7,000 lives since 2004. What should be done? The dialogue process needs a reboot, with Barisan Revolusi Nasional included. That group should prepare to engage constructively. Bangkok should overcome its aversion to international mediation and cease equating decentralisation with partition. The Thai government and Malaysia, the dialogue facilitator, should consider how to incorporate external mediation.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Asia, Thailand, Southeast Asia
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: The African Union is best positioned to send peacekeepers to the continent’s various war zones. But it often lacks the funds available to the UN’s blue helmets. A compromise over co-financing peacekeeping missions would serve the conflict prevention goals of both institutions. What’s new? Attempts to reach agreement upon a UN Security Council resolution on using UN assessed contributions to co-finance African Union (AU) peace support operations have ended acrimoniously, damaging relations between the Council and the AU Peace and Security Council. Discussions are now on hold, offering the parties an opportunity to clarify positions. Why does it matter? Access to UN financing offers the hope of predictable and sustainable funding for vital AU peace operations, whose offensive mandates are often better suited to current conflict dynamics in Africa. An AU summit in February 2020 could determine if and how the proposal is pursued. What should be done? The UN and AU should pursue a compromise. It could involve agreeing to treat AU troop contributions as in-kind payment, creating a joint mechanism for monitoring human rights compliance, and stipulating that a commander reporting to both institutions will lead co-financed missions.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, United Nations, Peacekeeping, Conflict, African Union
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Most Syrian refugees in Lebanon have thought many times about going home but in the end deemed the risks too great. Donors should increase aid allowing the Lebanese government to continue hosting the Syrians, so that any decision they make to leave is truly voluntary. What’s new? Pressure on Syrian refugees in Lebanon to return home is rising. Although Syria remains unsafe for most, refugees are trickling back, escaping increasingly harsh conditions in Lebanon and hoping that the situation will improve back home. Procedures that clarify refugees’ legal status are making return more plausible for some. Why does it matter? While even a small number of successful repatriations represents positive news, conditions are too dangerous for mass organised returns. Yet the Syrian government and some Lebanese political factions increasingly insist that it is time for large-scale returns to begin. What should be done? Donors should plan for many refugees to stay for many years, and provide support to help Lebanon meet Syrians’ needs, ease the burden on Lebanon’s economy, and reduce friction between refugees and their Lebanese hosts. The Lebanese government can take additional administrative steps to ease voluntary returns.
  • Topic: Government, Refugees, Syrian War, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: International Crisis Group
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: International Crisis Group
  • Abstract: Tensions are rising on the Colombia-Venezuela border after a new guerrilla faction opted out of Colombia’s 2016 peace deal. With diplomatic ties between the two countries severed, the risk of escalation is high. Bogotá and Caracas should open channels of communication to avoid inter-state clashes
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus