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Mo Ibrahim Foundation Annual Governance Weekend: Marrakesh 2017

19 May 2017

Ayat Abdelaziz and Richard Kweitsu are the Mo Ibrahim Scholars at the University of Birmingham.  Both of them are MSc students in IDD, and were invited to participate in the Mo Ibrahim Governance Weekend in Marrakesh.

Over the past ten years, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has committed itself to deepening good governance, accountability and leadership in Africa. To achieve this, the Foundation runs four main initiatives: the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), the Ibrahim Forum, the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership and the Ibrahim Leadership Fellowships.

Perhaps the flagship of the Foundation’s programs is the annual Mo Ibrahim Foundation Governance Weekend. The Governance Weekend is an annual high-level discussion forum, organised in an African country, convened around specific issues of critical importance to promoting governance in Africa. The 2017 Governance Weekend took place in April in Marrakesh, Morocco. The Foundation launched its 2017 Ibrahim Forum report titled “Africa at a tipping point” to guide discussions centred around the growing youthful population of Africa and the fact that the continent at the moment stands at a tipping point that ultimately decides its future. The Governance Weekend was focused on three main topics: violent extremism and migration, the risk of democratic recession and the need for inclusive economic growth and jobs for Africa’s youth.

The opening ceremony of the Weekend featured a conversation between Mo Ibrahim and Horst Koehler, former president of Germany, Amina J Mohamed, the Deputy Secretary General of the UN and Bono. In his welcome speech, Mo Ibrahim reiterated the foundation’s commitment to governance promotion on the African continent. He urged Africans to find their own models of governance that effectively deliver rule of law, democracy, human rights, as well as efficient goods and services. He also demonstrated that despite Africa’s negative stereotype in the global arena, the continent possesses extremely great leaders who are working in diverse ways to transform the lives of their people. Highlighting the achievements of previous winners of the Ibrahim prize including Festus Mogae of Botswana, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde, Dr Ibrahim wondered why the success stories of these great leaders mostly go unnoticed while bad and corrupt deeds continue to gain much attention.

Photo credit. Mo Ibrahim Foundation 

One of the highlights of the ceremony was a speech delivered by Horst Koehler, who spoke about the importance and relevance of trust and integrity for leadership. According to him, trust is at the very heart of every economy we aim to build. He urged every leader to rise above mediocrity and commit himself to the prosperity of his people.

The first panel in the forum was on “violent extremism and migration” featuring Youssef Amrani, a Moroccan diplomat and politician of the Istiqlal Party, Jean-Marie Guehenno, President & CEO of the International Crisis Group, Martin Kobler, Special Representative, Head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya and Lamido Sanusi, the Emir of the Kano, moderated by Jendayi Fraser, the President and CEO of 50 Ventures, LLC. Africa’s population currently stands at 1.2 billion with more than half below the age of 25, and this population is projected to double by 2050. With limited opportunities available for young people along with frustration, the tendency of joining terrorist organisations among youth is quite high. The panel called on governments all over the continent to focus on creating political, economic and social opportunities for young people in order to reduce the growing phenomenon of young people being recruited for violent activities.

Photo credit. Mo Ibrahim Foundation 

The focus of the second panel was on the risk of democratic recession. The panelists were Abdoulaye Bathily, a Senegalese politician and diplomat, Sello Hatang, the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Information and Communication Manager, and spokesperson, Mark Malloc-Brown and Amina J Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary General of the UN. Against the backdrop of the recent election crisis in the Gambia and the growing debate in DRC over whether Joseph Kabila was going to step down, the panel expressed a fear that a majority of the countries on the continent are at risk of democratic recession. The argument in the session was mainly centred on whether Africa was even democratic in the first place to think of recession and bouncing back or not. In discussions about democracy in Africa, one must be cautious not to perceive Africa as a single country. While countries like Ghana, Botswana and Mauritius and others may be doing well democratically, there are others who are struggling to develop democratic institutions in the first place. Discussions on the risk of democratic recession in Africa must take note of the diverse nature of the continent and the difference in the democratic trajectories of various countries.

Photo credit. Mo Ibrahim Foundation

The  third panel of the forum which was moderated by Abdelmalek Alaoui, Founder and CEO of Guepard Group with Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB); Moulay Hafid EL Alamy; President and Founder of Saham Group, Minister of Trade, Investment and Digital Economy of Morocco; Aliko Dangote, President and Chief Executive of the Dangote Group; and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI); Senior Advisor at Lazard as panel members focused on “the need for inclusive economic growth and jobs for Africa’s youth”. The panel bemoaned the growing disconnection between education in the continent and demand on the job market, as many graduates in Africa lack the required skills for employment. It also called on governments to invest more in agriculture as a way of absorbing the growing youthful population in the continent. It was observed that in order to create economic development, there must be a conscious effort to develop and empower women entrepreneurs. More importantly, the panel was unequivocal urging the African Union and African governments to remove visa restrictions on African nationals to facilitate regional trade and freedom of movement.

undefinedPhoto credit. Mo Ibrahim Foundation

Despite the tremendous efforts of the organisers to give the opportunity to young people to directly engage in the ongoing debate by posing questions to the panels, their representation in such event, as any other high-level event, remains very low. Perhaps, moving forward, youth forum or panel exclusively made up of young people might be constituted in order to have a proper representation of youth.

Over the past ten years, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has been relentless in its drive at promoting good governance and democracy on the African continent. As Mo Ibrahim observed, governance is a long-term business, it can never happen overnight. While leaders need to show more commitment in promoting development and democracy, citizens need to rise to the challenge of holding their governments accountable.

Leapfrogging – Myth or Reality? Can economic growth really be decoupled from increased carbon emissions in Least Developed Countries? Ethiopia’s Story

3 March 2017

Steve BainesSteve Baines is a 2016 IDD MSc Masters Graduate in International Development (Environment, Sustainability & Politics). He came to this after a career in UK affordable housing culminating as National Director of a FTSE250 company. Steve has deep interests in worldwide development and climate change mitigation and adaptation. On a local level, he has developed links with all major faith groups in Birmingham through “Footsteps – Birmingham Faiths for a Low-carbon future” and is part of a ground breaking initiative to develop environmental religious and civic leadership in the City. His MSc dissertation focused on whether economic growth can ever be truly “green”.

These are definitely not the research findings I expected to be presenting! The data in front of me has challenged me and my long held assumptions. Climate negotiations through the years show us one thing very clearly – that Least Developed Countries’ demand the right to develop their own economies and build their own prosperity for their people. They are not prepared to accept underdevelopment under the guise of carbon responsibility. The question is whether Least Developed Countries can deliver these improved living standards for their citizens without causing the environmental damage historically inflicted through growth in the West…or to put it another way …can LDCs “leapfrog” dirty technology and move straight to green solutions? Does prosperity always automatically come with a carbon price tag? Evidence of any form of “absolute” decoupling (where growth goes up and emissions go down) is very thin on the ground. “History provides little support for the plausibility of decoupling” (Jackson 2011 p75). Well, we now have early, tentative evidence that such “decoupling” is indeed possible in practice. This is Ethiopia’s story.

Ethiopia’s Commitment

We all think we know Ethiopia – the familiar headlines – famine, drought, civil unrest, refugees. But, think again; in 2010 Prime Minister Meles Zenawi committed Ethiopia to two amazing joint goals:

To become a Middle Income nation by 2025 and to do this by 2030 without a single additional gram of Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHGs) from a 2010 level.

These commitments were set out in Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Strategy 2010. The context is not promising to say the least. One third of Ethiopia’s people currently live on less than $1.25 a day. So to put this promise into context, it commits Ethiopia to raising real incomes per person 3.3 times over 15 years (measured by Gross National Income per capita). Also by the end of this target period there will be over half as many people again in the country. Surely this is madness – I thought as I flew into Addis Ababa in July 2016.

World Bank data

Using historical World Bank statistics of Population, Gross National Income (GNI) and GHG emissions, the study set out to calculate how much more efficient technology in Ethiopia would have to be to achieve zero GHG emissions whilst the country reaches middle income status by 2030. The calculation was made using IPAT – a methodology that has achieved significant acceptance and evaluates changes in the relationships between four factors – Impact (GHG emissions), Population, Affluence and Technology. The IPAT equation in this study is used to calculate the degree of “Technological efficiency improvements” required to meet CRGE targets. The equation is:

Technology = Impact / (Population x Affluence)

 T = I / ( P x A )

The Results

Using WB figures on Population growth (P) and Ethiopian commitments to Middle Income status (A) and carbon neutrality (I) it is possible to calculate that “Technology” in Ethiopia needs to become more carbon-efficient by a factor of over 4.5 times (2010- 2030) if CRGE goals are to be met. The study compared this level of Technological (leapfrogging) carbon efficiency gains to that achieved by other nations at times of strong economic growth. Using the same methodology, between 1999 and 2012 none of the 6 other countries surveyed (2 OECD countries, 2 BRICS countries and 2 other developing countries) were able to rise to this challenge.

So has Ethiopia got a track record of achievement to back up its ambitious commitments? Using the World Bank datasets I looked back at Ethiopia’s recent performance and also I talked to key players in Government and civil society.

Here are the killer figures – between 1999 and 2012:

  • Population increased by 43%
  • national affluence (GNI) increased by 242%
  • but GHG emissions actually decreased over this time by around 15%. Per capita emissions went down by over 40%.

Source: WB Database of World Development Indicators (WB 2016;

These results blew me away. They demonstrate that Ethiopia has the track record to meet their twin targets if they can just stay on the same trajectory.

How has Ethiopia achieved this? The study looked in depth at the capacity of Ethiopia to benefit from climate finance and then focused in on some landmark case studies in the delivery of actual investment into “green growth” initiatives – the rollout of a national programme of “Eco Industrial Parks”, securing international private investment in construction of a major geothermal plant and ongoing efforts to enhance the take-up of “New Improved Cook Stoves” across the country.


So where has all of this got us? This may be actually a small, tentative, fragile message of hope. …potentially a symbol. Do we believe World Bank figures? If so, Ethiopia has achieved absolute decoupling of GHG emissions from economic growth. However, a critical question needs to be asked: how have the benefits of this green economic growth been distributed among people? If growth can indeed be green and the results of growth be equitably shared to relieve poverty, then we really have a development model which is worth replicating. “Win-win” solutions for the planet and people.

Perhaps it will prove harder to sustain once low-hanging fruit and easy wins have been banked….or just possibly Ethiopia has forged a new route for sustainable development – a model for other LDCs to follow.

The study was undertaken in partnership with Oxfam UK, the Environment & Climate Research Centre in Addis Ababa, UNDP Ethiopia office and IDD University of Birmingham. I am indebted to them all.

For more information/detail please follow the link to a YouTube talk by the author ( or contact Steve on

Decolonizing Education: Social Movements, Research Methods and my IDD dissertation experience

24 February 2017

Erika BojarczukErika Bojarczuk is a 2016 IDD graduate, having studied the MSc International Development (Poverty, Inequality and Development) programme.

Before Birmingham, she graduated from Castleton University in VT, USA, with a BA in Global Studies and studied for a semester at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. Erika is currently living in the US just outside of Boston. 

My experience working on my dissertation took me on an incredible and challenging journey of self-discovery. My topic found me quite early on in my course when I saw via social media that a friend of mine in South Africa had been heavily involved in the #FeesMustFall protest in Cape Town in October 2015. I was inspired by my friends’ participation and wanted to learn more about the movement, and why it was important to South African youth.

For those of you not familiar, students across South Africa banded together with the common aim of decolonizing education by eliminating the structural racism found in universities, and society as a whole, lingering from the colonial and apartheid systems. This social movement has taken different forms, beginning with successful student protests at the University of Cape Town, which, in April 2015, resulted in the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes from a central point on the campus. In October and November 2015, the fight for equality changed when, initiated by students at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, thousands of students across South Africa united in protest of a proposed fee increase for university tuition. If implemented, this fee increase would have raised the already high barrier black South Africans face in order to obtain a university education. Student protesting resulted in temporary triumphs, however activists involved in the movement do not considered their actions successful, and will not until education is free for all students.  More protesting continued through the year addressing a range of intersectional issues.  In September 2016, when the government announced that it would allow universities to raise tuition again, more protesting ensued.  This issue remains unresolved and it is entirely possible that more protests will occur in 2017.

My love of photography and passion for visual storytelling compelled me to utilize a mix of methodologies for my dissertation. I incorporated a photovoice methodology, a form of participatory action research, which is conducted by giving participants cameras and requesting that they take photographs of a particular topic. These photographs are accompanied by narratives both to elaborate on the stories told in the images and remove much of the potential for misinterpretation. Photovoice research was designed with the intent to not only increase knowledge, but to come up with a tangible tool to educate people and influence policy.  This was an appropriate methodology for learning about a social movement because it can be used to help educate new audiences about the aims of the movement. I spoke to three activists from the University of Cape Town community as a part of my research, and the prospect of sharing their individual stories with people at the University of Birmingham was one that excited the participants.  It was collectively decided that a good use of the images that they created would be to educate more people about the struggles faced by black South Africans, and the importance of this social movement.  All of the photographs and narratives produced by the participants were displayed in the lobby of Muirhead Tower of the University of Birmingham during the month of December.  The following are excerpts from their stories.

From Ntsika:
This is where the statue used to be. A group of people, I think a week after the statue was removed took a stencil and they made a shadow. I think that is quite profound because even though the statue itself is gone, the shadow of white supremacy and white colonial rule, you know everything that Rhodes stood for still lingers over UCT and South Africa as a whole.  I took this picture because I think it reminded me of that and the reasons why the protests initially began….


This is a previously white’s only university, almost majority white and middle class people, and even though it is a higher learning institution and maybe one of the most influential in the country, it is still very aloof and still very distant from the realities that most people face. That’s what it reminded me of and I think someone doing that, it made me reflect on why that existed.

From Kabelo:   

In Mussel Bay right, you have these very nice hotels where you are looking at the ocean when you come out and it’s gorgeous…and then just around close to it there’s shacks. I don’t understand, how do you build mansions and stuff and not at least build decent houses, don’t let people still live…like really?  That’s how South Africa is, you find really great places that you wouldn’t think you would find in a developing country like this and then you find… and you’re like really?


And on top of that, people don’t live there, this is their holiday house. I don’t get it. Like you can tell that there is a huge population, especially in the Western Cape of very rich individuals, not doing ok, but extremely well off, and yeah the gap is, it’s horrible.  I don’t know if I took a picture, on the way there I’ve seen slums before but I don’t know if I’ve seen them as horrible as these ones. Maybe it was because of the way the rain made things look because it was raining on that day but I was speechless for I don’t know how long in the car while looking. I was like it can’t be that bad, it’s really that bad, like, South Africa is really this bad.  And if you have a contrast from this land to someone’s holiday house which costs I don’t know how much… People are becoming so numb to that, like you just don’t show any emotions to it anymore, it’s ok, as long as it’s not you it’s fine.

From Meisie:

I took these pictures while I was driving in my car, so, I’m a 22 year old Black Woman with a car and an apartment. It’s a luxury for most people my age, for most black women, and most South Africans…so I’m sitting in my car with my camera and I am taking pictures and these are the pictures that came out.


Here you can see that these two are shacks, right, so these are people’s homes, people live there in corrugated iron. And you can see that it is a home because they have a little toy thing for the child, there’s a dog laying there under the sun so it doesn’t get cold, and it was clear skies, beautiful day…


This is the representation of, we are fighting for insourcing, we are fighting for fees to fall and a lot of the students that were on the front line, come from places like this.

Through hours of conversation with these activists, I came to the realization that I should not be analyzing these stories and searching for themes.  I should be listening to them, and ensuring that others like me do the same. I discovered that for my dissertation to be successful, I needed to embrace the idea of decolonization to the best of my ability. As a result, I chose to focus my analysis on the research methods themselves, and the necessity to decolonize those methods, especially in this context.  Doing this helped me to turn the focus of my dissertation from an analysis of the protest movement itself, to a critical discussion of how western academics can begin to approach these kinds of topics in the most healthy way possible, and let these narratives stand alone in my paper.

I have learned several important lessons through the course of my research, which I hope I can continue to build upon in the future.  First and foremost, I learned the importance of approaching research with a self-reflexive attitude. Questioning my own positionality, and thinking about my own identities allowed me to begin to understand where I should speak and where I should remain silent.  I learned that there is no right way to do research from a western academic perspective in the global south, and began to unearth the complicated power dynamics of the researcher-participant relationship.  Only through continuing to push ourselves, and each other, along with sharing our challenges, failures, and successes with other researchers can we continue to grow, and help to present better, more relevant, and more ethically compiled knowledge.

Witchcraft and conflict: Exploring alternative discourses of insecurity – Introducing a new research project

11 January 2017


Jonathan Fisher is a senior lecturer at the International Development Department at the University of Birmingham. His research is focused on the place and agency of African states in the international system, particularly in the realm of security and conflict. Within this he is interested in the role played by African governments in shaping how they are perceived and engaged with by Western actors. He has a particular interest in eastern Africa and the influence of guerrilla heritage on contemporary patterns of governance, conflict and cooperation across the region. He is also interested in how ‘knowledge’ on African security and conflict is negotiated and constructed in a range of settings.

In October 2016, according to Uganda’s main independent newspaper the Daily Monitor, residents of Bukoova village in Luuka District, eastern Uganda, passed a resolution banishing one of their number – Charles Magumba. The “impromptu security meeting”, called by the Sub-County Vice Chairman and attended by the Area Police Officer, saw Magumba accused of – and admitting to – using witchcraft to kill two men whose wives he had allegedly eloped with. Magumba will need to leave Bukoova by mid-January 2017 “or risk being lynched”.

A year earlier, a UN report on “the situation on human rights in the Central African Republic (2014-2015)” recorded 32 cases of “torture or inhumane and degrading treatment against persons [mainly the elderly, widowed or those with disabilities] accused of practicing witchcraft” by groups linked to the rebel Anti-Balaka militia, in the midst of that country’s civil war. The report noted that when alerted to these acts by the UN’s Human Rights Division, state authorities “failed to take action to…bring the perpetrators to justice…in the vast majority of cases”. Witchcraft itself, though, is a criminal offence in Central African Republic – formerly punishable by execution – and in some localities 40-50% of court cases have focused around witchcraft accusations in recent years. Both the fear of witchcraft and the threat of witch-hunts can play a very real part in people’s experiences and definitions of in/security.

At the same time, magical, spiritual and supernatural forms of protection represent a source of security to communities in the African continent. There is, therefore, a deeply complex and ambiguous relationship between witchcraft and in/security across Africa, as there is, of course, in many other continents and regions. These ambiguities raise critical questions not only about the role of civilian, state and international actors in negotiating and responding to in/security but about the nature of “security” itself – both in terms of what it “is” (as a concept) and what it “does” (the processes, practices and policies which seek to promote, deliver or maintain it.

These are not, however, questions which international agencies and national policy-makers in Africa have sought to engage with in an official sense – Western donor agencies, international non-governmental organisations and national governments have tended to frame security-related policies and interventions around tackling threats which relate to empirical and “observable” phenomena including terrorism, war, disease, unemployment, lack of education or food etc. This is not to say that these actors do not encounter or willingly engage with discourses on witchcraft in their everyday interactions with civilians for a variety of reasons, but rather that there is a disjuncture between this reality and the manner in which security is theorised and enacted by these groups.

Scholars are also yet to consider the relationship between witchcrafts and security – and what this tells us about the concept of security, at least in these terms. Though an emerging body of research in political science has begun to invert analysis and interpretation of in/security knowledge through exploring “vernacular security/ies”, much of this nascent field has focused on the UK and government policing and counter-terrorism practices, and their discursive reception and resistance in a range of communities.

A new, exploratory project lead by Dr Jonathan Fisher (International Development Department, University of Birmingham) and Dr Cherry Leonardi (Department of History, Durham University) takes the questions, contradictions and ambiguities highlighted above as its point of departure and as a means to both address some of the gaps in existing scholarship and to open up new conceptual space for exploring the nature of in/security as theory and practice.

The project, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/N007956/1) brings together a political scientist (Fisher) and an historian (Leonardi) around three core questions:

  1. How do African communities understand and articulate security threats and in what ways does ‘witchcraft’ feature in these articulations?
  2. How do African and Western policy-makers, in turn, understand and articulate the major security threats faced by these communities and how far do they consider ‘witchcraft’ within this?
  3. Finally, how should Western researchers and Western/African policy-makers engage with these unfamiliar (in) security discourses, and what challenges does attempting to do so pose?

The project will run until October 2017 and take as its empirical focus borderland communities in north-western Uganda. This region was the site of a brutal insurgency (the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army) and sometimes equally brutal government counter-insurgency between c.1987-2006. During the same period it was also home to large numbers of South Sudanese refugees and Ugandan returnees fleeing the Sudanese civil war, and this cross-border movement is now being repeated as South Sudan is once again being ravaged by conflict since 2013. This sometimes tension-inducing mixing of boundaries, identities, mobilities and conflict/post-conflict experiences renders the border region a fascinating setting in which to explore the dynamic interactions between in/security and witchcraft – both of which, to some degree, draw from constructions of trust and suspicion related to ideas of “insiders”, “outsiders”, “internal” and “external”.

At its heart, the project represents an exercise in cross-disciplinary scholarly collaboration – not only between the two project leaders but also across a broad network of academics, practitioners and policy-makers. The first of three project workshops was held at the University of Birmingham on 18 November 2016 as a means both to build a core network around the project and to thrash out some of the project’s central conceptual, epistemological and methodological questions. Following the workshop, which saw the project team joined by eleven leading experts on vernacular security, witchcraft in Africa, international intervention and the history and politics of northern Uganda/southern South Sudan, the research will move forward to fieldwork and to consider:

 The spatial and temporal dimensions of in/security – how constructions of spatial and social boundaries (family, community, state) and historical experience feed into in/security as concept and practice.

Relationships and in/security – how in/security is produced and discursively negotiated around relationships of trust, identity and belonging, both at an interpersonal level and a socio-political one, and across national and international linkages.

Witchcraft represents a unique and exciting phenomenon to explore these issues given the degree of overlap it has with many understandings of security – as became clear at the Birmingham workshop. Both witchcraft and security are amorphous and debatable concepts and both derive meaning from the juxtaposition of fear, familiarity and the unknown. Both are also, ultimately, “discourses of action” (to borrow the phrase of one workshop participant): they are revealed and meaningful not so much in their intrinsic substance – which can rarely be pinned down – but in their effects and in the acts which they necessitate and which are promoted in their name.

For more information, please contact Dr Jonathan Fisher ( or Dr Cherry Leonardi (

Why Russia, Turkey and Iran are natural allies

6 January 2017

campbell-adrianAdrian Campbell is an organizational theorist with longstanding interests and experience in leadership and human resource management and he has researched, taught and consulted in these fields for over thirty years. He has overall responsibility for the Masters in Public Administration degree programme and convenes or jointly convenes six modules on aspects of management, leadership, and policy-making.

The ceasefire in Syria brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran has opened the way to peace talks in Kazakhstan between the Syrian government and opposition. The Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, will play peacemaker and the timing of the conference will enable participation by the new US administration. However it’s not yet clear how this process might tie in with any putative “grand bargain” between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

But however the US fits in, the rise of a Russian-Iranian-Turkish triumverate is a hugely significant development. On paper at least, these countries are not natural allies. On the contrary, they have a long and distinguished history of rivalry and warfare extending back centuries and stretching into recent decades. During the Cold War, Turkey was a key NATO ally; Iran supported the Afghan rebels against the USSR, while the USSR supported Iraq against Iran.

But after the end of the Soviet Union, Russia’s relations with both countries greatly improved. Iran’s opposition to Russia during the Chechen wars of the 1990s was muted; Russia was worried about external ideological influence over its largely Sunni Muslim population, but it feared Saudi Arabian Wahhabism far more than it did Iranian Shiite influence.

More than that, Russia has kept up close relations with both sides in regional rivalries. This means consistently engaging with Iran economically even as it seeks to contain Iranian influence in the longer term, and maintaining good relations with countries for whom Iran represents a direct threat, in particular Israel, but also Saudi Arabia.

Back and forth

Russia’s relationship with Turkey has been more intense, but no less contradictory. Turkey has opposed Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but also signed up to the TurkStream pipeline to Russia, a natural gas supply route under the Black Sea that will bypass and weaken Ukraine.

The two countries’ backing for different sides in the Syria conflict strained relations. The breaking point came when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane in November 2015. However, that crisis paradoxically showed the degree to which Turkey’s relations with the West had weakened. Friendly relations were restored in June 2016, and consolidated by Putin’s unconditional support for Turkish President Erdoğan after an attempted coup.

The war in Syria and anti-Russian protests in Turkey over Aleppo did not detract from the re-energised official friendship. Both Russia and Turkey went to great lengths to prevent the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Ankara from scrambling their alliance.

Turkish-Iranian relations, meanwhile, have traditionally alternated between co-operation and competition, but since the “Arab Awakening” protests of 2011, competition has been the dominant mode. As Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has turned away from the secular, modernising values of Atatürk, the republic’s founder, so rivalry with Iran has been less on grounds of political ideology (secular versus theocratic) and more about identity (Sunni versus Shia).

However, the fear of an Iranian-dominated “Shia crescent” predates the founding of Iran’s Islamic Republic. Like Russia’s earlier criticisms of Turkey’s “neo-Ottomanism” and the West’s concerns over of Russian “Eurasianism”, the fear is of a resurgence of an imperial project.

This is the paradox at the core of the Russia-Turkey-Iran triad: their longtime geopolitical competition motivates not only their periodic conflicts, but also their cooperation.

Past glories

All three were empires long before they became nation-states. Like the Western empires, but unlike China, they have lost much of the territory they previously ruled. However, the reduction in scale was less radical than that of the Western European empires and they retain (both by default and design) elements of their former imperial role. The imperial past was less repudiated than in the West, but remains a prominent part of their national psychologies.

All three states were strongly influenced by the West, but none was ever completely under Western rule – and nor did the West ever completely accept them. All three saw top-down attempts at modernisation and Westernisation give way to anti-Westernism and reversion to what were seen as more traditional forms of political culture. Turkish scholar Ayse Zarakol has written about how resentment at being “excluded” from the West influences these countries’ self-image and foreign policy, but these “irrational” factors tend to be ignored by mainstream international relations scholars.

In Turkey, as in Russia and Iran, politics and foreign policy are largely defined by the ambiguous relationship with the West and globalisation, and their common experiences mean they can understand each other’s behaviour and concerns rather well. With that advantage, they can move rapidly between conflict and cooperation.

This was just the sort of relationship enjoyed by the European great powers of the 19th century: competition, but with an interest in each other’s survival so long as no single power becomes dominant. They might wage war or weaken each other by supporting rebellions, but they’ll close ranks against separatism and instability when it doesn’t suit them.Since all three countries are worried about restive territories that might secede, they have a common interest in preventing the formation of Kurdistan. Similarly they have a common interest in resisting regime change or state break-up in their respective regions – that is, unless they’re in control of the process.

Perhaps the best example is Russia, Prussia and Austria’s “Holy Alliance” to protect themselves from what they saw as destabilising ideas and influences. Never a particularly strong bloc, this trio nonetheless had some success in suppressing the failed revolutions of 1848. The alliance was later relaunched as Bismarck’s Three Emperors’ League. In the event, Germany was unable to prevent conflict between Russia and Austria-Hungary in the Balkans; the league dissolved, and its failure led indirectly to World War I.

A club of internally competing powers was less dangerous than the subsequent division of Europe into two opposed and coherent alliances, and it’s not such a bad parallel for the reinvigorated triumvirate on Europe’s south-eastern flank. Provided the alliance stays relatively loose, it might well restrain the actions of its members. But if it becomes a full-blown compact, the consequences could be unpredictable.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

UN finally apologises for bringing cholera to Haiti – now it must match its words with funds

5 December 2016

Rosa FreedmanRosa Freedman is Professor of Law, Conflict and Global Development at the University of Reading. Rosa researches and writes on the United Nations, with a particular interest in the human rights bodies and in peacekeeping. Rosa has a broader interest in the impact of politics, international relations, the media, and civil society both on the work and proceedings of international institutions and on states’ compliance with international human rights norms.

Nicolas Lemay-Hebert is a Senior Lecturer at the International Development Department (IDD) at the University of Birmingham. He is the co-editor of the Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding and the Routledge Series on Intervention and Statebuilding. His research interests include statebuilding and peacebuilding, local narratives of resistance to international interventions, and the political economy of interventions.

The United Nations Secretary-General has announced a new approach to cholera in Haiti. Six years after the organisation introduced cholera into the country, with at least 9,200 people dead and 800,000 people sickened since that time, the UN has, at long last, apologised.

It has also taken a major stride by agreeing the need for remedies to be made – both to communities and individual people.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon switched into Creole, Haiti’s national language, to apologise for what happened and to ask forgiveness from Haitian victims. For many years the UN denied its role in the outbreak and epidemic, refusing to accept any type of responsibility for the suffering that resulted from the disease.

The outbreak

In 2010 the UN sent additional peacekeepers to its mission in Haiti to assist with rebuilding the country after an earthquake. And some of those peacekeepers brought cholera with them. The UN did not screen its peacekeepers for cholera, nor did it build adequate toilet facilities in its peacekeeping camps. As a result, raw faecal waste carrying cholera flowed directly into a tributary that feeds Haiti’s main river. Cholera quickly spread around many parts of the country.

Initially the UN refused to acknowledge any of this. Even when confronted with scientific proof of how and why the outbreak occurred, it continued to refuse to accept responsibility. The UN response to cholera was woefully inadequate, and very simple efforts could have prevented the disease for relatively small sums of money.

Representatives of the victims launched a long fight for justice. What makes the apology so important is that throughout the battle to secure accountability, the UN battened down its hatches. It refused to engage in any discussions about compensating victims, despite the grave harms suffered.

Haiti Cholera outbreak 1
A cholera treatment centre in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  Photo credit: CDC Global Health.


But this is not the end of the story. The question remains as to who will fund compensation for the victims. The new plan for cholera includes two tracks: one to support the prevention and eradication of cholera, the other for the material compensation of victims and for the support of community-based projects. The aim is to get US$200m for each track. The Secretary-General has appealed to member states for donations but many are suffering from donor fatigue – particularly when it comes to Haiti.

The recent appeal for donations to assist with rebuilding after Hurricane Matthew has not met its target, with the pot of money required woefully underfunded.

Some may argue that, since the UN caused the outbreak, it should provide the funds itself. But the United Nations is a group of member states. The organisation may have a Secretariat (of tens of thousands of staff) to support, but it is funded, directed, and driven by its member states. And when the UN causes harm – in this case by deficient policies and practices – the responsibility for remedying that harm must be assumed by all of its members.

There is a simple solution here. The UN has a regularly assessed budget to which all countries contribute according to their different abilities. The funds for remedying cholera victims’ suffering caused by the UN could, and arguably should, come from that budget. In that way, all UN members would contribute to addressing the consequences of the UN’s actions.

But of course there are some countries that do not want the budget to be used in this way. Even though there is a reserve account into which spare money is placed – when there is an underspend on a project – some countries are railing against the idea of collective responsibility for an organisation to which they belong as a member. And those same countries do not want the UN peacekeeping underspend (of nearly US$300m) to be used to compensate to Haiti cholera victims. Those states prefer to have an appeal for donations from countries that feel an affinity with, or responsibility towards, Haiti and the cholera victims.

This position simply is not good enough. Cholera in Haiti is the responsibility of the entire United Nations. As Ban Ki-Moon stressed, it is a stain on the reputation of the entire UN. The outbreak and suffering have harmed the legitimacy and credibility of UN peace operations.

The apology represents huge progress. Now we must push for the final obstacle to be overcome, and for the UN to match its words with actions by using UN funds to compensate cholera victims.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
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The politics of the census in consociational democracies

12 September 2016

IDD teaching fellow Dr Laurence Cooley has recently been awarded ESRC Future Research Leaders funding for a project on the politics of the census in consociational democracies. The project will begin in February 2017. We sat down with Laurence to discuss his research plans.

Can you tell us a bit about what the focus of the project will be?

The main focus of the project will be on the relationship between the politics of the census and the design of political institutions in deeply divided societies. In particular, I will be investigating cases where national, ethnic, religious or linguistic divisions are accommodated through the use of power-sharing institutions – known in the academic literature as consociational democracies. The basic idea of consociational power sharing, which is probably now the most common institutional device employed in peace agreements and post-conflict constitutions worldwide, is to manage potential conflict between groups by guaranteeing each of them representation in parliament, government, the civil service, and sometimes the police and military, often in proportion to their shares in the population. A potential side effect of this means of managing conflict can be that the census, from which population shares are calculated, itself becomes a focus of political mobilisation, contestation and conflict. This contestation takes a variety of forms, but can include debates about whether questions on identity should be asked in the census, what the wording of such questions and tick-box answers should be, civil society campaigns to influence people’s answers to census questions, and debates about the interpretation of census results and what they mean for the design of power-sharing institutions. The aim of the project is to investigate how institutional design affects census politics, and vice versa.

How common are these debates about the census?

That’s hard to say, because they haven’t necessarily been documented in comparative research. One of the things that I’ll be doing early on in the project is to try to map out instances of contentious politics surrounding the census. My plan is to explore four cases in depth, though. These are Bosnia and Herzegovina, where a census originally planned for 2011 was delayed until 2013 and remains the subject of intense debates; Kenya, where the 2009 census followed closely on from the 2008 post-election violence; Lebanon, where no census has been conducted since 1932 due to sensitivities about the implications for the country’s power-sharing formula; and Northern Ireland, where successive censuses have been accompanied by speculation about the implications of shifts in demography for the future of the country. I’m most familiar with the Bosnian and Northern Ireland cases, so will likely start with conducting the fieldwork element of the research in those two countries. I haven’t conducted research in Kenya or Lebanon before, but I’m looking forward to learning more about those places and eventually to incorporating insights from my research there into my teaching. There’s plenty of scope for further research, too, with some other recent census controversies including those experienced by Sudan in 2008 and Myanmar in 2014, and in relation to Nigeria’s forthcoming but delayed census.


The religion questions from the 2011 Northern Ireland census (source: Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency)

So is this something that has already been written about in academic literature?

Not really, or at least not systematically. There is some literature on the role of the census in the construction of identities – basically, documenting how the census was one of the mechanisms that states have used to build national identities amongst their populations. Benedict Anderson added a chapter entitled ‘Census, map, museum’ to the second edition of his seminal work, Imagined Communities, published in 1991. The anthropologist Bernard Cohn also wrote about the colonial censuses in South Asia – as has sociologist Charles Hirschman. These works have inspired more recent scholarship by sociologists and anthropologists, and in 2001, Cambridge University Press published an edited book called Census and Identity: The Politics of Race, Ethnicity, and Language in National Censuses. Since then, a number of political scientists have conducted comparative research about census politics, including Gëzim Visoka and Elvin Gjevori and Florian Bieber. I am interested in debates about role of the census in identity construction, and one of the things that excites me about this project is the chance to revisit some classic works of anthropology such as those by Anderson and Cohn, but the relationship between institutional design and census politics hasn’t been explored in much depth at all, and this is where I think my project can contribute something new.

Where did the idea for the project come from?

Bosnia was one of the case studies that I explored in my PhD research, and in the latter stages of that work it was difficult to avoid the controversy surrounding the census eventually held there in 2013. Having previously studied at Queen’s University Belfast, I also had a sense of the importance of the issue in Northern Ireland. The idea grew out of those experiences really, and I presented it at an IDD research awayday last summer. Shortly after that, I got an e-mail from our College Research Support Office about the call for applications to the ESRC Future Research Leaders scheme, and I worked up the initial idea into a full funding proposal. I’ve always had an interest in human geography dating back to school (and I’m pleased that as well as working with Stefan Wolff here at Birmingham, I will have as a secondary mentor the geographer Ian Shuttleworth, from Queen’s) and I suppose that explains my fascination with the census! Most citizens probably don’t think about the census that much, other than completing one every ten years, and while many social scientists use census data and are therefore concerned with its accuracy, they don’t tend to engage with questions about the process and politics behind the production of that census data. The census is quite a mundane exercise, but when one scratches the surface, there’s a lot for those of us interested in topics ranging from identity and conflict to state-building and constitutional design to engage with.

Isn’t the census a rather old-fashioned exercise, though? Are some states likely to abandon the census in favour of more regular surveys?

It’s true that there are ongoing debates about the utility of a decennial population count, given the expense of such exercises but also because a lot can change in the intervening periods – especially in contexts of conflict and high levels of migration. One option is to replace the census with a population register or with administrative data that the state already collects from its citizens. While this alternative has been pursued by some European countries, many developing and post-conflict states arguably lack the administrative capacity necessary to do this, and even amongst the advanced economies, many states appear to be committed to the future of the census. There also appears to be strong cultural attachment to the census in some societies, as the recent Canadian experience shows. Canada abolished its long-form census questionnaire in 2011, replacing it with a household survey, only to reintroduce it in 2016. Surveys can certainly provide more timely information based on a sample of the total population, which is clearly important in a post-conflict or development context, but a count of the entire population is necessary in order to construct those samples accurately. The census also provides important data that is required for the holding of elections, which have been prioritised in post-conflict state-building efforts. For this reason, donors are often keen to promote the holding of a census as soon as possible after the ending of a conflict. So, I think that while census techniques and technologies are bound to change, censuses themselves are likely to be with us for some time to come.

Thanks, and good luck with the project!

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