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Will the UN ever accept responsibility for Haiti’s devastating cholera epidemic?

28 April 2016

Rosa Freedman is a Senior Lecturer at Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham. Rosa’s research primarily focuses on international law, human rights, and the United Nations. She adopts a multidisciplinary approach to her research, utilising theories of international relations and international development. Rosa sits on the advisory boards of civil society organisations and regularly contributes to and is interviewed by national and international media.

 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.

What happens when a humanitarian organisation meant to protect people instead causes them grave harm? That has long been the question where it comes to the UN’s peacekeeping operations. From sexual violence to looting, from deaths caused by drink-driving to property damage, a great many individuals have been harmed by peacekeepers, and the structures to provide protection and remedy range from threadbare to non-existent.

But it’s another thing altogether when the harm done is attributable not to individual peacekeepers, but to UN operations in general. Two of the gravest examples of this have occurred in recent years: the Haiti cholera epidemic, and the poisoning of Roma in displaced persons camps in Kosovo.

For years, there have been fights to secure justice for both sets of victims. But while Haiti’s struggle goes on, in the Kosovan case, it looks like a major breakthrough has been made.

It’s now being reported that the UN will apologise and provide remedies for displaced Roma people forced to live in camps built on toxic wasteland in Kosovo. The poison in the earth under those camps caused significant damage to the health of those individuals and to children born within the camps. Although the camps were demolished in 2010, individuals had been forced to live there for a decade despite repeated warnings about lead poisoning from the World Health Organisation and from various human rights groups.

But despite clear evidence of its role in what happened, the UN is only now potentially acknowledging responsibility, and it’s only doing so because of a non-binding opinion handed down by the Human Rights Advisory Panel, a body set up to hear civil claims against the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

That panel, which hears civil cases about harms caused by murders, enforced disappearances, and other serious crimes, has now urged the mission to acknowledge a “failure to comply with the applicable human rights standards in response to the adverse health condition caused by lead contamination” and to make a “public apology to them and their families”.

Whether those words will be heeded remains to be seen. But it is high time that the UN finds a way to take responsibility for harms caused by or attributable to its peacekeeping operations – and that obligation must not be limited to events in Kosovo.

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

Owning up

There are clear parallels between what happened in Kosovo and the disaster in Haiti. As with the lead poisoning, there is strong evidence that the cholera epidemic in Haiti was attributable to the UN peacekeeping operation (MINUSTAH).

Nepalese peacekeepers arriving in Haiti were not screened for cholera, and the camps they lived in had inadequate sanitation facilities, allowing raw faecal matter containing cholera to flow straight into a tributary that feeds Haiti’s main river, the Artibonite. Cholera quickly spread in October 2010; it has killed thousands of people and sickened hundreds of thousands more.

Ever since the outbreak began, the UN has refused to acknowledge anything other than “moral responsibility”, and failed to apologise or provide remedies to the victims.

Whereas the Roma in Kosovo had recourse to a civil court, albeit only once the panel was created in 2006, the Haitian cholera victims have been denied access to any similar mechanism. As such, a class action suit was filed at the New York District Court, which is now at the Appellate Court level, on behalf of 5,000 victims.

The arguments so far have focused on whether the UN can be brought to a national court, or whether its immunity from such courts’ jurisdiction is absolute. All the while, more than five years since the cholera outbreak began, victims have still been denied justice – and the failure to eradicate cholera means that the disease is now nearly endemic.

Where the buck stops

The peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Haiti have been tasked with meeting similar needs. Both missions have exercised governmental powers and taken on governmental duties. UNMIK was created in 1999, and it was the sole sovereign power in Kosovo until independence was declared in 2008; MINUSTAH was created in 2004, and at various times has been a hybrid sovereign power within the state, frequently exercising governmental functions alongside the national government of Haiti.

At the time when the affected Roma people were moved to the contaminated camps in Kosovo, and for at least eight of the years that they were forced to continue living there, the UN was the country’s sole authority and power.

And at the time of the cholera outbreak in Haiti, which began shortly after the 2010 earthquake, the UN was fulfilling many governmental functions there, since the national infrastructure had all but collapsed. Authority and control may have nominally belonged to the government, but in practice it rested with the UN and MINUSTAH.

This question of who was actually exercising sovereign powers is crucial. That the UN was in control means it does bear responsibility for the harms that occurred on its watch.

Where the UN, acting externally and fulfilling the role of a government within a state, causes or allows harms to the local population, it must be held to account – in much the same way that we expect national governments to accept responsibility and provide remedies when they harm their people.


This article was originally published on The Conversation

The Rwanda Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP) public works and women’s empowerment

19 April 2016

Pamela PozarnyPamela joined GSDRC at the University of Birmingham in 2016, on extended leave from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations where she has been working as Rural Sociologist since 2006. Previously, she worked with FAO’s Regional Office for Africa as Regional Officer for Land Tenure and Rural Institutions. She has worked and lived in Africa over 30 years, focusing on social equity and inclusion, poverty reduction, social protection, women’s economic empowerment, rural employment, food and nutrition security and resilience.

In early April I attended the fifth Transfer Project (TP) meeting in Addis Ababa. Launched in 2008, the Transfer Project Workshop is a research and learning initiative, supporting improved knowledge and practice on social transfers in Sub-Sahara Africa. The broad objective of the TP is sharing latest research findings, methodologies, experiences and lessons learned among partners. TP is led by UNICEF, partnering with FAO, Save the Children and University of North Carolina, and includes partners from national governments and research institutes in different countries, as well as a number of agencies (e.g. NGOs) and donors. The main aim of TP is to assess impacts of social transfer programmes on a broad range of sectors (food security, nutrition and health, agricultural production, gender, wellbeing, social inclusion etc.) to provide evidence of how programmes are impacting target beneficiaries and wider communities. The TP works closely with and through governments, at national and decentralised levels, sharing evidence of the diverse impacts of these programmes, and including stakeholder priorities and views. An important aspect of TP is working closely with governments, and policymakers more specifically, in order to channel findings and lessons into future programme design and implementation – so policymakers are key. The Addis meeting incorporated two innovations compared to previous meetings: one was participation from partners from developing countries in other parts of the world (e.g. Philippines, Thailand); and the second was emphasis given to “cash plus” programmes (i.e., social protection programmes linked to other services and interventions).

I have been attending TP meetings regularly as part of the FAO team – as I have been leading FAO’s qualitative research on cash transfer impact evaluations for several years. On the FAO Social Protection/ Protection to Production (PtoP), you can find most of our publications, reports, field guides and briefs for the qualitative studies, for the mixed method impact evaluations and all social protection publications. Our initial 6-country mixed methods qualitative research activity (implemented with OPM and supported mainly by DFID), examined impact areas covering household economy, local economy, social networks and resilience, and operations (synthesis paper). More recently, we have broadened our focus to new areas including cash transfer impacts on decent work and rural employment, and rural women’s economic empowerment (RWEE).

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In Addis, I presented findings from our RWEE qualitative research in Rwanda, joining the qualitative research panel comprised of two other research activities. My presentation centred on Rwanda’s national Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP), focussing on one of the three VUP components, public works. The research was premised on three main hypotheses, examining VUP impacts on: women’s economic advancement; power and agency; and operations – if and how programme design and implementation promote gender equality and RWEE. The presentation covered: (i) background to VUP; (ii) our main theory of change and hypotheses; (iii) sampling and methodology – a systematic in-depth qualitative approach based on a “roadmap” which enables replication and comparability across countries; (iv) findings; and (v) overall conclusions and recommendations for government.

In brief, our research found only marginal confirmation that VUP promotes the economic advancement of women. Although women are the majority of workers at public works sites, male heads of household are registered beneficiaries and payments go into their accounts (rural finance institutions). Women are however making some earnings and mostly able to control these funds, but they are small amounts. A number of women are beginning to open their own separate accounts for the first time, but low financial literacy, information access and weak bargaining power within the household limits women’s greater access to loans. Further, VUP has increased women’s workloads, resulting in increased time allocated to work consequently offloading some of this burden to children. VUP has likewise, only marginally promoted women’s empowerment and agency, evidenced for example through increased self-confidence and self-esteem which has catalysed social capital and inclusion in social and economic networks, including at worksites. Greater engagement in networks however has not translated into increased leadership or decision-making in the public arena. Finally, our findings suggest that VUP design and operations is not promoting women’s economic empowerment or gender equality, largely due to weaknesses in implementation processes but also programme design. These features include for example: insufficient days worked compared to targets; significant payment delays; unattractive pay rates; long distances to worksites; limited skills development, and minimal sensitization and messaging.

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Our recommendations focus on strengthening and streamlining implementation processes including: improving the M&E systems for better tracking; supporting women’s financial capacities and access to financial institutions; exploring synergies to link VUP with other livelihood programmes; reinforcing sensitization; promoting women’s groups and space for their social and economic networking; and including work projects that are closer to communities and that address women’s priorities (e.g. wells, fieldwork for labour-constrained households). Our research findings and recommendations have been presented to stakeholders in Rwanda and were well received. With support from partners, government is already adopting a number of changes to VUP aligned with our recommendations, and there is ongoing discussion of further FAO support to enhance operations.

To conclude, at the TP meeting, the qualitative research panel discussant opened his remarks commending how refreshing the qualitative presentations were – as we finally put faces and people at the centre of our discussions. We finally hear the stories behind the data and the reasons for why these cash transfer findings occur, he said, qualitative findings bring the data to life and put reality on the ground. In fact, participants seemed to agree…during the lively closing session of the TP “Oscar awards”, the qualitative research panel won for the “best/most interesting panel” of the meeting!

PowerPoint presentation slides are available for download.




2015 Teaching Academy Award for Educational Enhancement and Innovation

15 March 2016

Ellie ChownsEllie Chowns is a Teaching Fellow in the International Development Department (IDD).  Her background is in international development NGOs, including Christian Aid, Concern Universal, and Quaker Peace and Social Witness.  She specialises in monitoring, evaluation, and learning, and has worked in Malawi, Uganda, Burundi and the Philippines. Ellie teaches Development Management and Making Policy (on-campus and distance learning).

Tom HewittTom Hewitt is Director of Academic Programmes in the International Development Department.  He is a specialist in development theory, governance and the politics of development, science and technology policy, and child rights and rights-based programming. Tom teaches Critical Approaches to Development (CAD), Development Politics (DP), and Development Management in our on-campus degree programmes, and on-line versions of CAD, DP and Research Methods.

Ellie Chowns and Tom Hewitt have been awarded the 2015 Teaching Academy Award in Educational Innovation Enhancement and Innovation in the category of Educational Innovation for their work in Masters-level teaching.

Reacting to their award, Ellie said: ‘‘I’m absolutely delighted because I think the award recognises the fact that we have thought hard about how to meet the needs of really diverse group of students, so it’s recognition for our effort and it’s an encouragement to us and others to think creatively  about learning’’.  Tom added, ‘‘I think it’s really good that the university does recognise new ways of teaching and learning and all the effort that goes into trying to give students a rewarding experience’’.

In his award message, Professor Jon Green, Director of the Teaching Academy and Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) said, ‘‘I am delighted to be able to congratulate all of this year’s winners of the Teaching Academy Awards …One of the major aims of the Teaching Academy is to recognise and reward inspiring and innovative teaching, and learning support provided by the staff, that enhances the student experience”.

Ellie and Tom have instigated several key innovations in their co-convened Masters-level Development Management module, which attracts a very diverse cohort of about 40 students per year.   Around 90% are overseas students, from a very wide range of countries (mainly Asia and Africa).  While some have many years’ experience of working in international development, a large minority have no background in the subject, nor work experience.  They thus face a significant challenge in ensuring that the module stimulates and supports all students.

On the basis of experience and feedback from the previous year, a review of literature, and student focus group discussions, Ellie and Tom introduced a newly designed curriculum, changed assessment and feedback methods, and introduced more active learning.

Tom's pic cropped

The first assignment was redesigned to give more, and more rapid, diagnostic and formative feedback, to spot struggling students early in the module. For the first five weeks students produced a short written critical review of their readings each week. This was discussed in small groups in class. The mini essays then fed into the summative assignment. This ensured that students did the reading; gave them lots of writing practice; gave them rapid, criteria-focused feedback, both from peers (in class), and from tutors (in writing and on video via Canvas, as well as through a one-to-one tutorial in Week 4).

The second assignment, previously a standard essay, is now an individual write-up of a group project on the topic ‘a strategy to achieve one of the Sustainable Development Goals in a country of your choice’. This assessment rewards both high-quality group work and individual effort and achievement.

Also as a result of the previous year’s experience, a new department-wide effort has been catalysed to diagnose and address English-language support needs early on, including adoption of a diagnostic test, and expanded provision of (streamed) department-specific language lessons.

Informed by the concept of the ‘flipped classroom’, Ellie and Tom have changed the way they use teaching sessions. Half the class time is used for small group work, followed by plenary discussion of emergent themes.  Lectures are still delivered in person, but are also provided from video recordings online.

Ellie pic cropped

Curriculum design changes have been aided by use of learning technologies. Ellie and Tom have piloted and promoted use of clickers and ResponseWare.  They are also innovating in their use of Canvas, including lecture capture, providing additional video lectures, and video feedback on assignments. The flipped classroom involves delivering video lectures online – which students can watch any time before and after the class – and then use all of the class time for interaction  and group work. According to Ellie and Tom, a flipped classroom approach involves more preparation work on their side, but it allows greater and more targeted contact with the students during contact hours than the more traditional lecture format and, especially for those struggling with English, it gives a second chance to go through some of the material.

As with any experimenting, not everything went according to plan. Parts of the assignments proved too challenging for some of the students and will be reviewed for next year. Being able to give equal, and appropriate, attention to such a wide range of abilities in one class is also an area that needs further review.  One important lesson Ellie and Tom learnt from the experience was that early diagnostic assessment is critical in order to understand where students’ starting points are and to tailor their teaching to start there in order to carry students through the rest of the module.

Taking the ‘Unintended Consequences’ of Peacekeeping Seriously – How Haiti Has the Potential to Revolutionize World Politics, Again

29 February 2016

Nicolas 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.

Rosa Freedman is a Senior Lecturer at Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham. Rosa’s research primarily focuses on international law, human rights, and the United Nations. She adopts a multidisciplinary approach to her research, utilising theories of international relations and international development. Rosa sits on the advisory boards of civil society organisations and regularly contributes to and is interviewed by national and international media.

Haiti has long been described a perennial ‘failed state,’ a ‘basket case’ of the Western Hemisphere, where all good development initiatives ‘go to die.’ Obviously, this semantic severely underplays the international factors in the Haitian failed statebuilding process; but this is to a certain extent beyond the point here. Most commentators tend to forget – or are not interested to know – that Haiti was the first black republic to gain independence through a bloody uprising against the French plantation owners. The Haitian Revolution started in August 1791 – that is right in the middle of the upheavals of the French Revolution that started two years before in 1789 and seven years after the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolutionary War. The Haitian Revolution would play a crucial role in future emancipation movements in the Americas and beyond, proving that it was possible to stand against slavery and European colonial powers. The repercussions for this crime of lèse-majesté would be terrible: Haiti had to ‘buy’its independence from France in 1804, a debt that is equivalent to 17 billion Euros in today’s money, and which Haiti finally managed to finish paying in the 1950s.

Now, Haiti is once again in a position to transform and shape world politics. However, this time, it is not through voluntary leadership of a leader like Toussaint L’Ouverture, or through the collective exasperation vis-à-vis the exceptionally brutal slave regime in Haiti.This time, it is through the unfortunate consequences of the intrusion of cholera in Haiti by UN Peacekeepers in 2010. The epidemic that started in Mirebalais in the Artibonite region has had terrible repercussions for Haitians: killing more than 9,000 people and sickening over 745,000 since, making it the ‘Haitian 9-11’ (to use an analogy that speaks to most Westerners). It is also widely recognised that the origin of the outbreak lies in the Nepalese camp in Mirebalais.The camp had inadequate toilet or sanitation facilities, and raw faecal waste flowed from that camp into a nearby tributary (Meille River) that feeds into the Artibonite River. The strain of cholera identified in Haiti is a rare one typically found in the same area of Nepal from which a contingent of UN peacekeeping troops had recently been deployed. This ‘unintended consequence’ of the external presence in Haiti puts to the forefront the various issues of individual and collective accountability for all undesirable impacts of peacekeeping, including sexual abuse and exploitation, and of course, mortality resulting from an illness that was not endemic to the country for over a century. This crisis has the potential to drastically reshape peacekeeping practices, shifting the emphasis from the mandate of peacekeeping missions and what is achievable (see: Brahimi Report), to the evaluation of all consequences of peacekeeping practices, positive as well as negative ones. That is, if the UN is ready to engage seriously with this agenda, moving beyond mere rhetoric about “minimizing the impact on the local and regional environment by the deployment of a peace operation” (UN 2015, 78) to seriously tackle the consequences of existing peacekeeping practices.

large_UNHaiti1Brazilian peacekeepers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) distribute water and food in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 22 Jan 2010. UN Photo/Marco Dormino.

The current cholera crisis is subject of a legal dispute, with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) against UN on behalf of 5,000 Haitian cholera victims demanding accountability for the cholera epidemic in Haiti. IJDH is seeking compensation, remediation through water and sanitation infrastructure, and a formal admission of responsibility for the cholera outbreak. They requested that MINUSTAH establish a standing claims commission to hear the claims in a fair and impartial manner, as provided for by Article 55 of the Status of Forces Agreement, however the UN Legal Counsel deemed the claims “not receivable”, because they “would necessarily include a review of political and policy matters”. IJDH then decided to bring the case to the U.S. federal district court (Southern District on New York). The case was initially dismissed, and the plaintiffs’ appeal is ongoing. The UN is using its immunity to avoid all discussions about legal (or otherwise ethical or social) responsibility regarding the cholera crisis. However, this unprecedented challenge to UN immunity transcends the actual matter in hand, and forces all of us to question the existing peacekeeping regime and the practices associated with it.

Haiti has also been at the forefront of another important debate pertaining to ‘unintended consequences’ of peacekeeping, which is sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers. In a recent report on the case of Haiti, the UN found that 231 individuals admitted to transactional sexual relationship with MINUSTAH personnel, which suggests (or confirms) that sexual exploitation remains significantly under-reported in peacekeeping missions. This needs to be contrasted with the total number of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation against members of all UN peacekeeping missions in 2014, which were a mere 51. This figure is supposed to include all instances of reported transactional sex relationships with peacekeepers in host communities.The recent ‘Code Blue’ campaign, launched in 2015 and aimed at ending immunity for sexual violence by UN peacekeeping personnel by encouraging UN personnel to leak compromising documents, has further increased the pressure on the UN to take into account the impacts of its presence on vulnerable segments of the local population.

How the UN will end up dealing with issues of compensation to victims of cholera in Haiti and other issues of abuse of power will in fine reflect the seriousness of the UN in dealing with the general issue of unintended consequences of peacekeeping and accountability. In the words of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations, “peace operations are not simply something the United Nations does but what the United Nations is” (UN 2015, iii). Unfortunately, right now, the Haitians don’t see a very flattering image of what the United Nations is.

This article was originally published on MUNPlanet

Can the meek professor or ‘Mr Clean’ save the Central African Republic?

3 February 2016

Paul JacksonPaul Jackson is a political economist working predominantly on conflict and post-conflict reconstruction. A core area of interest is decentralisation and governance and it was his extensive experience in Sierra Leone immediately following the war that led him into the area of conflict analysis and security sector reform.

After no candidate received more than 50% of the vote during the first round in December 2015, the presidential election in the Central African Republic is now headed to a runoff.

Anicet-Georges Dologuele, the former head of the Development Bank of Central African States between 2001-2010 and known as known as “Mr Clean”, came first with 23.8%. He was tailed by a relatively mild-mannered maths professor and outsider, Faustin Archange Touadera with 19.4%. Both men have been prime minister at different times: Touadera served for five years in the national unity government of president Bozize in 2008 and Dologuele was prime minister under president Patasse, who came to power in free elections in 1993.

The first round was remarkably peaceful given the recent upheaval within the Central African Republic. And there’s some cause for optimism still. With nearly 2m of the country’s 5m or so people eligible to vote, turnout in the presidential and parliamentary elections reached a high 79%. The election is seen as a potential turning point away from sectarian violence that has blighted the country for the last few years.

Rescheduled five times due to inter-communal violence, the elections will finally produce a new government to succeed interim president Catherine Samba-Panza. She has been tasked with running the show since the collapse of Michel Djotodia’s government in 2014, but has limited credibility and support and has generally been unable to curb the country’s lawlessness.

Whoever succeeds her will find the challenges as immense as ever.

On the ropes

The Central African Republic has never been governed well. The French looted it; the self-styled independent “Emperor Bokassa” who ruled from 1966 to 1979 took the country to a hellish extreme of kleptocracy and borderline insane dictatorship. There have since been five coups and several armed revolts, and the general population lives in both poverty and fear.

The country is rich in diamonds, gold, oil and uranium, but also has one of the world’s poorest populations. It remains divided between an economic and political elite based in the capital Bangui and the mass of the population. The average annual income is around US$320 and life expectancy is one of the lowest in the world, hovering around 50.

The current troubles began in earnest in December 2012 when the mainly Muslim Sélékaalliance began pillaging its way south. Three months later its forces overthrew president François Bozizé, a former army chief of staff who seized power in a coup in 2003. Christian so-called “Anti-Balaka” (literally “machete-proof”) groups then retaliated against the country’s Muslims, who make up around 15% of the population, and the violence has claimed lives and divided communities ever since.

But the lead-up to these elections was calmer. It even included a visit from Pope Francis, his first to a war zone, during which he paid his respects at a mosque. His message of peace and reconciliation has been invoked by politicians throughout the process.

Faint hope

It is hoped that a newly elected government can restore some government credibility and be able to extend authority beyond the capital. The interim government believes that a legitimate government, even with a flawed electoral process, is the only hope for the country to recover from years of upheaval.

The country has a very long way to go. Much of it is still under the control of rival and fragmented armed groups. In December 2015, an ex-Séléka faction that has clashed with UN peacekeepers previously briefly declared an independent state in the north-east only backing down after pressure from neighbouring Chad.

The Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army is still active in the south-east, and a plethora of armed groups run lucrative operations ranging from road blocks to smuggling diamonds, gold and coffee.

All the while, a shaky peace is maintained by more than 11,000 peacekeepers, but even they have become highly controversial, with accusations of sexual abuse by both UN peacekeepers and French soldiers.

Whoever wins the run-off at the end of January will inherit a heavy weight of expectation for democracy in Africa, but also a country that has been subject to systematic abuse since independence in 1960.

More immediately, they will inherit a government that has little writ beyond Bangui, a non-existent state security sector, and a shifting landscape of communal and lawless groups consisting of young rebels with no education, no jobs and no prospects – but lots of opportunities to make a living by picking up a gun.

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

Five years on, Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution continues from the ground up

18 January 2016

saifAdnan Saif is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham, focusing on issues of collaborative local governance and hybridity in post-conflict countries, particularly Tunisia. He has worked for more than twenty years in local economic development and local government in the United Kingdom as well as undertaking consultancy work and training in local governance and development in many developing countries.

Tunisians are marking five years since the culmination of their “Jasmine Revolution”. Since its longtime authoritarian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced out of office in January 2011, Tunisia has been embarking on a long transition to constitutional democracy – a transition that, although very bumpy at times, has nevertheless led to two successful multi-party elections and a new constitution.

The award of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize to the Tunisia National Dialogue Quartet, representing Tunisian civil society, was but one of many recognitions by the international community of the progress the country has made on its path to a stable and democratic new order.

During my many visits to Tunisia over the last four years, I witnessed the transition process through its highs and lows. My most recent visit was in August 2015, just after the terrorist attack in the coastal city of Sousse that left 38 people dead, mostly British tourists.

In spite of the tragic loss of life and the damage done to the national economy, Tunisians have developed a remarkable resilience and are able to pick themselves up and move on. That capacity is inspired in no small part by the country’s leaders, especially the two “sheikhs”, as some have now began to call them: president Beji Caid Essebsi and Rashid Al-Ghannoushi, respective leaders of the two largest political parties, Nidaa Tounes and Ennahdah.

The two men’s ability to compromise and work with other national social and political movements, such as the Dialogue Quartet, has become the safety net for the country during this tumultuous transition process.

The latest development in the state-building process is the recently published draft local government bill. On the face of it, it seems like a set of technical changes – but in fact, it’s a core part of the project to fundamentally change the way Tunisia works.

Act local

Localism has a particular resonance in post-revolutionary Tunisia. What’s often forgotten is that Tunisia’s revolution started brewing months before, when Mohammed Boazizi set himself on fire in December 2010 in the town of Sidi Bouzaid. And he did so in protest at the harassment and humiliation inflicted on him by a municipal official.

The bill’s aim is to create a decentralised system of government that supports work, freedom and social justice – precisely the slogans of the Jasmine Revolution.

The Tunisians I’ve spoken with have high hopes for a truly decentralised form of government, where they will truly have the opportunity to participate in the decision making process and make their voices be heard. If local governments can respond quicker and more effectively to local issues, the argument goes, Tunisia will be a far more stable and happy place than it was under decades of centralised authoritarianism.

However, there is little debate about the possible costs of decentralisation. Political offices could yet be captured by local elites; after decades of centralised authoritarianism, local legislators are generally inexperienced; and highly localised government can of course be very expensive. Still, the draft legislation does include some safeguards to protect the process. The decentralisation process will be gradual, and economically lagging areas will benefit from extra financial support to keep them from falling behind.

It’ll be a long time before we can tell whether these measures work. But for now, the World Bank at least is willing to give Tunisians the benefit of the doubt: it has agreed a funding package of US$300m in 2014 to support governance reform, endorsing the changes to local governance as “transformational”.

Tunisia still faces huge challenges. But with the constitution in place and responsible political leadership guiding the process, all is by no means lost.

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

Playing together, staying together? Reintegrating sport on the divided island of Cyprus

16 December 2015

Capture 6Laurence Cooley is a teaching fellow in International Development Department (IDD), University of Birmingham. His teaching and research focuses on the governance of deeply divided societies, and in particular the use of power-sharing institutions to manage ethno-national conflict. Recently, he has started to conduct research on the governance of sport in such societies. Here, he reflects on a recent visit to Cyprus, where negotiations about the potential unification of the divided island’s two football federations have been taking place.

In the aftermath of violent conflict in deeply divided societies, the organisation of sport is often left fractured along the same lines that have defined the conflict. Such is the situation in Cyprus, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots have rarely played together since the political trauma of the 1950s. In recent years, however, talks have been taking place between the two football federations on the divided island of Cyprus, and in November 2013 provisional agreement was reached to reunite the two bodies.

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One of these, the Cyprus Football Federation (CFA), was formed in the 1930s by seven Greek Cypriot clubs and one Turkish Cypriot club. The CFA was recognised by FIFA in 1948 as the official Cypriot federation. However, in the context of the anti-colonial struggle against British rule in the mid-1950s, Turkish Cypriot teams were prevented from competing in CFA leagues – ostensibly because of security concerns stemming from the growing risk of inter-communal violence – and eventually set up their own Cyprus Turkish Football Association (CTFA), which has never been recognised by FIFA. While an agreement in 1975 allowed for Turkish Cypriot clubs to play friendly matches against foreign teams, this was rescinded in 1983 when the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was proclaimed. Since 1983, Turkish Cypriot football has existed in a state of almost complete isolation.

Sport was similarly fractured in another divided society, Bosnia and Herzegovina, immediately after the end of its 1992-95 conflict. Bosnia emerged from war with three rival football federations. A way to overcome this division was found in 2002, when a unified football federation was created by merging the separate Bosniak, Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat federations. FIFA and UEFA made an important concession to enable this to happen, however, by agreeing to an interim arrangement allowing the new body to be governed by three presidents – one representing each of the country’s three main ethnic groups – and by an executive committee composed of equal numbers of Bosniak, Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat members.

This arrangement proved to be unwieldy, with a majority of any one of the three groups on the executive committee able to block decisions, and FIFA and UEFA eventually demanded reform. When change was not forthcoming, in 2011 they suspended the federation and subsequently imposed a so-called ‘normalisation committee’, which was able to enact the required reforms. As Jasmin Mujanović and I have argued, in doing so, FIFA and UEFA were able to capitalise on local frustration with corruption and the generally poor state of the domestic game, in a way that might offer lessons for efforts to promote broader political reform in Bosnia.

In Bosnia, there was tremendous resistance to reform on the part of nationalists in both the world of football and politics. In response to FIFA’s demands, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik once famously proclaimed that “I am against one president being elected for the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina in any state structure – you name it, even a bee-keeping association”. It was only through a combination of FIFA’s intervention, fan pressure and the happenstance of a club from the Serb entity of the country winning the Bosnian Premier League the season that club teams were to be barred from entering European competitions, that this resistance was overcome.

In Cyprus, by contrast, much of the momentum for change has come from within the local governing bodies rather than from FIFA. The president of the CTFA, Hasan Sertoğlu, has written that the agreement Capture 9reached in Zurich in November 2013 promises to end “more than three decades of isolation” and “to give hope to our clubs, to our players and above all to our youth who all strive to gain access to this global village of the sport called football”. While he initially faced opposition from some Turkish Cypriot politicians, the election of Mustafa Akıncı as the new TRNC president in April 2015 has signalled a political environment more conducive to unification.

While bringing an end to their isolation provides a clear rationale for Turkish Cypriot support of the agreement, the motives of Greek Cypriots are less immediately obvious. The CFA, which has existed as an essentially Greek Cypriot association since the 1950s, already enjoys full international recognition as the official governing body on the island. Nonetheless, there appears to be a significant amount of goodwill towards the Turkish Cypriot football authorities on the part of CFA officials – not least its president, Costakis Koutsokoumnis. While some clubs voted against the proposed unification in a secret ballot held by the CFA, FIFA also holds some power over them. If the talks ultimately fail and this failure is seen to be the fault of the CFA or its member clubs, then it is rumoured that FIFA might unilaterally extend recognition to the CTFA as a second federation on the island.

As Nikos Lekakis has noted, the agreement does not necessarily foresee the creation of a unified league in which Greek and Turkish Cypriot clubs will play against each other. That the leagues might be kept separate, at least initially, reflects concerns about the potential for violence between rival sets of fans (violence between Greek Cypriot clubs is already a significant problem, without the additional complication of the ethnic divide), but also the significant financial gap that now exists between them. While Greek Cypriot clubs regularly participate in European competitions, even the best Turkish Cypriot teams are only semi-professional.

While this arrangement might fall short of the hopes of those who wish to see Greek and Turkish Cypriots once more play alongside one another, it does avoid the problems created by the interim arrangements that were put in place in Bosnia. Rather than merging the two federations as equal partners in a newly created body, if the Zurich agreement is implemented, the Turkish Cypriot league would be affiliated to the CFA in the same way that each of the divisions in the existing league are affiliated. Turkish Cypriot representation in the CFA’s governance structures would follow this model, rather than the power-sharing arrangement that proved so problematic in Bosnia.

There is still some way to go before football on the island will be united, and implementation of the agreement is currently being held up by debates about the need for Turkish Cypriot clubs to be legally registered with the Republic of Cyprus authorities in order to participate in CFA competitions. Nonetheless, while the wording of the agreement between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot football authorities is very careful to note that it “concerns only football related matters” and “does not set any precedent for the Cypriot political issues”, the unification of football would be a hugely symbolic step in the search for a long-term settlement to the Cyprus conflict.

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