Post-Conflict Resolution


Professor Paul Jackson, University of Birmingham

17 June 2017


Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.pdf

Many people assume that conflict ends with peace agreements, but usually these documents are the start of a long and difficult process of transition for individuals, states and institutions. This encompasses dealing with formerly hostile armed groups, reconstructing security services and dealing with transitional justice. All of these elements are deeply contested and politicised and the international community has a less than glorious record of dealing with them.

What is required is a far better local understanding of the political context within which decisions are made and an appreciation of the pressures that political leaders are under and the compromises that they have to make in order to persuade followers to give up the fight and turn to peace. This talk will draw on practical experiences of supporting the peace process and the transitional justice arrangements following conflict internationally but particularly drawing on recent experiences in Nepal.

1. Who am I? I am an academic and professor of African Politics at the University of Birmingham. My background is development and I currently lead the British Academy research programme on sustainable development. Within that I have worked mainly on:

1.     Governance and also on security and reconstruction of states.;

2.     Security that people aren’t scared of – ‘security sector reform’;

3.     Community and local approaches to peace building; and

4.     Transitional justice and peace negotiation

My specialism is rebels and the disaffected…

I am a practitioner as well as an academic. I am currently a ‘Deployable Civilian Expert’ for the UK Stabilisation Unit, where I work as a security and justice adviser for the UK; an adviser to the Secretary-General of the UN on governance; and also an adviser to the Head of Profession in DFID on security.

I have a lot of practical fieldwork experience as well as academic research experience.

My talk today will try to give you an insight in to the complexity of peace and peacebuilding, starting with some of the underlying issues that lead to conflict and then looking at three areas I have been involved with that have specific issues associated with them, but share some important characteristics: Sierra Leone, Uganda and Nepal.

2. ‘Peace and Plenty binding the arrows of war’, Abraham Janssen, Commissioned and paid for by the Antwerp Guild of Old Crossbowmen in 1614 and currently in the Barber Institute. Outlining some of the assumptions currently still held by many – that once you have peace then plenty will follow…

3. Conflict affects a very large number of people in the world and 9 of the top ten failed states in the world have had a conflict in the past 3 years. In addition, if I had mapped the world’s poorest places on to this map, then there would have been a considerable overlap. There is a link between poverty, failed states and conflict.

However, this is not always easy to track or to document and even the definition of conflict is contested. For example, some of the big conflict datasets take minimum battle deaths as an indicator, but we may not know how many deaths there have been; what is a ‘battle’? and, what happens in conflicts that growl on for years with varying deaths?

Having signalled a note of caution, I now want to (briefly) underline four core dynamics that contribute to lack of development and peace: resources; geography; bad governance; and conflict itself.

4. Resources – this is Coltan and around 75% of you may have this in your phone. About 75% of that comes from the DRC, one of the most conflict ridden places in the world. Resources are not always a blessing if they are easily accessible and tradeable – they may lead to increased violence.

5. Geography – this is a map of climate change. You can immediately see that with a very small change in temperature, the same countries currently faced with conflict and fragile states are also faced with a decline in agricultural productivity. If you think that migration is bad now, imagine what might happen with a small change in temperature. Migration is also one of the biggest causes of conflict in the global South – consider the pressures on water resources and resulting clashes between sedentary farmers and pastoral groups, e.g. across the Sub-Saharan belt (Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal)

6. Bad governance – Nigerian police bribe & slide 2 Nigerian police officer and gun with tourist. This incorporates both corruption and also incompetence. However, what do you expect? If there is no income and staff cannot be paid properly then corruption is a logical way forward.

7. Conflict – one of the most striking statistics is that if you live in a poor country and you have had a conflict at some point in the recent past you are 80% likely to have another one soon. This is a vicious cycle that is very difficult to break.

8. Sierra Leone:

a.     Mining – blood diamonds is what SL is most famous for.

b.     Mining – this is the environmental damage caused by a diamond mine. Most diamonds in SL are alluvial, which means that you can just dig them out of the ground around rivers. This destroys the rivers but also provides potential employment for a lot of untrained people, as it did during the war.

c.     Scars on the landscape

9. Northern Uganda

a.     Joseph Kony, the vicious leader of the LRA. Still on the run is reputed to be in the CAR.

b.     The LRA are famous for kidnapping children from schools and brain washing them as soldiers. They are extremely tough fighters and there have been several attempts to deal with them.

c.     Issue of child soldiers is the foremost one here. How do you re-programme a child soldier?

10. Nepal

a.     Maoists, although this picture is slightly misleading for a number of reasons.

b.     Images of M vary in Nepal. This cartoon is a sarcastic version.

c.     Reality of former combatants is also extremely varied. What do you do with 20,000 former fighters who joined up in their teens, or younger?

11. Issues of peace agreements tend to be dominated by politicians not trusting each other. Quite often this may come down to individuals learning to trust each other and then bringing on board others later on.

12. Legacies of war – Villa Grimaldi in Chile, human rights abuses, victims, combatants, etc…

13. Religion and conflict – Ntarama church in Rwanda, a very negative image of religion in conflict, but also the sight of local remembrance rather one imposed from above.

14. Justice remains a live issue, not just in the ICC and national courts, but also at local levels where people may have suffered at the hands of local actors. This is a local court from Sierra Leone.

15. A reminder that this is not new – this is the Cyrus Cylinder. It is about 23cm long and 10cm wide – so not very big!

a. inscribed in Akkadian cuneiform. Now housed in the British Museum, it includes a detailed account by Cyrus of his conquest of Babylon in 539BC and his subsequent humane treatment of his conquered subjects. It has been hailed as the world’s first declaration of human rights.

b.     Established peace and abolished forced labour

c.     Inscription continues by detailing reparative building activities in Babylon as well as asking for prayers for Cyrus (lines 25-28). It makes specific reference to the Jews, who have been brought to Babylon – and who Cyrus supported in leaving for their homeland.

d.     Demonstrating his religious tolerance, Cyrus restored the local cults by allowing the gods to return to their shrines.

e.     Cyrus seems to have had no idea of forcing his new subjects into a single Persian identity, and had the wisdom to leave intact the functioning institutions of each kingdom he attached to the Imperial Crown.

16. Finally – this is a slide used as a presentation for an incoming US general to Afghanistan that illustrates just how complex the linkages are between some of the different areas we have been talking about. It is a real one and was used for General McChrystal.



Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution.pdf