Chatham House Reports of one of its Middle East and North Africa Programme elaborates on the still on-going conflict economies of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. The excerpts of the published Executive Summary reproduced here below do not include its Recommendations for Western policymakers, etc.
The conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen have killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions. In seeking to explain the violence that has struck the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) over the past two decades, analysis to date has focused predominantly on ideological and identity-based factors. This report expands this discourse by incorporating approaches adopted from the literature on the political economy of war to examine the conflict economies of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.
motivations, at the individual and group level, are key to understanding
the wars in these countries, yet have tended to be overlooked
in the MENA context. (As the wars have progressed and evolved, the
national and local economies in which conflict is embedded have also changed.)
Such motivations can offer an alternative or complementary
explanation for armed group membership and armed group behaviour. While some
groups will fight to promote or defend a particular identity,
others fight for economic survival or enrichment. For many more actors,
these motivations are tied together, and separating out ‘greed’ and ‘grievance’
is a difficult, if not impossible, task. Even
if economic motivations did not spark the wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and
Yemen initially, it is clear that such factors now play a critical
role in the persistence of open fighting, localized violence and
objectives of this report are twofold. First, it seeks
to develop a framework for comparative analysis of conflict
economies at the local level in the MENA region. Traditionally, the
idea of a conflict economy has been tightly linked to the
funding for arms, ammunition and fighters. Further, most analyses
of conflict economies are conducted at the national level. Even where
research is conducted on a regional basis, discussion
of the impact of conflict is brought back to the national
level. In contrast, we see a broader political economy
of war at work in the region. Our analysis illustrates how
a conflict economy is embedded within a complex local socio-political
system, in which many variables and agendas interact. We deliberately
avoid characterizing conflict economies in terms of ‘black’ and
‘grey’ markets that somehow need to be ‘cleaned up’, as this
erroneously implies that they can eventually be converted into licit
markets like their peacetime counterparts.2 A more
nuanced and multifaceted reading is essential. For the purposes
of this report, we define a conflict economy
as a system of producing, mobilizing and allocating resources
to sustain competitive and embedded violence, both directly and
we show that a ‘political economy of war’ framing offers new
approaches for reducing competitive and embedded violence. ‘Competitive
violence’ can be defined as violence ‘deployed by warring elites
to contest or defend the existing distribution of power’.4 Fighting
between rival armed groups for control over resources and rents, among other
things, usually falls into this category. ‘Embedded violence’,
in contrast, underpins ‘how a political settlement5 works,
as the deals agreed between elites may revolve around who has the “right”
to use violence’.6 In practice,
this could mean that one group is ‘permitted’ to use violence against
another group – and no punishment will be enforced. In the
context of this study, the use of armed force to assert the
status quo to limit the number of ruling elite members is one
example of embedded violence.
of conflict economies has mostly focused on state-level dynamics.7 However,
less attention has been paid to the development of conflict sub-economies that are specific to certain types of
location. This study demonstrates three distinct types of conflict sub-economy:
(1) capital cities; (2) transit areas and borderlands; and (3) oil-rich areas.
Our analysis highlights how each sub-economy creates distinct location-based
patterns of resource production, mobilization and allocation
to sustain competitive and embedded violence. The rents available
in these areas vary. In capital cities, rents focus on control
of the distribution of revenues and assets from the state and private
sector. In transit areas and borderlands, rents centre around taxation and
arbitrage. In oil-rich areas, rents are related to control
of the area itself (and therefore the ability to levy taxes upon
the oil sector), bearing in mind that the level of achievable
taxation depends on the extent to which a given actor controls
the supply chain.
As this report will elaborate, factors specific to each sub-economy type play a role in conditioning the nature of economic activities in each locality, and in determining whether and by which means violence is dispensed. For this reason, national-level generalizations and in-country comparisons of conflict economies are inadequate: for example, the conflict sub-economy of Baghdad has more in common with that of Tripoli than that of al-Qaim, an Iraqi town on the border with Syria. In turn, the conflict economy observed in al-Qaim has more in common with that of al-Mahra in Yemen than al-Mahra does with Sanaa, the Yemeni capital.
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A new study shows 15m Facebook subscribers in the MENA region; a big increase in Arabic language users. In fact, it was found that not only this platform does help socialise but does also contribute above all to informing on the goings-on in any particular country and/or intercountry affairs.
There are more subscribers to Facebook in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) than there are copies of newspapers circulated in the region, a new report has said.
The study by Spot On Public Relations said Facebook has more than 15 million users in the region, while the total regional Arabic, English and French newspaper circulation stands at just under 14 million copies.
“Facebook doesn’t write the news, but the new figures show that Facebook’s reach now rivals that of the news press,” said Carrington Malin, managing director of Spot On Public Relations.
“The growth in Arabic language users has been very strong indeed: some 3.5 million Arabic language users began using Facebook during the past year, since the introduction of Arabic support and we can expect millions more Arabic language users to join the platform,” he added.
Five country markets in MENA now account for some 70 percent of Facebook users – Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the report added.
The study said only 37 percent of Facebook users in the Middle East are female compared with 56 percent in the US and 52 percent in the UK.
Egypt’s 3.5 million Facebook subscribers helped to make North Africa the largest Facebook community in MENA accounting for 7.7 million out of a total of 15 million MENA users.
It added that 33 percent of the UAE’s population uses Facebook and it also now stands as the country’s second most visited website after google.ae, according to websites ranked by Alexa.com.
Some 68 percent of Facebook users in the UAE are over 25 years old, flying in the face of perceptions that social media is a ‘generation Y’ phenomenon.
However, much of Facebook’s growth across the rest of the region has been driven by the under 25s, the report said.
Over 48 percent of Facebook subscribers in Saudi Arabia are under 25 years old, with an equal split between English and Arabic users.
However, about three times the number of Arabic users have joined Facebook in Saudi over the past year, compared with the number of English language users.For all the latest UAE news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Muscat Daily on June 12, 2019, commented on Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA as “Peace in the world’s least peaceful region (MENA) improved marginally last year, based on improvements in 11 countries.” Oman Fourth Most Peaceful Country in MENA is not alone for Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE preceded it in the ranking.
Oman has been ranked fourth among the MENA countries and 69th in the world on the Global Peace Index (GPI) 2019. Oman earned 1.953 points this year.
The report has been published by the Australia-based Institute of Economics and Peace. Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined at the top by New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark.
Bhutan has recorded the best improvement and is now the 15th most peaceful nation in the world. According to the report, Qatar made the next best improvement. Economic strains can increase the risk of unrest by fomenting internal divisions and civil and political unrest, the report stated.
According to the report, Afghanistan is now the least peaceful country in the world, replacing Syria, which is now the second least peaceful. South Sudan, Yemen, and Iraq comprise the remaining five least peaceful countries.
Peace in the world’s least peaceful region (MENA) improved marginally last year, based on improvements in 11 countries. The regional average improved in all three GPI domains in 2019, with reductions in population displacement, political terror, terrorism, deaths from internal and external armed conflicts, military spending, and armed services personnel.
In the 2019 GPI, 86 countries improved while 76 countries deteriorated, with the global average GPI score improving by -0.09 per cent. The 2019 GPI finds that the world became more peaceful for the first time in five years, with the average level of country peacefulness improving slightly by 0.09 per cent.
Of the 23 GPI indicators, eight recorded an improvement, 12 had a deterioration, with the remaining three indicators not registering any change over the past year.
This is the thirteenth edition of the GPI, which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness.
On June 2, Algeria’s constitutional council cancelled the July 4 presidential elections, which were constitutionally mandated to replace ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The cancellation of elections is a win for protesters, who had rejected the “constitutional” path imposed by the regime. With their cancellation, Algeria will enter a constitutional vacuum and with it, political uncertainty on the road ahead. However, unshackling the transition from the existing constitution will also provide an opportunity for a more genuine transition to democracy.”
Since Bouteflika’s ousting on April 2, the remnants of the Bouteflika regime had invoked Article 102 of the constitution, which necessitated presidential elections within 90 days of Bouteflika’s resignation (July 9). As also mandated by the constitution, President of the Senate Abdelkader Bensalah became the interim president, while the government at the time—led by Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui—could not be changed.
The regime, led de facto by army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, claimed that this roadmap was the legitimate and constitutional path forward. But as the protesters had observed, this path was also the one most likely to allow the reconsolidation of the Bouteflika regime. The figures shepherding the “transition”—Bensalah, Bedoui, and to a greater extent, Gaid Salah—were all holdovers from the Bouteflika regime. Moreover, the 90-day transitional period provided no guarantees of free and fair elections nor meaningful time for the protesters to organize politically. As the result, the protesters rejected the “constitutional” path en masse every Friday since Bouteflika’s ouster. They instead invoked Articles 7 and 8 of the constitution, which observe that political power derives from the people.
In the face of this popular rejection, only two relatively unknown candidates put forth their names to run in the July 4 presidential elections. The constitutional court on June 2 then rejected those two candidacies and declared that the elections would be impossible to hold. As a result, Algeria will not see elections within 90 days of Bouteflika’s ouster, and the constitutional path will be unmet.
These developments will likely tip the balance of power in favour of the protesters. The regime’s preferred strategy appears to be to ask interim President Bensalah to remain in office beyond his July 9 end date and task him, as the constitutional council did, with organizing elections at a later date. But the regime will no longer be able to use a shroud of constitutional legitimacy to impose this preferred roadmap. Such an extension of the 90-day period is unconstitutional.
Without the constitution, the sole source of legitimacy will be the street.
Without the constitution, the sole source of legitimacy will be the street, and the protesters are certain to reject an extension of the previous roadmap. The only solution out of the coming political crisis, as Gaid Salah himself recognized, would be through dialogue between the regime and the protesters.
The cancellation of the elections not only makes negotiations more likely, but also removes arbitrary constraints from those negotiations. With the constitutional path void, the constitution can no longer be used as a “straitjacket”—to use the words of Georgia State University’s Rochdi Alloui—to limit the possible options. Now, the regime can no longer use the constitution to prevent the removal of the 2Bs—President Bensalah and Prime Minister Bedoui—and a national unity government can instead be formed.
The United States and the international community should encourage the regime to negotiate with the protest movement, and to meet their demands. These demands likely include a revision, if not rewriting, of the constitution and the creation of independent institutions to guarantee the credibility of presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections.
For these negotiations to be accepted and respected, the protesters will need to organize and choose leaders they find credible to negotiate on their behalf. But as important for the transition are the representatives the regime chooses. While the military cannot be ignored, it is important that it not chair or preside over the negotiations, which would legitimize the military as a political actor and as the referee of the upcoming transition.
What we know for certain is that murdering innocent people in their homes or places of worship, or as they go about their daily business, yields outrage, fear and grief. It turns people against one another, and invites retribution. Terror is a vicious cycle, always a catastrophe for its victims, inevitably a calamity for its perpetrators, and unavoidably a cost for humanity.
But can community leaders help mitigate this? In ongoing research, partly funded by the University of Portsmouth, we asked more specifically how Muslim leaders should respond in communities simultaneously blamed for and victimised by terrorism.
Many Muslims leaders condemn such attacks outright. And in May 2017, 70 Muslim clerics from three Muslim countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia – issued a Fatwa against violence and terrorism in all its forms. The Fatwa said:
We reaffirm that violence and terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilisation or ethnic group, as violent extremism and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including violence against civilians and suicide attacks are against the holy principles of Islam.
Earlier research suggests that a key problem is that Islam is commonly treated as an “other”, something in opposition to the “Western world”. The upshot is that Muslim leaders in the West face prejudice when they attempt to speak for themselves and their communities, particularly if their message doesn’t chime precisely with the majority view.
Over a century ago, W. E. B. Du Bois called out the “othering” of black Americans in the early 20th century. In his seminal text, The Souls of Black Folk, he argued that the problem is not only how the dominant group categorises minority groups in stereotypical ways, but also how these communities come to see themselves from the dominant group’s perspective.
Indeed, when Muslim leaders respond to terrorist attacks, they are faced with a double bind. In the eyes of wider society, either their community is to be pitied as collateral victims of violence enacted by a few radical ideologues in their midst, or they deserve to be shamed as complicit by virtue of several shared beliefs.
A condemnation of the attacks by Muslim leaders, alone, does not redeem Muslims, as it still portrays them as an “other”, collectively responsible for, and somewhat complicit in, the actions of a few. Similarly, appealing to victimhood merely reinforces prejudices of weakness, depicting Muslims as unable to resolve their own matters, and therefore in need of “rescue”.
But such marginalisation of a group could itself sow the seeds of further violence. The leader of the biggest Muslim party in Sri Lanka, Rauff Hakeem, warned that feelings of marginalisation among Muslims may be exacerbated if crackdowns are overzealous. If Muslims, a minority community in Sri Lanka, are more widely seen as “others”, it is less likely that distinctions will be made between terrorists, criminals – and ordinary followers of the religion. Tensions will likely rise. As Hakeem said:
That’s a worrying factor for all of us. The vulnerability can result in serious feelings of insecurity. We should not build up fertile ground for radicalisation further.
Our investigation into how Muslim leaders responded in the aftermath of the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three and injured hundreds, shows that leaders of minority communities can create alternative narratives that can help reshape the dominant perspective.
Instead of just condemning terrorism or highlighting their victimhood, they can emphasise the recovery, healing and development of both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Following the Boston Marathon bombings, for example, Muslim leaders doubled their efforts in community development and outreach to other groups. And when responding in the media, they discussed what they had been doing to contribute to broader society.
Muslim leaders in Boston refused to merely condemn the attacks but went further by mourning the victims alongside other individuals and communities who had been affected by the attack. They also organised counselling and support sessions for the victims of the attacks. Going beyond the immediate aftermath of the atrocity, they now participate in campaigns to control illegal guns, broaden healthcare access and tackle the problem of homelessness in Boston.
This endeavour has been picked up by the local press which since then has provided a different kind of coverage of the Muslim community in Boston, recognising its efforts to combat different social problems.
By following this example, Muslim leaders can help to make Muslim identity, not “other”, but part of the mainstream. And this would allow whole societies to respond collectively to terror, and resist the temptation to find scapegoats in their midst.
Rather than resisting the securitization of climate, advocates and policymakers should be promoting the climatization of security. This means highlighting the shortcomings of current security frameworks and promoting gender inclusiveness and local leadership as holistic and long-term solutions for peace and sustainability.
This May 23, 2019 article of Alaa Murabit, Luca Bücken and delivered by Project Syndicate must take many by surprise, mostly because of its angle of vision of the world’s predominant issue of climate change.
NEW YORK – In the years leading up to Syria’s civil war, the country endured three consecutive record-breaking droughts. By forcing internal displacement, the droughts arguably contributed to the social tensions that erupted in popular protests in 2011. But that does not mean that the Syrian conflict is a “climate war.”
As extreme weather events proliferate, it’s becoming increasingly easy to find a link between climate change and violent confrontations. In Sudan, the ethnic cleansing carried out by former President Omar al-Bashir has been tied to the Sahara Desert’s southward expansion, which fueled social unrest by exacerbating food insecurity. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea have also been connected to food-security concerns, rooted in competition over access to fishing areas. Some now warn of a “brewing water war” between Egypt and Ethiopia, triggered by the latter’s construction of a dam on the Nile River.
But the “climate war” narrative is deeply flawed. From Syria to Sudan, today’s conflicts are the result of multiple complicated and interrelated factors, from ethno-religious tensions to protracted political repression. While the effects of climate change can exacerbate social and political instability, climate change did not cause these wars. This nuance is important, not least for the sake of accountability: climate change must not be used to duck responsibility for resolving or averting violent confrontations.
Still, military and climate experts argue, climate change is a “threat multiplier,” and thus remains an important national security issue. Climate advocates and academics, however, have long avoided or rejected discussions of “climate security” – not to diminish the risks that climate change poses, but because they fear that framing climate change as a security issue will undermine efforts to mitigate those risks, by enabling the incremental securitization of climate action.
Securitization is often a political tactic, in which leaders construct a security threat to justify deploying extraordinary, even illegal measures, that infringe on people’s rights. If the fight against climate change is securitized, it could, for example, be used to rationalize new restrictions on the movement of people, enabled by and reinforcing anti-migrant sentiment.
Framing climate as a security issue can also challenge already-strained international cooperation on climate governance while driving investment away from necessary interventions – such as the shift to a low-carbon economy – toward advancing military preparedness. The accompanying apocalyptic discourse, moreover, could well lead to public disengagement, further weakening democratic accountability.
Yet, even as some United Nations member states express concern about linking climate change more closely to security, most countries are moving in precisely that direction. In 2013, the American Security Project reported that 70% of countries view climate change as a threat to their security, and at least 70 national militaries already have clear plans in place to address this threat.
The UN Security Council is also becoming more active in the climate security field. After recognizing the role of climate change in the Lake Chad conflict (Resolution 2349), the Council held its first debates on the relationship between climate change and security, with the participation of a large and diverse group of member states.
Given the impact of climate change on issues like migration and health, decoupling discussions of climate action from national security considerations may never have been feasible. On the other hand, linking climate change to security can positively contribute to mobilizing climate action. The key to avoiding the pitfalls of securitization is to move beyond paradigms – which overemphasize military-focused “hard security” narratives – that continue to shape security policy and public discourse. One way to achieve that is to take a more gender-inclusive approach to conflict prevention and resolution.
Research shows that women are more likely to pursue a collaborative approach to peacemaking, with actors organizing across ethnic, cultural, and sectarian divides. Such an approach “increases the prospects of long-term stability and reduces the likelihood of state failure, conflict onset, and poverty.” When women participate in peace negotiations, the resulting agreements are 35% more likely to last at least 15 years.
Sustainable peace is possible only by recognizing the necessity of local women’s leadership, who have relevant expertise and yet are currently excluded from national and multilateral frameworks. After all, if policy decisions are to meet the needs of the affected communities, members of those communities must have a seat at the table.
For example, in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan has acquired unique insights from years of facilitating community-inclusive forest conversation that respects local stakeholders. In Somalia, Ilwad Elman has proved her ability to navigate intersectional peace-building efforts through her organization, Elman Peace.
Of course, there is also an imperative to give more women the tools they need to join in this process. The interconnections identified in the UN Sustainable Development Goals provide a functional roadmap for delivering the needed equity. In particular, improving reproductive health (SDG 3) and education (SDG 4) of girls and women is one of the most cost-effective ways both to mitigate climate change (SDG 13) and to empower them as community leaders (SDG 5).
Rather than resisting the securitization of climate, advocates and policymakers should be advancing what the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute calls “the climatization of security.” This is best done by using security to increase the salience of climate action, highlighting the shortcomings of current security frameworks, and promoting gender inclusiveness and local leadership as holistic and long-term solutions for fostering local, regional, and international peace.
Luca Bücken is a policy adviser and strategist who focuses on migration, security, climate, and justice.