This post begins a new eight-part cartoon series with text Alex de Waal and artwork by Victor Ndula, depicting the political marketplace in South Sudan. The series is the second in a collaboration between de Waal and Ndula, the first 8 episodes, “South Sudan: Who got What?” can be found on our website. The project was co-sponsored by the Cartoon Movement, Justice and Security Research Programme and the World Peace Foundation. We begin with Episode One

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One monstrous zombie concept is the claim that climate change will spark new atrocities and conflicts over food scarcity. It’s clear that climate change is a scientific fact. But I am a skeptic about any direct links between environmental crisis, climate change and conflict and famine in the modern world. This skepticism arises partly as a reflex against the poor arguments marshaled in favor of those who predict such crises. Not to mention the trend lines: as the globe has warmed over recent decades, mass atrocities (including both large scale violent killing and famines) have declined.

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Begin with recognizing that all political systems need money, and that political finance should be regulated. This in turn requires drawing a distinction between political spending and corruption. This is a simple distinction to assert but a remarkably difficult one to delineate in practice.

The difference between legitimate funding of political institutions and patronage systems, and theft, needs to be drawn differently for each political system. So the next step is to initiate a process that allows countries to draw this line themselves. In institutionalized political systems, there can be an open debate on political financing, leading to legislation and enforcement. In political markets, it is the political financiers—the domestic businesses, foreign investors and patrons who provide the political money—who must take the lead. Let them collectively determine what counts as corruption and what is legitimate political spending.

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While I am not an expert on Burundi, I, like many others right now, am watching with dismay as violence in the country continues. My recent research has been on atrocity endings and Burundi today echoes with one finding from my work: the difference between halting (or in this case forestalling) mass atrocities and advancing […]

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