On October 20, 2015, the World Peace Foundation and Tufts Initiative on Mass Atrocities and Genocide invited Scott Straus to present the key findings from his book. Straus started his presentation by laying out the research puzzle. Why does mass violence develop in some cases but not others? He tackles this problem by systematically comparing cases in post-Cold War, sub-Saharan Africa that experienced genocide with those that did not, despite the presence of similar risk factors: Mali, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda and Sudan (Darfur). He finds that deep-rooted ideologies—national founding narratives—play a crucial role in shaping strategies of violence.Continue Reading →
This is a dataset of historic famines and episodes of mass intentional starvation.
It is a working dataset, to be updated as more and better sources become available.
It includes two kinds of overlapping events, which have hitherto largely been studied separately. One set of events is great and catastrophic famines. A famine is […]Continue Reading →
Critics of either U.S. or Russian policy would prefer the rhetorical simplicity of merely pointing out flaws in the other’s position. What is really the problem is that both want war.Continue Reading →
I spent ten years working on issues related to contemporary genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, including developing an exhibition on genocide that presented brief histories of Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Darfur, Sudan. Needless to say, I have seen a lot of images and video of the impact of violence on the human body. What […]Continue Reading →
Joshua Oppenheimer’s film, The Look of Silence, seems to argue that the kind of speech capable of social change shares much with silence. The film provides a companion reflection to how post-conflict or transitional justice is often conceived of as official speech. In transitional justice, the power of change is envisioned as working its […]Continue Reading →
Economic and financial sanctions rarely work: their best record is when they are short-term, have specific asks, and are targeted at friendly countries. Long-term, broad sanctions punishing hostile countries tend to compound the harm. Depriving a government of any legal way of getting the finance it needs to function, means it works criminal networks instead. Sudan is a case in point: a raft of U.S. financial and economic sanctions has contributed to the dominance of an entrenched security-commercial cartel at the top of government, whose members are personally enriched by this system. When a state is captured by such a network, regime change becomes extraordinarily difficult. There’s no way out of this trap without normalizing state finance—and that means transforming the sanctions regime.
The final and most fundamental point is that we cannot escape this problem with the same tools and the same frameworks that got us collectively into it in the first place.
This agenda for change is neither charity nor coercive intervention, because the problem is ours as well. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan, international interventions have made a bad situation worse. We share the same international financial and security systems: we all suffer the consequences, and all need to fix them. In western, developed countries, we experience the concentration of wealth into a tiny fraction of extremely rich people, alongside policies that have cut into the middle class, and limited the future of the next generation. We have a closed security establishment that considers itself above the rules that govern society as a whole, and permitted to crooks in the name of protecting the public. Their worldview subordinates public interest to greed and fear, and their prescriptions for global problems don’t challenge this formula.Continue Reading →
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