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Conflict

The alchemy of relationships and the production of evidence

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This post is by Holly Porter, a visiting fellow at the Department of International Development of the London School for Economics and Political Science and lead researcher for northern Uganda for the Justice and Security Research Programme.  It is a contribution to an online symposium on the changing nature of knowledge production in fragile states. Be sure to read other entries by Deval Desai and Rebecca TapscottLisa Denney and Pilar Domingo, Michael WoolcockMorten Jerven, and Alex de Waal.

People eat at a restaurant in KampalaThe piece is a welcome provocation to discussion, even if ultimately I am left with the thought: there is a rather fundamental difference between tomatoes on a supply chain and the pursuit of understanding human experience. I show that here, intentionally choosing to write from a personal perspective, rather than in more academic prose.

Two main responses spring to mind in light of my own (anthropological) work:

1) Knowledge is not an “alienable” commodity.
2) The complexity of human relationships in the research process are not best captured with reference to market forces.


The piece raises an underlying question about the production of “knowledge:” is knowledge a kind of raw material –- is it an “alienable commodity”? The idea that data is a commodity implies that it is something; that it is a thing which exists independently and apart from the intentionality of human relationships. Perhaps some information is similar to a raw material that can be extracted in crude form but the kind of “knowledge” which interests me is born of shared experiences and long-term relationships. Knowledge appears to me less of a raw material to be processed and packed, and more the stuff of human interaction.

Fragile to fragile: How the g7+ is bringing optimism to the Central African Republic

Anne-Lise Klausen's picture
School children in the Central African Republic
Credit: © Pierre Holtz | UNICEF

At a meeting of the g7+ group of fragile states recently held in Nairobi, Bienvenu Hervé Kovoungbo looked back on his time in the same city, two years ago.

Back then, the citizens of his country, the Central African Republic (CAR), were caught in a fight between different militia groups. Bienvenu, who is the Director of Multilateral Cooperation and former Head of the Investment Budget Division in the Economy, Planning and International Cooperation Ministry, flew to Nairobi to attend a steering meeting of International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. There, he appealed to g7+ colleagues and to donors to come to their assistance.  After the meeting, he could not get back to the capital Bangui for two weeks, held up in Douala, Cameroon while his family had to flee their home and live with thousands of others in makeshift camps on the outskirts of the city.

Policy to research to policy in difficult places

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This post was written by Alex de Waal, the Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation and a Research Professor at The Fletcher School. It is a contribution to an online symposium on the changing nature of knowledge production in fragile states. Be sure to read other entries by Deval Desai and Rebecca TapscottLisa Denney and Pilar Domingo, Michael WoolcockMorten Jerven.

UNAMID Police Officer Patrols IDP Camp in DarfurThere’s a commendable search for rigor in social science. But there’s also an illusion that numbers ipso facto represent rigor, and that sophisticated mathematical analysis of the social scientific datasets can expand the realm of explanatory possibilities. Social scientific researchers working in what the Justice and Security Research Programme calls “difficult places”—countries affected by armed conflict, political turbulence and the long-lasting uncertainties that follow protracted crisis—should be extremely cautious before setting off on this path.

There’s a simultaneous search for policy relevance: for bridging the gap between the academy and the executive. We want our research to be useful and to be used; we want policy-makers to listen to us. But we risk becoming entrapped in a self-referential knowledge creating machine.

The holy grail seems to be to emulate economists and epidemiologists, whose highly technical analyses of real world data—and in the case of the latter, double-blind clinical trials—set a gold standard in terms of methodological rigor, alongside a truly enviable record of influencing policy and practice. But before embarking on this quest, it would be advisable to examine what social scientific scholarship might look like, if it actually reached this goal.

Resource Inequality and Ethnic Conflict in Africa: New Evidence Using Rainfall Data - Guest post by Andrea Guariso

The majority of civil conflicts that took place in Africa since the end of World War II were fought along ethnic lines (Wimmer et al., 2009). Among all the different causes that have been discussed by academics and policy makers, economic inequality has possibly been the most controversial one (Cramer, 2005).

Corruption in fragile states: A panel discussion on the intersections of development, conflict and exploitation

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Just say NO to corruptionCorruption is a global threat to development and democratic rule. It diverts public resources to private interests, leaving fewer resources to build schools, hospitals, roads and other public facilities. When development money is diverted to private bank accounts, major infrastructure projects and badly needed human services come to a halt. Corruption also hinders democratic governance by destroying the rule of law, the integrity of institutions, and public trust in leaders. Sadly, the vulnerable suffer first and worst when corruption takes hold.

In fragile environments, however, the effects of corruption can be far more expensive. Corruption fuels extremism and undermines international efforts to build peace and security.

This was the theme of a panel discussion, entitled “Corruption in Fragile States: The Development Challenge,” which brought together Leonard McCarthy, the World Bank’s Vice President of Integrity; Jan Walliser, the World Bank Vice President of Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions; Shanta Devarajan, World Bank Chief Economist of Middle East & North Africa; R. David Harden, USAID Mission Director for West Bank and Gaza; Daniel Kaufmann, President of Natural Resource Governance Institute; and Melissa Thomas, Political Scientist and author of “Govern Like Us.”

Don’t shut your doors to refugees

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The author on the day of his graduation from the Master of Writing Studies program at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia in 2008. © Jenny Spinner

I walked among dead bodies of people blown up by bombs. I ducked and covered from bullets falling around my feet, and I was almost choked to death by an angry mourner. One of millions of Iraqis, I was trying to survive a brutal reality that never seemed to end.

I still cannot escape these images. I still smell the dead. I had to go to where death lay due to my job as a reporter. That job left many journalists, including one of my former colleagues at the Washington Post, dead.

As rewarding as it was, that job cost me my country. I had to seek refuge. Armed groups had taken every chance to attack journalists and their families, especially those who worked for American media. They kidnapped them, tortured them, and asked for ransoms to spare their lives. I did not want this to happen to my family.

#Music4Dev guest Rahim Alhaj: We have a responsibility to end the refugee crisis

Bassam Sebti's picture

He learned to play the oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument, at an early age in his hometown of Baghdad. He grew up writing protest songs against the dictator who ruled his country with an iron fist for three decades. He was imprisoned, tortured, and eventually forced to leave his beloved Iraq in 1991. He later found refuge in the United States.

Jordan: A home away from home for Syrian refugees

Ayat Soliman's picture
School in Jordan - Courtesy of Ayat Soliman l World Bank

Nine year old Reem probably had one of the shortest distances that Syrian refugees had to travel when fleeing the crisis in their country in 2012. Her family walked 30 km from their town of Deraa --in the South-west of Syria-- to the municipality of Al Sarhan right at the border in Jordan, where they have been living since. This place is as close as it gets for a Syrian child to feel at home, with the same spoken language, environment, similar culture and traditions and oftentimes distant family relations that connect the tribes over generations. Yet, feeling at home is more than just that for Reem. 

A visit to Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Hafez Ghanem's picture
Lebanon - Mohamed Azakir - World Bank

The Syrian refugee crisis is now at the top of the international agenda.  Pictures of refugees crossing the Mediterranean and risking their lives and that of their families have shook the world.   The picture of a dead boy on the beach in Turkey brought many of us to tears.  The Syrian refugee crisis is an awful human tragedy.   The kind of tragedy that should not have been allowed to happen in the 21st century.

Missed our #16Days campaign against gender-based violence? Here’s your chance to catch up

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

The global #16Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign started on November 25 with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ended on International Human Rights Day, which was celebrated on December 10.
 
Throughout those #16Days, the World Bank’s message was clear:  Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) is a global pandemic that has or will affect 1 in 3 women in their lifetime. Violence is not only a personal struggle for the victims, but also has severe consequences on social and economic outcomes.
 

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