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Overcoming negative stereotypes in the South Caucasus

Onnik Krikorian's picture

This guest post is the first in a series on "New Media and Conflict" which explores the affect of new communication technologies on issues of conflict and development.

  Photo © Global Voices

In the 16 years since a 1994 ceasefire agreement put the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed mainly-Armenian populated territory of Nagorno Karabakh on hold, peace remains as elusive as ever. The war fought in the early 1990s left over 25,000 dead and forced a million to flee their homes, leaving ethnic Armenian forces, backed by Armenia proper, in control of over 16 percent of what the international community considers sovereign Azerbaijani territory. 

The situation, perhaps, is typical for many frozen conflicts, but what makes this dispute even more complicated is the almost constant rhetoric of hatred from both sides. Nearly two decades after the troubles broke out, new generations of Armenians and Azerbaijanis are unable to remember the time when both lived side by side together in peace. Armenia's last president, Robert Kocharian, for example, declared that the two were 'ethnically incompatible' while his Azerbaijani counterpart, still incumbent Ilham Aliyev, regularly threatens a new war.

Regional analysts fear that such threats are not merely empty words. Fueled by massive oil revenue, the Azerbaijani military is rapidly re-arming itself and the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia was enough of a wake-up call for the international community to once again direct attention towards unresolved conflicts in the Caucasus.

Navigating the maze to peace

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Photo © istockphoto.comWhile much of the world has made rapid progress in building stability and reducing poverty over the past 60 years, states beset by persistent violence and fragile institutions are being left far behind.

Today, 22 out of the 34 countries furthest from reaching the Millennium Developing Goals, or MDGs, are conflict ridden or emerging from some form of turmoil. The MDGs, which have a deadline of 2015, cover hunger, poverty, child mortality, maternal health, and other key challenges.

The plight of those 22 countries—and how prosperity eludes them—was foremost in my mind when I was in New York earlier this week to take part in a debate at the UN General Assembly on "UN Peacekeeping: Looking into the Future." The proceedings were webcast.

My session focused on the nexus between security and development and you can read my intervention here.

Let me tell you more about the daunting challenges faced by those 22 countries. They account for two out of three of all infants and children dying. They also account for three out of four of all mothers who die in childbirth.

My panel talked about these countries in the context of the challenges of multi-dimensionality of peacekeeping, peace building and development. We talked about how, after conflict, the process of reform can create stresses that reignite violence. We also touched on the dissolving boundaries between institutional mandates and the challenges this poses for international organizations.

Mozambique's long post-conflict transition

Nicholas van Praag's picture
  War...           

The most visible sign of Mozambique’s long history of conflict is the war memorial opposite Maputo’s main railway station.  It is designed in the fascist-deco style beloved of European dictators in the 1930s.  Built in 1936, it was a belated commemoration to the Portuguese and Mozambican soldiers who died in the Great War—in clashes with forces from what was then German East Africa.

There is no such reminder of the hundreds of thousands who died in the more recent wars of liberation, which lasted from 1961 to 1974, or the 14 years of civil war that followed.  After so much suffering most people want to forget these years rather than erect public monuments to their memory.

Unlike the on-again off-again nature of so many conflicts today, the peace agreement reached in 1992 by the two main groups, FRELIMO and RENAMO, marked the end of hostilities.  ‘It had become a war of the protagonists, not of the people’, says Dr.  Americo Jose Ubisse, Secretary General of the Mozambican Red Cross.  When the guns fell silent, one million people had died and some 5 million were displaced.

During the intervening years Mozambique has made strides in turning around its fortunes, consistently posting growth rates of 8 percent in recent years—closer to Asian levels than to other African countries. 

This performance has made Mozambique a kind of post-conflict poster child.  So when I visited Maputo last month, the vibrant but run-down capital, I wanted to find out how Mozambique had seized these impressive results from the jaws of state failure and whether all is as rosy as the growth rate suggests.