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The things we do: Self-command takes practice

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Also available in: العربية

Following prolonged conflict, it is often difficult to reestablish security and reduce crime and violence, especially among poor young men. In Liberia, development experts have been researching the most effective ways to support high-risk individuals, and they may have found an effective approach combining therapy with cash.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Cash Transfers on High-Risk Young Men in LiberiaOne of the most pressing concerns in post-conflict settings is how to help individuals transition back into a peaceful life. After a conflict has subsided, small arms are usually very common, local and national economies have been destroyed, and the emotional stress of the violence begins to take on new forms. Former soldiers, in particular, have trouble with the transition as they struggle with the pain and horror of what they experienced, and many do not remember how to participate in community life anymore.  In response, the international development community often tries to “enable” these men by creating jobs for them. The theory is that if people are busy working they will not have the time or the inclination to commit crime.
However, simply providing jobs is rarely enough. The Network for Empowerment & Progressive Initiative (NEPI), an organization operating in Monrovia, Liberia, challenges this paradigm and seeks to support men formerly engaged in the country’s two civil wars by rehabilitating them through therapy.  
Klubosumo Johnson Borh, the founder of NEPI, was as a Liberian teenager when he was recruited for Charles Taylor‘s infamously brutal rebel army. Borh was made a commander and oversaw soldiers who were even younger than he was. By the end of the conflict, which lasted from 1989 through 2003, nearly 10% of the population had been killed, and thousands of child soldiers were now grown men.  Many of these men had trouble shaking the violent behaviors they had learned in war so Borh helped start NEPI in an effort to reform these and other troubled men.

Images of War vs Peace

Caroline Jaine's picture

Browsing Facebook back in August, I was greeted with a stark photograph of a young man doing homework under the glow of a newly installed street light in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.  I clicked on the next image: grinning children on a swing.  Next: a policewoman shines out from her patrol on the Old Road; child soldiers hand in weapons in Tubmanburg; and the baby of a returning refugee is handed down from a truck.  There were many more dramatic images on the slide show - shared on the social network by the United Nations Mission in Liberia.  It was titled “10 years of Peace”.  I “liked” it.  It’s rare to see such images of peace.  Each photograph illustrated a powerful back-story of recovery – and together they plotted a credible and inspiring path to peace.  My knowledge of Liberia doubled in five minutes.
A month later on International Day of Peace those same images were the subject of discussion at The Centre of African Studies at Cambridge University.  Now framed and hanging in the Centre, it was interesting to gauge people’s reactions.  A small group had assembled and although many of them were African, they also confessed to having no prior knowledge of Liberia.  One touching observation, “This shows Liberians path to peace by Liberians…it is African’s who have made peace here”.  True - although the photographs had been taken by United Nations photographers, the presence of the UN was distinctly low key.  We also had a discussion about images of so-called “peace” being used for propaganda purposes.  As a self-confessed cynic, I fully sympathize, but these set of images felt far more than just PR for the United Nations.

Post-Conflict Lessons: Reconstruction, Stabilization, Governance . . . and Gryffindor?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

For those who haven't yet seen, this Foreign Policy piece presents a detailed, highly nuanced plan for stabilization, reconstruction and post-conflict reconciliation and good governance - as applied to the world of Harry Potter after the (er, spoiler alert, I guess) defeat of Voldemort at the end of the last book.

I appreciate the section on good governance and the nod to public sphere issues in particular - media diversification (the Daily Prophet really could use some serious competition), involvement of new media, etc. Could use a bit more emphasis on the role of civil society in the wizarding world, both in holding the new Ministry of Magic leaders to account as well as in helping create a post-conflict consensus around the legitimacy of the transitional government. But, overall, it's a decent plan - and a nice refresher on some major post-conflict issues. 

The Perils of Biased Communication II: Fragile States

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

In my last blog post I wrote about the dangers of biased communication to a fair and level political playing field. In Western media systems the political polarization of media reporting (I hesitate to call it "news") is a somewhat recent phenomenon, but it's stark reality in countries where the media is owned by the government or a few influential political factions. Biased communication is not only problematic with regards to misinformation of the public.

In fragile states in particular biased communication can keep conflict alive, stir up unrest among the population, and endanger the formation of one unified idea of a nation. In fragile and post-conflict countries, communication, including the mass media, should ideally contribute to restoring a shared national identity and strengthen citizens' loyalty to their country. But consider the case of, for instance, Iraq: Ownership of private media is in the hands of competing political and ethnic factions. Their respective broadcasts reflect conflicting agendas, potentially widening the gap between Iraq’s communities, weakening a sense of national belonging and furthering the development of competing identities along sectarian lines, setting the country on a course of partition.

Provoking Exit, not Loyalty, in Post-Conflict States

Sina Odugbemi's picture

You know the usual story: a political community is sundered by ethnic or sectarian conflict, things fall apart; after a hot season or two of killings and mayhem peace is negotiated, and the domestic political process resumes. The international community insists on elections. They are held in a rough and ready manner, a faction wins and forms a government. Then what happens? The winners start using the powers of the state to smash opponents anew and entrench themselves in power. Very often, the winners do this just because they can. I call them the new authoritarians. They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. 

Building Government Communication Capacity in a Time of Narrative Power Shifts

Kristina Klinkforth's picture

Debate about how the current information-abundant communication environment is impacting global politics has long entered the circles of communication practitioners and academics. However, findings remain mixed.

Are We Missing a Link? Communication in Post-Conflict Societies

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

When we're advocating for more attention to the role of independent media systems in developing nations, we often hear the question: What about conflict and post-conflict societies? Isn't it much more important to build peace first, to provide humanitarian aid, and to stimulate economic growth before thinking about what the people see on television?