Why food security and conflict may not be linked | 

Food prices go up and people revolt, right? Maybe not.

Conflict does lead to food insecurity. That makes sense because broken markets means it is harder and more expensive to get food. But what about whether high prices cause conflict. Do people protest and conflict follows because food is too expensive?

“It seems to me the food security linkage suffers from the same problem that an awful lot of the environment and conflict literature suffers from: There are more negative cases than positive cases,” said Ed Carr of the University of South Carolina to the Wilson Center’s New Security Beat podcast. “In other words, you have a lot of cases where there is a [food] price spike and no violence or no conflict.”

When it comes to conflict, food security could contribute to problems as might other factors. Carr argues that a focus on food may be misplaced if it not a main cause.

“If it’s that far down the line, is this something that USAID or any other donor organization should be looking at, or should they be dealing with the first six problems?” asks Carr.

He does not say that food security is definitely not a leading contributor to conflict, rather he questions the available research that makes such claims.

Listen to the full conversation below:

Climate change will lead to more conflict! Well, not exactly | 

Mauritania village struck by drought in 2011.

UN/John Isaac

Mauritania village struck by drought in 2011.

Researchers have long connected climate change and conflict. They warn that the effects of climate change will lead to instability that will lead to fighting. Problem is that the evidence was quite thin.

A new study, published last week in Science, by Princeton’s Solomon Hsiang and University of California, Berkeley’s Marshall Burke again found that conflict and climate change are connected. They say that the evidence is overwhelming, but other researchers disagree.

“We think that by collecting all the research together now, we’re pretty clearly establishing that there is a causal relationship between the climate and human conflict,” said Hsiang in a press release. “People have been skeptical up to now of an individual study here or there. But considering the body of work together, we can now show that these patterns are extremely general. It’s more of the rule than the exception.”

The findings come from an analysis of 60 previous studies on climate change and conflict. The data shows that for every standard deviation increase in temperature and extreme rainfall person-to-person violence increases by 4% and group-based conflict rises by 14%. In other words, climate change leads to more fighting. They raise the alarm by saying that parts of the world are expected to warm up by 2 to 4 standard deviations by 2050. Fighting is on its way!
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Humanitarian standards to go under reform process | 

Israeli Defense Forces in Haiti.
Israeli Defense Forces in Haiti.
Israel Defense Forces

An effort is underway to create a set of standards that will guide humanitarian action in cases of conflict and disaster. The Humanitarian Standards Forum, held in Geneva at the end of June, brought humanitarian leaders together to begin the process of creating the new standards.

The guideline developed going forward will serve as a set of instructions for all humanitarians. Responses will be guided by the standards in order to ensure that it is not only effective, but is mindful of the dignity of every person.

“Quality is a major concern in today’s humanitarian efforts,” said Ambassador Manuel Bessler, Head of the Humanitarian Aid Department of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, which hosted the Forum. “It is not about controlling or enforcing, but about bringing different voices together to improve the quality that makes us accountable to beneficiaries in the first place.”
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Mapping climate’s contribution to conflicts in Africa | 

Researchers at AidData say that Mapping makes it easier to identify links between climate change, violent conflict and assistance projects. Here’s one such map that reportedly shows this:


Above is just a screen grab that is probably somewhat incomprehensible to you. So go to this link and see how it really works, as an interactive tool. AidData says:

The goal of the project is to shed light on the links between three major forces that play a role in shaping development in a number of countries in Africa: climate change, conflict, and development assistance.  Parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, southern Somalia, and South Sudan, for example, are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. CCAPS researchers are investigating the interplay of climate-related hazards and incidents of violent conflict, and the way conflict dynamics are changing over time and space.

Update: South Sudan’s internal clashes continue | 

Flickr, babasteve

Law and order in South Sudan

The BBC reports that ethnic clashes continue in Southern Sudan:

Gunmen have killed at least 51 people – mostly women and children – in the latest clashes in South Sudan’s troubled Jonglei state, regional governor Kuol Manyang has said. At least 22 others were injured after attackers raided and burned the village of Duk Padiet, he added…. The cycle of violence has lasted months and killed hundreds of people. It began as cattle raids but has spiralled out of control.

This might sound like a relatively small problem compared to conflicts elsewhere. But it is a disturbing indicator of instability in a war-torn region the international community was not too long ago celebrating as the world’s newest nation, South Sudan.

Gai Bol Thong

One Seattle man, a refugee from South Sudan, I interviewed last week says the problem is a lack of government, of law enforcement. Gai Bol Thong was accused by some media of funding a massacre. Bol Thong says he has been raising money here in the U.S. to help his friends and family defend and care for themselves — because nobody else will.

“Yes, just as the United Nations and the South Sudan government did nothing when the Murle came and killed our people,” Bol Thang said. “If the government and the international community do nothing to defend us, we need to defend ourselves.”

There are a number of perils now facing South Sudan, which include threats of conflict from former countrymen (north Sudan), poverty and now increasing internal conflict.


Seattle man accused of helping fund massacre in Sudan | 


Did a refugee from Sudan living in Seattle help raise money here for a massacre there?

That seems to be what the New York Times’ Jeffrey Gettleman is saying about a man he identifies as Gai Bol Thong, a Seattle man who leads an organization known as Nuer Youth in North America, in his latest report on the increasingly deadly violent conflicts in South Sudan:

The trail of corpses begins about 300 yards from the corrugated metal gate of the United Nations compound and stretches for miles into the bush…. Eight thousand fighters just besieged this small town in the middle of a vast expanse, razing huts, burning granaries, stealing tens of thousands of cows and methodically killing hundreds, possibly thousands, of men, women and children hiding in the bush.

The attack was presaged by a fund-raising drive for the Nuer militia in the United States — a troubling sign that behind the raiders toting Kalashnikovs and singing war songs was an active back office half a world away. Gai Bol Thong, a Nuer refugee in Seattle who helped write the militia’s statement, said he had led an effort to cobble together about $45,000 from South Sudanese living abroad for the warriors’ food and medicine.

“We mean what we say,” he said in an interview. “We kill everybody. We are tired of them.” (He later scaled back and said he meant they would kill Murle warriors, not civilians.)

GlobalPost has followed up on the NYTimes report, adding:

So a refugee in Seattle admits to fund-raising for a 6,000-strong army of young men with AK-47s who go on a rampage to steal cattle and kill hundreds of their tribal rivals in a bid to wipe them out while simultaneously destabilizing one of the US’s newest allies?

Mr. Gai Bol Thong might not find himself quite so welcome in the US after this admission.

Seattle NPR affiliate KUOW radio included an interview today with Bol Thong on Weekday. Here are some other earlier, related stories:

Upper Nile Times (from January 6) : Nuer Youth White Army plans massive attack

GlobalPost South Sudan: 3,000 dead in ethnic massacre 

South Sudan News Nuer White Army ends operations against Muerle Tribe