How can we go about our work of saving lives when, in Syria, civilians, the
wounded and their families, medical personnel and aid workers are all targets
– whether in areas controlled by the government or those held by the
Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
(ISIL) or various rebel groups with diverging political agendas? Over the course
of several field missions, the author of this article, a member of
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), sought to decipher the political
and military engagements undertaken in different regions of Syria during the war
years. He also factored into his analysis the endless flow of data, information
and positioning being produced and published over this period, because the war
was also fought every day on the internet where the representatives and
ideologists of warring groups, human rights organisations, Syrian diaspora
organisations and spokespersons of the Syrian central authorities were and still
are a permanent presence. Drawing on all these observations and data, the author
relates and analyses the emergency relief activities carried out by MSF in
Syria, how these activities evolved and the conditions in which choices to
intervene and decisions to withdraw were taken.
This chapter introduces the book’s main purpose: exploring the relationship
between dance and peacebuilding in pluralist societies. It highlights
instructive insights dance can provide when reflecting on existing theories
and debates around peace and conflict. The research deepens the
understanding of the roles the arts, and dance in particular, play in
peacebuilding. Building on existing work in International Relations, Peace
and Conflict Studies, and Dance, as well as complementary areas of study
such as anthropology, neuroscience and law, this chapter sets out how the
book considers the work of a non-governmental organisation and its
participants deploying dance for youth peacebuilding through case studies
across three contexts – Colombia, the Philippines and the United States.
These case studies include multiple delivery sites of the dance programme in
different contexts of violence or conflict and varied approaches to peace.
The introduction previews how investigating the application of a dance-based
peacebuilding programme across these three case studies allows us to
consider nuance and context, as well as commonalities across the locales.
Chapter 3 considers the creation and sharing of ‘hub dances’ – group dance
exchange activities – across and between programme sites, to investigate
what dance can tell us about local and/or global approaches to
peacebuilding, including how the two are defined, interact or may
co-constitute one another. It also examines the political ramifications of
this co-creation and/or interchange. The hub dances aim to serve as a
vehicle for cross-cultural moments of exchange and to provide opportunities
for (re)creating identity in multiple ways that can support peacebuilding.
At the same time, the use of hub dances also prompts further examination of
the different cultural contexts in which conflict occurs and the tensions
between the homogenisation of dance ideas paired with individual or group
freedoms, and the possibilities of instilling stereotypes or being valued
for difference. Likewise, the chapter considers the ways in which the
creation, practice, and exchange of hub dances enacts meaning around the
identities of self, others and the community, and how this relates to the
creation of broader social change for peacebuilding across difference.
Monitoring of attacks on healthcare has made great strides in the past decade,
even if improvement in information has not necessarily resulted in changes on
the ground. However, important questions on the knowledge production process
continue to be under-explored, including those pertaining to the objectives of
monitoring efforts. What does our data actually tell us? Are we missing the
(data) point? This paper explores several monitoring mechanisms, and analyses
the limitations of the data-gathering exercise, affecting the ability of
healthcare workers to share their experiences. By drawing on the experiences of
those involved in the medical-humanitarian response in non-government controlled
areas in Syria, these dynamics are further brought to the fore, advocating for a
more discerning approach in the use of data for such disparate goals as analysis
on patterns of attacks (and their implications), advocacy, and
Based on the author’s experience as both a journalist and an independent
researcher working regularly in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), this
article examines the many constraints that journalists face in areas of armed
conflict. It considers two unusual aspects of journalistic practice observed in
the DRC: first, the reporters’ lexical dependence
– that is, how the language journalists typically use to describe war is
borrowed, sometimes unconsciously, from the war-related rhetoric developed in
other fields – and second, journalists’ practical
dependence on humanitarian organisations and how this might influence the
articles they produce.
Nine years of continuous conflict in Syria have borne witness to various atrocities against civilians, some of which amount to war crimes. Most of the involved parties have committed such atrocities, but the Government of Syria (GoS) and its allies remain at the top of the list of perpetrators. Out of a population of 21 million in 2010, more than half a million Syrians were killed as of January 2019 with more than 13 million displaced either inside the country, in neighbouring countries or elsewhere. Moreover, civilian infrastructures, including but not limited to health, have been severely affected, resulting in interrupted services and suffering. Looking at patterns of these atrocities, timing of occurrence, and consequences, could allow us to draw conclusions about motivations. While the GoS maintains these attacks were against combating civilians, we argue that civilians and civilian infrastructure were military and strategic targets, rather than collateral damage to the attacks committed by the GoS and its allies. The motives behind attacking civilians may be related to military gains in imposing submission and surrender; whereas others may be linked to long-term goals such as forced displacement and demographic engineering. This paper argues, supported by several examples throughout the course of the Syrian conflict, that GoS has used a five-point military tactic with targeting healthcare being at the heart of it. This military tactic has been extremely effective in regaining most opposition strongholds at the expense of civilian suffering and health catastrophe.
In 1999, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) published an extensive account of genocide in Rwanda, Leave None to Tell the Story. Based on interviews and archival work conducted by a team of researchers and written primarily by Alison Des Forges, Leave None to Tell was quickly recognised as the definitive account of the 1994 genocide. In the ensuing two decades, however, much additional research has added to our understanding of the 1994 violence. In this paper, I assess Leave None to Tell the Story in light of the research conducted since its publication, focusing in particular on three major challenges to the analysis. First, research into the organisation of the genocide disputes the degree to which it was planned in advance. Second, micro-level research into the motivations of those who participated disputes the influence of ideology on the genocide. Third, research has provided increasing evidence and details of violence perpetrated by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). I contend that despite these correctives, much of the analysis continues to hold up, such as the role of national figures in promoting genocide at the local level, the impact of the dynamics of local power struggles on the violence, and the patterns of violence, including the effort after the initial massacres to implicate a wide portion of the population. Finally, as a member of the team that researched and helped write Leave None to Tell, I reflect on the value of this rare sort of research project that engages human rights organisations in an academic research project.
The Politics of ‘Proximity’ and Performing Humanitarianism in Eastern DRC
This article explores the everyday practice of security management and negotiations for access conducted by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Based on ethnographic fieldwork, interviews and archival exploration, it examines the experience of MSF Congolese employees, who navigate a complex politics of humanitarian fixing and brokerage. Their role in MSF is simultaneously defined and circumscribed by their political and social situation. MSF’s security management relies on local staff’s interpersonal networks and on their ability to interpret and translate. However, local staff find themselves at risk, or perceived as a ‘risk’: exposed to external pressures and acts of violence, while possibilities for promotion are limited precisely because of their embeddedness. They face a tension between being politically and socially embedded and needing to perform MSF’s principles in practice. As such, they embody the contradictions of MSF’s approach in North Kivu: a simultaneous need for operational ‘proximity’, as well as performative distance from everyday conflict processes.
Chapter 2 discusses the role of young people in peacebuilding and the ways in
which dance plays a part in this process. Previous research has identified
the importance and political significance of young people in peacebuilding.
Simultaneously, international organisations such as the United Nations have
made steps towards increasing the opportunities and support for young people
in peacebuilding endeavours, locally and globally, including through the
passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security
in 2015. Despite these efforts, and the extent to which youth are immersed
in conflict both as recipients of violence and as perpetrators, young people
remain on the sidelines of peace initiatives and are not sufficiently
recognised and engaged in policy, theory or practice. The research conducted
for this book suggests that dance can constitute an effective, inclusive
pathway to support youth participation in peacebuilding, especially when
incorporating elements of peer leadership. At the same time, the data
gathered across the three case studies highlights the importance of
including options for peace, reconciliation and social transformation that
are age appropriate, gender sensitive, culturally relevant and flexible.