Tag Archives: conflict

Keeping the Economy on the Radar, Even in the Hardest Times

A new job category in Aleppo -- "the crosser" who ferries good across the border under dangerous conditions. (Photo: Syrian Economic Forum)

A new job category in Aleppo — “the crosser” who ferries good across the border under dangerous conditions. (Photo: Syrian Economic Forum)

In Beirut during Lebanon’s civil war, people continued to go to school and attend theater performances. One woman once told me how, to get to her university, she would take a taxi to the line between East and West Beirut, dash to the other side behind overturned trash dumpsters to avoid snipers, and then catch another ride to university — always with a change of clothing in case she could not get home again for a while.

Not every war sees people able to defiantly and bravely continue school and go to the theater, but the story underscores an important point left out of most news reports: conflict is not a permanent state…even during conflict.

Media reports show the most bullet-ridden, shell resounding, civilian-fleeing dramatic moments, but even in situations of all-out war, pockets of fighting revolve and front lines move. Whenever there is a lull in violence, civilians generally try to make life go on as much as they can, however they can. And that includes the economy. Farmers will return to their fields and factories will resume operation as often as possible, and people will buy, sell, and barter what they need to survive. And yes, sometimes they even study for exams by candle in hallways lined with mattresses during shelling (another story I once heard from another Lebanese).

Recently, a group of CIPE staff with experience in conflict-affected settings formed a task force to do some more thinking about CIPE’s own projects in conflict-affected areas. We found it interesting that we work with local groups in areas that range from unstable to war-torn, but that we rarely think of them as “conflict projects” per se. So we started throwing around a lot of questions: is it worth even thinking of our projects through a conflict lens ? (Short answer: yes.) What is our approach to conflict and is it unique? What are the various ways CIPE has either reacted programmatically to conflict, or designed programs to be conflict sensitive?

We’re still thinking, but we have started to articulate what we think we know (more on that at the end of this post). So here it goes…

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Kickstarting Economic Growth in Afghanistan’s Provinces

Participants at the Nangarhar PBA launch event.

Participants at the Nangarhar PBA launch event.

A year after the impasse over the 2014 presidential election was resolved, Afghanistan finds itself at a critical juncture in its economic development. Given the dramatic reduction in foreign military presence over the past several years and the decrease in development assistance from the international donor community, concerns are mounting that Afghanistan’s economy will be unable to sustain itself.

A recent study published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the International Council of Swedish Industry (NIR) draws attention to the problem. “In its current state,” the report notes, “the Afghan private sector is not the engine of economic growth or instrument of social inclusion it has the potential to be. Popular dissatisfaction with unequal access to economic resources, flawed public services and goods, the adverse security situation, and predatory government activity undermine an effective and sustainable private sector.”

President Ashraf Ghani and the National Unity Government have laid out a wide range of proposals to kickstart economic development, but security conditions and political infighting have made it difficult to implement many of these reforms.  Nevertheless, hope for progress and success remains.  The Swedish report, while painting a grim picture of the current outlook, provides a concrete set of recommendations to Afghan government policymakers, the international donor community, and other key stakeholders, for incentivizing private sector growth and boosting economic development, thereby improving prospects for peace and stability.

Chief among these recommendations is the need for the Afghan private sector to play a greater role in the policy making process.  On October 28, over a hundred leaders of the Afghan business community, civil society, and media, as well as prominent provincial and national government figures, convened in Jalalabad for the official launch of the report of the Nangarhar Provincial Business Agenda.

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How the Private Sector Helped Make Tijuana Safe Again

Learn more about the private sector’s role in reducing insecurity in Tijuana with this short video (10 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles)

Between 2007 and 2010, Tijuana was one of the most violent cities on the planet. Kidnapping, extortion, and homicide became commonplace occurrences, and the notorious Tijuana Cartel, which had been gathering strength during the 1990s, dominated large swaths of the city.

The city’s main thoroughfare, Avenida Revolución, which had previously been full of street vendors hawking their merchandise and U.S. tourists, was deserted. Citizens stayed in their houses after dark and the city’s renowned nightlife ground to a halt. The Mexican government sent troops to the city in a bid to restore order, leading to violent confrontations with criminal elements.

It was with this image of a violent and crime-ridden city that I traveled to Tijuana in April 2015. Instead, however, I was surprised by what I found. Tourists were slowly starting to trickle back to Tijuana, families with young children enjoyed evening strolls in the balmy weather, and federal troops were absent from view. What led to such a drastic change in a mere five years?

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Defining Syria’s Future

Creating a Brighter Future for Syrian Youth from CIPE on Vimeo.

This International Youth Day, Syrian youth face a bleak situation. During more than four years of conflict in their country, more than 12,000 children have been killed. Approximately 2 million are living as refugees, and 7.5 million are in need of humanitarian aid.

Syria now has one of the lowest education rates in the world. A 2015 Save the Children report estimates that 2.8 million Syrian children are not attending school and a quarter of school buildings have been damaged or destroyed. Many youth must forego education and work to help their families survive. Yet what often gets lost in this picture is the resilience shown by many young Syrians and their determination to play a role in building a better Syria.

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Could Community-Based Weather Forecasting Help Defuse Conflict?


Weather stations like this one in Australia provide information that is vital to agrarian economies. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

By Gracie Cook

While religious, sectarian, and geopolitical divisions in the world’s hotspots often make headlines, an even more basic driver of conflict is often overlooked: the weather.

In agrarian or water-scarce societies, changes in weather patterns lay the groundwork for resource conflicts between ethnic and religious groups, while severe weather events like drought can exacerbate existing social, economic, and political tensions, often boiling over into violence. While poor governance in conflict-afflicted societies too often turns bad weather into catastrophe, a greater role for the private sector in dealing with weather-related problems might just help prevent future outbreaks of violence.

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Libya or Tunisia: Who Needs the Other More?

March2015 Hiba

Hiba Safi is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy

Diplomatic Ties

The Libyan conflict is not only causing tens of thousands of deaths, destroying a society, and wiping out a state. It also is spilling over into neighboring Tunisia, destabilizing its internal equilibrium, redefining cross-border interactions, and affecting all neighboring countries in the Maghreb.

Since the uprising against President Muammar Qaddafi in March 2011, Tunisia has seen a vast influx of Libyan refugees. Cars, decrepit vans, and trucks packed with families sitting among bundles of belongings, suitcases, and mattresses stream into Ras Jedir and Dhehiba – official border crossings in southern Tunisia.

According to the former Tunisian Minister of Commerce, the country hosts around 1 million Libyans—equal to nearly 10 percent of the Tunisian population. Libya’s crisis and the ongoing entry of Libyan refugees into the country has resulted in unprecedented social, economic, and security challenges to Tunisia. Despite these difficulties, Tunisia has thus far maintained an open border policy toward Libyans and Libya’s Egyptians seeking respite from the violence in Libya—a decision that’s been praised by UN officials and Western diplomats.

No effective regulatory framework defines the relationship between the two countries, “They don’t need [a] visa to enter Tunisia nor any particular authorization to reside [in Tunisia],”stated Tunisian Interior Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui.

Tunisia bears the brunt of the economic and social spillovers of the Libyan civil war. The 43-mile border (Ras Jedir in Libya and Ben Guerdane in Tunisia) has become a smuggling route for goods, oil, and arms, but also for anti-regime armed groups and terrorists. Moreover, the conflict next door has exacerbated inter-communal conflicts raging within Tunisia domestically.

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Building a Future for Syria’s Youth

My colleague Peako Jenkins and I recently visited Kilis, Turkey, where CIPE is supporting a civic education program for young Syrians displaced by the conflict in their country. The course, conducted by CIPE’s local partner organization the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF), provides an immersion in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills. We are on our way to reaching 600 students in this first phase of the project, with the potential to create broader institutional change in the way that young Syrians are educated in the future. The curriculum helps prepare students to actively engage in society and imparts skills they can use to better their communities today and contribute to Syria’s eventual reconstruction.

Check out this short video above about the course which includes some of our conversations with recent graduates and our colleagues at SEF. With the support and encouragement of the private sector, these inspiring young people have the ability to write a new chapter in Syria’s history, defined not by tragedy but by peace and prosperity. CIPE is proud to share their stories with you.

For more insights from our visit, please be sure to read Peako’s recent post on the program.

Stephen Rosenlund is a Program Officer for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE. Peako Jenkins is a Program Assistant for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE.