Tag Archives: conflict

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.

Creating a New Educational Paradigm for a War-Ravaged Country

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Making a difference in an environment like Syria is not an easy task. Decades of authoritarian rule have quashed civic life and discouraged young Syrians from aspiring to leadership in their society. On top of that repressive history are now four years of brutal war.

You hear the numbers. Over 200,000 killed. 3.2 million refugees. 6.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). An economy that will require at least a decade of reconstruction. You hear the horror stories. The regime drops barrel bombs on densely populated civilian areas. Dissidents are tortured as they languish in jail. Women are forced into sexual slavery by extremist fighters. Children cannot attend school because their classrooms are destroyed or they must find work in order to help feed their family.

To win back a generation at risk of being lost to this war, CIPE is working with its partner the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) to create new educational paradigm for Syria. With private sector leadership and solutions, SEF is running a CIPE-supported course for recent Syrian high school graduates who have been displaced by the conflict in the border town of Kilis, Turkey (now home to more Syrians than Turks). The course provides an immersion in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills and is being considered for broader application by authorities in the moderate opposition.

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The Fragile States Index 2013: A Snapshot of Global Stability

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The year 2013 proved to be politically dynamic, with many countries seeing political strife or even regime change — among other crises, Ukrainians took the streets to demand more political and economic freedoms and closer ties with the West and the civil war in Syria raged on. The Fragile States Index (FSI) attempts to measure the factors driving such upheaval on a country-by-country basis.

Created by The Fund for Peace and published by Foreign Policy, for ten years the FSI has tried to put into perspective the relative stability of nations and rank them accordingly. The index develops an aggregate total score for each country by taking in a host of different social, political, economic factors: demographic pressure, the quantity of refugees and internally displaced persons, group grievances, human flight and brain drain, the unevenness of economic development, poverty and economic decline, state legitimacy, public services, human rights and the rule of law, the security apparatus, factionalized elites, and external intervention.

According the FSI, the lower the score, the more stable the country. This year’s index is lead by Finland in 178th place, receiving the lowest total score of 18.7, with relative newcomer South Sudan ranking 1st with an aggregate 112.9 (the United States is close to the top, occupying 159th place with a score of 35.4).

One conclusion established by the FSI is that states rarely fundamentally change from year to year. For instance, 9 out of 10 of 2013’s most fragile states still occupy the lowest spots. That being said, the FSI is useful for determining significant and surprising developments and trends. This year’s notable changes and scores included:

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Repairing a Shattered Syrian Economy in the Midst of War

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The common thread that unites all of CIPE’s partners around the world is their dedication to the principles of democracy rooted in private enterprise and free market economics. In all other respects, their diversity is remarkable and represents one of CIPE’s greatest sources of strength.

Ranging from the smallest of local business associations and youth groups to large chambers of commerce and some of the world’s most respected think tanks, our partners all work hard to advance freedom and secure new opportunity for their fellow citizens. They also operate under circumstances as varied and complex as the global geo-political landscape itself. Some of our partners work in conflict environments that require a particular blend of courage and creativity in order to advance their democratic objectives.

The current catastrophe in Syria certainly presents unique challenges to CIPE’s partner the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF), an independent think tank formed in 2012 by business people from across Syria to inform the public policies that will be needed for the country to emerge from conflict and transition to democracy. It may sound starry-eyed to speak of peace and democracy with the war now in its fourth year, at a cost of more than 160,000 lives, over 2.8 million refugees, $143.8 billion in economic losses (as of the end of 2013), three-quarters of the population living in poverty, and incalculable social trauma.

However, SEF and the moderate business community it represents see no other alternative. Independent small and medium business people from across the country, representing the mosaic of religions and ethnicities for which Syria has long been renowned, are a unifying force with the potential to repair and rebuild a now shattered society.

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How Democratic and Economic Factors Drive Conflicts in Africa

UN peacekeepers patrol the North Kivu, where democratic failures, lack of economic development, and a dangerous neighborhood have led to years of violence. (Photo: UN)

UN peacekeepers patrol the North Kivu region, where democratic failures, lack of economic development, and a dangerous neighborhood have led to years of violence. (Photo: UN)

Recently I heard Jakkie Cilliers present his paper “The future of intrastate conflict in Africa: More violence or greater peace?” at The Center for Strategic and International Studies (co-authored by Julia Schunemann for the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa). I went to the event thinking the discussion was going to focus on current conflicts and tensions in Africa, and I was going to leave debating whether or not intrastate conflict will ruin the progress African countries have achieved. I was surprised to find that instead the discussion focused on drivers of intrastate conflict in Africa and even more surprised to find that a majority of the drivers are related to democratic and economic factors.

The authors have identified seven correlations associated with internal conflict:

  1. Poverty and Instability
  2. Transitions from Autocracy to Democracy
  3. A Democratic Deficit
  4. Unemployed or Underemployed Youthful Populations
  5. A Tendency toward Repeat Violence
  6. The “Bad Neighborhood” Effect
  7. Poor Governance

Excluding a tendency toward repeat violence, the other six correlations can be grouped into two larger categories, democracy and economy. In terms of democratic factors, the authors purport that it’s a lack of democracy and democratic governance that correlates with violence in Africa. Research shows that “[s]tates that experience stalled transitions from autocracy to democracy or adverse regime changes” are more likely to experience intrastate conflict.

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Eat your chocolate and strengthen democracy too

(Photo: Sarah Gerrity/Sweetsonian.com)

Conflict chocolate is nothing new. West African countries produce seventy percent of raw cocoa worldwide, led by conflict-ridden Cote d’Ivoire and its 1.3 million tons of annual production. But new efforts to curb illicit flows of cash could be the first steps toward limiting the ability to support violent conflict with funds from trading in valuable commodities such as cocoa.

A 2007 Global Witness Report illuminated the primary structures used to siphon off cocoa trade revenues to fund violent conflict in Cote d’Ivoire. Besides paying for more guns and bullets, the abuse of these funds also means fewer dollars going to cocoa farmers and less trust in public institutions.

According to that report, the national Cocoa and Financial institutions created under former President Laurent Gbagbo to centralize cocoa sales and exports offered $20.3 million in direct support for war efforts on top of export revenues that Gbagbo’s Government tapped for $38.5 million more in arms purchases between 2004 and 2007; meanwhile the opposition Forces Nouvelles movement simply seized control of cocoa export tax revenues over part of the country’s cocoa producing region, bringing them $30 million between 2004 and 2007.

Plenty of those dollars are just a few degrees of separation from the wallets of consumers in the United States and Europe. But there’s a bigger picture here than the consequences of self-indulgence.

While Global Witness and its supporters aimed to convince the global cocoa industry to be more transparent and to avoid funding conflict through its raw cocoa purchasing, the report did not address the issue of how governments and opposition movements manage to store and exchange such large sums of money for purchasing large volumes of small arms on the black (and gray) market.

As financial systems have become increasingly globalized and the technology to manage them has shrunken to the point where you can fit gigabytes upon gigabytes of data onto servers into a closet with an internet connection, it has never been easier to store and exchange money safely and in large volumes.

Such ease has been a powerful force for extending greater global economic opportunity to an unprecedented percentage of world population. Unfortunately, some of that opportunity has been in illicit trading of small arms – along with drugs, endangered animal species, counterfeit goods, and human beings, all vividly documented in Moises Naim’s Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy.

Washington, D.C.-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) has emerged over the past few years as the leading voice on the topic of illicit financial flows – the use of tax havens, legal loopholes, transfer mis-pricing, secret bank accounts and other tools to store and transfer large volumes of money. The vast majority of illicit financial flows comes from multinational corporations trying to reduce or eliminate tax obligations in developing country jurisdictions with typically low tax collection infrastructure. But governments, opposition movements, criminals and violent outfits of all types use many of the same tools to store stolen or siphoned funds and to pay small arms dealers. It’s much safer than carrying briefcases full of cash around war zones.

GFI is the lead member of the Task Force on Financial Integrity & Economic Development, a global coalition of civil society organizations and over 50 governments working together to reduce illicit financial flows and raise awareness of their effects–perpetuating armed conflict, hobbling economies, and eroding democratic governance in places like Cote d’Ivoire, to list a few. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund recently announced their own internal efforts targeting illicit financial flows in one form or another. If successful, these efforts alongside countries coordinating on financial transparency across borders would help to curb or even eliminate the ability to store and transfer funds for destructive purposes.

By promoting financial transparency, you can eat your chocolate and help strengthen peace, prosperity, and democracy too.