Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Reconceptualising War

By Mary Kaldor. 3 great points: I had to include them all. The first 'point' is rather complex and frankly incoherent - at least to me. Nevertheless it is thought-stimulating.

It is now fashionable to argue that instead of imposing international norms, the international community should help to strengthen local structures. I agree with Shahrbanou on this issue. Very often what the international community regards as traditional structures are new institutions established by the warring parties. Both Kosovo and Afghanistan have been transformed by war and conflict and what was tradition has often been totally uprooted and reinvented in ways that may often be even more oppressive and violent especially to women and minorities than in the past. Kosovars, for example, ended blood feuds during the period of non-violent resistance; now blood feuds have been reinvented. Of course, there do have to be hybrid structures - people have to design their own institutions - but, in my experience, many ordinary people in conflict zones do not necessarily want to return to the past and welcome international support if it is about meeting needs and respecting human dignity and if it enables people to deliberate without fear.

This analysis also has implications for dealing with the greed element of contemporary conflict. Establishing a legitimate economy is often the key to ending violence. The Kimberly process for diamond certification was a hugely important factor in ending the wars in West Africa. What about the legalisation of drugs as a way to undercut the war in Afghanistan?

Actually violence is the opposite of conflict, as the French sociologist Michel Wievorka argues, “Violence shuts down conflict and makes it more difficult to address genuine grievances and ‘root causes’”.

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