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Interview with ...

Dr Shelley Deane (Dir. Brehon Advisory): Syria, Jordan and the Refugee Crisis

Interview with Dr. Shelley Deane, Director of Brehon Advisory.

Interviewer: Andrea Teti, November 2014

Dr. Shelley Deane (PhD, LSE) is a highly respected expert in conflict analysis, formerly Assistant Professor of International Relations and Middle East Politics at Bowdoin College (USA), and Visiting Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College (USA). She has researched and written on the ending and mending of conflicts, mediation and negotiation, peace agreements, security pacts, factions, paramilitaries and parliamentarians, and crime and corruption in states in transition, and has mediation and institutional transitional reform experience in Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia, Palestine, the UAE and Ireland. Shelley is also on the Board of the Irish humanitarian charity GOAL (

To find out more about Shelley Deane and Brehon Advisory:

After having jointly sponsoring a workshop on state reslilience in Brussels last year along with the European Centre for International Affairs, CGSG Director Andrea Teti met Dr Deane on November 5th shortly after she spoke at a British Academy-organised event on state fragility.

They spoke about the current situation in Jordan and Lebanon in relation to the Syrian refugee crisis, as well as practical steps that could be taken to improve what is one of the dramatic refugee crises of recent decades.

Q: You have recently returned from work on the ground in Lebanon and in Jordan: could you give us a sense of what the Syrian crisis has meant in practice for ordinary citizens there?

The Syrian crisis and associated uncertainty creates new risks for these states and their populations alike; as such, governments are finding it increasingly difficult to meet both the expectations of their citizens and the Syrian refugee communities they host. Lebanon and Jordan’s history of hosting refugees from Palestinians to Iraqis notwithstanding, the Syrian refugee burden has placed an unprecedented and unrelenting strain on the capacity of these states to meet the humanitarian, security and protection needs of both the refugees and their citizens. We know that the protracted Syrian refugee crisis has to date created 3.2 million documented Syrian refugees seeking sanctuary in the neighbouring states of Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan, is escalating regional fragility. Responding to an array of differing obstacles in the midst of the refugee crisis has created resource, socio-economic, political and security challenges for refugee-hosting states, host communities, individual citizens, and the refugees themselves.

After four years of hosting Syrian refugees, predominantly in urban areas, citizens are under increasing pressure to sustain and support their own host societies’ resilience at a time when state and societal security mechanisms are increasingly strained. With no extra budgetary provision, this requires a rethinking and reframing of resource provision at the local municipal level; a burden that falls directly on the shoulders of Jordanian and Lebanese citizens, not on the international donor community. The increasing economic competition between host and refugee communities compounds escalating inter-communal tensions. These tensions are grounded in a variety of issues: the production of extra solid waste with no matching disposal capacity, water and electricity scarcity, health and education provision, early marriage, sexual assault and survival sex, unemployment, child labour, soaring accommodation prices, crime, weapons, drug smuggling and human trafficking.

Escalating grievances against Syrians are exacerbated by isolated transgressions against members of the host community, often categorised as complaints rather than crimes. Without careful management to minimise increasingly damaging misperceptions of Syrian refugees and delicate mediation of and between the host and refugee communities, an altercation could spark civil unrest and escalate conflict. Scapegoating of Syrian refugees is increasingly commonplace in some host communities. Overt hostility toward refugees is not yet palpable in Jordan, where the Syrian refugee crisis is referred to as a “burden,” whereas in Lebanon, there is an escalation in “dis-harmony” between Syrian refugees and Lebanese communities that create strain on the existing social fabric of the state.

Q: Considerable numbers of refugees are being held in UN camps such as Za’atari: what conditions did you find there, and what are relations like with local populations?

In Lebanon, the legacy of the Palestinian refugee experience means that Syrian refugees live in “informal settlements”. The majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan reside in urban areas, with only 9 percent living in refugee camps. At the beginning of the crisis, 2,500 to 4,000 refugees were crossing the Jordanian border daily from Der’aa in southern Syria. In July 2012 Za’atari camp, located in Mafraq, 7.5 miles south of the Syrian border, opened; the Azraq refugee camp opened in February 2014 and is located 55 miles from the Syrian border in Zarqa. Za’atari, described by one official as “safer than some of our cities,” is now the second largest refugee camp in the world, accommodating 100,000 refugees and arranged in twelve districts (district one is the most densely populated of these twelve districts). The camp has since developed and adapted to the needs of the refugees as far as is practicable. Young “barrow boys” race from the entrance of the camp ferrying materials back and forth in wheelbarrows to the Champs Elysees the often mentioned strip of shops in the heart of the camp, to earn money; there are schools in the camp for children who are not compelled to work. Similarly, while there is no sewage system at Za’atari, green water trucks and orange waste trucks meander in and out of the camp every day. Electricity cables coerced from their official paths escalate the cost of supplying power to the camp and further hinder crippling camp budgets. But nonetheless, Za’atari bustles and hums with the toing and frowing of refugee life.

Azraq is a newer camp set out in villages, with a capacity for 130,000 refugees (housing 14,000 refugees at present), located ten miles from the nearest town the camp is quiet. Refugees “shop” in the camp supermarket and vie for position at the water pumps at the edge of each camp village. Children dwarfed by their schoolbags police their younger siblings on the walk “home” from school. Learning from the experience of Za’atari camp, efforts have been made to accommodate and facilitate the needs of refugees. For example, community policing is already a feature of Azraq camp. The camp is relatively new, relatively remote and currently undercapacity, nonetheless the commitment of the UNHCR, SRAD and other staff, both local and international, to the success of the camp is palpable.

Q: What kinds of security challenges must the UN and local authorities face in tackling the refugee crisis?

Refugee populations can unwittingly become host to conflict protagonists – on all sides of the Syrian conflict - who seek to maintain a presence among the refugee communities. Za’atari camp is situated close to the Syrian border, but in Za’atari, UNHCR, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Save the Children, the Jordanian Police (Public Security Directorate) and the Syrian Refugee Administrative Directorate (SRAD) work together to ensure the protection and security of refugees in the camp.

To that end, a new community police station opens in Za’atari camp later this month, to not only enhance the protection and security of the refugee population, but also to assist refugees in adapting to and navigating a new and ever changing environment. Life as a refugee is relentlessly challenging. Community policing is one way the challenges refugees face can be mitigated, and through which inevitable disputes can be mediated, particularly for communities managing the consequences of conflict. With the help of Asala publishers and generous donors we [Brehon Advisory] have provided educational children’s books for the family interview room at the community police station in Za’atari so that there is a child-friendly safe space for Syrian children who find themselves, for whatever reason, in the community police station.

Beyond the camp environment the security challenges are numerous and nuanced. Hard security issues go beyond fears of conflict contagion from Syria. The long and permeable borders Syria shares with Lebanon and Jordan facilitate these fears, particularly when neighbouring areas are perceived as “safe havens” for fighters to rest, rearm and regroup beyond the reach of their respective adversaries. Longstanding familial and business links notwithstanding, peripheral and porous border provinces, towns and governorates lend themselves to cross border smuggling and often become new frontiers in protracted conflicts. In border areas crime, although present before the Syrian war, is more nuanced, involving gangs engaged in narcotics and hashish smuggling, weapons smuggling and, as is the case in the Bekaa, and Arsal in Lebanon, abduction for ransom. The illegal crossing of undocumented people, refugees, smugglers and combatants alike is challenging both for UNHCR and security stakeholders.

Q: What could international donors do in order to improve the security context and refugees’ plight?

1) Encourage states to meet the annual budget needs for UNHCR and the World Food Programme for 2014.

Our first suggestion for improving the security context and the plight of the refugees would be to encourage and lobby states to meet the annual budget needs for UNHCR and the World Food Programme for 2014. Both organizations have not yet received the majority of their budget needs for 2014, despite now being in the last month of the year.

2) Advocate for the creation of a “transition fund” to meet the needs of refugee and host communities that are often overlooked by emergency relief funding and its corollary, development funding.

Our second suggestion advocates the creation of a “transition fund” to meet the needs of refugee and host communities that are often overlooked by emergency relief funding and its corollary, development funding. Protracted conflicts create an interim phase, of indiscernible length, that generates a vacuum between relief and development funding streams. After four years of conflict the effects of the Syrian crisis in neighbouring states have not remained static; rather, neighbouring states in this interim phase are, becoming less resilient and more fragile, rendering them at escalating risk of destabilisation.

3) Encourage direct (rather than indirect third party) collaboration and coordination between international donors and security stakeholders to build capacity for both refugees and host community provision, particularly in fragile or vulnerable frontier or border areas.

Our third suggestion is to encourage direct (rather than indirect third party) collaboration and coordination between international donors and security stakeholders to build capacity for both refugees and host community provision, particularly in fragile or vulnerable frontier or border areas, such as Akkar and Bekaa in Lebanon and Irbid and Mafraq in Jordan. Direct and coordinated capacity-building is a necessity to build resilience; particularly in fragile frontier areas.

4) Advocate for greater coordination over refugee registration between all relevant agencies, and material support and human rights training provision for security stakeholders.

Our fourth suggestion advocates for greater coordination of refugee registration, and material support and training provision for security stakeholders. Accurate, consistent, transparent and coordinated refugee registration procedures are a vital component for countering refugee scapegoating. The improvement of registration procedures can influence every aspect of refugee host population relations. Security stakeholders, in particular require not only material support but also refugee issue-specific training to counter inter-communal tensions that can aggravate scapegoating of refugees.

5) Provide material support and training provision to redress the data deficit on refugees and increase local knowledge.

Our fifth suggestion is to provide material support and training provision to redress the data deficit on refugees and increase local knowledge. The collection, sharing, and analysis of data relating to refugees is crucial to enhancing the effectiveness of existing services, and, as a predictive tool to anticipate needs and to identify vulnerabilities that can aggravate inter-communal conflict.

6) Co-ordinate long-term public-private investment into waste and resource management

Our sixth suggestion involves co-coordinating long-term public-private investment into waste and resource management initiatives that can materially benefit both host and refugee communities, mitigate inter-communal tensions and support resilience and societal security. In Lebanon ineffective waste management is a significant source of tension between the refugee and host communities; likewise, in Jordan, water shortage – prevalent even before the refugee crisis – is a pressing problem that must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

7) Harmonise the dissemination of information with public information and educational campaigns for host and refugee communities to counter scapegoating.

Our seventh suggestion involves harmonising the dissemination of information with public information and educational campaigns for host and refugee communities to counter the growing misconception and alienation of Syrian refugees. As the crisis persists, refugees are often viewed negatively as threatening, violent and predatory, or disease carrying, immoral thieves wishing to exploit the hospitality and generosity of neighbouring host states. When, in reality, refugees are more often the victims of crime rather than perpetrators of crime. The majority of refugees do not want to remain in host states but want to return home to Syria as soon as is practicable.

Dr Teti: The Egyptian Uprisings - Three Years On (To Vima)

This is an interview our director Dr Andrea Teti gave to the Greek newspaper To Vima.
The interview was used in an article published on January 30th 2014. The Greek version can be found here.

His latest article together with Gennaro Gervasio, published in OpenDemocracy on the anniversary of the Egyptian uprising of January 25th 2011 can be found here. He has also recently given an interview to the Russian broadcasting service Voice of Russia on the same topic.

Three years since the start of the Arab revolutions, the region has witnessed developments ranging from free elections to the violent suppression of change. How would you describe the Arab Spring today?

I’ve always preferred the term ‘Arab Uprisings’, because unlike ‘Arab Spring’ or ‘Arab Revolutions’ it implies that the events that began in Tunisia in December 2010 are open-ended and ongoing. Revolutionary processes are never straightforward – even when they are ultimately successful in the long run, and it was never clear that the Arab Uprisings would be – and there is always a counter-revolutionary phase. This is what we are going through right now: unlike in 1989, the international context – the US, the EU, and Russia ­primarily – were never particularly sympathetic to the popular demands of the Uprisings, particularly social and economic justice, and regional powers like Saudi Arabia have been downright hostile from the very first moment, so it’s not surprising that in most cases the possibility of change has been met with violence and repression, and from Western governments cautious distrust at best.

Initial hopes for empowerment and democracy have long disappeared. Was the optimism misplaced? Where and when did things go wrong?

It’s easy to say that the Uprisings amounted to nothing, that regimes either fought back successfully as in Egypt or Bahrain, or at least bloodily as in Syria, or prevented the uprisings entirely. And it’s easy to look at Egypt or Libya as examples of broken promises and failed transitions.

But the idea that the Uprisings could have immediately brought democratic change without any difficulties is extremely simplistic: expecting regimes – with all their clientelistic interests and their international support – to just evaporate in the sun and democratic transitions to take place was never realistic, that notion was naïve at best. Popular demands for social and economic justice and for an end to regimes’ abuse of power were never backed by strong organisations that could act on behalf of those demands – the largest and strongest of these, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, was always eager to cut a deal with Mubarak, and with the military after him. Nor was Western governments’ support particularly swift or strong: happy to support ‘liberal’ groups like April 6th, they never seriously supported other groups like left-wing and nationalist independent trade unions which have been a very significant force in the decade before the Uprisings. Mostly, this is because these groups strongly opposed policies such as privatization and the ‘opening’ of Egyptian markets which hits Egyptian workers extremely hard in a country where well above 40% of the population is under the poverty line already. Supporting them would have meant the EU and its governments would encourage unions and social justice abroad when they have undermined them at home for the past thirty years.

One fault line seems to be the clash between secular and religious forces. Do you see a way this can be dealt with constructively?

I don’t think the secular/religious divide is the most significant split in Middle Eastern politics today. It is certainly the most high-profile, but I don’t think it’s the most significant. I think the most significant factor is economic and social justice. Remember that the most popular slogan in the Uprisings was “bread, freedom and social justice”. Take the Egyptian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood for example: the regime is painting the Brotherhood as a fanatical religious sect in order to justify its repression, but as authoritarian as its octogenarian leadership is, its social and economic policies are virtually undistinguishable from the regime’s. This is because a powerful part of the Brotherhood leadership are businessmen. Had they stayed in power, it would have been very obvious that they had no answer to poverty in Egypt, that they would have continued policies like privatization, cutting salaries, and undermining trade unions just as Mubarak and the SCAF junta did before them and just as the current government is doing now.

What is the road ahead?

Counter-revolutionary interests are extremely powerful, and the very tenuous support for genuine democratization that came from Western capitals seems to be rapidly disappearing in anything more than just name, so the prospects in the short term do not give cause for optimism. But remember that pro-democracy groups are used to operating under these conditions, and they will continue to do so. Aside from the Uprisings, there was a decade-long history of growing mobilisation before 2011, and we can expect that to continue.

We also need to remember that has not changed is the basic conditions that lead to the Uprisings in the first place: regimes’ abuse of power, social injustice, poverty, and the use of a democratic façade to ignore the voice of the masses. These problems are not very different from the ones we face – on a different scale – in Europe. This was the significance of the Arab Uprisings: the demonstration that massive mobilisation can topple even the most authoritarian regimes, and that we as individuals are far from alone in sensing the demanding change.

The good news is that pro-democracy forces have worked tirelessly over the past 15 years and have done so with very little support from Western governments – much smaller support from European NGOs and unions has been much more effective – so we can expect these groups to continue working hard if they are given even half a chance.

Dr Andrea Oelsner: The State of Democracy in Latin America

Interview with Dr Andrea Oelsner

Interviewer: Alexandra Remond - July 2013

In the light of the current manifestations in Brazil, how would you describe the current social mood at the regional level and the state of democracy in Latin America? Is what is currently taking place in Brazil likely elsewhere?

There are several moods in Latin America. In the context of the global financial crisis that started in 2008, Latin America weathered the storm better than other regions. Countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Peru or Mexico have maintained economic stability and even growth, while others such as Venezuela or Argentina have had some problems to reconcile their domestic economic policies with the dynamics of the global political economy. With regard to the health of democracy, the there is a variety of gaps between electoral and liberal democracies. All but a few countries in the region have implemented relatively successfully electoral democracies. Nonetheless, a more inclusive democracy revealed in lower inequality rates is still pending. In this regard, although to different degrees, in most countries of the region there is disappointment with the limited improvement of living conditions and the practices of electoral democracy.

There is often the additional problem that opposition movements have often had difficulties in organising themselves and offering a viable alternative. Power alternation, rather than being the norm, is the exception.

The Brazilian protests in June 2013 can be explained by two trends. On the one hand, the frustration of people is the result of shattered expectations after a few years of an impressive growth. On the other, while the Brazilian economy is still growing and extreme poverty has been reduced, all this is still insufficient in light of decades of accumulated inequality and growing middle class. While this may result in a more articulated opposition, the protests have mostly been spontaneous.

Can such issues contribute to a form of common identity and solidarity in the Latin American region? Do you think the social elements could take a more important role in the regional organisations such as Mercosur?

Latin America has been the unfulfilled promise of full-fledged regional integration European style, but a myriad of experiences of regionalism such as free trade areas or mechanisms of regional cooperation have flourished in the past decades. The historiography of regional integration processes in the region starts with enthusiastic declarations and in some cases the development of institutions, followed by a dispersion of efforts and eventually scepticism. Part of the problem lies in the importance that Latin American states still give to the principle of sovereignty and their historical inability or reluctance to move to a post-Westphalian model.

In spite of this trend, the Latin American style of regionalism is moving forward with new dynamism, led in some areas by UNASUR and in the Southern Cone by Mercosur. If one looks at the experiences of regionalism in other parts of the world, UNASUR and Mercosur have moved forward as a result of top-down initiatives rather than bottom-up ones, and following the emergence of leaders able to push for further cooperation and if possible integration.

Finally, could you tell us a bit more about your current collaborative research?

This project examines the rationale of regional security cooperation in Latin America and assesses the progress and obstacles that states and regional actors face in order to deal with common threats under the lenses of the regional security governance approach. The key innovative analytical element of the book is the application of a comprehensive framework to detect different levels of collective action and a variety of security sectors in Latin America. In order to understand how states and regional organizations interact, the projects innovates the analysis by examining a) the instruments and b) the reach of cooperation.

Dr. Weber and Dr. Teti: Truth Commissions in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin

Interview with Dr Mervyn Bain on the 6th of June 2013

Marius Mazziotti: Where are the Latin American states heading these days? Many scholars have argued that we are already, or will soon be, witnessing a significant global power shift. What is your personal view?

Mervyn Bain: I guess things are changing very rapidly, in a number of different ways. You have obviously got Brazil doing extremely well economically over the last few years being one of the BRICs. Questions have been raised with issues about the Olympics and World Cup coming up. Maybe that is going to raise questions about how prepared they are. But maybe it is going to make people perceive Brazil in a different way but obviously, what has been achieved is amazing. With that kind of improvement or massive increase in the economy as well. Obviously over the last few years you had that idea of left-leading governments or pink-tied, however you want to phrase it, that has maybe been questioned with Hugo Chavez death earlier this year. That has caused huge uncertainty. Was the whole thing with ALBA really been driven by Chavez himself? What is really going to take place? So, there are obviously a huge number of different things but you could certainly argue that the uncertainties over Venezuela are going to have a huge impact over the region. Is it going to continue in the same sort of way? Maduro won the election, but does he have the personality of Hugo Chavez? Well, unlikely – because nobody really does. Is it going to last, is there going to be a re-election? If the opposition is getting in to power, is it going to effect ALBA and the left-leading governments? How important was one person in that? So, there is certainly a lot of uncertainty and again, that kind of rise in Brazil as well. There are many things taking place. You also see Mexico, where the economy is doing well and closely linked to the US. There are obviously connotations with that as well. More questions marks are maybe also coming over Argentina. A lot of uncertainties, yet difficult to predict the future. For Alba: if Venezuela is not in ALBA – could it survive? Well, could Bolivia come more to the forward with its gas reserves, could other countries do more to serve within the organization, or would it simply die out? That is what I guess time is really going to be on its way to answer. Overall, there is a lot of uncertainty taking place over the future, but it is certainly not going to get away without Brazil whose economy is probably one of the best in Latin America.

Marius: Well, you have already mentioned Brazil - let us continue with that. Given the return to pre-financial crisis growth rates in Brazil, it was argued that this performance enhanced the state’s confidence even further. Will we soon witness an even stronger regional hegemony of the brazilian state in Latin America?

Mervyn Bain: That is certainly possible. I guess that would link to the uncertainty over Venezuela as well. If Venezuela does not have the kind of regional profile it had, Brazil is going to be sitting there as the most powerful one. Mexico’s economy is doing well but it is nowhere near the level of Brazil, similar with Argentina – being the traditional ‘Big Three’. I would imagine that ‘hegemon’ is slightly too strong but it is certainly going to be the most powerful, maybe the dominant. Whether it tries to shape the region or whether it tries to engage with other countries outside the region that is the big question. I guess it also depends on other parts of the world, particularly the US economy. If it starts to recover, well that is one thing. But if it does not, is that going to increase Brazil’s potential and influence on the global scale increasing its role as a hegemon? I made those slightly negative comments about the World Cup and Olympics, but looking at it in a more positive way, that is a way for Brazil to showcase itself to the world. If those go well, that would increase the profile, like the Olympics last year in Britain. Obviously similar things are going to happen with these two global events. Having said that, you already have some people begin to talk about if the money is being spend in the best way, is there still that massive gap between the rich and poor in Brazil, should the money not really be spent on trying to help the poorer parts in society rather than on infrastructure for these two global events? It is always what happens when these things take place and it is an opportunity for people who are campaigning for other things to push these issues on a global scale. You also saw it in 2008 in Beijing with the campaign for Tibet. It is a chance for Brazil to showcase itself on a global stage having the chance to define its global image. But conversely, you might see some of the more ‘negative aspects’ as people campaigning for those come to the fore as well. But certainly, Brazil seems to be the one at the moment that is doing best and the growth rates are pretty spectacular.

Marius: In the face of a Europe in crisis and heated discussions about its decline, what can we expect from Russian – Latin American relations? Do you predict a stronger focus of Russian Foreign Policy towards Latin America?

Mervyn Bain: That, if you want to say, ‘reassertion’ of Russia in to Latin America in the last few years has certainly been very interesting. It has perhaps not been expect twenty years ago at the end of the Cold War. It is mostly different reasons than from the Cold War that are taking place. You see some arguments that it has to do with Geopolitics, some that it has to do with Russia’s self-image on the world stage, trying to portray itself as a global power. Has it to do with the Geopolitical situation of the US, maybe Russia being unhappy with NATO expansion to the east and attempting to counter that, you sometimes see that argument. But as a counter-argument you see that it has all to do with economics. And particularly, is Russia trying to find new markets in Latin America? I mean it has been very, very noticeable that you have had Putin and Medvedev both been to Latin America twice each. You have had Sergey Lavrov who has been there a number of different times; this has really been increasing since the mid-1990s. Are they really looking for markets? You have got that idea that they are looking for markets in general but more specifically you see that idea of Arms Diplomacy. So, are they looking for markets for their military hardware? That maybe links to one of the previous questions, that there has been an opportunity with the pink-tied governments with Chavez at the forefront that had an anti-US image with it. Because if countries in Latin America want to buy armament they do not want to buy them from the US, and they have looked elsewhere. This has given Russia the opportunity. So, it has certainly increased and is pushing Russia’s armaments. Venezuela has bought a lot of armaments from Russia as well. But some people would say that there are not many more opportunities for Russian influence to expand much more. It has maybe got to that point that it can’t go much further.

Things that also have helped are that there is the lack of visas. Russians do not need visas to travel to Latin America. So, those kinds of things are aided. It maybe has got some Geopolitics but nothing like the level of the Cold War. It has got economics, and it has got Arms Diplomacy. It is unlikely that it is going to expand too much more at the moment but that kind of reassertion of Russia has been interesting and perhaps it would not have been expected as well. Maybe, finally, what you see as well is the arms-trade competition with China. You also have China trying to become involved in Latin America. So, there is that kind of idea about the turn to geopolitics.

Marius: On a concluding note, what would be your policy recommendation to the European Union in respect to a fruitful partnership with the states in Latin America?

Mervyn Bain: I guess it is always for any country or any international organization good to have its policies as diverse as possible. You want to try to trade or have good diplomatic relations with as many countries or as many different other regions as possible. So, for one - I would certainly try to increase trade with Latin America. They have now pretty much with all the countries pretty healthy relations. They were issues maybe five or six years ago over Cuba. Those are maybe gone. They could maybe try and increase trade with Cuba. If you are trading with Cuba you do not have to compete against the US, because of the US embargo. So, it would certainly be that. Going back to previous questions: They should probably try to engage as much as they possibly can with Brazil because of the Brazilian economy. And I guess they have to try to do this in a kind of mutually beneficial way for both sides. So, it would obviously benefit the EU if it increased trade and diplomatic links. They would also benefit the sale of European Union goods to Latin America to take advantage of the well-doing economies. As I said, ideally the relationship should really be mutually beneficial to both sides. Latin America could be becoming a bigger player in the world generally. Therefore, you want to be in the from the start and not try to get there once the horse has been bolted. Thus, rather soon than waiting to the medium or long-term.

Dr. Weber and Dr. Teti: Truth Commissions in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin

Truth Commissions in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin Villa Vigoni Conference.

Interview with Dr. Thomas Weber and Dr. Andrea Teti, 10th June 2013.

Jack Keays: Could you talk a little about how the conference came into being?

Thomas Weber: The conference started out initially as an op-ed article that I wrote about a year and a half ago. My article was prompted by the continued drive across Europe still to bring war criminals from the Second World War era to trial. I raised the question of whether this still works or whether there are better ways of going about it, so I floated the idea of Truth Commissions for Second World War era criminals in Europe.

Things soon began to develop into a much bigger discussion, mainly to raise the question as to whether the establishment of Truth Commissions can help Europe as well as the states of the southern and eastern rims of the Mediterranean to deal with some of the darkest chapters of their past. Of course, the contexts are quite different, therefore the goals of Truth Commissions in different national contexts would be quite different, as would be the obstacles that would have to be overcome. In North Africa for example, we are dealing with transitional justice; the case is different in Germany where transitional justice is not the issue, and different again for Spain, where due to the existence of amnesty laws, normal legal tools do not work.

What is it that Truth Commissions can achieve that traditional legal methods cannot?

Thomas: There is not really an all or nothing answer. For Second World War era crimes, Truth Commissions can encourage people to talk, while traditional legal mechanisms can sometimes inhibit people from talking. Particularly since there is a belief that recently legal precedent has changed regarding trying people for Holocaust era crimes. There is a belief now that the purported precedent, I think quite wrongly, mandates that it is no longer necessary to link people to individual crimes, and that it would be sufficient to prove that an individual was present in a death camp in order to get a conviction for accessory to murder. My point would be that the purported new precedent is unlikely to be upheld in future court cases. Moreover, my point is that the belief that a new precedent exists is likely to inhibit people from talking, and also the way legal cases work, is that they inevitably take many years before they are completed. Furthermore, of course defendants have an interest in pretending they are sicker than they are. In that context, Truth Commissions can be quite interesting, and may well break the knot, thus allowing is to deal with Second World War era crimes so many decades after the event. However, I am not convinced they would always work, they can take a significant amount of time to be set up; in a case like Spain, what Truth Commissions can do, what courts cannot do is quite straight forward, simply because courts are not allowed to do anything - they [Truth Commissions] can create justice, they can make people talk. It should also be remembered, for crimes that happened a long time ago, it is not really a question of either Truth Commissions or judicial legal routes; some argue for example, that a Truth Commission could complement traditional judicial route in some instances.

What became clear in the discussions is the difference in what people believe Truth Commissions can do. Some take a more normative approach, I don’t mean this in a negative sense, but they believe Truth Commissions, in only a relatively short transitional period, can set the record straight, establish historical facts, divorce facts from moral facts, and remove acceptable lies from society. Others took a more inclusive approach, and argued further that Truth Commissions can have a societal impact and deal critically with their past.

It is the case of course, that in some instances Truth Commissions may not work at all, while in other contexts, it could be a process with very many problems. My argument would be that we should pragmatically weigh up the pros and cons of the status quo with the pros and cons of establishing a Truth Commission. It seems quite clear in societies where you really do deal with transitional justice, and societies where you have large ethnic or sectarian divides, that there can be problems. I am very sceptical that the process could work here. I don’t see how Truth Commissions can solve problems here, and they may even make problems worse.

One issue that also came up is whether if Truth Commissions are to be established, whether it is done so on an national or European level. For me, this is really a tactical question because for a variety of reasons, Truth Commissions are unlikely to be established at a national context in Europe, the reason being that there are a significant number of people who will inevitably criticize the proposal, and because of that even politicians supportive of the idea, would not want to touch something that is such a hot potato.

Andrea Teti: On this issue, the idea of Truth Commissions specifically and transitional justice more generally, is that they have a paradoxical relationship with the political. On the one hand, they are supposed to be vehicles of bringing society from point A to point B, from a situation of being deeply divided, to one where this division is reconciled. In that sense, a Truth Commission symbolises an instrument for society to take a hard look at itself; in that sense they are deeply political. On the other hand, it is clear that the politics lies in setting up the Commissions, what remains after this is in a sense going through the motions – but as society we have decided where we want to be and how we want to get there.

Thomas: I think that this is an extremely important point; you can indeed make an argument that the success does not just lie in whether you manage to set up a Truth Commission and so on, but the mere process of discussing their establishment is itself a political process and can have a positive impact without ever being fully implemented.

Andrea: If you are in that situation where, as a society, you are asking the question of where you want to go with [a transition process], it is clear that the plausibility of a [particular proposal] depends on the political context. It becomes a question of likelihood of a particular outcome under given political circumstances. For example, if you are seeking to establish a Truth Commission in order to arrive at a general unspoken truth about the past, from (A) where that truth is unspoken to (B) where it is spoken, you would have to evaluate the likelihood of that happening in the European context in different ways in different states. For Germany, with all the flaws of that process, the country has in some ways dealt with its past, therefore it would be relatively less urgent than in a country like Italy for example, that has not done so.

Thomas: Also, what needs to be thought about is how important it is for victims and so on, to get themselves heard. In the context of Eastern Europe for example, there are millions of people who feel their story has not been heard, also in the Spanish context and the Greek context. It is not to say that if people speak they will be completely healed, but empirically, many people have said that talking about the past has helped.

Andrea: In an Italian context, if we look to the past 20 years and Berlusconi with his so-called alliance with post-fascist elements, that has de facto brought back a resurgence of a willingness and acceptability or rather the non-sanctionability of fascist rhetoric. Until the late 80’s or early 90’s for example, it was simply unacceptable to talk about, and it was extremely difficult to be right-wing. The right wing of the Christian Democrat party for example had to be extremely careful about branding itself as Christian and democratic. It was certainly virtually impossible to say things like Berlusconi said that ‘Mussolini never killed anyone, he just sent people on holiday’, or that ‘Mussolini was a great statesman’.

Thomas: Going back to the political process, and the choice of whether Truth Commissions should be established on a national or European levels. There is a potential pay-off if this can be fostered through European levels. You could for example get a European discussion going and strengthen a European public. It seems to me that if this was a European process, it would be discussed on a national level, but it would ultimately be a European process and it would enable Europe to think a little more about where it is, where it has come from and where it wants to move. The European crisis is not only a sovereign debt crisis, or financial crisis, but also exists in part because the old narrative of Europe as a peace project doesn’t quite work in the 21st Century as it did in the past; people of a younger generation, don’t quite buy the story that in the absence of further integration there would be a return to conflict.

There is also an effort at a national level to undermine a European project…

Thomas: Of course. In a lot of contexts, people see the European Union in a pragmatic political sense, looking at the pay-offs and seeing the problems. Also, often the European Union is an easy target to divert attention from national problems, which is something that in relation to Truth Commissions could work in Europe’s favour; it may just change the dynamic on a national level. On a national level, some politicians may not ultimately have the guts to push for it, but if they can blame the European level, and use the EU as a ‘whipping post’, it may ultimately help the political process.

Andrea: There is something that struck me about this; in a sense there is an ambiguity about trying to achieve this process through Truth Commissions. You can have Truth Commissions or some kind of integrated process for two reasons: One is for an ethical imperative, the crimes of communism, fascism etc. The other method is that these Commissions allow us to speak of the question of racism, or systematic discrimination. So there is an added dimension of putting racism back on the table for debate, and while that is a very good thing to do, there is a real problem in seeing Truth Commissions as a means for doing this. In a best case scenario they can catalyse the debate at a European level. But in a worse case scenario, they risk us fetishizing these commissions, and in doing so, we avoid talking about the rise of racism today.

Is there a risk then of Truth Commissions developing into a mechanism that is somewhat ineffective because of the context under which they are established?

Andrea: Truth Commissions are inherently political. So in a sense the whole narrative of establishing Truth Commissions in order to arrive at an unbiased, judicial reading of fact, is a fiction. The point is rather, what kind of political project are we seeking. What kind of society does Europe want to be? Given that we have managed to throw the European social model out of the window, despite protestations by Brussels, what are we replacing it with? This connects to the financial crisis - what are our nation states doing for us? For me, the best case scenario for Truth Commissions to establish is the revival of this debate.

Thomas: Of course we can say we don’t need Truth Commissions, and we can go about establishing Commissions in different ways. Truth Commissions are not a be-all-and-end-all solution, but I would say that they have the potential in various contexts to achieve what society often wants legal tools to achieve, even though these legal tools are not really meant to serve these goals. It helps to create an institution that can deal with certain societal needs of citizens, beyond the remit of courts. Because this is something new, it would have the promise to get public attention and to trigger a very positive process across Europe. Can it fail spectacularly? Yes. Are there dangers? Yes, but that is politics; there is no politics without risks.

Dr Teti and Dr Gandolfo: Tunisia and Egypt

Tunisia and Egypt in context: Salafism, Feminism, and Unions.

Transcript of interview with Dr. Andrea Teti and Dr. Luisa Gandolfo, 31st May 2013.

Jack Keays: How should we (as outsiders) perceive the ‘rise’ of Islamist parties in both Egypt and Tunisia?

Andrea Teti: It is tempting to view the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as an Islamist party, that is how they frame themselves, that is what their agenda is supposed to be about and they speak very much in terms of religion, ethical standards, piety and so on. But there is an important sense in which that is a mistake, because if you look for example at their manifesto, both in 2010 and since then, it is very hard to distinguish between theirs and the NDP’s [National Democratic Party]. So there is a very great degree of continuity; a reason for this is because a very important part of the Brotherhood’s leadership is so called Brotherhood Businessmen, like Khairet El-Shater.

A bit like the American right, there is a sort of distraction between piety justified in religious terms and economic policies. So what makes the Brotherhood work in political terms, is a combination of the popularity it derives from framing its stance in Islamist terms, rooted in the dynamic of the old regime (since the 70s undermining any other alternative, the left specifically). But the Brotherhood’s economic policies allow for a source of compromise with the army and a source of tension with the army - the army is first and foremost and economic actor - their priority is to a) redress the imbalance between them and the Ministry of Interior [MoI] that had evolved under Mubarak, and b) to look out for their economic interests. There are wildly differing estimates of the proportion of GDP the army is responsible for (between 5% and 40%) - even if it is just 5% that is still massive economic force. Part of their responsibility was to continue the processes of economic privatisation… which becomes a plane of convergence with the Brotherhood.

Ultimately, the Brotherhood’s legitimacy is derived from their Islamist identity, but their power, influence and their role in the system comes through their economic identity.

Luisa Gandolfo: In the case of Ennahda, Tunisia is different because there is a two-pronged approach; from Ennahda, and also unofficially from Ansar as-Sharia. Ennahda, is a sitting duck - it is not intervening against Ansar as-Sharia, which is becoming more powerful, and that is where the drive for Islamisation is coming from. [Meanwhile], in terms of how the government is pursuing it [Islamisation], its reluctance to legislate on human rights and women’s rights is impeding progress.

The other interesting aspect in Tunisia is the divide between the Islamists, the secularists and the Salafists, with Ennahda in the middle. With the question of where the Salafists emerged from (and the idea that Tunisia has never had Salafists is raised), we should look back to the origins of the founder of Ennahda - Rachid al-Ghannouchi - who went through these stages. When he engaged in liberalization during the early days of the MTI (Mouvement de la Tendance Islamique), he faced a degree of opposition from his own members. The result has been a schism between Ennahda and the more conservative Islamists at a grassroots level. The push and pull has placed a security strain on society, but at the same time, Ennahda has remained uninfluenced by the secularists and has been more concerned with dealing with outside forces, while balancing between the Salafists and secularists.

Is the threat from the Salafist movement as serious as it is often made out to be by parties opposed to Ennahda, and others in Tunisia?

Luisa: It is hard to say: when Bourguiba took power in 1956, he implemented some of the most liberalising policies in the region, and many positive things came from that in terms of women’s rights, social development and education. But what has largely been forgotten is the human rights abuses against the Islamists; however if we try to understand where the present issues with the Salafists have arisen from, we can explain it in these terms. Also, Salafists are noticeably absent from any negotiations and while they are an ‘unofficial’ movement, they pose an equal security threat, as well as a social threat. By isolating them, the Salafists could continue to aggrandize. In terms of security, the threat is escalating, but in terms of society, the people are remaining strong enough to resist them.

Lastly, we must look at who these Salafis are and why the youth are being drawn to them - how committed are they to it? It links back to the educational and economic opportunities available and that must be tackled by the government.

Moving onto other social movements in Tunisia and Egypt, what can we learn from the efforts of groups like FEMEN, and other forms of protest - things like the ‘Harlem Shake’ etc?

Luisa: In the Tunisian case I think FEMEN is interesting - there was already a FEMEN group in Tunisia, but they didn’t use their body in the same way. The FEMEN movement in the Middle East is very contentious located as it is as a form of neo-colonialism, in the quest to liberate Arab women. For many this is patronising because they consider themselves to be free, and are free to make their own choices and fight their own battles.

In Tunisia, the cultural scene has always been very vibrant through literature and the arts, so these creative forms of protest are well-established. For example, one of the earliest Salafi protests occurred when a Tunis-based theatre company planned to stage an open air show on Avenue Bourguiba. It was fascinating because arts and culture were very much at the centre of this protest. What was ironic was that the stage that had been put up became a focus for the Salafists, but they couldn’t quite organise themselves - some were standing on the stage as a platform for themselves, while others were trying to bring the stage down.

Andrea: Going back to the question of gender politics, Egypt is a classic case of dynamics rooted in colonial and post-colonial relations and the politics that happens afterwards. During the colonial era, there was an equation of Westernisation with modernisation and a notion of modern

One of the primary terrains upon which the battle for political legitimacy is being played out is the situation of women. The reason Tunisia has 27% of women in parliament is because of its system placing women on lists, in Egypt there is no such thing. Interestingly in 2010, there was a quota of 60 seats reserved for women in the lower house, which now does not exist. This was very controversial and was immediately repealed in the post-Mubarak elections.isation with protest. Given this central plank of a colonial regimes’ cultural legitimisation process, it is unsurprising to see anti-colonial movements, that in their Islamist inflection, oppose that cultural dimension. That division is then transposed into the post-colonial context (Nasser, Sadat, Iran, Tunisia), where paradoxically, the nationalist regimes that came to power adopted the position of the coloniser - therefore opening the space for Islamist opposition. Today in Egypt, we see the Muslim Brotherhood systematically attacking legislation regarding women’s rights established under Mubarak and stigmatising them by calling them ‘Suzanne’s laws’ - in reference to Suzanne Mubarak, as a copt, as western. This is the context of gender writ large in Egypt today. This is why we see such a systematic attack on women during the revolution and afterwards in Egypt, bearing in mind that there is a baseline of sexual harassment in Egypt which is very serious to begin with.

Luisa: It is interesting to mention the role of women’s bodies, because some argue that this detracts from the real issues at hand and plays into the hands of government(s) and the media. It provides an excuse to crack down on these forms of protests and it allows the media to detract from the key issues. But at the same time, this argument has been countered by protesters, who argue that these types of protest are necessary to attract attention and evolve to tackle more fundamental causes.

The other argument is that the global media focuses only on issues concerning FGM [Female Genital Mutilation], which is an important issue; there remain however, many other issues not being addressed because they are not ‘juicy’ enough, such as divorce, inheritance and honour crimes. And once the revolution is no longer exciting, the question remains on whether the governments will continue to work on these issues - it is so easy to sweep them from view.

Andrea: Another non-juicy episode that should actually be juicy - the famous week long protests in Mahalla, in 2008 - the first protesters were women, women’s movements etc. When they started, the independent trade unions were discussing strike action, and the women went onto the streets - one of their chants was “here are the women, where are the men?”… the story goes that the men were so humiliated that they were forced onto the streets… One of the reasons this story is not juicy enough is that it is about unions, inheritance laws, structural problems. Issues like FGM are ones that the European Union finds very easy to address in public; it can say ‘this is wrong, we should fix it’, rather than saying for example, that Special Economic Zones in Egypt are causing terrible inequality, and producing an incredible amount of damage to individuals, to families… it is a lot easier to point at FGM for example, rather than address the more structural issues.

The unions, as mentioned, played a fundamental role in the uprisings, and for many years prior to December 2010. Do they remain as strong as they have been, or are there efforts to undermine their role?

Luisa: In Tunisia, they are still as vociferous as they have always been, though they are being overshadowed by other issues.

Andrea: It is a very similar story in relation to Egypt… the stereotype is always the same, ‘Egyptians can’t revolt, they’re quiescent, they can’t protest, it is an effective authoritarian regime’, and then January 25th came. But really, there was a cycle of protest in the late 80s, early 90s, and then the cycle of protest we have today began in the late 90s early 2000s. As neo-liberal or rather neo-oligarchic reforms kick in towards the late 90s, movements like Kefaya, and other leftist union movements, as well as certain groups of Islamists, tried to bring together the opposition. Interestingly, this was always scuppered by the Muslim Brotherhood as an anti-systemic force.

From the newly configured regime, after the uprisings, the unions, as well as NGOs and other independent actors, have been targeted just as they were under Mubarak, but with added ferocity due to the fact that they appear to have significant resonance. There is currently an NGO law being debated which is far more aggressive than anything under Mubarak.

Dr Gearoid Millar: Mali in Context

Rights, Power, and Governance in West Africa: Mali in Context

Interview with Dr Gearoid Millar, 7th March 2013.

Jack Keays: Is the war in Mali a product of the nature of state boundaries existing from colonial times?

Dr. Millar: Yes, partially. In so much these boundaries existed only after colonial times, before there were no boundaries. [The] French West Africa area was chopped up into different countries. And so the Tuareg, doing as they had done for centuries, roamed around as pastoralists and there were no borders to be concerned with. So obviously, when independence comes in 1960, suddenly there are these borders between Mali, Niger, Algeria and Libya.

For people who lived for centuries without borders, to suddenly have this made border, you can completely understand how it would be taken as a construction. We today consider borders to be real, but to a pastoralist society borders are just made up lines. There isn’t even a fence; it is just more dunes. Very hard to conceive of this is the Mali side, this is the Algerian side. So it doesn’t really make much sense.

We mentioned investment from the Emirates and from corporations in the West, with this in mind, Is the nature of pastoralist Tuareg movements likely to be affected by this globalisation?

It’s hard to say, because obviously the land that the companies from the West, or the Middle East and smaller countries in Asia… They are leasing and buying this land, but they are one of the major problems, really, because the land that they want is the most arable and productive land. So they don’t want the land where the Tuaregs are, but what they do is force migration. You know, if you are an agrarian group and you have lived in X chunk of land bordering the Tuaregs for decades and some Saudi group or South Korean or US company buys 80,000 hectares to plant sugar cane or plant soy. Even if that is 100 miles South of where you live, that pushes one group out who then push out another or even if it is just a refugee that has to go all the way north. You automatically have the raising of the value of the land and therefore rising competition for land.

One of the big problems in this whole land grab issue isn’t that there isn’t enough land to have. It’s the speculation in land. A lot of these companies are leasing and buying land because you can get it at $4 an acre. They’re thinking that it will be an investment years from now and of making a load of money from that land. Its not even that they want to have the land as it is completely for projected profit. Its just speculation in land. So the concern isn’t that some company or some Emirate is going to buy or lease relatively dry pastoralist land that the Tuareg traverse along. Nobody wants that land.

The issue is that they push people of that land. Its really hard to say that’ll actually happen, because maybe those people pushed off their land will move to cities, but again you’ll have more competition for resources that are grown on that land. It is also people in cities that are not producing for themselves. They are going to need to buy food, food has to be grown somewhere. You have your Western companies producing soy products, for example, people in the city have to buy what they had produced for themselves. The privatisation and in essence the liberalisation of African land cannot help but drive up the competition for land.

Can it [liberalisation] do anything to solve the problem we are seeing now?

See that’s the argument made, that companies will come in and invest and pay people. The money will circulate in the economy and they will pay taxes. The employees of course and any secondary beneficiaries will of course too. People who have a shop, where employees work, which then pay taxes, with money going into government coffers. This money is going to pay for education, roads and healthcare etc. If for example, this were true, that these companies paid a functional rate of tax, that would provide for the state something in exchange for the land and those individuals making enough money to pay taxes, if elites weren’t corrupt and roads got built that extended out to extend the beneficial governance processes of government. So if you went from having this bubble of governance around Bamako, to actually the extension of healthcare and education into the surrounding countryside, then that’s a positive effect.

But there is little data on whether such things are happening, the data in essence right now; GDP goes up or down. So in Sierra Leone last year saw 34-36% spike in GDP in one year. That in essence is because a massive mining company had started exporting iron. The benefits for the people are minimal, maybe neutral, or potentially negative. In April there were protests that people were making no money, two guys were shot by the police. So with a spike in GDP, who is benefitting from that? At the same time, with the competition over land, there is less food being produced in some cases or a lot of this land is being used to produce ethanol so we can have cheaper gas. So less food produced: price goes up. So in these countries we have ‘agrarian projects’ that are producing sugar cane, so less land producing food, the price of food generally going up so people not only don’t have the land to produce food on to feed themselves, but they have to buy food from a market where the price of food has doubled since 2008.


And these measures are what leads to the problems in the first place...

And then people have more grievances. I’m not saying it all has to be negative, however, there are certain tendencies to measure certain things. We can see a spike in GDP, because we can count it. We can see a spike in investment because we can count it. For years development agencies as well as development funders such as the World Bank or DFID, or any other organisations, have evaluated themselves on the amount of money they have distributed. ‘We did these 27 projects for $80 billion’ and that was the evaluation! It wasn’t ‘did the dam provide power more cheaply than the old source of power? Did lives get improved by it? Was it distributed to everyone or was it just the elites in the capital that benefitted from it? Did the $4 billion for the project actually go on the project or did it disappear somewhere else?’ So for a long time evaluation wasn’t about the experience of development, it was purely about what was spent.

This is both a disciplinary and cultural tendency. A quote from the Economist is deemed more legitimate than an anthropologist who goes there and sees that this doesn’t work. Because the anthropologist doesn’t have any graphs. Anthropologists can’t produce numbers. And policy makers want to see numbers.

So that in essence is the problem, if we can get past how we ‘do’ development, in figures, we can tackle the wider problems? Or do you see that as too big a problem?

Yeah, I see that as too big a problem. Things aren’t always fixable. It is not going to be tackled or fixed in my life time. Our society in essence has got the way it has through the kind of government we have; the bureaucratic systems we have. There are ideas that have existed for decades and will last for decades. There will be twists and turns and there will be some evolution within the system over time. But, just like political science or P/IR you will have heard about ‘path dependence’. Institutions and cultures are path dependent. Ideas and disciplines are path dependent. You can’t suddenly be a new person or suddenly have new conceptions. They can evolve slowly over time, but the tendency in academia is more numbers.

But on that cultural path dependency, they cannot change overnight but they are always changing; How can they be shaped in a positive way?

Well that is our purpose. That is why academics teach, write and publish ideas. This idea that cultures are static is a lie. It is each successive generation or publication or social movement that pushes that. Like the US had Bush for 8 years and we went ‘oh my God’ so we went the other way. This system is positive. I am not cynical about democracy in general. Democracy is often applied dysfunctionally, but the idea of a market of ideas/policies that are then competed against openly and we then vote on one is brilliant. The issue is that all have to have consciousness of the fact that they are voters. Most of my generation, and yours, doesn’t recognise that they are the electorate. If DFID funds a project or the British government sends planes to support an invasion or an environmental policy there is a kind of odd separation between ‘us’ and ‘government’. We ARE the government.

But this separation is a useful policy for the government, it’s a cycle in a sense. They have an interest in perpetuating this idea that citizens are detached, and maybe even more so in a country such as Mali where the central government is…

It’s even worse. Even people who themselves would be citizens don’t even see themselves as being legitimate voices. In Sierra Leone I have asked people ‘is it okay?’ and you take 15 minutes drawing up to the question ‘who represents you?’ ‘How do these people represent you?’ ‘What processes do you have to do?’ ‘Do they come to you?’ Then eventually you come to the question: ‘is that system good for you?’ ‘Do the minsters who speak for you represent you?’ Then they think…. ‘no they don’t.’ But they never thought to question it. It is not their role to question. You hear time and time again in these societies that you don’t question those ahead of you. They are ahead of you, they are educated or they are elders or they are white. You do not question them.

So I think it’s even worse. Maybe there is some of that in the West, with the media and twitter, we are just dumbed down to the point of ineptitude. But I don’t think that we don’t see ourselves as being legitimate voices. It is true that most of us aren’t, because we are so dumbed down that we are nearly useless and we can’t actually critically analyse anything. But it is not that we don’t recognise that we should be able to. People do think they should have a voice.

So if that’s the case, maybe it comes down to education, do you see a role for an international actor here, or establishing a regional organisation, or do you have little faith in that approach?

I do think that there are some good organisations. I do think that the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières, who are emergency organisations. They provide emergency relief after natural disasters or wars or training nurses etc. There are things that can be extremely fruitful. Education and healthcare are bang on that. We need better educated people.

If you were able to have more educated people, there would be more of a market for ideas. Democracy doesn’t function, democracy implies functionally, critically, analytically capable individuals who can participate in politics. The populace, if completely uneducated doesn’t understand the policy, then it is non-functional. We should be focusing on healthcare, education and nutrition; which these things have a direct impact on. The issues of good governance etc. are backward ways to get at that. A lot of post war funding goes towards good governance programmes. Always these hot topics, that for a decade require funding. A lot of funding for good governance is based on the idea that these people will be anti-corruption, that they won’t hire their brother etc. And that this good governance will turn into better healthcare, roads, schools etc. A functional western state: ‘getting to Denmark’ as they say.

There is something inherently good about an education, that in itself is positive. Whereas good governance tends to be easily usurped in the process of corruption. My experience has been that local elites have learnt the discourse and the dialogue of anti-corruption and that they even figure out how well Westerns observe their corruption and they’ll learn to tell stories about how they are not corrupt.

Just like “civil society” movements in Egypt and elsewhere, where the government starts setting up civil society organisations, to get the money, and the cycle continues…

Exactly. Here, India needs to be looked at by academia to learn about some very successful movements. Indian social movements have had massive successes with changing of laws, producing healthcare and education. India is still poor, yet there have been a very quick improvements of educational standards, in some areas such as Tamil Nadu it is extremely impressive. In essence, you have educated elites who are recognising potential role for them as representatives of these large groups, but also what Gramsci called ‘organic intellectuals’, the bubbling up of people from the bottom; and becoming their own leaders, in essence. So they can represent more people on the ground. Africa hasn’t yet seen that, and when it does, people tend to be easily manipulated so they become corrupted. Corruption not only from the top down, but from the bottom up. Once you get in a position of power there are many pressures for you to provide. You can’t provide for 100s if you are not corrupt. There is a whole culture that procreates this. Its not corrupt, its normal. In their world anti corruption is absurd. Maybe our world is just as corrupt if you analyse it.

So on a last note, what are the positive factors that you see emerging?

One thing that I do see, taking in account the Tuaregs and the French [intervention], there has been a weighted balance. The French didn’t stand off like Rwanda and they didn’t jump in immediately in a colonialist way. When the UN issued Resolution 2085 then the French acted, taking into account the Arab Union and Muslim countries. This is relatively responsible on their part.

It is so easy for us great powers to forget people’s rights, we just think about the French tax payer. But you have to think about the women who will be raped, children that don’t go to school, the lives that will be lost or people tortured. A weighted discussion is always positive. My only concern is that people on the ground are left out of the discussion. It is my role as an academic to attempt to make sure that the locals are heard and that their stories are told and their opinions count.

Our efforts are useless if there is no local ownership or locally salient process or it doesn’t make sense to the people on the ground or does not provide what they need, then you are wasting your time. To a great extent, we need to listen. So a more weighted approach was good. I am not one to find many positives, it is our jobs as academics to criticise. That’s our job. We don’t do anything; we don’t go out and do intervention. I get to sit and criticise the intervention I am perfectly willing to be critical of the US invasion of Iraq. But this [French intervention] was not the US invasion of Iraq. It was much more balanced. What are the results going to be? Should we intervene? Who are we going to be helping? Who are we going to be hindering? What are the political implications? This was a much more positive and constructive way to conduct an intervention.

But we still don’t see representation of the people on the ground at an international level. Maybe there is space for organisations, such as ‘Independent Diplomat’ who seek to represent non-state actors at an international level?

I think that is a great idea. I have been thinking of doing ‘action research’. You go into a place to study the event, but you are also affecting the event. So you are studying the effects of your effect. I had this idea when studying in Sierra Leone. In essence here, a company has come in and leased 40,000 hectares of land and 90 villages.Approximately 30,000 people within this project have lost their land and they are very confused by it all. There was no communication of it in the agreement, what it would include or what their rights would be, or how they could hold the company accountable.

There were clear grievances, this being in the very sensitive post war context, with many worried with what the young men will do. I realised that they were not even informed about what the government said because white men would come, say what’s in the agreement, and then translators would turn it into the local language. In essence, what happened was the agreement was written in English and signed, people don’t read English so most signed in finger prints. They were convinced of lots of promises and then the promises didn’t come. Why weren’t the agreements themselves translated into the local language and played to the people on a tape?

The company can literally go and tells the police to arrest someone on the project. But one of the clauses in the agreement says that any individual issuing a complaint against the project has to go to their headman, who has incentives not to take it any higher, who in turn has to go to the chief, who is again incentivised, who has to take the issue to an arbitration court in London; this is to do anything against the company. All the company has to do is have the man arrested. The clause is in the agreement, but they don’t know how to speak or read English. So simple things like better communication would make a difference. Why wasn’t it recorded and played in the local language? Our tax money funded 258 million Euro of this project, which is funded by European Development banks, and we never hear from these people, these people never hear from us, because the company has incentivised the Black people to remain quiet and the white people to think that they are doing good stuff. Things need to change, but everything is against changing.

Professor Michael E. Smith: The EU’s Grand Strategy

Interviewers: James Halle and Andrew Seale

Date : 20/07/2011

Andrew Seale:
A key component of EU policy towards neighbouring states has been the enlargement process, also known as the most successful aspect of EU foreign policy. As of 2007 there are now 27 members, and excluding the Balkans and nations who have already rejected membership (Norway and Switzerland), there do not appear to be many more potential candidate countries. How do you see EU Grand Strategy evolving once the ‘barrier’ to further enlargement is reached?

Prof. Smith:
A very important but difficult question, because this barrier is going to be closed to new member states pretty soon. Turkey is the critical question after Croatia and Serbia are allowed in. Once the Turkish situation is resolved then the only incentive the EU will have is offering neighbourhood policy incentives to neighbouring states. Creating incentives to do what the EU wants them to do; we’re looking at Northern Africa, we’re looking at former Soviet Union member states, the southern Caucuses as well, all of whom are part of the neighbourhood policy. The neighbourhood policy works well in principal, on paper, but the critical incentive within that is access to the EU’s single market, the promise of free-trade with these countries. The EU has shown no incentive to lower that barrier to those countries. So until the EU adopts a political will to trade freely with all of its neighbouring countries, most of whom are much poorer than EU member states, then the EU’s Grand Strategy is going to have serious limitations in the near future. Until it overcomes these problems I don’t see any political will in the short term for any changes in this direction, especially in the light of financial crises, recessions, and economic problems within the EU member states. So at the moment the Grand strategy is going to be a bit wobbly until the EU opens up its free trade especially with the countries of North Africa.

Andrew Seale:
In your lecture on 4th May you suggested that the EU’s influence was stronger in the realm of value projection. Should there be a concern that, as you suggested, in Economic and Military terms the EU cannot really compete with the US or NATO, that this attempt at value projection will ultimately be unsuccessful as it not underpinned by a strong and fully integrated economy or military?

Prof. Smith:
I don’t think the military is as critical to value projection as the economic side, and here this is one problem that the EU has to address in terms of what its military forces are really for. The problem here is that if the EU uses military force unwisely, like the US has done, it could undermine its value projection and normative power aspects. So the EU has to think very carefully about the extent to which it wants to become a military power. If it goes down the current path that it is on, only using military power as a defensive or humanitarian component, then things should be okay. But if it tries to emulate NATO and become a more offensive military power and bombs or punishes certain countries, then its value projection capabilities will be greatly undermined. That leaves economic power, and here again the critical thing is whether the EU can get its own internal economic affairs in order to cause other member states to adopt European principals and norms. The critical issue at the moment is the Euro crisis with Greece, and that is still yet to be resolved. But as the way things are going the EU will have to make some serious decisions about the Eurozone especially, in terms what requirements are involved to be participating in that zone, before it can think about projecting economic power abroad. So this is why I think again, if it shouldn’t be emulating military power and it has limitations with economic power, it should try to bolster its normative power, its value projection, to kind of overcome those deficiencies.

Andrew Seale:
How does the recent bilateral naval agreement between France and the United Kingdom challenge the EU attempts to strengthen its foreign policy ‘persona’?

Prof. Smith:
They have the potential to improve the EU’s foreign policy because the EU has never prevented or prohibited bi-lateral or multi-lateral cooperation among EU member states. So long as British-French cooperation supports European principals there is no reason why it can’t enhance the broader European project. But if the UK and France try to act in ways which undermine it, then obiously we’re talking about a serious crisis or potential crisis within the European order. Again this is why this question has to be understood within the broader debate about: what is the purpose of EU military force? And that debate has yet to be resolved within the EU, but it’s being discussed at the moment, particularly in light of interventions in Libya and other humanitarian problems around the world.

Andrew Seale:
In your lecture you highlighted the establishment of the EAS (European Extern Action Service)as one part of the Lisbon treaty that has been implemented slowly, and also one that has proved controversial. Do you believe that the current set up with the High Commissioner and the EAS staff will, once firmly established, be an adequate diplomatic corps for the EU, or are there structural problems that may require further treaty reform?

Prof Smith:
I think that there are inherent structural problems based on the way it has been developing over the past 18 months that are too detailed to go into at the moment. But the general point is that the EAS has institutionalised certain political problems/cleavages that had already existed within the European system. Mainly between the security view of foreign policy versus the trade development view of foreign policy. However, I don’t think the EU has a lot of stomach for a major treaty reform in the next few years to overcome this problem. I think what is going to happen is the same pattern that we have seen in previous treaty changes: the Maastricht treaty, the Amsterdam treaty, the single European act, and going even further back. Where officials on the ground try to make the best use of the treaty instruments as they can. But this process, as in every case, takes several years to work out, and that’s what is going on with the Lisbon. It’s already going on with the Lisbon treaty. It has been 18 months since the treaty entered into affect and the EAS is still not only being staffed but being reorganised on a regular basis in ways that the treaty doesn’t actually require or anticipate.

Andrew Seale:
You mentioned that there is likely to be an increasing conflict between the ‘American dream’ and the ‘European dream’, and that this was the basis for the EU’s value projection. What is the fundamental difference between the two ‘dreams’?

Prof. Smith:
The American dream is pitched at a very personal and individual level of analysis. It involves to a large extent material and consumer comforts, namely revolving around home and to a second extent car ownership. But there is very little reliance or involvement of a public sphere, or a social sphere within the context of the American Dream. It is very individually driven. Whereas I think the European dream makes a much greater role for a public/social sphere, where people are embedded in local networks- at the local, national and even regional levels- in how they pursue their values and goals. So that fact plus the fact that the EU has a high degree of interdependence between its member states requires a higher degree of social networking and social justice. A greater role of the state in allowing people to pursue their individual goals. So I think these two visions of how individual liberties should be pursued are going to come into increasing conflict. As we’ve already seen with many issues involving security rights, privaty rights, trade in food, genetically modified foods, issues where the U.S. has a more laissez faire approach as to what people should get away with, as opposed to the European approach. This can be seen also with the economic crisis of the past several years, where the US prefers to take a less regulatory hands-off approach, versus the European structural and regulatory approach. We’re going to see that increasingly happen with issues related to technology, trade, economic and financial problems coming down the road. Not to mention traditional security issues:immigration, international crime, piracy and all these different problems.

Andrew Seale:
One of the key challenges for the EU strategy is to articulate the conditions under which the EU will use deadly force. Have there been any tentative moves in this area, and given that this has already happened in theatres that the EU has been involved in, is a more formal agreement likely to be on the agenda in the near future?

Prof. Smith:
I don’t think you’ll see a major change at the level of a treaty reform in terms of a formal document. What you will see, what we are seeing, is more informal statements in terms of individual operations what the rules of engagement are and what the circumstances are where the EU could use deadly force. In most of these cases the EU has taken a very modest view of the role of military force within the context CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policy) operations. The one potential is the anti-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia, where the EU has been authorised to not only police the area, but also to capture and incarcerate suspected pirates; to turn them over for prosecution in various countries. So that is one outside example of the extent that the EU will go to to protect security interests, but again, it still falls very far short of what the US or NATO will do in terms of using missiles or bombs or attack different countries or kill civilian populations. So the EU has not gone that far yet, and at the moment I don’t think it has the stomach to go down that path, to use a more aggressive military posture. I think the anti-lantern, anti-piracy operation is as far as the EU is willing to go at the moment, and I don’t see that changing in the near future.

Andrew Seale:
Will the inability of the EU to present a unified voice in the current Libyan Civil war lead to attempts to ‘tighten’ up the EU foreign policy, or has it set a precedent whereby this aspect of the EU will remain ineffective vis-à-vis the members states and their national interest?

Prof Smith:
All important EU foreign policies are national interest dependent. It depends, of course, upon the extent to which there is a consensus among most if not all EU member states. In the Libyan case obviously there was not a consensus, but that consensus was lacking for a very good reason, which relates to some of the previous questions. Which is the idea that there is no general consensus on how the EU should use military force, but there is a specific point of view that the EU should avoid turning itself into another NATO or another American approach to military force in which military force can be used in a full range of policy operations, and be used to punish or to threaten other countries. The EU has not gone that far. This is because there is no general political will within the EU for that type of approach. So I think that some EU member states were reluctant to take the EU down that path, down a new path, towards a more punitive approach to foreign policy. That is why they were reluctant to support the Libyan operation. If it had been primed in another way to do something else in support of the humanitarian effort in that country, which did not involve such punishing military force, then it is possible that a consensus could have been achieved. But I think that some member states, mainly the UK and France, were too quick to go down the path of a punishing approach. Which obviously did not suit the other EU member states, they quite naturally opposed it, and that’s where things are today.

James Halle:
Over the last couple of years the EU has had to deal with certain controversies within its member states. For example, the media row in Hungary and the subsequent debate as to whether they would be eligible as a candidate for the EU’s Presidency has been discussed in the last two years. What affect do these rows have on the EU’s strategy of ‘Value Projection’ and what would be the impact of a member leaving, voluntarily or because of a sanction?

Prof. Smith:
Well, a state leaving or being forced to leave is kind of the nuclear option in EU internal politics. There have been several crises over the last 30-40 years that might have resulted in that outcome. A case is France in the mid-1960s: the empty chair crisis where France refused to play its leadership role in the rotating presidency; the British rebate crisis in the 1980s; most recently involving the Austrian government a few years ago and then the Hungarian government more recently. So these crises periodically happen, but they never go to the extent of actually leading a country to leaving or being forced to leave the EU. But if that did happen then that would perhaps be the most serious crisis to face the EU in its entire history. Especially if it had been a country which is large, or a member state going back to the 1950s: one of the original six member states. Since that has not happened yet, doesn’t mean that cannot happen, but if it did happen it could be the nail in the coffin of European integration. It would take quite a lot to get the system back on track the way it had meant to be. The one related problem is the issue of the Eurozone and whether a country can be kicked out of the Eurozone, such as is the case with Greece. That would not be as catastrophic as kicking a country out completely. But if a country was forced to leave the Eurozone then the EU would still have to have a major re-think of its purpose. Particularly in the economic realm where everything began in the first place, they would need to have a new understanding of the repsonisbilities and obligations of EU membership in ways that does not currently exist.

James Halle:
In your lecture you suggested that one of the main areas the EU is able to contend with the USA and China on the global stage was its unified economic strength. Over the last decade what has the introduction of the Euro meant in terms of EU’s Grand strategy?

Prof. Smith:
It has made the EU a player in world monetary politics. It not only replaced a lot of weak currencies within the EU member states, but it’s also given the international monetary system an alternate currency to dominance by the US Dollar, Japanese Yen, British Pound and the Swiss Franc. But having said that the EU has to follow through and maintain the credibility of the Eurozone. Again, as with other aspects of major EU treaties, the devil is in the details. There were a lot of things that were left out of the Euro-plan which are now coming to cause crisis in the system, one of which was the idea of what happens when one member of the EU gets into its own financial economic difficulties as in Greece at the moment. This problem was foreseen in the EU and it was anticipated if countries like Greece were allowed to join. Now we are ten years later and we’re coming to see the results of that mistake, of allowing countries to join without clear obligations in terms of their financial circumstances. I can’t personally say how it is going to turn out; they will have to deal with bailing out Greece on a constant basis, unless the Greek economy is restructured in a way which allows it to create more tax revenue, in ways that currently exist. So I think this is the most important EU crisis of the last 15-20 years and it is unclear as to how it will be resolved. I think that in the long-run the EU will proceed with the Euro-plan because going back to individual and national currencies would be too costly and difficult to imagine, especially for the larger EU countries that are part of the system. They will find a way out, they will muddle through as they always do, but they will need to have a major understanding in terms of future Euro obligations before other countries are allowed to join such as other Eastern European countries and the Balkan states.

James Halle:
Subsequently has the absence of countries like the UK and the sixteen other member states from joining the Euro affected the efficacy of this strategy?

Prof. Smith:
Well, the UK is critical, other countries not so important in terms of joining the Euro, but the UK is because it has such a large financial standing and market. It could have been critical to how the Euro was devolved, if it had joined, but again this is a major counter-factual because we don’t know exactly what British policies would have been towards the Euro, towards Greece, if it had been part of this system. In principal if the British had joined and followed the more Germanic approach to monetary policy as opposed to the French one, which involves keep interest rates at a level which prevents inflation and keeps the credibility of the currency very high, then it’s in principal possible that we would never have gotten to this stage with Greece. The controls would have been put in place long before the crisis and some of the weaker EU countries, but because of the UK was not part of this system and had its own financial problems to deal with, it is impossible to say what Britain's policy would be. The more general issue is the fact that the EU and the reasons that the UK joined are very different from the one it joined in the 1970s. If the EU had just maintained itself as a free-trade area or a single market, then the UK I think would have no problem being a full member of this system. But the EU has developed to such an extent that it actually challenges a lot of British views on foreign policy and national identity in ways call to question if the average British citizen thinks they should be part of the EU. So if you put that question to a lot of British citizens today they would probably think that we should not be part of it, and the Euro is just one example of that. So trying to make counter-factual reasoning about how Britain would act in this system, based on other circumstances, is extremely difficult, because it is a major outlier in terms of normal approach to European integration which France, Germany and smaller EU countries share.

James Halle:
During your lecture you mentioned that the EU cannot be accurately compared to the US or China as in terms of a global body. Do you think there is significance that the EU is a collection of member states rather than a single united nation, that it cannot really draw upon a single nationalistic feeling from its public?

Prof. Smith:
Well, there is such a thing as European identity, or that European-ness is felt among individual European citizens. This has been documented in opinion polls, elite-opinion polls, and various sociological studies, that the people particularly on the continent, not a lot of British people, but on the continent in particular there is an innate sense of European-ness. However that doesn’t necessarily translate into a political expression in terms of nationalism or supporting the European army or currency. It’s a more social networking- informal type of feeling. I think it is a good thing for the European Union as a general project that people feel this way. But this does not mean you can re-form or change it into something that looks like the European Nation State. I think you should be sceptical of any claims that by building Europeans from the ground up we will create something that looks like a European super-state which looks like the United States or China. In other words there are limits to how far European-ness can be taken, from the sociological expression to the political nationalistic expression, and politicians should be especially aware of that limitation- in terms of obligations like a European army.