Wednesday, 23 May 2018

What Women Want before Justice: Examining Justice Initiatives to Challenge Violence against Women in the DRC

For the last four years I've had the pleasure of working with Bilge Sahin, who has been writing her PhD on gender violence and mobile courts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While many people are aware of the extraordinary levels of sexual violence in eastern Congo, gaining an understanding of what causes it and how it interacts with international efforts to confront it requires deeper reading and research. Bilge has published this article in the International Journal of Transitional Justice, which will contribute to a more complete analysis of violence and justice. (Abstract below)

What Women Want before Justice: Examining Justice Initiatives to Challenge Violence against Women in the DRC

Sahin, Bilge and Kula, Sidonia Lucia (2018) 'What Women Want before Justice: Examining Justice Initiatives to Challenge Violence against Women in the DRC.' International Journal of Transitional Justice

While the realization of women’s rights has increased significantly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congolese women’s struggle is often obscured by certain international actors actively pushing for social change in the region. Those who are politically active in the area tend to forget that it is not the mere act of imposing policies that effects change, but rather actively involving Congolese women in decision-making processes. This article examines the way conflict-related sexual violence crimes are interpreted by donors, international organizations and international nongovernmental organizations, and what is implemented to challenge these acts of violence in accordance with the needs and expectations of Congolese women. By looking at current feminist discourse on conflict, security and development, the article aims to highlight the failures in implementing justice initiatives without input from women on the ground.

Bilge presenting her work recently at a conference at SOAS

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Food aid in Sudan - new book by Susanne Jaspars

I'm really happy to announce the publication today of our colleague Susanne Jaspars' book, "Food aid in Sudan. A history of power, politics and profit." I first came across Susanne's work on famine in the 1990s, and it is great to have her contributing to our intellectual life at SOAS.

Full details are below; here is the inside story from Susanne:
"My book on Food Aid in Sudan (published by Zed Books) is out today.  It presents a unique analysis of changes in food aid practices and its effect in one country over a period of fifty years.  It also builds on my own experience of working on food aid issues, much of which was in Sudan.  In the book, I discuss how despite the proliferation in food aid practices, food aid rarely had the intended effect of saving lives and supporting livelihoods.  It did, however, have a number of political and economic effects – including the creation of Sudan’s own food aid apparatus.  Furthermore, I find that contemporary medicalised and depoliticised food-based resilience practices do not reveal these effects.  Instead, they have facilitated the withdrawal of food aid in the face of ongoing conflict, displacement and high rates of acute malnutrition.  I argue that these practices can also be seen as abandoning crisis-affected populations.  These findings do not just apply to Sudan, but are emblematic of the failures of humanitarianism globally and of the need for reform." 

£65 / $95
ISBN: 9781786992093

Food Aid in Sudan

A History of Power, Politics and Profit

Susanne Jaspars

Published 15 May 2018
  • A comprehensive study of one of the world's largest food aid programmes, interrogating the failures of contemporary humanitarianism and the wider crisis in the global food system
  • Examines the evolution and effects of food aid practices in one country over a period of more than 50 years
  • Rich in empirical material – based on extensive interviews with all those involved in the food aid process
  • Author is an experienced aid practitioner who took an active role in shaping emergency food policy in Sudan, having worked for Oxfam, MSF and the World Food Programme

'A superb account of the intertwining of nutritional science, politics and humanitarian crisis in Sudan over fifty years. This is an essential book for all students of humanitarianism.'
Alex de Waal, co-author of Darfur: A Short History of a Long War

‘Jaspars has written a singular, important and challenging book. Indeed, I cannot speak too highly of this major work. This book deserves to become a classic within the humanitarian field and demands to be widely read.’
Mark Duffield, author of Global Governance and the New Wars

‘Provides crucial insights into how food aid has shaped power relations in Sudan. A timely and meticulous contribution towards understanding the politics of food insecurity and the processes of aid provision.’
Zoƫ Marriage, SOAS, University of London

‘Brilliantly and disturbingly demonstrates how a range of self-interests and shifting orthodoxies have combined to create the virtual abandonment of a highly distressed population in Darfur.’
David Keen, London School of Economics

Friday, 11 May 2018

The elephant in the room - article

I've recently published an article with Third World Quarterly entitled "The elephant in the room: offshore companies, liberalisation and the extension of presidential power in DR Congo" (39 (5), pp889-905)

I'm copying an abstract below; the full article can be accessed here:

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, donors promoted rapid liberalisation and presidential elections in the aftermath of the war, and after two terms, President Kabila has not left office. This article engages with the question of how liberalisation and elections are connected, and how they are related to the extension of presidential power. It finds that the international market for minerals has shaped the domestic political economy but its nature has effectively been ignored in the formulation of donor policy; efforts at regulating trade have been concentrated on due diligence of origin in Congo but have not addressed the secrecy of international trade. Liberalisation has removed control of economic resources from Congo, provided returns for elite politicians, and funded violence to control the disenfranchised population. The off-shore companies are the elephant in the room; without acknowledging them, analysis of the liberalisation and its interaction with presidential tenure lacks assessment of the opportunities, interests and power that shaped the processes.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Sir Mark Lowcock's talk on Hot Topics in Humanitarian Response

Last night, Sir Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and Head of UN OCHA, came to SOAS to talk on Hot Topics in Humanitarian Response. You can hear his talk here:
Sir Mark Lowcock and Keyan Salarkia

Monday, 23 April 2018

Hot Topics in Humanitarian Response

Hot Topics in Humanitarian Response


We are hosting a talk by Mark Lowcock, head of OCHA, 6.30pm Monday 30 April, in ALT (Paul Webley Wing)


Mark Lowcock is the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). He was the UK’s Permanent Secretary of DFID from 2011 to 2017. Mark has over thirty years professional experience in humanitarian and development work and will be sharing his insights and answering questions on the contemporary challenges of responding to humanitarian disasters.

All welcome!

Friday, 9 March 2018

Saferworld photo exhibition in SOAS

Saferworld have installed a photo exhibition in the Development Studies department corridor. It is a series of photographs that accompany some research they are doing in northern Kenya on the way that life has changed for people as the oil trade has affected the region.

The photos provide real insight into the conditions of the oil mining and the social and political context in which it is taking place; what is very apparent is the diversity of experience and interest among the people who are living in what has become a mining area.

A full set of the photos, and more details on the research, can be accessed through the link below.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Aid, authoritarianism and how it all plays out

Last week I went to Oxford to give a talk to the Oxford Central Africa forum. I was presenting a chapter that I wrote for Tobias Hagmann and Filip Reyntjens' 2016 book "Aid and Authoritarianism in Africa."
It was really fun to meet the DPhil students and others who came to the seminar, and to hear about their research. The issues surrounding aid and governance are played out in so many different ways, and surrounded by a host of different narratives. At the centre of the discussion is what aid is for and how it achieves its stated  aims. The observation of the editors of the book, and many of the contributors, is that aid is often used to shore up the power of authoritarian leaders who are able to impose an agenda that produces positive development indicators, and who violently suppress opposition to their continued power.
A side-line to the discussion concerned the scandal that is currently shaking Oxfam, as we were considering the role of public opinion in aid provision. It is interesting to reflect on how the actions of errant individuals within an organisation are judged - publicly - more harshly than organisational policy that has fortified abusive leaders, and that has completely failed populations in Syria and Yemen, to cite just two examples.

Oxford, always worth a visit :)