Divided cities within contested states are a category in their own right, in that their division is driven by issues of national sovereignty as well as ethnic, religious and linguistic cleavages. Reconstituting them as integrated urban spaces, therefore, requires policy shifts on many levels—local, municipal and state—but too often these are hampered by fears of loss of sovereignty and external domination. The case of Jerusalem in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a prime example of how national sovereignty issues can be seen as having an impact upon urban divisions. One option that is proposed for the resolution of this conflict, which has generated intense debate on both sides, is that of a binational Israeli-Palestinian state. This article argues that there is a false dichotomy concerning the competing benefits of binational and two-state models in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It contends, on the one hand, that the binational model comprises many forms, some of which are more confederal in structure. On the other hand, for the two state model to function effectively a high degree of interstate coordination is required which brings it close to some forms of confederalism. The article examines the discussions on divided Jerusalem to explore this argument and highlights the degree of interstate coordination that is required if any of the plans being put forward for the future of the city are to work. It concludes by relating the Jerusalem example to the wider issue of divided cities in contested states.
Given the record of the US occupation and the profound limitations of America’s present stature, the Barack Obama administration is right to continue to draw down the American presence in Iraq. But in remembering the egregious mistakes of its predecessor the administration should not claim victory as it exits. It should not, as Vice President Joe Biden did in the midst of the de-Ba’athification crisis, claim all is well in Baghdad. A more honest and realistic approach would recognise the impossible legacy left by the Bush administration. The damage the previous administration did so much to encourage would then be minimised with the help of US allies and multilateral organisations. In short, after seven years of American occupation, it is time to go home.
This article challenges the common assumption that the external actors involved in the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) are driven either by neo-realist strategic competition or by the constraining power of domestic lobbies, or by a mixture of both. Such implicit assumptions are evident in the controversial argument of the power of the ‘Israel lobby’ as promoted by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. This article argues that approaches based on such assumptions fail to explain adequately the policies adopted not only by the United States, but also by other key external actors who have been historically engaged in the MEPP — the Soviet Union and the European Union. A better explanatory framework is provided by treating the MEPP as an institution and by applying a historical institutionalist approach to the development of the MEPP, using such concepts as critical junctures, path dependence and positive feedback to analyse how the main external actors involved in the MEPP came to adopt their distinctive national approaches to the peace process. In particular, it is the responses of these actors to certain critical junctures, most notably but not exclusively to the period of the 1967 and 1973 Arab– Israeli wars, that has had a particularly strong influence on policy formulation. For the US case, the creative policymaking of Henry Kissinger during the period after the 1973 war, which was subsequently incorporated into the US conceptualization of the MEPP, provides powerful and generally unrecognized insights into the initial puzzle identified by Walt and Mearsheimer — the consistent and almost unconditional support given to Israel by the United States despite the strategic problems this creates for broader US Middle East policy.
Transitional justice and security sector reform are critical in post-conflict settings, particularly regarding the reform of judicial systems, intelligence services, police, correctional systems, the military, and addressing systemic massive human rights abuses committed by individuals representing these institutions. Accordingly, the relationship between security sector reform and transitional justice mechanisms, such as vetting, the representation of ethnic minorities in key institutions, the resettlement and reintegration of the former combatants deserve special attention from scholars. This article presents a comparative analysis of the reform of police and security forces in Kosovo, and explores the causes of different outcomes of these two processes.
May 2000 Of the 27 major armed conflicts that occurred in 1999, all but two took place within national boundaries. As an impediment to development, internal rebellion especially hurts the world’s poorest countries. What motivates civil wars? Greed or grievance? Collier and Hoeffler compare two contrasting motivations for rebellion: greed and grievance. Most rebellions are ostensibly in pursuit of a cause, supported by a narrative of grievance. But since grievance assuagement through rebellion is a public good that a government will not supply, economists predict such rebellions would be rare. Empirically, many rebellions appear to be linked to the capture of resources (such as diamonds in Angola and Sierra Leone, drugs in Colombia, and timber in Cambodia). Collier and Hoeffler set up a simple rational choice model of greed-rebellion and contrast its predictions with those of a simple grievance model. Some countries return to conflict repeatedly. Are they conflict-prone or is there a feedback effect whereby conflict generates grievance, which in turn generates further conflict? The authors show why such a feedback effect might be present in both greed-motivated and grievance rebellions. The authors’ results contrast with conventional beliefs about the causes of conflict. A stylized version of conventional beliefs would be that grievance begets conflict, which begets grievance, which begets further conflict. With such a model, the only point at which to intervene is to reduce the level of objective grievance. Collier and Hoeffler’s model suggests that what actually happens is that opportunities for predation (controlling primary commodity exports) cause conflict and the grievances this generates induce dias-poras to finance further conflict. The point of policy intervention here is to reduce the absolute and relative attraction of primary commodity predation and to reduce the ability of diasporas to fund rebel movements. This paper – a product of the Development Research Group – is part of a larger effort in the group to study civil war and criminal violence
Most wars are now civil wars. Even though international wars attract enormous global attention, they have become infrequent and brief. Civil wars usually attract less attention, but they have become increasingly common and typically go on for years. This report argues that civil war is now an important issue for development. War retards development, but conversely, development retards war. This double causation gives rise to virtuous and vicious circles. Where development succeeds, countries become progressively safer from violent conflict, making subsequent development easier. Where development fails, countries are at high risk of becoming caught in a conflict trap in which war wrecks the economy and increases the risk of further war. The global incidence of civil war is high because the international community has done little to avert it. Inertia is rooted in two beliefs: that we can safely ‘let them fight it out among themselves’ and that ‘nothing can be done’ because civil war is driven by ancestral ethnic and religious hatreds. The purpose of this report is to challenge these beliefs.
The participation of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA’s) security agencies in the armed struggle against Israel in the second Palestinian uprising (2000–2005) is analyzed in this article as a response to the demand of Palestinian society, thus as a unique case of armed forces which, in the lack of political directive, became more attentive to public opinion. The article shows how Palestinian public discourse in the late 1990s–early 2000s, that was shaped by the Islamic movement of Hamas, portrayed the PA’s security officials as traitors. Members of the PA security agencies (mainly Fatah members) sought to reposition themselves in the “national camp,” and this motivated them to raise their weapons against Israeli targets. By doing so, they also removed the mental burden of turning their weapons against fellow Palestinians that was one of the major sources for their image as collaborators.
While post-conflict peace-building is a much-researched topic, the potential of religious actors to contribute to the process remains underexplored. This article examines this neglected dimension of peace-building through a particular focus on South Africa and its Christian churches. Emphasizing the ‘ambivalence of the sacred’, it contrasts the negative role that many churches played during the apartheid years with some of the very valuable peace-building work that is taking place today—particularly the empowering of communities, the development of antiviolence strategies and psycho-social healing. Arguing, however, that much of this work is often undertaken in a very compartmentalized way, it advocates a more holistic approach to peace-building that reaches across racial and class divides. It also emphasizes that for religious peace-building to achieve its full potential, South African society must address pervasive structural violence; there can be no reconciliation in the face of massive economic injustice and inequality. This research is based on 6 weeks of fieldwork in South Africa and semistructured interviews with various religious actors.
The past two decades have seen international agencies pay closer attention to the relationship between conflict and development. An example of this is the UNDP and its conflict-related development analysis (CDA), which aims to identify the causes of conflict and design measures that will enhance development while reducing conflict. Through the case study of the CDA’s application in the occupied Palestinian territory, the article reveals its main limitations including an emphasis on conflict management (as opposed to conflict reduction), the choice of (neo-liberal) development model, prioritisation of particular partners over others (i.e. ‘state’ over non-state) and an erroneous assumption of neutrality. These have become manifested into the UNDP’s current programme for action which undermines its own stated objectives, to work ‘on’ the causes of conflict rather than ‘in’ or ‘around’ conflict. The UNDP’s experience therefore has important lessons for the use of conflict analysis and policy design elsewhere.
The aim of this article is to shed light on the distinctive role of the EU in Security Sector Reform (SSR) in the case of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) and examine how SSR has contributed to the overall state-building project. Following the Oslo Accords, the EU engaged actively in the state-building project in the OPTs taking a number of initiatives on the ground. Since then security has been a key issue in all Israeli–Palestinian agreements and has also became synonymous with Palestinian statehood. The article draws upon literature on state-building and SSR and its central aim is to examine the distinctive initiatives that the EU has taken in order to help the Palestinian Authority (PA) reform both its security and judiciary sector as part of its broader state-building strategy towards the OPTs, as well as provide explanations on why these policies had limited impact.
The electoral system for the state presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina guarantees the representation of the three constituent people, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, but it violates the political rights of other ethnic minorities and of citizens who do not identify themselves with any ethnic group. Following the 2009 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, Bosnia was urged to reform its electoral law. This paper discusses alternative practices of ethnically based political representation and their possible application in the Bosnian state presidency elections. Several innovative electoral models that satisfy fair political and legal criteria for desirable electoral dynamics in divided societies can be envisaged in the Bosnian context. Specifically, these are: the introduction of a single countrywide electoral district, the adoption of the single non-transferable vote, and the application of a geometrical mean rule. They guarantee the representation of the three constituent people, while strengthening inter-ethnic voting and giving chances to non-nationalist candidates to be elected.
Most aid spending by governments seeking to rebuild social and political order is based on an opportunity-cost theory of distracting potential recruits. The logic is that gainfully employed young men are less likely to participate in political violence, implying a positive correlation between unemployment and violence in locations with active insurgencies. The authors test that prediction in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines, using survey data on unemployment and two newly available measures of insurgency: (1) attacks against government and allied forces and (2) violence that kill civilians. Contrary to the opportunity-cost theory, the data emphatically reject a positive correlation between unemployment and attacks against government and allied forces (p < .05 percent). There is no significant relationship between unemployment and the rate of insurgent attacks that kill civilians. The authors identify several potential explanations, introducing the notion of insurgent precision to adjudicate between the possibilities that predation on one hand, and security measures and information costs on the other, account for the negative correlation between unemployment and violence in these three conflicts.
In countries affected by insurgencies, development programs may potentially reduce violence by improving economic outcomes and increasing popular support for the government. In this paper, we test the efficacy of this approach through a large-scale randomized controlled trial of the largest development program in Afghanistan at the height of the Taliban insurgency. We find that the program generally improved economic outcomes, increased support for the government, and reduced insurgent violence. However, in areas close to the Pakistani border, the program did not increase support for the government and actually increased insurgent violence. This heterogeneity in treatment effects appears to be due to differences between districts in the degree of infiltration by external insurgents, who are not reliant on the local population for support. The results suggest that while development programs can quell locally-based insurgencies, such programs may be counterproductive when implemented in areas where insurgents are not embedded in the local population.
The 2011 World development report looks across disciplines and experiences drawn from around the world to offer some ideas and practical recommendations on how to move beyond conflict and fragility and secure development. The key messages are important for all countries-low, middle, and high income-as well as for regional and global institutions: first, institutional legitimacy is the key to stability. When state institutions do not adequately protect citizens, guard against corruption, or provide access to justice; when markets do not provide job opportunities; or when communities have lost social cohesion-the likelihood of violent conflict increases. Second, investing in citizen security, justice, and jobs is essential to reducing violence. But there are major structural gaps in our collective capabilities to support these areas. Third, confronting this challenge effectively means that institutions need to change. International agencies and partners from other countries must adapt procedures so they can respond with agility and speed, a longer-term perspective, and greater staying power. Fourth, need to adopt a layered approach. Some problems can be addressed at the country level, but others need to be addressed at a regional level, such as developing markets that integrate insecure areas and pooling resources for building capacity Fifth, in adopting these approaches, need to be aware that the global landscape is changing. Regional institutions and middle income countries are playing a larger role. This means should pay more attention to south-south and south-north exchanges, and to the recent transition experiences of middle income countries.
The democratic uprisings and consequent turmoil in the Arab world during the last 18 months have had significant impact on the geostrategic situation in the Middle East as well as on the policies of major regional and global powers. As the upheavals continue to unfold, especially in strategically important countries such as Syria and Bahrain, they will continue to have a major impact on intraregional politics as well as great-power interests.
The article explores the dilemmas of providing security assistance to post-conflict states. It argues that when used as a strategy for intervention, SSR exposes the inherent contradictions of liberal peace-building. The article focuses on the Weberian state monopoly versus other—hybrid or non-state—forms of security and justice provision. It presents the background for the discussion and suggests that as a strategy for intervention, the choice is not simply between a top-down ‘imposition’ of a universal state model and a bottom-up ‘working with what is there’ approach. It is also a choice between direct and indirect forms of rule. This makes the dilemma real for liberal-minded practitioners and observers.
Judging by the popular press, in January 2011 Twitter and Facebook went from being simply engaging social diversions to become engines of political change that upended decades of Arab authoritarianism. It is tempting to be swept away by this narrative, which suggests that social media prompted hundreds of thousands, and then millions, of Tunisians and Egyptians to pour into the streets and peacefully demand change. Brittle authoritarian regimes had little choice but to comply, and in this way, social media irrevocably changed the future of the Middle East. Following the logic to its conclusion, it would suggest that the Middle East is on the brink of a period of democratic consolidation, as the ideals and tools of revolutionaries lead the region forward into a period of anti-sectarianism, liberalism, and hope.
While political accommodation and the passage of time may heal the wounds in Iraqi society, it is just as likely that the lack of real reconciliation will undermine the political process.
The ‘oil question’ in Iraq has traditionally been viewed almost exclusively through the prism of ethno-sectarianism. Disputes over the management and licensing of the hydrocarbon sector and over revenue distribution have been seen as a battle for power between Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian communities, as if these were monolithic entities. This has led to a conviction—especially among US policy-makers in post-war Iraq—that solving the problem lies in a simple formula of apportioning control of the sector to decentralized authorities and dividing revenue proportionally. This view ignores the fact that disagreements over management of the sector and over revenue distribution reflect a deeper dispute that cuts across ethno-sectarian lines. In reality, disputes are driven far more by the as-yet-unresolved issue of whether ultimate sovereign authority in Iraq lies with the central government or should be decentralized to regional and provincial governments. As the main source of revenue in Iraq, control over the oil and gas sector is critical to the success of these rival agendas. Consequently, compromise has been impossible to achieve, and neither side is willing to make concessions for fear of threatening their long-term ambitions.
Tactical maneuvering by different parties in the aftermath of the recent elections may provide some temporary respite to the oil and gas dispute, as Arab leaders in Baghdad seek to co-opt the support of Kurdish parties to form a new coalition government. But an accommodation over the federalism question in Iraq still seems out of reach. This will not only hamper the legislative process and effective government in the coming years, but could also threaten stability, particularly along the fragile border that separates the Kurdistan Region from the rest of Iraq.
Can religious grievances serve as a catalyst for political violence? This paper seeks to examine the impact of religious discrimination on the probability of ethnic dissent. It is argued that religious discrimination leads to the generation of grievances, which in turn encourages ethnoreligious minorities to engage in peaceful and violent opposition against the state. To test this argument, the authors collected data on religious discrimination of ethnoreligious minorities for the period 1990–2003. The empirical findings suggest that religious discrimination is a strong predictor of violent dissent, including rebellion and civil war. As the level of religious discrimination against ethnoreligious groups increases, the probability of rebellion and civil war heightens, controlling for several other state and group-level factors. The exact opposite is true for protest, however: higher levels of religious discrimination are associated with lower levels of non-violent protest activity. These findings suggest that the impact of religious discrimination on anti-state activity is not uniform, and that religious discrimination encourages only violent forms of dissent.
With the increasing influence of theocrats and other religious actors on policymakers and masses, recognising the agency of the clergy is crucial. This article uses the ‘epistemic communities’ framework to place the religious ‘agents’ in contemporary politics and it shows how hermeneutics can be treated as a form of ‘episteme’. Until recently, this framework has been used to explain how scientific communities affect policymaking. Using the cases of South Africa and Northern Ireland, this article claims that religious actors, especially with their shared set of normative and principled beliefs as well as shared norms of validity, also meet the requirements of the epistemic community category. The employment of this established IR framework in theorising religious politics has the potential to shed light not only on peacebuilding and mediation, but also violent movements and terrorist organisations that use religion as justification.
Most quantitative assessments of civil conflict draw on annual country-level data to determine a baseline hazard of conflict onset. The first problem with such analyses is that they ignore factors associated with the precipitation of violence, such as elections and natural disasters and other trigger mechanisms. Given that baseline hazards are relatively static, most of the temporal variation in risk is associated with such precipitating factors. The second problem with most quantitative analyses of conflict is that they assume that civil conflicts are distributed uniformly throughout the country. This is rarely the case; most intrastate armed conflicts take place in the periphery of the country, well away from the capital and often along international borders. Analysts fail to disaggregate temporally as well as spatially. While other contributions to this issue focus on the temporal aspect of conflict, this article addresses the second issue: the spatial resolution of analysis. To adequately assess the baseline risk of armed conflict, this article develops a unified prediction model that combines a quantitative assessment of conflict risk at the country level with country-specific sub-national analyses at first-order administrative regions. Geo-referenced data on aspects of social, economic, and political exclusion, as well as endemic poverty and physical geography, are featured as the principal local indicators of latent conflict. Using Asia as a test case, this article demonstrates the unique contribution of applying a localized approach to conflict prediction that explicitly captures sub-national variation in civil conflict risk.
In post-conflict contexts characterized by large-scale migration and increasing levels of legal pluralism, customary land tenure risks being deployed as a tool of ethno-territorialization in which displaced communities are denied return and secure land rights. This thesis will be illustrated through a case study of the Indonesian island of Ambon where a recognition of customary tenure — also called?adat?— was initiated in 2005 at the end of a high-intensity conflict between Christians and Muslims. Although a system of land tenure providing multiple forms of social security for the indigenous in-group,?adat?in Ambon also constitutes an arena of power in which populations considered as non-indigenous to a fixed historical territory are pushed into an inferior legal position. The legal registration of customary tenure therefore tends to be deployed to settle long-standing land contests with a growing migrant community, hereby legally enforcing some of the forced expulsions that were brought about by the recent communal violence.
Together, the recent entry of reconciliation into the politics of peace building and the ancient presence of reconciliation as a concept in religious traditions create potential for, but also leave undeveloped, an ethic of political reconciliation. This ethic would derive a set of concrete guidelines for recovering political orders from philosophical and theological fundamentals. An outline of such an ethic is what I propose here.
With conditions created by Western colonialism and the dynamics of the Cold War bipolar global rule, the inability of governments to rise beyond corrupt and imbalance political order, and, hence, the resurgence of ethnic, religious, and ideological identity consciousness and identification, Africa has been a bleeding Continent since the end of the colonial era. Contemporary Africa?s conflicts are intrastate, with many protracted. This paper argues that to deal adequately with such conflicts there is a need for an inner-oriented, indigenous-based, organic, and long-term sustainable nonviolent process of conflict transformation and peacebuilding aimed at constructive holistic change. It demonstrates that this is core to the peacebuilding paradigm Lederach develops and so apt for dealing with today?s Africa?s conflicts.
There is a growing recognition of the need for home-grown solutions to transitional justice issues rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. In part, this reflects the commonsense view that without local ownership of transitional justice processes, there is unlikely to be domestic buy-in and sustainability. Despite its growing popularity, the concept of local or home-grown transitional justice is ambiguously defined. It is frequently insufficiently spelt out, used interchangeably and applied uncritically. This article uses a case study of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) to explore the concept of home-grown transitional justice and posit preliminary questions. The HET is a bespoke unit set up by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to re-examine deaths attributable to the conflict in Northern Ireland and answer the unresolved questions of families of conflict victims. The work of the HET is unique and innovative in the world of policing. In transitional justice terms, it breaks new ground as amicro-level information-recovery mechanism. This article argues that the current euphoria for ‘all that is local’ may be in danger of overlooking important considerations, such as who are ‘the locals’ and whose interests are being served. It raises further questions about issues of ownership, trust and legitimacy. The article concludes that there needs to be clarification of concepts, as well as more careful evidence-based analysis of what constitutes home-grown transitional justice and what such a processmight conceal.
The DDR process that took place in Lebanon after the internal wars (1975-89), based on the Ta’if Accord (1989), was not co-ordinated by any international organisation. This paper assesses the reintegration of a number of combatants of one of the militias, the Lebanese Forces, placing particular emphasis on the context in which it unfolded. A programme of reintegration into the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) was proposed to the ex-combatants, but because of the high number on one side and because of the situation within the LAF itself (a pluri-religious organisation under reorganisation) this programme had little effect on the process. Instead the majority of the ex-combatants came to rely on their family and network established within the militia for their social and economic reintegration. This study finds that there has been little rupture between life as combatants and life as civilians. Three contextual factors were particularly important: the small size of the country, the rhythm of the war where periods of combat alternated with periods of calm, and the close contact combatants managed to keep with their family, work, schools and universities. A key lesson for DDR processes more generally stems from the study: DDR initiatives are likely to be most effective when they work alongside and augment indigenous positive social processes contributing to reintegration.
Previous research concerning the relationship between conflict and public health finds that countries emerging from war face greater challenges in ensuring the well-being of their populations in comparison with states that have enjoyed political stability. This study seeks to extend this insight by considering how different civil war conflict strategies influence post-conflict public health. Drawing a distinction between deaths attributable to battle and those fatalities resulting from genocide/politicide, we find that the magnitude of genocide/politicide proves the more effective and consistent predictor of future rates of disability and death in the aftermath of civil war. The implications of this research are twofold. First, it lends support to an emerging literature suggesting that important distinctions exist between the forms of violence occurring during civil war. Second, of particular interest to policymakers, it identifies post-civil war states that have experienced the highest rates of genocide/politicide as the countries most in need of assistance in the aftermath of conflict.
Post-conflict cities represent a laboratory in which to explore the substate orientation of security. Based on an analysis of developments in Baghdad, Basra and Falluja since 2003, this article argues not only that security is inherently selective, but also that the exclusionary actions of local or sectarian groups are more influential than those of statebased agents or projects based on security for the individual. The notion of security can accommodate multiple interpretations, but in practice a dominant discourse controls its meaning, and negotiation soon develops into patterns of domination and exclusion. This typically leads to a ‘ghettoization’ of security, whereby specific groups are secure only in specific areas. Security thus reflects the sum of myriad local arrangements. The key issue, therefore, is not whether there can be security for all, but the nature of the concessions made by substate and state-based types of security, and the contrast between them and models based on security for the individual.
In a sweeping review of forty truth commissions, Priscilla Hayner delivers a definitive exploration of the global experience in official truth-seeking after widespread atrocities. When Unspeakable Truths was first published in 2001, it quickly became a classic, helping to define the field of truth commissions and the broader arena of transitional justice. This second edition is fully updated and expanded, covering twenty new commissions formed in the last ten years, analyzing new trends, and offering detailed charts that assess the impact of truth commissions and provide comparative information not previously available. Placing the increasing number of truth commissions within the broader expansion in transitional justice, Unspeakable Truths surveys key developments and new thinking in reparations, international justice, healing from trauma, and other areas. The book challenges many widely-held assumptions, based on hundreds of interviews and a sweeping review of the literature. This book will help to define how these issues are addressed in the future.
Since 11 September 2001, the religious dimension of conflict has been the focus of increasing attention. In The Clash of Civilizations, Huntington has identified the West in religious–cultural terms, as Christian with a dominant democratic culture emphasizing tolerance, moderation and consensus. The persistence of conflict in Northern Ireland among `White’ Protestant and Catholic Christians undermines this simplistic argument and demands a more subtle understanding of the role of religion and fundamentalism in contemporary conflict. Modernization theory — which is echoed among some theorists of globalization — had predicted the declining importance of religion as the world became industrialized and increasingly interconnected. This is echoed by those who argue that the Northern Ireland conflict is `ethno-national’ and dismiss the role of religion. On the other hand, others have claimed that the conflict is religious and stress the role of Protestant fundamentalism. This article draws on new evidence from Northern Ireland of the complex and subtle ways in which religion impacts on the conflict there, incorporating insights about the pragmatism of fundamentalist Protestants and how religious actors are contributing to conflict transformation. This analysis leads to three broader conclusions about understanding conflicts with religious dimensions. First, the complexity of religion must be understood, and this includes a willingness to recognize the adaptability of fundamentalisms to particular contexts. Second, engaging with fundamentalists and taking their grievances seriously opens up possibilities for conflict transformation. Third, governments and religious actors within civil society can play complementary roles in constructing alternative (religious) ideologies and structures as part of a process of transformation. In a world in which the impact of religion is persistent, engaging with the religious dimension is a vital part of a broader-based strategy for dealing with conflict.
This article examines the double standards associated with a precarious international peacebuilding strategy in Afghanistan based on impunity and half-truths rather than accountability and transitional justice. Many international organizations have turned a blind eye to past and current human rights atrocities through forms of rationalization based on an empowerment of cultural differences, relativization of progress and “policy reductionism.” Consequently, and in the absence of consistently applied rights instruments, societal divisions along gender, ethnic and other lines have intensified Afghanistan’s culture of intolerance to human rights, thereby violating the very principles the international community purports to uphold. Drawing on first-hand experiences, personal interviews and a sober analysis of trends, this article challenges some of the conventional assumptions held about the perception and knowledge of human rights among Afghans. It concludes by identifying possible areas of future study to better understand both the prospects for transitional justice and how ordinary Afghans continue to cope with widespread injustice and inequality.