A World in Crisis: Conflict Prevention and the International Crisis Group, Gareth Evans
Address by Gareth Evans, President & CEO of the International Crisis Group, to Norwegian Red Cross Humanitarian Forum, Oslo, 26 September 2006
From Lebanon and Gaza to Darfur and Sri Lanka, from Baghdad to Mumbai, from Tehran to Pyongyang, from Southern Afghanistan to Southern Thailand, the world seems to have become alarmingly more dangerous in recent months. What is going wrong and why, and how serious is the current situation compared with what we have lived through in the past? Have we learned anything at all about how to prevent deadly conflict? Is the world destined to remain in perpetuity a desperately traumatic and miserable place for a great many of its people, or can the governments and intergovernmental organisations, together with the new band of international non-government actors now more prominently on the scene than ever before, do something about making it safer and saner?
These are the kinds of questions on which I would like to focus today, returning regularly along the way to the role played by one particular international NGO, the International Crisis Group – not because I would suggest for a moment that we are the only such organisation making, or trying to make, a difference in the area of conflict prevention and resolution, but rather because we operate in a way which makes us a little bit different from just about everyone else, and perhaps rather intriguing as a result. And of course it’s the NGO I happen to know most about – although I work with many others now, and in the course of my thirteen year ministerial career worked with a great many more, both domestic and international (an experience which gave me some rather useful insight into what kind of NGO advocacy works with government policy makers and what doesn’t).
Ever since the ‘seven deadly sins’ made their medieval appearance (not to mention, at around the same time, the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), the number ‘seven’ seems to have exercised a magnetic attraction for speakers and writers on almost everything. We had the bestselling business book a while ago on “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, which I saw a few days ago echoed in a piece in the Financial Times describing Mr Blair’s problems as the product of “The Seven Habits of a Highly Ineffective Prime Minister”. I myself spoke at a conference recently on the ‘Seven Deadly Sins to Avoid in Conflict Prevention’: for the record, my functional equivalents to the medieval no-go areas of pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth were ignorance, over-simplification, overreaction, solipsism (talking only to yourself), militarism (ignoring diplomacy), inconsistency, and cheapskatery (undersupplying or misallocating the necessary resources). But for present purposes, I want to work through the issues using a slightly different list - the seven basic lessons we have learned, or ought to have learned, about conflict prevention.
Lesson 1. Conflict prevention effort does make a difference.
As bad as things seem at the moment, it’s important to keep a sense of perspective. Contrary to conventional wisdom, and perhaps all our intuitions, there has been a very significant trend decline – after a high point in the late 1980s and very early 1990s - in the number of wars taking place, both between and within states, in the number of genocidal and other mass atrocities, and the number of people dying violent deaths as a result of them. In the case of serious conflicts (defined as those with 1000 or more battle deaths in a year) and mass killings there has been an 80 per cent decline since the early ‘90s, and an even more striking decrease in the number of battle deaths. Whereas most years from the 1940s through to the 1990s had over 100,000 such reported deaths – and sometimes as many as 500,000 – the average for the first years of this new century has been more like 20,000. Of course violent battle deaths are only a small part of the whole story of the misery of war: 90 per cent or more of war-related deaths are due to disease and malnutrition rather than direct violence, as we have seen, for example, in the Congo and Darfur. But the trend decline in battle deaths is significant, and highly encouraging.
We have seen the almost complete disappearance of interstate wars, between governments. For everything that went catastrophically wrong in Lebanon and elsewhere in August, last month marked the longest interlude of interstate peace for more than half a century – 1000 consecutive days with no such wars anywhere in the world. Such wars as are still occurring are within state borders, or – as in Lebanon – between states and non-state actors, but even in these categories the number of conflicts in which a state is one of the warring parties has been in steady decline since the early 1990s. The only figures in all of this which are unequivocally worse are the number of high-casualty terrorist incidents, but even here the annual death toll remains only a small fraction of the war death toll.
A number of reasons contributed to these turnarounds, including the end of the era of colonialism, which generated two-thirds or more of all wars from the 1950s to the 1980s; and of course the end of the Cold War, which meant no more proxy wars fuelled by Washington or Moscow, and also the demise of a number of authoritarian governments, generating internal resentment and resistance, that each side had been propping up. But, as argued by the Human Security Centre in Canada, the organisation which compiles and publishes all this data in its Human Security Report,1 the best explanation is the one that stares us in the face, even if a great many don’t want to acknowledge it: the huge upsurge in activity in conflict prevention, conflict management, and post-conflict peacebuilding activity that has occurred over the last fifteen years, with most of this being spearheaded by the UN itself, but with the World Bank, donor states, a number of regional security organisations and literally thousands of NGOs playing significant roles of their own.
Helped by the path-breaking Carnegie Commission on the Prevention of Deadly Conflict in the early 90s, and with constant pressure from the Scandinavian countries in particular, policymakers seem to be showing growing signs of recognising the need to institutionalise a culture of prevention. There has been an increased willingness to challenge the ‘culture of impunity’ through new international criminal courts and transitional justice mechanisms like truth commissions; and much greater interest by aid agencies in development policies that address the root causes of political violence. And there has been a greatly increased reliance on peacemaking initiatives and negotiated peace agreements; an equally dramatic increase in complex peace operations focusing on post conflict peace building; and a significantly greater Security Council willingness to authorise to at least some degree the use of force, which has helped deter aggression and sustain peace agreements. For all the things that can and do to go wrong in these various areas the effort has made a difference.
The International Crisis Group can reasonably claim to have been part of this sea-change. The organisation was established in 1995 by a group of prominent international citizens and foreign policy specialists – including its first Chairman, Senator George Mitchell, and the current Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Mark Malloch Brown – who were appalled by the international community’s failure to anticipate and respond effectively to the catastrophes in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda.
The aim was to create a sophisticated, professional new international organisation, wholly independent of any government, with a high profile and highly experienced Board and senior management, which could persuade governments and intergovernmental organisations – when it came to deadly conflict and mass violence – to think about things they didn’t particularly want to think about, and do things to prevent and resolve conflict and violence they really didn’t want to do.
From very small beginnings – two people in a London office and a tiny field staff in the Balkans – Crisis Group has grown in less than a decade to having just on 120 full time staff working across five continents in over fifty different areas of actual or potential conflict, and in advocacy or liaison offices in Brussels (the Headquarters), in Washington, next to the UN in New York, and in London and Moscow. We produce 90 – 100 freely available reports and briefing papers a year, promote them directly and intensely with senior policy makers and those who influence them; and are widely regarded now as perhaps the world’s leading non-government source of early warning, analysis and advice to governments and intergovernmental organisations in relation to the prevention of deadly conflict and mass violence – although some uncharitable souls might suggest that we can claim to be the best at what we do only because we are the only organisation doing precisely what we do! I will come back to this point later in describing where we fit in on the spectrum of NGOs working on peace and conflict!
Lesson 2. One size analysis doesn’t fit all: every conflict is different.
To understand how to prevent and resolve conflict it is necessary to understand what causes it, and one of the products of the much enhanced focus on conflict prevention is much more academic and institutional analysis than we have ever had before on what generates conflict. There is a whole literature now, for example, on the economic causes of war within, as well as between states, and the respective roles of greed and grievance in fostering and sustaining violence.
Such general analysis has become extremely helpful in getting us to ask the right questions, but it is a mistake to think it can provide all the answers. Every conflict does have its own dynamic, and there is no substitute for comprehensively understanding all the factors at work.
Crisis Group’s particular value-added in this respect is that all our reporting and analysis is field-based. At last count we had people on the ground from 43 different nationalities, speaking between them 50 different languages. They are steeped in local language and culture, getting dust on their boots, engaged in endless interaction with locals and internationals on the scene, and operating from fourteen regional or local field offices, in as many different countries, and with a field presence (mostly involving analysts coming and going from the regional offices) in another 50 locations.
While Crisis Group’s basic methodology has three dimensions – field based analysis, policy prescription and high-level advocacy (with the latter two depending on inputs from a wider range of sources) – everything starts with the first: an accurate take on what is happening on the ground, focusing particularly on both the issues that are resonating and the personalities that are driving them.
For a variety of reasons, mainly security and budgetary, traditional diplomats are not performing this function in as much breadth and depth as they traditionally have – it’s hard to get out and about when you are locked up in a fortress or have minimal staff resources - and both early warning and effective conflict prevention capacity have become more at risk as a result. This is a gap that Crisis Group has been widely seen as very successful in filling – particularly, eg, in our briefings of the UN Secretariat and Security Council members on what is happening in Sudan or the Congo or Burundi or Somalia, or Nepal or Kosovo or Aceh or anywhere else in the world where accurate real-time knowledge is critical.
One of the areas in which our detailed local knowledge has won most response and respect from policy makers is working out an appropriate response to different brands of Islamic terrorism, not least in South East Asia, where our reporting on the Jemaah Islamiyah phenomenon was described by one senior intelligence official of a major Western country as ‘the gold standard’. But then, knowing what we now know about the performance of major Western intelligence agencies, that’s perhaps not these days quite the compliment it might once have been…
Lesson 3. Conflict is cyclical: the trick is to stop the wheel turning.
One of the things we now understand most clearly about conflict is that the countries and regions most likely to lapse into it are those that have been there before. There is not a straight line sequence between the anticipation of conflict and attempts to prevent it breaking out; the resolution of conflict, by negotiation or force, when it has broken out; and post-conflict peace-building. Rather there is a cyclical process, in which each post-conflict environment contains the potential seeds of the next round of destruction.
What follows from that is that far more effort has to be put into consolidating the peace after it has been won. Sustainable peace cannot be guaranteed just because a diplomatic peacemaking initiative has apparently been successful: the worst horrors in the Angolan civil war came after the Bicesse Accords in 1990, and the Rwandan genocide exploded just a year after the Arusha Peace Agreement of 1993, in each case because manifestly inadequate arrangements were made for peacekeeping and general implementation follow through. Similarly, peace cannot be ensured simply because a clear-cut military victory has apparently been won – think of Afghanistan and Iraq right now.
The conflict containment structures and capacities that need to be applied in a post-conflict environment, to prevent violence recurring, are essentially exactly the same as those that need to be applied in failed or failing states to prevent violent conflict breaking out in the first place. The focus in each case must be on structural prevention – building institutional structures and processes (military, political, legal, economic and social) which are capable of relieving non-violently all the crucial stress points that arise between individuals and groups. Post conflict peacebuilding is a hugely complex and often hugely costly enterprise. It has all too often been neglected or mismanaged or short-changed in terms of time commitment – and when this happens it is only a matter of time before the boil erupts again.
Crisis Group, for all these reasons, puts just as much effort into monitoring and analysing post conflict peace building as we do into pre-conflict prevention and current conflict resolution. We have people on the ground - producing a substantial series of reports on what is going wrong and what is needed to correct it – in, for example, Iraq, Afghanistan, Burundi, the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Southern Sudan, Kosovo, Tajikistan, Nepal and Haiti. A great deal of this reporting has had a substantial influence, both acknowledged and unacknowledged, on policy making, with for example the former High Representative to Bosnia & Herzegovina, Paddy Ashdown, saying publicly that our report on rule of law issues was his ‘bible’. I have to say, by contrast however, that our very detailed and systematic reporting on just about everything that has gone wrong in the post-conflict phase in Iraq has not been quite as well received by coalition policymakers.
Lesson 4. Conflict prevention requires complex strategies: one-dimensional fixes rarely work
As a result of the much more systematic focus on conflict prevention since the early 1990s we now have a much better understanding not only of the causes of conflict but the repertoire of measures available to deal with them. There are many different ways of categorising and classifying them, and there is a voluminous literature on the subject, but the simplest way of getting one’s head around the options available in any given situation may be to think of a toolbox with two trays – for long term structural prevention and short term more direct operational measures.
Each tray in turn has four basic compartments for, respectively, political and diplomatic measures, legal and constitutional measures, economic and social measures, and security sector an military measures. And there are sub-compartments within each of these – for example direct economic measures might include positive incentives (eg an energy package for N Korea), negative incentives or sanctions (eg. cutting off the flow of remittances to N Korea from Japan), and focused humanitarian aid.
The crucial thing is to recognise not only that each situation has its own characteristics, and that one-size spanners don’t fit all, but that each situation is likely to require a complex combination of measures, the balance between which is bound to change over time as circumstances evolve.
Crisis Group is extremely conscious of these realities and our recommendations, accordingly, tend to be quite complex: our reports don’t easily lend themselves to seven-second sound bites – except for occasional cases like Darfur where to get any action at all when the catastrophic violence broke out in 2003 a major campaign had to be initially mounted with a very simple core message: “stop the killing and get the humanitarian aid flowing now or a million will die”. We are now very much involved in similar campaigning, particularly in the United States, as the situation in Darfur again deteriorates, but there is an acute reluctance, both inside and outside the Security Council, to apply the kind of pressure – involving threats of both targeted and general sanctions, disinvestment, and threats of International Criminal Court prosecutions – which on all past experience is necessary if Khartoum is to be responsive.
But adding detail and complexity is a crucial part of Crisis Group’s value-added. When I was a Minister I found it not always especially helpful to be told by NGOs that the government should ‘care more’ about a particular situation and ‘do something’ about it. My response was invariably that I did care and would find it rather helpful to have good analysis and creative new ideas about what realistically could be done – the issues were who had the leverage, what coalitions could be mobilised, and who could do what, when, where and how. Crisis Group was essentially created to give those kinds of answers and we do. Most of our policy reports have fifteen or twenty substantial recommendations, many of them quite detailed, directed as appropriate locally, regionally and globally to all those actors capable of influencing outcomes.
When it comes to terrorism we have constantly argued that the concept of a ‘war on terrorism’ is a dangerously simplistic misnomer, that policymakers responses have been excessively focused on one or two-track fixes, and that what is required is a nuanced and sophisticated strategy with five main elements, summarisable as the ‘five Ps’: protection, policing, political (redressing the old grievance-causing conflicts rather than generating new ones), polity-building (essentially addressing the failed state problem which does create opportunities for sheltering and weapons transfer), and psychological (changing the way people think about terrorism, particularly in the wider communities in which terrorists and would-be terrorists find support).
It is perhaps worth adding that in offering policy recommendations, Crisis Group has amply demonstrated that we are not at the wimpish end of the NGO spectrum. When a situation has deteriorated to the point that it cries out for coercive military action as the only way of preventing a greater harm, Crisis Group – with all appropriate regard to both legality and prudence, and in particular the five criteria of legitimacy for the use of force spelled out in the report of the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel last year – will be in there arguing for it, as we did for example with Kosovo in 1999, and Afghanistan after 9/11 (but not in the case of the coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003).
Darfur is perhaps the toughest of all these cases to deal with: although some criteria (like the threshold issue of magnitude of threat) are clearly satisfied now – or would be if the present African Union mission was forced out, and a vacuum created in which the Sudan government and its Janjaweed proxies could again do their worst – there is a real problem with some others. In particular it would be very difficult to credibly argue that the net benefit of forces shooting their way in would be positive, given the logistic difficulties of matching government force, the implications for the more than 2 million displaced people in the camps if humanitarian agencies were no longer able to operate, and the potential for the very fragile North-South peace agreement falling apart and a civil war resuming which has cost many more lives than Darfur.
Lesson 5. Conflict prevention requires effective institutional structures.
These are necessary at the global, regional and national government levels. Globally, there are at least three major structural problems, only one of which was seriously tackled, and even then only partly, in the 2005 World Summit called to address these and many other issues.
One is finding a better way of assisting the stabilisation and normalisation of the many existing failed, failing and fragile states around the world, in both pre and post conflict situations, which is a cross cutting problem in meeting many security challenges, not least terrorism: the trick will be to find an institutional arrangement which brings together, effectively, all the key players, including the UN and its agencies, the Bretton Woods Institutions and the key bilateral donors. The new Peacebuilding Commission established following the 2005 Summit could be a hugely important instrument here, although its mandate is essentially confined to post-conflict situations, but it remains to be seen how effectively it will be operationalised: everything depends not on the general supervisory body, on the structure of which an inordinate amount of attention has been lavished, but on the specific country working groups under it.
A second big problem is the Security Council, not just ensuring its commitment and effective delivery, both of which have often been problematic, but in ensuring its continued legitimacy, when its structure is so manifestly a reflection of the world of 1945, not 2005. The complacency of the Permanent Five veto-wielding members is misplaced: their powers will be a diminishing asset unless the credibility issue is seriously addressed before much longer, but following the collapse of last year’s efforts there is little or no sign that it will be.
A third issue is Secretariat reform: getting more resources into the peace and security area, ensuring their quality, and enabling the Secretary-General to have available to him a large store of early warning and analysis capability – a function that has been largely denied it so far by member states anxious not to be seen as suitable cases for treatment (and one that is presently being performed as much by Crisis Group as anyone else!).
Regionally, although significant progress has been made in recent years, especially by the African Union – although its doctrine and rhetoric remains a long way ahead of its operational capacity - much more needs to be done to strengthen conflict prevention and resolution capability, which in many parts of the world is non-existent, or so deeply reluctant to become involved in the security problems of the neighbourhood that it might as well be.
There have been some very specific regional conflict prevention arrangements that deserve wider emulation elsewhere, notably the OSCE's appointment after the end of the Cold War of a High Commissioner on National Minorities, who devised and encouraged many preventive measures, especially of a legal minority rights protection character, to stop ethnic communities tearing at each other's throats in many parts of Central and Eastern Europe.
So far as national governments are concerned, increasing efforts have been made to develop structural arrangements both ‘mainstreaming’ conflict prevention – requiring all relevant policy officers to give attention to this dimension in developing aid and other external policies – and also specifically ‘tasking’ it by giving particular individuals or groups within the government the specific responsibility to think about prevention, and devise and recommend up the decision-making food chain appropriate policy responses.
The role for NGOs like Crisis Group in all of this is essentially just to keep pressuring governments at all levels to make the necessary systemic changes, and to make their own inputs into the policy making and delivery process. Without the persistent nagging of a whole range of peace and security-focused NGOs it is very doubtful that as much would have been achieved as, for all its shortcomings, has been.
In the spectrum of international NGOs engaged in peace and security issues, Crisis Group in fact occupies a quite distinctive niche. Such organisations are usually characterisable as either pure think-tanks/research institutions/policy forums (like Centres for Strategic Studies, Councils on Foreign Relations, Institutes of International Affairs and some Foundations) ; or as campaign organisations (like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch); or as on-the-ground operational organisations (engaged in mediation, capacity building, confidence building and the like - like the Carter Centre, Open Society Institute or Search for Common Ground); or are humanitarian relief organisations (like MSF or CARE). Crisis Group fits into none of these precise categories: what we do is essentially a unique combination of the first three – engaged as we are in the three basic functions of field based analysis, policy prescription, and both high-level and public advocacy.
Lesson 6. Conflict prevention requires application of resources.
Like many other worthwhile public policy activities, conflict prevention struggles to get its share of public resources. Part of the problem is that it doesn’t generate immediately visible returns: you succeed most in conflict prevention when nothing happens, and nobody notices. And for most people in public office performing good works without anyone noticing it is like having your teeth pulled.
But there is no doubt a formidable case can be made for conflict prevention on pure financial cost-benefit grounds alone. As Australian Foreign Minister in the early 1990s I estimated, with the help of my Department, that the first Gulf War, which cost the allied coalition some $US 70 billion to wage, could conceivably have been avoided through more effective preventive diplomacy - which in the institutional form of six small but highly professional regional conflict prevention centres around the world would have cost the whole international community just over $20 million a year.
Similar calculations have been made in many other contexts. UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw estimated a few years ago that the small preventive military deployment in Macedonia, stopping the slide to war there, cost the British taxpayer ?14 million: fighting the war in Kosovo, by contrast, cost Britain ?200 million, and in Bosnia over ?1.5 billion. He could no doubt make an even stronger case, if he chose, based on what the Iraq war, eminently preventable as it was, has already cost his taxpayers and the expenditure benefits elsewhere that have been foregone in the process.
That kind of calculation has been done repeatedly in the US, where a New York Times published study in August 2004 showed that the $144 billion already then spent in Iraq could have paid for, among other things, the more or less complete safeguarding of US ports, airports and airliners ($34 billion); the security from theft of the world’s stock of weapons-grade nuclear materials and the deactivation of warheads (another $34 billion); the complete rebuilding of Afghanistan, including drug crop conversion ($20 billion); the addition of another 65 000 U.S. troops, if anyone thought this necessary ($40 billion); or another $10 billion in development assistance (which would fill, for one year anyway, about 20 per cent of the annual gap to be plugged if the Millennium Development goals relating to poverty, disease and the like are to be met).
By the end of this month, September 2006, the incremental cost of the Iraq war to the US budget will have reached $318.5 billion. Should anyone have been minded to spend most of that on development assistance, it would, on recent UN figures,2 have been enough to pay for the cost of keeping 400 million people from hunger for the next 13 years; stopping the spread of HIV-AIDS worldwide for the next 30 years; achieving effective intervention for maternal and newborn health for 95 per cent of the world’s population for the next 35 years;3 or immunising every child in the developing world for the next 100 years, while still leaving more than a little pocket money in each case for enhanced conflict prevention and resolution efforts.
It is not only additional money that is needed for conflict prevention and resolution, but a more intelligent application of money already being spent, not least on the armed forces themselves. A critical resource problem constantly facing planners is the availability of deployable military assets of the necessary quality for peacekeeping, peace enforcement and peacebuilding tasks. As we become more and more aware of the magnitude of the post-conflict follow-through task in countries like Afghanistan, Sudan and the Congo, not to mention in the Middle East, with Lebanon and possible substantial future deployments if a comprehensive peace settlement is ever negotiated, it becomes more and more obvious that the developed countries have a greater burden to bear than they are currently shouldering.
A major part of the problem is the lingering on of Cold War configurations in force structures. For example, though it’s insidious to single out any single country when the problem is so endemic, in Germany, where on figures I saw not long ago, of 250 000 men and women currently in uniform, only some 10, 000 are deployable at any given time on international peace operation tasks. One recent estimate (Tom Donnelly, AEI) is that ‘of the 2.5 million personnel nominally under arms in Europe, at most 3 per cent are deployable’. A good many of the rest are presumably still waiting by their tanks for the Russians to come.
Crisis Group, like other NGOs working in the peace and security field, would be more than delighted if just a tiny splinter of the amount presently devoted to military budgets – now some $440 billion a year for the US, and around that amount again for the rest of the world put together – could be diverted to our own.
At present we operate on an annual budget of around $ US 13 million, which comes approximately 40 per cent from governments, 35 per cent from foundations, and 25 per cent from corporates and private individuals. We have grown very rapidly – at the rate of nearly $2 million a year, with a commensurate increase in staff and activity - over the last six years, but have now reached the necessary critical mass to be effective: my task, not an easy one at all when one has no endowment and every year is a new challenge, is to sustain Crisis Group’s operations at around their present level.
Lesson 7. Conflict prevention requires political will.
This is hardly a new lesson, but as in many other areas of public policy it is always the bottom line: unless the relevant decision makers, at the national or international level, want something to happen it won’t. What we perhaps still need to learn is that merely lamenting the absence of political will – as so many commentaries do, stopping the analysis right there - doesn’t help very much: what we have to is work out how to mobilise it. And that requires a combination of good institutional structures – of the kind I have earlier discussed – and good arguments.
The obligation on all of us, both inside and outside government systems, who are concerned about better conflict prevention is to provide those arguments. The most relevant ones are:
moral arguments (however base and self-interested their actual motives are governments always like to be seen as acting from higher ones);
financial arguments (preventive action is likely to be cheaper by many orders of magnitude, as we have already seen, than responding after the event, whether through military action, humanitarian relief assistance, post-conflict reconstruction, or all three);
national interest arguments (bearing in mind that, given the number of international problems, like terrorism or health pandemics, that can only be solved by cooperative action, all countries have an interest not only in the traditional security and prosperity objectives, but in being, and being seen to be, good, cooperative international citizens); and
domestic political arguments (of a kind which appeal to parties in power, and these can include shoring up a political base as much as getting through to waverers: the Bush administration’s preoccupation with its Christian right has certainly been an important element in its wholly desirable commitment to peace processes in Sudan).
Crisis Group, as you would expect, spends a great deal of time in its advocacy not only on getting the analysis and policy recommendations right, but honing the way in which our arguments are presented to key decision-makers. Our advocacy takes four basic forms:
getting our reports and briefing papers, including the monthly CrisisWatch conflict alert bulletin, out to the widest possible audience of decision-makers and those who influence them (we currently send them electronically to a total of over 19,000 specifically targeted recipients, in printed form to over 4,000, and to more than 60,000 website subscribers; they are also immediately made available on our website, which is now being accessed at the rate of over 4.5 million visitors a year – and over 100 million ‘hits’ although that doesn’t mean much – with each visitor spending a very long, by web, standards 15 minutes at the site);
getting our message into the media, particularly through publishing a regular flow of op-eds in the world’s leading papers – 120 or more a year – and working with diplomatic correspondents and leader writers: who don’t always, or even very often, mention our name, but it’s the influence that counts; beyond that we have had over 4,300 separate original mentions in the world’s major media over the last 12 months (and nearly 16,000 if wire service reprints are counted);
high-level advocacy, conducted directly with policy makers from presidents and prime ministers and secretaries-general down to desk officers: made possible by the active involvement of our extremely high level Board of Trustees, our government-experienced senior management, and the interest of policy makers in hearing directly from our field-based analysts when they visit capitals, as they often do, for advocacy purposes; and
public campaign advocacy, of the kind familiar from Human Rights Watch and like organisations, but which until now we have only really embarked upon so far in relation to Darfur, but will again whenever it becomes desperately necessary to beat a public drum in order to capture private attention.
A major new global advocacy initiative on which we are embarking as I speak – which was announced last Friday at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, through which I was able to raise in a few days an extraordinary $400,000 in new support – will bring together all of these techniques in a major new effort to generate new political momentum for a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The initiative will have five dimensions:
An international consciousness-raising campaign, mobilising respected former presidents, prime ministers, foreign and defence ministers, congressional leaders and heads of international organisations, with in the first instance a statement of support for a comprehensive settlement, and a new process to achieve it involving a possible international conference to kick-start negotiations, and the leadership role of the Quartet (U.S., EU, Russia, UN) being reinforced by greater participation from the Arab League and regional countries. The statement now circulating, to be released next week, has already been signed by over 100 such U.S. and global leaders.
A series of brainstorming sessions, bringing together officials and regional experts, to help inform the actions of the UN Secretary General, his Middle East envoys, the other Quartet players and relevant regional countries. The first such meetings were held in New York on September 1 and 13, and more will follow: they have already had some impact I believe on the reasonably constructive statement which emerged from the Quartet last week.
A high-level group of former U.S. Government officials will be convened to generate bipartisan support for – and this is the hardest part, I suspect, of the whole exercise, the U.S. administration to engage fully in efforts to achieve a comprehensive resolution. The first round of consultations on this track took place in Washington DC on September 18.
A Crisis Group task force of respected international figures will be established, after a detailed settlement strategy has emerged from these consultations, to visit key international capitals and build support for it.
Crisis Group will continue to produce a series of reports and briefings on the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as the domestic situations in Palestine, Israel, Lebanon and Syria, and the closely related situations in Iran and Iraq, to provide information, analysis and guidance to policy-makers.
Measuring the success of all the effort in which Crisis Group engages is the hardest single thing for me to do. When conflict prevention efforts succeed – as I think ours as much if not more than anyone’s did in stopping a new war in Somalia last year - there is the problem of establishing what precisely it was that ensured that nothing happened; and when conflict resolution efforts visibly succeed, following assiduous efforts – for example in Sudan, the Congo, and Liberia - to identify workable processes and acceptable solutions and win the cooperation of crucial parties, there will always be plenty of others claiming a share (and in the case of governments always the dominant share!) of whatever accolades going around.
The best measure of our achievement is probably the financial support we continue to attract from some 24 different governments, averaging some $270, 000 per annum (and I’m pleased and grateful to acknowledge that Norway gives a little more than that), which certainly wouldn’t happen if we weren’t thought to be useful; and the accolades we often receive on the record from senior government and international figures in many countries – right across the political spectrum - all lovingly recorded each year in our Annual Report. For example Richard Holbrooke describes our monthly CrisisWatch bulletin as “superbly designed - sheer genius by your team. Nothing I saw in government was as good as this ". But then of course he wasn’t talking about the Norwegian government…
At the end of the day, success or failure in conflict prevention and resolution, for Crisis Group as for every other actor, comes down very much to the calibre of individuals, and in particular the key national leaders on whose decisions so much depends. Certainly I, and I suspect many others, would feel much more confident about the possibility of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement if Bill Clinton were still driving it from Washington and Yitzhak Rabin from Jerusalem.
So much does seem to depend just on the luck of the draw: whether at a time of fragility and transition a country finds itself with a Mandela or a Milosevic or a Mugabe, an Arafat or an Ataturk. Despite all our best efforts, that has always been so, and I suspect it always will be. Looking around the world at those individuals who currently matter most, let me conclude this presentation – as I have many others – by expressing the fervent hope that even if leaders are not always born, they can at least on occasion be made.
1. Human Security Report 2005, Human Security Centre, University of British Columbia, Oxford University Press, 2005. See www.humansecurityreport.info.
2. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has stated that an annual increase of $24 billion would reduce world hunger by half (to 400 million people) by 2015; UNAIDS has repeatedly estimated $10 billion a year as the cost of mounting a comprehensive response to HIV-AIDS in low and middle income countries; and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has estimated the additional monies needed to immunise very child in the developing world at just $3 billion annually. See http://costofwar.com/numbers.html.
3. Estimate of $9 billion per year from Lynn Freedman, Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, cited by Nicholas D. Kristof, ‘Prudence’s Struggle Ends’, International Herald Tribune, 25 September 2006.