Further Reading

(Arab) Spring Reading

While over three years have passed since the self-immolation of the Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, which marked the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring, the outpour of literature on the subject continues at a rapid rate. New books across a multitude of disciplines continue trying to document and analyze the cataclysmic events that are reshaping the Middle East: from historical overviews on resistance movements to photographic volumes on Tahrir Square.  One of the latest additions to this eclectic and ever-expanding genre is Carnegie scholar Marwan Muasher’s The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism.  

Unlike many of its counterparts, this book does not treat the Arab Spring as a “soundbite, oxymoron, spectacle, a screen on which to project abstracted hopes and fears,” to borrow a phrase from Maria Golia. Instead, Muasher offers a concise and practical treatise from the perspective of a policymaker-turned-scholar, which puts the events in their important historical—and regional—context while making critical recommendations for enhanced state-society relations in the Middle East.

The title alone is deep in scope. The first phrase—the second Arab awakening—is a nod to George Antonious’ 1938 classic on what could now be considered the first Arab awakening (it’s also the title of a less succinct work published last year by the Washington-based Iraqi scholar Adeed Dawisha). It immediately places the events in the context of a longer—and significant—history of independence and revolutionary movements in the Middle East. More specifically, it interprets them as a continuation of the 19th century intellectual “awakening” that sparked a wave of independence movements in the 1940s and 1950s, ultimately falling short of its protagonists’ aspirations. That initial liberal promise was aborted when foreign despots were replaced by homegrown ones who went on to rule the region for more than half a decade. As Muasher rightly points out, the first awakening laid the groundwork for the wave of uprisings that broke out across the region in 2011; “many of the same issue are at stake,” he says, “many of the same dangers loom.”

10 Most Popular IPI Publications and Posts in 2013

The International Peace Institute (IPI), which publishes The Global Observatory, produced research, analysis, and interviews on a range of topics in peace and security last year. Below is a list of IPI’s most popular content items in 2013. 

1. The Elephant in the Room: How Can Peace Operations Deal with Organized Crime? 

From Afghanistan to Kosovo to Mali, organized crime is threatening peace and security. Yet, this report argues, peace operations usually treat organized crime like the elephant in the room: impossible to overlook, but too big to deal with. Why is this so? And what can be done to rectify the situation—particularly if senior officials are themselves complicit? Authors Walter Kemp, Mark Shaw, and Arthur Boutellis explain. 

2. New Technology and the Prevention of Violence and Conflict 

In an era of unprecedented connectivity, this collection of case studies explores the ways that cell phones, social media, crowdsourcing, crisis mapping, blogging, and big data are being used to prevent violence and conflict around the world. The volume’s editor Francesco Mancini and co-author Marie O’Reilly outline a how-to guide for leveraging new technology in conflict-prevention efforts.

3. Mali’s Peacekeeping Mission: Full-Fledged Behemoth, or Have Lessons Been Learned? 

In March 2013, the UN appeared poised to launch a new UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. But would lessons from past peacekeeping experiences on the continent inform the new operation? In this Global Observatory post, Arthur Boutellis offered five concrete suggestions for the mission’s mandate and format to avoid the pitfalls encountered elsewhere.

4. Cross-border Humanitarian Aid in Syria Has Legal Basis But Few Precedents 

Humanitarian organizations normally need a state’s permission to deliver aid in its territory. In Syria, this poses serious problems for getting aid to civilians in rebel-held areas. Amid intensive debate among humanitarians about how the challenge should be tackled, this post by Jérémie Labbé and Tilman Rodenhauser explores the legality and legitimacy of delivering aid without the Syrian government’s consent.

A Reading List for Peace and Security in 2014: Reports

Could new technologies transform humanitarian responses to crises? How can Africans improve peacekeeping on their own continent? What critical blind spot do aid programs suffer from in Asia? Why are men more likely to kill than women in situations of crime and conflict?

Shifts in our understanding of global issues are often captured in key reports before longer books are written. This list of recent reports from think tanks, UN agencies, and NGOs captures emerging trends and fresh perspectives in the areas of peace and security, development, and humanitarian affairs. Compiled by staff at the International Peace Institute, it includes publications that you may have missed in 2013 but should still be considered for your reading list in 2014.

This list is published in two installments: (1) recent books of interest are here, and (2) significant reports are below.

Africa, South Africa, and the United Nations Security Architecture by Mark Paterson and Kudrat Virk (Centre for Conflict Resolution)
This CCR report assesses Africa's capacity to deal effectively with peace and security issues on the continent. The report offers ten recommendations for improving peace operations in Africa, including reducing dependence on external donors for sustainable funding, revising the Ezulwini consensus on Africa's demands for permanent seats on a reformed Security Council, improving accountability of African representatives on the Security Council, strengthening engagement among the BRICS countries, and involving civil society groups more actively in determining policies on peace and security.  The report offers a timely assessment of South Africa's important and complex role on major African peace and security issues. Suggested by John Hirsch, Senior Advisor.

The Contested Corners of Asia by Thomas Parks, Nat Colletta, and Ben Oppenheim (Asia Foundation)
Over the past two decades, subnational conflict affected half the countries in South and Southeast Asia, often with governments limiting access to conflict areas for outsiders. The dynamics between politics, conflict, and aid in subnational conflict areas created a “critical blind spot for aid programs.” With cutting-edge research backed by hard data, this report asks donors to change practices even more substantially than what is outlined in the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, which calls for donors to take managed risks and provide funding in fragile state contexts. The Asia Foundation report, on the other hand, calls for donors to: adopt longer time frames than the 3-5 year project standard; involve more staff who are deeply immersed in the local context; and—given that staff operate in relatively more dangerous, inaccessible, unfriendly areas—expect their work to challenge policies and approaches of the national government. After reading the report, the question remains: what will motivate donors and policymakers to introduce these substantial changes to their practices? Suggested by Maureen Quinn, Director of Programs.

The Global Drug Policy Debate: Experiences from the Americas and Europe by Renata Segura with Sabrina Stein (West Africa Commission on Drugs)
This paper responds to the mounting evidence that the prohibition of drugs has failed to significantly curtail the market in illicit narcotics. The paper examines the experiences of drug transit regions such as Central America and the Caribbean in order to better inform policy debates in West Africa, and it provides a detailed overview of the recent history of policy innovation and reform in Europe and the Americas. It concludes with recommendations on how the West Africa Commission on Drugs can play a pivotal role in strengthening the region’s response to drug trafficking in the coming years. Suggested by John Eller, Web Intern.

A Reading List for Peace and Security in 2014: Books

From rising cities and militant groups to carbon democracies and forgotten genocides: these topics may not have topped bestseller lists in 2013, but they can deepen our understanding of international relations and prospects for peace and security as 2014 kicks off. Staff at the International Peace Institute (IPI) compiled a list of recent books that capture today’s complex global landscape. The list includes volumes that focus on peace and security, as well as those that address the history and political dynamics in regions where IPI has established program activities: the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

This list will be published in two installments: (1) recent books (below), and (2) reports and other short reads that you may have missed.

Peace and Security

Conflict Assessment & Peacebuilding Planning by Lisa Schirch (Kumarian Press, 2013)
This volume fills a gap in the current conflict-sensitive development and peacebuilding literature, offering a practical methodology to link conflict analysis and assessment to the design, planning, monitoring, and evaluation of peacebuilding efforts. For those less inclined to dig into the book (although it is an accessible work that reads more as an handbook than an academic treatise), the volume comes with a website that includes the main resources for conflict assessment and peacebuilding planning. Suggested by Francesco Mancini, Senior Director of Research.

A Crucial Link: Local Peace Committees and National Peacebuilding by Andries Odendaal (Unites States Institute of Peace, 2013)
Local and society-level peacebuilding efforts are critical to achieving sustainable peace at the national level. Some peace negotiations have authorized the creation of local peace committees, from South Africa to Northern Ireland to Nepal. This book is the first comparative study of these committees and what they bring to both community-level and national peace processes. Namely, local peace committees can build social cohesion, facilitate dialogue, and prevent violence, helping to sustain national peace agreements by addressing local aspects of conflict that are often otherwise ignored. Suggested by Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, Visiting Fellow.

Gridlock: Why Global Cooperation is Failing When We Need It Most by Thomas Hale, David Held, and Kevin Young (Polity, 2013)
Global problems require global solutions. This book examines the interconnected nature of international challenges today, from climate changes to financial crisis, and argues that transnational solutions are more needed than ever. However, Hale, Held, and Young argue that issues of multipolarity, institutional inertia, and fragmentation have led to gridlock in the multilateral system. It concludes with a reflection on what type of politics may lead the way out of the institutional dysfunction of the international system. Suggested by Adam Lupel, Editor and Senior Fellow. 

If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities by Benjamin Barber (Yale University Press, 2013)
Calling for “a planet ruled by cities” and a world Parliament of Mayors, this book looks at inter-city cooperation as a possible new paradigm for global governance. Barber examines existing partnerships between cities around the world, asserting that the pragmatic approaches of successful mayors can transform not only urban problems, but global ones. Throughout the book, there are eleven profiles of innovative mayors—from New York to Lagos to Delhi—which are a new and valuable contribution to the growing literature on fragile cities. Suggested by Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, Visiting Fellow. 

Nine Recent Books That Capture a World in Flux

What kind of world emerges in the vision of the authors of the books presented in the nine events hosted by the International Peace Institute (IPI) as part of its 2013 Beyond the Headlines series?

It is a world in which national borders are receding as definers of political and cultural movements; in which the West, and, in particular, the United States, is struggling to maintain influence in the face of growing distrust; and one in which extremism, and the efforts to combat it, distort and undermine entire societies. It is also a world where high profile acts of terror go unaccounted for and unpunished, where Muslim women are rising to leadership and overcoming traditional discrimination, and one in which humanitarian affairs are increasingly the focus of United Nations attention. 

Two authors dealt with the perception of declining American leadership and what to do about it. Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, recommended “less nation-building abroad, more at home” in his book Foreign Policy Begins at Home. He argued the Mideast is no longer the center of US foreign policy or great power rivalry, and that Asia/Pacific is. Vali Nasr, Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, sounded a cri de coeur for renewed international engagement in his book The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat. He deplored what he saw as America’s growing reluctance to provide global leadership and urged a policy less reliant on military means and domestic partisan concerns and centered instead on trade and development and multilateral diplomacy.  

Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate gave an IPI audience a tour d’horizon in which he argued that the Sahara should be thought of as beginning at the southern border of Europe, and that North America actually extends down through the Caribbean all the way to the jungles of Venezuela. And Kaplan used geography to forecast which countries in the Middle East and North Africa have the best chance of prospering from the Arab spring uprisings. And which don’t. 

How Organized Crime and UN Peace Operations Came to Converge In Fragile States

In 1948, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) was deployed as the first United Nations peacekeeping mission, mandated to monitor the Arab-Israeli ceasefire. In the aftermath of World War II, the international system had evolved into a bipolar order in which international actors were focused mostly on interstate disturbances and proxy wars. During this time, organized crime was mostly concentrated in cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Naples, Palermo, and Tokyo, and of little significance to the international community. Peace operations and organized crime were separate and unrelated issues. 

Sixty years later, however, as the international system changed and fragile states came into the spotlight, the trajectories converged. Both UN peacekeeping and organized crime have evolved over four distinct generations, adapting to their environment during similar time periods, despite the fact that organized crime was essentially driven by market forces, while peace operations came about as the result of primarily political developments and decisions. 

A new report from the International Peace Institute, "The Elephant in the Room," lays out this issue in depth. (The International Peace Institute also publishes the Global Observatory). It suggests that organized crime–in its various forms–is a serious threat to peace in virtually every theater where the UN has a peace operation or mission: from Afghanistan to Kosovo, from Mali to Somalia. Yet, out of 28 currently deployed UN missions, less than half have a mandate with an explicit reference to organized crime, and even most of these lack the resources to implement their crime-fighting mandates effectively.

Key Conclusions

  • As indicated in the report, the main reason for the disconnect between peace operations and addressing organized crime can be found in the structural development of peacekeeping as a politically-driven process highly dependent on political will of sovereign states, while organized crime has flourished as an economically-fuelled phenomenon nourished by increasing globalization and state erosion.
  • The report lists other causes of disconnect, including peacekeeping missions’ lack of appropriate mandates and response capabilities, the political expediency of senior UN and host government officials, and the lack of sufficient functional adjustment of “peacekeeping” as outlined below.
  • The analysis in the report clearly reveals that the problem has been largely ignored, due to a lack of awareness or political will, a fear of its size and extent, and the difficulty of dealing with the challenge. “But ignoring the problem does not make it go away,” the report states—in fact, “it makes it worse.”
  • It can be concluded from the report that UN peace operations have yet to fully adjust from a purely responsive mechanism to violent conflicts to a comprehensive strategy for stabilizing societies, including measures to address and eradicate organized crime. As trajectories of organized crime and peace operations converge, so too should operational responses—particularly in fragile states.


Until the late 1980s, UN peace operations were conceived as a tool to monitor ceasefires in established buffer zones between warring parties. At that time, organized crime was seen by the international community as a relatively isolated problem mostly concentrated in cities that had not yet entrenched itself in fragile and conflict settings. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, a new and much larger generation of peace operations deployed across conflict zones in the developing world, mandated to cope with challenges of change in countries where superpower rivalry left a legacy of instability. At the same time, these conflicts and the end of the Cold War opened new opportunities for criminal groups—including “the exploitation of natural resources (drugs, diamonds, and timber) in fragile states,” as the report notes. A third generation of peace operations emerged in the mid-1990s, when protracted intrastate conflicts, civil wars, and spoiler groups necessitated more robust multidimensional deployments.

Several of the armed groups involved in these conflicts had established “close links with criminal groups, or were themselves engaged in illicit activities”—as economic globalization deepened, these groups successfully seized control of new trafficking routes and areas of operation. Responding to complex (almost exclusively intrastate) conflict scenarios in the late 1990s, peace operations evolved to include new complex tasks ranging from robust enforcement, peacebuilding, and stabilization to state or institution building and even the implementation of executive mandates—thus marking the fourth generation. 

A Resource Guide to Egypt’s Unrest


Egypt’s stormy path towards a democratic transition has topped world news since the 2011 revolution ousted President Hosni Mubarak and continues to the present day following mass protests in July 2013 that led to the army’s removal of President Mohamed Morsi. 

Below are books, articles, and websites recommended by International Peace Institute staff that give insight into the historical, political, and socioeconomic underpinnings of the unrest in Egypt, and perspectives on where the country is headed. 

The Roots of the Unrest

Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation by Ashraf Khalil (St. Martin's Press, 2012)
Published in January 2012, Liberation Square describes what brought Egyptians to the boiling point—the milestones on the path to President Hosni Mubarak’s renunciation of power, including those which many considered inconsequential at the time. Khalil not only explains the causes that led to the Egyptian uprising in January 2011 but also how a people that were often portrayed as the model of subservience, under a regime that was thought to have mastered the art and balance of dictatorial rule, woke up from the stupor. Suggested by Jose Vericat, Adviser.

Marginality and Exclusion in Egypt by Ray Bush and Habib Ayeb (Zed Books, 2012)
This collection of essays examines the dynamics of political and economic marginalization. It explains the inequality and disenfranchisement that led to Egypt’s revolution, arguing that marginalization should not necessarily be equated with powerlessness and that the marginalized can have agency. Suggested by Nur Laiq, Senior Policy Analyst.

The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square by Steven Cook (Oxford University Press, 2011)
This analytical history of modern Egypt, beginning with Nasser’s years, offers invaluable insights into how Egypt arrived at its present predicament. This is very useful background reading for understanding the current events. Suggested by Francesco Mancini, Senior Director of Research.

Egypt on the Brink: From Nasser to Mubarak by Tarek Osman (Yale University Press, 2011)
Osman offers an easily accessible history of Egypt over the last sixty years from Nasser to Mubarak. The book is particularly interesting for its focus on the economic sphere and the impact of Sadat’s free-market and Mubarak’s neoliberal policy agendas. It also devotes sections to the role of political Islam and Arab nationalism in the national consciousness. Suggested by Nur Laiq, Senior Policy Analyst.

The 2011 Revolution

On the State of Egypt: What Made the Revolution Inevitable by Alaa Al Aswany (Vintage, 2011)
From the acclaimed Egyptian novelist and author of the classic The Yacoubian Building, this short and lucid volume is a collection of essays written prior to the revolution that addresses all the issues that were, and still are, at the source of Egyptian unrest. Authoritarian rule, poverty, police brutality, injustice, women’s harassment—to name a few—are treated in a very candid and open way, providing a fascinating sociological portrait of contemporary Egyptian society. Each essay ends with the sentence “democracy is the solution.” Two years after the publication of the book, it remains a compelling read. Suggested by Francesco Mancini, Senior Director of Research.

Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People Is Greater Than the People in Power by Wael Ghonim (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)
This the memoir of the previously unknown Google executive from Egypt who in the summer of 2010 anonymously launched a Facebook page to protest the death of one Egyptian man at the hands of the security forces. The page’s explosive following is considered one of the starting points of the protest via social media. A useful book to understand the role of virtual networks in expanding and sustaining the Egyptian revolution and their role in reverberating the unrest across the region. Suggested by Francesco Mancini, Senior Director of Research.

Debating the Use of Force: When Should We Intervene to Stop Mass Atrocities?

No two crises in recent memory have done more to test the proper use of force by international actors than Libya and Syria. What kind of humanitarian crisis demands international military action, and what kind does not? When should international actors intervene in a recalcitrant country to protect civilians, and when should they not?  The contrast between international action in Libya and inaction in Syria has brought to light the problem of selectivity—the sense that international interventions to protect civilians are not based on consistent principles but on capricious politics. When it comes to military intervention, national strategic interest often trumps international humanitarian norms.

Last year, Robert Pape proposed a new “pragmatic standard for humanitarian intervention,” which stimulated a critique from Gareth Evans and Ramesh Thakur in the spring 2013 issue of International Security. A further response from Pape to Evans and Thakur was also printed.

Pape argues that there is need for a new principle to guide decisions about international interventions because the standards of the Genocide Convention and the responsibility to protect (R2P) have failed in opposite ways. He argues that whereas the genocide standard sets the bar too high for intervention, making it unlikely international action ever takes place, R2P sets it too low, justifying intervention for almost any crisis where civilians are at risk.

Pape’s standard of “pragmatic humanitarian intervention” holds that an international military campaign against a sovereign government is justified for the purpose of protecting civilians only if the following three preconditions are met:

1) At the time of intervention, there must already be “[a]n ongoing campaign of mass homicide sponsored by the local government in which thousands have died and thousands more are likely to die.” This means that preemptive action is never justified, no matter how imminent mass violence appears to be.

2) International actors must have “a viable plan for intervention with reasonable estimates of casualties not significantly higher than peace time and near zero for the intervening forces.” Pape is adamant that cost—both human and material—is a legitimate factor to consider when determining whether or not to intervene.

3) Finally, any proposed intervention must include “a workable strategy for creating lasting local security, so that saving lives in the short term does not lead to open-ended chaos in which many more are killed in the long term.” Military intervention always carries unknown consequences. The pragmatic standard insists that care must be taken that the moral imperative to save lives now does not result in even more lives lost later.

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What to Watch in 2014

Key Global Events in February
A list of key upcoming meetings and events with implications for global affairs.

2013-multilateral-602014 Top 10 Issues to Watch in Peace & Security: The Global Arena
A list of ten key issues to watch that are likely to impact international peace and security in 2014, compiled by IPI's Francesco Mancini.