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Humanitarian Aid

#Dadaab Research and Information, #Somalia #Refugees, and #Architecture


Events within the Dadaab refugee camps have reached a fever-pitch in the last few weeks.  Or more accurately, there has been a surge of interest in the Dadaab camps, as circumstances have always been dire. I have lately received many emails from those interested in working at the camps, designing solutions, or basic requests for information.  

At the moment I am traveling and have limited access to a computer so I apologize for the delayed responses.  However this week I added a new page The Humanitarian Space, specifically compiling some resources and information about Dadaab.  The resources are drawn from my own work or is work on which I am quite familiar and can answer questions.

In the next few days I will provide a more thorough background on recent events,  information about refugee camp design, and answer some of the most recent questions.  

#Somalia: Hot, Dry and Dangerous


The last few days in Somalia have been like any other - hot, dry, and dangerous.   The aggressive drought has displaced thousands, crowding the Dadaab camps and bringing the ongoing humanitarian crisis to an unprecedented level.  At the same time, it is clear that the US government is slowly focusing more attention on the region, recognizing the increasing threat that this nation poses to international stability.  Here is a quick overview of current conditions.

Drought
Drought (red) concentrated in South
The drought has continued to devastate Somalia to such an extent that al Shabaab has even welcomed aid agencies to return to the region.  While agencies such as WFP are mobilizing, it doesn't appear that everyone got the message, as some Shabaab fighters have continued to capture aid workers.  The question remains if Shabaab will continue to have the significant power to administer the region, as head commander Ahmed Abdi Godane discussed problems the group is facing on a Shabaab friendly radio station.

The current dry spell is far worse than previous years, such as th early 1990s, as there is no longer any alternative infrastructure to absorb the catastrophe.  Although the western regions have seen a little rainfall, the Juba valley remains dry. While international agencies scramble for access, the TFG finds it has too little resources to make an impact, evidenced by TFG soldiers offering their own paychecks over to afflictedfamilies. While over 350,000 displaced people seek protection in the Dadaab refugee camps, the population will likely continue to increase as nearly 75% of the nations harvest is expected to fail.

US Intervention
CIA conducting interrogations in Somalia.  As shown within a recent congressional hearing, the US Government believes to officially recognize the  strengthening  regional links between Somali militants and al Qaeda and the devastation of the nation is globally permeating.  he CIA have been increasing their presence and interventions in the region, most recently training TFG soldiers in counterterrorism strategies and intelligence collection.  Many of the interrogation practices are supposedly undertaken in an airplane hanger adjacent to the airport and in the basement of the TFG's National Security Administration.  The NSA basement has a long history of abuse and torture, infamously known as godka, the hole, while under the rain of dictator Siyad Barre.  

Al Shabaab
Moderate pro-government militant group Ahulu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) has elected a new leader, Sheikh Aydarus Sheikh Ahmed Siid Warsame, and vowed to fight against al-Shabaab in Gedo region.  The former leader was killed in an ambush by Shabaab fighters. 

In related news (ambushed convoys), it was confirmed that the helicopter attack near Kismayo was actually a drone attack upon an al-Shabaab convoy, targeting and killing on of the top leaders, Ibrahim al Afghani.

Media
Below is a brief video from BBC.  The story is covers the general state of conditions but the footage is quite strong.  The beginning features a spectacular flyover of Dadaab.


Stabilizing Afghanistan's Conflict through Education


Afghanistan's long history of conflict has deprived youth of  critical education opportunities.  Children in conflict-afflicted countries are more likely to be out of school or to drop out.  Conflicted areas result in extreme disadvantages of poverty and social inequality.  As the bulk of contemporary conflict exists locally, through internal civil conflicts among high-capacity non-state actors, these conflicts frequently target and endanger civilians, further disrupting education systems.  The disruption of daily life, the prevalence of social inequality, and the destruction of local infrastructure and markets from conflict has specifically harmed schools and schoolchildren.  Attacks on schools, the recruitment of children, and the targeting of school infrastructure in Afghanistan have only reinforced poverty and social degradation [UNESCO].

Afghanistan contains two separate eduction systems.  For centuries, traditional religious education was the only available system, until the 1960s when a new, modern education system was introduced with the creation of Kabul University and supporting secular institutions.  Kabul University and nine other post-secondary colleges served the population until the Soviet War and the following Civil War resulted in their downfall.  Between 1996 and 2001, circumstances worsened as the Taliban closed institutions or heavily restricted curriculums.   In 2000, UNICEF reported that less than 5% of Afghan children received a primary school education. Under the Taliban, female education was banned [BBC].

Today in Afghanistan, the World Bank reveals an expanded access to education, with 6.2 million children enrolled and 2.2 female students [World Bank].   Some of these successes can be attributed to large scale programs such as UNICEF's Country Programme Action Plan for 2010-2013, which as continually worked to ensure that Afghani children have the ability to express the rights outlined within the UN Convention on the rights of the child [UNICEF].  Yet there remains a demand for continued improvement such as access to higher education institutions. At present, Afghanistan can only accommodate about 60,000 students leaving Grade 12, while public training technical institutions can only absorb a few thousand [UN].  Education is critical asset to overcome the gap between humanitarian assistance and post-coflict reconstruction.  It serves a need with the initial processes of stabilization, but more importantly, provides mechanisms for long lasting peace and economic development.  

Architecture, Conflict, and Urban Planning Publications


In the last few days, as I've finished writing my upcoming piece on the Architecture of Conflict and Militarization in Somalia, it occurred to me that more attention needs to be brought to some of the books published on this subject.  Scholarship within this domain is still in its infancy, however, there are a few works that merit special attention, either for their groundbreaking  investigation or their brilliant analysis.  Below are the three I've most recently read, although the list is far from comprehensive.

Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation
Eyal Weizman 2007

This book was recommended to me by Dr. Adrian Parr, author of Hijacking Sustainability, and I am very glad to have followed her advice.  Hollow Land has become my favorite book in several years, as Weizman masterfully illustrates how the military history of Israel has been channeled through urban planning and architecture for territorial expansion and the oppression of the Palestinian people.  Well research and artfully written, Weizman traces the use of new settlements, zoning laws, inequitable developments in infrastructure, and architectural design as mechanisms of control.


Stephen Graham 2010

Graham traces the development of the city as a conflict zone, identifying trends of surveillance and militarization within the urban fabric.  Overall, this book has rather 'high-tech' demeanor, something akin to the aesthetic of Blade Runner.  Written in a straightforward, academic manner, Graham efficiently illuminates the integration of terrorism, militancy, and security within the urban and economic geography of the contemporary world.




Robert Bevan 2007

Although war always creates collateral damage to the environment, Bevan argues that contemporary warfare has increasingly targeted Architecture as a means to defeat the enemy.  With a great deal of focus on events in Yugoslavia and the actions of totalitarian regimes within China and Afghanistan, Beven identifies the role of Architecture and its destruction within the social consciousness.  He further investigates  the inherent processes of destruction within modern efforts to reconstruct the post-conflict landscape.




Violence Taking Place: The architecture of the Kosovo Conflict
Andrew Hersher 2010
Hersher has worked for the UN Tribunals in Kosovo, examining the manner in which architecture was explicitly appropriated, destroyed, and utilized as a tool of war and power.  I've only recently picked up this book and haven't gotten too far into yet, but already, I can say it is highly recommended.

Upcoming academic conferences on #conflict, #urbanplanning, #war, and #displacement

I was looking forward to attending the Middle East History and Theory Conference at the University of Chicago to present my paper, "The Urban Design of Power and Politics in Cairo, Egypt," but unfortunately I will no longer be attending.  It has been a hectic month, and the coming months are only going to be busier, consequently leaving me with insufficient time.   While looking for other possible venues to present work, I found a few conferences of interest and thought it would be worthwhile to share. 

"Proposals are invited for a conference to be held 11-12 July 2011 at the University of Birmingham, entitled New Perspectives on Conflict and Security: Understanding Civil War and Intrastate Conflict. This event is organized by the editorial team of Civil Wars journal with the support of the College of Social Sciences Advanced Social Science Collaborative fund and the Department of Political Science and International Studies. This conference will explore a range of debates and topics related to intrastate conflict and civil war. Those interested in presenting are invited to submit a paper proposal or query to Ben Zala at BPZ898@bham.ac.uk by 15 May 2011. All papers presented will be considered for publication in CIVIL WARS."

This conference will analyze how globalization and individualization have given rise to new forms of diversity. want to know how people with diverse backgrounds locate themselves and others in new social hierarchies, how they struggle to create meaningful places, in what ways they develop strategies to belong, and with what consequences. Moreover, we aim to understand better what types of (new) policy responses and forms of governance have developed to manage diversity in urban settings.

Multiculturalism, Conflict, and Belonging September: Oxford, United Kingdom
This multi-disciplinary project seeks to explore the new and prominent place that the idea of culture has for the construction of identity and the implications of this for social membership in contemporary societies. In particular, the project will assess the context of major world transformations, for example, new forms of migration and the massive movements of people across the globe, as well as the impact of globalisation on tensions, conflicts and on the sense of rootedness and belonging. 

War and Displacement Conference September: Plymouth, United Kingdom
This two day interdisciplinary conference will explore themes of War and Displacement with special focus on WW1 and WW2 in relation to imperialism and colonial warfare, although papers relating to other wars and time periods will also be welcome. This conference aims to discuss and analyse the impact of war on both civilians and military personnel in terms of voluntary or forced relocation (for example refugees, prisoners of war, internment, resettlement or military service abroad). Although ‘war and displacement’ is an established field of research, especially in relation to the two World Wars and more modern humanitarian crises caused by war, it is seldom combined with aspects of imperialism or colonial history. 

The New Sphere #Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Response Standards 2011


I am quite excited to see that the new edition of the Sphere Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Response standards are coming out this April.  Although the printed edition is not yet available, the pdf is may be directly downloaded from the website here.  After a cursory glance, there is a significant improvement within the new edition, as it presents information in a more concise manner.  The new standards are not perfect of course.  As Under Secretary General of the ICRC says in the video below, there are times that meeting the standards may not be feasible, such as the provision of adquate space for shelter within Haiti, however, it is important that humanitarian actors utilize the Sphere standards to understand the repercussions of planning settlements with overly concentrated density; such as furthering gender divisions and escalating health dangers.


I have a particular interest in the Sphere Settlement Standards, having previously researched the feasibility of such standards to meet the demands of refugee camp planning in a protracted settlement.    My previous research concluded that Sphere lacked the tools to facilitate protracted communities within refugee camps as it did not engage the tools, assets, and networks that developed over time.  Furthermore, I felt that it was insufficient for meeting the needs of populations displaced by violent conflict, as it failed to tie the needs of the population to the pyscho-social conditions of their legal status and departure.  By not considering how the roots of displacement are reflected within new social and settlement patterns, intervening agencies arguably provide less benefit than may appear.  

Fortunately the new Sphere Minimum Standards covers many similar issues, or at the very least, many of the of the emerging issues facing the humanitarian community including: civil-military relations, the role of protection and vulnerable populations, a discussion of rapid and long term assessments, monitoring and evaluation, aid worker performance measures, and most importantly, a recognition of the relative values of these standards depending on circumstance.   All of these new tools and frameworks accommodate a more community-centered approach and demonstrates the new Sphere 2011 as a significant improvement.  Of course the real value of its improvement is to be demonstrated over the following years through implementation.

al-Shabaab's Economic Advantage



Repost from http://hornofafrica.foreignpolicyblogs.com/ by Mitchell Sipus 
Saturday, April 2 7:23 pm EST

Many are familiar with the origin of Somalia’s protracted conflict in the fall of Said Barre’s regime in 1991 and the resulting competition for political control among warring clans.  Yet the conditions of warfare in Somalia have evolved dramatically since that time as the impact of the conflict upon the local geography, the role of humanitarian regimes, and the new found utility of globalization technologies have transformed the nature of Somali warfare.  Not only do tribes fight for territorial power, but factions also battle to control transit and communication infrastructure and points of entry (such as ports and air strips), and to control the inflow and distribution of foreign aid.  The conflict has evolved from a war for political power into a war of capitalism and enterprise.  Tribal leaders are not only warlords, but  entrepreneurs, seeking to capitalize on the geo-political degradation of their nation.

In 2006, when Harakat al-Shabaab began to extend its mandate beyond its original role as the implementing partner of the Union of Islamic Courts, the political system founded by civil society to stabilize the nation under sharia law, al-Shabaab expanded this new model of armed group enterprise.  Receiving funds from global remittance flows, investing in banks to profit from remittance transactions, creating propaganda materials for sale, and later investing in legitimate businesses are fundamental to the workings of al-Shabaab's militant force.  In addition, affiliations with al-Queda and the demand of payments from aid agencies can be interpreted as actions rooted far more rooted in capitalism rather than decisions based on shared/conflicting ideologies.

Ultimately, much of al-Shabaab’s work can be attributed to profiteering, and to extend the model, one could interpret acts of terrorism outside of Somalia as the exportation of a commodity, wherein the resulting conflict is creates new markets for control and profit.  Considering the limited export base within Somalia, a country most known for nomadic pastoralism, piracy, and warfare, the most profitable and peaceful pathways are severely limited.  For example, without a functioning regulatory government to oversee the health and quality of animals stocks, adjacent nations such as Saudi Arabia have no desire to import possibly diseased or contaminated animals.

Without the necessary internal infrastructure to capitalize upon traditional economic assets, the export of conflict quickly becomes the most viable means toward economic success.  To destabilize adjacent regions creates new geographies for exploitation, displays the capacity and power of al-Shabaab among local and distant communities, and creates new points of intersection between armed groups and outside humanitarian actors.

From an economic point of view, acts of regional terrorism  by al-Shabaab, such as bombings in Nairobi, have the prospect of offering only positive prospects for Shabaab as it reinforces their economic base and their image of power.  As African Union forces are already in Somalia, and thus regional nations already participate in the conflict, Shabaab cannot likely accrue greater risks through its actions, only greater economic advantage.  To interpret regional terrorism as a process of phased market expansion, it also explains why acts of terrorism by al-Shabaab have been focused in Kenya and Uganda and have not extended very far elsewhere.  To conduct acts of terrorism in America, for example, will most likely operate at a loss and not created desired profits because it would not have the desried destabilizing impact upon American geography.  Furthermore, to attract greater global attention may ultimately undermine the existing capacity of al-Shabaab who could not contend with American military forces.  Regional terrorism therefore only extends the conflict and its resulting opportunities for profit within a manageable geographic space.

Arguably, the capitalist spirit is the greatest asset of this organization.  To undermine the power of al-Shabaab is not a matter of reinforcing security as much as it is a matter of reducing their economic export potential and thus limit the scope of their market.  Yet as many their market inputs are widely distributed through the migrant diaspora via remittance flows and the outputs are concentrated in the chaotic battlefields of Somalia, a network-centric approach faces tremendous obstacles.  Perhaps a greater means to confront and undermine this force is to examine its weaker components, such as its organizational structure, logistical corridors, and ideological basis.

Mapping the Humanitarian Terrain

I've been incredibly busy lately, so the posts have slowed down, but today I discovered UNOCHR's dynamic regional maps on the ongoing multi-sector status of various regions and felt its worth sharing.   I'm always impressed by UNOCHR's website, although I'm often frustrated that the wealth of information available is so hard to locate or discover.  Just click the image above to explore the site.

I also discovered the monthly humanitarian update, its not very detailed, but it does at least present a decent overview.

Lastly, for today's post, I'm attaching a brief article from the ICRC on the perils of combining humanitarian aid with military support.  The author makes the point that humanitarian actors need to be clear in there policies, not just politicians or military commanders, that humanitarian aid should be independent of military support.  He also raise the point that "humanitarian space" may not actually exist, although most humanitarian's lament the space as merely shrinking.  Ultimately he argues that while conflict becomes increasingly fragmented, it is important to draw clear lines between military and humanitarian actors so as to assist the most vulnerable populations and with the least risk.  




Black Flags and RPG's: Piracy continues to reveal massive problems, while the world misses the point.


The never ending attitude toward piracy off the Somali coast continues to astound me.  Somalia is a failed state with no government, no security, an antiquated economy undermined by climate change, no food supplies to feed its displaced population, and scares the hell out of aid agencies.  Yet we all talk about piracy as if that is the problem because piracy affects international trade.  Its obvious piracy is the consequence of desperate people living in a desperate situation, and if the global community cared about that situation, then we probably wouldn't have piracy.  If piracy continued to persist while the country developed, military intervention and security measures would make sense and probably have the desired outcome.

Everyday there is a constant deluge of absurd media generated about pirates.  Today CNN featured an article on ships containing a safe room to hide their crew while pirates run the show on deck.  They lock themselves in a bullet-proof room full of food and water and wait for help to arrive.  Or consider a personal favorite of mine, as BAE Systems develops a laser defense system to disorient would-be pirates from attacking with their AK-47s and RPGs.  There is also much fanfare over the development of a private military in Northern Somalia to police the waters and combat pirates.

In the meanwhile, the global economy loses anywhere between 7 and 12 BILLION dollars per year due to the impact and accumulated costs of piracy.   So yes, every one is losing money because some really poor men in rowboats are causing problems.

Perhaps one day, somebody, somewhere, will choose to invest a billion dollars into stabilizing the water supply or investing in the workforce of Somalia.  When more donors and nations realize the potential investment opportunity for such a geographically advantaged state,  perhaps they will consider investing in solutions rather than laser beams and naval fleets.  In that scenario, everybody wins, not just the pirates.

Dadaab Online Image Database

Earlier today I was searching online and happened to rediscover the Architecture and Urban Planning collection at the libraries of the University of Cincinnati.  While I was in grad school, I donated several images to this collection from my research at the Dadaab Refugee Camps.  For anyone interested, you can follow the link here: Dadaab  Architecture and Urban Planning Images by Mitchell Sipus

Mud Bricks for Refugee Housing Construction in Dadaab Refugee Camps