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Long-form articles and multimedia from practitioners with something to say.

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Dispatch from Guinea: The struggle to operationalise “peacebuilding”

In 1958, Guinea was the only French colony to opt for immediate independence. Its first President rebuffed Charles de Gaulle to his face, declaring that ‘we prefer poverty in freedom to riches in slavery’.

The imagination thrills at the moment, most of all when picturing de Gaulle’s reaction. Things then took an sharp downward turn, however. […]

7th May, 2016|Categories: Long-form|Tags: , , |

Why every organisation needs its dissidents, dissenters, and drama queens

A senior UN official caused minor waves in March with a New York Times op-ed entitled “I love the UN, but it is failing”. Among other zingers, he labelled the world organisation a “Remington typewriter in a smartphone world”, and captioned the piece with an image of a sucking black hole. […]

10th April, 2016|Categories: Long-form|Tags: , , |

Learning to learn: How UN peacekeeping handled its explosive growth from 2000-15

Many observers saw last June’s High-Level Panel on UN Peace Operations as an audit of the ambitious change agenda laid out some fifteen years earlier, in the Brahimi Report.

The latter had set out an aggressive vision for “multi-dimensional” peacekeeping. The 2015 panel found progress towards that vision had been mixed, at best, while adding a slate of issues of their own. […]

14th March, 2016|Categories: Long-form|Tags: , , , |

Has the development sector lost its way on agile management?

Only the international development crowd could take all-time great branding like Agile management, and turn it into mouthfuls like “problem-driven iterative adaptation”, or “politically smart, locally-led development“.

Both of the latter approaches paraphrase the core principles of Agile: relationships over tools, workable approaches over doctrinal clarity, and small work batches to solve concrete problems rather than long-term over comprehensive plans. But alongside marketability it seems that the most potent message of all has been dropped. This is closeness to the customer. […]

5th February, 2016|Categories: Long-form|Tags: , , |

The two big challenges to genuine partnerships between international agencies and local actors

The “local” is increasingly fetishized in peacekeeping and conflict resolution circles. The UN’s recent high-level reviews of peacekeeping and peacebuilding pushed hard for “people-centred” approaches, as against traditional models of leadership by the national government.

In the aid world, the New Deal for Fragile States reads the same way. A product of sometimes awkward negotiations between recipient and donor governments, it insists that programming must be “country-led and country-owned”, but also underpinned by “credible and inclusive processes of political dialogue”. […]

10th January, 2016|Categories: Long-form|Tags: , , |

Two suggestions to recalibrate our expectations in “fragile states”

There is a yawning gap between between what we’ve repeatedly said we would do in fragile states and the actual results. This long-form article for World Politics Review tries to step past the euphemisms, and define what achievable outcomes could look like.

The piece is also featured in WPR’s podcast, with my segment starting at 21:00. The host Peter Doerrie introduces me as an advocate for “better and more sane approaches in fragile states”, which is certainly the ambition! […]

6th December, 2015|Categories: Long-form|Tags: , , , , |
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