Tag Archives peace

Women’s Week 2023 | From young girls to “bush wives”: Armed conflicts are traumatising girl soldiers in Africa, and post-conflict peacebuilding and rehabilitation efforts could be making it worse

Women’s Week 2023 | From young girls to “bush wives”: Armed conflicts are traumatising girl soldiers in Africa, and post-conflict peacebuilding and rehabilitation efforts could be making it worse

As armed conflicts persist across the world, children are repeatedly recruited into armed groups as soldiers, robbing them of their childhood. While some estimates reveal that girls comprise almost half ...

The role of National Governments in delivering humanitarian-development-peace nexus approaches: a reflection on current challenges and the way forward

The role of National Governments in delivering humanitarian-development-peace nexus approaches: a reflection on current challenges and the way forward

The concept of humanitarian, development, peace (HDP) — referred to also as the triple nexus — gained momentum during the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, and more recently with the ...

Can technology ‘decode’ developmental problems? by Oane Visser and Manasi Nikam

This article presents an interview with Dr. Oane Visser, Associate Professor in Rural Development Studies, at the International Institute of Social Studies. It shows ways in which technology can be used to address developmental problems. Dr. Visser coached six teams in a technological challenge about the ‘prevention of land grabbing’.

The Municipality of The Hague and the Data Science Initiative organized a hackathon for Peace, Justice and Security in November, 2018. It was supported by the International Criminal Court, NATO, Red Cross, World Vision and Asser Institute. The hackathon focused on creating innovative solutions using data science for problems focused on humanitarian disasters, fake news, evidence, emergency funds and land grabbing.[1] About 27 teams from 20 nationalities participated in this event. Monkey Code, one of the teams coached by Dr. Visser, won and was rewarded a cash prize of 10,000 Euros.

Here follows an excerpt from a conversation between Dr. Visser and Manasi Nikam.

Manasi: What was the purpose of the hackathon?

Oane: There are different kinds of hackathons. Often these are commercial, but this hackathon had societal and developmental relevance. The Hague being a city of peace, justice and security cannot promote these ideas without engaging with new technologies. The basic objective of the hackathon was to enable people sitting anywhere in the world to participate in designing solutions to developmental problems.

Manasi: What role did you play in the hackathon?

Oane: There were five different challenges, one of which was on preventing land grabbing. Asser Institute requested me to lead together the six teams that participated in this challenge. I guided these teams to understand the context of land grabbing and the kind of data they can collect.

Manasi: Can you tell me something about the winning team?

Oane: The winning team was Monkey Code. It is a tradition in hackathons to come up with funny names. The team had young staff members belonging to a Canadian, multinational ICT company.

Manasi: Just out of curiosity, how is it that a multinational company was interested in a hackathon that had social relevance?

Oane: The company does a lot of work for governments such as mapping migration patterns. So, they do have an interest in social issues.

Manasi: Can you tell us something about the tool that the winning team developed?

Oane: Yes. They combined existing databases such as satellite data, social media data, be it Twitter, real estate news groups and local media etc. to develop an algorithm that aims to predict areas in the world that are vulnerable to land grabbing.

Manasi: Do you think deploying technical solutions depoliticizes developmental problems?

Oane: Yes and no. There are some actors who promote techathons, big data, algorithms and think that they can do away with the difficult questions. But there are also others who acknowledge that one technical solution cannot solve the problem. In reality, a lot of politics comes in. For example: What does the algorithm focuses on? How do you define the problem? Who controls the solution? How is the data that is integrated being used? Those are the big issues in the usage of technology.  There is a strong belief among some that it is a magic bullet, very precise and accurate. Such thinking is a problem because the more social the data becomes, the less objective it tends to become.

Similarly, if the data is not valid, no matter how sophisticated the algorithm is, a coherent analysis cannot be made. There are also problems with someone taking the data out of the context and then analyzing it. The divide between Global South and North makes it riskier because many tech people are from the Global North or from emerging economies like India and China. Development projects around the world are implemented in collaboration with tech companies, who have their own particular interests such as getting data about citizens from developing countries. This gets partially subsidized by donor money under the facade of humanitarian aid.

Manasi: Why was the issue of land grabbing taken up?

Oane: Land grabbing is linked with local food security, dispossession of land, biofuels, energy and environmental problems. Around 2007, land grabbing caught attention globally, due to big deals being made in Madagascar and Ethiopia. But even before that, in Eastern Europe, a lot of land abandoned after the fall of the Berlin wall, was purchased by Western investors. Two advantages for investors who purchased land in countries like Romania have been 1. that the land was bought at a very low cost, meanwhile 2. geographic proximity to Europe means that the produce grown on the land can be sold easily in rich markets. Agriculture subsidies make it all the more profitable, as the amount of subsidy is linked to the size of the land. As the size of land owned increases, the amount of subsidy given also increases in relation to it.

In parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia, there is also displacement of people and dispossession of land. The projects in these areas target western markets. As a result, food security in the local area is affected. Similarly, in industrial agriculture the use of pesticides de-grade the environment. Due to the domination of western investors in the land market, buying land becomes expensive for young and local farmers. Countries like Russia and Ukraine often become targets of land grabbing as their land is immensely fertile and institutions are weak. In fact, local authorities are themselves often involved in land grabbing practices.

Manasi: What is the next step after this hackathon?

Oane: We had several ‘problem recognition workshops’ with one hackathon team from Leiden University and this summer we presented the process so far at the EuroDIG conference at the World Forum in The Hague. I have been attending various hackathons this year focusing on agriculture and development related themes. Designing data driven solutions for developmental problems mean different complexities and limitations compared to regular hackathons. I would be interested in seeing what kind of additional information the tech solution can generate once a more sophisticated version of the tool is available.

[1] https://impactcity.nl/monkey-code-wins-hackathon-for-good-with-solution-to-prevent-land-grabbing/

Image credit: Rainforest Action Network on Flickr


About the authors:

Foto-OaneVisser-Balkon-1[1]Dr. Oane Visser (associate professor, Political Ecology research group, ISS) leads an international research project on the socio-economic effects of – and responses to – big data and automatization in agriculture.Manasi


Manasi Nikam is a student of MA in Social Policy for Development at ISS. She has co-authored ‘Children of India’ a chapter on the status of well-being of children, for Public Affairs Index 2018.


EADI/ISS Series | Why do we need Solidarity in Development Studies? by Kees Biekart

EADI/ISS Series | Why do we need Solidarity in Development Studies? by Kees Biekart

The next EADI Development Studies conference is about “Solidarity, Peace and Social Justice”. But what does solidarity actually mean in relation to development studies? Kees Biekart explores the term by ...

EADI/ISS Series | Solidarity, Peace, and Social Justice – will these values prevail in times of fundamental threats to democracy? By Jürgen Wiemann

EADI/ISS Series | Solidarity, Peace, and Social Justice – will these values prevail in times of fundamental threats to democracy? By Jürgen Wiemann

In today’s world of constantly rising inequality, increasingly authoritarian governments and anti-immigration sentiments, solidarity, peace and social justice seem to be more out of reach than ever. In a joint ...

Enacting transitional justice in Colombia and South Africa by Fabio Andres Diaz Pabon

Debates on the provision of justice in countries transitioning from armed violence to peace often fail to reflect on how the objective of justice must be linked with its practice. A recently published volume explores this through reflecting on the challenges facing the implementation of the transitional justice framework established in the recently signed peace agreements in Colombia.

Considering the practice of development and justice is as important as reflecting on what development is and what its relation is to justice. However, when we write about justice and development, we often assert what should be done, leaving aside questions on how to do it. This is commonly the case with initiatives related to the implementation of peace agreements, and in particular transitional justice frameworks. Justice and development are intertwined concepts, as discussed by Sen and De Greiff.

“Transitional justice” initiatives form a central part of the transition processes designed to move countries away from war and violence (recall that around 60% of armed conflicts relapse in under five years following a peace agreement). However, debates remain regarding what kind of justice should be sought through these processes: restorative (a system of justice that aims to heal and restore social relations within communities) or retributive (a system of justice based on the punishment of offenders), and whether local or national justice initiatives work better. Initiatives for justice and transitional justice face the challenge of bringing about development in different contexts and of integrating different, even competing, stories. This must be achieved in the face of the risk of overgeneralisation regarding what works and what does not work.

The truth is that we still lack an understanding of what really works in bringing about justice; we have opinions and beliefs on what form of justice is better, but no assessment of this has been done on a long-term basis across territories in transitional contexts—at most we have evidence specific to particular contexts in bounded time frames. However justice and development are endeavours that extend over long time periods. In addition, we must recognise that the study and practice of transitional justice is a fairly recent field; the evidence on what works or does not work is not as clear as we would like.

South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission—all talk and no action?

The South African case, and especially its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, lauded in the 1990s and early 2000s as a mechanism of transition able to bring justice to victims of atrocities and human rights abuses and to advance reconciliation, is illuminating. The case clearly illustrates the interlinkages between justice and development: marginalised black South Africans were promised empowerment, emancipation and development as an outcome of the transition away from the Apartheid regime, and this was understood as necessary to reconcile the country. However, over time the “ideal” nature of the South African Transitional Justice framework has been critiqued, and gaps in the implementation of the promises of the transition embraced by South Africa have emerged, raising questions regarding failures to realise the vision of justice the country pursued.

From this, it is clear that it is not only important to reflect on what justice is and how it is envisioned, but also on how visions of justice should be implemented. An ideal framework for justice that cannot be materialised is a mirage that erodes the legitimacy of institutions and may create or exacerbate grievances that fuel further conflicts and affect the legitimacy of the state. South Africa did not only face challenges in arriving at its vision of justice; it faced challenges in translating this particular view of justice into practice.

Colombia’s transition: facing similar problems

The transitional justice framework and the promise of justice espoused in general the peace agreements between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP illustrates the complexities of and contestations involved in determining a shared vision of justice, as well as the critical importance of the need to reflect on the challenges of how to affect this justice. Peace agreements are mere pieces of paper—they need to be enacted and realised in order to for countries to achieve peace.

Practitioners, bureaucrats and academics wanting to understand and effectively respond to the implementation challenges of development and justice work must engage the link between theory and practice and focus explicitly on practice. In the case the transitional justice components of the peace agreements in Colombia, this requires consideration of multiple elements. Academics and practitioners in Colombia and elsewhere in the global South have attempted such an exercise over the last two years—captured in the recent publication “Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in Colombia– Transitioning from Violence.

The volume considers how the context of Colombia conditions the possibility of the justice agreements being implemented and the practical implications and requirements of the concepts of justice mobilised in the agreements. The text engages with the challenges ahead for the implementation of the transitional justice agreements, particularly in relation to rural reform, reincorporation and reconciliation, historical memory and symbolic reparation, as well as feminist and intergenerational approaches to justice and reconciliation. The volume also brings together lessons applicable to Colombia from other countries’ experiences with transitional justice—notably from South Africa, Sri Lanka, Peru and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This kind of analysis will always face the constant tension between theory—the legislative frameworks guaranteeing human rights—and practice—the realisation of these ideas—in complex settings in which generalisations are difficult, evidence is limited, and information is limited. This is the challenging space in which Transitional Justice frameworks will succeed or fail in bringing about development in Colombia, South Africa, and elsewhere.

Picture credit: Camilo Rueda López

UntitledAbout the author: 

Fabio Andres Diaz Pabon is a Colombian political scientist. He is a research associate at the Department of Political and International Studies at Rhodes University in South Africa and a researcher at the ISS. Fabio works at the intersection between theory and practice, and his research interests are related to state strength, civil war, conflict and protests in the midst of globalisation.

Deglobalisation Series | Challenges to the liberal peace by Syed Mansoob Murshed

Deglobalisation Series | Challenges to the liberal peace by Syed Mansoob Murshed

We may have reached a stage where economic interactions have become so internationalised that further increases in globalisation cannot deliver greater prospects of peace. But the logic of the capitalist ...

The Hague Peace Projects: practicing peace and justice by Helen Hintjens

The Hague Peace Projects: practicing peace and justice by Helen Hintjens

How can peace and justice be embodied? How can we move from thinking about societal problems to taking concrete action to bring about change? The Hague Peace Projects, a program ...