Conflict and Fragility

2074-3637 (online)
2074-3645 (print)
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This series of books from OECD's Development Co-operation Directorate address the issues of violent conflict and fragile governments in developing countries, and how aid can be designed to reduce violence and strengthen governments.

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Preventing Violence, War and State Collapse

Preventing Violence, War and State Collapse

The Future of Conflict Early Warning and Response You do not have access to this content

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19 Feb 2009
9789264059818 (PDF) ;9789264059801(print)

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The international community today is hardly in a position to avoid another genocide, as witnessed in Rwanda in 1994, despite the significant evolution of early warning systems in recent years. Based on a review of the literature on early warning and response, as well as inputs from surveyed agencies, Preventing Violence, War and State Collapse assesses the value and role of early warning for the prevention of violent conflict and identifies the most effective early warning and response systems. It concludes with a set of recommendations for policy makers in donor and partner countries in influencing future developments in this field.
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  • Executive Summary
    The aim of this report is to support the efforts of OECD DAC members and others to better integrate conflict early warning analysis and response into their programming. The report is based on a review of the literature on early warning and response and inputs from surveyed agencies. It seeks to assess the value and role of early warning for the prevention of violent conflict and peacebuilding; identify the most effective early warning and response systems; evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different systems; pinpoint the obstacles to early response; and make some tentative judgements on what the role of OECD DAC could be in influencing future developments in this field.
  • Introduction

    This report has been commissioned by the OECD DAC Conflict Peace and Development Co-operation Network (CPDC) and the Fragile States Group (FSG) as part of the joint workstream on early warning, preventive action, and collective response.

    The aim of the report (and indeed of the workstream itself) is to support the efforts of OECD DAC members and other governmental, multilateral and NGO partners to better integrate early warning analysis and response into their programming.

  • A Short Contemporary History of Conflict Early Warning
    Charting a short history of the conflict early warning field is not easy. The field draws heavily on work in many sectors (early warning for natural disasters for example), and has benefited from thinking, research and advocacy by numerous individuals and organisations. This chapter seeks to explain initial thinking behind conflict early warning and looks at its emergence on the international policy agenda. It outlines the evolution of operational early warning systems after the end of the Cold War and particularly after the Rwandan genocide in 1994. It reviews the initial debates among implementing organisations and discusses the evolution of different tools and methods (e.g. conflict assessment and analysis of state fragility) and of individual operational early warning systems. The chapter concludes with a review of the main points of criticism and challenges with which proponents of conflict early warning need to engage
  • The Range of Early Warning Tools and Systems
    Conflict early warning is today trying to find a balance between remaining relevant to its funders and focusing on the protection and preservation of life. However, it is tilting significantly towards the former. The pursuit of relevance means that the notion of an open source, pro-people and propeace conflict early warning system is giving way to one with a far more pronounced intelligence dimension, particularly among governmental and inter-governmental agencies that run such systems. Whereas this is in part a consequence of changing perceptions of international threats in the north, it bodes badly for those who believe that conflict early warning can contribute to a more democratic peace, focused on human security.
  • Is Early Early? A Review of Response Mechanisms and Instruments
    Advances over the past 15 years or so in early and rapid response have been made in the range of institutions, mechanisms, instruments and processes available to manage violent conflict – and in national, regional and international willingness to use force in situations of violent conflict. However, more has not necessarily meant better. In fact, the multiplicity of actors and responses means that the problem of late, incoherent, fragmented, and confused response is perhaps greater today than it was at the time of the Rwandan genocide. If the problem was then that "early warning is not wired to the bulb", today it may be that there are too many bulbs competing with each other and not working when they should.
  • Future Directions for Early Warning and Early Response
    International threat perceptions have changed since the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001. Another mutation in threats is likely over the next decade – involving a mix of repercussions of climate change (water and land scarcity, population displacements), fallout from the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan and the war on terrorism, and the transformation of violent conflict into criminalised armed violence, to mention just a few factors. Whether advances in technology, early warning and global response capabilities are likely to place us in a position to effectively manage these threats is questionable. The future of conflict early warning and response is likely to be driven by a combination of future security threats, advances in technology and, of course, current warning and response trends. What does that add up to? What are the implications for current early warning and response systems? This chapter attempts to provide some answers to these questions.
  • Conclusions and Recommendations
    This report has reviewed the history of the early warning field, discussed the range of current early warning tools and operational systems, assessed a selection of early/rapid response mechanisms/instruments, and discussed future directions for the field. What then is the big picture? What does it mean in relation to the critical questions raised in this report? Where is future work required? And what should the OECD DAC and its members do about it? This concluding chapter attempts to answer those questions.
  • Annex
    This compendium summarises questionnaires completed by different agencies as part of an OECD DAC mapping exercise of early warning and early response systems (December 2007 to May 2008). Where relevant, it also draws on information from other reviews of early warning systems (e.g. Cilliers, 2005; Lavoix, 2007), as well as other institutional documents available from respondents. The compendium does not include details of early warning systems/response mechanisms and instruments where respondents were unable to complete questionnaires. It serves as a supplement to the present OECD/DAC report Preventing Violence, War and State Collapse: The Future of Conflict Early Warning and Response. The compendium is organised into governmental, inter-governmental and nongovernmental early warning systems and response mechanisms/instruments. The different warning systems and response mechanism/instruments covered are described in brief profiles.
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