CRS Conference, Oxford 2017

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October
12

Threats to the Liberal International Order are resulting in an upward spike in armed conflicts and threaten a revival of ethnic exclusion, civil war, and nuclear instability, argued Lars Erik Cederman, in his keynote speech to the 2017 CRS Annual Conference. He compared the liberal international order to a garden in a jungle: it needs vigorous action to defend its achievements. Using his own research results, he suggested the link that Gurr drew between minorities at risk and the threat of armed conflict still holds. After a long period in which armed violence has been falling, minority protection has been improving and democratic governance has been spreading, these trends have started to go into reverse. The most recent data suggests a rise in discrimination and exclusion, a higher level of ethnic conflict, a spike in the armed conflict data, coming at the same time as the return to nuclear crises. The rise in populism and the adoption of exclusionary agendas in the White House threatens to erode the liberal world order. Drawing on his own personal reflections, Cederman suggested that a vigorous reform and defence of the liberal order, and reassertion of the values of cooperation, democratic participation, tolerance and pluralism, was vital to avoid the risks this turn to illiberalism might portend.

Cederman’s keynote was the climax of the CRS Conference, on the theme: ‘Ending Conflicts in Turbulent Times: Exploring the Conflict, Peace and Violence Nexus’. The conference was hosted by the Changing Character of War Programme with the support of the Centre for International Studies at Oxford University. More than 160 participants attended – the highest turnout ever to a CRS conference – with delegates arriving from all over the world.

The conference started with a plenary in which Oxford academics Anke Hoeffler, Richard Caplan, and Peter Wilson reflected thoughtfully on their approaches to our field, prompted by questions from Andrea Ruggieri.

Researchers offered excellent presentations of their ongoing research in five parallel sessions, with four or five presenters in each session. Panels spanned the field, covering among other topics:  civil and international conflicts, interventions, peacekeeping, civilian protection, nonviolence, norms and values, gender and conflict, crime and conflict, religious conflict, dialogue and mediation, the Colombian conflict, peacebuilding and peacemaking (see the conference programme for the full list of sessions).

The winners of this year’s CRS Book Prize were Sabrina Karim and Kyle Beardsley, who presented on their book ‘Equal Opportunities Peacekeeping’. Luke Abbs (Essex) and Heidi Riley (University College Dublin) were the joint winners of this year’s Cedric Smith prize for the best postgraduate paper.

Chris Mitchell took us back to the early days of the Society with an endearing video tribute to Tony de Reuck, a founder of the CRS, who passed away earlier this year.

The medieval milieu of Pembroke college provided a memorable backdrop, and participants enjoyed a fine dinner in the College Hall.

CRS thanks all the participants for their contributions, and is grateful to its partners in Oxford University, to the staff at Pembroke College, Oxford, and to the organizers and programme convenors and volunteers for all their work towards a successful conference.

Details of the 2018 CRS conference to be announced soon.

October
12

The Conflict Research Society congratulates Luke Abbs (University of Essex) and Heidi Riley (University College Dublin), the two ex aequo winners of the Cedric Smith Prize 2017. Centering on peace and conflict research, the Cedric Smith Prize is awarded to the best research paper by a UK or ROI based PhD student.

Luke Abbs’ winning article is titled “The Hunger Games: Food Prices, Ethnic Cleavages and Nonviolent Unrest in Africa.” It explores how nonviolent movements overcome ethnic divisions, which a growing literature on civil resistance has associated with constraints on broad and diverse mobilization, which in turn is crucial for the success of such movements. The author argues (and finds) that nonviolent action is contingent on the existence of cross-cutting grievances, which enable movements to broaden their appeal and unify various intra- and inter-ethnic groups. The jury was impressed by the combination of theoretical innovation and an exceptionally rigorous empirical analysis. By integrating current theorizing about civic protest with a growing literature on food prices and unrest, and with longer-standing theories on ethnic cleavages and grievances, the author makes a strong theoretical contribution to research on nonviolent resistance.

The title of Heidi Riley’s winning article is “Male Collective Identity in the People’s Liberation Army of Nepal.” It examines how participation in insurgency shifts notions of masculinity within low-level male combatants. Through conducting in-depth, qualitative interviews with former members of the Nepal People’s Liberation Army (Maoist), the author finds that the gender equal identity espoused by the Maoist leadership was influential in shifting notions of collective gender identity of male low-level cadre. The jury found this a very important, innovative piece that adds a so far neglected aspect to the study of gender in war. The author makes a strong case for the policy relevance of her findings by pointing out that we need to move beyond portraying former combatants primarily as a source of insecurity. Instead, former combatants – especially from rebel groups with progressive gender ideologies – can be important agents of gendered change in post-conflict societies.

The CRS received 13 submissions for the prize. 5 shortlisted articles were then judged by an international jury consisting of Hugh Miall (University of Kent), Kaisa Hinkkainen (University of Leeds), Sabine Otto (Uppsala University), Enzo Nussio (ETH Zurich), and Corinne Bara (Uppsala University).

For more information on the CRS Cedric Smith Prize click here.