Monday, July 02, 2007

Beyond Disasters: Creating Opportunities for Peace

Featured Speakers: Zoë Chafe, Worldwatch Institute; Michael Renner, Worldwatch Institute; Anita Sharma, ENOUGH

With natural disasters having doubled in the last two decades, it is more important than ever for policymakers to address disaster relief as comprehensively as possible. Using three case studies, the Aceh province of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Kashmir, Chafe and Renner explored the potential to use disaster relief as an opportunity for conflict resolution.

Natural disasters can provide key opportunities for conflict-riddled areas. According to Michael Renner, post-disaster goodwill often exists on all sides, but it is always short-lived and rarely manifests itself politically. In Aceh, the world’s attention after the 2004 tsunami created the political space both sides needed to resolve the separatist conflict. Speaking from personal experience, Anita Sharma described how equitable aid addressed the basic needs of housing and economic stability—and was backed by publicly transparent donor organizations—allowed the disaster and conflict relief efforts to succeed in Aceh. Conversely, in Sri Lanka and Kashmir, natural disasters were not enough to bring enemy groups together; donor groups in Sri Lanka were left helpless as control of funds already donated became a bitter political issue, and both Indian and Pakistani armies acted like occupiers, not relief forces, in Kashmir. Renner stressed the importance of using indigenous solutions that address core issues surrounding a conflict. Renner promoted the neutralization of anti-peace forces and democratic institution-building, to allow countries to create peaceful environments in which they are able to rebuild.

Sponsor: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Location: Wilson Center, 5th Floor Conference Room
Date: June 28, 2007
Time: 12 noon – 2 pm
Approximate Number of Attendees: 40
Intern Attending: Mike Heslin

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