Policy and Research Papers

Belgian Special Forces in the Sahel: A Minimal Footprint with Maximal Output?

In a shifting geopolitical context, the Belgian Defence has intensified its presence in the Sahel region and developed a new strategic military collaboration with Niger through Operation New Nero. This policy brief critically examines the strategy and identifies three challenges for the future of the operation: Niger’s democratic development, the asymmetry between the Western Partner Nation’s capabilities, and diverging agendas within the Belgian Defence. To counter these challenges, it is suggested that the minimalist approach and the social networks which enable horizontal collaboration among partners are maintained, while new civil-military opportunities are explored. On a broader level, it is recommended that Belgium aligns its political and military agendas to achieve longterm strategies geopolitical regions of importance.

Please follow the link provided to access the full paper, Belgian Special Forces in the Sahel: A Minimal Footprint with Maximal Output?


Assessing the Effectiveness of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan

In December 2018, Adam Day, Head of Programmes, led a team of researchers to South Sudan to conduct research into the effectiveness and impact of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The team interviewed more than 260 individuals and visited four field locations in the country. The resulting report, conducted under the auspices of the Effectiveness of Peace Operations Network (EPON) assesses the extent to which the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is achieving its current strategic objectives and what impact the Mission has had on the political and security situation in South Sudan. EPON is supported by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), together with over 40 partners to jointly undertake research into the effectiveness of peace operations.

The report focuses on the most recent period of UNMISS’ mandate (2014-18), aiming to provide a “snapshot” of the mission’s work across its four main mandate areas: the protection of civilians, facilitation of humanitarian delivery, promotion of human rights, and support to the peace process. As a large, multidimensional peacekeeping operation – with 17,000 troops, 2,000 police and 2,000 civilians – UNMISS has been provided with significant resources and an extraordinarily ambitious mandate.

Assessing the match between resources and mandate, and the ways the Mission has adapted its approaches to be effective in extremely challenging circumstances is a key objective of this report. Furthermore, this research highlights some of the key dilemmas facing UNMISS today, related to the short-term protection risks to the people of South Sudan versus the longer-term prospects for peace in the country. Learning from the UNMISS experience, it offers broader lessons for UN peacekeeping.

Please follow the link provided to read the full report, Assessing the Effectiveness of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.


The New Geopolitics of Converging Risks: The UN and Prevention in the Era of AI

We are entering an era of hybrid opportunities and threats generated by the combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and other powerful dual-use technologies, with implications for nearly every aspect of daily lives. The convergence of AI and affective computing, cyber and biotechnologies, robotics and additive manufacturing raises complex global implications that are poorly understood, leaving the multilateral system with limited tools to anticipate and prevent emerging risks. At the same time, the spread of AI convergence across a wide range of States, non-State and transnational actors and entities means that the challenges of tomorrow must be addressed collectively and innovatively.

How can the multilateral system better understand and anticipate risks as AI convergence with dual-use technologies intrudes increasingly into the political, social, economic, and security spheres, creating new potential for systemic vulnerabilities and distributive inequalities? How can actors within the multilateral system build better anticipation and prevention capacities in the face of these risks?

This report is the first step in developing a common understanding of the emerging impacts of AI convergence on the United Nations’ prevention agenda. It provides: an analysis of current trends in AI convergence; scenarios that examine emerging opportunities and risks; principles to guide how innovation should be deployed responsibly by actors in the multilateral system; and a recommendation for a foresight capacity housed within the UN and shared across key communities.

Click the link provided to access the full report, The New Geopolitics of Converging Risks: The UN and Prevention in the Era of AI


States of Fragility: Stabilisation and its Implications for Humanitarian Action

This HPG Working Paper considers the implications of ‘stabilisation’ for international humanitarian action. Drawing on a series of background case studies conducted in 2009 and 2010, it argues that, while humanitarian actors have been most preoccupied with the growing engagement of the military in the humanitariansphere, it is trends in international political engagement in these contexts that represent the more fundamental challenge.

This paper begins by exploring the evolution and content of ‘stabilisation’ as a discourse and set of policies, and the challenges of translating these into practice and considers the relationship between ‘stabilisation’ and international humanitarian action. The exchange between the two sectors is highly uncertain and contentious, due not only to the controversies that surround stabilisation policies, but also to deep-seated ambiguities at the heart of humanitarianism.

Please follow the link provided to access the full paper States of Fragility: Stabilisation and its Implications for Humanitarian Action.


Escaping the Fragility Trap

Cutting extreme poverty in half is one of the greatest achievements of the last three decades. However, there is much more to do. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set the mission to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. Yet nearly a third of the way towards that deadline, almost 900 million people are still living on less than two dollars a day and, in too many of the world’s poorest countries, progress is completely stuck. 

A great many of these countries are what are often called ‘fragile states’. They are blighted by conflict and corruption. Their governments lack the legitimacy and capacity to deliver the jobs, public services, and opportunities their people need. The latest estimates suggest that by 2030, half of the world’s poor will live in countries that are fragile.

The LSE-Oxford Commission on State Fragility, Growth and Development’s report Escaping the fragility trap  sets out clearly the characteristics of fragility, looks at the wider consequences, and recommends a new approach to state fragility and international aid.

Please follow the link provided to read the full report, Escaping the Fragility Trap.