Monday, April 20, 2009

Disasters and Peace - UChannel Podcast

Some time ago, someone said to me: "The only thing that will give a good turn to the Arab-Israeli conflict will be a great natural disaster. It will show how the Israelis and Palestinians are in the same boat, it will force them to cooperate and this in turn will produce a basis of mutual trust and respect." I was surprised by this idea and at the same time not completely convinced. Besides why must we wait for disaster to strik?

Can disasters have such an unexpected good side-effect? On UChannel Podcast was a lecture by Michael Renner given at NYU Wagner that addressed exactly this phenomenon. Renner uses the 2004 Tsunami as the example disaster and looks at Aceh and at Sri Lanka to see the peace effects. The result is mixed. Somehow on Aceh, peace could be given a new impulse and this development looks sustainable. On Sri Lanka however, although also here the impulse was put in place, the peace process got stuck for lack of political commitment.

If political commitment is a prerequisite for the success, not only is a peace turn out of a disaster no easy result, neither is it one that can be achieved with the right amount of grass roots or external effort. The Sri Lanka case shows how the ruling elite somehow holds a power of veto. It is conceivable that also in the Middle East there are enough political streams that are so profoundly not interesting in peace that a disaster may not change this at all. And then they can sabotage whatever peace developments spring up.

More UChannel Podcast:
Enclosing the commons of the mind,
Middle East challenges,
Good climate for everyone (global warming),
Robots and War,
Sudan and the fallacy of nationhood.

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