The Human Security Report Project has just released the Human Security Brief 2007 PDF. It contained two most compelling pieces of information:

Fatalities from terrorism have declined by some 40 percent, while the loose-knit terror network associated with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda has suffered a dramatic collapse in popular support throughout the Muslim world.

This is directly contradictory to the fear mongering of the Bush administration. Every day it seems to be adding new states to the list that either harbor or sponsor al Qaeda. This is particularly true in African countries where the US has an interest in oil, natural resources, or in blocking Chinese access. We constantly hear about al Qaeda threats in a variety of African countries.

The Brief also describes and analyses the extraordinary, but largely unnoticed, positive change in sub-Saharan Africa’s security landscape. After a surge of conflicts in the 1990s, the number of conflicts being waged in the region more than halved between 1999 and 2006; the combat toll dropped by 98 percent.

The Brief (PDF) contains the following regarding Africa:

° There has been a major decline in the scope and intensity of conflicts.
° Refugee numbers have shrunk substantially.
° The share of global humanitarian assistance going to Africa doubled between 1999 and 2006—from 23 percent to 46 percent
. . .
Between 2002 and 2006 the number of campaigns of organized violence against civilians fell by two-thirds.

Why the Sharp Increase in Conflict Numbers in the 1990s?

The increase in new state-based conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s was not unique to the region and was clearly related to the end of the Cold War. Regimes and rebel groups that had long been propped up by the assistance given by one or the other of the two superpowers suddenly found that this support—political as well as economic—had disappeared. The result in many cases, not just in sub-Saharan Africa, was regime change and ongoing political instability.

However, in sub-Saharan Africa something else was happening: The countries of the region, to a greater degree than in other parts of the world, were undergoing profound and wrenching political change. In 1988 nearly 90 percent of sub-Saharan African states had autocratic governments. By 2006 there were just two autocracies in the region, while the number of democracies had increased sixfold, from three to 18.

Had the only change been a decrease in autocracies and an increase in democracies, it would likely have enhanced regional security, since democracies tend to experience fewer armed conflicts than do autocracies. But these were not the only changes.

[There were] trends in “anocracies”—a third regime type, one that is neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic, but a mix of both systems.

The increase in the number of anocracies in sub-Saharan Africa between 1988 and 2000 is startling—far greater than in any other region of the world. In 1988 there were two anocracies and 37 autocracies in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2000 there were just four autocracies, but 30 anocracies. This change is an important part of the explanation for the sharp increase in conflict numbers in the 1990s.

So what then does explain the sharp increase in the number of conflicts that have been brought to an end since the early 1990s? A major part of the answer lies with the extraordinary upsurge in international activism in the region directed towards stopping ongoing wars and seeking to prevent them from starting again. From the early 1990s, the international community— including the African Union (AU)—was bringing real pressure to bear on warring parties to negotiate an end to hostilities rather than to fight on to the bitter end. The big increase in negotiated settlements during this period suggests that this strategy has been effective. with the UN, to help stop wars and prevent them from starting again.

Postconflict peacebuilding missions also expanded rapidly and have played a positive role in helping prevent negotiated peace settlements from breaking down. From 1950 to 1999 there were just 18 negotiated settlements—and nearly half broke down within five years. From 2000 to 2005 there were 10 such settlements—thus far not one has broken down. Postconflict peacebuilding’s critical security role lies in helping to make negotiated settlements more stable.

It looks like negotiated settlements, followed up by some peacebuilding activity works, particularly those efforts of the UN and the AU.

Before visiting Africa Bush proposed major cuts in the US contribution to UN peacekeeping.

ABC News: U.S. Slashes Africa Peacekeeping Funds

The Bush administration will request no more funding for United Nations peacekeeping efforts, leaving in place proposed cuts expected to be as deep as 25 percent, according to officials and budget documents. Among the programs facing sharpest cuts are efforts to quell violence in Africa.

When ABC News first reported the proposed cuts in February, the administration contended that it might seek additional funding later in the year. But officials confirmed last week that they requested no additional funding in their supplemental budget recently submitted to Congress.

“Unless you are expecting the emergence of peace worldwide,” the cuts are hard to understand …
[Before Bush’s trip to Africa] White House officials talked up the trip and Bush’s commitment to the continent, telling reporters how the president “really cares about Africa.”

U.S. funding for U.S. peacekeeping operations this year could reach $2.1 billion, but the administration had requested less than $1.5 billion to cover its share of the costs of U.N. peacekeeping efforts for 2009.

But “US peacekeeping” in Africa is not necessarily the same as peacekeeping. Under George Bush, “US peacekeeping” is more about controlling oil and other resources for US needs. In fact, Bush’s intentions have been described as trying to undermine and circumvent both the UN and the AU, and replace them with AFRICOM, using the US military, mercenary corporations, and African surrogates to protect US corporate interests, the latest colonial occupation.

click on map to enlarge, or see original here

It is very pleasant to report some good news! Ghana ranks High, number 40, as one of the more peaceful nations in the world on the Global Peace Index, developed in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit. Ghana scores high above the United States, which ranks Low, and is number 96 out of 121 countries rated. The full list of rankings is here.

As the Global Peace Index states:

Peace and sustainability are the cornerstones of humanity’s survival in the 21st century. The major challenges facing humanity today are global – climate change, accessible fresh water, ever decreasing bio-diversity and over population. Problems that call for global solutions and these solutions will require co-operation on a global scale unparalleled in history. Peace is the essential prerequisite, for, without peace, how can the major nations of the world co-operate to solve these issues?

The Global Peace Index aims to:

  1. Highlight to the general population the relative position of nations’ and regions’ peacefulness;
  2. Catalyse philanthropic support for further research of peace and funding of peace initiatives;
  3. Serve as a foundation for primary, secondary and tertiary educational study;
  4. Emphasise the need for governments to consider the drivers of peace in policy decisions.

Appreciation to Strategist, who posted Global Peace Index, and writing from New Zealand, adds these comments:

It’s fascinating to compare the indicators between different countries. For example, in New Zealand the level of distrust in other citizens is 2 (scale of 1-5, where 1 = most peaceful), whereas in Israel (119 on the index) it is 4. In Norway, the level of ease of access to small arms is 1, while in Iraq it is 5.

The study also sets out a range of potential determinants (“drivers”) that may “influence the creation and nurturance of peaceful societies”. These include functioning of government, 15-34 year old males as a percentage of total population, importance of religion in national life, and number of paramilitary personnel per 100,000 people.

I have a strong feeling that there are other important drivers, including:

  • A society’s ability to deal with competition, conflict, grievance and aggression through lawful, regulated and fair mechanisms, e.g., a functioning legal system, parliamentary democracy, and sports.
  • The capacity for governments to acknowledge and provide some measure of redress for past wrongs committed against minority groups, thus allowing societies to put chequered pasts behind them. (Interestingly, the New Zealand and Canadian governments have programmes to settle the colonial-era grievances of their indigenous peoples.)
  • Equable access to natural resources (such as clean water) and recreational space, fair pricing for essential commodities and services (like electricity), and statutory protection for rivers, forests and other life sustaining ‘natural services’.
  • An ethos of sustainability – which emphasizes living simply and within one’s means, rather than zero sum competitions with others for money, resources, and prestige.

And SethP in the comments to Strategist suggests another important driver:

I’d add effective local level govt which provides its citizens with an adequate level of basic services – sewerage, refuse collection, power etc etc.