Friday, August 1, 2008

"The Elephant in the Room: Internal Security Operations and Conflict Management"

Thai soldiers on morning patrol in the conflict ravaged Bananstar 'redzone' in Yala province.

For most non-governmental organizations working on issues involving violent conflict around the world there is a perpetual dilemma.

While working to devise strategies that manage and mitigate violent conflict, there is often the revelation that militaries sent to keep the peace are the primary belligerents threatening peace.

In addition, these soldiers are not fighting wars against another country. They are fighting on home soil.

As Tom Parks has just posted on the Asia Foundation's In Asia Blog:

"For most soldiers in Asia, the only real fighting they will ever see will be within their own borders."

The problem for NGOs is this; if they know that military abuse is a major driver of conflict, can NGOs simply ignore this fact?

This is the classic question of triage. NGOs and other aid agencies can continue to treat the symptoms conflict, but without addressing the source of the problem, there is no long term solution.

But, this is of course a politically loaded topic.
Any trespassing away from civil society and involvement with militaries could threaten an NGOs standing with either their host government or the citizens that they work with.

Yet the fact that this topic is being approached is a positive step. By bringing this topic into NGO discourse it might be possible to creatively and systematically address the potential dangers of such work.

But most importantly, the potential for NGOs to move from conflict triage to true conflict mitigation can be opened.

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