Daniel Korski

About Daniel Korski

Daniel Korski is a Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. He has worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Yemen as well as in the United States. He is also a Senior Advisor to the Project on National Security Forum.

Engaging Diasporas in Peace-building

Diaspora and exile groups may play an important, but sometimes also controversial, role in conflicts and political unrest in their countries of origin. Often their engagement is benign and comes in the form of remittances. But many diaspora communities also lobby decision-makers and parliamentarians in the new country of residence or collect money among co-nationals in order to support ‘the struggle’ at home.

Think of the Irish in the US, sending money to the IRA for decades. Or the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and the influence of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. Or even the role of the Pakistani community in Europe.

This is by no means a new phenomenon. Yet, the growing number of intra-state conflicts, the enhanced possibilities for transnational communication, mobilization and action as well as the upsurge in domestic and international security concerns after 9/11, have focused attention on diasporas. Or at least should have.

For despite their role, most peace-building interventions — whether UN, NATO or EU led – spend little time engaging with diaspora communities. There is more and more writing, but it is hard to see governments taking this issue seriously, except as a domestic political issue (i.e MPs placating diaspora constituents by tabling EDMs).

In a time of dwindling resources, and assuming that unilateral or coalition interventions are less likely in the future, it may become important to engage these diaspora communities in a systematic way.

How can the British government engage the Pakistani community to ensure support for democratic forces in Pakistan? Should the Foreign Office consider, as a rule, having a Diaspora Desk Officer in its Afghan Group, or Iraq Unit? Should funds be set aside by DfiD for funding diaspora-led programmes?

Such programme may not be the most effective in, say, building schools but they may have an important function in challenging the role of organizations like Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the political and civic wing of the outlawed terrorist group Laskhar-e-Taiba, which is benefitting from the Pakistani government’s inaction in many of the IDP camps in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).

With decreasing resources, but constant if not increasing security demands, finding new ways of addressing conflict (prevention, management and resolution) will be key. Re-thinking how to engage with diasporas may be part of this.

Dashboard Broke the News

You will be pleased to know that this blog is now not only good for analysis, but is also sometimes first with the news…

Earlier today, Gordon Brown announced that he had appointed Des Browne as UK Special Envoy for Sri Lanka. Two days ago I broke this news in my piece about the futility of UK envoy. Conclusion: Global Dashboard is well-informed, but not read by anyone in power…

Welsh diplomat may head to Bosnia

Since Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak resigned as High Representative and EU special representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there has been a mad scramble to fill his post. The British Government has apparently nominated Sir Emyr Jones Parry, Britain’s former UN ambassador, after having asked Rupert Smith and Jeremy Greenstock.

But Greece, Estonia, Austria and Italy are also said to have put forward candidates for the position. Italy’s candidate is said to be Renzo Daviddi, the European Commission’s man in Kosovo.

The person selected by the European Council to serve as EUSR would then need to be proposed to PIC Steering Board capitals as the EU’s nominee for high representative. Assuming the PIC concurred, the practice of ‘double-hatting’ inaugurated in 2002 would continue. This might facilitate the ‘transition’ of OHR into a EUSR office, particularly if the EU can in the meantime agree a robust mandate for a ‘reinforced’ EUSR. It is unlikely that several PIC Steering Board countries – both EU and non-EU members – would agree to close OHR in the absence of assurances that the new EUSR would have the requisite personal and institutional clout.

Other PIC capitals – both EU and non-EU – are keen, however, to close OHR as soon as possible. Opinion in BiH is likewise divided. Republika Srpska politicians see Lajčák’s early departure as a heaven-sent opportunity to get rid of OHR altogether. Most of their counterparts in the Federation, on the other hand, still regard the maintenance of OHR in its full capacity as essential.

Whoever is elected for the job will have to arrive in Sarajevo with a plan, the centre piece of which should be constitutional change. Bosnia cannot survive in its present dysfunctional state: the country’s governance is overly complicated and the ethnicity-favoring provisions in the country’s constitution and election law too centrifugal to create lasting stability.  As Judy Blatt says in a new FRIDE report:

The EU should be ready to take the lead in an active and assertive approach to mediating the constitutional reform process

Taking on constitutional issue also the right battle, as it is inimical to RS leader Milorad Dodik, whose whole political support is built on increasing the powers of the RS and diminishing the powers of the Bosnian state.

What a new constitutional set-up will look like, how to get domestic agreement on a new constitution and how to use the EU’s accession process as a goad for the reform process are questions that the EU man will have to answer. “Pob lwc”, as they say in Welsh. Good luck.

Envoys galore

For many years, the US has influenced UK national security thinking and vice versa. The 1947 National Security Act, pushed through by Harry Truman, was in many ways an attempt at copying the British system of government, which US policy-makers and commanders had come to admire during the years of close US-UK collaboration during WWII.

Later on, the influence tended to move the other way. The 1986 Goldwater-Nicols Act, which put the “joint” into the Pentagon, had as profound an effect on UK military organisation as the general staff system originally employed in Napoleon’s Grande Armée.

But whereas previously the ideas were studied and adapted to the UK’s constitutional set-up, today it seems anything invented in the US should be imported wholesale to the UK, regardless of whether it fits the political, legal and constitutional set-up or not.

So Richard Holbroke’s appointment as President Obama’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan has now been matched by the choice of Sherard Cowper-Coles as the Foreign Secretary’s Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. This adds to Jack McConnell’s role as Special Envoy for Conflict Resolution and what is rumoured to be Des Browne’s imminent appointment as the Prime Minster’s envoy to Sri Lanka. Continue reading

The UN’s Gaza lie?

One of the most disturbing stories to emerge during Israel’s recent incursion in Gaza was Israeli shelling of a UN school. This is how Reuters described it:

Israeli shelling killed more than 40 Palestinians on Tuesday at a U.N. school where civilians had taken shelter, medical officials said.

The BBC reported that

. . .at least 40 people were killed and 55 injured when Israeli artillery shells landed outside a United Nations-run school in Gaza, UN officials have said.

But though the BBC story placed the shell outside the school, UN officials have now set the record straight. As Haaretz reports, Maxwell Gaylord, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Jerusalem, clarified that the IDF mortar shells fell in the street near the compound, and not on the compound itself.

UNRWA said that the source of the mistaken story had originated “with a separate branch of the United Nations.” Unfortunately, this branch seems to have pretty good access to the UN Secretary-General’s office, because on 6 January 2009 Ban Ki-Moon himself spoke out against Israel’s “totally unacceptable” attacks against what the UN’s own News Centre called “three clearly-marked United Nations schools, where civilians were seeking refuge from the ongoing conflict in Gaza”.

Who knows what actually happened. The fog of war was deliberately made thicker by both the IDF and Hamas. It is clear many people, including civilians, died in Gaza. But the UN school story is beginning to look like the Jenin “massacre” story from 2002. Then the Palestinian news agency Wafa was reporting that Israel had committed the “massacre of the 21st century” in the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin. “Medical sources” informed Wafa of “hundreds of martyrs.” Reports of the supposed Israeli atrocities in Jenin were spread by Palestinian sources on CNN and elsewhere.

But this turned out to be a lie. There was a battle in Jenin. But the “hundreds” of martyrs were an invention. The death toll was 56 Palestinians, the majority of them combatants, and 23 Israeli soldiers. By then, however, the story had served its purpose, much the same as the UN school story did.

In war, information is a weapon. But not one usually used by the UN.

A heard of Tory GOATS?

Something odd is happening. Though the Tories are cruising for electoral success, many sympathisers are worried that the party has neither the policies nor personalities to make a success of government.

In the City, many bankers and businessmen are unimpressed by George Osborne. People in the defence establishment think Liam Fox is a lightweight. And foreign policy-watchers like William Hague, but worries that he is only working part-time.

When David Milliband offered a duff analysis of international terrorism in The Guardian and managed to insult the Indian government, there was hardly a peep from the Tory frontbench, through the strategic and electoral reasons to speak up are obvious.

This may not prevent the Tories from wining an election, but it could make their time in government look a lot like Labour’s 1997-2001 term – full of intentions and spin, but short on delivery.

It will take more than an “Implementation Unit” to change this. However, George W Bush, Barack Obama and Gordon Brown may have shown the way out of this predicament. They have all brought outsiders or retired officials back into government. Bush brought back General Pete Schoomaker as Army chief and, famously, made Roberts Gates Defence Secretary. Obama has appointed retired admiral Denis Blair as the U.S spy chief and made the Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu Energy Secretary. Brown, meanwhile, has packed the Lords with outsiders, Peter Mandelson just being the most famous (and powerful).

Forgetting for a moment the constitutional problems presented by having too many peers in government as well as the problems arising from having apolitical ministers (like Shriti “Green Shoots” Vadera) what would a line-up of Tory GOATS look like? Readers will have their own views, but to kick-start the discussion here is my list:

1. Arcadia’s Phillip Green as Business Secretary
2. Olympian Sebastian Coe as Sports and Culture Secretary
3. Environmentalist Zac Goldsmith to head the Climate & Energy Department
4. The Times Foreign Affairs Editor Bronwen Maddox as National Security Adviser
5. Former General Rupert Smith as Chief of Defence
6. Ex-AVIVA boss Richard Harvey as International Development Secretary
7. Joel I Klein as Education Secretary (why not a Yank?)
8. Para-Olympian Chris Holmes as Veteran Affairs Secretary

It may also be wise to appoint a number of junior ministers from outside Westminster (though I confess to believing each department ought to have only one “Deputy Secretary of State”, not scores of Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries).  In the Ministry of Defence, for example, I’d make someone like NATO’s Jamie Shea a junior minister or Ronnie Flanagan a Deputy Home Secretary.

What do you think?

Civilianise ESDP

Earlier in the week, Charlie talked about the Tories’ weakness on foreign and defense policy. In many ways, he gave voice to a view felt across the British foreign and defence community. That the Tories do not have a serious and detailed set of national security policies that can be turned into government action. The contrast to the Obama administration is stark. The Democratic President has been able to populate his administration with America’s finest foreign policy thinkers, all of whom have thought deeply about what a Democratic foreign policy should look like.

The Tories are not the only ones blame for the dearth of policy thinking. The British system of government militates against party-based subject-mater expertise. Parties are meant to develop the broad strokes of ideas, which will then be developed and implemented by officials if they enter government. It is therefore very difficult for the Opposition to attract experienced foreign policy thinkers. The pay is low and the rewards are not as attractive as in the U.S. The most a future British Prime Minister can offer is junior ministerial portfolio, working to a senior politician whose background may not be well-suited for a security-related job.

But one issue can be parked at the Tories’ door. Having canvassed a wide section of the London-based foreign policy community, the one issue that keeps coming up time and again is the Tories’ euro-scepticism. As one senior (and decidedly euro-sceptic) thinker told me: “The Tories are rowing back on the pragmatic NATO-EU policy that Malcolm Rifkind developed when he was Defence Secretary.” A widely-respected senior military commander told me only two days ago: “It’s as if a veil descends across their faces when Europe comes up. They don’t even want to engage. But this is not about a European army; it’s about being able to work with allies.”

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