Friday, April 13, 2012

What has UNMISS achieved?......Nothing

Roving Bandit poses the question of the efficacy of UNMISS and goes further to question the viability of aid expenditure on peacebuilding and governance in general when compared to the "safer bet" of investing in health and education.

Lets first address the simpler issue regarding UNMISS......
What have they achieved? little that their ineptitude has caused a vacuum that threatens to engulf our planet ....

I was tempted to just leave it at that........but I guess there are many more laughable points to be gained from a deeper investigation.

The best place to start would be their website. While there are all sorts of updates, articles and reports on all sorts of activities that you would think UNMISS is involved in, a closer inspection leads to the realisation that UNMISS is nothing more than an event planning and taxi service. For example, following the violent conflicts in Jonglei earlier this year, the South Sudanese Presidential Committee for Peace organised a peace planning workshop (no surprises there), where they came up with a bunch of points and ideas that had already been thought of a million times over during the million other peace planning workshop that has taken place since the concept of peacebuilding came to South Sudan.

In reply to a question regarding how UNMISS hopes to contribute to these wonderfully 'novel' ideas, some important UN guy replied;
"We will provide logistical support, from transporting the committee that has been formed to conduct the peace process at the grass-roots level to organizing workshops and meetings within communities. 
We will participate in substantive discussions and offer ideas for working group meetings. We have also been providing logistical support for sensitization of the parallel civilian disarmament process. And we are prepared to assist with destruction of collected weapons, if that is the government’s wish, or help transport them and store them in a safe and secure place"
Translation: We will let you guys play with our fancy helicopters (which are in a ludicrous abundance and serve very little purpose aside from making the few who get to use it feel like a badass). We will also throw you some wicked-fun conferences with delicious snacks and crappy t-shirts. And finally, we will take out your trash (guns) or burn know.....whatever you need to make us feel like we're doing something.

I got a bit carried away there..... anyways, the site is filled with what their targets and objectives are, but contain absolutely no information regarding what they have achieved (this usually suggests nothing).

And now, regarding Roving Bandit's point on peacebuilding and governance projects in general.....

Someone in his comments section had already addressed the problem of assuming a returns in education so allow me to try and respond to the point on health with an anecdotal point.

I once worked on a project in South Sudan where we were setting up water points as well as latrines (for the school) in a particular village. However, about 2 weeks after the project was complete there were some conflict between different ethnic groups which subsequently led to the entire village being abandoned. Ok, fair enough that this was WASH and not necessarily health, but I think the point is clear. While conflict continues to constantly displace people, it is rather difficult to make a good targeted investment in any sector. Also, lets not forget the number of hospitals that get burned down as a result of conflicts (an example of a couple here).

But the main argument is really that peacebuilding does not necessarily have to be a big gamble. As long as a shred of thought is put into the projects and that ideas are based on actual evidence as opposed to simply being the musings of a bunch of arbitrarily selected individuals at a 'party' organised by UNMISS (more on this rant here) you Roving Bandit; you calculator-wielding, STATA-code-eyed, rational-model-worshipping, oversimplifying, desk jockey!!.........Stop trying to quantify and measure peace. Has the Wire not taught you anything about the downfall of playing a numbers game when it comes to peace?

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