Interview with Sarah Beeching of the Oshun Partnership

Hello all,

As conference co-chair, I recently had the opportunity to interview keynote speaker Sarah Beeching about issues relating to humanitarian and development coordination and cross-sector efforts in education and other target areas in conflict-affected environments. Looking forward from the conference to forums and discussions taking place this summer in the lead up to the September 2015 implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, Sarah offered her insight into the complex challenges that actors must strive to address in order to jumpstart the post-2015 era. Sarah and I had a fascinating conversation, parts of which I’m happy to be able to share with you all. The interview has been posted to the French Development Agency’s Ideas for Development blog, which fosters development-oriented debate and discussion. A preview and link to the full post are provided below!

Best wishes,

Bridget Golob

Aid in conflict areas: let’s break down the barriers between the sectors

For children in conflict areas, education can often remain elusive during periods of violence and for years after. What are the main challenges to address for the education sector in such contexts? What are the financial and policy commitments required to target fragmentation in the field of development during conflict situations? Find out the answers to these questions and more in this interview with Sarah Beeching, Executive Director of Oshun Partnership and speaker in the recent ‘Post-2015 Development Challenges in Conflict Zones’ conference.

Read the full post!



Strategy and Humanity: NGO-military relations

“At each stopping place, long narrow huts had been erected to receive the wounded who,on leaving the carriages, were placed on beds, or on simple mattresses lined up one beside the other. Under these shelters stood tables heavily loaded with bread, soup, wine and, above all, water, as well as lint and bandages which continued to be constantly needed. The darkness was lighted by a mass of torches which were held up by the youth of the locality where the train had stopped; and the Lombard townspeople, acting as improvised orderlies, made haste to bring their tribute of regard and gratitude to the conquerors of Solferino. Without noise, in religious silence, they dressed the men’s wounds, carrying them out of the train with fatherly care and laying them carefully on the couches prepared for them.“  Henri Dunant ‘A Memory of Solferino’

The world has changed and is far from the stillness and deathly quiet of the battlefields that the founder of the Red Cross, Henri Dunant wandered around in Italy. As he gazed upon row after row of wounded soldiers, the depth of human suffering prompted a response which underpins the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality and neutrality. These noble principles are those which many aid based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) strive to maintain and rightly so. However, such organisations are increasingly faced with the reality that the battlefields of today are not delineated open spaces with organised territory, with one area for weapons and another for lunch; they are villages, family homes, the shop on the corner, entire cities. ‘Humanitarian space’ – a term for the physical and metaphorical space in which humanitarian organisations carry out their work – is highly contested ground. Furthermore, the nature of their work has become politicised and no longer carries the impartial ambivalence that justified its existence. Consider present-day Syria, where aid resources are being marketed, stolen or passed off as goodwill gestures by warring parties to the towns they inhabit, as well as the unprecedented numbers of aid workers killed in the last decade.

Thus, there is no doubt that a degree of security is absolutely necessary in order to provide even the most basic of humanitarian assistance in areas where conflict is still rife. Increasingly, given the efficiency, strategic mindset and capabilities of organised forces, both state and private militaries have been deployed to ensure that aid is delivered securely and that workers are protected. So why is there still such disparity and unwillingness to co-operate between the humanitarian and security spheres? This is a huge question, which brings in multiple factors such as the perception of the military by donors and recipients of aid alike. However, on a practical level, we may initially consider three reasons.

Firstly, military forces often view humanitarian assistance in terms of its strategic value in a conflict zone. The material and political value of providing resources is of intense importance in conflicts which are increasingly fought in civilian spaces, reflecting the blurring of state and non-state actors in combat. This polarises humanitarian priorities of impartial provision of aid for people in need; the military, on the other hand, considers NGOs’ disregard for security considerations as irresponsible. Secondly, securitising an aid environment has the potential to erode neutrality and relations with the communities in which NGOs work- relations which may have been painstakingly built up over a period of time. Thirdly, as the humanitarian world increasingly becomes aware of the need to incorporate sustainable development into emergency aid work that contributes to rather than replaces state responsibilities, the immediacy of military security objectives clashes with the need for long term planning.

Perhaps ironically, Dunant’s initial idea was for relief organisations to provide care and aid for wounded military personnel; whilst he condemned war, he understood its necessity and the willing sacrifice of soldiers. The nature of warfare has changed to the extent that civilians now pay the price of war waged in unstable countries, not only in lives but in the disastrous consequences of disrupting the basic supply of food, water and shelter.  In such environments, the demand for humanitarian assistance has never been greater – equally, so is the need for a secure environment in which to work.  The fourth panel of the upcoming CSD conference combines the professional experience and expertise of leaders in both military and humanitarian spheres which will contribute to the broad discussion of how to better approach this complex partnership.

Nicole Tribe

A First-hand Look at Water Insecurity

Like most people in the developed world, the need to find clean water has never been a daily concern for me. I could go to one of the three rooms in my house with a faucet, turn it on, and be instantly presented with a seemingly limitless flow of either hot or cold water. On the rare occasion I was in a place where tap water was not suitable for drinking, a bottle of water from the corner store was never far away. And while I was mentally aware of the problems people around the world had in procuring this vital resource, I only gained a full appreciation of the challenges and conflict associated with water resources when I started working in Tajikistan. I lived in a small compound with another American woman and our Tajik landlords. The infrastructure was rough, to put it simply. The houses were made of a local variety of concrete, consisting of mud and straw, which was then hastily white-washed to give it a more aesthetically pleasing look. Our electricity, although far better than many of our neighbours, disappeared for a few hours several times a week. And we shared a large, outdoor, stone basin sink with a rough metal pipe that spouted one temperature of water – ice cold. This water flowed down from the hills surrounding my village through a complicated system of hoses and pipes maintained by the residents themselves. There was little regulation of water supply – in the spring when the snow was melting we had to leave the spout running constantly to relieve pressure on the hoses because the volume of water was so high, while in the winter we frequently had only a small trickle. During the planting season, local disputes often erupted when someone accused a neighbour of interfering with the shared hoses and pipes to redirect water supplies for their own use, thereby depriving their neighbour. And the haphazard structure of these pipes meant used water could make its way downstream and into another house’s supply, with serious consequences for health and sanitation.These water challenges I witnessed in Tajikistan are representative of the broader water challenges faced throughout the world.

Water insecurity exists on every inhabited continent and in both developed and developing countries. From California to sub-Saharan Africa, communities are struggling to cope with a lack of access to water for drinking, bathing and growing food. In poor and developing regions, this can have serious negative implications for development at both the local and national scale. High population growth in developing regions already characterised by water scarcity, including the Middle East and South Asia, is placing an even greater strain on existing water resources. These problems are likely to worsen unless substantial changes are implemented worldwide. To maintain domestic stability, some national leaders (including those in Tajikistan) have adopted more aggressive positions and rhetoric to protect water supply. But this has only led to more frequent inter and intra-state disputes – 174 of them since 2000, according to the Pacific Institute.¹ The current status quo regarding water is unsustainable and must be addressed by policy makers and practitioners as an immediate need for both international development and conflict prevention.

The panel ‘Blue Gold: Impending threats to water security and development’ brings together experts from a variety of fields and practices, all focusing on the current and future challenges concerning our water supplies. Mikå Mered from POLARISK Group will bring extensive experience in the risk management field, focusing particularly on the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Drs. Marwa Daoudy and Mark Zeitoun will provide a crucial academic perspective to this issue, drawing on their extensive research in two regions where both water insecurity and conflict are prevalent – Africa and the Middle East. Lastly, Dr. Daanish Mustafa will bring both vast knowledge on critical water resources, with a special focus on Pakistan, to the discussion. We hope you will enjoy this panel and the stimulating discussion that is sure to follow. For more information about our conference, speakers, and panels, please visit our website at

Rachel Hoffman


Building the culture of peace in Bosnia: The Children of Stolac

A personal account examining the vital role education plays in encouraging peace in conflict and post-conflict environments

This year will be the 20-year anniversary of the end of the Bosnian War. And yet, two decades later, different ethnic groups remain separated socio-economically and politically in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In light of ongoing conflicts worldwide, it is important to understand why education and civil society programs can to prevent fragmentation and how they can reconcile communities and their historical cultural heritage.

The Centre André Malraux: strong voice on young people’s issues

Working on Bosnia’s cultural heritage and inter-communities’ cultural identity, the French Cultural Centre André Malraux is a Franco-Bosnian organization well known for its activities during the Yugoslavian war. Now considered a cornerstone in Bosnia’s post-conflict civil society, it is particularly involved in promoting education and art as a medium to engage in dialogue and help bring people together across the divide of the civil war.

At the crossroads: Stolac

‘Gardens of Stolac, Gardens of Europe’ is an annual festival on the topic of inter-ethnic community reconciliation through the urban reconstruction of Stolac, a little city in southern Bosnia. Every year, about 30 students and volunteers from Bosnia, Serbia and France work and collaborate on an artistic planning and landscaping project in the city. The main objective of this urban project is to erase ethnic lines through the (re)appropriation of common urban spaces, that were first overrun by the war and now by the vegetation.

Mi smo za mir. (We are for peace).

Through this vast rehabilitation project, the festival seeks to rescue Stolac’s cultural heritage. In addition to our experts helping local actors (adults and young people) to rebuild their city and restore its cultural property, we worked with children through educational workshops, screenings, board games, cultural tours, and cooking courses, to teach and create a better understanding of their cultural heritage, especially in areas beset by conflict. And while workers gradually rehabilitated parks and an old mill, the collection of paintings and drawings we accumulated in a month rehabilitated Stolac’ history, revealing a new Stolac through children’s eyes, one more peaceful and colorful.

Education and Cultural Heritage in Bosnia

In Bosnia, civil society activists struggle to legitimate their presence and resist the ethnic generalizations and erosion of trust that the war caused. In Stolac, the narratives about ‘outsiders’ or ‘Muslim-friendly’ were part of our main obstacles. Nevertheless, this discourse is not necessarily deliberate.

Containing, in one small space, unique cultural-artistic and aesthetic values, Stolac’s historic core is an example of a complex cultural-historical and natural environmental ensemble. It is an example of the organic link between human and natural architectures. But Stolac is also an example that Muslims and Croats from Stolac have much in common than Croats from Stolac do with Croats from Herzegovina. People originating from Stolac have a level of understanding and respect between themselves that outsiders and other Bosnian citizens lack. That has laid auspicious foundations for our activities. But the beauty of the location, as well as the harmonious cohabitation of its citizens has been damaged by the war. The fracture remains visible both on the walls and among children.

Children: the path to reconciliation

The 2012 edition of Stolac festival, the year I worked there, was particularly successful in terms of cultural identity, heritage and preservation. Children from all communities actively participated to our thought exercises and workshops. They showed a real desire for ethnic co-existence and rejected exclusive religious and ethnic rhetoric. While only 4 Muslim kids showed up during the first screening nights, they were more than 30 the last night.

Nowadays, the matter is clearly not the Croat or Muslim ethnic identities but the lack of education and concept of a shared national history. It is the inheritance of the ethnic fragmentation. Everyone goes to school but not at the same time: Muslims go in the morning, Croats in the afternoon.

Every year our main objective is to encourage those children to attend school at the same time. And because we believe that education is an active force in reconciliation and peace building, we will come back until it becomes recurrent to the schooling system.

This year, the Post-2015 Development Challenges in Conflict Zones conference will bring highly knowledgeable experts to talk about the importance of using education as a way to promote peace and development, particularly in conflict areas. For more information about our second panel ‘The Foundation of Development: Implementing the right to education in areas of armed conflict’ and for the biographies on our experts, please visit our webpage.

Helene Trehin

Logistics Team

Photos from the author’s time in Stolac. 




Healthcare Challenges in Conflict Zones – Where do we go from here?

An examination of healthcare challenges in conflict zones could improve general health-oriented development goals and their implementation

In an era where the health-oriented Millennium Development Goals may no longer be sufficient for addressing global health, poverty and inequality, what should replace them and how can they be better implemented? In a time when intrastate war afflicts countries to the point that recurring violence and bad governance can inundate them, how can long-term health outcomes and overall health systems be improved? In the face of such conflict, the international community must develop strategies for improving healthcare delivery and overall population health. Those development strategies cannot be developed in isolation from conflict; on the contrary, in shaping new health-oriented development goals, considerations of conflict-related complications must be taken into account.

Current data demonstrates that states undergoing such public health issues as high maternal mortality rates are overwhelmingly in developing regions. In fact, the UN reports that developing regions still face 14 times higher maternal mortality rates than developed regions. What complicates this trend and relates the importance of building conflict into health goals and strategies is that some of the most deadly ongoing armed conflicts occur in developing states such as Afghanistan and South Sudan. Development, conflict and health crises may not be directly related; however, overlaps and correlations, as well as the vast numbers of people who die from preventable diseases or treatable wounds in conflict or post-conflict settings mean that we should be paying attention to health in conflict settings in approaching future development strategies.

While some improvement in maternal mortality and reproductive health access has been reported, over 35 million people still live with HIV/AIDS and child mortality remains problematic. There remain countless other health concerns that have not been targeted, especially in relation to conflict and post-conflict situations. In such situations, destroyed public health infrastructure and poor access to care can prevent the long-term improvement of population health. In post-conflict situations, non-communicable diseases can surge. While short-term humanitarian action can help to stabilize health crises, the broader development of fragile health systems requires a more sustainable mechanism for addressing long-term population health, disorders and diseases.

How then should health in conflict and post-conflict be incorporated into a new framework? Perhaps baseline data on household incomes, livelihoods, food security and coping mechanisms can help build a more targeted schematic for pinpointing where shortcomings in health systems will occur for populations undergoing shocks. Our panelist John Seaman OBE of Evidence for Development may allude to such data-driven techniques. Another approach, as panelist Richard Sullivan may present, is the collaboration of civil and military forces, with complementary strengths, to handle public health emergencies and deliver healthcare in post-conflict settings. Alternatively, it is possible that revised health-oriented development goals might simply benefit from a greater emphasis on the specific challenges that conflict zones present, meaning implementation strategies are more attuned to the development challenges that will be faced.

At the first session of the Post-2015 Development Challenges in Conflict Zones conference, a panel of health experts will bring options, solutions and critiques associated with healthcare provision in conflict and post-conflict situations from various academic, political and practical perspectives. The panel will discuss what should replace the lone health-related MDG in a post-2015 development agenda and how health can be better improved through a greater understanding of challenges in conflict and post-conflict situations. Visit our webpage for more information and for the biographies on our healthcare delivery panelists and chair.

We look forward to hearing your perspectives at the panel!

Best regards,

Bridget Golob


Welcome to the 2015 Conflict, Security and Development Conference

In the year 2015, it now seems difficult to look back and imagine the world at the turn of the Millennium. Designated as the International Year for the Culture of Peace by the UN, Y2K cumulated in the Millennium Summit, in New York City on September 6-8th, setting out eight distinct ‘Millennium Development Goals’ (MDG’s.) While the goals were clearly optimistic, the Millennium brought an excitement, especially in the UN, that liberal ideas and development could drastically improve the lives of millions around the world. With the Cold War ended and the UN making significant progress towards the end of the Yugoslav wars, there was much to be optimistic about.

With the MDG’s set to expire this year, much of the former optimism seems to have diminished. The year 2014 alone has clearly been a dispiriting year for International Security and Development. Cases such as Syria, Iraq and Gaza in the Middle East underline how fragility and conflict have devastated all forms of progress, from government reform and economic growth to fighting poverty and improving healthcare and education.  In Africa, the South Sudan crisis has worsened once more, Ebola is still ravaging West Africa and Islamic terrorism, notably in the form of Boko Haram in Nigeria, was significantly worsened. Furthermore, natural disasters such as Typhoon Haiyan caused mass destruction in the Philippines, drug wars in Central and Latin America continue to rage, and the lasting fallout of wars in Libya, Mali, Yemen and Somalia continues to hamper development.  The ongoing crisis in Ukraine threatens a return of conflict to the European continent.

It is through this chaos that the UN has tried to persevere with the MDG’s, although they admit that in 2014 ‘a combination of conflict, disease, natural disasters and environmental crises all threatened decades of development gains worldwide.’¹ While some of these threats are new, the core issues and challenges to development these cause are not. It has been clear since the turn of the Millennium, that progress towards the achievement of the MDG goals has been slowest in fragile and conflict affected states,. Fragile or conflict-affected countries have yet to achieve a single Millennium Development Goal and generally lag 40-50% behind other low and middle-income countries in MDG achievement.² With the MDGs set to expire this year, future development policy at local, national and international levels must address the various security challenges that impede human, political and economic development in conflict zones. This year’s Conflict, Security and Development conference aims to discuss these challenges and possible ways of tackling them.

‘Post-2015 Development Challenges in Conflict Zones,’ is the second student-led conference of the Conflict, Security and Development master’s programme at the War Studies Department at King’s College London. After our successful inaugural conference last year, Transnational Organised Crime in Conflict Zones, we hope that this event will become a permanent fixture on the Department’s calendar. Student engagement this year has been extremely positive, with over 20 master’s students on the organising committee helping to ensure that the conference will be a great success. Please stay tuned on our Facebook page and website for any news.

For further information about our panels and speakers please follow this link to our website.

We hope to see you at this year’s conference.

Richard Blunt