Peace and Conflict Series: Can Data Bring Peace? The Gains and Caveats of Data Science in Peace and Conflict Studies

What can social and political scientists learn from data science? And what can data science contribute to the research on peace and conflict?

‘Most importantly, one has to know what questions to ask’, says Gabriele Schweikert, Research Fellow at the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. ‘And secondly, one needs the necessary data to answer that question.’

For example, researchers on urban conflict might be interested to find out how different instances of violence distribute across a city over time. Available data from media on the location and intensity of violence can be harvested with the help of automatised bots searching for keywords. ‘But if researchers have only a vague idea of their question and do not know what data can do and what not, they might end up with a trivial answer’, she says, adding: ‘Such as the simple result that violent conflict in cities tends to take place in streets.’

Can data predict conflict?

Gabriele’s colleague, Guido Sanguinetti, a Reader in Machine Learning in Informatics at Edinburgh, is an expert in running prediction models, usually in the field of computational biology. But when a friend who worked as a data scientist for the New York Times sent him a visualisation of violent incidents in Afghanistan, taken from the WikiLeaks Afghan War Diaries, he realised that he could ‘do much more with the available data’.

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New Blog Series: Rethinking Peace and Conflict Research in Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh’s research expertise on peace and conflict is growing fast, making it ever more important to connect and communicate across disciplinary lines. To this effect, a new blog series titled Rethinking Peace and Conflict Research in Edinburgh will foster exchange and make this ongoing research and its challenges more visible. Its aim is to build new interdisciplinary capacity and exchange around challenges and themes that connect experts working on peace and conflict across and beyond the University.   Continue reading

Peace in Colombia?

This blog post by Gwen Burnyeat, Wolfson PhD scholar at UCL, was first published by the London Review of Bookson 1 December  2016. In this piece, Gwen comments on the recent development in the post-referendum context and the adoption of a new peace agreement in Colombia.

Photo: School-Children in Pereira draw their hopes for peace, August 2016, by Gwen Burnyeat.

Photo: School-Children in Pereira draw their hopes for peace, August 2016, by Gwen Burnyeat.

The new peace accord between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia was signed in Bogotá’s Colón Theatre on 24 November. It was a more sober ceremony than the extravagant signing of the first agreement in Cartagena on 26 September, a week before Colombians narrowly voted against it in a referendum. The second signing was a closed event, and only President Juan Manuel Santos and the Farc commander, Timochenko, gave speeches. A subdued group of Colombians in the main plaza in Bogotá watched it on a big screen. The right-wing TV channel RCN, meanwhile, held a panel featuring only figures opposed to the deal, for ‘balance’.

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Educating Human Rights in Post-conflict Settings

sm-blogSean Molloy is a Principal’s Scholar in Law at the University of Edinburgh, where he is completing his PhD. In this blog, Sean reflects on discussions about Peacebuilding and Education in South Sudan held during the Inclusive Political Settlements Summer School. He goes on to discuss the relationship between human rights and education in post-conflict settings from a critical perspective.

I had the pleasure of attending the Inclusive Political Settlements Summer School at the University of Edinburgh last June. While there in the capacity as a rapporteur for the third day, I found myself becoming increasingly engrossed in the discussions and presentations in what proved to be a highly informative and constructive day. While each individual presentation warranted further discussion, one presentation in particular invoked a series of questions pertaining to the place of education in societies attempting to emerge from the shackles of violent conflict.

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War: Art and Creativity in Conflict Zones

IPOW borderLeah Davison reports on an evening workshop that examined the role of art and creativity in conflict zone.  Leah organised this with support from the Global Justice Academy’s and Global Development Academy’s Innovative Initiative Funds.

On 18 March the Edinburgh University International Development Society (EUID), in collaboration with University of Manchester based organisation In Place of War (IPOW), hosted an evening of talk and performance on the subject of art and creativity in conflict zones. The question at hand: what role can creativity play in the realm of social, political and economic development in areas of conflict, war and revolution?

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Myths and Realities – What is the Women, Peace and Security Agenda?

Rosie Ireland is a GJA Student Ambassador for 2015-16, and is reading for an LLM in Human Rights. Rosie co-authored our first student report on international law and peace negotiations with her colleague, Siobhan Cuming. In this report, Rosie reflects on the 2015 Crystal Macmillan Lecture, which was delivered by Madeleine Rees. 

Last semester on the 26 November, the distinguished international lawyer and human rights advocate Madeline Rees, Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, delivered the second Chrystal Macmillan Lecture of 2015. The report provides a brief summary and covers some of the key points made during the lecture.

Law has developed since 1948 to address conflicts, promote peace and end war. Addressing the root causes of conflict – such as inequalities between people and nations – is essential to the prevention of future conflict.

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Serving women in Iraq and Syria: has UNSCR 1325 made a difference?

Rosie Ireland is a student on this year’s LLM in Human Rights at The University of Edinburgh. This is Rosie’s second report as a Global Justice Academy Student Ambassador – from the 2015 Montague Burton Lecture, which was delivered by Frances Guy on 2 November. Frances Guy is the Head of the Middle East region at Christian Aid. Rosie’s report outlines the key points made during the lecture, which was entitled ‘Serving women in Iraq and Syria: has UNSCR 1325 made a difference?’.

It is nearly the fifteenth anniversary of the UNSCR 1325; the first ever resolution aimed to enhance the role of women in peace building. Frances Guy analysed the effectiveness of the resolution in the context of Iraq and Syria in relation to four key areas: participation, protection, prevention, and relief and recovery.

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International Law and Peace Negotiations

The Global Justice Academy has launched its Student Ambassadors programme for the 2015-16 academic year. Rosie Ireland and Siobhan Cuming are both students on the LLM in Human Rights. As GJA Student Ambassadors, they co-authored this report on a recent seminar by Phillip Kastner.

In this report we summarise the key points made by Professor Phillip Kastner (University of Western Australia) at a seminar on 9 October titled ‘The Role of International Law in the Context of Peace Negotiations.’

International Law and the Resolution of Internal Armed Conflicts

Today, internal armed conflicts are significantly more prevalent than inter-state conflicts. The resolution of internal armed conflicts is generally more complex than inter-state conflicts; involving a higher level of interdependence and giving rise to a multitude of issues.

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Recognising the Ordinary Heroes among us: multimedia as a tool for reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

On 26-27 February 2015, the Post-Conflict Research Center from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, visited the University of Edinburgh to present its award-winning “Ordinary Heroes” project. “Ordinary Heroes” won first place in the 2014 UN Alliance of Civilizations and BMW Group Intercultural Innovation Award in a ceremony hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Bali, Indonesia. The Global Justice Academy at the University of Edinburgh sponsored PCRC’s travel to Edinburgh.

Mina Jahić is a widowed octogenarian from Rogatica, in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose husband and two sons lost their lives in the wars that followed the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. She lives by herself in an upper floor of a prefabricated apartment block not far from the capital Sarajevo. A devout Muslim, Mina’s hope for the future of her country lies in the youth, who she believes still have the power to change the ethnocratic system that has blocked any attempts for reconciliation and reform since the end of the war in 1995. What Mina’s wartime experiences separate her from her neighbours, however, are the risks she took to save a stranger escaping his execution. Mina is an ordinary hero.

Ferid Spahić, a gas station attendant in Ilijaš, a small town to the northwest of Sarajevo, was in his mid-twenties when the first shots were fired in Bosnia by Serb paramilitary forces bent on “cleansing the land” for a “Greater Serbia” under the guise of preserving Communist Yugoslavia from dissolution. A Bosniak Muslim, too, he and his neighbours were targets of ethnonationalist destruction that quickly engulfed Bosnia’s three main ethnic groups – Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. One day in June 1992, a Serb man from his village, whom he had seen as a trusted neighbour, rounded the local Bosniak men into buses, telling them as they were separated from their wives and children that they would be transferred to Skopje, Macedonia, and later reunited with their families.

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The Freedom of Conscience Debate and Broader Implications for the NI Peace Process

This guest post is by Sean Molloy, a Principal’s Career Development Scholar in Law at the University of Edinburgh. Sean completed his LLB Law at Queen’s University Belfast, continuing to read for an LLM in Human Rights Law and Transitional Justice at the Transitional Justice Institute. Following a period working as a research assistant for a human rights solicitor, Sean began his PhD research at Edinburgh in September 2013. He edits the monthly Global Justice Academy Newsletter, and is a founding member of the Global Justice Society.

Freedom of Conscience in Northern Ireland

Conscience 1In December 2014 DUP MLA Paul Girvan introduced a Freedom of Conscience Bill aimed at allowing businesses to refuse services to a customer if they feel it is against their religious convictions. The Bill arose following the announcement of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission that they would be issuing legal proceedings against Ashers Baking Company for their refusal to accept an order for a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.

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