Thursday, November 17, 2005

Avoiding conflict

In writing about LSE-related events, I overlooked a further seminar that I attended last week, this time on conflict prevention. It was presented by Armeen Jan, who has been working at the Strategy Unit in Downing Street to create a methodology by which countries at risk can be assessed. It poses extremely interesting questions, perhaps the most obvious being: why bother, if realpolitik considerations trump all others?

Yet there is something extremely interesting and worthwhile in the work that Jan presented. The methodology looks at a wide range of factors that can trigger instability in countries, both internal and external. The intention is to maintain the assessments as a rolling programme which can assist government policies and ideally help prevent conflict before it happens. However, since government is a different reality there will have to be a second filter through which government priorities are determined. This is where the political dimension comes in and may weaken the work in the long run.

Yet Jan was keen to stress that the work was at the cutting-edge; no other government has a similar process in train. Whether we will be able to get our hands on those countries deemed to be at risk is another matter though. I suspect that it may be a politically senstive list. It might be interesting to see how far the Freedom of Information Act will work in this respect.

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