The Ukraine: Unfinished Business and Uncomfortable Truths

When not teaching graduate students at Carleton University’s School of International Affairs, much of my practical work abroad has focused on deeply divided societies experiencing protracted conflict and sporadic bouts of violence. The bulk of my efforts in these fragile states, entails training organisations in conflict early warning, conflict resolution and conflict prevention. This practical work means engaging local civil society organisations who are the focal points of activity when government institutions are weak, divided or incapable of acting on behalf of the public interest. Sometimes, I have the opportunity to work alongside representatives from governmental and intergovernmental agencies whose analytical needs are much different than civil society organisations. Whereas civil society is often seen as using conflict analysis as part of their advocacy toolkit, pushing for specific policy options, policy makers are expected to use their information gathering and analysis for public administration purposes; to determine how a particular policy choice might play out within their constituency for example, or to establish if a religious or ethnic minority within their group is at risk so appropriate action can be taken in advance of the outbreak of conflict. These mechanisms and the training efforts that go into them have been applied in Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Serbia among other places with a reasonable degree of success. However, such a forward looking, preventive approach assumes that government actors are both willing and able to use evidence to advance the public good and that they stand above parochial interests.

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