Posts Tagged With: security

Le Liban et la recherche internationale après les révoltes de 2011: une «zone de confort»? (August, 2020)

You can access my new article with Rosita Di Peri (University of Turin) on Lebanon as a “comfort zone” for international researchers in the new Issue of Afriche & Orienti, which is Open Access! You can read the abstract here below, and access the link to the article via my Academia page:

Since the 2011 uprising, the Arab world turned into a theatre of political and social transformations. While some have been visible, others, less visible, have however been able to affect the intellectual, social and political infrastructure of international research. Being an important scenario for regional policy developments (Eg. the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran), Lebanon offers an interesting case in point. While this article does not address the October 2019 revolution and the most recent COVID-19 pandemic, we endeavor to unravel the ways in which research themes, methods, and security have changed in the Lebanese context.

Despite domestic instability, Lebanon not only is one of the few countries where conducting research is still possible in a crisis-affected region, but it also emerges as a “comfort zone” for international researchers: a place where to observe regional conflicts while enjoying a consumeristic lifestyle and a privileged position within Lebanese society. We provide a critical inquiry of how, first, the confessional narrative has been abused and reproduced in international research. Second, we focus on how scholars have changed the way of thinking Lebanon’s statehood and political order. Finally, we discuss how the forced migration scholarship has built on the widespread securitization and ethnicization of migration.ès_les_révoltes_de_2011_une_zone_de_confort_

Categories: Lebanon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crisis & Control, (In)Formal Hybrid Security in Lebanon (July 2016)

The report I co-authored with Marie-Noelle Abi-Yaghi and Mariam Younes from Lebanon Support (Beirut) has just been published: If you wish to access the resulting policy brief authored by Lebanon Support’s partner International Alert, click on the following link:

We have conducted 3-month field research in Aley, Shebaa, and Ebrine in Lebanon.

Here below the executive summary of our research.

This report aims to analyze how formal and informal security providers implement their respective social order agendas through a security “assemblage”. It also aims to inform the debate on refugee protection and security provision in urban settings, in the context of Lebanon’s hybrid security system. The accounts collected illustrate how state security institutions tacitly accept – or even rely on – informal security actors, managing at times to achieve their political and strategic goals through decentralized and/or illegal forms of control. In this vein, local municipalities imposed curfews and street patrols, which, far from being an institutional measure, follow a flexible and unpredictable pattern.1 Three localities have been selected for the purpose of this research – namely Aley in Mount Lebanon, Ebrine in North Lebanon, and Shebaa in South Lebanon. The choice of these localities was driven by their different political and social history, their demographic homogeneity or diversity, and their relationship with surrounding regions. The investigation of the Syrian refugees’ access to security systems constitutes an interpretative lens through which the analysis of securitization processes in Lebanon can be undertaken. The notion of security we will discuss here is polysemantic: it does not only encompass regional or domestic conflicts, but also suggests a particular social form of waiting; a climate of fear portending the worse that is yet to come. As a matter of fact, this climate of fear encourages preemptive security measures and serves as a deterrent against violent outbursts. Therefore, manifestations of insecurity or security threats are often routinized perceptions and, as such, integrated into accounts of ordinary everyday life. Security plays a multifaceted role in the three settings selected for thorough analysis. It builds the cohesiveness of the local communities, while fending off endemic societal fragmentation. This is mainly because local people tend to identify with a single homogenous entity that needs to protect itself against external threats, with these threats being represented nowadays by Syrian refugees, who may become “radicalized” and destabilize the “host” space. And since security goes beyond the exclusion of risk and jeopardy, the official discourse of local security providers entails the protection of refugees. While we draw on the classic normative distinction of security providers into formal and informal, our analysis moves beyond such a rigid differentiation. The formal/ informal dichotomy fades away when security is discussed as a hybrid assemblage of unpredictable and situational forces enforced in particular circumstances. Our findings confirm that formal security is partially implemented through informal local actors, providing a terrain of common interest in the preservation of social order. In addition, security cannot be viewed as a given “social fact”: it is rather a contextual process embedded in multiple power relations that preserve social order in a given space and reinforce social status and community identification.

Categories: Lebanon, Middle East, Syria, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Security and Development: Questioning ‘Righting Wrongs’ Strategies and the Role of the International Community (by Estella Carpi, March 2015)

Security and Development: Questioning ‘righting wrongs’ strategies and the role of the international community

Security and Development: Questioning ‘righting wrongs’ strategies and the role of the international community

March 11, 2015 12:39 pm

Last March 8, David Malone, a Canadian career diplomat and an international development and security scholar, gave a talk at the New York University of Abu Dhabi to discuss the changing role of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in conflicts and new possibilities for development assistance in the contemporary era.

Indeed, whereas the Council is supposed to be the main transnational entity approving or rejecting requests of intervention in conflict-ridden areas, and tackling various inter-state decisional matters, it seems to have partially lost its executive force on the ground. Similar weakness points can be discussed for development assistance, towards which generalised scepticism is increasing as much as the nihilism of the aid and development workers themselves.

Thus, the broadly explored connections between security and development need to be further investigated.

Can development assistance make any difference?

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the traditional way societies express the desire of and plan betterments, and seek to achieve them through the use of a common international code. The MDGs, however, are inherently incomplete in that they are expressed in quantitative indicators and normally address general targets: factors which are unsuitable per se to changeability.  The MDGs are therefore subject to reiterated failures.

Nevertheless, according to Malone, pessimism is not necessarily the moral approach that the international community should adopt in order to respond appropriately to crises and conflicts. For instance, history has shown thus far how in small countries development assistance does make a difference, however changing the goals that it used to entail at the beginning of the development path. Lebanon is a perfect case in point, illustrating how, on the one hand, emergency relief cannot be sufficient or successfully needs-focused. On the other, development assistance can still play a role in the reinforcement of local welfare in the contexts where the latter has historically been lacking. In big countries, by contrast, development assistance has not certainly led to economic growth, departing from the stable point that the so-called “Global South” will probably never develop big economies, despite the increasing competence of some developing countries’ governments (i.e. African governments and India), and in spite of the absence of democratic structures within a specific country (unlike China which witnessed economic growth with no democracy).

In line with his scepticism about the efficiency and the appropriateness of the MDGs, which necessarily involve predictions, Malone foregrounded the definitive defeat of one winning democratic and economic model to be followed. The multiple successful models that we witness can actually show how new waves of human optimism can be identified in a major diffusion of information, a consequently far more demanding public, and the urbanisation process, which has been able, to Malone’s mind, to mobilise resources more rapidly and raising important social issues that were previously concealed (e.g. family patterns, the social role of women, the labour force’s rights).

A winning strategy for each country is picking up those of the MDGs which are the most important to it. The involvement of the World Bank (WB) and the United Nations (UN) should rather be limited to the functionality of these organisations in specific domestic issues. This would invert the conceptual North-South unilateral power flow, in which the WB and other large international organisations are the ones that dictate pre-established programmes and approaches to developing countries regardless of local specificities.

In this polarised scenario between the “Global North” – bountiful enough to offer resources – and the “Global South” – chronically needy enough to receive them – the West is known to request respect of human rights, justice and development in exchange for its financial resources, which only constitute, in any case, a small funding portion to pursue development; moreover, once a country finds itself in deficit, development assistance is the first expense that is usually cut down. In this framework, élite powers are a social obstacle to development in developing countries, but, from Malone’s perspective, the fact that they gain their benefits from imported assistance does not render assistance itself unworthy for the poorer categories.

In these circumstances, Malone unexpectedly calls for a “data revolution” in development projects, where qualitative research needs to be prioritised over quantitative research. This data revolution would shed light on the qualitative deadlocks that development implies, such as the issue of political impartiality and its empirical feasibility. UNSC, for example, is believed super partes but its role is actually that of taking sides in crises, being formed itself by the most powerful states.

The UNSC and the present challenges

Even in apparent deadlocks such as Libya, Syria and Ukraine nowadays, the UNSC has reached points of agreement despite multiple confrontations. It is the case of Syria and the evacuation of the Asad regime’s chemical weapons in the wake of the August 2013 chemical attack on the Ghouta population in East Damascus.

In spite of the increasing unpopularity of the UNSC within the international community and “conflicts spectators”, the unresolved cases of the UNSC, apparently, make up only 10%. Nevertheless, Malone underlines the controversial aspects of such a percentage, especially in the case of NATO, whenever it allegedly intervenes to protect civilians and eventually contributes to regime changes like in Libya.

The historical cases of the UN failure still resonate today in the international community’s consciousness, like the 1995 massacre of Srebrenica, in which we witnessed a soft response of the UN that were largely represented in the media and in people’s accounts as shrugging off the genocide of Bosnians. Malone also provides the example of France in the 1994 Rwanda conflict, which did not know in depth the fighting parts and that, therefore, did not take a clear stance within the UNSC at that time. The effects of “state behaviours” within international entities are still hunting governments and are easily identifiable today: for example, France pulled out of the 20th anniversary commemoration of the Rwandan genocide last year, in that it was accused by the President Paul Kagame of having contributed to the large-scale 1994 massacre.

Diversely, inter-African protection has often been obfuscated by western saviours who have more powerful means of self-propaganda. Malone highlights how it was actually the Ghanaians to rescue many Tutsis and Hutu moderates in Rwanda in the 1990s by sheltering them, while the UN ordered the withdrawal of their peacekeeping forces.

The UNSC is arbitrarily defined as weak, according to Malone. What is interpreted as an increasingly big loss of efficaciousness is actually the co-presence of new factors in the international scenario. The major changes that occurred within the UNSC are the emerged influence of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), like the abovementioned case of France in Rwanda, where the medical NGO Médecins Sans Frontières got separated from Médecins Du Monde by rejecting a politically neutral approach to humanitarian assistance.

A further change is constituted by the 2002-created International Criminal Court (ICC), which took over a part of the UNSC tasks, after being formed in quite a short time and being in charge of prosecuting international criminals. Such changes have often been undercut or ignored tout court in evaluating the action and the efficaciousness of the international actors.

In light of Malone’s considerations, the “Global North” feels threatened in terms of security and adopts defense mechanisms like asking the “Global South” to uphold human rights and democratic standards. In dealing with the global danger of having a larger number of insecure regions, poverty reduction and the development of unstable regions have become a moral as well as a political imperative, in that development contributes to guarantee worldwide security.

As English scholar Mark Duffield extensively showed in his research studies, development has become a security technology related to promoting the life of populations that are essentially non-insured in their states. Hence, development becomes a state strategy purporting to protect people while practically prioritising geopolitics over biopolitics, or, otherwise said, state security over human security. In brief, regions need to be developed in that they present a constant risk to homeland security. In turn, security has become an integral component of development discourse.

Needless to say that even too many projects have been implemented so far to develop the imaginary Global South, to the extent of reifying it in a chronic “receiving” position and turning it into an ironically “project-affected” area. Rather, much more efforts should be done to improve domestic and inter-state security within the Global South, the alleged major source of global threats. When such threats will be perceived and dealt with as such within the threatening countries rather than with respect to “the West” – the donor, the saviour, and the security-regulator par excellence – maybe, only then, we will see better days.

Categories: Africa, Europe, Middle East, United States | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

About the Syrian Revolution: bio-politics, state failure and security (by Estella Carpi – June 2012)

Estella Carpi: The Syrian Revolution and Global Inaction


In the wake of the putative failure of the Syrian political opposition and the debates that this sort of political miscarriage engendered, an element of the international think-tank has insisted further on the need for securing the Syrian state and its “Axis of Resistance” with Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah, in a bid to advocate for Palestinian rights and regional balance.

The world looked to the UN Security Council to take action, but members of the Council, yet again, failed to agree that large-scale systematic violations of human rights committed against its own people by a government intent on maintaining its power was no longer an endogenic matter of state sovereignty. Despite the hype surrounding the “responsibility to protect”, the international community remains substantially inactive when faced with mass atrocities.

Such global inaction has often been disguised by a pool of off-the-cuff news analysts, and the US factual passivity, even in light of current mild UN steps, has not been tackled.

Therein, new illusive rhetoric has stemmed from the split between a geopolitical and a biopolitical approach: the wellbeing of the state and the wellbeing of people seem to be at loggerheads. To secure the former would imply observation and inaction alongside revolutionaries or, in the best of cases, humanitarian action alongside civilians, victims of anti-regime “armed terrorists” and of the rumoured impending “civil war”.

While human security and dignity have not been pursued as aprioristic goals in the political agenda of international players, with the recent armament of rebels and the consequent massacres from both the regime and resistance fighters, everyone apparently now cares for human security in the country.

The security of citizens should be the responsibility of their state. When the state does not play this role, or even menaces the wellbeing of its citizens, the responsibility to protect passes to the so-called international community. This time, however, the need to secure humans for their benefit has not attracted a great deal of policy or humanitarian interest.

The reluctance to intervene in the Syrian crisis also denounces the increasing politicisation of non-state networks of aid and relief: the principle of protecting human security is increasingly used, abused and neglected at will.

In such a frame, political realists who think that the state remains the primary object to be secured are back on the road. Likewise, when contingencies of life and unavoidable risks are not meeting international interests, state sovereignty still prevails on the sentimental effort for transnational governance in a world where the principle of non-interference is largely going awry.

By defining biopolitics as a technology of life that operates at the level of the population and promotes human security, the biopolitical concern has played a controversial role in the security of the Syrian state and the maintenance of the regional balance in a sadly wide landscape of international journalists, pseudo-leftist activists and scholars, who readily plunged into a Syrian Revolution smear campaign. Rather, to guarantee the security of the State, meant as a concomitantly negotiated contract subscribed by its own citizens, would also mean to assure the security of the Syrian population itself, whatever its stance on the Assad regime. The Syrian case, therefore, should shift future research to the collapse of the state-centred/population-centred security dichotomy.

Shockingly, the time of exclusive state sovereignty seems now to have returned. To consider unreliable the Syrian National Council (SNC) has been the official pretext not to delegitimate the current regime and not to declare Syria a de facto “failed state”, as a result of a suddenly enlightened counter-rhetoric around the biased pathologisation of Middle Eastern governments and societies.

In a similar vein, the awkward nature of some alignments with Assad’s regime at the grassroots level has never been explored. The ongoing support for the Assad regime from a sector of the Syrian population has always been considered socially grounded, and never instead been interpreted as a mere panic-stricken attempt to maintain the status quo and kill the transitional germs that would give birth to a series of traumatic changes – necessarily traumatic as in any other dictatorship that has never given space for political opposition and alternative governmental experiences.

As a result of this blurred advocacy for the regime’s solidity, the state is basically invoked in its abstract and ideological construction as a psycho-social reaction to the fearful absence of points of call that the Syrians should face in the case of Assad’s departure. On this purpose, I would not like to presume the intimate will of all Syrians to topple the current regime, in a bid to bring grist to my own ideological mill. That would mean to play the same cringeworthy game as those who considered the Arab conscience – as though it were a single one – incapable of desiring and struggling for democratic change. To presume an understanding of what masses of people really want would be inappropriate for a researcher not-based in Syria (as I currently am), as well as for someone witnessing the current events.

The requests of marginalised and impoverished Syrians, backed by the calls of several Syrian intellectuals and artists, were initially representing the margins. Today, the Assad’s supporters ideologically strive to preserve the centrality of the regime that is inevitably shifting out and that, paradoxically, is emerging as a new margin of the Syrian state. As Talal Asad would say, the “margins” have been pervading the entire state since March 2011 when protests initially flared up, in the sense that the sovereign force of the regime has been expressed throughout the months in its continual attempts to deny the margins themselves.

In a state that has become its own margins, I wonder how the need for securing people’s lives correlates to the need for maintaining the Syrian state as a political entity.

Then, what should be rehabilitated is the authentic technology of protest, that is to say the political, social, and economic claims for change that had been advocated for since the very beginning of the Syrian Revolution.

But once again, humanitarian sentimentalism produced and supported, deconstructed and denied “humans” at will.

Estella Carpi is a PhD Candidate at The University of Sydney. Contact her at:

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