Monthly Archives: June 2013

A long commute to work and a surgery that temporarily bound me to the couch have had the positive effect that I read several eye and mind-opening books in the past weeks. Three lessons stood out:

  • We live in the most peaceful of times
  • All is not lost in international peacebuilding and
  • Trust your guts when making a decision.

1. We live in the most peaceful times ever

Steven Pinker: The better angels of our nature. A history of violence and humanity.

Pinker - Better Angels of our Nature Image:

Pinker – Better Angels of our Nature Image:

In 1000 odd pages Steven Pinker has managed to answer every single question I ever had about violence and war. Would the world be more peaceful if it is ruled by women? Is the War on Terror justified? Were the dark ages really that dark?

First, Pinker  sets out to convince the reader of his main point: Violence is and has been in steady decline. The rest of the book is dedicated to identify, proof and refute several explanations for why that is. Homo universalis Pinker delves deep into history, politics, sociology, psychology and biology to seek explanations. We learn that through the Flynn-effect humankind becomes gradually more intelligent. The literary revolution and globalisation has brought us closer together and made us more empathetic and thus less inclined to hurt each other.

And more Americans condone violence to reach political goals than Pakistanis. His source base is a joy for every researcher: surveys, quantitative data sets, literature from Kant to Nabokov, secondary studies, archival documents and art.

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“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” . This was famously said by Theodore Roosevelt to his men on the verge of the American-Spanish civil war. More than a century later this statement also rings true for many who live in fragile and conflict affected states. Fragile states furthermore face an international community often gridlocked and clueless how to best intervene and assist in the transition to peace.

Therefore, the High-level forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Busan, South Korea, in December 2011 gave birth to the “New Deal for Engagement with Fragile States”(New Deal).  Driven by the G7+, a group of fragile states, the New Deal uses five peace-building and state-building goals, revenues and services, legitimate politics, security, justice and economic foundations as a guide for progress.


“It’s no easy task to re-build after a descent into conflict. Fragile and conflict affected states – stretching from Africa to the Pacific – pose daunting development challenges,” said President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim last month in an op-ed.

Last Friday ministers from fragile and conflict affected states, OECD countries and leaders of international institutions have united at the International Dialogue on State-building and Peace-building’s Third Global meeting to pledge support for the implementation of the ‘New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States’ and for its integration in the post-2015 development agenda.

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