On the [il]legality of a military intervention in Syria

Since reports started coming out that the Syrian army was using chemical weapons, it’s becoming increasingly likely that there will be some kind of military intervention in Syria by the US, with support from the UK and France, maybe as soon as tomorrow (Thursday). For some background on the alleged chemical attacks and the on-going situation, the BBC has a good overview here. There is also a very useful article outlining military options.

I won’t reiterate what is being said very eloquently elsewhere, so instead, here’s a round-up of various analyses of the legality (or illegality) of a potential military/humanitarian intervention in Syria by the US, the UK and/or France, without UN Security Council approval.

The Legality of a Syrian Military Intervention: Russia, France, and the UK Weigh In” – post by Julian Ku on Opinio Juris

It sounds like the UK and France are both going to need to come up with some international law theory to justify their support for an attack, and the UK seems interested in the “humanitarian intervention” justification.  If the U.S. goes along with this, it would be interesting to see if the “invisible college of international lawyers” will endorse this legal theory.

Continue reading


Voluntourism – some personal opinions and resources

Living in Cambodia, I hear from so many well-intentioned people who want to “do good” for a few weeks (or worse, a few days, a few hours …) by volunteering in Cambodia (or other developing countries). There has been tons of great articles and opinion pieces written lately about why this is not necessarily a good thing, so I won’t reiterate why here. That being said, short-term volunteering and “voluntourism” keep growing as an industry so there is a clear need to continue talking about it, as it seems that not enough people are being exposed to the counter-arguments.

In brief, however, I strongly believe (based on my experiences working in a developing country for a local NGO) that short-term (read: less than three months) volunteering is, in the great majority of cases, not a good idea. That being said, I would identify the following as key points to keep in mind when considering volunteering:

Continue reading

CAR analysis round-up

There’s unfortunately not a whole lot of in-depth analysis being written (at least in English) on the situation in CAR (with the exception of the South African media). But for those interested, here’s a few pieces that provide some good background and updates on what’s happening in CAR these days.


Alex Thurston posted a good round-up on Sahel Blog on March 26th.

“CAR: How Bozize lost his piece of Africa” – article by David Smith in the Mail and Guardian

Security Council Press Statement on Central African Republic (25 March 2013)

Statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on the situation in the Central African Republic (25 March 2013)

On the Seleka Rebels

“Timeline: Seleka alliance – what is it? and what were the events that lead to its taking of Bangui?” – post by Katharine Fortin on Armed Groups and International Law

“6 crazy facts about the rebel leader who just took over the Central African Republic” – by Max Fisher in the Washington Post

“Failure Has Many Fathers: The Coup in Central African Republic” – blog post by Thibaud Lesueur and Thierry Vircoulon on the blog of the International Crisis Group, the African Peacebuilding Agenda

On the South African operations in CAR

“South African counter-attack against Central African Republic rebels would be ‘complete madness’” – article by Daniel Howden in The Independent

“CAR deployment and SA democracy: Can Zuma be held to account?” – analysis by Ranjeni Munusamy in the Daily Maverick

On the Implications at the ICC

“Trust Fund for Victims suspends its activities in the Central African Republic” – ICC Press Release

“ICC prosecutor warns as Central African rebels advance”AFP report

On Human Rights and the Humanitarian Impact

“CAR coup comes amid worsening humanitarian crisis”IRIN report

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – Central African Republic Humanitarian Bulletin (28 March 2013)

“2 million children now affected by conflict and insecurity”UNICEF report

Mali analysis round-up (Part 4)

This is Part 4 to a round-up of interesting pieces that are related to the situation in Mali. Most aren’t directly related to France specifically but given the centrality of the Mali intervention in French foreign policy at the moment, it’s all relevant. Part 1 is available here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.


The Atlantic Council has a good collection of resources (publications, posts, external resources, etc) here.

“When the Jihad Came to Mali” – first-hand account by Joshua Hammer in the New York Review of Books

“Understanding Mali’s ‘Tuareg Problem'” – blog post on Bridges from Bamako

On the Long-Term & Reconstruction

“The remaking of Mali” – article by Pietro Musili and Patrick Smith in the Africa Report (unfortunately, you can’t read the whole thing without a subscription)

“How to tackle Mali’s crisis in the long term” – analysis by IRIN News

“For Progress in Mali and the Sahel, Local Governance Cannot Be Ignored” – by Mireille Affa’a-Mindzie on the Global Observatory

On the Human Impact

“Mali conflict leaves dangerous legacy for children” – video on BBC News

“The returns challenge in Mali” – analysis by IRIN News (on the challenges with repatriating and reintegrating refugees from Mali)

On Military Intervention & Peacekeeping

“Tuareg rebels ask ICC to probe Mali army ‘crimes'”AFP wire

“French Officials Warn ‘Success’ in Mali Won’t End Islamist Threat” – article by Bruce Crumley in Time Magazine

“Stablising northern Mali: different approaches to peace operations” – analysis by Lori-Anne Théroux-Bénoni for the Institute for Security Studies

“Mali’s Peacekeeping Mission: Full-Fledged Behemoth, or Have Lessons Been Learned?” – by Arthur Boutellis on the Global Observatory

Response from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs to accusations by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights against the Malian army

Mali analysis round-up (Part 3)

This is Part 3 to a round-up of interesting pieces (some related to France’s intervention in Mali, some not) I’ve found on Mali. Part 1 is available here and Part 2 here.

@MaliDaily also compiled this list of “who to follow on #Mali” on Twitter which is pretty useful to get regular updates on the situation there! Some of the people on the list tweet in French and some in English.

The Africa Sub-Committee of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives recently held a hearing on Mali. The video transcript and written statements and testimonies are available here.

“Can France restore the magic of northern Mali?” – article by Andy Morgan on the BBC

“Intoxication by information: fighting over facts in Mali” and “Behind Mali’s conflict: myths, realities and unknowns” – blog posts on Bridges from Bamako – they both provide a really good overview of a lot of what’s being said in the news media and by NGOs and provides counter views – in other words, a great overview of the different opinions.

“What’s the way forward for Mali?” – by IRIN News

“Inside the Islamic Emirate of Timbuktu” – article by Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa on Foreign Policy – fascinating look into how the extremists functioned in Timbuktu until they were kicked out.

“Security in the Sahel and the West’s Military Fixation” – article by Peter Dorrie in Think Africa Press

“Excerpts from al-Qaida manifesto left behind in Timbuktu” – in the Washington Post

“The ICC might not deter Mali’s rebels – but it might deter the government” – blog post by Mark Kersten on Justice in Conflict

“Tessalit assumes vital importance in Mali’s struggle against Islamist rebels” – article by Afua Hirsch in The Guardian

“Fear returns to Mali amid clashes” – video report on the BBC

Mali analysis round-up (Part 2)

This is part 2 to a round-up of interesting pieces (some related to France’s intervention in Mali, some not) I’ve found on Mali. Part 1 is available here.


“Crisis in Mali having far-reaching impact on rest of West Africa, warns UN envoy” – UN article

“Guide to the Crisis in Mali: Part 1” and “Part 2” – by Sasha Papazoff in La Jeune Politique

“Mali is not a Stan” – article by Laura Seay in Foreign Policy (very good response to the many pundits, especially in the US, who’ve said that Mali was going to become France’s Afghanistan)

“In Search of Monsters” – article by Stephen W Smith in the London Review of Books

“Crisis in Mali” – report by Alexis Arrieff for the Congressional Research Service (interesting in that it provides information to US Congressional offices and will impact US policy)

On the Military Intervention

“In Mali, military intervention is not enough” – article by Kofi Annan in The Guardian

“Mali Exposes Flaws in West’s Security Plans” – article by Adam Entous, Julian E Barnes and Drew Hinshaw for the Wall Street Journal (very interesting piece of what’s really going between the French and the Americans)

“French Military Intervention in Mali: It’s Legal but… Why? Part II: Consent and UNSC Authorisation” – by Theodore Christakis and Karine Bannelier on the Blog of the European Journal of International Law

On the Roots of the Conflict

“Jihad in Africa: The danger in the desert” – article in The Economist (on terrorism in Algeria and the Mali crisis)

“Analysis: The dynamics of inter-communal violence in Mali” – by IRIN News

On Human Rights

“Mali: First assessment of the human rights situation after three week conflict”Amnesty International briefing note

“Mali: Human Rights and Humanitarian Snapshot” – Overview of displacement and pressing human rights issues on MapBox

“Untold Stories from the Conflict in Mali” [videos] – by Christoph Koettl on the Witness.org blog

On the ICC Case

“Prosecuting crimes against cultural property in Northern Mali: Why it Matters” – blog post by Jelia Sane on Justice in Conflict (an oldie but goodie)

“Cash-Strapped ICC Takes on Mali” – analysis by IRIN News

“Timbuktu’s Cultural Treasures & the ICC” – blog post by Kimberly J Curtis on the Foreign Policy Association blog

Mali analysis round-up

There’s been some very interesting pieces written about Mali in the past few weeks which I wanted to share as I’ve found them very useful in understanding the current situation. I originally wanted to keep this to analytical pieces related to France’s involvement in Mali but I thought expanding it to wider issues and themes might be useful. I’ll update this as I find more stuff. Please feel free to send links my way (through the comments here or on the contact page)!


Chronology of events (in French) by Radio France International (not really an analytical piece but a very useful resource

“France in Mali: the End of the Fairytale” – blog post by Gregory Mann on Africa is a Country

“On Intervention, Popularity and Colonialism in Mali” – blog post by Alex Thurston on Sahel Blog

“Mali, dynamic of war” – blog post by Paul Rogers on Open Democracy

“French Military Intervention in Mali: It’s Legal but … Why? Part I” – blog post by Theodore Christakis and Karine Bannelier on the blog of the European Journal of International Law

On the ICC referral

ICC, Office of the Prosecutor, “Situation in Mali – Article 53(1) Report”

“Mali and the ICC: what lessons can be learned from previous investigations?” in The Guardian

“Random Comments on the Mali Self-Referral to the ICC” – blog post on Spreading the Jam

“Is the International Criminal Court Following the Flag in Mali” – blog post on Political Violence @ a Glance

On human rights

“Intervention in Mali: Human Rights First?” – blog post by Andrew Jillions on Justice in Conflict

Letter to French President Francois Hollande on situation in Mali – from Human Rights Watch

“Mali: Civilians Bear the Brunt of the Conflict” – report from Amnesty International (from last year but provides a good overview nonetheless)

On US-French cooperation in Mali

“Thinking Through the Malian Thicket” – blog post by Deborah Pearlstein on Opinio Juris on the legality (international and domestic) of potential US involvement in Mali.

On criticism of the French intervention in Mali

“France Faces Criticism over Malian Intervention as Humanitarian Questions Arise” – blog post/news story by Sasha Papazoff on La Jeune Politique