The politics of sexual violence in the Kachin conflict in Myanmar 

What is the political use of international norms on conflict-related sexual violence in the context of the armed conflict in Kachin state in Myanmar? Hedström and Olivius explore how international norms are appropriated, interpreted and applied in local contexts as well as what the effects of these are. They demonstrate that within the context of the Kachin conflict, norms on conflict-related sexual violence have been used in three main ways. First, as platforms for international advocacy and awareness. Second, as tools to challenge gender inequality in local communities. Third, as tools for ethno-nationalist identity politics. In the case of Myanmar, the state military’s sexual violence against women has been used to legitimize the Kachin insurgency. While international norms have created a space for women’s empowerment, they have also reproduced gendered forms of insecurity and marginalization. Patriarchal structures have made it difficult for activists to bring about gender equality beyond the bounds of sexual violence. Thus, the analysis suggests international norms on conflict-related sexual violence can become tools to liberate and dominate.

International Feminist Journal of Politics – February 2021

The Effects of China’s Development Projects on Political Accountability 

What are the effects of Chinese development programs on the political accountability of recipient countries? The literature on the relationship between foreign aid and political institutions has determined that the effects of aid differ depending on the donor’s characteristics and delivery mechanisms. In contrast to conventional aid, China’s development assistance comes with few political conditions attached to it, which makes it more attractive for some developing countries. Ping, Wang and Chang find that Chinese resource-related development projects have detrimental effects on the horizontal dimension of political accountability (legislative and judicial institutions). This is because unconditional aid directly benefits incumbents and these might be inclined to weaken horizontal institutions to quickly implement projects. However, the paper only finds minimal impacts on vertical accountability. This is due to China’s lack of motivation and capacity to constrain electoral competition in recipient countries. Thus, China does not purposely export autocracy to recipient countries, but its aid does lead to some negative effects.

British Journal of Political Science – December 2020

Reparations for American Descendants of Persons Enslaved in the U.S. and their Potential Impact on SARS-CoV-2 Transmission 

Black Americans in the United States have been disproportionally affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as a result of centuries of structural racism. This paper suggests reparation payments for the descendants of enslaved Black Americans would have decreased their risk of severe illness and death from the Covid-19 virus. Reparations have the potential to narrow the racial wealth gap and thus, narrow gaps in access to health care, housing, education and employment. The researchers model how reparations could have affected the transmission of the virus in the state of Louisiana, which remains partly segregated between Black and non-Black residents. They show that the payments could have reduced the transmission of Covid-19 anywhere between 31% and 68% for residents of all races. The study is an important contribution to the literature on the potential health impacts of institutionalized racism, a topic that has not been properly explored.

Social Science & Medicine – February 2021

Explaining Support for COVID-19 Cell Phone Contact Tracing 

What is the effect of mass communication on public support for Covid-19 cell phone contact tracing? Contact tracing applications have been used by governments throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to facilitate the process of contact tracing and attempt to contain the spread of the virus. While these apps have the potential to avoid large-scale restrictions during a pandemic, they also require citizens to partly relinquish their right to privacy. Rheault and Musulan study public opinion toward contact tracing apps through a survey experiment conducted on a sample of Canadian respondents. They report three findings. First, support for cell phone contact tracing increases after individuals are exposed to media coverage of people ignoring social distancing rules. Second, individuals who report feeling anxious about the pandemic and other people not following the rules are more likely to support the use of contact tracing apps. Third, although most respondents support the use of these apps, they still showed concern about their rights and freedoms. 

Canadian Journal of Political Science – January 2021

Social media and national security in Zimbabwe: Embracing social media for national security and addressing social media threats 

How has social media been used to enhance Zimbabwe’s national security? While social media can represent a threat to a country’s national security when utilized to facilitate terrorism, spread fake news and cause moral panic, it can also be used to enhance national security. Mugari and Chisuvi find that social media has allowed the Zimbabwean government and its agencies to disseminate critical information on government programmes and safety issues to citizens. In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, social media was used to spread awareness and disaster awareness and management information. As citizens become more aware of issues that affect their livelihoods, the likelihood of agitation and violent dissent by the population decreases. However, social media-induced threats continue to represent a problem that requires the Zimbabwean government to take action. Regulation and monitoring of social media activities are considered the most effective measures to deal with social media threats. The paper also finds that individuals show concern over the human rights implications of measures like censorship and interception of messages, temporary blocking of social media sites and shutting down the internet.

African Security Review – January 2021

Who Wants Peace? Predicting Civilian Preferences in Conflict Negotiations 

Which factors are the strongest predictors of public support for negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)? Negotiations to end civil wars often create sharp divisions in public opinion. There are various factors that represent potential drivers of public support of and opposition to conflict negotiations. Montoya and Tellez use data from a nationally representative survey from Colombia to identify which variables are the strongest predictors of public support for negotiations with the FARC. They find that conflict exposure, individual values related to justice and punishment, as well as individual belief in state efficacy are the strongest predictors of negotiation preferences. This means that citizens living in conflict zones tend to be more willing to support negotiations, individuals who strongly prefer punitive responses to norm violations tend to prefer harsher punishments for violators and individuals with low trust in state institutions tend to be less supportive of negotiations.

Journal of Politics in Latin America – November 2020

Photo by Krzysztof Hepner on Unsplash