What did the War in Afghanistan Accomplish?

WORLD The longest war in United States history has officially come to a close. And for many service members, the overwhelming feeling is: good riddance. (Military Times) According to the article, “Many troops base their pessimism on firsthand experience with Afghanistan, its culture and its people.” Use our resources to deepen awareness of this often misunderstood country. Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of … Continue reading What did the War in Afghanistan Accomplish?

Mine-Clearing is Women’s Work

WORLD Women have moved from sidelines to front line in effort to rid Mozambique of land mines. (Nat Geo News) Use our resources to better understand why land mines remain a fatal legacy of many conflicts. Teachers, scroll down for a short list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit. DISCUSSION IDEAS Read our short article on the International Day of Mine Awareness, as well … Continue reading Mine-Clearing is Women’s Work

#tbt: When Stories Were Woven

Once upon a time, people crafted blankets and tapestries with the intention of telling a story. These woven works of art often depicted stories of war and civilizations in disruptive times. And they often were made by the very people whose lives were destroyed or deeply changed. The passion in these crafts reveal what once was and what had changed. But these story cloths are not centuries old. They were made … Continue reading #tbt: When Stories Were Woven

‘Lost Boy’ Pleads for Peace in South Sudan

WORLD Human rights activist John Bul Dau says wounds from the Second Sudanese Civil War in the 1980s have been reopened. South Sudan is now teetering on the edge of its own civil war following several weeks of violence that have claimed the lives of at least a thousand people and forced another 200,000 to flee their homes. (National Geographic News) Use our resources to … Continue reading ‘Lost Boy’ Pleads for Peace in South Sudan

Five Geographic Challenges for South Sudan

Billboard on the road to South Sudan’s capital, Juba. According to the photographer, James Turitto, this billboard was put up some time before March 2011, and later taken down. That is, this photo predates the country’s official independence day.
At just one week old, the Republic of South Sudan is the world’s youngest country. It made history as the first successful separatist movement in Africa, and the first African country to redraw the colonial borders established under European control. At its independence celebration on July 9th, the South Sudanese celebrated not only their new country, but also the formal end of war with (northern) Sudan. For background on the conflict’s history, see this timeline and this piece on colonial borders. With hope in their hearts, the Southern Sudanese are looking forward to increased prosperity, security, and cultural freedom. 
My most optimistic outlook is this: South Sudan’s (approximately) 8 million people will work together to tap their vast oil reserves under a democratic system that will raise the living standards of the poor, while resisting the interests of the local elite and the manipulating tentacles of foreign powers. The more I think about it, however, the more I worry about this nascent nation’s future. It faces challenges far greater even than its independence (which didn’t come easily or quickly). 
Many of those challenges (poverty; lack of electricity, education, food security) have historical and political roots. In this post, however, I will outline five challenges to security and development rooted squarely in the geography of the country.   
1. Oil, and the Resource Curse: South Sudan’s greatest financial asset¬–oil wealth–may also prove to be its most malevolent antagonist. On one hand, as political scientist Michael Lewin Ross has successfully argued over the past decade, oil wealth tends to sabotage both democracy and economic development. Essentially, he claims, this type of wealth concentrates into an oligarchy, and suppresses economic growth through unnecessary state government functions, massive armies, and dependency-generating subsidies. His theory rang true to me during the Arab Spring, in which non-petro states (Tunisia, Egypt, Syria) had the most successful uprisings, while protests in places like Bahrain were promptly squashed or placated with gifts and subsidies. 

Continue reading “Five Geographic Challenges for South Sudan”