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Welcome to Centre for NTS Studies RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership MacArthur Asia Security Initiative Consortium of the NTS-Asia
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Internal and Cross-Border Conflict

Asia is a region where internal conflicts continue to plague state and human security, despite the decline of inter-state conflicts since the end of the Cold War. Moreover, studies on the patterns of internal conflicts have also been confined to armed insurgencies, secessionism and civil conflicts, while less attention has been given to other forms of internal conflicts such as religious and/or ethnically-motivated communal violence, violent political clashes among competing political forces, and political uprisings. In recent years, the dimensions of internal conflict in Asia have also become more complex due to the growing challenges posed by religious radicalism and terrorism.

To be sure, the multiplicity of patterns of internal conflicts in Asia has dramatically increased the human costs of conflicts and violent threats faced by people within states. These have also resulted in an array of human insecurities, from poverty and human deprivation, mass population displacement, worsening human rights abuses, particularly among women and children, marginalization, threats of infectious diseases, and forced migration to a host of transnational crimes. In Southeast Asia for example, internal conflicts within individual member states have had actual and potential cross-border implications. The secessionist and insurgency problems in the Philippines, the violence in the Muslim provinces in Southern Thailand, the ethnic tensions in Myanmar and restive provinces in Indonesia could all affect regional security and stability.

Against this background, the project investigates the dynamics of internal conflicts, human security and multi-level and multilateral approaches to conflict management East Asia. Among the questions we want to examine include:

  • What are the emerging patterns of internal conflicts in the region and what are the cross-border security challenges?
  • What are the existing frameworks, if any, for conflict prevention and resolution and how do we build effective regional and multilateral mechanisms for conflict management?
  • How do we navigate between the zealousness of protecting state sovereignty and the compelling need for regional security cooperation?
  • What role should sub-national entities and civil society play in conflict prevention and management?
  • How do we promote multi-level and multilateral engagement for conflict prevention and resolution?

The core research areas examined by the Internal and Cross-Border Conflict programme include:

  • Analysis of the Dynamics of Internal Conflicts: The objective of conflict analysis is to provide suitable explanations of the sources of conflict and the actors that drive it. Detailed analysis will allow for stronger and better informed programme designs and interventions by various stakeholders. This will provide the tools with which to develop effective measures to prevent conflict.
  • Protection of Civilians (POC): Refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), asylum seekers, and stateless persons often lose everything – their families, communities, houses, jobs, and their sense of security and belonging. It is important to understand the insecurities they face so that effective policies can be designed in order to help mitigate against them.
  • Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) in Asia: In the 2005 UN World Summit, 191 heads of state and government representatives unanimously endorsed RtoP. Since 2005, there have been various responses and so it is important to evaluate the ongoing discussion to map the traction RtoP has with actors in Asia. This will assist in the dissemination of its principles as laid down in the 2005 Outcome Document. 
  • Multi-level and Multilateral Approaches to Internal Conflict: Given the multi-dimensional nature of internal conflicts, it is important that all stakeholders such as ASEAN, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society organisations (CSOs), academia etc. participate and actively promote new and creative ways to effectively address the root causes of conflict and promote resolution across and between different levels of governance.
  • Security Sector Governance: The security sector includes armed and police forces, intelligence agencies, as well as institutions that oversee internal and external security. As such, these organisations have a significant role in managing internal conflict. An unprofessional security sector can trigger or exacerbate a conflict. In light of this, an evaluation of security sector governance in the region and an investigation into possible avenues for reform is needed.

Programme Activities

First Year

  • Seminar on the Humanitarian Work of the Red Cross, 19 August 2009

Speaker: Col. (Retd) Christopher Chua, Secretary-General of Singapore Red Cross.

On 11 December 2008, the United Nations General Assembly designated 19 August as World Humanitarian Day in recognition of the work carried out by humanitarian personnel worldwide. To commemorate the first World Humanitarian Day, Secretary-General of the Singapore Red Cross, Col. (Retd) Christopher Chua introduced the Red Cross as an international movement and spoke about the local and overseas work carried out by the Singapore Red Cross. Finally, he addressed the challenges facing humanitarian work.

An audio recording, powerpoint presentation and write-up of the seminar can be found here.

Second and Third Years

  • Protection of Civilians in Asia Policy Roundtable, 9 February 2010

The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies hosted a one-day, closed-door, policy roundtable discussion comprising legal experts and regional civil society organisations working on civilian protection. With the recent creation of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), a space for dialogue has been created to discuss the definition and implementation of civilian protection. The policy roundtable provided a platform for the presentation of viewpoints and recommendations for discussion and debate on the issue of the protection of civilians within Southeast Asia and explored opportunities on how this can be promoted and achieved within the ASEAN region.

A full conference report as well as video interviews conducted during the conference can be found here.

  • Responsibility to Protect Study Group Meeting, 7 April 2010

The study group was convened with the specific focus to 1) examine the thinking and perspectives of Asian governments and societies on RtoP, particularly in Southeast Asia; 2) assess current mechanisms and initiatives in Southeast Asia that can be potential platforms for promoting RtoP principles in the region such as the ASEAN Political and Security Community and the ASEAN Human Rights Body; 3) assess the role of major powers China and Japan in the advancement of  RtoP in Asia; and 4) examine the role of CSOs and social movements in internal conflicts, and how they can contribute to operationalising RtoP in Asia.

A total of nine papers are envisaged from the study group: (Click here to read the abstracts)

  • Regional Consultation on the Responsibility to Protect, 8–9 April 2010

A gathering of policy experts and analysts from leading CSOs and think-tanks in the Asia-Pacific held the consensus that the doctrine of RtoP should be implemented in the region particularly in Southeast Asia. However, the greater concern amongst them is in addressing the impediments surrounding the implementation of the RtoP doctrine in the region. Three issues repeatedly emerged as core concerns on the feasibility of implementing RtoP. First, is whether Southeast Asian states could actually choose to adopt either one of the three RtoP pillars or if they should embrace the doctrine in its entirety; highlighting the need to raise awareness surrounding the RtoP pillars. Second, is how these states could be persuaded into institutionalising RtoP norms and finally, how the RtoP doctrine could be institutionalised within the larger regional framework.

A full conference report as well as video interviews conducted during the conference can be found here. As a follow up to the conference, Alistair D. B. Cook and Priyanka Bhalla published an Asia Security Initiative blog entry titled ‘Forget Them Not: Preventing Mass Atrocities in Southeast Asia’; and Mr Yang Razali and Nur Azha published an RSIS commentary titled ‘Responsibility to Protect: How should Southeast Asia respond?’

  • Seminar on Misrepresenting Norms and RtoP: An Alternative Norm Cascade? 12 April 2010

Speaker: Thomas G. Weiss, Presidential Professor of Political Science, The City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center; and Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies.

This seminar inspected the development of RtoP and determined its relevance in international affairs. It investigated three cases of states’ misuse of RtoP to justify actual or potential military intervention. These cases occurred even though most in the international community questioned its invocation — except for the state citing it. The cases examined were the US and UK invasion of Iraq, the Russian invasion of South Ossetia in Georgia, and the French invocation of RtoP in Myanmar in the wake of Cyclone Nargis. This seminar contended that these cases suggest that norm misuse can assist in clarifying the concept of RtoP. Its use in these cases was contested and prompted debate, denial, and tactical concessions on RtoP. This seminar drew on the early stages of two theoretical models: the ‘spiral’ of human rights change and the ‘cascade’ of norm development, to further explain the development of RtoP.

An audio recording and write-up of the seminar can be found here.

» Published works and media interviews

  1. Mely Caballero-Anthony, Operationalising the Responsibility to Protect in Asia, (Oxford and New York: Routledge, forthcoming 2010)
  2. Mely Caballero-Anthony, Political Change, Democratic Transitions and Security in Southeast Asia, (ed), (Oxford and New York: Routledge, 2010).
  3. Mely Caballero-Anthony, ‘Political Change and Political Development in Southeast Asia: Transitology Revisited’, in Mely Caballero-Anthony, Political Change, Democratic Transitions and Security in Southeast Asia, (ed), (London and New York: Routledge, 2010), pp. 1-16.
  4. Mely Caballero-Anthony, ‘Nontraditional Security Issues in Asia:  Imperatives for Deepening Regional Security Cooperation’, in Assessing Track 2 Diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific Region: A CSCAP Reader, Desmond Ball and Kwa Chong Guan, (eds), (Singapore: RSIS and Australian National University, 2010).
  5. Mely Caballero-Anthony, ‘The New Security Agenda in Asia: Making Spaces for Non-Traditional Security Formulations of Emerging Security Challenges’, in Sumit Ganguly, Andrew Scobell and Joseph Liow, (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Asian Security Studies (London and New York: Routledge, 2010), pp. 311-325.
  6. Mely Caballero-Anthony, ‘Cyclones and Humanitarian Crises: Pushing the Limits of R2P in Southeast Asia’, in Global Responsibility to Protect, Vol. 1, No. 2, March 2009, pp. 135-155 (21).
  7. Mely Caballero-Anthony, ‘Non-Traditional Security and Multilateralism in Asia: Reshaping the Contours of Regional Security Architecture’, in Bates Gill and Michael Green, (eds), Asia’s Multilateralism: Cooperation, Competition and the Search for Community (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), pp. 306-328.
  8. Mely Caballero-Anthony, Belinda Chng and Roderick Chia, ‘The ICC Verdict: Whose Responsibility?’,RSIS Commentary 33/2009,31 March 2009.
  9. Mely Caballero-Anthony, ‘Responding to Non-Traditional Security Challenges in Asia’, RSIS Commentary 58/2009, 16 June 2009.
  10. Alistair D. B. Cook and Mely Caballero-Anthony, ‘Aung San Suu Kyi’s Verdict: Implications for ASEAN’, RSIS Commentary 79/2009, 12 August 2009, reprinted in PACNET no. 57.
  11. Alistair D. B. Cook, ‘Operationalising Regimes and Recognising Actors: Responding to Crises in Southeast Asia’, Asia Security Initiative Policy Series, Working Paper No. 3, March 2010.
  12. Alistair D. B. Cook, ‘The US and Myanmar – Moving into a New Phase’, RSIS Commentary 102/2009, 20 October 2009, reprinted in The Nation (Bangkok).
  13. Alistair D. B. Cook, ‘The Obama Doctrine and Southeast Asia’, RSIS Commentary 127/2009, 18 December 2009
  14. Alistair D. B. Cook, ‘Positions of Responsibility: A Comparison of ASEAN and EU approaches towards Myanmar’, International Politics, Vol. 47 Issue 3 (2010).
  15. Interview of Alistair D. B. Cook by Radio 938LIVE on the US Signing the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, 28 July 2009, available here.
  16. Interview of Alistair D.B. Cook by Swiss National TV on the US, Myanmar and APEC Summit, 12 November 2009, available here.
  • Regional Workshop on the Protection of Civilians, 15– 16 July 2010
    (in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross)

This regional workshop will draw participants from Track Two Level institutions, which are associated with the protection of civilians in Asia. Over the course of two days, there will be a plenary session followed by three concurrent workshops on the targeted areas of focus on the protection of women, children, and IDPs. The aim of this two-day workshop is to contribute to a better understanding of the ‘protection of civilians’ from a political, security, legal and humanitarian perspective. The workshop participants will be encouraged to identify existing legal frameworks, processes and norms applicable to the region aimed at enhancing the protection of civilians. The discussions will be documented under Chatham House rules and produced in a summary document encapsulating the issues raised. This may be used as a resource document for wider engagement such as for research, policy development or thematic reports.

  • Project on Security Sector Governance and Conflict Management in Southeast Asia
    (in collaboration with the Institute for Strategic and Development Studies, the Philippines)

Security Sector Governance (SSG) is important to Asia given the challenges posed by political transitions and democratisation in the region. One can argue that while some states in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia have already been through political transitions from authoritarian, military-led regimes, state and human security remains fragile. A comparative study on SSG in Southeast Asia is timely given the goals of the states in the region to establish a security community. Instituting SSG, understanding its limitations, and the problems of implementation will be critical to ASEAN if it were to succeed in its goals to promote peace and security in the region. This project looks at case studies of security sector governance in Southeast Asia and examines how this has affected conditions of intra-state conflict.

A total of five papers are envisaged from the project: (Click here to read the abstracts)

  • Project on the Dynamics for Resolving Internal Conflicts in Southeast Asia
    (in collaboration with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Indonesia)

Within Southeast Asia, the occurrence of internal conflicts has been a persistent problem that poses a serious challenge not only to sovereignty and territorial integrity of states but also to regional stability. Most internal conflicts in the region have taken the form of armed struggle between ethnic nationalist groups against the central government in a protracted battle for either autonomy or independence. The two-year project will investigate the dynamics of resolving intra-state conflicts in the Southeast Asian region. More specifically, the project will investigate the circumstances that resulted in the relapse, deadlock or success in resolving internal conflicts in four case studies, namely Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar and Thailand. Questions of interest include the following: Why did the peace agreements in Aceh, Moro Philippines, and Myanmar collapse and lead to a relapse? Why has the conflict in southern Thailand never achieved a peace agreement and attempts at peace-making have continued to stagnate? Why has the Aceh conflict finally come to a close and what had sustained the peace-process thus far?

A total of five papers are envisaged from this project: (Click here to read the abstracts)

The Team

The research focus areas specified above will be headed, respectively, by:

» Core Team

» Affiliated Team

  • Dr Rizal Sukma
    Center for Strategic and International Studies,
    Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Prof. Herman Kraft
    Institute for Strategic and Development Studies
    The Philippines
  • Prof. Amado Mendoza Junior
    Department of Political Science
    College of Sciences and Philosophy
    University of the Philippines (Diliman)
  • Prof. Thitinan Pongsudhirak
    Department of Political Science
    Chulalongkorn University
    Bangkok, Thailand
  • Dr Tin Maung Maung Than
    Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
    National University of Singapore
  • Mr Evan Laksmana
    Centre for Strategic and International Studies
    Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Dr Pham Quoc Tru
    Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam
    Institute of Strategic & Foreign Policy Studies
  • Dr Keokam Kraisoraphong
    Department of Political Science
    Chulalongkorn University
    Bangkok, Thailand
  • Dr Maria Anna Rowena Luz Layador
    College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines
    and Institute for Strategic and Development Studies
    The Philippines
  • Dr Tang Siew Mun
    Institute of Strategic & International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia
    and School of History, Politics and Strategic Studies
    University Kebangsaan Malaysia


Posted on: 28/4/2010 4:12:27 PM  |  Topic: Internal and Cross-Border Conflict

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