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Conflict Weekly
Enshrining Abortion Rights in France's Constitution, Inuit Women's Demand for Justice, the State of Emergency in Haiti and the Elusive Ceasefire in Gaza

  IPRI Team

Conflict Weekly #218, 8 March 2024, Vol.5, No.10
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI

Padmashree Anandhan, Anu Maria Joseph, Navinan GV and Shamini Velayutham

France: First country to enshrine abortion rights in the Constitution
Padmashree Anandhan

In the news
On 4 March, the French parliament approved the bill with a three-fifth majority, constitutionalizing women's abortion rights. Article 34 would be amended to include the freedom of women to carry out abortions. President Emmanuel Macron called it a "universal message" to defend abortion rights. France becomes the first country to constitutionalize the right to terminate a pregnancy. 

On 4 March, before the vote, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal stated: "We're sending a message to all women: your body belongs to you and no one can decide for you."

On 4 March, on the "Guaranteed freedom" for abortion, national co-president of Le Planning Familial(a French equivalent of Planned Parenthood), Sarah Durocher, said: "This will give birth to other things...For example, real policies so there is effective access to abortion."

On 26 February, the Senate approved the bill, including women's right to an abortion in the Constitution, with 267 votes in favour and 50 against. This follows the approval from the Assemblée Nationale in January.

Issues at large
First, the French society's historical efforts to secure abortion rights. In January 1975, France took the first step in decriminalizing abortion through the Veil Law, with a close majority among conservatives and liberals. It came after a series of protests, feminist movements, and public debates. Until 1974, 48 per cent of the French population was in favour of abortion, which increased to 75 per cent in 2014. Abortion was once considered taboo, especially among the conservative Christians. However, it is no longer viewed as "shame or silence." In 1993 and 2001, two laws were passed that decriminalized self-abortion and instituted the offence of obstructing the termination of pregnancy. The change became evident with the involvement of the progressive younger generation and social media, breaking the taboos. The legislations and the change in views revolutionized the perceptions of society and individuals except the evangelical population.

Second, reason to constitutionalize. Several constitutional democracies have come far from banning abortions to legalizing with a scope to provide options for women before deciding not to exclude the right of an unborn child. For France, clearance from the Senate and both houses were considered more of a formality. Making it a constitutional right ensures women additional protection to opt for abortion and makes it tough for politicians to reverse. However, debates within the Christian conservative population on protecting the life and rights of children do hinge on societal mentality. But such strong legal mandates can help improve the rights of women.

Third, the debate across Europe. The majority of women in Europe have access to abortions; however, legal restrictions are a major hurdle. A few examples include Austria and Germany, which regulate the right to exercise abortion under a criminal code. Hungary insists women hear the child's heartbeat before deciding on abortion. The free distribution of abortion pills in Austria and the law against harassment of women who had abortions in Spain were a few other major developments. However, there are constraints for individuals in bearing the cost of the abortion procedure and getting covered under health insurance. Besides, in catholic dominant and eastern European countries, including Andorra, Northern Ireland, Malta, Poland, and San Marino, under moral, religious, and legal grounds, either ban abortion or allow it under restricted circumstances.

In perspective
First, the importance of state intervention. In the 1940s, abortion was perceived as a crime against an unborn child. By the 1950s, feminist movements gained traction in France. Following the government support in 1975, the feminist movements have gone hand in hand with legislation transforming public opinion, with the exceptions being the conservative evangelicals. Since 1975, reforms to the Veil laws during the years 2014 to 2016 have helped transition the mentalities of society towards abortions, making it more liberal for women to choose.

Second, the role of the leadership. For France, not just the government but also the leadership mattered in shaping abortion rights and reducing the restrictions for women. In 1975, Minister of Health Simone Veil served as a pioneer for women's rights and pushed for abortion rights. She faced challenges from jurists and anti-abortion groups in clarifying the law before the healthcare professionals. This helped in passing the Veil law with a close majority. Although such obstacles were not present for Macron, questions over consent to perform the procedure among the doctors and objections of the conservative group persist. Storming through these obstacles amid a rising right-wing party indicates Macron's ability to anchor the rights into the Constitution.


Denmark: Greenlandic Inuit's call for colonial justice
Anu Maria Joseph

In the news
On 4 March, the Associated Press reported that 143 indigenous women belonging to the Inuit community in Greenland sued the Danish Ministry of Health for forcing them to be inserted with intra-uterine contraceptive devices (IUDs) during the 1960s and 70s. Besides, they have demanded USD 6.3 million in compensation for human rights violations against them. One of the women, Naja Lyberth, was stated to have told Kalaallit Nunaata Radioa (KNR), a Greenland-based media: "As long as we live, we want to regain our self-respect and respect for our wombs."

On 4 March, the lawyer representing the Inuit women, Mads Pramming, stated: "My clients believe they were subject to a human rights violation because they have had IUDs inserted against their will, and in most cases when they were children."

On 4 March, a case was filed against Denmark's Ministry of Health. The Minister of Health, Sophie Lohde, stated: "This is a deeply unfortunate case that we must get to the bottom of, and therefore an independent investigation has also been initiated." 

Issues at large
First, a background to the Greenlandic Inuit community. Inuits are indigenous people from the Arctic regions of North America. They reside in Greenland, the US, Canada, Denmark and Russia. The Inuits of Greenland represent close to one third of the total 155,792 population worldwide. The Greenlandic Inuits or the Kalaallit constitute 89 per cent of Greenland's population. Greenland became a self-governing entity of Denmark in 1979. However, Denmark, its former colonial power, controls its foreign and defence affairs. 

Second, the complaints against Denmark’s colonial policies. During the 1960s and 70s, the island's population was increasing due to its better living and health conditions. According to the Danish authorities, nearly 4,500 women and girls were subjected to the IUD implant. Several were under the age of 12, and many are still unaware of what had happened. In 2022, the Danish government launched an investigation that is due in 2025. In 2018, a group of Inuits, who were taken away from their families for a failed social experiment in 1951, demanded an apology from the Danish authorities. Then, as part of an experiment, around 22 children, now in their 70s, were removed from their families to be re-educated as model Danish citizens. A formal apology was given by Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, in 2022.

Third, the refusal and reconciliation. The Danish government refused to be a part of the Greenlandic Reconciliation Commission in 2013, investigating the legacy of colonialism in Greenland. The Danish authorities cited the reconciliation commission as an “insult” to Denmark. In retrospect, the then authorities sought a reconciliation, ignoring acknowledgement and apology. This refusal to take responsibility changed during the recent years. In 2022, Denmark, for the first time, accepted and apologised for its atrocity against the Inuits. 

Fourth, the continuing marginalization of the Inuits. Although Greenland enjoys autonomy, it faces several economic, social, health and environmental challenges. The traditional life of the indigenous group has been threatened by forced urbanisation that started during the 1970s. It resulted in increased immigration of Danes and disruption of Inuit kinship. Meanwhile, climate change in the polar region with rising sea levels, rapid warming, melting ice and animal extinction have affected the community's livelihood. A rapid shift in their way of life accounted for multiple health issues. Besides, the presence of rare earths has attracted the investments of external actors including the US and China, which are initiated by the Danish government and marginally benefit the Inuits. In 2023, the UN recorded a lack of effective mechanisms to implement Inuit's rights to free, prior and informed consent in Greenland regarding "tourism concessions, implementing business projects and adopting legislative and administrative acts in Greenland." 

In perspective
Denmark’s reconciliation with the Greenlandic Inuits needs more seriousness and a swift response. A slow acknowledgement, apology and reparation from the Danish authorities implies that an effective reconciliation is far from reality. Although the autonomy of Greenland from Denmark was hailed as the self-determination and preservation of the community, the continued influence of the Danish government against the interests of the Inuits implies that complete self-determination and preservation is far from reality. The Danish authorities would likely take another three years to accept its colonial atrocity against the women. However, the case of Greenlandic Inuits is an encouragement for indigenous communities across the world to fight for their rights and justice.


Haiti: State of Emergency as violence surges with gang leaders warning of civil war and genocide
Navinan GV

In the news
On 7 March, the government in Haiti extended the state of emergency for another month. On 3 March, after gangs stormed the country's two biggest jails and freed nearly 3,700 inmates, the Haitian government declared a 72-hour state of emergency and a night curfew. 

On 6 March, Jimmy Cherizier, leader of the G9 gang, warned of a civil war and "genocide" if Haitian PM Ariel Henry did not step down. Al Jazeera quoted him to have stated: "If Ariel Henry doesn't resign, if the international community continues to support him, we'll be heading straight for a civil war that will lead to genocide." The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, described the situation in the country as "beyond untenable" and asked the international community to "act swiftly and decisively to prevent Haiti's further descent into chaos." A statement from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, "Haiti is facing a complex humanitarian and protection crisis. Every time violence breaks out, thousands of people fall into precarious situations and need emergency aid. Humanitarian organizations need unhindered access to the most vulnerable populations. Beyond humanitarian aid, Haiti needs greater international solidarity at this crucial time."

On 5 March, Henry arrived in Puerto Rico after his flight was denied entry into Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Minister of Finance Patrick Boisvert has been acting as prime minister while Henry remained overseas to get support for a UN-backed mission to help control the situation in the country. Boisvert stated that the "police were ordered to use all legal means at their disposal to enforce the curfew and apprehend all offenders." 

On 4 March, gangs attacked the airport to prevent Henry and a multinational force from entering the country.

On 1 March, Kenyan President William Ruto signed a "reciprocal" agreement with Haiti's PM Henry to deploy Kenyan police who would lead a UN-backed mission in Haiti. The two leaders "discussed the next steps to enable the fast-tracking of the deployment." On 26 February, the Bahamian Prime Minister, Philip Davis, stated that "Haiti is haemorrhaging" due to a "truly terrible" security situation. The Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, asserted that the world needed to "act quickly to alleviate the suffering" of the Haitians.

Issues at large
First, the gangs of Haiti. The emergence of gangs in Haiti dates back to the Tonton Macoute, a paramilitary force established by former Haitian President François Duvalier in the 1950s and 1960s. The Tonton Macoute was used to suppress political opposition and maintain Duvalier's power. Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide created armed groups to protect his political interests. These groups later morphed into gangs that control much of Haiti today, including G-Pep and G9, which fight for control of the capital city, Port-au-Prince. The gangs have since expanded their territories; according to the UN, 200 gangs operate across Haiti, with around 95 in the capital alone. Recently, their control over the capital increased from 60 to 80 per cent, according to UN officials. 

Second, the independence of the gangs and the weak state. The gangs have access to weapons and are financially independent, which seems to be the main source of their power. On 1 March, a UN report highlighted that a network of criminal actors, including some from Haiti, "often source firearms from across the US" and illegally smuggle them from the Dominican Republic. The gangs abduct civilians and demand ransom, making them financially independent and increasing their power. On the other hand, the police force is outnumbered and underfunded, resulting in fewer people and weapons. Gangs have become the source of authority in most parts of Haiti, increasing their presence and power.

Third, hesitant international response. Despite multiple calls from Haiti for international support, there needs to be more support to support the state and augment its ability to counter the gangs. At the regional level, in January 2024, a Kenyan High Court blocked the deployment of Kenyan police to Haiti by ruling it unconstitutional, further delaying the deployment of the multinational security support mission. On 28 February, a four-day regional summit of Caribbean leaders ended, wherein they stated that Henry had agreed to hold general elections by mid-2025. In February, the US government stated that to restore peace to Haiti, it was willing to supply money, equipment, and logistical support to a multinational force. According to Bahamian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell, the international community had pledged more than USD 100 million for the Haiti mission, with the US contributing an additional USD 200 million; however, the UN claimed that less than USD 11 million was received as of 5 March.

In perspective
Haiti faces four challenges – political legitimacy, weak institutions, strong gangs and lack of international support. Unfortunately, there is no light at the end of the tunnel on all four challenges. Despite the US asking Prime Minister Henry to make the governance inclusive, he is less likely to pursue that option. Weak institutions and strong gangs in Haiti have created a negative loop that makes the former weaker and the latter stronger. Haiti needs immediate support from the region and the rest of the world; unfortunately, it is not likely to happen in the immediate future. This means further instability in Haiti.


The War in Gaza: The Elusive Search for a Ceasefire
Shamini Velayutham

In the news
On 7 March, the War in Gaza entered its seventh month. Referring to it, the US President, in his State of the Union address, said: "As we look to the future, the only real solution to the situation is a two-state solution over time." On 3 March, US Vice-President Kamala Harris said: "Let's get a ceasefire. Let's reunite the hostages with their families. And let's provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza." On 3 March, US Vice-President Kamala Harris said: "Let's get a ceasefire. Let's reunite the hostages with their families. And let's provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza." On the same day, US President Joe Biden stated that he is determined to secure a deal with the warring parties to secure the release of Israeli captives held by Hamas and to establish a six-week ceasefire. Meanwhile, Israel's war cabinet member and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political rival, Benny Gantz, met with US Vice President Kamala Harris and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

On 6 March, Hamas said: "We will continue to negotiate through our brotherly mediators to reach an agreement that fulfils the demands and interests of our people." The US formulated a revised draft of a proposed UNSC ceasefire resolution that calls for "an immediate ceasefire of roughly six weeks in Gaza together with the release of all hostages." The third revised text calls for a "temporary ceasefire."

On 5 March, three days after the ceasefire negotiations in Cairo, led by the US, Qatar, and Egypt, the talks ended without a breakthrough. The ceasefire negotiations stalled as the Israeli delegation did not show up in Cairo, citing that Hamas did not release the list of captives. Meanwhile, the US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, met Qatar's Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman, to discuss a six-week ceasefire and efforts to release hostages held by Hamas.

On 4 March, Israeli Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant stated that the war would not end until the Hamas were defeated. On the same day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) chief, Volker Turk, during the council meeting in Geneva, stated that the war in Gaza is a "powder keg" that could engender a larger conflict, causing repercussions for the Middle East and other regions.

On 2 March, the US and Jordan carried out an airdrop of humanitarian aid to Gaza. The airdrop was carried out by three C-130 planes. Earlier, on 29 February, Israeli forces opened fire on aid seekers who gathered near the Nabulsi roundabout in the south-west of Gaza City, killing more than 100. 

Issues at large
First, the elusive search for a ceasefire, since the November humanitarian pause. In November 2023, the US, Qatar, and Egypt succeeded in getting a temporary humanitarian pause, agreed by Israel and Hamas. From 22 November, the pause lasted seven days before collapsing amidst accusations and counteraccusations by Israel and Hamas. Under the agreement, 105 hostages were released by Hamas, which included 81 Israeli women and children, 23 Thai nationals and one Filipino. In exchange, Israel released nearly 240 Palestinian prisoners. Ever since, there have been numerous efforts and calls for a longer ceasefire; discussions have taken place in the region and at the UN with less success. The recent one in the series is the statement by the US President regarding a Ramadan ceasefire and the frantic efforts during the last two weeks to reach it.

Second, the focus on ceasefire and the multiple demands. Based on available information to the public, the demands for a ceasefire include the ceasing of military operations by Israel, the release of the hostages by Hamas, and allowing more humanitarian aid into Gaza, including medical supplies, tents and construction materials to rebuild. Hamas also want the release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel in a specific proportion (400 Palestinian prisoners for 40 Israeli hostages).  

Third, increasing American pressure on Israel and PM Benjamin Netanyahu. President Biden's reference to the "Two State Solution" in his State of the Union address is one of the latest statements aimed at pressuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The US airdrop of aid during the previous week in Gaza was a strong statement from Biden against Netanyahu. The US Vice President's statement on the aid and the White House hosting Benny Gantz, Netanyahu's rival in Israel, is a clear message to Netanyahu. 

Fourth, the humanitarian situation in Gaza. In February, the UN warned that at least 576,000 people are "one step away from famine." There is a limited distribution of aid as Israel allows a minimum of trucks into Gaza. Despite pressure from the UN and US, Netanyahu remains stubborn in disallowing more aid to Gaza.

In perspective
A ceasefire before Ramadan and more aid into Gaza are the immediate requirements. Developments during the week highlight the complications in achieving both. Israel and Hamas seem unmoved in their position and unwilling to compromise. 

Will the thinning of American patience with Netanyahu make the latter understand and make a compromise? Will the regional pressure be sufficient enough to force Hamas to take a positive step in releasing the hostages? These are two primary questions of the week. The answers look bleak on both.


Issues in Peace and Conflict This Week:
Regional Roundups

Akriti Sharma, Vetriselvi Baskaran, Akhil Ajith, Anu Maria Joseph, Femy Francis, Padmashree Anandhan, Dhriti Mukherjee, Shamini Velayutham, Narmatha S and Navinan GV 

East and Southeast Asia
China: Envoy sent to Ukraine for an immediate political settlement
On 5 March, China sent its special envoy for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, to Kyiv for a political settlement to the war in Ukraine. He began his trip to Russia on 2 March, followed by visits to Poland, Ukraine, Germany, France, and Belgium. This was his second trip to Europe after the war began. Li told Russia's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mikhail Galuzin, that China is committed to promoting peace talks, mediation, and building consensus between the two sides. During his first trip to Kyiv in May 2023, Li stated that China would help Ukraine "within its ability."

China: Human rights violation in Xinjiang and Tibet, claims UN Human Rights Chief
On 4 March, United Nations Human Rights Chief Volker Turk said that China is violating the fundamental rights of the people in Xinjiang and Tibet. He called on the Chinese authorities to correct its actions and implement recommendations given by human rights bodies "in relation to laws, policies and practices that violate fundamental human rights, including in the Xinjiang and Tibet regions." However, China has rejected the allegations and said that its vocational centres have helped combat extremism and enhance development. China's ambassador to the UN, Chen Xu, accused it of politicizing and weaponizing human rights issues.

China: Free military assistance agreement with Maldives
On 4 February, China and Maldives forged a defence cooperation agreement, offering "non-lethal" free military assistance. This is the first time China has signed a military cooperation deal with Maldives. Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu stated: "To obtain the different forms of training required by the Maldives' military and to be granted various non-lethal military equipment free of charge, that is what this agreement is about. This will increase the technical capacity of the defence forces." The agreement came weeks after the Maldivian President, Mohamed Muizzu, called for withdrawing Indian troops stationed there.

China: Collision with Philippines ship 
On 5 February, the Philippines Coast Guards (PCG) accused Chinese ships of blocking their resupply mission in the South China Sea. PCG spokesperson Jay Tarriela informed that the incident, which caused minor structural damage, happened near the Second Thomas Shoal. Tarriela stated: "The PCG vessels faced dangerous manoeuvres and blocking from Chinese Coast Guard vessels and Chinese Maritime Militia." He added that the reckless and illegal actions by the Chinese vessels led to the collision between the MRRV-4407 and China Coast Guard 21555. The Chinese Coast Guard responded that they took "regulatory action" against the Philippines and accused them of entering waters illegally.

Australia: Russia and China are overtaking the US and its allies in military innovation, says an official
On 4 March, Australia's Deputy Defence Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Industry, Hugh Jeffrey, stated that Russia and China are overtaking the US and its allies in military innovation. He commented that the current military architecture based on the Cold War is unsuited to address future challenges. He noted that Australia and the US need to be prepared against the growing threats in the Indo-Pacific region. He welcomed the Biden administration's efforts to clear the regulatory hurdles in implementing the AUKUS alliance. The West sees the AUKUS alliance as a strategy to contain the growing Chinese naval expansion, especially in the South China Sea. Despite the US's passing of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), pending legislative reforms and Australian concerns about complying with US standards remain a challenge to the alliance. 

South Korea: Talks with the US on defence cost-sharing mechanism
On 5 March, South Korea and the US listed the names of the envoys, Lee Tae-woo and Linda Specht, respectively, to begin talks on sharing the cost of keeping US troops in South Korea. The deal, if signed, is expected to come into effect in 2026. Currently, there are 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea to deter North Korea. 

South Korea: Police summons doctor against mass walkout protest
On 6 March, South Korean police questioned a doctor, summoned for the first time, concerning the mass walkout. The government had set a deadline on 29 February for the protesting doctors to return to work. Doctors across the country have been protesting against the government's recent proposal to increase medical school admissions to address the workforce shortage. On 6 March, President Yoon Suk Yeol stated that the doctor's walkouts were "illegal collective action that violates people's rights to life." Additionally, the police raided the offices of the Korean Medical Association (KMA), which has been supporting the protests. Besides, KMA's Director, Joo Soo-ho, is being accused of "aiding and abetting" the protestors. 

South Asia
Sri Lanka: Protests against Indian fisherman for illegal fishing
On 3 March, Sri Lankan fishermen from the northern districts of Jaffna, Mullaitivu, and Mannar protested against the allegedly recurring illegal fishing by Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters. They demanded swift action to prevent illegal poaching and swore to intensify protests if the issue was unresolved. Recently, there have been several protests against the Indian fisherman for allegedly crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and fishing in Sri Lankan waters. In Jaffna, a protest was staged opposite the Indian consulate. In 2023, 240 Indian fishermen were arrested, and 35 trawlers were seized by the Sri Lankan Navy for poaching. 

Nepal: Growing obesity and undernutrition 
On 5 March, the Kathmandu Post cited a study by an NGO, Baliyo Nepal, that Nepal is grappling with obesity, which is impacting children, adolescents, and adults. Three per cent of children under the age of five are obese, exceeding the Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2022 findings. Nepal faces a "double burden" of malnutrition, with undernutrition persisting alongside the rapid rise of obesity, particularly in urban areas. The Chief Executive Officer of Baliyo Nepal, Atul Upadhyay, stated: "What is concerning is that in Bagmati Province, the percentage of children of the said age group with obesity problems is higher compared to other provinces." Nepal is not the only country facing this problem, as a report published by The Lancet, an international medical journal, highlighted how the "total number of children, adolescents and adults worldwide living with obesity has surpassed one billion."

Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa
Israel: Continuing raids
On 4 March, according to Israel's emergency medical service, Magen David Adom (MDA), one person was killed and two others were injured after an anti-tank missile was fired towards Margaliot in northern Israel. An MDA paramedic, Walid Kezel, stated: "Together with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) medical personnel, we provided medical treatment and evacuated five wounded people who suffered from shrapnel injuries with Air Force helicopters." On the same day, the IDF completed its two-week raid on the Z2 neighbourhood of Gaza City, destroying nearly 100 operatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. On 2 March, 17 people were killed after Israeli fighter jets attacked a residential building in the Deir el-Balah region and the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. 

Iraq: Targets power stations, Turkish drone attack kills two fighters
On 6 March, the Islamic Resistance stated that it targeted a power station at the Haifa Airport by using drones. The group said: "As part of the second phase of resistance operations against the occupation, in support of our people in Gaza, and response to the Zionist massacres against unarmed Palestinian civilians, the fighters of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, on the evening of Tuesday 5-3-2024, targeted the power station at Haifa Airport in our occupied lands using drones." 

Algeria: Extends aid to Mozambique's fight against Jihadists
On 4 March, Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi ended his four-day visit to Algeria. The Algerian government vowed to extend its support to Mozambique's fight against Jihadist insurgency in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. Nyusi stated that Algeria has "promised immediate support for the Local Force, the one that is fighting terrorism."

Sudan: UN human rights chief warns of war crimes
On 1 March, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, stated that a deliberate attempt to disrupt access to humanitarian agencies in the war-torn Sudan would imply a war crime. He said: "Sudan has become a living nightmare. Almost half of the population – 25 million people – urgently need food and medical aid. Some 80 per cent of hospitals have been put out of service." The development came after aid supplies were looted, humanitarian workers were attacked, and humanitarian agencies complained about bureaucratic challenges to reach out to the conflict-hit regions. According to the UN, the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has killed at least 14,600 people and injured 26,000. 

Sudan: Demand to reinstate AU membership before mediation
On 4 March, Sudan's military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan demanded reinstating the country's AU membership to consider the AU-led mediation to end the conflict. Al Burhan stated: "Sudan's confidence in the AU and the potential solutions it can provide to end the war, but only if the state regains its full membership and the organization treats it as such." Sudan was suspended from the AU following the military takeover on 25 October 2021. Later, in April 2023, the AU formed a special three-member panel to resolve the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). 

Burkina Faso: Series of attacks kill hundreds
On 3 March, Al Jazeera reported that at least 170 people were killed in a series of attacks in three villages in northern Burkina Faso. The attacks are separate from the attacks on a mosque in Natiaboani and a church in Essakane that killed dozens. Currently, nearly half of the country is under the control of several armed groups.

Europe and the Americas
Ukraine: Russian patrol boat destroyed in a strike
On 5 March, Ukraine's Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) claimed to have destroyed a Russian military patrol boat close to the Crimean Peninsula. The strikes reportedly caused critical "damage to the stern, starboard and port sides." Military intelligence spokesperson Andriy Yusov said that the strike killed several crew members and left others wounded. The Ukrainian President's Chief of Staff, Andriy Yermak, stated that Russia's Black Sea Fleet "cannot be in Ukraine's Crimea" as it served as a "symbol of the occupation."

Europe: European Commission encourages spending on defence, unveils new programme worth EUR 1.5 billion
On 5 March, the European Commission revealed plans to boost the arms industry in light of the war in Ukraine. It proposed spending EUR 1.5 billion to incentivize countries to buy jointly from European firms. It would motivate the industry to raise capacity and develop technologies. Vice President of the Commission, Margrethe Vestager, pointed out that Europe has been "vividly confronted with the well-known structural fragmentation along national borders." The continent's defence industry has not had "sufficient production capacity to meet the sharp increase of demand," as EU members favoured orders with domestic companies, creating mistrust and preventing competition. Vestager claimed that while EUR 1.5 billion was "not a lot of money when it comes to the defence industry," it could encourage the EU members to work together.

Poland: Anti-tank weapon deal signed with Sweden
On 4 March, the Polish Minister of Defence, Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, announced that the country had signed a deal to buy anti-tank grenade launchers from Saab, a Swedish aerospace and defence company, in a deal worth USD 1.63 billion. In 2024, Poland is set to spend four per cent of its GDP on defence to strengthen its armed forces following the war in Ukraine. The deal centres around the Carl-Gustaf M4 grenade launcher, intended to combat all modern combat vehicles. Kosiniak-Kamysz detailed that Poland would get several thousand grenade launchers and rounds of ammunition, along with infrastructure, training, and other elements required to use the weapon. 

The UK: "Customs partnership" signed to track down small boat material shipment
On 4 March, the UK signed a "customs partnership" with the Calais Group, a group of northern European countries including France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the European Commission, to prevent the supply of materials used in the small boats to France, from where they are launched. This follows Britain's attempts to prevent the flow of tens of thousands of migrants arriving on small boats from mainland Europe. The UK and France would lead the initiative, under which countries' customs agencies would share information about the shipment of materials used to make small boats. 

Canada: Palestinian Canadians and lawyers sue government for supplying weapons to Israel
On 5 March, Palestinian Canadians and human rights lawyers sued Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly over the export of military equipment to Israel. Additionally, they demanded a federal court to order the Canadian government to stop issuing export permits. A board member of Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR), Henry Off, explained that they wanted to "hold Canada to its own standards and to its international legal obligations" by preventing it from "contributing to the mass starvation and bombardment of Gaza." According to official figures, in 2022, Canadian arms exports to Israel accounted for USD 15 million. However, Maple News cited government data that Canada authorized at least USD 20.9 million in new military exports to Israel during the first two months of the war. In February 2024, government spokesperson Jean-Pierre Godbout stated that the permits granted since 7 October were for "the export of non-lethal equipment," adding that all permit applications are "reviewed on a case-by-case basis under Canada's risk assessment framework."


 About the authors
Akriti Sharma is a PhD Scholar at NIAS. Padmashree Anandhan and Anu Maria Joseph are Research Associates at NIAS. Femy Francis, Dhriti Mukherjee, Akhil Ajith and Shamini Velayutham are Research Assistants at NIAS. Vetriselvi Baskaran, Narmatha S and Navinan GV are Postgraduate Students at the University of Madras. 

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Annem Naga Bindhu Madhuri

Issues for Europe
July 2023 | CWA # 1012

Bibhu Prasad Routray

Myanmar continues to burn
December 2022 | CWA # 879

Padmashree Anandhan

The Ukraine War
November 2022 | CWA # 838

Rishma Banerjee

Tracing Europe's droughts
March 2022 | CWA # 705

NIAS Africa Team

In Focus: Libya