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About Dan Smith

Dan Smith is Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. He is also a part-time Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Manchester, affiliated with the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute. Until August, 2015, he was Secretary General of International Alert, the London-based international peacebuilding organisation.

Articles by Dan Smith

This week’s front page editor


Sunny Hundal is openDemocracy’s social media editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

The crumbling architecture of arms control

Given US and Russian presidential capacity for springing surprises, we risk losing the degree of safety we gained with the end of the Cold War and have enjoyed since then.

European security. Crisis? What crisis?

At the Munich Security Conference, there is more agreement that current situations are tragic and risky, than accord on who is to blame and what to do.

Gender, peace, security, slavery and cigarettes

Progress against gender-based violence means thinking about models of masculinity and femininity, and how these may encourage violent, victimising and victimised behaviour.

Climate change and security: here’s the analysis, when’s the action?

We have moved beyond the tired old controversy about whether climate change causes armed conflict. The new discussion must look to compound risks: where climate change, arbitrary governance and lawlessness interact.

Bombing in the Middle East again: three easy questions

The last one being, "what is the definition of madness?"

The Middle East - who cares?

Or at least, who cares enough to try to start thinking anew? The region is burning. Apart from the parties to the conflicts who want to win, nobody seems to have any idea of what to do.

The conflict horizon

The last two decades have seen a growing global appetite for peace but unless concerted, informed action is taken the next two could bring darker times

Syria: CW disarmament enters critical phase as hell breaks loose

If by any chance a rogue group gets hold of CW – even from an entirely different source – and uses them, we will be back to the prospect of missile strikes again. Knowing that to be the case, some rogue groups may well set out to provoke just that.

The US-Iranian-Syrian diplomatic dance

Those who would help from the outside must rely on dialogue, contact and diplomacy, which means Russia, Iran and Assad himself all being involved, like it or not.

Syria: the pace quickens — but towards what?

Soon, military action against the Assad regime by western powers may be all but inevitable. But what kind of action, for what purpose, in the service of what larger strategy?

The case for the EU's External Action Service

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton steps down from leading the European External Action Service in late 2014. But despite her best efforts, the basic case for the EEAS remains unclear to many.

Syria: intervention - or the great power game?

Rather than giving the opposition a decisive means to victory, arms to Syria will only prolong the violence and suggest a grander agenda: rebalancing regional power.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the bank…

The people who brought us the banking crashes of 2007-2008 that became the credit crunch 2008-2009 and the economic wreckage we’ve lived in since are having another go. The very credit arrangements that brought us so much grief are fashionable again.

Resources: the coming crunch and some things that could be done about it

In the twentieth century the west’s boundless determination to extract ripped apart the social, political and cultural fabric of whole countries. Today, a century’s worth of price decline has been wiped out in a single decade, without reducing unprecedented levels of demand. 

The EU's Nobel Peace Prize

On Monday 10th December 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. For better or worse, the prize focuses attention on an important question: does Europe need peacebuilding?

The far horizons of peacebuilding – and the near

Peacebuilding and development can no longer be thought of in terms of what was always an over-simplified polarisation between the powerful stability of the giver and the weak turbulence of the beneficiary. It was always wrong to see the world that way; now it’s impossible.

A scorecard from Busan: did the High Level Forum contribute to aid effectiveness in conflict-affected countries?

The high ambition of getting global agreement tends to lead to an unambitious convergence on the least demanding positions and commitments. How did Busan fare?

What will success at Busan look like for conflict-affected countries?

The wording of the Outcomes Document from the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid is largely agreed, and reflects much of the new thinking on aid: statebuilding and peacebuilding; human security; transparency and results. But it fails to reflect the huge challenge of promoting and supporting development in conflict-affected countries in a changing world. To do this, Busan must rise to four more challenges.

Libya: the (next) moment of decision is approaching

We have been round the block too many times to believe that human costs will be the decisive factor in continuing outside intervention. The political costs for Cameron, Obama and Sarkozy – personally, for the governments they lead, for the influence of their states in the coming decade – are simply too high to back down.

Libya and the fog of intervention

Now the war has started, which side are you on? Should the intervention stop because the war will be long and bloody? Which means that instead the war will be short, Qaddafi will be victorious, and the aftermath will be bloody – probably as bloody as the war.

Intervention in Libya? A case of shooting from the hip, slowly

Politicians and public need to address the moral argument around the use of force, encompassing the humanitarian and democratic arguments deployed in favour of intervention balanced against risk aversion and moral objections.

Rescue the EU’s External Action Service from the European Commission

The air in Brussels is thick with a storm over the European External Action Service, basically caused by the European Commission trying to break its word on peace-building.

The EU's new External Action Service: what would success look like?

Plans for the EEAS seem to include innovative units for conflict prevention, security and stability. It is worth considering what kind of agenda we would like to see implemented by a thoughtful new global actor oriented in this direction

The new UK coalition and international development policy

The dust has settled, the first peacetime coalition in seven decades is in office and the work begins. What about UK international development policy under the new blue and yellow colours?

Chaff, noise and fog in the climate debate

The UEA emails affair, together with the religiosity of some people’s approach on either side of the argument, has quite a lot to tell us about the way forward

Beyond Haiti: preparing for the next disaster

As the relief effort finally gets under way, it is necessary to go beyond the immediacy of the tragedy and think a bit more deeply about what kind of assistance is most necessary for the future. A group convened by the World Economic Forum has been discussing the need for a new model for organising humanitarian action

Obama in power: is the war in Afghanistan a Just War?

The Just War tradition is not meant to be deployed as a tick-box approach to war, not least because answers to the questions it poses are often not clear and even when they are, they may be contradictory. That said, does Obama win his case?
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