Absolute Distress

Structural Causes of Hunger in Sudan

by Mark Duffield
published in MER166

Most discussion of the food crisis in Africa is a model in which subsistence economies remain essentially intact and food insecurity is a transitory phenomenon, the result of external factors such as drought or war which temporarily upset the normal balance between sufficiency and dearth. My experience suggests that in Sudan subsistence economies have all but disappeared. Food insecurity no longer defines one or another period but is a constant condition of the market economy that has come to dominate the country.

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America's Egypt

Discourse of the Development Industry

by Timothy Mitchell
published in MER169

Open almost any study of Egypt produced by an American or an international development agency and you are likely to find it starting with the same simple image. The question of Egypt’s economic development is almost invariably introduced as a problem of geography versus demography, pictured by describing the narrow valley of the Nile River, surrounded by desert, crowded with rapidly multiplying millions of inhabitants.

A 1980 World Bank report on Egypt provides a typical example. “The geographical and demographic characteristics of Egypt delineate its basic economic problem,” the book begins:

Where Famine Is Functional

Actual Adjustment and the Politics of Relief in Sudan

by Mark Duffield
published in MER172

Images of African famine once again scan Western television screens, prompting a renewed search for causes and solutions. In this worried atmosphere it is easy to overlook that international relief operations have now become a widespread and accepted response to this unfolding crisis. While Sudan and Ethiopia spring to mind, such interventions have also occurred in Uganda, Mozambique, Angola and Liberia.

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Chemonics Revisited

published in MER186

In mid-October 1993, the New York Times ran a series exploring in detail how influential agribusiness firms have managed to reap huge profits from Agriculture Department programs designed to promote US exports. One case in point was Comet Rice, a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Erly Industries, whose chairman, Gerald D. Murphy, is a conservative Republican with many friends among Reagan-Bush administration officials.

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The Democratization Industry and the Limits of the New Intervention

by Robert Vitalis
published in MER187

In the wake of the Gulf war, the question of democracy in the Middle East has finally caught up with Washington, but in ways that reinforce dominant strains of Cold War thought and action. Witness the regular depiction of Islam and Islamist movements in terms once reserved for communism, reflecting an artful mix of representation and prescription meant to discourage meddling with the authoritarian status quo. Within the community of Middle East scholars and academic experts, though, one finds people less ready to write off the region as an “exception” to global trends. To varying degrees, this current believes that US policy can strengthen a second wave of liberalism in the Middle East.

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An Interview with Mark Duffield

by Joe Stork
published in MER187

Mark Duffield visited Croatia and Bosnia between January 9 and 22, 1994, as part of a study of complex political emergencies. Joe Stork spoke with him on January 28, 1994.

In your field report you refer to the failure to provide protection as representing a political failure of historic consequences.

Bosnia and the Future of Military Humanitarianism

by Mark Duffield
published in MER187

Mark Duffield was in Bosnia and Croatia from January 9 to January 22, 1994 as part of a larger study of complex emergencies. The following is condensed from his “first impression” field report.

The war in former Yugoslavia has displaced over 4 million people. Nearly 3 million of these are in Bosnia, where half the population has been uprooted. From a humanitarian perspective, the war in Bosnia presents itself as the blockade and terrorization of civilian populations. While access can be negotiated, as the war has spread across central Bosnia this has become increasingly difficult. Food supplies have fallen to critical conditions.

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Sovereignty and Intervention After the Cold War

Lessons from the Emergency Relief Desk

by John Prendergast , Mark Duffield
published in MER187

Over the past several years, the perception has become widespread that the world has entered a period of profound change. A main feature of this change has been some erosion of the principle of state sovereignty as a major structural feature of international relations. The new activism of the United Nations and the trend toward selective military intervention for humanitarian purposes and as a means of international crisis management have been the most prominent features of this development.

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The Political Roots of Famine in Southern Sudan

by Jeff Drumtra
published in MER208

Given that a large contingent of foreign aid workers and UN representatives has been on the scene in Sudan for a decade, why did no one foresee the current famine in southern Sudan, which is affecting more than a million people?

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No Pink Slip for Salih

What Yemen's Protests Do (and Do Not) Mean

by Stacey Philbrick Yadav | published February 9, 2011

With cameras and Twitter feeds trained on Tahrir Square in Cairo, a series of large opposition protests have unfolded in an eponymous square in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, as well as other major cities across the country. The protests have been organized and coordinated by a cross-ideological amalgam known as the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP, sometimes also translated as the Common Forum), and have been identifiable by their careful deployment of protest paraphernalia -- sashes, hats, posters, flyers and more -- tinted in gradations of pink. At first glance, these protests seem to have generated substantial concessions from President ‘Ali ‘Abdallah Salih, who, having occupied some form of executive office since 1978, is the longest-serving ruler in the Arab world after Muammar al-Qaddafi. Salih pledged on February 2 to abandon his efforts to amend the constitution so as to be able to run again himself or engineer the succession of his son, Ahmad, to the presidency. Much as these steps might appear to presage far-reaching political change in Yemen, perhaps even a colored proto-revolution, there are good reasons for skepticism.