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The situation in Syria is desperate, while the diplomacy surrounding it is getting more tangled by the day. Is there a role for the European Union in the quest for a settlement to the Syrian war, in line with its commitment to crisis management?

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On 8-10 November, EUNPACK held a workshop in Bamako, Mali. In this workshop, Morten Bøås and Silje Skøien from NUPI met with the ARGA team led by Abdoul Wahab Cisse and Ambroise Dakouo for two days of discussions about the implementation of the field work in Mali. Among the items discussed was the question what sectors we should target in this case. We decided to focus on the EU's support to Security Sector Reform through the EUTM and the EU's approach to rule of law programmes in Mali.

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In an opinion piece for Norwegian daily Dagsavisen, EUNPACK project manager Morten Bøås and Tina Gade ask what will happen after Islamic State are driven out of Mosul. They argue that an apparent lack of planning on the part of the anti-IS forces currently attacking Mosul makes it likely that they will win the war, but lose the peace in the city. "The coalition now fighting against IS is a short-term military coalition that has an interest in chasing IS out of Mosul but has little else that unites them," they write.

External crisis response in the form of peacekeeping and peacebuilding has never been easy, but the current context of broad and ambitious mandates combined with robust instructions to use force may provide for further challenges. If we take recent conflict trends as a guide to ongoing and future externally-driven crisis response operations, the field is and will continue to be characterised by complex missions in politically difficult terrains.

In today’s world, efficient crisis response is much needed and often attempted. Yet after more than two decades of heavy international engagement in various types of external third-party crisis response, we still do not know much about what works, what does not, and under what type of conditions. New tools are constantly being added to the international crisis response toolbox, resulting in missions with ever-expanding mandates that are not met by more resources. Rather, the opposite seems to be the case.

The revolution will not be televised

It has been five years since the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohammed Bouazizi sparked a series of uprisings against authoritarian rule in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. In contrast to the crowds celebrating the transition to democracy in Tunisia, there were no mass ceremonies on the fifth anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. After having arrested activists and shut down cultural spaces, security personnel were out in force. Only a handful of regime supporters were allowed to organise a low-key gathering, not to celebrate the instigators of the revolution, but to praise the police who tried to stop them. All other demonstrations were banned. The social media networks were silent. Egypt has been thrown back to the darkest days under former President Hosni Mubarak.