Our latest Critical Conversation podcast features an exclusive discussion with Dr Comfort Ero, President & CEO of International Crisis Group, on the potential trajectory of the war in Ukraine, conflicts around the globe, and the role resource companies can play in fostering the advancement of peace.
Dr Comfort Ero was appointed President & CEO of the International Crisis Group, the leading conflict-resolution NGO, in December 2021. She joined the organisation as West Africa Project Director in 2001 and rose to become Africa Program Director, and then, in January 2021, Interim Vice President. Dr Ero has spent her entire career working on or in conflict-affected countries. In between her two tenures at International Crisis Group, she served as Deputy Africa Program Director for the International Centre for Transitional Justice (2008-2010) and, prior to that, Political Affairs Officer and Policy Advisor to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, UN Mission in Liberia (2004-2007). She has a PhD from the London School of Economics.
In this 30-minute conversation, recorded on 20th July 2022, Dr Ero shares her thoughts on the current state of play in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, highlights other ongoing conflicts, worrying trends in the increase of civilian deaths, and ponders the likely routes to peace, including the role that resource companies may play as facilitators of peace.
The discussion was moderated by Daniel Litvin, Founder and Senior Partner of Critical Resource.
Please note, as with our other podcast interviewees, the views expressed by Dr Ero do not necessarily reflect the views either of Critical Resource or ERM.
Among the key points raised by Dr Ero:
- Conflict is becoming more deadly. The Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) reported that 2021 saw a 46% increase in conflict-related deaths compared to 2020. The figures for this year are expected to be catastrophic, in part due to the Ukraine conflict. More worryingly still, civilians are becoming caught up in this geopolitical battlefield, resulting in significant humanitarian fallout.
- The Ukraine conflict was not unforeseen. There were clear signs of a real threat before the invasion happened. However, Putin miscalculated the extent of Ukraine’s resilience and the way in which the West united in support of that opposition. Short of putting boots on the ground, financial and military assistance to Ukraine has been staggering. This has tilted and changed the shape of the conflict
- There is no clear path to the end of the conflict in Ukraine. The Kremlin’s territorial ambitions in Ukraine have evolved since the invasion began, while Ukraine is reluctant to cede any territory. Without a significant shift in the military balance, peace talks are unlikely in the near future. This will undoubtedly test the longevity of continued unified Western support.
- US-China tensions are still front of mind for the US administration. Beijing sees little reason to compromise if the US frames the overall relationship as competition. China views the South China Sea as its backyard, although an open conflict is not looking likely for the moment, despite obvious growing tensions.
- The resource wealth of some countries has been a double-edged sword and, in some cases, a driver of conflict. That said, we can’t ignore the fact that weak governance, political marginalisation, repression etc. have also been important drivers of conflict. Resources are just one element adding fuel to the flame.
- Climate change already contributes to conflict risks in a number of places. The impacts will only get more extreme, resulting in increased competition for natural resources, disruptions to livelihood and large-scale migration. When these impacts are felt in countries that are already vulnerable, the outcome could be catastrophic. Our message to business is that it would be a mistake to overlook the significance of climate change and how it contributes to security in jurisdictions in which they operate.’
- There needs to be a way in which we can get businesses to see the implications of their own interventions and their own relations in countries that experience conflict. Companies have often been part of the problem, especially when benefitting from instability – but they also can become part of the solution. They have a good sense of the risks in the countries where they invest and they can, when acting responsibly, have a real, positive, impact on the communities in which they operate.