The Power of Uncertainty: How Change in Conflict Influences Security

In this talk, Dr Annette Idler will discuss preliminary findings of the multi-year AHRC-ESRC funded project “The Changing Character of Conflict Platform: Understanding, Tracing, and Forecasting Change across Time, Space, and Cultures”. First, she will present a general overview on how the Conflict Platform promotes dialogue across methodologies and epistemologies, bringing together large data analysis with ethnographic fieldwork, complexity science, visualisation techniques, visual arts, and historical tracing back to the Thirty Years War. She then will focus on the following question: How do changes in armed conflict influence people-centred security? In settings of armed multiparty conflicts, it is argued, changes such as ceasefires or the demobilization of an armed actor induce uncertainty because the previously existing order and the rules of behaviour attached to it are no longer available. Dr Idler demonstrates that the extent to which change and increased levels of uncertainty impact negatively on security depends on people’s prior experiences of non-state order: namely enmity, rivalry, or friendship among violent non-state groups. This study is based on extensive fieldwork conducted in and on three hubs of instability that stand out through their protractedness and the convergence of armed conflict and organized crime: Colombia/Venezuela, the Golden Triangle (with a focus on Myanmar) and the Horn of Africa (with a focus on Somalia).

Annette Idler is the Director of Studies at the Changing Character of War Programme, Senior Research Fellow at Pembroke College, and at the Department of Politics and International Relations, and Affiliate at the Latin American Centre, all University of Oxford. She is also Research Associate at the Graduate Institute Geneva’s Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding, serves as Advisory Board Member for the German Journal of Strategic Analyses, and as International Advisory Committee Member for the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research.

Idler’s work focuses on the interface of conflict, security, transnational organized crime as well as terrorism, peacebuilding and governance. She is particularly interested in the role that diverse types of violent non-state groups play in these dynamics. Drawing on ethnographic methods in her work, over the past decade, she has conducted extensive fieldwork in and on war-torn and crisis-affected regions of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.

Idler advises governments and international organizations, is a regular expert for media outlets such as Al Jazeera, BBC and the Washington Post, and has published numerous policy briefs. Idler previously worked with UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and GIZ. She holds a doctorate from the Department of International Development, University of Oxford, and an MA in International Relations from King’s College London’s Department of War Studies.