National security wrap

Image courtesy of Flickr user William Hartman.

The Beat

Damning report for Duterte’s drug war

Despite a heft of sometimes-baffling domestic support, the Philippine ‘war on drugs’ has been internationally controversial and brutal (look to NYT’s disturbingly visceral photo-feature.) This week, a 26-page Reuters report provides a police-insider’s account of the war. The document was recently circulated to church officials and the Philippine Commission on Human Rights. (Because the claims in the document couldn’t be independently verified, Reuters published only the first page.) The contents reportedly dovetail with the intel gathered by various independent human rights monitors, and paint a pretty bleak picture: officers from the Philippine National Police are receiving cash payments for executing suspects, are planting evidence at crime scenes, and are selecting targets from lists of suspects.

A mammoth haul

Chinese police recently seized 1.07 tons of undeclared woolly mammoth ivory after it was smuggled across the Russian border. While elephant ivory has typically been the most sought after of the two products, attention is shifting to the mammoth tusks as China prepares to ban domestic elephant ivory trade at the end of 2017. Mammoth ivory is not illegal now, but should it be? Proponents of a ban argue that such ivory encourages the demand for elephant ivory—on the other hand, it’s entirely possible and even probable that such a ban would merely open the way for more organised crime. Sadly, the urgency of the issue will only increase, as global warming melts the Arctic tundra that previously housed the woolly remains.

CT Scan

The ‘alarming truth’ about Australian CVE

According to Matteo Vergani of Deakin University, when it comes to countering violent extremism (CVE) in Australia, ‘we don’t know what works’. That’s because, despite an abundance of community-based CVE programs, ‘there is no rigorous evaluation or evidence produced to demonstrate that these programs have reduced radicalisation and extremism’. Vergani recommends a number of components to increase the quality of impact assessment, including focusing on a list of concrete and measurable outcomes—such as employment, social capital or self-esteemusing comparison groups. It remains to be seen whether the latter is a viable option given it would involve working with groups who haven’t yet engaged with CVE programs. What’s clear, is that it’s time for Australian CVE experts to engage more in constructive dialogue with some of the high-quality research coming out of Europe.

Beware of branding someone a terrorist

And with that in mind, ‘Beware of branding someone a terrorist’ is a fascinating new academic article, available online (and for free!) in the most recent issue of the JD Journal for Deradicalization. The article looks at the Dutch approach to countering violent extremism and radicalisation, which involves ‘putting the person at the centre of each intervention’ and ‘focusing on preventive rather than repressive measures’.


Child refugees exploited in Greece

The extent of sexual and physical exploitation experienced by child migrants in Greece has been revealed in a new report (PDF) by Harvard University. Desperate to reach Western Europe, some unaccompanied child refugees from the Middle East have resorted to selling sexual favours to pay the thousands of dollars in smuggling fees. In 2016, Greek child protection agencies received referrals for 5,174 children, but only 191 had been transferred to other European countries by December.

Mediterranean rescue

8,360 migrants were rescued from the Mediterranean over the Easter long weekend by Frontex, the Italian Coast Guard and NGO search-and-rescue ships. The International Organization for Migration attributes the surge in numbers to the improving weather conditions. The IOM estimates that this week, a total of 36,000 people will have attempted the journey from Libya to Italy so far in 2017.

Symphonic protest

The Dresden Symphony Orchestra wants to stage a performance on both sides of the US–Mexico border to protest the construction of Trump’s border wall. Director Markus Rindt doesn’t want others to experience what he did growing up in East Germany. If they reach their €15,000 crowdfunding goal, musicians from Dresden, the US and Mexico will play together in Tijuana and San Diego on 3 June.

First Responder

Landfill landslide

A 90-metre high rubbish dump in Colombo, Sri Lanka collapsed on Friday, causing a landslide that has so-far killed 30 people and destroyed 150 homes. Hundreds of residents have been evacuated amid fears of another collapse and security has been increased after reports of looting. 23 million tons of rubbish rots at the dump; about 800 tons of solid waste is added every day. A government plan to dismantle the tip hadn’t yet commenced, and BBC footage from Saturday shows that, while the rescue and recovery operation continued, rubbish was still being dumped at the site.

A model disaster

A new report, Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination in Emergencies: Towards a Predictable Model (PDF), outlines how key civil-military coordination mechanisms are activated during disaster response within global and regional frameworks. Released by the Regional Consultative Group (RCG) on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination for Asia and the Pacific, it focuses on Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines, all highly vulnerable to large-scale natural disasters.

Parent Earth

Lastly, check out NASA’s #AdoptThePlanet project—there are 64,000 pieces of Earth up for grabs ahead of Earth Day on 22 April.