On the occasion of the Oslo Forum 2018, which took place in Norway on 19-20 June, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) asked prominent peacemaking practitioners and experts to suggest relevant books which they would like to recommend to others within the community.

HD is pleased to now share those recommendations and hopes that they will usefully inspire the peacemaking community’s 2018 summer readings. There will be a total of eight suggestions which will all be announced on this page in the coming weeks.

The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World
by Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro

Steven Pinker, Professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of the New York Times’ bestseller, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined, says:

«The authors take up a question close to my heart: ‘Why has interstate war declined precipitously since 1945?’ Perhaps unsurprisingly for a pair of legal scholars, they suggest that it is because war is literally illegal. Through most of history, this was not true: ‘might made right’, war was the continuation of policy by other means, and to the victor went the spoils. . . Hathaway and Shapiro date the change to – don’t laugh – the Kellogg–Briand Pact outlawing war in 1928. Although not respected right away (to put it mildly), the Pact was the basis for the United Nations’ similar prohibition in 1945, which had more teeth. This is a big-think book. Like The Clash of Civilizations and The End of History, The Internationalists tries to make sense of today’s world in the context of centuries of history, and Hathaway and Shapiro tell their story with literary flair.»

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
by Christopher Clark

Jeffrey Feltman, former United Nations Department of Political Affairs Under-Secretary-General, says:

«Before I went to Pyongyang in December 2017 for the first UN high-level political visit in nearly eight years, my staff and I spent considerable time consulting with experts to prepare our points: How could we persuade DPRK officials of the importance of restoring some kind of intra-Korean dialogue and of beginning a dialogue with Washington? Our primary goal was conflict prevention. We wanted to make the point as persuasively as possible about the need to signal intentions, manage any unanticipated incidents and pass messages in order to prevent a devastating accidental war. We talked a lot about how to utilise the Cold War history of deterrence, given that DPRK officials often justified their nuclear programme on that precedent. During our meetings, we stressed that Washington and Moscow and East and West Germany had always maintained some ways of communicating – channels absent in December 2017 in the case of the DPRK. But what really seemed to intrigue the DPRK officials was our insistence that DPRK and the US risked ‘stumbling’ into war. To illustrate our concern, I presented DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho with a copy of Chris Clark’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. It is an excellent reminder of how people and nations can stumble into war, and why we need to focus on conflict prevention. And it is a wonderful read.»

Garrisoned Minds: Women and Armed Conflict in South Asia
by Laxmi Murthy and Mitu Varma

Academy Award winning Pakistani filmmaker and journalist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, says:

«Silence is a resounding feature of oppression across the world. Women living in conflict are often easily silenced, rendering their daily struggles and resilience unacknowledged. Silences of conflict do not merely afflict those experiencing it but easily obscure those beholding it from safer distances. These accounts from South Asia make a noteworthy contribution to breaking silences about war and its gendered consequences. Forces sustaining oppressive patriarchies need scrutiny. My work, as a journalist and filmmaker, involves unshrouding repressive practices – not to fixate on bleak realities but to seek fresh opportunities for introspection. This book, brought together by 12 journalists, offers a critical but exceptionally human outlook on violence normalised on the bodies of women. With their unsettling immediacy, these stories enable critical examination of structures of repression. They prompt optimistic re-imaginings of women’s lives across societies.»

American War: A Novel
by Omar El Akkad

Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of the think tank New America, says:

«American War is a powerful and gripping fictional story about the second Civil War in the United States, set in roughly 2075, complete with refugee camps, desolation and destruction. Crucially, it brings home to American (and European) readers what it feels like to be the victim of a war actively fostered by foreign powers, who pour in arms and advice without accountability. The American characters are deceived, manipulated, and at the mercy of much larger forces, all while watching the destruction of their culture and their land. A more intimate theme is the wrenching personal choices that all human beings end up confronting when their worlds are turned upside down. Love and survival compete against each other; we must live with choices that we never expected to have to make and could not have predicted. Set just fifty-something years into the future, the novel also offers an entirely realistic picture of a redrawn national map as a result of rising sea levels.»

War! What is it good for? Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots
By Ian Morris

David Harland, Executive Director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, says:

«War! What is it good for? is an exploration of the dark side by Stanford Professor, Ian Morris. Any serious attempt to end war requires an understanding of what drives it, and of its effects. In this readable and provocative book, Morris explores the role of warfare in human society across several thousand years, concluding with a glimpse into the near future. A core idea is that ‘productive warfare’ actually reduces violence by consolidating states. You might not like it, but you will never see war, or our own attempts to limit it, the same way again.»

Ralph Bunche – An American Odyssey
By Brian Urquhart

Ngozi Amu, Chief of the Research and Analysis Unit of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), says:

«This is an extraordinary story of an African-American man’s rise to the helm of world diplomacy at the early stages of the creation of the United Nations, against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in the US. It is also a fascinating portrait of a conflict mediator. While the world has changed since Ralph Bunche, the importance remains of the skills and qualities he embodied: patience, empathy, optimism and an unwavering faith in the power of negotiation.»

The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa – Money, War and the Business of Power
By Alex de Waal

Mary Kaldor, Director of the Conflict and Civil Society Research Unit at the London School of Economics, says:

“This book develops a theory of the political marketplace to explain the (apparently) perverse behaviour of political and armed actors. The political marketplace refers to a system in which monetised transactional politics has become systematic and in which the associated political networks and bargaining reduce institutionalized politics to a subordinate position. It is typically found in violent, rentier political economies, in which political loyalties and services are sold to the highest bidder. De Waal illustrates his theory in relation to the countries of the Horn of Africa. The theory is particularly helpful in explaining what happens in peace processes and providing a basis for prediction when peace agreements break down, as in South Sudan. Indeed, in some cases, armed groups are formed in order to participate in peace processes and thereby gain access to rent. De Waal elaborates the theory with concepts taken from business studies such as ‘political budget’ and the ‘price of loyalty’.”

The IISS Armed Conflict Survey 2017
By the International Institute for Strategic Studies

Vitaly Naumkin, President of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, says:

The Armed Conflict Survey provides in-depth analysis of the political, military and humanitarian dimensions of all major armed conflicts, as well as data on fatalities, refugees and internally displaced persons. The publication assesses key developments in 36 high-, medium- and low-intensity conflicts, including those in Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, South Sudan, Southern Thailand, Syria and Ukraine. The survey features essays by some of the world’s leading experts on armed conflict, including Mats Berdal, Nelly Lahoud, Carrie Manning, William Reno and Elisabeth Jean Wood. These experts write on UN peacekeeping, conflict-related sexual violence, the Islamic State’s shifting narrative, the changing foundations of governance by armed groups and rebel-to-party transitions. The authors’ discussion of principal thematic and cross-national trends complements the detailed analysis of each conflict at the core of the book. Compiled by the IISS, publisher of The Military Balance, the Armed Conflict Survey is the standard reference work on contemporary conflict, and a must-read for those working with armed conflicts.”