May 29, 2011

Stabilizing Afghanistan's Conflict through Education

Afghanistan's long history of conflict has deprived youth of  critical education opportunities.  Children in conflict-afflicted countries are more likely to be out of school or to drop out.  Conflicted areas result in extreme disadvantages of poverty and social inequality.  As the bulk of contemporary conflict exists locally, through internal civil conflicts among high-capacity non-state actors, these conflicts frequently target and endanger civilians, further disrupting education systems.  The disruption of daily life, the prevalence of social inequality, and the destruction of local infrastructure and markets from conflict has specifically harmed schools and schoolchildren.  Attacks on schools, the recruitment of children, and the targeting of school infrastructure in Afghanistan have only reinforced poverty and social degradation [UNESCO].

Afghanistan contains two separate eduction systems.  For centuries, traditional religious education was the only available system, until the 1960s when a new, modern education system was introduced with the creation of Kabul University and supporting secular institutions.  Kabul University and nine other post-secondary colleges served the population until the Soviet War and the following Civil War resulted in their downfall.  Between 1996 and 2001, circumstances worsened as the Taliban closed institutions or heavily restricted curriculums.   In 2000, UNICEF reported that less than 5% of Afghan children received a primary school education. Under the Taliban, female education was banned [BBC].

Today in Afghanistan, the World Bank reveals an expanded access to education, with 6.2 million children enrolled and 2.2 female students [World Bank].   Some of these successes can be attributed to large scale programs such as UNICEF's Country Programme Action Plan for 2010-2013, which as continually worked to ensure that Afghani children have the ability to express the rights outlined within the UN Convention on the rights of the child [UNICEF].  Yet there remains a demand for continued improvement such as access to higher education institutions. At present, Afghanistan can only accommodate about 60,000 students leaving Grade 12, while public training technical institutions can only absorb a few thousand [UN].  Education is critical asset to overcome the gap between humanitarian assistance and post-coflict reconstruction.  It serves a need with the initial processes of stabilization, but more importantly, provides mechanisms for long lasting peace and economic development.  

May 6, 2011

Architecture, Conflict, and Urban Planning Publications

In the last few days, as I've finished writing my upcoming piece on the Architecture of Conflict and Militarization in Somalia, it occurred to me that more attention needs to be brought to some of the books published on this subject.  Scholarship within this domain is still in its infancy, however, there are a few works that merit special attention, either for their groundbreaking  investigation or their brilliant analysis.  Below are the three I've most recently read, although the list is far from comprehensive.

Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation
Eyal Weizman 2007

This book was recommended to me by Dr. Adrian Parr, author of Hijacking Sustainability, and I am very glad to have followed her advice.  Hollow Land has become my favorite book in several years, as Weizman masterfully illustrates how the military history of Israel has been channeled through urban planning and architecture for territorial expansion and the oppression of the Palestinian people.  Well research and artfully written, Weizman traces the use of new settlements, zoning laws, inequitable developments in infrastructure, and architectural design as mechanisms of control.

Stephen Graham 2010

Graham traces the development of the city as a conflict zone, identifying trends of surveillance and militarization within the urban fabric.  Overall, this book has rather 'high-tech' demeanor, something akin to the aesthetic of Blade Runner.  Written in a straightforward, academic manner, Graham efficiently illuminates the integration of terrorism, militancy, and security within the urban and economic geography of the contemporary world.

Robert Bevan 2007

Although war always creates collateral damage to the environment, Bevan argues that contemporary warfare has increasingly targeted Architecture as a means to defeat the enemy.  With a great deal of focus on events in Yugoslavia and the actions of totalitarian regimes within China and Afghanistan, Beven identifies the role of Architecture and its destruction within the social consciousness.  He further investigates  the inherent processes of destruction within modern efforts to reconstruct the post-conflict landscape.

Violence Taking Place: The architecture of the Kosovo Conflict
Andrew Hersher 2010
Hersher has worked for the UN Tribunals in Kosovo, examining the manner in which architecture was explicitly appropriated, destroyed, and utilized as a tool of war and power.  I've only recently picked up this book and haven't gotten too far into yet, but already, I can say it is highly recommended.