Early Warning / Early Response

By Duke Huang

            Learning about early warning (EW) and early response (ER) was eye opening for me. Because I would like to see conflict being prevented before violence takes place. EW and ER are about empowering local community. We need to hear their needs, acquire local knowledge and provide any skill training they would like to have. One important take away for me was that EW and ER can be implemented anytime during the conflict, which means that the conflict can be stopped anytime as long as there is enough ability and capacity for the community to stop it. When I was learning about Rwanda Genocide, I learned that the Hutus were using radio and to spreading hate speech to indicate whom to kill. They were telling people to cut down the “tall trees” (to tell the Hutus to kill the Tutsis). Now, hopefully, we have the ability and capacity to detect this kind of sign to prevent tragedy from happening again.

            One example of ER Madhawa gave was that they asked children to draw what their community used to look like, and when their parents learn about this, they would be eager to contribute to the map because they wouldn’t want to be left out from the process. When the map is complete, they would ask what kind of change the community members would like to see and implement local knowledge with experts on making the change. I think this is very strategic, not only because children would be happy to involve while the adults might be hesitant at the beginning, but also it is very inclusive of local members and knowledges, which is very sustainable.

            One of the biggest grievances for me during conflict is the violence against civilians. Despite of multiple conventions and international laws that prohibit violence against civilians, the deaths of civilians are still very prevalent in conflict. The use of indiscriminatory weapons, such as air strikes and land mines, are not only inhumane but also creating unnecessary casualties. There has been lots of research done about the use of drone strikes in eliminating extremist groups. They showed that the use is insufficient because the groups are often mixing and intentionally hiding with civilians. I personally cannot agree with the idea of “acceptable loss”, which indicates the casualties that are considered minor or tolerable in military operations. A Chinese proverb captures the essence of this idea: “It’s better to kill a hundred, rather than letting one go.” Whether or not the extremist groups would kill the civilians, I still think it is wrong for US and other countries to send drones and missiles from thousands of miles away from the targets and kill civilians before they could even notice the missiles are coming. It is also fueling the anger of the youth to join the extremist groups.

            Since the conventions and international laws have such limited power in preventing violence against civilians, I believe that EW and ER can be helpful. Some possible suggestions I have include recruiting local response teams to provide immediate support to any air strike. Another one is to engage local community leaders in having dialogue with the extremist groups to prevent them from hiding with civilians to decrease the number of casualties.