The Department of Government
The Department of Government

International Relations Speaker Series- Oliver Kaplan (Univ of Denver)

"Supporting Communities to Resist War: The International Committee of the Red Cross and Community-based Protection in Colombia"

Wed, October 23, 2019 | BAT 5.108

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

International Relations Speaker Series- Oliver Kaplan (Univ of Denver)

Abstract: How can international humanitarian actors support civilians’ in their efforts to protect themselves during armed conflicts? Oliver Kaplan’s recent book, Resisting War, documents civilians’ various nonviolent protection strategies. In this presentation, he builds on those insights to analyze the wartime interactions between international organizations and communities with a particular focus on the International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) community-based protection activities. Although civilians are often viewed as weak and vulnerable non-combatants, the ICRC and other humanitarians can provide communities with crucial backing to stand up for themselves against armed actors. He examined these ICRC-community interactions in northern Colombia in 2017 during a period of active contestation between ELN rebels and Bacrim neo-paramilitary criminal groups as the FARC rebels withdrew from the area. Through participant-observation during an ICRC delegation deployment as well as interviews with civilians and ICRC staff, he finds that the ICRC's sharing of protection tactics, facilitation of inter-community cooperation, and other technical assistance catalyzed the civilians’ agency and their innovative efforts to avoid, negotiate with, or protest the armed groups. The insights suggest future research directions and approaches for protecting civilian populations in Colombia and beyond.

Bio: Oliver Kaplan is an Associate Professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. He was previously a post-doctoral Research Associate at Princeton University in the Woodrow Wilson School and at Stanford University as an affiliate of the Empirical Studies of Conflict project. His book, Resisting War: How Communities Protect Themselves (Cambridge University Press), examines how civilian communities organize to protect themselves from wartime violence and received the Diskin Dissertation award honorable mention from the Latin American Studies Association. As part of his research, Kaplan has conducted fieldwork in Colombia and the Philippines. His research has been funded by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and other grants, and has been published in The Journal of Conflict ResolutionJournal of Peace Research, Conflict Management and Peace ScienceThe New York TimesForeign AffairsForeign Policy, and The National Interest. Kaplan received his Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University and completed his B.A. at UC San Diego. He is a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member.

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