Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 03/02/2009

Carana in Tunis 1

Should you worry when you are assigning a participant to a role and he loudly proclaims, “Yes!” – snapping up the binder and quickly flipping through the background docs?

Normally, you’d think that kind of enthusiasm would be good, the kind of participation you’d want to encourage in a course.  You do have to worry a bit, though, when the role is Minister of Defense in a country recovering from civil war.

Yesterday we assigned the roles and today was mostly preparatory.   Still, the press reports that threats of a “coups d’etat” were heard earlier from one of our three Caranas – a veiled threat something along the lines of “Well, I have the soldiers…” … updates to follow tomorrow.

A Sim at Davos

Simulations are all the rage.  Our course participants taking up the challenge of Carana this week felt very Davos when they were told that even CEOs are getting into the game with this article from the WSJ on an event last week:

CEOs play Refugees…


Gucci Group Chief Executive Robert Polet switched off his BlackBerry, wrapped his head in a bandage and became Mustafa, a 40-year-old refugee in desperate search of his six lost children. As a war raged outside his barbed-wire-encased refugee camp, Mustafa slept on the muddy floor of a canvas tent and drank water out of a tin bowl.

“Please, please, help me find my children,” he begged as an armed guard pinned him down to the ground, a rifle to his neck.

The simulation of a refugee camp — a one-hour exercise co-sponsored by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees — is one of the more earnest manifestations of the please-forgive-me spirit at Davos this year.

Rex, we’re going to need to start hiring casting agents to be able to compete with some of these sims.  I haven’t a clue where to look for costuming for simulated soldiers….

hat tip: Laura Bailey, Secretary Emeritus of Carana

A Force More Powerful

One example of a simulation development platform that attempts to model politics, social structures, economics, and physical environment is offered by the Modeling and Simulation Builder for Everyone by BreakAway. One application of this is “A Force More Powerful,” the player’s manual and resource guide for which can be found here.

A screenshot from "A Force More Powerful."A Force More Powerful – the Game of Nonviolent Strategy is the first and only interactive teaching tool in the field of nonviolent conflict. Developed by The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), media firm York Zimmerman Inc. and game designers at BreakAway Ltd., the game is built on nonviolent strategies and tactics used successfully in conflicts around the world.

Featuring ten scenarios inspired by history, A Force More Powerful simulates nonviolent struggles to win freedom and secure human rights against dictators, occupiers, colonizers, and corrupt regimes, as well as campaigns for political and human rights for minorities and women. The game models real-world experience, allowing players to devise strategies, apply tactics and see the results.

Another effort to simulate regime overthrow was the 2004 Mac game Republic: the Revolution, which I have played after picking it up this Christmas from a bargain bin. Republic: the Revolution has some interesting gameplay features (players recruit supporters, form cells, propagandize, intimidate, bribe, rally, and generally attempt to overthrow a post-Soviet dictator), but I found both the game and simulation value rather limited, in part because of rather poor AI directing the government and other opposition factions. The awkward interface and apparent stability problems didn’t help either.

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