Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Tag Archives: Carana

Beta-testers in San Diego needed for a simulation exercise Carana: Adapt! 

Carana: Adapt is an immersive simulation exercise developed by Laura Bailey, Gary Milante and Marc Manashil for training of principles of adaptive leadership in international development.  It is an updated version of a simulation developed at the World Bank for teaching peacebuilding in development, using basic matrix gaming, for up to 10 participants – we’re trying to wargame peacebuilding. Our intended audiences are UN, IFI and other international development actors, though we’re also discussing a rollout for defense/military actors to better understand development practice. The exercise simulates the challenges of development and peacebuilding in a fictional country over the course of multiple years through multiple rounds of play, interspersed with adaptive leadership training. We’re still betatesting and looking for 1 or 2 mid- to senior-level career professionals to join us for this next betatest.  Ideally, these participants would have backgrounds in: civ-mil, defense, intelligence, development, peacebuilding, humanitarian or diplomatic international response in fragile or conflict-affected countries.  The beta-test will occur in early November in person in San Diego.  

Please contact Gary Milante if you would like more information or would like to participate

Humanitarian Crisis Game tournament 2014

htmlimport_trophyI will be running a mini-tournament of the AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game for some of my POLI 450 (Peacebuilding) students this term. I have posted the tournament rules below, both for my class and for those who might be considering how to integrate this or a similar type of game into a large course.

  • Participation in the tournament is  optional.
  • Teams may consist of a minimum of five and a maximum of eight players, who will be divided among the four roles: Carana, United Nations, NGOs, and the HADR Task Force. To form a team, simply announce it in the appropriate online (myCourses) discussion forum. Up to three teams may compete.
  • Each tournament game will consist of 15 minutes of instruction in game mechanics, followed by 2.5 hours of play. Student are welcome to read the rules in advance, and an optional orientation will take place in advance of the tournament games. All games will be held immediately after class on a Monday or Wednesday.
  • If the players complete the emergency phase of the game (Day 14) before 1.5 hours have passed, they gain three additional Relief Points. They also gain 3 RP if they complete the recovery phase of the game (Week 12) before the game ends.
  • The game ends as soon as 2.5 hours have passed, and is immediately scored.
  • All participants gain class participation credits. In addition:
    • All members of the team with the highest number of Relief Points will gain additional participation credits.
    • The player(s) with the highest number of Operations Points in each of the four roles (Carana, UN, NGOs, HADR-TF) will also gain additional participation credits.
    • In the event of a tie, both OP and RP will be considered.

In this particular case, 10% of the POLI 450 course grade is based on class participation. While this usually takes the form of online discussion, I do sometimes credit other activities—including both this and my modified version of the Afghan Provincial Reconstruction game which I will be running again this year.

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Update: Having posted the announcement to our class website at around 8pm on a Saturday night, the first fully formed team was announced 8:25pm, with the second team at 9:17pm, and the third at 11:38pm. There was also a request for a fourth team–all told, 28 volunteers, or one quarter of the class, all within a few hours on a weekend.

I can’t schedule a fourth group, but I have added a new opportunity for participation:

  • One or two students may assume the role of journalists for each game session, responsible for writing up a report of what happened for the course website.
  • Journalists will also receive the same participation credit as do the players. Moreover, the journalist(s) responsible for the best game report (judged by the course instructor) will also receive an additional participation bonus.

AFTERSHOCK: A humanitarian crisis game (beta release)

aftershock available

The final production version of AFTERSHOCK is now available! For information, see the AFTERSHOCK information page. The blog post below describes the conceptualization, beta release, and development of the game.

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It is still soon after the EMERGEMNCY phase, soon after earthquake. District 2 needs 2 medical supplies (red cubes), 2 water and sanitation (blue cubes), 1 food (green cube), and a team assigned to rescue. It meets those requirements, so aid efforts here will be successful.

It is still the EMERGENCY phase, soon after earthquake. District 2 needs two medical supplies (red cubes), two water and sanitation (blue cubes), one food (green cube), and a team assigned to rescue. It meets those requirements, so aid efforts here will be successful.

September 2013: After some additional playtesting and a few more tweaks, I am now making available a fully-playable beta version of the Humanitarian Crisis Game. The Humanitarian Crisis Game is a four (to eight) player game that explores the interagency cooperation needed to address the emergency and early recovery phase of a complex humanitarian crisis. The game is set in the fictional country of Carana, but is loosely modeled on disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

 Carana has suffered years of sometimes violent turmoil, and has only recently taken the first steps to tentative steps to national reconciliation and reconstruction. Poverty is widespread, government capacity is weak, and ethnic and political tensions remain high. Nongovernmental organizations and United Nations specialized agencies are active in the country, including a moderately-sized UN civilian police contingent. At dawn today, a powerful earthquake struck the capital city of Galasi, causing widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure. Tens of thousands of people are in need of urgent aid and medical attention. At the request of the Caranan government, military forces from several friendly countries—operating as the multinational Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Task Force, or HADR-TF—are en route to assist, as are additional contingents of UN and NGO personnel together with relief supplies.

The game files required for the beta version are as follows (all in pdf format):

  • The complete game rules (updated as of 28/02/2015)
  • The various game displays
  • The event cards used to generate random events during the crisis
  • The at-risk cards used to denote humanitarian needs in each district
  • The cluster cards used to generate positive effects from coordination
  • Markers for supplies (optional, if no other tokens available)

Note that if you are currently thinking of using the game, you are strongly advised to contact us for a final production version. It looks much better, and contains a number of tweaks and revisions. For the various game markers I use wooden tokens purchased online from Game Crafter, but the file also includes cut-out markers if you wish to use those instead. I have distributed the files in their original (.pptx and .docx) formats to facilitate modification by users, but if you have trouble with any of them let me know and I’ll provide .pdf versions. I’ve now play tested the game extensively with students at McGill, and it has also been used in the classroom at Texas State University. If any PAXsims readers try out the game, please drop me a line with any thoughts and feedback you have.

Design Notes


Playing the game at McGill University.

No game can capture all aspects of a process, and humanitarian assistance is no different. A key design choice from the outset, therefore, was what elements needed to be most emphasized, and how those might best be represented. First, the game needed to highlight humanitarian assistance as a cooperative endeavour, but one in which different actors have slightly different perspectives and priorities. This was done by measuring assistance efforts both collectively (relief points/RP) and individually (operations points/OP). Addressing humanitarian need is a central priority for everyone, and if RPs are negative at the end of the game everyone loses. However, humanitarian actors also need public and political support to function, and failure to maintain this can result in losing for that reason too. The game also needed to highlight that different humanitarian actors have different strengths and weaknesses. This is difficult to do, because each of the four actors identified in the Humanitarian Crisis Game are, in the real world, themselves composed of many different elements with different skills and capabilities. However, for game purposes the rules give the local government primary responsibility for security, and some comparative advantage in local distribution; depicts foreign militaries as having strong logistics and security capabilities but with limited staying power and little capacity to promote sustainable development; and represents UN agencies and NGOs as having comparative strength in relief and development. The combination of differing goals and capabilities, in turn, sets the stage for the coordination challenges in the game. This has been treated in two complimentary ways. Players need to play cooperatively and coordinate their actions to win, both in terms of allocating their human resources and in deciding what kinds of assistance to deliver, where, when, and how. However, coordination is also an activity that they can invest game resources into, by participating in the various coordination clusters. Doing so delivers benefits, but these are not wholly predictable, and the process can even be a bit frustrating. Indeed, the game forces players to even cooperate in coordinating, since some activities may require that multiple parties prioritize the same sectors at the same time. Yet coordination involves opportunity costs too, since resources invested in coordination are not available for other tasks.

Playing the game at King's College London (Connections UK 2014).

Playing the game at King’s College London (Connections UK 2014).

The game uses “at risk” cards to indicate where humanitarian assistance is needed, and “event” cards to generate a challenging operational environment. The sudden and unpredictable operation of these is somewhat different, of course, than the steadier loss of human life in a humanitarian crisis. The mechanism was adopted, however, because it does generate some of the sense of chaos and limited information of a major disaster. It also reflects the extent to which humanitarian actors are struggling to deal with an array of challenges beyond their immediate control. The Humanitarian Crisis Game, like with real humanitarian operations, rewards risk assessment and contingency planning. It also forces players to make difficult decisions about priorities and triage: given limited resources, do they focus on those who are most easily saved, or those most in need? The first few turns of the game are likely to be overwhelming, with the players lacking sufficient resources to meet needs. The importance of randomly-drawn event cards also means that every game is likely to be quite different, and some will be much more difficult than others. In this sense, the game isn’t “fair” and in some cases players may be faced with an almost impossible sequence of events. However, real humanitarian crises aren’t “fair” either. All that anyone can do is to do their best (and do no harm).


Playing the game at Texas State University.

There is a considerable amount of politics represented in the game.  Actors need to maintain public and political support, generated both by their performance in the field and through media outreach. Carana itself is politically fragile, and a failure to address basic needs can be dangerous, especially in the latter part of the game after the initial shock of the disaster has worn off. I didn’t want to overemphasize the element of social unrest and insecurity, however, since it is often rather less than pundits anticipate (in Haiti in 2010, for example). Still, some risk is there. Badly handled the government of Carana—and, by extension, the other players too—could find themselves in serious trouble. The media is a significant presence in humanitarian emergencies, important to the various actors yet beyond their control. In the Humanitarian Crisis Game it moves across the country, highlighting some areas while ignoring others, and variously boosting or damaging the standing of players. Later it is likely to leave altogether as the broader public loses interest, or as other news stories command greater attention. Players of more conventional wargames will immediately notice that the game does not include a map, or more accurately doesn’t include map-based representations of spatiality. Part of the reason is that the design is intended to prioritize processes and thematic sectors over geographic space. Part of the decision was a practical one, too—I wanted the game to be easily reproduced with nothing more than a printer and standard paper, and a larger mapboard would have complicated that. Geography isn’t entirely absent in any case. As players will soon find out, transportation and logistics play an absolutely key role in providing relief in Carana. Unlike most conventional wargames, the design also uses a fictional case and country. This is to allow a broader range of issues to be explored than in any one single real-world case, and to relax some of the pressure to depict historical events with a high degree of fidelity. It also allows students to get past their knowledge and horror of, say, the Haiti case to focus on the broader processes at work in humanitarian crisis response. The Humanitarian Crisis Game can be played in about 3 hours, which is the upper limit for an educational game. It is probably best played in an educational setting with an experienced facilitator, rather than expecting students to self-teach themselves the rules. However, once play starts the game is fairly straightforward, with the various cards providing clear explanations of game effects. The cards themselves are designed to provide large numbers of “teachable moments,” highlighting issues drawn from actual humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations.

Game Strategy

While players might initially focus on getting vital supplies to hungry, thirsty, and injured survivors, it will soon become apparent that logistics are key. If resources can’t be brought into affected areas, they are almost useless. Carana and the HADR-TF have a comparative advantage in opening up transportation routes, and should do so early. Coordination through the cluster system is important, especially since it allows players to transfer resources amongst themselves. Without this sort of cooperation there will be duplication of effort on the ground. It is also impossible to deal with challenges like cholera without coordination. Earning operations points matters, but so too does using them. While they may be necessary to “win” the game, players should also remember that they can be  “spent” to acquire additional resources. Carana is often both the weakest, most over-stretched player and the most important one: it has a network for local delivery of supplies, it is primarily responsible for security, and if it does poorly all players suffer. Social unrest is usually not a major problem unless players perform poorly in the later weeks of the crisis. However, if problems do arise don’t leave them to fester. Finally, be mindful that local needs will shift between the emergency and recovery stages. Medical care and WASH tend to be the priority in the first few days, while food and shelter become more important as time moves on. Other than logistics, most infrastructure activities are better reserved for the recovery stage when needs are less acute and the opportunity cost of infrastructure is reduced.


The initial ideas for this game were drawn from participants in the Connections 2012 Game Lab, with special thanks to my co-facilitators David Becker, Brant Guillory, Ty Mayfield, Gary Milante, Joshua Riojas, and Brian Train. I also drew on the inspiration from the subsequent Crisis Response humanitarian assistance card game developed by Gary Milante, and from the Zombiton NHS zombies-in-a-hospital game developed with Jessica Barton. At McGill, the design of the game was refined and play-tested with input from Sean Anderson, Chloe Brynen, David Brynen, Islam Derradji, Bushra Ebadi, Thomas Fisher, Benjamin Foldy, June McCabe, Beth McKenna, Émilie Noël, Adriana Willms. I also benefitted from feedback from players and other participants at the Connections UK 2013 and Connections 2014 professional wargaming conferences.

Revision History and Updates

18 January 2014: Revised cluster cards uploaded

20 July 2014: A substantially revised version (beta4.0) has been uploaded. The major change is to do away with the dual “emergency” and “recovery” sections on each at-risk card (depicted in the older graphic at the top of this page). Instead, cards are now one or the other, and the deck is prepared before play to assure that the top two cards in each district always depict the “emergency” stage of the disaster, with greatest need for WASH and medical supplies, and the need to assign some teams to disaster rescue. This has the added advantage of pushing some of the more complicated cards (like Cholera or Squatters) deeper into the deck to ease player learning. Several rules have also been simplified, notably with regard to logistics. Several of the Cluster and Event cards have been changed. Finally, the game has been been shortened from eight turns to seven, in an effort to make in playable within two hours.

11 August 2014: I’ve made some small changes (beta4.1) as a result of feedback at the Connections wargaming conference. In particular, players now draw one Coordination card for each cluster they are attending, and then select which one of these to play. There have been a few other minor tweaks too. The game works well with a 15 minute introduction, 7 periods (turns), and 2 hours of play time. All changes have been uploaded.

12 December 2014: Some minor rule-tweaks based on recent playtesting. The game is now names AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game. We plan to make the game available for purchase via GameCrafter in the second half of 2015.

15 January 2015: We’ve received permission from WFP and UNDP to use images from their photo libraries for the production version of the game.

15 March 2015: Due to the magical graphics skills of Tom Fisher, we are very near to completing the production version. You’ll find some of the (almost-final) game elements below. E6 CO7 AR1 airportdisp6 clusterdisp10 district1 1 April 2015: We ran four simultaneous games of AFTERSHOCK for students of the Canadian Disaster and HumanitarianResponse Training Program. It all seems to have gone very well indeed!

1 July 2015: We’re in production! See the AFTERSHOCK page.

The Humanitarian Crisis Game beta (video overview)

UPDATE: This video portrays an early beta version of AFTERSHOCK: A Humanitarian Crisis Game. For the latest on game development, see here.

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Above you’ll find a video overview of The Humanitarian Crisis Game, a four player boardgame that explores the interagency cooperation needed to address the emergency and early recovery stages of a complex humanitarian crisis. It was meant to be a “brief video,” but apparently I like to hear myself talk.

The game is set in the fictional country of Carana, but is loosely modeled on disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Carana has suffered years of sometimes violent turmoil, and has only recently taken the first steps to tentative steps to national reconciliation and reconstruction. Poverty is widespread, government capacity is weak, and ethnic and political tensions remain high. Nongovernmental organizations and United Nations specialized agencies are active in the country, including a moderately-sized UN civilian police (CIVPOL) contingent.

At dawn today, a powerful earthquake struck the capital city of Galasi, causing widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure. Tens of thousands of people are in need of urgent aid and medical attention. At the request of the Caranan government, military forces from several friendly countries—operating as the multinational Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Task Force, or HADR-TF—are en route to assist, as are additional contingents of UN and NGO personnel, together with relief supplies….

The game design itself is inspired by discussions on Haiti at the Connections 2012 interdisciplinary wargaming conference “Game Lab.”

Next week, following one more playtest at McGill, I’ll post the beta version of the rules and materials to PAXsims. I’ll be also offering a demo at the Connections UK conference ion September 3, and trying it out in the classroom during the 2013-14 academic year.

Report from Caranas #39, 40 and 41

Just returning from another delivery of Carana in Nairobi – our 13th delivery of the core course and 14th class of Caranas (or our 39th, 40th and 41st parallel universe Caranas). We had a very good group of students, the whole range of expertise and seniority in the Bank, from junior staff on their first assignment to some managers and senior team leaders, resulting in a tremendous amount of exchange between students. This is an important feature of the success of the course – our course participants often don’t realize until the end of the week how we’ve tricked them into helping us to teach their peers through the simulation and other group work. If we were to ask them in advance to teach their peers, we’d get a few hours (if we were lucky) of powerpoint dumps of varying quality, but for the course we just stick the participants in the fictional (yet fairly realistic) world of Carana. In the simulation, the participants need to apply their knowledge and they can actively debate policy and practice with just a bit of guidance from us – ending up training each other very intensively for four days.

The recovery plans for this group of Caranas were basically “okay” – no major missteps, no massive failures, one of the teams resorted to using the military to break the coal strike, a few lingering security issues persisted that could go horribly wrong, one group completely ignored the threat from the Presidential Guard despite repeating warnings. For this delivery, our fearless troupe of SimMasters (Marcelo, Anne, Alys, Sarah and I and Khadija in training) agreed that we got a particularly technocratic response to the issues – basically the teams ignored a lot of the ethnic tensions, their roles’ own personal motives (patronage networks they represent, personal incentives) and the history of the country (that got Carana into the civil war) in favor of recommending the kind of blanket solutions we, the international community, often push – demobilize to hit some target, often with disregard for the composition and purpose of the resulting army; treat elections as a milestone to hit rather than a national discussion and opportunity for reconciliation; provide health and education for “development as usual” and build roads and get the infrastructure repaired so that the economy can get going again, regardless of who benefits (again, often ignorant of the drivers that led to the conflict). This happens a lot in Carana – while we give people roles with backgrounds that connect them to particular ethnic groups or even personal incentives for malicious behavior, we rarely can replicate in the simulation the kind of cross purposes or even antagonism that we see in real life. In that respect, I think we fall short a bit in our simulation in tapping some of the real power of “role-playing”.
As we rarely get a “really good” plan, these outcomes generally serve as teaching moments. Even with the best of intentions and cooperation, this kind of work is difficult.

Map of the 8th Continent

Map of the 8th Continent used as background “color” in Carana deliveries

That is, despite the tendency of people to “play nice” in the Carana simulation and work well together to come up with a plan, even the most technocratic and cooperative solutions are often inadequate to resolve the issues. I think this is partly by design (everything is a priority and there are insufficient resources to do everything), but also partly because a really good plan requires a deep understanding of the underlying drivers of conflict in the simulation. In effect, a cooperative and congenial atmosphere often results in the players ignoring the deeply divisive issues the plan is meant to resolve. Rarely do players step back and consider the ramifications of their interventions. Will their plan result in continued disenfranchisement of the West and South? Have they resolved the tensions around control of the diamonds and timber that were the principal source of financing for the rebels? Have they neutralized the threat of coup from the ousted president who still has links to loyalists in the military? Even after 40+ Caranas, we’ve yet to see a recovery plan that really considers these types of questions and provides “real” answers.
More than 400 people have visited Carana (not including the UN, African Union or AusAID deliveries), and we have extremely positive responses. I continue to believe it is a valuable teaching tool and intend to use it for many more courses to come, but I’m concerned that we’re still missing the mark on simulating the kind of contentious environment that exists in a post-conflict or fragile, highly corrupt and unequal society, where priorities and planning are driven by patronage and personal interests. I’m not disposed to creating “victory conditions” or other artificial incentives for people to play their part, but I am still looking for something to encourage participants to roleplay and replicate the more realistic friction that exists in these environments. Any ideas?

Peacekeeping missions and the protection of (simulated) civilians

The Policy, Evaluation and Training Division of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations has recently produced a six part training module on the protection of civilians and the prevention of/response to conflict-related sexual violence. The first five modules address key themes, while the sixth module consists of a dozen scenario-based exercises which examine the sorts of situations that might confront a UN peacekeeping mission charged with the protection of civilians. The exercises are set in the conflict-affected of Carana, the fictional country used (in differing ways) by the UN, African Union, and World Bank for training simulations.

You’ll find the full set of modules available online at DPKO’s Peacekeeping Resource Hub. The Carana exercise material can be found there in four parts (here, here, here, and here). In addition to the scenarios outlined in the materials, the package contains ample background information on the country, region, conflict, and peacekeeping mission that could easily be adapted by a course designer to create other exercises.

Earthquake strikes Carana!

According to the US military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM), a major earthquake struck near the country of Carana last month

…causing extensive damage to coastal cities, especially the capital Galasi. The incident further exacerbates an already existing humanitarian emergency situation where up to 12,000 refugees are struggling after nearly 20 years of internal strife, tribal conflict and armed clashes between the military and rebels. Aggravating the situation, there exists no strong communications network outside metropolitan areas. Despite basic foodstuffs being available in markets, a majority of the population is incapable of providing the necessary food to meet subsistence level nutritional needs for their families.

Poor Carana—which already sees more than its fair share of political turmoil, ethnic tensions,  economic crisis, insurgency, and civil wars—now seems to be suffering from natural disasters too.

Carana, of course, is the fictional country used (in various different forms) by the UN, African Union, World Bank, and others for simulations and exercises. The recent Africa Endeavor 2011 exercise sponsored by AFRICOM was intended to promote greater interoperability of communications equipments and protocols among African states.

AFRICOM commander General Carter Ham explained the importance of regional exercises like AE 2011 to build African capacity to deal with natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies, noting that “The same violent extremists that threaten Americans threaten Africans as well.”

Ahh well, there’s always that too.

looking for a simulated country?

Well, look no further: as part of the AMANI AFRICA EURORECAMP process of building African Union capacity in the areas of crisis management, peacebuilding, and Chapter VI peace operations, a full website has been developed detailing the countries of a fictional subcontinent of Kisiwa located off the coast of Somalia. The Factbook includes:

  • historical, political, and  topographical maps for the region
  • a detailed history of the area
  • individual profiles of the five countries of Kisawa: Carana, Katasi, Mosana, Namuna, Rimosa, and Sumora.

It is an outstanding resource for anyone who wants a ready-made setting in which to conduct a simulation on fragile and conflict-prone countries.

UPDATE: Much of the materials for Amani Africa are now offline. However, I have archived the Carana scenario on PAXsims.


reflections on Carana

Aimé Saba, who recently participated in the Carana simulation as part of a World Bank/AUSAID course on fragility, sent us on the following reflections on the course and the simulation.


The World Bank’s course on Fragility and Conflict designed for officials in donor organisations was extremely useful. The use of the fictional country called “CARANA” was perhaps more useful for officials with limited analytical abilities of political and security issues common to conflict-affected countries.  Nearly half of my colleagues whom I took the course with had either theoretical knowledge of peace and conflict issues, through either post-graduate studies, or short courses delivered by academic institutions. The trainers – Gary Milante and Erik Johnson – were excellent. And it helps to have well experienced trainers with sufficient knowledge (I have benefited from numerous training opportunities in this field and I am now in good position to distinguish excellent trainers from average ones. Knowledge of facilitation techniques is a very good asset, but content is more important). Coming from a conflict-affected region (the Great Lakes region of Africa) and having done post-graduate peace and conflict studies, I had a number of critiques, some of which I am sharing here:

  1. Courses delivered for, or by donor organisations rarely touch on the key, critical issues which lie behind failures of external organisations in responding to conflicts. Sensitive issues of lack of coordination which explain ‘waste’ tend to be discussed in a way that blames only others. Bilateral donors tend to blame other multilateral and non-like minded bilateral donors. And local elites. Rarely themselves. They all acknowledge the need for coordination, but avoid a serious analysis of the cost of lack of coordination and harmonisation.
  2. There is no doubt that there is a minimum standard of abilities in conflict analysis required by donor officials. And it is true that courses such as the World Bank’s can serve the purpose of equipping officials with those skills. But increasingly, I doubt whether a junior official without a strong foundation in political history within a 2 day course, the crisis of post-coloniality (i.e. countries whose processes of state-building was either never finished, or started on wrong foundations (refer to Rene Dumont’s 1960s book: false start for Africa).
  3. The other issue I observed throughout the course (and common in most courses on conflicts) was the fascination with differences – whether religious, ethnic, racial –. It is true that local ruling elites are responsible for manipulating and magnifying those differences, but outsiders’ analyses continue to highlight these as if they are part of the root causes of most conflicts. They are not. In most conflict-affected countries, there are always good opinion leaders who transcend those ‘differences’ and have more objective views, different from those held by ‘tribal’ ruling elites with a seat at donors’ roundtables. The challenge is of course, how to make sure that these positive leaders become decision makers and influence dialogue processes between external and local actors.
  4. The other issue, related to the first one, is the disconnect between reality and rhetoric. In courses, one seems to have a good picture of what is not working and what needs to be done to respond to the situation of fragility. In board room meetings though, one realises quickly how certain innovative ideas such as ‘do no harm principles’, or ‘conflict-sensitive development’ or the ‘use of conflict and fragility lens’ etc, suddenly become labelled as “concepts belonging to academia with less practical use to policy makers”.

So, would I recommend the course to others? Absolutely yes. I participated in train-the trainer program and participated in adapting the training module to the Asia-Pacific context in which AusAID works. In general, and regardless of the regional specificity, I think that trainers should well prepare and devote sufficient discussion time on the session on ‘state-building and nation-building’. All sorts of things are said, but it is important to manage well the discussion, as it is in my opinion, a good foundation in explaining everything related to assisting developing countries faced with conflict and fragility. Once again, I would recommend it, but I would encourage attention be given to content of some modules.

Aimé Saba


Gary adds:

Thanks for the review, Aime.  Glad you enjoyed the course and the simulation!

To clarify, the AusAID experience is a little different than the Bank experience.  At the Bank we have four days and a lot more coursework interwoven with the simulation.  AusAID started with a two day course and my understanding is that it is now three days.  Since there is not a lot of fat in the Carana simulation, the whole course will have a higher Carana to Coursework ratio in AusAID than we have at the Bank.

I agree that the AusAID staff are highly trained and skilled, indeed, they’ve delivered some of the better Carana recovery plans I’ve seen (and have been the impetus for making the game harder in recent versions).   The audiences are a bit different between the Bank (economists and development specialists) and AusAID (whole of government including everyone ranging from development specialists to treasury to defense to police).

It is possible that the ethnic differences are overemphasized in the design of Carana, but it is, I think, because those ethnic differences are often underemphasized in the actual realization of the simulation.  All too often participants revert to their technocrat personae and concentrate on trying to “solve the puzzle” of Carana’s recovery, often at the expense of realism – the main characters of Carana have been embroiled in a difficult ethnic conflict for nearly a decade and should have serious trust issues.  We can’t force people to roleplay, but we can alert them to issues which might be present at the negotiating table, overtly or not.

With regards to (2) and (4) above – I totally agree – indeed, Carana is designed to be a sandbox where participants can only really scratch the surface and get exposed to how complicated and difficult working in these environments can be.


The African Union is currently developing the architecture and capacities necessary to field a military and civilian African Stand-by Force (ASF) by 2010 as a multilateral civilian and military crisis management tool for the continent. the AU has given the name “AMANI AFRICA” to this first ASF training cycle, and to its final exercise.

As part of that process, and building on the Africa-EU Strategic partnership, EURORECAMP is a European training programme focusing on strategic education and training for the benefit of local African decision makers. As part of this, AMANI AFRICA will involve simulation exercises based on a Pearson Peacekeeping Centre-designed scenario located in the fictional country of Carana (as also used, in different forms and settings, by UN DPKO and by the World Bank):

caranamapThe Carana Training Scenario is being developed for the AMANI AFRICA training cycle which will exercise the AU in the deployment of the African Standby Force. The scenario package builds on a United Nations scenario developed by the African Union. Carana, a fictitious African country, is one of six on the fictitious island of Kisiwa. This island for the purposes of AMANI AFRICA is located off the coast of East Africa, but is designed to be relocated to any off shore sub region of Africa if necessary.

A country book providing great detail has been developed for the Democratic Republic of Carana, as this is the primary country.

Country studies in less detail have been developed for the neighbouring states of the People’s Republic of Katasi, the Republic of Rimosa and the Islamic Republic of Sumora.

Country profiles with essential detail to provide a comprehensive regional context have been produced for the peripheral countries of the Republic of Mosana and the Kingdom of Namuna.

Carana provides a realistic base scenario from which specific scenarios can be designed.

Additional information on the scenario, including an Executive Summary of the Training Scenario (April 2009), a Summary of Major Events, and a Glossary of Abbreviations and Acronyms can be found on the appropriate section of the AMANI AFRICA – EURORECAMP website.

UPDATE: The AMANI AFRICA website can now been found here. Since the simulation materials may soon disappear from AU and EU websites, and the Pearson Centre is now defunct, I’ve uploaded a copy of the Carana scenario to PAXsims.

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.


Sample of a badge given to participants in the Carana simulation

Sample of a badge given to participants in the Carana simulation

Carana is a fictional country on the 8th continent developed originally by the UNDP for their training exercises and now the country used in our simulation exercise for post-conflict recovery planning.  We use the simulation in our core course on working in fragile and conflict-affected states and have enjoyed great success with it.

In the Carana simulation, 7 to 10 participants take on the roles of President, Prime Minister, Special Representative of the Secretary General, World Bank Country Manager, Union Leader and other ministers and international organization representatives.  With fewer than 10 participants, we drop the Prime Minister, Union Leader and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General (DSRSG) successively.

Each role is given different information about the condition and needs of Carana and the participants must work together to create an action plan for Carana’s recovery, including choosing from among more than 50 actions, determining what the size and composition of the combined army will look like, setting priorities when everything seems important and getting all this within their aid envelope.   All of this happens in about 16 hours over the four day course.  We challenge the participants with incomplete information, every one starts with a piece of the puzzle, but we never given them incentives to lie or withhold information from each other – it turns out it is difficult enough communicating and prioritizing in the limited time they have without us pitting the participants against each other (no matter how much more realistic it might be).

The simulation is used to teach the basic risks associated with post-conflict recovery planning, to give the course participants an opportunity to employ their knowledge gained from the operations course and to provide a sandbox where participants can safely experiment and discuss hypotheticals about what would and wouldn’t work in post-conflict recovery.

It is very engaging for the participants and great fun to run, we usually have three concurrent Caranas running simultaneously during the course – accommodating up to 30 participants.  To me, one of the most fascinating elements of the exercise is seeing how differently each Carana turns out after starting at essentially identical starting points.  There is no better reminder that we work in a social science than seeing how who is involved determines what happens.

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