Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Brown Afghanistan Working Group Hosts UN Official

November 29, 2010

The Brown Afghanistan Working Group is co-hosting a public lecture at the Watson Institute this week featuring Richard Barrett, the United Nations Coordinator of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Implementation Monitoring Team (also known as the Al-Qaeda/Taliban Monitoring Team). His Thursday 4pm talk on “Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Common Threat or Separable Challenges?” continues a long-running collaboration between the Institute and the UN on counter-terrorism.

The Brown Afghanistan Working Group gathers faculty at Brown with expertise in an array of academic disciplines and geographies to deepen research on Afghanistan, organize a variety of educational and cultural programs relating to Afghanistan at Brown, and coordinate outreach efforts to policy makers, practitioners, and the media.

The project, known as “Engaging Afghanistan: Creating Avenues of Engagement between Academics and Think Tanks, the Media and Policy Makers,” is supported by a Social Science Research Council and its initiative on Academia in the Public Sphere: Islam and Muslims in World Contexts under a two-year, $100,000 grant.

The aim is to build more meaningful public engagement on Afghanistan and redress the current shortfall in expertise on Afghanistan, according to project co-directors Michael Kennedy, director of the Watson Institute, and Shiva Balaghi, a fellow at Brown’s Cogut Center for the Humanities. Among the specific needs identified are studies on the effect of America’s militarized foreign policy on diplomatic efforts; democratic transitions and institution-building; regional implications of stability; and cultural outreach to Afghanistan’s civil society.

Another recent event on campus also took up the question of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan. A debate sponsored by the Janus Forum, on "Nine Years Later: Nation Building in Afghanistan," featuring Harvard Professor of International Affairs Stephen Walt, a recently appointed member of Watson’s board of overseers, and James Dobbins, former United States ambassador to the European Union. During the debate, Walt warned that the costs of nation building tend to outweigh the benefits, according to a report by the Brown Daily Herald.

The Watson Institute has long collaborated with the United Nations on its counter-terrorism and targeted sanctions work. Most recently, the UN Security Council’s reform of its procedures to address terrorist designations incorporated several provisions recommended in a report co-authored at Watson by Senior Fellow Sue E. Eckert, called Addressing Challenges to Targeted Sanctions. The Institute’s Project on Terrorist Financing is currently undertaking a study for the UN Counter-terrorism Implementation Task Force on terrorist financing indicators. In addition, the Targeted Sanctions Project led by Eckert and Thomas Biersteker has formed an international research consortium analyzing in a comprehensive manner the impact and effectiveness of UN targeted sanctions.