Conflict, peace and stability in Africa
Of my photographic assignments in Africa, I have to say that those that bring me into close proximity with the issues of peace and stability in fragile states have been amongst the most challenging. Photography – especially when you love it as much as I do – can seem pretty frivolous in the face of the stories of devastation experienced by everyone you meet. It’s really hard not to draw comparisons with my own life, my own kids and the peace and stability that most of us take for granted on a daily basis.
Lasting peace and stability, or the lack of those things, is often at the heart of many other issues that affect the everyday lives of people living in developing countries, particularly some (but not all!) in Africa. It not only costs lives, but the rifts it creates within communities can be felt for generations. It hampers and undermines progress of many other aspects of basic human development including good health, access to education, personal safety and security, freedom from poverty and the possibility of a sustainable livelihood. The double whammy is that the effects are most acutely felt by the most vulnerable – the poorest, the oldest, the youngest and women are all disproportionately affected.
There is a direct correlation between the countries with the lowest human development index and those that have experienced a conflict in the last couple of decades and this is obvious nowhere more than Africa. Typically around 40% of countries classified as fragile or post conflict relapse within ten years and on it goes. Even when initial conflicts are resolved, these countries remain vulnerable for generations to cycles of further conflict, corruption and inequality that not only blight the lives of citizens, but are increasingly becoming fertile ground for radicalisation and terrorist activity that have more global ramifications. As a consequence, development work in this area is usually high risk for those involved, contentious at national levels and very complex.
It’s probably the area of development work that I understand least and I don’t pretend otherwise, but to my mind, it is the one of the most significant global consequence – there always seems to be a large scale conflict in the news, but there are hundreds more that go largely unreported. These photographs and stories that lie behind them are just a handful that represent literally millions of disadvantaged people around the globe who lack a voice on the world stage.