What Our Analysts Are Reading – May, 2021

Navanti’s data collection and analysis are based on networks of on-the-ground researchers from all walks of life: journalists, academics, and humanitarian workers, to name a few. Our analysts also keep abreast of open source reports to inform their work. Below, these analysts have summarized and contextualized the most important pieces they have read and listened to over the past month.


Compounding violence in West Africa is the result of a multitude of factors and, in a microcosm, this multifaceted issue can be represented by the proliferation of small arms in the region. As iWatch Africa describe in their research, the spread of small arms can be attributed to, among other things: indigenous tradespeople, the informal economy, government regulation, crime, and globalization. Given this – and, of course, the mortal cost of weapons spread – the consequences to arms proliferations and solutions to address will hold great influence over the security of the area.

Tunisian investigative journalism collective Inkyfada delves into the debate of whether to allow ex-jihadis fighting abroad to return home – a controversial matter in Tunisia. With thousands having to left to fight for Islamic State in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere, their return raises an array of political, constitutional, and judicial questions. One central problem is that the Tunisian prison system is already overcrowded and struggling with radicalization – how are returnees to be rehabilitated in such a system? Inkyfada engages with the nuances of the issue through a range of interviews with officials and civil society representatives. The debate has implications not only for Tunisia, but other countries with significant foreign fighter contingents.

Since 2015, the UN Security Council has pushed for member states to integrate their agendas on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) with their agendas on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE). The author of “Women as ‘new security actors’ in preventing and countering violent extremism in Mali” analyzes the merging of these agendas and the translation of norms about women’s right to participation in the Malian context to understand if, how, and to what extent the P/CVE agenda may subsume the WPS agenda, giving disproportionate weight to women’s societal participation as a tool to fight terrorism. The author finds that while the representation of women as victims, perpetrators and natural peace agents seen in UN policy discourses are indeed reproduced in Mali, the Malian discourse has also extended women’s role as peace agents to envision them as new security actors, with the expectation of women will utilize their influence among their family and community to prevent and counter radicalization and extremism.


In Bulgaria, the GERB party of former three-term Prime Minister Boyko Borissov suffered a loss of support in the April 2021 elections. The low support of the GERB party is seen as a victory for anti-government protesters who, since July 2020, have called for the removal of the Borissov government. Anti-government protesters believe that the Borissov government is corrupt and only serves the interests of the government elite—and recent allegations of extortion against former PM Borissov support those claims. The upcoming parliamentary elections—which are being held because no single party gained the necessary majority to form a government in April—will be a test for whether the GERB party will be able to build back and reenter the government or further lose support.

UNHCR’s Humanitarian Needs Assessment for Ukraine, 2021 provides a robust framework for understanding the most current issues that residents under separatist-controlled territories have faced in the last year. The report highlights the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the most vulnerable sectors of society, with a focus on the health and WASH sectors. The report also provides a risk analysis and details the effects of movement restrictions, including on the elderly and those with family members in government of Ukraine-controlled territories.

Residents of a village in northwestern Georgia are on hunger strike as their houses collapse underneath them. Agricultural lands and houses have been crumbling into sinkholes in Shukruti as a result of a mining by Georgian Manganese, a private mining company operating in the village. Out of ten residents who are on hunger strike, eight have sewn their mouths shut to draw attention to their cause. The protests started in 2019 and as of today, residents claim government officials and the mining company have yet to acknowledge their pleas.

Middle East

Special correspondent Jane Ferguson has spent years traveling and reporting in Yemen. Recently, she traveled between the Ansar Allah-controlled capital, Sana’a, and the last government stronghold, Ma’rib, witnessing the worst conditions yet. In Sana’a, Ferguson spoke with a medical student working in the Sabeen hospital, which hosts the largest children’s ward in the city. It used to provide free treatment to malnourished and sick children, but in the last six months aid from agencies like UNICEF and the WFP has decreased and the hospital can no longer operate for free. Now, as many as 90 percent of patients are unable to afford malnutrition treatment, and leave the hospital when they run out of money. Medications typically cost a month’s income. While humanitarian assistance has decreased, the number of food insecure is at an all-time high – around two-thirds of the population struggle to access sufficient food.

Across the front lines in Ma’rib governorate , tens of thousands of people fleeing Ansar Allah advances live in displacement camps on the government side. Ferguson visited a mobile clinic funded by the UN serving pregnant and breastfeeding women. With sparse diets, few of the women manage to breastfeed, leaving many children stunted. The emergency food offered to the mothers is a mixture of soy meal and sugar, and family aid distributions consist of flour, cooking oil, sugar, and salt. Surviving on bread and tea, many of the displaced are waiting out the days until they return home, while others less optimistic about returning home have started building more permanent settlements.

Food and water insecurity in Gaza is increasing amid the destruction, displacement, and disruption to humanitarian aid caused by recent Israeli attacks. The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that an additional 160,000 Palestinians are at risk of going hungry because of the violence; two-thirds of the residents were already lacking adequate access to food. After Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, Israel enforced movement restrictions and imposed a land, sea, and air blockade, degrading living conditions. Now, over half of the population live in poverty and the employment rate is around 45 percent. The impacts of COVID-19 and the recent fighting have further compounded the situation. Since last week, around 72,000 Palestinians have been internally displaced and over 51,000 thousand are relying on emergency assistance from the WFP. Ongoing violence and border closures have impacted regular food supplies and aid deliveries – fresh produce is disappearing from the markets. Furthermore, lack of electricity and attacks on desalination plants have left an estimated 800,000 people unable to access regular safe water.