Crisis Group’s Impact Highlights: September 2022 to February 2023
Crisis Group’s Impact Highlights: September 2022 to February 2023
Crisis Group’s Alissa de Carbonnel talks with Tatyana, from Donetsk region, in a shelter for internally displaced persons in Lviv, Ukraine, in June 2022. CRISIS GROUP / Jorge Guitierrez Lucena
Impact Note / Global 13 minutes

Crisis Group’s Impact Highlights: September 2022 to February 2023

Crisis Group’s work preventing conflict and shaping peace has a positive influence on crises around the globe. This Impact Note highlights cases in Afghanistan, Colombia, Ethiopia, Mali, Nagorno-Karabakh, the U.S. and Yemen, as well as our advocacy at the EU and UN and our research on climate and conflict in Africa.

With protracted wars appearing stagnant and new eruptions of violence making headlines every week, it can feel as though deadly conflict is inevitable. At Crisis Group, we believe that through on-the-ground research, sharp analysis and advocacy, war can be prevented. 

This impact snapshot illustrates how Crisis Group's daily work brings the world closer to that goal. Over this five-month period, we maintained pressure on policymakers and diplomats to continue working for peace – in Yemen, and at the United Nations – and guided legislators leading the debate on the use of force by the United States’ executive branch. Using our research on the connections between climate change and conflict, and our reach into UN agencies and national governments, we shifted the conversation on climate security and put climate-related violence on the international agenda. 

Our longstanding presence in countries afflicted by conflict allowed us to react quickly to outbursts of violence in Ethiopia and Nagorno-Karabakh, where we provided policymakers with insights and ideas for de-escalating the crises, and in Afghanistan, where our unique access and influence allowed us to make bold recommendations in the name of peace. We have also kept our eyes on the horizon, providing early warning analysis to EU policymakers, raising awareness of worrying instability in Mali and alerting the new government in Colombia to ways to prevent violence against civilians. In all of these conflicts and many others around the world, our peacemaking mission remains as vital as ever.


Our two decades of on-the-ground experience, investment in rebuilding a research network in the country after the Taliban takeover and unparalleled access to all relevant parties at a time when most donors have shuttered their diplomatic missions give particular importance to our Afghanistan work. 

Our recent long-form reports, op-eds and advocacy meetings have emphasised the need for economic recovery to help Afghanistan escape the world’s largest humanitarian disaster. A member of our Afghanistan team was invited by The Economist to write an op-ed, “Afghanistan’s Central Bank Needs Its Assets Back”, explaining why foreign governments should unfreeze these monies. Our December essay in Foreign Affairs on the need for donors to work with the Taliban on economic recovery earned acclaim for boldly arguing in favour of ending aid dependency in the country. A piece in The Globe and Mail contributed to discussions in Ottawa about easing sanctions that affect Afghanistan. 

Our report served as a guide for policymakers reconsidering the [Afganistan's] place in the global security architecture.

We have also weighed in on other vital issues. Our August report, Afghanistan’s Security Challenges under the Taliban, served as a guide for policymakers reconsidering the country’s place in the global security architecture in the tense aftermath of the U.S. airstrike that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul in July. The report called on the Taliban to cooperate with Western countries on security issues. In pressing for this recommendation, we hand-delivered copies of the report – translated into Dari and Pashto – to Taliban officials in October. 

Our latest report – in February 2023 – Taliban Restrictions on Women’s Rights Deepen Afghanistan’s Crisis, recommended ways for international actors to respond as the Taliban imposed harsh measures on women and girls. A senior international official described the paper as “pitch perfect”, commending it for identifying the main dilemmas raised by the Taliban’s edicts. Our advocacy following its release included advising several governments and agencies on how to navigate the worsening situation. We briefed senior UN officials in Geneva, UN Security Council members in New York and several World Bank officials. The situation remains grim for millions of Afghans and will require concentrated international engagement for the foreseeable future. Still, many of our recent recommendations have been adopted as policy: in early 2022, for example, the U.S. issued the sanctions carve-outs we had advocated for the previous year, mitigating the humanitarian crisis.

Taliban praying in Kabul, Afghanistan, in September 2021. Stefanie Glinski

Climate and Conflict

Our efforts to put climate-related violence on the international agenda through our unique combination of cutting-edge science and fieldwork had a measurable impact. Notably, after hearing briefings from us, two governments introduced new climate security initiatives of their own. German and U.S. officials said they were impressed by the granularity of our research, which encouraged them to employ new quantitative methods in their own work and to emphasise the importance of changing weather patterns for conflict dynamics. Our advocacy efforts, in Brussels and New York as well as in Africa, have led senior officials to describe our climate security work as “eye-opening” and offering “a new way of thinking”.

[Our work] will form the foundation of a pilot climate and conflict early warning system for the Horn of Africa.

We also continued to examine the climate-conflict nexus in particularly vulnerable places. In November, we released a visual explainer demonstrating how climate change has contributed to the historic flooding along South Sudan’s White Nile river, driving significant displacement and contributing to fighting in the Equatoria region. The UN Development Programme praised the work, which will form the foundation of a pilot climate and conflict early warning system for the Horn of Africa. 

As part of our COP27 campaign, we published another visual explainer in November analysing the disparity in climate finance received by countries experiencing conflict compared to that disbursed to those at peace. We presented this analysis to the Egyptian president’s climate adviser at the summit, who said he was “thrilled” with our work. The new Team Europe initiative on climate change adaptation and resilience in Africa, announced at the summit by the European Union (EU) and African Union (AU), mirrored recommendations from our October 2022 Watch List entry on climate change in the Horn of Africa. In February, the head of the Climate Responses for Sustaining Peace initiative – the first and only climate security forum associated with COP, launched by Egypt at Sharm el-Sheikh in 2022 – mirrored language and borrowed data from our visual explainer in remarks at an event at UN headquarters.

Crisis Group's Climate analyst Nazanine Moshiri speaking with Christophe Hodder, United Nations Climate Security and Environmental Advisor to Somalia, in a drought-stricken area in Kajiado county, Kenya, 2 December 2022. CRISIS GROUP / Michelle Malaney


Our early advocacy in Colombia directly supported security reform to better protect civilians and further reduce violence.

Our early advocacy in Colombia directly supported security reform to better protect civilians and further reduce violence. Our September 2022 report, Trapped in Conflict: Reforming Military Strategy to Save Lives in Colombia, resonated widely among decision-makers, including those in President Gustavo Petro’s new government. Our engagement began before the report’s publication, as we circulated a white paper among senior retired military officers and future officials in Petro’s incoming government diagnosing the shortcomings of present strategies and highlighting the need for change. Following his election, Petro immediately emphasised policy shifts that echoed our recommendations. Subsequently, we gave an early draft of the report to senior officials, including in the foreign ministry, defence ministry and the armed forces. 

To promote the report upon publication, we produced a social media video. We also held a public event with journalists, academics and civil society, and a private event with more than 50 military personnel and diplomats in Bogotá. Government officials now involved in drafting Petro’s security strategy and supporting his plan for “total peace” have expressed agreement with our diagnosis and some of our leading recommendations. Defence ministry officials say our insights, particularly on indicators, were key to their thinking in drafting a new security strategy due to be launched in the spring of 2023.

A military base in the Colombian Amazon, located next to one of the many rivers connecting with Venezuela. November 2019, Guainía, Colombia. CRISIS GROUP/Bram Ebus


Our work on Ethiopia, promoting ways to end the civil war centred in the northern Tigray region, remained a go-to source of analysis and recommendations for foreign governments, the media and other interested parties. Throughout this period, our work on the country continued to be widely read by key Western and other officials, including in the U.S., EU and UN regional envoys’ offices. Our October 2022 statement, “A Call to Action: Averting Atrocities in Ethiopia’s Tigray War”, sounded the alarm as fighting spread. Following its release, a senior U.S. government official commended it, noting that it was “getting a lot of play inside the [U.S. government]”.

Following our advocacy efforts ... Congressman Crow signed the letter [on the situation in Ethiopia], along with Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper.

Following the November 2022 cessation of hostilities agreement, we released a statement titled, “Turning the Pretoria Deal into Lasting Peace in Ethiopia”, which stressed the importance of the parties’ remaining committed to upholding the fragile pact. Our Africa Program director appeared on our Hold Your Fire! podcast the same month to discuss the deal and its implications. Also in November, after a request from the newspaper, our president & CEO published a New York Times op-ed, “Biden Must Ensure Ethiopia Does Not Return to War”. Following this piece’s release, U.S. Congressman Jason Crow’s office contacted our U.S. Program to ask for assistance in writing a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the situation in Ethiopia. Crow’s office interviewed our senior Ethiopia analyst before drafting the letter and then asked him to suggest edits. Following our advocacy efforts, jointly carried out by our Africa and U.S. Programs, Congressman Crow signed the letter, along with Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, in mid-December. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee discussed, among other issues, the Ethiopia peace process and the role of Eritrea on a December episode of our The Horn podcast. We also made a push with key governments in Europe, meeting with senior German and Italian officials.

We also monitored trouble spots elsewhere in the country. In February, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley’s staff asked us to provide suggestions for a letter to the U.S. and AU envoys to the Horn of Africa urging for their support in pushing for peace talks between the Oromo Liberation Army and the Ethiopian government.


Our work in Mali has highlighted the risks and consequences of Bamako’s increasing isolation from West African and Western governments. Though there is little chance of reversing the worrying direction in which the country is headed, we have remained an influential voice calling for a better-balanced Malian policy.

Senior UN officials greatly appreciated our contribution [to the MINUSMA report on the mission’s internal review].

We have paid particular attention to the challenges the country’s partners face amid rising tensions between Mali and France. Our December Q&A, “MINUSMA at a Crossroads”, detailed the problems afflicting the UN stabilisation mission in Mali in the wake of movement restrictions imposed by Bamako, which impede the mission’s ability to, among other things, report on abuses. The commentary presented three options for the mission’s future, providing us with a direct channel into UN decision-making about MINUSMA. In mid-January, the UN secretary-general released a report on the mission’s internal review, which laid out three options: consolidating, augmenting or withdrawing MINUSMA. Senior UN officials greatly appreciated our contribution, with one remarking that Crisis Group’s insights had improved the paper by fine-tuning its coverage of local dynamics and better portraying the implications for MINUSMA’s mandate. 

We also kept up advocacy with Mali’s transitional authorities. In February, our senior adviser met Malian officials to present our latest briefing, Mali: Avoiding the Trap of Isolation. The briefing argues that Bamako should not alienate traditional partners in West Africa and the West as they balance their diplomatic relations. The authorities did not agree with all our assertions, but several admitted that our briefing was a useful tool.


Our analysis of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh remained in high demand during a period of escalation between the parties. We reacted quickly to a flare-up in March and August, in which several soldiers were killed on both sides, publishing two Q&As, including our September piece, “Upholding the Ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia”, which explained what needed to happen to restart the peace process between Baku and Yerevan. During and after these escalations, our analysts spoke to a number of high-level officials, including UN Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas Miroslav Jenča, who said, “Crisis Group analysis always allows [us] to better understand the Azerbaijan-Armenia context, and [we] learn a lot”. Jenča added that the UN Secretariat would take our recommendations into account.

Brussels has ... welcomed our suggestions for how to frame difficult issues in discussions with Yerevan and Baku.

In September, our President & CEO Comfort Ero met the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to talk about pathways to de-escalation. In February, Ero met Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to discuss the subject in more detail. Since the September escalation, our analysts have also remained in regular contact with the EU representatives who have worked on deploying a civilian mission to Armenia. A timely visit to Brussels by our senior analyst in December allowed us to help highlight the importance of a continued EU presence at the border amid the looming expiration of a temporary monitoring mission later that month. We stressed the need for Brussels to reach out to Baku to better explain the purpose of the EU presence and, in parallel, our EU team organised a roundtable in Brussels reiterating these points. Participants praised the roundtable, saying they were impressed by the analysis and policy advice. Indeed, the EU first deployed a transitional planning assistance team in Armenia and is now putting in place a full-fledged border-monitoring mission. The EU’s decision to allocate funds to the Armenians living near the stretches of the border where recent fighting occurred is also in line with our recommendations. Brussels has also welcomed our suggestions for how to frame difficult issues in discussions with Yerevan and Baku. Other EU efforts that are closely aligned with Crisis Group’s recommendations are EU officials’ push to launch a hotline between the sides and their offer to facilitate regular meetings of security personnel, which could contribute to greater stability along the front lines.


Crisis Group’s Analyst for the South Caucasus Zaur Shiriyev enters a destroyed building in the city of Agdam. The territory was recaptured by Azerbaijan during the 2020 war with Armenia. July 2022. CRISIS GROUP / Jorge Gutierrez Lucena

Crisis Group at the United Nations

Crisis Group has become a fixture on the multilateral stage at the UN, with our President & CEO Comfort Ero appearing at Security Council meetings with greater frequency than any of her predecessors. We have, among other things, continued helping the Security Council and General Assembly navigate the turbulent diplomatic landscape following Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine. Our annual briefing, Ten Challenges for the UN in 2022-2023, encouraged member states to continue shielding the Security Council from Ukraine-related big power tensions and identified the crises that warranted the UN’s attention. Our UN team also coordinated closely with diplomats in New York working on two General Assembly resolutions on Ukraine, focusing on how to secure maximum international support for these texts. The first, in October, demanded that Russia reverse its attempted illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions; the second marked the one-year anniversary of the full-scale invasion.

In November, our president & CEO delivered the keynote speech at the annual retreat of current and incoming Security Council members.

We also spotlighted the Ukraine war’s global implications and other important issues. In November, our president & CEO delivered the keynote speech at the annual retreat of current and incoming Security Council members in Greentree, New York. The speech focused on how multilateral actors can best respond to the overlapping sets of challenges posed by the war, the food, fuel and commodities price shocks, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous speakers at the retreat have included the UN secretary-general and the former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Our president & CEO was also invited to speak at a UN Security Council meeting on counter-terrorism in Africa in November, chaired by Ghanaian President Nana Akufo Addo, drawing on both our regional and thematic work.

Comfort Ero speaks with Kai Sauer, the under-secretary of state for foreign and security policy at Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during the United Nations General Assembly week in New York. September 2022. CRISIS GROUP

United States

Congressional staff regularly consult with our team on legislation and oversight.

In Washington, we have advocated for strengthening the U.S. Congress’s role in matters of war and peace and for the legislature to act as a check on the unilateral, imprudent use of force by the executive branch. Congressional staff regularly consult with our team on legislation and oversight. Our advocacy with these officials has helped guide oversight efforts, as many of our policy recommendations have been incorporated into legislation. In October, we published our report Stop Fighting Blind: Better Use-of-Force Oversight in the U.S. Congress, recommending that Congress devote more attention to monitoring the use of force. Several of our recommendations regarding oversight and legislative reform were adopted by Congress.


Tareq Saleh ... said Crisis Group was the first to analyse the talks’ content in detail.

We have continued advocating for the warring sides in Yemen to return to the UN-mediated truce, as well as for a Yemeni political dialogue to follow. Our December briefing, How Huthi-Saudi Negotiations Will Make or Break Yemen, released after the truce lapsed in October, highlighted the costs and benefits of the secret bilateral discussions between the Huthis and Saudi Arabia. We received positive feedback, including from Western diplomats and Yemeni actors. Tareq Saleh, nephew of the former president and an important anti-Huthi commander, said Crisis Group was the first to analyse the talks’ content in detail. Officials of Islah, another anti-Huthi party, concurred. A Yemeni government official praised the briefing, saying “the recommendations are everything which we [the government] want to tell the Saudis but couldn’t due to fear”. The official added that while it was unclear whether Riyadh would take up the recommendations, “it is good that it has made them aware, and it has started the right kind of conversation”. 

Our briefing has also received praise for highlighting the grievances within Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council regarding its exclusion from the back-channel talks. We advocated for more communication to address these concerns. In January, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber, initiated contact with Yemeni government officials to disclose information about the talks, in the first instance of Saudi transparency since discussions began. 

While neither side has returned to the truce to date, they have largely refrained from fighting. Despite the relative calm, Yemenis still suffer from the war’s humanitarian and economic impact in their daily lives. Crisis Group continues to propose ways to alleviate some of these effects, while reminding the belligerents that the only sustainable way to end the war is by engaging in an intra-Yemeni political dialogue that addresses all sides’ grievances.

Yemen, 2020. CRISIS GROUP/Peter Salisbury

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