Center for International Stabilization & Recovery

CISR envisions a world where people can build peaceful and prosperous futures free from the repercussions of conflict and disaster.

We help communities affected by conflict and trauma through innovative and reliable research, training, information exchange, and direct services such as:

Mine Risk Education
Peer Support
Management Training
Scientific Research
Who I Follow
Geo-Spatial Decision Support Systems (Pty) Ltd in South Africa is busy with research on the effectiveness of the use of GIS as a decision-support system for mine action. The approach specifically looks at this from three different perspectives:

  1. Global level: Map and analyze the global strategic indicators to inform global management decisions for mine action in terms of priorities and funding using available GIS technologies and data;
  2. Country level: Analyze the different datasets and identify suitable analysis one can perform such as surface analysis to determine potential suitability of using the data for making decisions. In addition will look at the suitability of such analysis in contrasting geographies; and
  3. Prioritization system: through the use of GIS technologies and statistical regression models that can assist with make strategic, tactical and operational decisions.
The survey have 23 questions and will take approximately 15–20 minutes to complete. To the latter end of the survey, there is link to ArcGIS online web app allowing you to compare cleared area, causalities and funding based on public information sources. The countries selected for illustration purposes had the most complete datasets available.
The survey can be accessed at:


The Secret Victims of Iraq’s Chemical Arms

Aged shells and warheads. Officers who ordered wounded troops to silence. Substandard medical care (and even denial of treatment) to Iraqis and Americans who were exposed. American-designed mustard shells in the corroded vestiges of Saddam Hussein’s old chemical stockpile.  Honors denied to troops who served in some of the most dangerous jobs of the most recent Iraq War.

On The New York Times: An untold chronicle of the United States’ long and bitter involvement in Iraq.

From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule.

In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

An investigation many months in works, and at last in print. Heres why:  

Reporting was contributed by John Ismay, Duraid Ahmed, Omar al-Jawoshy, Mac William Bishop and Eric Schmitt. Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

Produced by Craig Allen, David Furst, Alicia DeSantis, Sergio Peçanha, Shreeya Sinha, Frank O’Connell, Derek Watkins and Josh Williams.

With editing by Michael Slackman and Matt Purdy, and photographs by Tyler Hicks


Leaking 155-mm mustard agent shells among those that wounded five American soldiers near Taji, Iraq in 2008

 Nicole Neitzey is the Program Manager/Grants Officer for the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery at James Madison University, where she has been working since 2001. She graduated from James Madison University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in Technical and Scientific Communication and an Online Publications Specialization.  Nicole is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at JMU (expected completion, May 2015).

The Philanthropy and Volunteerism class for Spring 2014 culminated in a series of group projects. Our group put together a report for the client, Harrisonburg Community Health Center (HCHC). We were asked to research promising practices in the areas of governance, contributed revenue, and strategic messaging in order to provide recommendations to HCHC to improve their operations going forward.

 Our team consisted of two undergraduate students, Blair Belote and Caitlyn Roth, and myself.  Our task was to write a Comparable Analysis of Grant-Supported Federally Qualified Health Centers, which is the type of organization HCHC is. Over 1,000 such centers exist across the United States, and we were asked to review how other centers were operating in order to identify things that work in other contexts, particularly those similar to HCHC in some way.
A class meeting with the Chief Executive Officer of HCHC early on in the project provided some context for their environment and unique position. Some of their challenges that our report was designed to address were; how to educate people about who they are and what they do, how to assess the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the Center, how to address myths about how the center operates (e.g., how it is funded), and how to set HCHC apart from other health providers for low-income individuals in the area.

Read more …


American Ammunition in Islamic State’s Hands.

Documented in detail with a fine bit of field research by Conflict Armament Research, a private organization that tracks weapons and the arms trade.

Details here. Brief excerpt below.

In its campaign across northern Syria and Iraq, the jihadist group Islamic State has been using ammunition from the United States and other countries that have been supporting the regional security forces fighting the group, according to new field data gathered by a private arms-tracking organization.

The data, part of a larger sample of captured arms and cartridges in Syria and Iraq, carries an implicit warning for policy makers and advocates of intervention.

It suggests that ammunition transferred into Syria and Iraq to help stabilize governments has instead passed from the governments to the jihadists, helping to fuel the Islamic State’s rise and persistent combat power. Rifle cartridges from the United States, the sample shows, have played a significant role.

“The lesson learned here is that the defense and security forces that have been supplied ammunition by external nations really don’t have the capacity to maintain custody of that ammunition,” said James Bevan, director of Conflict Armament Research, the organization that is gathering and analyzing weapons used by the Islamic State. 


An unfired 5.56-mm cartridge from Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, dated 2006, seized from Islamic State by Kurdish fighters in Iraq in July. Courtesy of Conflict Armament Research.


The conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azebaijan, is one of the bloodiest and most intractable to emerge from the breakup of the Soviet Union. Tugce Ercetin looks at how peacebuilding is being approached in the region.

The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh – a region claimed by both Armenia and Azerbaijan – has existed since the end of the WWI, but it was after the collapse of the USSR that the conflict turned violent, with war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 1992. This has gained Nagorno-Karabakh international attention as countries in the region have an active stake in the solution of the conflict. The dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan became the one of the bloodiest and most intractable clashes to emerge from the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is the greatest obstacle to security and stability in the South Caucasus and the involved parties did not resolve it. Bilateral conflict relations have not stabilised the region, as there are many third party interests at play, often overshadowing national interests. For instance, Nagorno-Karabakh is influential in relations between Armenia and Turkey, while Turkey shares a closer relationship with Azerbaijan.

Nagorno-Karabakh is within the international borders of Azerbaijan over a total area of 4,800 square kilometres. For countless ethnic groups, the territory has been a transit and settlement zone for thousands of years, resulting in innumerable territorial conflicts, campaigns of conquest and ethnic dislocations. Both the Azeris and Armenians claim ownership of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Various immigrations and mutual attacks have often resulted in negotiations reaching a deadlock. Consequently, both sides claim legitimacy due to fear that they would be an ethnic minority within the region.

Read more …


Perfect Soldiers: Cambodia’s Hidden Enemy

A severe problem that Cambodia faces is the magnitude of landmines littered across provinces throughout the country. This is the legacy of three decades of savage war that raged in Cambodia. All sides used landmines, manufactured in China, Russia, Vietnam and the United States. Pol Pot, whose regime was responsible for the deaths of approximately 1.7 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979, purportedly called land mines his “perfect soldiers.”

Recent estimates show that there may be as many as four to six million mines and unexploded devices left undetected in Cambodia although some estimates run as high as 10 million. In the first nine months of 2012, 144  landmine casualties were recorded, according to a report by the Cambodian Mine and Explosive Remnants of War Victim Information System. Young children account for approximately half of all landmine victims.

Across the developing world, there are millions of people with disabilities who need physical rehabilitation services to enable them to go to school, find work and participate in society. However, in many low income countries there is a severe shortage of staff with the skills and experience to provide the rehabilitation services required. Whilst I have been living in Cambodia, I have met a number of landmine survivors who have been keen to show me what has happened to them, and explain the difficulties they face on a daily basis.


Flashback Friday!

… CISR and James Madison University students visit Reaching Out, a silent fair-trade teahouse managed by the hearing- and speech-impaired in Hội An, Vietnam.

Sudan and South Sudan are among the most heavily armed countries in the world. The Niles investigates how this came about and the consequences of spiraling bloodshed.

Sudan was awash with arms long before the country split in two. When South Sudan seceded in 2011, it was estimated that there were up to 3.2m small arms in circulation. Two-thirds of these were thought to be in the hands of civilians. Since then, arms have proliferated on both sides of the recently devised border – with fatal results.

In Sudan, a country often dubbed “Africa’s arms dump”, the number of arms is rising by the day amid armed conflict between government forces, paramilitaries, rebels, hired militia, foreign fighters, bandits as well as inter- and intra-communal warfare. This aggression is fuelled by the global arms trade and smuggling from neighbouring states.

A similar story is heard in South Sudan, where ownership of guns and small arms is estimated to have sharply increased during its three years as an independent nation, partly due to the number of rebel and militia groups that sprung up in Jonglei and Upper Nile states in 2010 and 2011. Arms are a common sight and ammunition can be bought for around US$1 per cartridge at some local markets.

Read more …


Haunting Photos of Bosnia’s Never-Ending Land Mine and Flooding Problem

Earlier this year, Bosnia experienced massive flooding, and as a result land mines that had been dormant for almost two decades slid into towns, disguised under a layer of wet, dark earth.

Above: NPA Bosnia engineer with mine-clearing dog

Warning tape in Orasje, Bosnia

A Prom-1 antipersonnel land mine

Portrait on the wall of a flooded house

The study of a flooded house

A bridge in Doboj that’s believed to be above washed-up land mines

An NPA Bosnia engineer

An explosives box

Recovered mortar

Nikola Tesla High School

A flooded study in the village of Mladici 

A pool filled with flood water

More flood water in the pool

Spice bottles in a kitchen after a flood

A waterlogged family photo album

Continue + More photos

Tips for planning for the evacuation needs of disabled persons in the community.

In 2013, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, noted that people with disabilities experience a disproportionately high level of disaster-related injury and death because their needs are neglected by the official planning process in most situations.

The UN conducted a survey of people with disabilities who had survived disasters around the world. Few respondents were aware of any disaster management plans in their communities, and fewer had participated in any planning processes, although half of the respondents expressed a desire to do so.

According to survey respondents, just 20 percent said they could evacuate “immediately without difficulty” in the event of a sudden disaster. If “sufficient” time were available, the percentage of those who could evacuate without difficulty nearly doubled (to 38 percent), underscoring the need for effective and inclusive early warning systems.

Read more …