Book Review: Wars, Guns and Votes by Paul Collier

Wars Guns and Votes Paul Collier begins his book Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places by noting that the next generation might live see the eradication of war or they might die in one.  Each is a distinct possibility but he states that the face of warfare has changed.  The wars of the future, he asserts, will no longer be about invasions, values and the movement of international borders; wars will be on a much smaller scale and are likely to be civil wars that affect the poorest countries on earth.  It is a chilling prediction and far from believing that the atrocities of Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia are firmly in the past, Collier predicts more genocides and ethnic warfare as the governments of what he calls the “bottom billion” remain unaccountable and illegitimate.

In Wars, Guns and Votes, Paul Collier seeks to challenge some of the more popular and enduring beliefs about the politics of the “bottom billion”.  He begins by dissecting the role of democracy and the effects of ethnicity and then follows this with a section dedicated to guns, wars and coups with a case study of Cote d’Ivoire.  The final section of the book focuses on Collier’s recommendations for policy changes and his suggestions for steps that the developed world can take to ensure the development of proper governance and accountability in the countries of the bottom billion in the future. 

Part 1: Denying Reality: Democrazy

In the first part of the book “Denying Reality: Democrazy” Collier debunks the notion that the revered democratic election should be the end point in the political process.  Citing research and case history, he asserts that democracy does not enhance prospects of internal peace but rather increases political violence.  This is because democracy has not produced accountable and legitimate governments and the way that elections are won means that bad governance and a lack of accountability is inevitable.  Quite simply, it is too easy to rig elections, pick on scapegoats and minorities or lie to voters in order to win elections and once elections have been won on that basis, what incentive is there to govern properly?  A government would need to continue these tactics in order to stay in power as long as possible. 

Collier continues with a look at the effects of ethnicity in developing countries and observes that public services tend to be worse in ethnically diverse countries where politicians plundered the economy and transferred the proceeds to their own ethnic groups.  Citing the case of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Collier notes how the construction of a national identity can help to overcome such effects of ethnicity.

In the final section of part one, Collier notes that peacekeeping does in fact work and that while it is expensive, it costs a mere fraction of the cost of conflict.  He asserts that there is a level at which the benefits of peacekeeping missions seem to even out (approximately $100 million a year) and that the aim should be to pull out eventually and phase in an over-the-horizon guarantee with the promise of a rapid response.  He cites the British ten-year undertaking to fly troops into Sierra Leone should the need arise as an example. 

Part 2: Facing Reality: Nasty, Brutish and Long

Part two of the book is entitled “Facing Reality: Nasty, Brutish and Long”.  In a discussion on guns, Collier notes that aid is leaking into military spending.  As post-conflict military spending increases, there is a risk of reversion to war and thus aid is a two-edged sword.  Collier states that the developed nations have a responsibility to police arms embargoes and make them more effective or that they need to be more responsible with the provision of aid and to link aid allocations to a chosen level of military spending.

In “Wars”, Collier quite succinctly notes that armed struggle is development in reverse.  He expands on his claim in the opening paragraphs of the book and notes that we are moving away from invasions towards an increase in rebels, insurgents and civil wars.  Collier discusses several issues such as the economy, history, structure, geography and politics of a country and notes that all of these factors might be correlated with warfare but that it might be inaccurate to talk of causality.  Collier warns of the dangers of reverse causality and states that it is perhaps not relevant to look at why wars happen in the developed countries but how they are allowed to happen at all.  Recognising that the legacy of a civil war is another civil war, Collier states simply that we need to make civil wars more difficult.

The section entitled “Coups” is difficult in that the author obviously has a point of view that he would like to express but in the end, it is supported neither by case histories nor research data.  Collier states that coups might be the only method of removing a troublesome dictator and that perhaps they should be harnessed, not eliminated.  He notes that a coup is a surgical strike and is not nearly as devastating as a civil war.  The problem is that coup leaders often get a taste for power and don’t deliver election as promised or they may be greedy and power hungry and not necessarily seeking better governance.  In fact, Collier notes, from a statistical point of view, coups are at least as likely to occur in democracies as they are in autocracies and therefore, they are less likely to throw out a truly bad government than they are to oust an acceptable, functioning regime.  Despite this grim outlook, Collier maintains that the threat of a coup can keep a government in check and that coups do have a role in maintaining good governance.

Collier then presents a case study of Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) which encountered a severe economic shock which lead to the development of anti-immigrant sentiment and identity polarization in the country.  In a very short period of time, the country experienced two military coups, a sham election and a rebel uprising which saw civil war erupt to devastating consequences.  Collier asks the question as to whether this catastrophe could have been averted.

Part 3: Changing Reality: Accountability and Security

The final part of the book is entitled “Changing Reality: Accountability and Security”.  Collier insists that the answer lies in nation building and the adoption of global norms of accountability.  Once again he refers to the case of President Nyerere of Tanzania and how he built a strong national identity in a previously fractured country.  Collier asserts once again that only once petty ethnic divisions are neutralised within a country, can public goods be supplied on a national scale.  Embarking on elections before national identity and accountability are in place is and will remain to be disastrous.

In “Better Dead Than Fed” Collier lists his three-part manifesto for ensuring accountability and security in the developing world.  He states that sovereignty has been shown to be disastrous in the past (when America refused to join the League of Nations) and he argues that the time has come to join together in assisting the developing world rather than leaving such countries to their own devices.  Collier states that we need to harness the threat of violence in order to ensure democracy.  This means that a voluntary international standard for the conduct of elections must be developed whereby the international community will assist countries in ensuring free and fair elections but will leave a country to the threat of a coup if the elections are not fair.  This must be complemented by enforcing probity in public spending.  Collier argues that donor countries have an obligation to their own tax payers to ensure that money is used in the manner in which it was intended.  Therefore, Collier calls for “governance conditionality” which would be based on capacity and verification.  It might be the least favourable kind of aid but Collier calls for technical assistance whereby donor countries supplied skilled people to verify that the capacity they are providing is actually being used to enforce probity in public spending.

Finally, Collier calls for an international supply of security.  Collier insists once again that donor countries have an obligation to link aid to the level of military spending to ensure that they are not subsidising the provision of guns and arms in countries at risk of civil war.  In addition, Collier suggests that sovereignty be shared and that the international community rise to provide security to post-conflict countries.  Collier states that “Some governments should provide or finance peacekeepers; some governments should provide aid; and the post-conflict government should reform economic policy, cut its military spending, and, if it chooses to hold elections, let them be free and fair”.  In order to be effective, these provisions need to be in place for about a decade to ensure that there is no reversion to civil war.

Wars Guns and Votes It is clear that Collier’s views will not be welcome or popular amongst the people that already think that developed countries are already doing too much in the developing world and that taxpayers’ money would be better used in domestic arenas.  In the classic parlance of the economist, Collier reminds us that ignoring our responsibilities at this stage will lead to greater devastation in the future and indeed, a greater financial outlay.  At times his arguments seem so simple that it is surprising that they have not been implemented previously; how is it possible, for example, that donors supplied aid without ensuring that it was not used to fuel greater war and suffering?  At other times his arguments seem impossibly liberal and idealistic but the point is this: we fought two major world wars to protect freedom, sovereignty and values; why are we not prepared to act in order to ensure this for the countries of the “bottom billion”?  

There does seem to be some movement in the direction that Paul Collier proposes.  Collier is a professor of economics at Oxford University and is quite respected in his field.  He certainly has an expanding sphere of influence and has talked at the Aspen Institute and the TED Conference.  In addition, there are several organisations and initiatives hard at work to introduce notions of governance and accountability to the governments of developing countries through, for example, the Public Expenditure & Financial Accountability (PEFA) programme. 

The ideas that Collier proposes in Wars, Guns and Votes are not simply theories but are based on research conducted by his own academic team and by other researchers.  Collier has made a fine effort in attempting to bring complex economic issues to a mass market through books such as this and The Bottom Billion but his references to data collection and analysis might prove too technical for much of this market.  There is also the ever present problem of reverse causality and a lack of reliable data to test.  Collier notes that the application of statistical research is a pretty new addition in the field of economics which means that as impressive as some of the hypotheses in this book might be, they may be somewhat limited until a greater body of research can be analysed and compared.   The problem is that this issue is far more urgent than that and requires decisive action.

Nevertheless, Collier has raised some intriguing points in this book and I am sure he will continue to champion the plight of the “bottom billion”.  It will be interesting to see how international relations and policies shift in the future and whether any of his ideas do come to fruition.  This book is certainly recommended for anyone seeking an introduction to democracy and post-conflict development in developing countries and such readers would benefit from reading his previous work The Bottom Billion too.

Buy Wars Guns and Votes at ¦
Buy The Bottom Billion at ¦

This article was written by me and first published as Book Review: Wars, Guns and Votes by Paul Collier on Blogcritics.

Breaking News: Young Girls Exploited for Sex in the UK

Link: Revealed: The horrific trade in British children for sex []

This story has been in the news all week and this article is one of the less racist or alarmist pieces I have read on the matter.  It is surely an alarming matter when school girls are lured from their homes by charming older men who groom them and then share them amongst their friends as sex slaves; it is just a pity that it took this case involving a schoolgirl from Manchester to convince the public that slavery and sexual exploitation of children is alive and well in the United Kingdom. 

National Working Group

Actually, I wonder if even this case, as widely reported as it has been, will bring sufficient attention to the matter.  You just need to look on the resources page for the National Working Group for sexually exploited children and young people to see that they have been trying to draw attention to the matter of child sexual exploitation and pimping for some time now.  So why has this case drawn attention?  No doubt it is the racial element, the fact that in this case, Asian men abused a white girl.  That simply does not help.  Child abusers come from all walks of life and they prey indiscriminately on children and young people.  The victims just have to fit one profile and that is to be young, innocent and vulnerable. 

Joanne, because she is now 18, is no longer of any interest to her former pimp, says her mother. The teenager is mentally scarred, homeless and drug addicted. "She's not a child any more, so they're not interested. They've used her up and thrown her out. One of them said to her: 'In five years' time you'll be a crackhead out on the street and I'll be cruising with another 14-year-old.' Five years down the line, she is on drugs, on the streets. He – like he told her – is cruising with another 14-year-old." –, 15 August 2010

Four Ways to Improve the Lives of the "Bottom Billion”


Paul CollierI’ve been reading a book by Paul Collier called Wars, Guns and Votes which I hope to review shortly. Economics is one of my weaker points which is why I chose to read this book (and which is why it is taking me so long). 

Paul Collier has some pretty incredible views regarding the poorest people on the planet and you can hear him talking in the video above about improving the lot of the bottom billion at the TED Conference in 2008.

He focuses on governance in this video and what governments can do to become accountable and legitimate.

Photo Credit: Randy Quan

Sixty-five years ago: Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Hiroshima leveled by A-bomb
Photo credit © United Press International, Inc

Sixty-five years ago today, the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.  80,000 people died that day and 140,000 were killed three days earlier when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  You can read about the specific details and the human suffering in this post from last year: This Day in History: 6 – 9 August 1945.

Photo essay: Hiroshima, the pictures they didn't want us to see

This is an incredibly shocking photo essay on the victims and devastation of the atomic explosions in Japan.  The photos are quite graphic and may be disturbing to some people.


“Beneath the center of the explosion, temperatures were hot enough to melt concrete and steel. Within seconds, 75,000 people had been killed or fatally injured with 65% of the casualties nine years of age and younger.”

“Hibakusha is the term widely used in Japan referring to victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese word translates literally to "explosion-affected people".


They and their children were (and still are) victims of severe discrimination due to lack of knowledge about the consequences of radiation sickness, which people believed to be hereditary or even contagious.”

This is why the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is so important.  No country can ever have the power to exact this kind of devastation on the civilians of another country, no matter what their grievance with the government or policies of that country. 

Srebrenica: "Serb Leader Ordered 'Feast' of Blood"

Ratko Mladic
Ratko Mladic, left, speaking to Radovan Karadzic in 1993. Photograph: Stringer/EPA

This article was published over at Srebrenica Genocide Blog and was previously unavailable online.  It appeared in the Eugene Register-Guard 15 years ago today and provides horrific details of the Srebrenica genocide. 

As always, the Srebrenica Genocide Blog is a fantastic source of information about the Srebrenica genocide and is always up to date on trials, news, findings and so on.  I would really recommend that you pay them a visit.

"Serb Leader Ordered 'Feast' of Blood"

Eugene Register-Guard

8 August 1995

TUZLA, Bosnia-Herzegovina - Witnesses to the "ethnic cleansing" of Muslims from the former U.N. safe area of Srebrenica say Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic announced a "feast" of blood and attended much of the butchery that followed.

Refugees interviewed by Newsday said Mladic repeatedly declared his intention to kill as many Muslims as possible, in particular able-bodied men, and at one point encouraged his troops to rape the young women of Srebrenica.

"There was a major atrocity," said John Shattuck, the assistant secretary of state for human rights.

His own interviews with more than a dozen survivors from Srebrenica and its sister enclave of Zepa turned up "substantial new evidence of genocide and crimes against humanity", Shattuck told Newsday.

"Mladic's involvement is unquestionable. He was omnipresent."

The reported murders and disappearances after Mladic's conquest of Srebrenica would rank among the largest-scale atrocities of a war that almost from the beginning in April 1992 has shocked the world's conscience.
Mladic has denied that he has done anything wrong. After being indicted Aug. 1 by an international war crimes tribunal for genocide and crimes against humanity, he told reporters, "I got used to that. I am just a man who defends his people."

He said charges of rape are unfounded because, "We Serbs are too picky and would not be attracted to Muslim women taken by force."

He has said that men and boys seized by Serb forces are "war criminals" and has not otherwise accounted for the large numbers of missing people.

Refugees told Newsday, human rights investigators and Shattuck, that Mladic appeared daily before thousands of refugees who fled July 11 to the supposed protection of Dutch peacekeepers in Potocari, six miles from Srebrenica. He arrived in a luxury sedan or on horseback, and sometimes distributed chocolate to the children.

On or about July 12, he announced the "feast" of blood, according to Nedzida Sadikovic, who said she was present at the event.

According to her account, Mladic exclaimed, "There are so many," as he spotted the large number of men and boys in the crowd of several thousand refugees. "It is going to be a 'meze' (a long, delectable feast). There will be blood up to your knees," Sadikovic, 42, remembered him saying.

"Beautiful. Keep the good ones over there. Enjoy them," he told his troops, according to Sadikovic.

Sadikovic, who fled to Srebrenica from her village of Bilaca in 1991, said that each night, young women were removed from the building they stayed in on Potocari factory grounds and were not seen again.

Men and boys from 16 to 60 were led away, never to return. Dutch soldiers said they heard shots fired in the forest above Srebrenica day and night in what they took to be executions.

A day or so later, at a different location, Mladic directly threatened to execute more than 4,000 Muslim men and boys captured by his troops while trying to flee.

Appearing at the outdoor soccer stadium in the Serb-occupied town of Nova Kasaba, Mladic first assured his captives that he would protect them. Then he switched his tone, denouncing the Bosnian army troops for killing 70 Serb soldiers in a battle over Mladic's home village.

"For every one of mine, 1,000 of yours are going to die," he said, according to Smail Hodzic, 63, a refugee from Cerska, who was in the crowd. A tape recounting his ordeal was obtained by Newsday. Hodzic also was interviewd by Shattuck and gave a statement to Globus, the independent Zagreb weekly.

At least 2,000 Muslim men and boys were subsequently shot that evening, according to Hodzic's account. He survived by falling at the first volley of machine-gun shots beneath a man who was killed. Hodzic said he waited for some hours and then crawled over 200 bodies toward the nearby woods. He and two others who had escaped made their way on foot to government territory, an 11-day trek.

South African Journalist “Disappeared”

Photo: Sunday Times

I thought that the disappearances ended with the end of Apartheid?  The last person I know that “disappeared” was one of my friends at university in 1991.  We were very lucky, he was returned after four month.  I am posting the entire post below as it appeared on the blog I Wrote This For You.  I’m posting the whole thing, word for word, because it is an “editor’s note” on the aforementioned blog and they tend to remove them to uphold the blog’s original form as a photo and poetry blog.  This post, however, is perfect for this blog and certainly belongs here.

Before I continue, I can confirm that the case was thrown out of court today after the “Kwa Bokweni court prosecutor … declined to prosecute Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika, saying he has no case to answer”.  It seems that the Hawks (South Africa’s new elite crime fighting unit that replaced the Scorpions) will pursue a case of fraud against the journalist.

Mzilikazi wa Afrika arrest
Photo: Kevin Sutherland, Sunday Times

In the letter to the President of South Africa below, it says “Does this not remind you of the actions of the Apartheid government?”  My answer to this is: why yes.  It does remind me of a time where journalists and activists disappeared; where they were beaten, tortured and murdered; where we were so very scared to support change and freedom in South Africa because it could mean jail time or worse for you and your friends.  It reminds me of a South Africa where so many people were happy to remain separate and unequal because to do anything else was either too much trouble or it was dangerous.

I do not write this easily.
I have tried my best to live my life according to my beliefs and principals, to do what I know, somewhere at the back of my mind, is the right thing to do.
Some would say that my responsibility, as an artist or as a writer, ends at creating art.
To write pretty things about love.
But none of us are only one thing. I am an artist, a writer, a lover, a brother and most importantly, a human being.
As a human being, I ask you, a fellow human being, for your help.
Yesterday, in South Africa, where I live, a journalist, who had recently written an article on corruption within the government, was picked up off the street by 6 police cars. He was whisked away, in an unmarked car, to an unknown location. His “questioning” started at 2:30am this morning. I re-post this article from the for more details.

As we write this, the exact whereabouts of Mzilikazi wa Afrika are still unknown. Erik van den Berg, lawyer for the Sunday Times, says they know he was booked into the Watervalboven police station at 5:30pm on Wednesday. Then he was booked out. He has not been booked in anywhere else in Mpumalanga. Needless to say, this uncertainty really gives this story the fear factor. No lawyer has yet been to see Wa Afrika. Is that what the country ruled by the “greatest liberation movement” in the world has come to? This is behaviour reminiscent of one of the worst kinds of government - the one we thought we had relegated to history in 1994.

Strangely, the spin side of “Operation Arrest Wa Afrika” has been much quicker. The Hawks' Musa Zondi (you ask why the Hawks were involved here - so do we) was on the radio, talking about Wa Afrika's arrest, claiming it was a normal operation and that the arrest had nothing to do with Wa Afrika's work as a journalist. Which then turned out not to be the case. In fact, he was arrested for receiving a fax that was supposedly Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza's resignation letter to SA President Jacob Zuma. After the Sunday Times checked with the Presidency and they claimed never to have received it, editor Ray Hartley decided not to run the story and it was spiked.

Perhaps someone realised that public perception matters when you arrest a journalist in the same way you would a serial killer armed with automatic weapons and on the run. But the awareness of public perceptions didn't go far enough to arrange for Wa Afrika's appearance in court or to let him see a lawyer immediately. If they needed to ask him a few questions, couldn't they just have followed due process? No spin doctor in the world can fix such crude conduct.

Of course, none of that happened, and it is no surprise that the media is so concerned here. It took nearly 24 hours for police to even tell us where and if he would appear in court. And, according to Hartley, Wa Afrika’s interrogation began at 2:30 this morning - hardly a standard time to sit down for a chat with a journalist.

Of course, political reaction has been fascinating. Mabuza released a statement last night, at the witching hour, saying he welcomed the arrest which, he claimed, was further proof of a political conspiracy against him, and that Wa Afrika was a journalist who had ignored the gains being made in the province.

Mabuza's midnight statement told you all you needed to know about the province, and about how it’s governed.

It is clear that there is bad blood between Mabuza and Wa Afrika, and now it would appear that Mabuza has the journalist in his power. That may not be technically correct, as the police are run as a national “competence”, and officially premiers have no say and no power over them. But this leads us to the real issue.

The entire arrest, the outrage and anger that followed it and the giddy response from Mabuza all point to the same problem. The fact is that in this country the same people make decisions about who to arrest, which officers to use to do it, what to charge them with, and sometimes, it seems, who will do the judging. The checks and balances that are marks of a functioning democracy are simply not there.

In this country, Luthuli House decides how and who gets the power jobs in the civil service. The ANC decides who will head the police that will arrest a reporter and who will prosecute him. And we do know the nature of relationship between media on one side, and Bheki Cele and Menzi Simelane on the other.

The reaction also tells us another sad fact about our country. Your reaction to Wa Afrika's arrest will pretty much depend on your identity and whether you belong to the ANC or not. If you voted ANC, you’re probably pretty pleased that this rabble-rouser journalist who dissed your peeps is getting what he’s had coming to him. If you’re middle-class, educated and would consider voting for someone else, you’re bloody worried.

The reaction of the media is, naturally, more than just one of shared concern. For reporters and editors the sight of one of their own being bundled into a van by police officers with overwhelming force because of a story that is not even going to be run certainly looks like a sign of very bad times to come. The fact that it happened outside a building hosting a meeting of the SA National Editors’ Forum about defending media freedom can justifiably be seen as a crude attempt at intimidation.

To the older and greyer journalists' the developments of late, with the ANC hell-bent on railroading a raft of the laws through Parliament that will effectively muzzle the media and shield politicians behind even darker windows to keep them from public scrutiny, the Hollywood-style spectacular arrest of a journalist sounds way too familiar.

And we all thought it would never happen again.

By Stephen Grootes

I was 14 years old when Apartheid ended in this country. Had I been older, had I the ability to reach people that I do today, I like to think and to hope that I would have the moral backbone to do everything in my power to bring attention to the horrors that were being committed on a daily basis in this country.
Today, I am here.
You may not live here. In fact, you probably don’t live here. I have very few readers in my home country, compared to other countries. That is why you are important. It was people from other countries that provided the pressure, externally, through sanctions, that helped end Apartheid.
You can help end this before it becomes something more.
I beg you to repost this to your own blogs and media platforms, and to either copy and paste the letter below or draft your own, and send it on to the newspapers in my country, so that our leaders know that they are being watched. Not just by South Africans, but by the world.
I implore you.
Dear President Jacob Zuma,
Firstly, I would like to congratulate you and your countrymen on hosting an incredibly successful World Cup. When the world’s eyes were upon you, you rose to the challenge.
Unfortunately, my attention has recently been bought to the detention of a reporter named Mzilikazi wa Afrika. I have several questions for you in this regard.
Why were 6 police vehicles required to arrest one journalist?
Why were photographers prevented from taking pictures, by police?
Why was he arrested for a story that was never published?
Why was he not allowed to see a lawyer?
Why did you only begin to question him at 2:30am in the morning?
Does this not remind you of the actions of the Apartheid government?
I sincerely urge you to look into this matter and to provide answers at the earliest possible opportunity. Because, as they were during Apartheid, as they were during the World Cup, and as they are now:
The eyes of the world are upon you.
(Country Of Origin)

One Day in Africa by Brook Silva-Braga

My friend Usha over at Writing from 中国 posted this video trailer which I thought I’d share here today.  It is a documentary by Brooke Silva-Braga who also did a documentary called A Map For Saturday.

This documentary looks fascinating and here is what it is about:

In Kenyan offices and Malian farms, in Moroccan tea houses and Nigerien huts normal people of various backgrounds go about their day. For them, life in the developing world isn't about desperate squalor or improbable triumph; it's a complex, imperfect existence at odds with the stunning pictures beamed out from African safaris or the sad stories written to spur donations to Western aid groups.

On a single day at the messy juncture of tradition and modernity, six people from different geographic and cultural backgrounds describe six versions of the African story” - One Day In Africa

onedayinafricaYou can visit the official One Day In Africa website to purchase the DVD for $14.99.

You can also take a walk to Nomadic Matt’s website where he posted an interview with Brooke Silva-Braga.  In fact, he interviewed him twice – once for A Map For Saturday and then once for One Day in Africa.

New HBO Documentary: 12th & Delaware

12th and Delaware posterThe seemingly sleepy intersection of Delaware Ave. and 12th St. in Fort Pierce, Fla. is ground zero for the ferocious abortion rights battle raging in America. On one corner stands the abortion clinic A Woman’s World; across the street is the Pregnancy Care Center, an ambiguously named pro-life outpost dedicated to heading off abortion seekers at the pass.

12TH & DELAWARE provides a compelling, fly-on-the-wall view of the ideological trench warfare that takes place daily at this crossroads, where women struggle to deal with unwanted pregnancy. Directed by Oscar® nominees Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s (“Jesus Camp”), the intimate documentary debuts MONDAY, AUG. 2 (9:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO

According to recent Gallup polls, more people currently identify themselves as pro-life than pro-choice for the first time since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, and the Guttmacher Institute estimates there are more than 4,000 pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in America today, versus about 850 abortion clinics.

Two years in the making, 12TH & DELAWARE puts viewers in the middle of this intractable conflict. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady received unprecedented access to both an abortion clinic and a crisis pregnancy center, contacting more than 100 crisis pregnancy centers before settling on the one in Fort Pierce.

As pro-life volunteers offer a terrifying portrayal of abortion to their clients, staff members at the clinic fear for their doctors’ lives and fiercely protect their clients’ right to choose. Pregnant women arriving at the abortion clinic often encounter people toting signs with anti-abortion slogans and pictures of bloody fetuses, claiming to speak for their unborn children.

Many crisis pregnancy centers, like the Pregnancy Care Center, set up directly across the street from abortion clinics.  Anne, the Pregnancy Care Center director, uses her limited time with each woman to discourage abortion, from buying lunch and sharing anti-abortion literature, to encouraging the viewing of graphic videos. The center also offers free ultrasounds, something many clients cannot otherwise afford.

12th and Delaware

The owners of A Woman’s World see the tactics used by the crisis pregnancy center as harming women’s lives and infringing on their right to choose. “I just want to go over there and shake those people,” says Candace, who runs the clinic with her husband Arnold, after learning one of her clients was misinformed about how many weeks pregnant she actually was. “Why are you messing up these girls’ lives?” she asks.

While most run-ins between the two camps are not violent, the two sides are equally passionate about their beliefs. An elderly pro-life activist waves a tiny model of a baby fetus, yelling, “See these little babies here…This is like your granddaughter you love so much.”

Arnold drives the abortion doctor – known to pro-life activists as “the killer” – to and from the clinic hidden under a white sheet as a precaution aimed at protecting his identity. When a muscular pro-lifer tracks down the doctor’s car miles from the clinic and stakes it out, the doctor has no idea his cover is blown. These scenes, coupled with the fact that 12TH & DELAWARE was shot in the same year abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was murdered in his church, underscore the very real safety fears of many abortion doctors. Meanwhile, women in need become pawns in a fierce ideological war with no end in sight.

“Crisis pregnancy centers represent the primary and most powerful strategy in today’s pro-life movement,” says co-director Heidi Ewing. “We always felt it was necessary to show both sides of this decades-old but increasingly hot-button issue.”

12th and Delaware1

Co-director Rachel Grady adds, “The film became a chronicle of the raging battle occurring between two neighbors locked in a bitter personal and ideological struggle. We had to confront the very difficult task of cutting through the personal gripes of the protagonists and portraying as fairly as possible the daily realities of both sides of the street.”

An official selection of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, 12TH & DELAWARE is the latest documentary from Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, who also directed 2006’s “Jesus Camp,” which was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature. Their other credits include “Rehab for Terrorists,” “Freakonomics: The Movie” and the award-winning “The Boys of Baraka.”