Syria’s multi-sided war continues to threaten stability across the Middle East. It has killed more than 250,000 and uprooted millions, triggering an unprecedented refugee crisis in neighboring states and Europe. As Syria fragments, USIP is supporting community-level initiatives to reduce root causes of the conflict. This grass-roots approach to peacebuilding relies on leaders and networks that cross sectarian, political and ethnic lines. USIP is working with locally influential religious and tribal leaders who can collectively ease tensions, strengthen their communities’ resistance to the war’s divisive effects, and counter extremist narratives. These efforts build on USIP’s work in Syria since 2012. That included facilitating the creation of an independent Syrian organization, The Day After, which provides critical research on the conflict and its drivers to policymakers, practitioners and the public. USIP also has supported women leaders and their efforts to counter gender-based violence and the appeal of extremism among youth.

Using the Arts to Promote Human Rights in Peacebuilding

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 14:00
Wed, 04/22/2015 - 16:00

Genesis at the Crossroads, a Chicago-based organization that uses the arts in peacebuilding, joins the U.S. Institute of Peace on April 22, 2015 to host an interactive panel discussion on building peace and human rights—and the role that the arts and artists can play.

Genesis at the Crossroads uses education and the arts — including innovative performances of music, dance and other genres — to creatively promote human rights, inter-ethnic dialogue and the building of peace. Join us April 22 for a conversation with academic, artistic and human-rights specialists about this intersection of human rights and the humanities. As part of a “new conversation for human rights in peacebuilding,” panelists will discuss how to mesh human rights concerns with the reconstruction of societies and governments following war or other violent conflict.

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Meet Syria’s Rescue Workers: Saving Lives, Building Peace

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 14:00
Tue, 09/30/2014 - 16:00

Syria is the world's most dangerous place to be a civilian. But there is another side to the conflict: those focused on caring for civilians in the conflict are also seeking to build peace. Volunteers are coming to the rescue with no regard for sect or creed. The U.S. Institute of Peace, The Syria Campaign and the Syrian American Medical Society cohosted on September 30 a public discussion, bringing together two of these courageous rescuers to discuss the future of peacebuilding in Syria.

Some 600 Syrians known as “White Helmets” or Syrian Civil Defense units, are organized volunteers who act as rescue workers in areas like Aleppo and Idlib provinces in the country’s northwest. They are unarmed and impartial, and operate on principles on “solidarity, humanity and impartiality,” as laid out in the Geneva Convention. In the six months prior to the panel discussion, they recorded more than 2,500 lives saved. They ran out after barrel bombs have dropped and dig through the rubble, often with their bare hands, in search of life.

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The Future of the Syrian Revolution

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 11:00
Wed, 05/07/2014 - 12:15
President Ahmad Jarba's First Washington Address

The U.S. Institute of Peace hosted "The Future of the Syrian Revolution," a conversation with President Ahmad Jarba, head of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. The event was President Jarba’s first public address in Washington, DC.

Read the event coverage, Syrian Opposition Leader Jarba Appeals for U.S. Understanding, Weapons

The collapse of the Geneva talks in February stalled efforts to negotiate a peaceful solution to the conflict. The future of the revolution itself appears increasingly cloudy as the situation on the ground grows more chaotic. The Syrian government’s announcement that it would hold presidential elections in June – elections that President Bashar Assad is widely expected to win – limits chances for a political resolution to the crisis. Many, including the Syrian opposition, have called the elections a democratic charade.

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Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis and the International Response

Wed, 03/12/2014 - 10:00
Wed, 03/12/2014 - 12:00

On March 12, 2014, the U.S. Institute of Peace and Oxfam America will co-hosted the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and two civil society activists to address the humanitarian and political challenges of the Syrian conflict.

Read the event coverage, U.N. Refugees Chief Guterres Urges Support for Fleeing Syrians

António Guterres, Keynote and Q&A
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees


Ray Offenheiser, Moderator
President, Oxfam America

Rajaa Altalli
Co-founder and Co-director, Center for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria (CCSDS)

Dr. Rim Turkmani
President and Founder, Madani

With more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees, the sheer scope of the crisis has hampered efforts to curtail the humanitarian emergency and drive forward peace talks. The third anniversary of the war marks an opportunity to explore avenues for progress that have thus far not been a part of the prevailing narratives.

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Inaugural PeaceGame 2013

Mon, 12/09/2013 - 08:00
Mon, 12/09/2013 - 17:30
Chart the Best Possible Peace for Syria

Governments around the world regularly devote enormous resources to conducting “war games.” On December 9, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and The FP Group (FP) conducted the inaugural PeaceGame, focusing on “the best possible peace for Syria.” With one game in the U.S. and another in the Middle East, the semi-annual PeaceGames will bring together the leading minds in national security policy, international affairs, academia, business, and media to “game” out how we can achieve peace in Syria. USIP and FP intend for the game to redefine how leaders think about conflict resolution and the possibility of peace.

DAY 1: December 9th

8:00 am-8:45 am Arrival/Registration/Continental Breakfast

8:45 am-9:15 am Welcome and Brief Overview

  • Jim Marshall, President, U.S. Institute of Peace
  • David Rothkopf, CEO and Editor, The FP Group
  • Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, United Arab Emirates

9:15am-10:30 am   “Establishing a Baseline: What Would a Lasting Peace in Syria Look Like?”

  • Steven Heydemann, Vice President of the Center for Applied Research on Conflict, U.S. Institute of Peace

10:30am-10:45 am   BREAK

10:45 am -12:30 pm “Phase I: Achieving a Near-Term Political Solution”

12:30-1:30 pm Lunch Break

1:30 pm-3:15 pm “Phase II: Establishing the Peace”

3:15 pm-5:00 pm “Phase III: Challenges to Peace Emerge”

5:00 pm-5:15 pm Brief Wrap Up and Close for the Day

DAY 2: December 10

8:00 am-8:45 am Continental Breakfast

8:45 am-9:15 am Review of Day 1 and Goals for Day 2

9:15 am-11:00 am “Establishing a Sustainable Peace”

11:00 am- 11:15 am Break

11:15 am-12:30 pm Wrap Up and Conclusion

During the PeaceGame, participants will assume the roles of various actors party to the war in Syria. Their statements should not be construed as representing their own personal views or the views of their respective organizations.

Watch the full video below, or watch each session individually: Session I - Establishing a Baseline, Session II - Achieving a Near-term Political Solution, Session III - Establishing the PeaceSession IV - Establishing a Sustainable Peace

Join the conversation on Twitter with #PeaceGame.

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Amidst Iraq’s Turmoil: What Can We Do?

Mon, 05/06/2013 - 14:00
Mon, 05/06/2013 - 15:30

How are Iraqis coping with the current crisis, and how can they be better engaged by the international community?  What policy levers do the U.S. or other international actors have to help promote stability?  What lessons can be applied across the increasingly porous and insecure boundaries of the Middle East?

Read the event coverage, Panel at USIP Urges More U.S. Activism in Iraq, Syria

For well over a year, Iraq’s political, security, economic, and social well-being continues to be shaken by internal and external events that have implications for stability in the country and the region. Despite gains, recent events on the ground have taken a swift turn. Internal displacement, the rise of armed groups, and recourse to violence present serious challenges in maintaining peace and sustained development within the country.

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Humanitarian Aid: ‘Radical Change’ After Istanbul?

The two-day World Humanitarian Summit held recently in Istanbul drew criticism for the absence of top global leaders, but it actually broke ground in several ways, experts said in a discussion hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace and Oxfam America. The summit spotlighted the need for “radical change” in a relief system built for the era after World War II rather than today’s small wars, insurgencies and fragmenting states that have unleashed the second-biggest flood of displaced people in history, said Ray Offenheiser, the president of Oxfam America.

Fred Strasser

The lumbering bureaucracies and centralized decision-making that manage humanitarian assistance are badly in need of reform, Offenheiser said in summarizing points made in the discussion, which included U.S. officials and representatives of non-government organizations.

Wed, 06/08/2016 - 08:22
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War in Syria: Next Steps to Mitigate the Crisis

Nancy Lindborg, USIP president, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today on the current situation in Syria and steps that can be taken to help mitigate the crisis.

Tue, 05/17/2016 - 09:20
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Articles & Analysis

The recent U.S. designation of genocide to describe the ISIS extremist group’s killings and persecution of minorities as well as Shia Muslims in Iraq and Syria highlighted the long history of...

USIP Staff

The two-day World Humanitarian Summit held recently in Istanbul drew criticism for the absence of top global leaders, but it actually broke ground in several ways, experts said in a discussion...

Fred Strasser

Nancy Lindborg, USIP president, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


Videos & Webcasts

The recent U.S. designation of genocide to describe the ISIS extremist group’s killings and persecution of minorities as well as Shia Muslims in Iraq and Syria highlighted the long history of...

USIP President, Nancy Lindborg, testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

More from President Lindborg following her testimony, "Refugees and Social...

Dr. Steven Heydemann, vice president of the Center for Applied Research on Conflict at the U.S. Institute of Peace, testifies before a House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle...

Learn More


USIP Staff
The war in Syria has killed more than 250,000 people and uprooted 12 million, half of the population, threatening the stability of countries nearby and as far as Europe. Syria’s violence is the main...
In the midst of a political shift where power is moving from central institutions to smaller, more distributed units in the international system, the approaches to and methodologies for peacemaking...