Media and Conflict

Seizing the airwaves, broadcasting divisive messages, blocking Internet access and intimidating journalists are just some of the well-known tactics used to ensure control over information and promote violence. Less well developed is the capacity of the media for building peace. Learn about USIP’s efforts to better harness the power of media for peacebuilding.

Cultural Heritage: A Target in War, an Engine of Peace

Mon, 10/24/2016 - 08:45
Mon, 10/24/2016 - 17:30
Stories from Afghanistan and ‘Turquoise Mountain’ on Preserving Culture to Curb Violence

In 2001, Taliban fighters dynamited Afghanistan’s massive Bamiyan Buddha statues, carved into cliff faces, into rubble. Serb forces burned Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Sarajevo National Library in 1992 and ISIS extremists recently razed ancient temples in Palmyra, Syria. Such deliberate destruction of cultural heritage is so damaging to civilizations that the world recognizes it as a war crime. But the power of cultural heritage, so targeted in war, also can provide instruments to build peace. An October 24 symposium in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution will use recent experience, notably in Afghanistan, to examine the often unrecognized power of cultural heritage. The discussion will explore new ways that it might serve worldwide to prevent, or recover from, violent conflict.

Read the event coverage, Can Afghanistan Write New Future in Calligraphy?

Recent wars offer no greater example of cultural heritage turned to healing than the work in Afghanistan of the charity Turquoise Mountain, the subject of a stunning, 11-month exhibition by the Smithsonian Institution. “Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan,” at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, shows how historians, artisans, young students and communities are preserving and renewing traditions, crafts, economic livelihoods and a historic district of Kabul. This symposium at the U.S.

The agenda is now available.

8:45 - Registration and Coffee in the atrium

9:15 - Welcome: Nancy Lindborg, President, USIP

9:20-9:25 - Hila Alam, Minister Counsellor, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Washington D.C.

9:25-9:35 - William Hammink, Assistant to the Administrator, Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, USAID

9:35-9:45 - Mark Taplin, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau Of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State

9:45-10:45 Panel 1: What is Cultural Heritage and (Why) Does it Matter?
Moderator: Molly Fannon, Director, Office of International Relations and Global Programs, Smithsonian Institution

  • Dr. Julian Raby, Dame Jillian Sackler Director, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art
  • Dr. Derek Gillman, Distinguished Teaching Professor, Art History and Museum Leadership, Drexel University

10:45-11:00 Break

11:00-12:15 Panel 2: Looking Back: 15 Years of Cultural Heritage Initiatives in Afghanistan
Moderator: Barmak Pazhwak, Senior Program Officer, Asia Center, USIP

  • Dr. Tommy Wide, Assistant Director of Special Projects, Freer and Sackler Galleries
  • Majeed Qarar, Cultural Attaché, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Washington D.C.
  • Jolyon Leslie, Architect
  • Laura Tedesco, Cultural Heritage Program Manager, U.S. Department of State

12:15-1:15 Lunch
Calligraphy demonstration in the atrium with Sughra Hussainy, visiting Turquoise Mountain artist
Portal Installation

1:15-2:30 Panel 3: Looking to the Future: New Generation, New Technology, New Approaches
Moderator: Scott Liddle, Country Director, Turquoise Mountain Afghanistan

  • Amar Bakshi, Founder and CEO, Shared_Studios
  • Adam Lowe, Director, Factum Arte
  • Dr. Bastien Varoutsikos, Research Fellow, Centre national de la recherché scientifique (CNRS), Paris
  • Lina Rozbih, Managing  Editor, Ashna TV, Voice of America

2:30-2:45 Tea and Coffee

2:45-4:15 Panel 4: Looking Out: Comparisons, Lessons, Inspirations
Moderator: Katherine Wood, Senior Arts Adviser, USIP

  • Harry Wardill, Director, Turquoise Mountain Myanmar
  • Corine Wegener, Cultural Heritage Preservation Office, Smithsonian Institution
  • Tess Davis, Executive Director, The Antiquities Coalition
  • Joanna Sherman, Founder and Artistic Director, Bond Street Theater

4:15 Closing remarks:  Richard Kurin, Acting Provost and Under Secretary for Museums and Research, Smithsonian Institution

4:30 Reception

Type of Event or Course: 

Picturing Soft Power: Visual Arts in Peacebuilding

Thu, 07/16/2015 - 15:00
Thu, 07/16/2015 - 17:00

Arts and culture can become powerful media for bolstering peacebuilding efforts and steering individuals towards nonviolent expression. USIP hosted on July 16, 2015 a special photography display and panel discussion spotlighting the faces and stories of peacebuilders around the world. The event was part of a series in 2014 and 2015 marking the Institute’s 30th Anniversary.


Like many forms of art, photography provides an important means of capturing and sharing the stories of peacebuilders who are striving to end violent conflict in various settings.

Ambassador Cynthia Schneider, a distinguished professor at Georgetown University who specializes in cultural diplomacy, especially in relations with the Muslim world, moderated a discussion with peacebuilders and photographers Leon Shahabian, Manue León and Colette Rausch. They discussed the role of the individual in building peace, and the value of visuals in sharing those stories.

Type of Event or Course: 

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.

Type of Event or Course: 

Getting Beyond 2014 in Afghanistan

Fri, 02/28/2014 - 09:00
Fri, 02/28/2014 - 13:00

The U.S. Institute of Peace, Voice of America, and Alliance in Support of the Afghan People hosted a two panel public event that examined the U.S.-Afghan relationship, both its history and its future potential. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador James Dobbins delivered the keynote address.

Read the event coverage, Election Prospects Give Afghanistan a Shot at Future Beyond 2014

9:00am to 9:15am | Featured Short Films by Voice of America

  • Afghan Women: The Journey Ahead
  • Afghan Sports: Excellence in Actions

9:15am to 9:25am | Welcome & Introduction

9:25am to 9:45am | Keynote Address

9:45am to 11:00am | Afghanistan and the United States: The Long View

  • Ambassador Marc Grossman
    Former Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. Department of State
  • Clare Lockhart
    Director and Founder, Institute for State Effectiveness
  • David Sedney
    Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia, U.S. Department of Defense
  • Alex Thier
    Assistant to the Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
  • Andrew Wilder, Moderator
    Vice President, Center for South and Central Asia, U.S. Institute of Peace

11:00am to 11:15am | Coffee Break & Photo Exhibit by Aga Khan Trust for Culture

11:15am to 12:30pm | The Future of Media in Afghanistan
(This session will be introduced by a segment from the documentary “The Network” by Eva Orner, about Tolo TV, Afghanistan)

  • Peter Bergen
    Director, National Security Program, New America Foundation
  • James Deane
    Director, Policy and Learning, BBC Media Action
  • Danish Karokhel
    Director, Pajhwok Afghan News
  • Najib Sharifi
    Director, Afghan Journalists Safety Committee/Afghan Voices
  • David Ensor
    Director, Voice of America

12:30pm to 12:45pm | Closing Remarks

Things are not as bleak as they seem in Afghanistan, and Afghanistan's future need not be as bleak as some fear. It is true that 2014 begins with numerous uncertainties, including questions about the presidential election and a post-2014 troop presence.

Type of Event or Course: 

Pakistan Media: Democratic Inclusion, Accountability and Peaceful Contestation

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 14:15
Thu, 01/23/2014 - 16:00

USIP held a panel discussion about a new policy briefing on Pakistan media by BBC Media Action.

The challenges and opportunities facing Pakistan’s media in many ways reflect the challenges and opportunities facing the country’s democracy. After a decade of transformation, Pakistan’s media have become an increasingly coherent platform for raising popular concerns and needs. Yet, considerable constraints remain. Decades of state manipulation undermined the development of robust media organizations. Legal protections are weak, security threats are many and the industry is not financially sound.

  • 2:15pm to 2:25pm | Moeed Yusuf, USIP Director of South Asia and Sheldon Himelfarb, USIP Director of the PeaceTech Initiative, Opening Remarks
  • 2:25pm to 2:40pm | Huma Yusuf, Discussant, BBC Media Action consultant and co-author of “The media of Pakistan:  Fostering inclusion in a fragile democracy?”
  • 2:40pm to 2:55pm | Michael Dwyer, Discussant, USIP Senior Program Officer
  • 2:55pm to 3:10pm | Pamela Constable, Discussant, staff writer for the Washington Post and the author of "Playing with Fire: Pakistan at War with Itself"
  • 3:10pm to 4:00pm | Q&A Discussion
Type of Event or Course: 

Why Were Kenya’s 2013 Elections Peaceful?

Tue, 05/21/2013 - 09:00
Tue, 05/21/2013 - 11:30

To understand why and how Kenya avoided electoral violence, it is necessary to understand the underlying conditions and triggers that set off the violence five years ago, why the circumstances were different in 2013, and the impact of interventions designed to prevent new violence.  Please join the U.S. Institute of Peace on May 21, 2013 for a discussion of these issues and the lessons from Kenya’s peaceful elections that may be more broadly applicable.

Read the event coverage, USIP Meeting Examines Kenya’s Peaceful Elections

Based on the violent response to Kenya’s 2007 elections in which more than one thousand people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced, Kenyans and the international community were seized by the possibility of a repetition of the violence following the 2013 national elections.  But Kenya remained relatively quiet through the election process, and Kenya’s economy, and that of the east African region, went undisturbed.

Type of Event or Course: 
Issue Areas: 

Peace Efforts Cannot End After 24 Hours

For 35 years, the International Day of Peace on September 21 has served as a rallying point for governments, organizations and ordinary people working to help end violent conflict around the world.

This year, in spite of the violence and terrorism that dominate our news, it is critical that we remember that the world is also seeing great feats of peace. Colombians have signed a peace accord to end a 52-year-old war, and will vote on ratifying it in just a few weeks.

Nancy Lindborg
Wed, 09/21/2016 - 19:42
Type of Article: 

The Obscured Role of Women in Nonviolent Movements

Thu, 10/06/2016 - 14:30
Thu, 10/06/2016 - 16:30
How Seeing and Supporting Women Can Strengthen Conflict Transformation

From Argentina to Poland to Liberia and beyond, women have been leaders, spokespeople and frontline activists in non-violent struggles for peace and justice. But how women work in these struggles, and how they change them, has been little researched. That inattention has left women’s roles underestimated or ignored. On October 6, USIP will release a Special Report on women’s roles in non-violent struggles. With the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the non-profit organization Just Vision, USIP will gather path-breaking activists, scholars and filmmakers to examine how women’s participation—and the success of non-violent campaigns—can be strengthened.

Read the event coverage, How Women Drive Nonviolent Movements for Change.

The new report notes that research finds non-violent movements with massive, diverse participation are more effective. The report’s author, Marie Principe, will join other panelists in discussing how policymakers and advocates of nonviolent change can best support women’s participation and leadership in such movements, and how to parlay this involvement into political and institutional gender equality.

Type of Event or Course: 

Women, Social Media and Violent Extremism

Tue, 05/10/2016 - 09:30
Tue, 05/10/2016 - 11:00
A Discussion of the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum

As a growing number of women engage in violent extremism, urgent questions about their recruitment and motivations are yet to be answered, particularly on the role of social media. Extremist organizations such as the Islamic State are adept at using social media messages to attract Western followers. Less clear is what tools can be used to deter recruitment when female extremists are taking a bigger part in orchestrating these campaigns. Join the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum at the U.S. Institute of Peace on May 10 for a discussion of women, social media and extremism.

In the view of many analysts, coercion is the reason most women join violent extremist groups, insurgencies and revolutionary organizations. There are, however, more sophisticated, nuanced and complex explanations such as a search for identity and sense of belonging. At the forum, a panel of experts will consider these motives and the means to address them online in the context of countering violent extremism. Join the conversation on Twitter with #CPRF.

Type of Event or Course: 

Dr. Martin Luther King’s Path to Peace

Mon, 04/04/2016 - 11:00
Mon, 04/04/2016 - 12:30
Reclaiming and Renewing Nonviolent Responses to 'Globalized Crises'

Violence from global conflict is on a steady rise. War, oppression and other miseries have uprooted 60 million people, the greatest human displacement ever recorded. Foreign policy debates include calls for solving these problems with military action or other force. Dr. Martin Luther King believed that only nonviolent action can ultimately build peace and justice. But how? On April 4, the somber anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, join a USIP forum on ways to reclaim and re-frame nonviolent action against 21st-century global conflicts, extremisms, and injustices that fuel them. Researchers and activists will discuss their recent or forthcoming books on nonviolent action and join an audience-wide conversation and poll.

In the 48 years since Dr. King was killed our world’s population has doubled. Crises that once were local or national are increasingly global. Their imagery, in 24/7 media coverage that did not exist in Dr. King’s day, fuel heated public discussion, in Europe, the United States and elsewhere, of how to respond.

Type of Event or Course: 

Articles & Analysis

Nancy Lindborg

For 35 years, the International Day of Peace on September 21 has served as a rallying point for governments, organizations and ordinary people working to help end violent conflict around the world.

Nathaniel L. Wilson

A Somali master poet reconnects citizens to their government. A Lebanese filmmaker collects fighters' stories to dramatize the cost of war. Police in Northern Ireland adopt symbols of peace to signal a new ethos. In places simmering with long-standing social tensions and alienation, common cultural understandings can help ease hostility, suggesting a potentially powerful role for a mechanism still under-used in peacebuilding: the arts.

James Rupert

From Hong Kong’s boulevards and Nairobi’s Uhuru Park to the maidans of Kyiv, Cairo and Tunis, millions of people have massed in recent years to demand greater democracy and transparency from their governments. Dozens of similar campaigns have been fought more quietly. A quarter-century of...

Videos & Webcasts

From a campaign for peaceful elections in Afghanistan to a...

In 2001, Taliban fighters dynamited Afghanistan’s massive Bamiyan Buddha statues, carved into cliff faces, into rubble. Serb forces burned Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Sarajevo National Library in 1992...

From Argentina to Poland to Liberia and beyond, women have been leaders, spokespeople and frontline activists in non-violent struggles for peace and justice. But how women work in these struggles...

Our Work In The Field

Learn More

There are currently no upcoming classroom courses.


Ann Procter
Afghanistan’s media have evolved at warp speed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, yet being a journalist remains an extremely dangerous occupation, as many have been killed and still more threatened with violence if they persist in their work. The growth of Afghanistan’s democracy depends on a functioning media. This report examines the situation and offers paths forward to making Afghanistan safer for journalism.
Naji Abou-Khalil and Laurence Hargreaves
During and after Libya’s revolution, national media outlets became known and popular for their balanced reporting. The situation in the few years since has changed, however. The security landscape in Libya today is a confusing array of institutional and non-institutional actors each asserting legitimacy. The country is on the brink of full-scale civil war. Its media has become both polarized and a key tool for many security actors. This report looks at three primary television channels to offer insights into the media’s role in shaping public perceptions and building political constituencies.