Peace Briefs

Intended for a broad audience, these four-page briefs provide topical news analysis and policy recommendations related to USIP’s mission and work.

Balochistan: Caught in the Fragility Trap

Although reports indicate an improvement in its overall security, Balochistan remains the most fragile province in contemporary Pakistan. This brief examines both the efficacy and motivations behind the state’s recent actions to end persistent conflict in the province.

 

Ali Dayan Hasan

Summary

  • The province of Balochistan is riven by multiple cyclical conflicts and is the most fragile in Pakistan.
  • The complicity of politicians, government officials, and security personnel in criminal activity has created a nexus among criminality, militancy, and terrorism.
Mon, 06/27/2016 - 09:23
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Peacebuilding in Libya: Cross-Border Transactions and The Civil Society Landscape

Cross-border transactions have been shaping the Libyan civil and political landscape for decades. However, desk research and field interviews in Tunisia reveal that interventions for peacebuilding are not fully accounting for these transactions or other regional activities. This brief argues that supporting local and regional actors in working toward a unified vision for Libya requires factoring in cross-border, civil society exchanges and the tensions that affect them.

Summary

  • Cross-border transactions in North Africa support both conflict and peacebuilding. For instance, while these transactions include arms smuggling, they also include civil society exchanges that are helping to shape both the political and civic landscape in Libya.
  • The emergence of complex networks across North Africa has made it impossible to effectively design an intervention without taking them into account. More multilateral and bilateral attention to civic regional transactions would help build a sustainable infrastructure for peace.
Sherine N. El Taraboulsi
Fri, 06/24/2016 - 09:02
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Improving Accountability for Conflict-related Sexual Violence in Africa

Local practitioners who work with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) on a daily basis during peacetime also play a vital role in accountability for conflict-period SGBV. With appropriate training and resources, they can even contribute to the documentation and prosecution of SGBV committed as a war crime, crime against humanity, and act of genocide. This Peace Brief illustrates how new research from the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and direct dialogue with African experts who participated in the 2015 Missing Peace Practitioners’ Workshop conducted in partnership with The Uganda Fund in Kampala, jointly indicate priority ways to improve ground-level response to conflict-period SGBV.

Ketty Anyeko, Kim Thuy Seelinger & Julie Freccero

Summary

  • Local practitioners who focus on responses to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) can play a critical role in the documentation and prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide.
  • Assisting survivors of conflict-related SGBV to report their experiences to healthcare providers and/or police can help them access essential support services. It also provides opportunities to work with groups that build legal cases against perpetrators of SGBV.
Tue, 06/14/2016 - 10:58
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China and the Responsibility to Protect: From Opposition to Advocacy

Initially opposed to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), China has become a consistent advocate of the principle, endorsing its application in multiple countries while urging a constrained, multilateral approach to the use of force. This brief examines the trajectory and significance of China’s support for R2P. Given the country’s rising role in shaping the rules of global governance, continuing to gain its buy-in will be crucial in achieving the principle’s mandate.

Courtney J. Fung

Summary

  • Despite its initial opposition to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), China is now considered more than a cautious supporter.
  • During the drafting of R2P, China—traditionally protective of sovereignty and reluctant to intervene1—dispatched harsh critiques of the new concept but gradually increased its engagement in the debate.
  • Over time, its efforts were successful in reaffirming support for a state-centric system by narrowing the emerging principle.
Wed, 06/08/2016 - 09:33
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Supporting Civil Society to Combat Violent Extremism in Pakistan

In the past few years, there has been an increase in funding for civil society organizations for the goal of countering violent extremism (CVE). While donors are investing large sums for CVE efforts, in Pakistan, local organizations often lack the technical capacity to understand the nature of violent extremism as well as how to utilize such large amounts of money. This brief discusses the challenges to implementing CVE programs and provides recommendations for how stakeholders can overcome these challenges.

Jumaina Siddiqui and Sehar Tariq

Summary

  • In the last few years, there has been an increase in funding toward civil society organizations (CSOs) for the purposes of countering violent extremism (CVE).
  • Donors are pushing large sums onto organizations for CVE efforts to meet their own spending targets. However, local organizations in Pakistan lack both the understanding of what drives violent extremism and the capacity to program such large amounts of funding.
Mon, 06/06/2016 - 14:39
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Pakistan After the Lahore Bombing: Shaping the Security Response

Pakistan’s responses to terrorism affect both internal security and the overall balance of power. In light of the attack in Lahore, this brief discusses the implications of the current civil-military relationship and the continuing struggle over who has discretionary power to set and implement relevant policy.

Colin Cookman

Summary

  • Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership have historically resisted calls for an indiscriminate crackdown on groups that use terrorism as a tactic but have acted against groups seen as directly threatening state interests.
  • The Pakistani army has taken new unilateral security measures in Punjab in the wake of a suicide bombing in Lahore in late March, raising tensions with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.
Fri, 04/08/2016 - 14:58
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The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Assessing the Threat

While the Islamic State in “Khorasan” (IS-K) gained strength in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province starting in mid-2014, Taliban and private militia offensives, as well as U.S. drone strikes, have significantly reduced the total number of fighters as of March 2016. However, several factors could reverse this trend. This brief assesses the viability of IS in Afghanistan and whether it poses a long-term threat in the country.

Casey Garret Johnson, Masood Karokhail and Rahmatullah Amiri

Summary

  • The Islamic State’s “Khorasan” branch (IS-K) emerged in Afghanistan in mid-2014, but little is understood about its aims and viability or the extent of its operational links with IS-Central in Iraq and Syria.
  • The estimated number of IS-K fighters in Afghanistan varies widely; however, due to offensives by the Taliban and private militias and drones strikes by the U.S. military, the number has significantly declined as of early March 2016 and is now likely around 2,500 fighters, concentrated mainly in eastern Nangarhar Province.
Thu, 04/07/2016 - 13:09
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Afghanistan’s Revenue Turnaround in 2015

Afghanistan experienced an impressive revenue turnaround in 2015. This brief examines the sources of the revenue increase and the actions that helped spur it, and discusses lessons learned and future challenges.

William A. Byrd & M. Khalid Payenda

Summary

  • After stagnation and decline in 2013–14, Afghanistan’s total budgetary revenue increased by nearly 22 percent in 2015—an extraordinary turnaround of 30 percent as compared to the 8 percent drop in 2014.
  • Only one-fifth of this revenue growth reflected currency depreciation and other macro- economic trends; a little less than a quarter of the increase was the result of new and increased taxes, and more than half was due to stronger tax collection efforts, including better control of corruption.
Wed, 02/24/2016 - 13:22
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Preventing Violent Extremism through Inclusive Politics in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has a long history of political and electoral violence that has shaped its political culture. Since the early 2000s, it has experienced a renewal of violent extremism and an increasingly polarized political climate. By addressing the relationship between radicalization and institutional dysfunctions, this Peace Brief examines how Bangladesh can help undermine the issues that bolster radicalization efforts by strengthening political and social institutions and making them more inclusive.

Geoffrey Macdonald

Summary

  • The role of Islam in Bangladeshi politics is highly contested and presents a focal point of past and current violence.
  • The polarized political climate and institutionalized repression of Islamic parties appear to enhance radicalization dynamics.
  • The current environment in Bangladesh presents an opportunity to prevent violent extremism before it fully manifests itself.
Thu, 01/14/2016 - 10:33
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The Forced Return of Afghan Refugees and Implications for Stability

Afghan refugees have been returning home from Pakistan and Iran in growing numbers, and many of these returns have been involuntary. The situation is adding stress to an already challenging environment, characterized by insecurity, lack of access to employment and services, land and housing tensions, and rapid urbanization. This brief presents important considerations for developing a clear, well-coordinated strategy that addresses the impacts of large-scale returns and the specific needs of returnees and internally displaced persons, particularly youth and women.

Belquis Ahmadi and Sadaf Lakhani

Summary

  • Afghans are the third largest refugee group worldwide, and even though the largest numbers of returns come from Pakistan and Iran, an increasing number are being repatriated from Europe.
  • Lack of access to land, essential services, and income-earning opportunities and exposure to violent conflict means that returnees often become displaced internally, joining the close to one million current internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Wed, 01/13/2016 - 13:41
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June 2016
Although reports indicate an improvement in its overall security, Balochistan remains the most fragile province in contemporary Pakistan. This brief examines both the efficacy and motivations behind the state’s recent actions to end persistent conflict in the province.  
June 2016
Cross-border transactions have been shaping the Libyan civil and political landscape for decades. However, desk research and field interviews in Tunisia reveal that interventions for peacebuilding are not fully accounting for these transactions or other regional activities. This brief argues that...
June 2016
Local practitioners who work with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) on a daily basis during peacetime also play a vital role in accountability for conflict-period SGBV. With appropriate training and resources, they can even contribute to the documentation and prosecution of SGBV...
June 2016
Initially opposed to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), China has become a consistent advocate of the principle, endorsing its application in multiple countries while urging a constrained, multilateral approach to the use of force. This brief examines the trajectory and significance of China’s...
June 2016
In the past few years, there has been an increase in funding for civil society organizations for the goal of countering violent extremism (CVE). While donors are investing large sums for CVE efforts, in Pakistan, local organizations often lack the technical capacity to understand the nature of...
April 2016
Pakistan’s responses to terrorism affect both internal security and the overall balance of power. In light of the attack in Lahore, this brief discusses the implications of the current civil-military relationship and the continuing struggle over who has discretionary power to set and implement...
April 2016
While the Islamic State in “Khorasan” (IS-K) gained strength in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province starting in mid-2014, Taliban and private militia offensives, as well as U.S. drone strikes, have significantly reduced the total number of fighters as of March 2016. However, several factors could...
February 2016
Afghanistan experienced an impressive revenue turnaround in 2015. This brief examines the sources of the revenue increase and the actions that helped spur it, and discusses lessons learned and future challenges.
January 2016
Bangladesh has a long history of political and electoral violence that has shaped its political culture. Since the early 2000s, it has experienced a renewal of violent extremism and an increasingly polarized political climate. By addressing the relationship between radicalization and institutional...
January 2016
Afghan refugees have been returning home from Pakistan and Iran in growing numbers, and many of these returns have been involuntary. The situation is adding stress to an already challenging environment, characterized by insecurity, lack of access to employment and services, land and housing...