The Olive Branch

Welcome to USIP's Olive Branch blog, a place for timely analysis, views from the field and an exchange of ideas about how to build peace and end or prevent conflict. Through its work in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and beyond, the Institute blends its expert analysis with its field work, a dynamic in which each must always inform the other on parallel tracks. We hope that this blog will reflect that spirit of combining thought with action. And we invite you to browse our posts and then send us your own ideas, comments or reflections.

Each blog post and comment posted on the Olive Branch represents the views of the author and not necessarily that of USIP, a non-partisan, congressionally-funded organization that does not advocate for policy positions.

July 25, 2014
Afghans surprised international observers and even themselves in two rounds of presidential elections this year to select a successor to President Hamid Karzai. An audit of the runoff results is underway to determine the winner, but turnout was far higher than expected and incidents of violence far lower. USIP, which conducts extensive analysis and an array of programs to promote peace and stability, photographed and interviewed Afghans from nine locations to collect their reflections on these milestones of transition.
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July 22, 2014
In an era when Western citizens are averse to protracted and costly military interventions, and corrupt regimes around the world feed instability, there’s a pressing need to identify violence-prevention approaches that hold the greatest promise. During a professional life working with non-violent activists and movements, I’ve developed a keen appreciation for the power of purposeful mass mobilization and strategic non-violent action led by and for local communities to advance rights, justice and good governance.
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July 11, 2014
It is with broken hearts and the deepest of sorrows that we at USIP write this blog post. On June 25, the world lost a cherished peacebuilder and heroine to many, Salwa Bughaigis. She was killed at her home in Benghazi, shortly after voting in the parliamentary elections. Her husband, Essam Gheriani is presumed kidnapped by the same perpetrators. The U.S. Institute of Peace has been honored to know both of them, and our team has been personally moved by their sacrifices for freedom in Libya.
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July 11, 2014
Since 2006, the United States has imposed more sanctions on Iran than any other country, so it may have to cede the most ground to get a nuclear deal in 2014. An expert panel assembled by eight Washington think tanks and organizations examined the potential trade-offs during a discussion July 8 at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
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July 10, 2014
Countering violent extremism has traditionally involved tactics undertaken by outsiders aimed at preventing individuals from engaging in ideologically-fueled violence. USIP Senior Program Officer Georgia Holmer explains the increasing intersection with peacebuilding and how that can strengthen local communities to identify and address the drivers of radicalism and ultimately develop a more effective means of preventing extremist violence.
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June 25, 2014
In efforts to steer young people away from violence, context is everything. Whether it's understanding how a program for selected youths in Sierra Leone could backfire or digging deep for the reasons young Palestinian men turn to violence, effective interventions require rigorous research and attention to local conditions.
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June 18, 2014
Last weekend, as many as 7 million Afghan voters are reported to have defied skeptics and cast their ballots for a second time this year in a runoff election to choose a president. Although the U.S. and other international partners are moving to reduce their military presence in the country, the next Afghan administration will still need significant military and non-military assistance. A report by USIP and the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) lays out the discussion of a joint symposium that explored how aid could be prioritized, designed, managed and monitored.
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June 17, 2014
Just six months ago, I was having a traditional Iraqi dinner with a friend in a building overlooking the Tigris River. But this was no ordinary Iraqi, and our surroundings were hardly luxurious. My friend is a senior Iraqi intelligence officer and a close aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the setting was his bunker-like office in a heavily guarded military compound in Baghdad. Security threats left us no choice.
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June 13, 2014
Anti-government Sunni militants have swept across western and northern Iraq over the past week, gaining control of the cities of Mosul and Tikrit. Operating mainly under the banner of the State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or also known as ISIS), in many places they seemed to have faced little to no resistance from the official Iraqi army, who, according to reports, laid down their arms and melted into the countryside. As they neared Baghdad, Kurdish paramilitary pesh merga fighters took control of the strategic oil town of Kirkuk, defending the city against the ISIS advance.
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June 12, 2014
Another round of diplomatic talks over Iran’s nuclear program with six world powers starts June 16. Despite the promise of a potential deal, the most recent round of negotiations exposed the still-deep divisions between the two sides on basic questions. A final agreement will have to establish timetables and settle on interpretation of terms, among other critical issues.
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