Since our founding by Congress in 1984 as a national, nonpartisan, independent institute charged with the mission of preventing, mitigating, and resolving violent conflict abroad, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has risen to meet the most pressing challenges to global peace and security. From the depths of the Cold War to the post–Cold War landscape with historic levels of refugees, violent extremism, civil wars, environmental shocks, and extreme poverty concentrated in fragile states, the Institute has adapted our strategies and tools for addressing violent conflict.

Today, global challenges have yet again evolved and intensified. The threats that emanate from fragile states continue to be primary drivers of violent conflict. Meanwhile, the rise of global and regional competition is extending and exacerbating violent conflicts in these fragile states. Global threats that require greater international cooperation are increasing and deepening just as the international systems that enable this cooperation are under heightened strain.

The 2020–2022 USIP Strategic Plan spans what will be a period of significant disruption, escalating disorder, and increased complexity. This strategy is designed to provide USIP’s global team with a clear pathway for addressing this new, more complex environment and for enabling the agility and creativity necessary to fulfill our mission in a fast-changing world.

Nancy Lindborg

Stephen J. Hadley
Chair, Board of Directors

vision, mission, principles, values

USIP: Making Peace Possible

Peace is possible

Founded in 1984, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) dedicated our early years to partnering with academic institutions to support the development of peace studies. That approach quickly evolved to include policy research and analysis that supported high-level diplomatic exchanges between states.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, the Institute increasingly focused on violent conflicts within states, deploying teams first to the Balkans and then to Iraq to apply directly the practical tools of peacebuilding. As the world became increasingly multipolar and multi-stakeholder, the Institute focused on building peace from the bottom up and top down, primarily in fragile states across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, as well as Colombia.

In 2015, USIP articulated a theory of change that assumes the absence of violent conflict alone is not sufficient to ensure peace; rather we must work within a transformation framework that recognizes the conditions necessary for sustainable peace: inclusive societies and political processes, economic opportunities, citizen security, and access to justice. Our activities empower individuals, institutions, and governments to apply analysis, knowledge, and practical tools to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict and to create the conditions necessary for the sound and inclusive social compacts that lead to peaceful societies.

A Changing Strategic Landscape

In today’s rapidly changing world, USIP has necessarily evolved again. USIP’s distinct strengths and capabilities remain vital for preventing, mitigating, and resolving violent conflict. Looking forward, we will deploy them with a refreshed approach and focus that enable USIP to respond to the increasingly complex threats to global peace and security that emanate from:

  • Fragile states where broken social compacts continue to create conditions that enable violence;
  • Resurgent interstate competition that challenges systems for cooperation while exacerbating and prolonging conflicts in fragile states;
  • Rising global challenges such as the proliferation of information and communications technologies, a rapidly growing youth population concentrated in more fragile states, and a dangerous combination of environmental shocks and poor governance; and
  • The fraying of alliances and a beleaguered system for international cooperation at a time of rising challenges.

Therefore, in pursuit of our mission, USIP has updated our theory of change and priorities, so that we can lean into this time of significant disruption by:

  • Sharpening our ability to work in complexity and constant change;
  • Redoubling our focus on empowering people— civil society, citizens, youth, women, faith leaders—with the tools to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict;
  • Concentrating on preventing and resolving violent conflicts by promoting resilience in fragile states at every level of society;
  • Addressing growing regional and global competition, primarily with a focus on how this competition complicates and prolongs violent conflict in fragile states and regions; and
  • Supporting the emergence of more effective systems for regional and international cooperation based on shared values and revitalized, reformed institutions.

As we turn to the future, we draw from more than three decades of experience to affirm our conviction that peace is practical, possible, and above all, a constant process. In the rapidly changing, more complex strategic landscape we now face, these convictions will continue to guide our work.

Core Strengths: Who We Are and What We Do

Amid this complex, rapidly evolving strategic landscape, USIP’s five core strengths enable the Institute to address pressing peace and security challenges.

Nonpartisan Government Partner and Trusted Intermediary

USIP’s distinct status—as formally independent but with a special link to the U.S. government—enables us to serve as a trusted connector among foreign governments, civil societies, and U.S. government officials. USIP’s work complements and supports other U.S. government efforts in-country. The Institute also has the latitude to maintain a sustained presence in conflict zones, enabling our teams to build the trust, relationships, and knowledge necessary to work toward our mission.

Top-Down and Bottom-Up  Work in Conflict Zones

A sustained, successful peace requires a committed national government as well as the support and involvement of an inclusive, engaged civil society. USIP has the capability to work in conflict-affected countries at the community level as well as with national and regional governments, with a focus on connecting top-down and bottom-up initiatives.

Linking Research, Training, and Policy to Practical Action

USIP’s teams combine researchers, policy analysts, educators, and practitioners—both in conflict zones and Washington, D.C.—in a culture of collaboration that unlocks better ideas and effective action. The Institute applies research through training, education, policy recommendations, and application of best practices in conflict zones.

Strength in Partnerships and Networks

USIP is committed to supporting, engaging, and educating the field of peacebuilding by working with a diverse set of partners. We work with partners in conflict zones and elsewhere around the world to support individuals, academic partners, organizations, and communities of practice through research, convening key stakeholders, programming, grants, fellowships, and promotion of strategies to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict.

Distinct Convening Power

USIP draws on our exceptional convening power to create opportunities for diverse audiences to exchange knowledge, experiences, and ideas necessary for creative solutions to difficult challenges. We serve as an important, neutral platform for bringing together government and nongovernment, diplomacy, security, and development actors and participants across political views. The Institute also serves as a venue for hosting global leaders, is a convener for timely bipartisan U.S. policy conversations, and is a trusted convener for track 1.5 and track 2 diplomacy.

While ISIS seized much of Iraq in 2014, one region, Mahmoudiya, rebuffed ISIS. Why?

The local tribes remain committed to a decade-old peace agreement, signed after an intensive USIP-designed mediation. Today, USIP is supporting Iraqi communities to heal the deep divides left by the ISIS occupation through reconciliation dialogues that have produced six agreements. Those accords have permitted the return of more than a half-million displaced Iraqis.

USIP has worked on the ground in Afghanistan for 17 years, helping Afghans build nonviolent solutions to the country’s long conflict.

This mission directly supports the United States’ strategic interest in helping achieve a political settlement to end the war and ensure U.S. security is protected. In promoting an inclusive, sustained Afghan peace process, the Institute applies the experience and relationships we have built since 2002, and since the opening of our field office in Kabul in 2008. USIP works from the ground up, with local government and civil society partners in most of Afghanistan’s provinces. And we work from the top down, informing U.S. and Afghan policymakers through research, analysis, and track 2 dialogues.

In Tunisia, USIP is pioneering modernized training for the police and National Guard.

Abuses by police trained under the previous repressive regime continue to be a chronic trigger for public anger, violence, and recruitment by extremists. USIP’s community-focused training program is building policing agencies that prioritize serving and building trust with citizens, which is vital for the country’s struggle against terrorism.

In the fragile states most prone to violent crises, youth populations are disproportionately large, with fully 50 percent of people younger than 18.

This makes young civic leaders a vital, strategic force for a more peaceful future. USIP therefore conducts a focused program to train and mentor young civil society leaders, ages 18 to 35, working for peace in their communities. Since 2014, this program, called Generation Change, has trained more than 200 youth leaders from 24 countries facing violent conflict. During 2017, these young leaders engaged nearly 120,000 citizens across their communities, notably through training, mediation efforts, and local dialogues to resolve conflicts.

At the request of Congress, USIP facilitates bipartisan commissions on the toughest policy issues.

Including, most recently, how to address the underlying causes of extremism in fragile states and policy options for the complicated conflict in Syria. USIP’s convening power enables the Institute to bring people together from across the political spectrum and various backgrounds to undertake comprehensive examinations of pressing peace and security challenges.

Theory of Change

USIP’s theory of change has evolved with the changing global landscape, where state fragility persists and conflicts are complicated by the rise of interstate competition, and while new, more urgent threats to peace require a more effective, strengthened international system for cooperation, supported by U.S. global leadership.

In response, USIP’s teams will draw upon our core strengths to conduct activities that drive us toward objectives necessary for reaching our goals in service of three strategic outcomes. In this shifting strategic environment, these strategic outcomes—enhanced U.S. leadership to prevent and resolve violent conflict, a strengthened international system for cooperation, and transformation of fragility to resilience—are critical for achieving our mission.

Global violence continues to emanate from fragile states, where the social contract is broken or absent, and state institutions lack the legitimacy or capability to serve their people. We will continue to focus on peacebuilding objectives that promote inclusion, strengthen community security, advance justice, and bridge divides in fragile environments as vital elements for transforming fragility into resilience.

However, in the years ahead, it will not be enough to work only within states to transform fragility to resilience—a more complex global context demands more. Our updated theory of change envisions USIP’s capabilities as important tools for contributing to U.S. global leadership in preventing and resolving violent conflict and for supporting and strengthening a values-based international system for cooperation.

Goal 1: Embody America’s Commitment to Peace

Created by and for the American people and funded by Congress, USIP represents the nation’s shared values and commitment to peace around the world. In establishing the Institute, the USIP Act affirmed a “deep public need” for “a living institution embodying the heritage, ideals, and concerns of the American people for peace.”

The Institute serves as a symbol, hub, and nonpartisan resource for the American people. All our work rests on the promise that USIP will embody America’s commitment to peace in everything we do and everywhere we work.

Strategic Priorities

USIP will contribute to more effective systems for international cooperation to meet today’s global challenges. We understand that emerging and escalating collective problems—transnational extremist organizations, pandemics, environmental shocks, new technologies exploited to stoke violence or societal discord, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons—require collective solutions. At the same time, we affirm the need for reform and realignment of systems, capacities, and shared values for promoting peace.

Strengthen the evidence base for peacebuilding programs. A key element of embodying the American commitment to peace is to demonstrate that our mission is practical and effective. USIP will continue to bring together academic, practitioner, and policy communities to share and consolidate lessons learned and evidence on the impact of peacebuilding.

Educate, engage, and inform Americans across the country about USIP’s work and our presence on the National Mall as a monument to America’s commitment to peace. USIP will continue to engage the public as partners in peacebuilding using cutting-edge digital communications and expanding access to high-quality educational materials that teach young people how conflicts can be resolved.


  • Educate and engage Americans about USIP’s work
  • Convene diverse audiences
  • Develop and share policy recommendations
  • Promote USIP’s headquarters presence on the National Mall
  • Develop and deliver strengthened training and education
  • Strengthen monitoring and evaluation
  • Learn and adapt


  • Enhance the Institute’s role as a forum for peace
  • Support effective systems for international cooperation
  • Expand the American public’s understanding of the U.S. role in peacebuilding
  • Demonstrate evidence of program impact

Goal Two: Empower People and Institutions to Build Peace

Develop and promote improved knowledge, tools, and policy recommendations for more effective strategy, policy, and programs that build sustainable peace.

USIP is a premier global resource for scholars, policymakers, and practitioners in the field. Through our work, we develop research and analysis that deepen understanding of the complexities of conflict and inform practical tools and skills. At USIP’s global headquarters, experts from many sectors and views share their expertise, advancing the Institute’s thought leadership and fostering rich communities of practice. USIP’s recommendations improve policy and practice to more effectively prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict.

Issues, Stakeholders, and Peacebuilding Toolbox

To achieve this goal, USIP organizes our approach in a three-part frame. We prioritize a core set of issues vital for enabling fragility to resilience transformation. We develop and refine core peacebuilding tools and train others on their application. And we seek to enable inclusive processes that are essential for a sustained peace, with a special focus on those most routinely excluded across all contexts: women, youth, and faith leaders.

Strategic Priorities

Deepen our research and thought leadership on how the interplay of environmental shocks, rapid population growth, and poor governance affects the risks of violence in the places we work.

Expand our peacebuilding toolbox with a new focus on systems thinking to inform understanding of and responses to complex conflict dynamics. Additionally, we will broaden our understanding of the role and use of information technologies to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict.

Redouble our focus on honing and disseminating the core tools essential for addressing violent conflict at the community, state, or interstate level: dialogue, mediation, negotiation, with a renewed focus on revitalizing track 1.5 and track 2 dialogues, critical for resolving peacefully threats arising from major and regional power competition.

Empower individuals and institutions through improved training and education programs, greater alignment of our grants and fellowship programs against the new strategic landscape, greater accessibility of archived scholarship and research, and expansion of our global network of partners and institutions.


  • Research key issues for transforming fragility to resilience
  • Develop, test, and strengthen peacebuilding tools
  • Convene diverse audiences
  • Develop and share policy recommendations
  • Develop and deliver strengthened training and education
  • Align grants and fellowship programs to our research agenda
  • Develop updated tools for conflict analysis
  • Strengthen monitoring and evaluation
  • Learn and adapt


  • Deepen understanding, build capacity, and skills
  • Develop and share peacebuilding tools for practitioners
  • Inform and improve policy on key issues for transforming fragility to resilience
  • Strengthen and expand partnerships
List of USIP's Key Issue Areas

Goal Three: Engage in Direct Action for Peace

Prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict by applying USIP expertise, resources, and approaches in specific conflict zones.

USIP works directly in countries and regions affected by violent conflict, or at high risk of a future outbreak, by applying analysis, practical tools, and strategies to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict. Based on our experience and research, USIP emphasizes an approach that works from the top down—engaging with government leaders and other elites—and from the bottom up—engaging with individuals and community, grassroots, and faith-based groups, and an emphasis on women and youth—to build a more sustainable peace. Increasingly, conflict resolution also requires working from the outside in, as neighboring states and major powers play larger roles in internal conflicts.

Strategic Priorities

To address the continued challenge of state fragility, the regional spillover of violent conflict and the increased competition from regional and global actors, USIP directly applies our tools in three ways:

1. Sustained In-Country Presence

In select countries of significant national security interest, the Institute invests in sustaining a longterm presence. Because our in-country teams are supported by experts at headquarters, USIP provides in-depth analysis of complex conflicts for policymakers and practitioners, supports a broad network of local partners, and directly applies our tools and strategies to reduce violence and lay the groundwork for sustainable peace.

USIP maintains a long-term focus in these conflicts, enabling our teams to foster in-country relationships based on trust and to move more freely “outside the wire” than U.S. government counterparts. Moving from fragility to resilience is a generational undertaking, making such sustained efforts a critical element for long-term success.

Based on their importance to U.S. national security and implications for regional and international peace and security, our current country priorities within this category are: Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Tunisia.

2. Regions of Focus

USIP deploys teams and contributes analysis, tools, and strategies across a large swath of fragile regions that include Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Sahel and Horn of Africa and select areas of Latin America. In many of these regions, state fragility has resulted in flows of migrants, refugees, arms, violent extremists, and ethnic and tribal violence that cross boundaries and even regions. These states are far more vulnerable to transborder conflicts resulting from environmental shocks and to the competition of outside stakeholders. Working at the grassroots, national, and regional levels, USIP empowers its partners to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflicts more effectively. Using research, working groups, and convening to promote new ideas and strategies, the Institute strives to provide partners with knowledge and tools as they work for greater peace and resilience in these regions from the top down, bottom up, and outside in.

3. Global and Regional Interstate Competition

In today’s global context, rising interstate competition is influencing how conflict manifests and persists in fragile states, as well as threatening regional and global peace and stability. Since 2016, USIP has focused on the rise of China and will continue to do so as Beijing further projects its influence globally.

We will strive to identify areas in which the United States and other major powers can benefit from cooperation on matters of mutual concern and facilitate those efforts where appropriate. We are increasing our focus on convening experts, producing analysis, and identifying policy options to better respond to the challenges to peace posed by competition. Priority areas include:

  • The Red Sea, where Gulf states and other regional powers are projecting conflict and competition into the fragile Horn of Africa;
  • China, with an emphasis on analysis and programs to increase understanding and options for addressing its continued push for investment and influence on conflict contexts across the globe; and
  • North Korea with a focus on high-level dialogue, analysis, and development of strategic options for resolving this decades-old conflict.

In addition, we will develop a new portfolio to expand analysis and policy recommendations for addressing a more assertive Russia as it attempts to expand its influence in the post-Soviet sphere, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, with a special emphasis on Ukraine.


  • Conduct conflict analysis in the field
  • Organize and support dialogues
  • Partner locally
  • Develop and sustain country expertise
  • Develop and share policy recommendations
  • Develop and deliver strengthened training and education
  • Convene diverse audiences
  • Strengthen monitoring and evaluation
  • Learn and adapt


  • Promote inclusion
  • Strengthen community security
  • Advance justice
  • Bridge divides
  • Inform and improve policy in conflict-affected countries


Goal Four: Equip Our Global Team

Build an agile, high-performing, learning organization that delivers the best possible outcomes in support of USIP’s mission, values, and goals.

USIP will continue to support our workforce to be effective in a fast-changing environment. Individually and collectively, we will challenge ourselves to model the behaviors and values that enable peace and conflict resolution. We will recruit, reward, develop, and deploy the most talented individuals with the skills and passion to fulfill our mission. At the same time, we will challenge and support our people, ensuring that they are fully prepared for the demanding work of peacebuilding. The Institute will seek out and develop strong leaders who, in addition to being experts in their field, bring out the best in others and model integrity, respect, accountability, and trust.

Strategic Priorities

Reinforce a culture of shared responsibility that translates into a deep commitment to each other, our work, and the people and partners we serve.

Provide our workforce with learning and development opportunities that encourage individual and collective growth.

Increase the ability of our teams to rapidly adapt to an ever-changing landscape.

Create opportunities for collaboration and creative problem-solving.

Establish organizational policies, processes, and systems that are as user-friendly as possible and appropriate.


  • Recruit, develop, and reward the best talent
  • Continue frequent and varied internal communications
  • Expand leadership development offerings
  • Create opportunities for cross-Institute collaboration
  • Continue commitment to the safety and security of our people
  • Learn and adapt


  • Reinforce a culture of shared responsibility
  • Build a more adaptive learning organization
  • Strengthen collaboration across the Institute
  • Support more effective and efficient systems and processes