Monday, July 9, 2018
Elections Wire is a new monthly resource from the U.S. Institute of Peace with news and analysis on elections at risk of violence. The challenge we aim to address is simple: Elections in emerging democracies or countries with ongoing or recent violent conflict are often associated with a unique risk of election violence.
When Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won the historic 2015 elections, some observers wondered if it would resolve one of her country’s most symbolic issues on the international stage: what to call it. Changed by the military government in 1989 from Burma to Myanmar, much of the international community agreed to recognize the name change. Yet, the United States and the United Kingdom, among a small group of countries, continue to use the name Burma. Why?
Mahmoud Khalil, a refugee living in Lebanon, is a Syrian-Palestinian-Algerian student majoring in computer science and working with an international education-focused NGO called Jusoor. He was a key member of a team of young people that founded an innovative education program for out-of-school Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. Mahmoud was one of 25 young civil society leaders from a dozen nations facing violent conflict whom USIP gathered in 2017 for training and mentorship with the Nobel peace laureate and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Assuming that both President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were sincere about meeting in Singapore on June 12, it seems the summit’s cancellation was caused by poor diplomacy and messaging, like a bad game of telephone.
On May 6, Lebanon held parliamentary polls—its first in nine years—under a new electoral law. I served as an international observer with the National Democratic Institute’s (NDI) mission. It was a unique opportunity to witness firsthand Lebanon’s complex political system. Deployed to Zahle, a multi-confessional district in eastern Lebanon, I gained a deeper appreciation of the election’s enormous challenges and limited bright spots.
Around the world, some countries suffer recurring bad fortune such as repeated famines, violence, and instability. For instance, Somalia has suffered multiple famines in the last decade, exacerbated by recurring terrorist attacks from al-Shabaab and a weak government that struggles to provide access to schools and health services. Elsewhere, Pakistan has been victim to numerous earthquakes that kill thousands in addition to persistent skirmishes with India, terrorist attacks and tensions with the United States over terrorist safe havens.
After 16 years of war in Afghanistan, is a door opening for a peace process? The Afghan government and the Taliban insurgents both publicly offered peace talks last month, although the Taliban insist they want to negotiate with the United States and not with the internationally recognized government in Kabul. Past moments of hope for an Afghan peace process have been dashed by missed opportunities and difficult politics on all sides.
Two decades into the 21st century, women remain mostly invisible in human storytelling about war and peace. Since a U.N. resolution in 2000, governments increasingly have recognized that the work of ending or preventing wars is weakened when women are excluded. Painstakingly, women are forcing aside historic obstacles to lead as mediators, peacekeepers and the like. Yet amid violence that has displaced record numbers of people, women remain scarcely visible in our stories of human conflict and reconciliation. These stories reflect what we value as a society. When women are missing, women are not counted.
Lourd Hanna, an Iraqi health sciences graduate, co-founded a youth-led organization that works to heal divisions among Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian communities. Lourd, a member of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic minority, lives in Erbil, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. She is one of 25 young civil society leaders from a dozen nations facing violent conflict whom USIP gathered in 2017 for training and mentorship with the Nobel peace laureate and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
The Rev. Billy Graham, who died Wednesday, was never one to remain bound by borders. His religious faith was both the engine that drove him personally, and the portal through which he touched and swayed millions of people. Graham’s legacy on matters of violent conflict, and the social injustices that underlie them, is deeply mixed—and human. But his six-decade career shows us the unremitting power of religious faith to influence people’s attitudes and actions. And at key moments, Graham’s career showed how religious leaders can promote peace.