Thursday, April 2, 2020
While U.S.-Taliban talks have moved forward in recent months, intra-Afghan discussions—between the Taliban and the Afghan government—on the country’s political future have yet to even start. A conference scheduled to take place in Doha in mid-April could have initiated that dialogue but was postponed at the last minute over disagreements on who from the Afghan government list of delegates should attend and in what capacity. It was so last minute, in fact, that many planning on attending or observing—myself included—were already on flights to Qatar when the postponement was announced. Left out of negotiations to this point, what does Afghan civil society think about the peace process and the future of their country?
In electing a political newcomer as president, Ukrainians have conducted their third revolution in 27 years of independence from Russian rule. Millions filled public squares to demand democratic accountability in the 2004 Orange Revolution and the 2013-14 Euromaidan. But last Sunday, Ukrainians overhauled their government through the ballot box—a consolidation of their maturing democracy. They elected television actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy with 73 percent of the vote, a protest against persistent economic and political corruption and disappointment with lack of progress ending the war in the east of the country. Like any sharp political turn, it raises uncertainties—but the international community should reinforce Ukrainian voters’ demand for truly effective anti-corruption reforms, and for continued –even expanded – pressure to counter Russia’s assaults on Ukraine’s independence.
It’s been a busy spring for our national outreach, with USIP experts traveling to South Dakota, Alabama, Iowa and beyond. But, a recent trip to Tennessee was a real standout.
A generation of women have grown up in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was overthrown in 2001. Whether it’s in education, healthcare, culture or government, women have seen steady progress throughout Afghan society in the last 18 years. And those who have lived through the Taliban’s misogynistic rule, like Roya Sadat—the first Afghan woman film director and producer in the post-Taliban era—fear that all this progress could be discarded in a peace deal with the Taliban.
Following Ukraine’s first round of presidential voting on Sunday, the country faces a tough, maybe nasty, two-week campaign for the runoff. This second election since the 2014 pro-democracy movement that Ukrainians call their “Revolution of Dignity” reflects significant consolidation of Ukraine’s democracy in the intervening five years. That is no small achievement, given Russia’s continuing interference—especially the war in Ukraine’s Donbas region, which has killed more than 13,000 people in those five years.
With elections increasingly dependent on modern technology, cybersecurity has become a vital shield against election violence and manipulation. Cyberattacks present a growing threat to both nascent and mature democracies, as they can shape the election process, erode citizen trust and trigger other forms of election violence. The 2019 elections in Indonesia and Ukraine illustrate the threat cyberattacks pose, even in relatively consolidated and stable democracies.
At West Central High School in Hartford, South Dakota, the students in JoAnne Bohl’s history classes have learned about—and lived in—a world defined by war and violent conflict. Bohl, a part of USIP’s Peace Teacher program, wants students to think about conflict in new ways, and to cultivate their own potential to contribute to positive change around the world.
In October 2018, USIP and the Dalai Lama hosted their third annual dialogue with youth peacebuilders from countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Many of these countries face the world’s deadliest wars, as well as campaigns by extremist groups to incite youth to violence. In the face of these challenges, these youth leaders are among their countries’ most effective peacebuilders. The dialogues with the Dalai Lama are aimed at helping these youth leaders to build the practical skills and personal resilience needed to build peace in their own countries.
As spring break and cherry blossoms draw school groups from across the U.S. to our nation’s capital, it bears remembering that students in many parts of the country don’t have the opportunity to come to Washington and visit its iconic monuments and institutions.
News from Ukraine is focused on its startling presidential election, in which the leading candidate is a comedian whose political role before now has been to play a fictional president in a TV series. Less visible alongside that drama is the country’s process of consolidating the new independence of its Orthodox church after centuries of control by Moscow. Ukraine’s religious independence from Russia is a high-stakes step, one that the Russian government actively opposes, toward a fully independent Ukraine following 300-plus years of Russian domination. In the struggle over control of the church, news accounts and a new U.N. Human Rights Report suggests that Ukraine is mainly—but perhaps not perfectly—preventing acts of intimidation that could increase the risk of violence.