Tuesday, February 13, 2024
The Veterans Day that Americans observe this week is rooted in hopes for peace that burst in 1918 from a train parked in a French forest: Allied and German military officers had signed a halt to humanity’s deadliest war ever. One hundred five years later, warfare in Ukraine, Israel-Gaza and dozens of countries have heightened both bloodshed and Americans’ concerns about whether humankind can fulfill our hopes for a world governed through laws rather than armed might. Still, the building of peace continues, even amid violence — and its builders include those who know best the horror of wars for having fought them.
After spending 27 years in prison, many expected Nelson Mandela to emerge as a man full of bitterness and anger toward those who had imprisoned him. Instead, he emerged as a towering figure of peace and justice whose own self-sacrifice and leadership were instrumental in ending the brutal apartheid system in South Africa. USIP’s Ambassador Johnnie Carson discusses the Institute’s new Mandela Series — a collection of lectures and seminars from notable peacebuilders that celebrates Mandela’s life and explores how his legacy can guide those seeking a better, more peaceful future.
Timor-Leste penetrates the world’s consciousness much less frequently than it did at the turn of the century when the Southeast Asian nation featured prominently in narratives about peacekeeping, state building, and approaches to peace and conflict, as its political leaders such as rebel leader turned statesman Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão gained global renown. And that relative silence is to Timor-Leste’s credit. The country is quiet and politically stable. Crazed driving is a bigger problem in the capital, Dili, than crazed men with guns.
The current approach to peacebuilding tends to focus on the drivers of conflict — by understanding what’s causing violence, mechanisms can be put in place to stop it. But that is only one part of peacebuilding, and a current dilemma facing the field is how to navigate the emotional aftermath of a conflict, where the warring parties might have different recollections and understandings of historical events. USIP’s Andrew Cheatham spoke with Seton Hall University Professor David Wood, the co-author of the “Ethics of Political Commemoration: Towards a New Paradigm ” who is also a senior researcher at Geneva Graduate Institute, about how this issue manifests in the practice of post-war commemorations and what the peacebuilding field can do to facilitate commemorations in a way that is more likely to lead to a peaceful future.
Over five decades later, the legacies of the Vietnam War still impact Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and their relations with the United States. But concerted efforts to promote justice and reconciliation have begun to address the collective trauma the war left behind — and in doing so, have turned what was once a major obstacle for U.S. engagement in Southeast Asia into one of the most remarkable stories of humanitarian cooperation in the 21st century.
In addressing violence in Papua New Guinea, most programs seek to work with survivors. However, to prevent the recurrence of violence — especially gender-based violence — it’s important to address the harmful attitudes that drive it. USIP’s Ruth Kissam and Zuabe Tinning discuss how a USIP program seeks to reorient men’s perspectives in Papua New Guinea toward championing equal participation for women in decision-making processes and repairing the damage caused by harmful and violent behaviors in their communities.
As leaders, activists and families across the world commemorate the International Day of the Girl on October 11, the harsh reality faced by millions of Afghan girls stands in stark contrast to many of the planned celebrations. For 750 days and counting, Afghan girls have been forcibly deprived of their right to education and their future because of the Taliban regime’s repressive policies.
While strategic competition between the United States and China certainly impacts Pacific Island nations, regional leaders are wary of getting lost in higher-level geopolitics at the expense of their own citizens’ security needs. To further build U.S.-Pacific security cooperation, the conception of security needs to expand beyond traditional issues, to include human security challenges such as climate change, economic development and the legacy of nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific. USIP spoke with several regional experts about how the climate crisis is threatening the territorial and economic stability of many Pacific Island nations, why keeping the Pacific a nuclear-free zone should be a security imperative, and what the United States can do to help resolve the region’s longstanding issues in a just and fair way.
The al-Hol camp in Syria has become a symbol of the Islamic State’s enduring impact in the region. While most of the 53,000 people still living in the camp — half of which are children under the age of 11 — did not choose to live under ISIS, their reintegration into society remains stalled, in part over their perceived affiliation with the extremist group. USIP’s Sarhang Hamasaeed discusses why the stigma around those living in al-Hol only serves to increase their isolation and vulnerability to malign influence, as well as how the Institute is working with Iraqi government and community leaders to overcome the practical challenges associated with reintroducing displaced people into society.
In recent years, transnational criminal networks have built a web of influence throughout Southeast Asia to facilitate their illicit gambling, fraud and human trafficking operations. And while these networks emanate from several countries in the region — particularly Myanmar — their reach is global. In the United States alone, victims have already lost several billion dollars to scams. USIP’s Andrew Cheatham and Jason Tower discuss how these large-scale networks operate, how the 2021 military coup in Myanmar offered the networks a safe haven for their illicit activities, and how the United States can take the lead on addressing this issue.