Wednesday, November 29, 2023
Religious actors have an immense capacity to enhance the quality and integrity of elections around the world. And religious leaders’ moral authority within communities can help bridge gaps between the state and its citizens, offering credibility to any electoral process. The University of Louisville’s David Buckley discusses the need to engage with religious actors in support of democracy and elections abroad — pointing to the Philippines as an example of how religious networks such as the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) and Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting can mobilize thousands of election observers and provide civic education to the public.
The “Quad,” made up of the United States, Australia, India and Japan, began as an informal grouping for sharing strategic assessments of the Indo-Pacific region. But over time, the Quad has grown to include leader-level summits and a coordinated policy agenda for the region covering everything from COVID vaccine distribution to telecommunications regulations and climate change. Arzan Tarapore, a research scholar at Stanford University’s Asia-Pacific Research Center, discusses how the Quad has evolved, how non-Quad members in the region — such as ASEAN states — have reacted, and China’s concerns about what the Quad’s strategic vision means for its own approach to the region.
An explosion of violent extremism in the Sahel has begun spilling over into Coastal West African states. International efforts to stave off the spread have fallen short, which recently prompted the United States to include five countries in the region — Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Togo — in the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability. USIP’s Andrew Cheatham spoke with Ambassador Terence McCulley about the strategy’s focus on good governance as a means to counter violent extremism, the need for sustained coordination in the strategy’s implementation and the hope that this might spark further international support for peace and stability in Coastal West Africa.
To ignore religious views and leaders in U.S. foreign policy would be to ignore a major part of what shapes societies, as religious actors often act as an anchor for communities and occupy a position of trust and influence. In recognition of this, the White House released the first-ever national strategy on religious leader and faith community engagement in U.S. foreign policy in 2013. A decade later, USIP gathered some of the key players who contributed to the strategy to reflect on the importance of long-term U.S. religious engagement abroad, lessons learned from the last decade and why relationships with religious actors are not just good for U.S. national security, but for global security more broadly.
Peacebuilding actors — from nongovernmental organizations to diplomats and security forces — tend to work concurrently but are often unable to integrate their efforts around a single process or framework. The Principles for Peace Initiative seeks to create a shared language for peacebuilding actors so that peace efforts can overcome these silos. Roméo Dallaire, a Canadian Forces lieutenant-general and former senator who led the U.N. peacekeeping force for Rwanda from 1993-1994, discusses the Principles for Peace; how he has applied them to his work to end the use of child soldiers; and why transparency is critical for overcoming the ethical, moral and legal challenges of peacebuilding.
We often see peacebuilding play out as the search for political consensus among elite brokers — but for true, lasting peace to take root, peace must become a lived experience for those on the ground. The Principles for Peace is an initiative that aims to identify a common language that ensures the people suffering from conflicts are at the center of conflict resolution processes. USIP’s Juan Diaz-Prinz and Principles for Peace Foundation’s Bert Koenders, Annika Söder and Teresita Quintos Deles discuss this new way to frame the search for peace; the initiative’s emphasis on implementing peace agreements; and how diplomatic actors can use these principles, standards and norms to fundamentally reshape current peace processes.
Despite U.N. protections for Indigenous people, Russian law does not offer recognition to many of its Indigenous communities — making it difficult for them to assert and protect their rights. Vera Solovyeva, a researcher at George Mason University, discusses the various challenges facing Indigenous peoples in Russia, why Indigenous women and mothers are protesting Russia’s war in Ukraine, and what she believes is the path toward peace.
The Horn of Africa represents an area of strategic importance for the United States, and the current peace process in Ethiopia is an example of the positive role that U.S. engagement can have in the region. Ambassador Mike Hammer, the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, discusses his meetings with USIP’s Red Sea Study Group, how the cessation of hostilities agreement in northern Ethiopia came to fruition, and the latest U.S. efforts to ensure a lasting peace in Ethiopia through humanitarian assistance, accountability for human rights violations and a host of other avenues for bringing stability back to the region.
During Ethiopia’s disastrous two-year civil conflict, women were subjected to countless acts of conflict-related sexual violence by security forces on both sides. Now that a peace process has begun, securing true transitional justice will require women’s participation and leadership throughout the negotiations. Filsan Abdi, founder director of the Horn Peace Institute, discusses her decision to resign from her prior position as Ethiopia’s minister of women, children and youth in protest of the violence, why women’s participation is so vital to the long-term success of peacebuilding and democracy in the Horn of Africa, and why the current peace process gives her hope despite its shortcomings.
Since the 2021 coup, Myanmar’s junta has increased its targeting of the country’s Christian minority — committing atrocities such as killing and detaining pastors and burning down churches. While Christian leaders, particularly those in Christian-majority Chin State, have offered their support to the movement, many Burmese Christians are fleeing to neighboring countries — with thousands already living as refugees in India. Zo Tum Hmung, executive director of the Chin Association of Maryland, discusses the junta’s violence against religious minorities in Myanmar, the need for international accountability, and how the United States can partner with other countries in the region to facilitate cross-border humanitarian aid and refugee assistance.