Democracy embodies responsive and responsible governance, rule of law, human rights, civic participation and peaceful transfers of power through electoral processes. Each of these underpins a peaceful and stable society. The U.S. Institute of Peace teaches democratic principles and democratization processes and techniques that are critical to both peacebuilding and effective governance. USIP seeks to strengthen governance by supporting inclusive, accountable institutions and a robust civil society. These in turn uphold human rights, justice and the rule of law, and promote public participation in social and political processes.
A massive explosion ripped through the Port of Beirut on Tuesday, sending shockwaves through the Lebanese capital, killing over one hundred and injuring thousands. This comes with Lebanon already on the brink of economic collapse, struggling to address a COVID outbreak, and as the trust gap between citizens and the state is wider than ever. Although in the immediate aftermath of the explosion some suggested Lebanon had been attacked, the cause of the explosion is likely much more banal: government negligence resulted in thousands of pounds of explosive chemical material to be improperly stored in the port for years. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Mona Yacoubian examine what this demonstrates about the already beleaguered Lebanese government, the long-term implications for the country, and how the international community has responded so far.
As a struggling, incomplete democracy, Myanmar and its elected leaders face challenges that would confound any country. The best-known involve the military’s uneven loosening of a 50-year dictatorship; ethnic tensions and armed conflicts; the lack of a common national identity; entrenched poverty; and the complications of borders with five nations, including China. Less well known is an emerging threat that touches each of these vital concerns. Over the past three years, transnational networks with links to organized crime have partnered with local armed groups, carving out autonomous enclaves and building so-called “smart cities” to tap into the huge, but illegal, Chinese online gambling market. Myanmar’s leaders at every level and in every sector should pay serious attention to the alarming national implications of these developments.
While Americans are understandably preoccupied with multiple crises at home, a catastrophe is looming in Lebanon with significant implications for the United States. Roiled by a major debt crisis that has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic lockdown measures, Lebanon is rapidly spiraling toward the worst-case scenario: a failed state on the eastern Mediterranean.
Government restrictions on religion have risen steadily in recent years, raising questions about both their causes and consequences. In partnership with USAID’s Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, USIP launched the Closing the Gap initiative earlier this year to more carefully examine these trends. The project, which will take place over the course of 2020, will explore the relationship between freedom of religion, peace, and development through statistical analysis and case studies. The findings will inform a more nuanced, strategic, and impactful policy and practice of advancing religious freedom.
Diplomats and peace practitioners often cite lack of familiarity with the religious landscape as a barrier to their engagement of religious actors. In 2013, USIP launched an initiative to address this need by developing a methodology for systematically mapping and assessing the religious sector’s influence on conflict and peace dynamics in discrete conflict settings. These mappings, which have been done or are underway in Libya, South Sudan, Iraq and Burma, help illuminate recommendations for effective partnerships within the religious sector for peacebuilding.
Afghanistan’s next generation of leaders have an opportunity to break out of the cycles of violence that have caused civil wars, insurgencies, and widespread human rights abuses and domestic violence over the past decades. To do this, government officials and community leaders need to have practical skills to identify sources of conflict and know how to de-escalate tensions and negotiate peaceful solutions.