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.
The weeks of peaceful protests by millions of Hong Kong residents opposed to the erosion of their civil liberties turned violent Monday. After days of aggressive police crackdowns that injured protesters and drew criticism from international human rights groups, hundreds of protesters bashed through doors into the city’s legislature yesterday. USIP specialists discuss the escalation of the conflict between residents and the city’s authorities—and the implications for one of the territory’s largest protest movements since Britain handed it over to Chinese control two decades ago.
It’s been over two months since Sudan’s longtime dictator, Omar al-Bashir, was overthrown by the country’s military following months of popular protests. On June 3, the Transitional Military Council (TMC)—which has been ruling since Bashir’s ouster—escalated its lethal crackdown on peaceful protesters in Khartoum and other cities. The protesters say that their demand is the same as before—a transition to civilian rule—but that they will not negotiate with the TMC unless it first meets certain conditions. What’s happening in Sudan? When will negotiations on the country’s transition resume? How can the international community help? USIP’s Elizabeth Murray discusses the latest on the situation in Sudan.
In Ethiopia, political prisoners are free and the security services revamped. Women now comprise half the cabinet, and serve as ceremonial head of state, chief justice, and chair of the electoral commission. Significant steps have been taken toward resolving a 20-year conflict with neighboring Eritrea and reforms to unleash the economy—already one of Africa’s fastest growing—are ostensibly on the way. Elections are slated for next year. Under Abiy Ahmed, the nation’s popular new prime minister, Ethiopia is changing in ways long desired by American policymakers, agreed four former U.S. ambassadors to the country. Yet the most the U.S. is likely to do is offer encouragement and a bit of support, they said.
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.