The Polish government makes use of USIP training to help key figures from Afghanistan and Tunisia lead their own countries’ transitions.

The Muslim World, Poland and USIP

As one of the most successful countries to make the transition from communism, Poland now is working to help other countries consolidate their own transitions away from authoritarian governments and command economies. The U.S. Institute of Peace has played a key role in empowering Poland to employ the sophisticated Strategic Economic Needs and Security Exercise (SENSE) simulation in this far-sighted endeavor. In October and December of 2011, Poland employed the SENSE simulation with separate audiences of key figures from Afghanistan and Tunisia who are helping to lead their countries’ own transitions. In 2006, the Polish government asked USIP to train a cadre of Poles to be able to conduct the SENSE. USIP’s Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding conducted the training, and has maintained a relationship with the Polish SENSE program ever since. 

SENSE (created by Richard White of the Institute for Defense Analyses) is a computer-facilitated simulation that focuses on negotiation, problem-solving and decision-making in a fictional country emerging from violent internal conflict or a revolutionary political situation. SENSE teaches participants to build teams and develop cooperative solutions, to make difficult resource allocation decisions and to interact constructively with the international entities—military and civilian—that are trying to help them.

SENSE’s computer infrastructure “keeps the players honest,” by reflecting the results and interrelationships of all their actions. Yet, while computer-facilitated, the primary point of the simulation is to engage participants in direct, face-to-face negotiations among up to 60 players, who represent the local citizens, their government officials, and members of the international community. Originally developed for Bosnia, it has since been upgraded and used in a number of environments. For example, USIP has used it extensively with Iraqis: more than 1,500 Iraqis have participated in SENSE simulations and the majority of simulations have been run by Iraqis whom USIP has trained.

Poland’s original goal was to help its neighbors—countries that had been incorporated into or dominated by the Soviet Union—to consolidate their democratic transitions and to develop constructive relations with each other. To this end, they have brought government and civil society leaders from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as Serbia, to Warsaw to participate in SENSE. Poland has also extended the scope of its SENSE outreach to include Afghanistan, and has turned its attention to the Middle East following the region’s revolutionary developments last year. 

This past fall, Poland conducted three SENSE simulations: October 3–7 for a joint group from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine; November 14–18 for Tunisia; and December 5-9 for Afghanistan.

USIP Senior Program Officer Allison Frendak originally led the effort to establish SENSE in Poland, and was present to monitor and evaluate the recent Afghanistan simulation. (Frendak also conducts the Academy’s SENSE simulations for interagency audiences in the United States, in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and George Mason University.) 

As Frendak reports, “The Polish team trained 45 high- and middle-ranking Afghan government officials and representatives of the private sector and nongovernmental organizations. The Polish team delivered the simulation with great skill and professionalism, and it made a real impact on the participants, who said they will take what they learned back to their country. By all accounts, the SENSE training for Tunisian leaders was equally successful.”

To date, the Poles have used SENSE to train 581 government and civil society leaders. USIP’s role, after the initial training, has been primarily to provide advice and, more recently, to share with the Poles the Arabic-language SENSE material that USIP has developed for its program in Iraq.

Poland has conducted its trainings without funding from USIP, making this program an excellent example of how USIP’s train-the-trainers efforts multiply the effects of its modest budget.

The Poles are exploring the possibility of further use of SENSE in the Muslim world. In an era of growing international challenges and ever scarcer resources to devote to them, this sort of collaborative effort is a win-win for all concerned.

Related Publications

Belquis Ahmadi on the Afghan Peace Process

Belquis Ahmadi on the Afghan Peace Process

Thursday, May 16, 2019

By: Belquis Ahmadi

Reflecting on recent conversations in Doha and Kabul, USIP’s Belquis Ahmadi says that Afghans told her they want peace, but are not willing to sacrifice the hard-won gains of the last 18 years to get there. As U.S.-Taliban talks move forward, the extent of the Taliban’s evolution on issues like women’s rights remains in question. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” says Ahmadi.

Gender; Peace Processes

Afghanistan Cannot Afford Another Government Breakdown

Afghanistan Cannot Afford Another Government Breakdown

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

By: William Byrd

Afghanistan is on uncertain terrain this year. Along with scheduled presidential and other elections and a nascent peace process, the possibility of withdrawal of international troops, worsening security, and an economic downturn loom heavily over the country. In this critical moment, government failure would make peace and political stability even harder to achieve let alone sustain. How can basic government functioning be maintained during this challenging period?

Democracy & Governance; Economics & Environment

The Current Situation in Afghanistan

The Current Situation in Afghanistan

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Afghanistan has entered a pivotal but highly uncertain time. As all parties recognize that a military solution is not achievable, increased war fatigue has shifted Afghan and international attention toward a possible political settlement to the ongoing 18-year war. Grassroots peace movements and a three-day cease-fire between the Afghan government and the Taliban in June 2018 demonstrate Afghans’ widespread desire for sustainable peace. Despite some promising developments, many issues lay ahead that must be resolved before a sustainable peace process can be undertaken, and numerous spoilers could possibly derail this process. 

Options for Reintegrating Taliban Fighters in an Afghan Peace Process

Options for Reintegrating Taliban Fighters in an Afghan Peace Process

Monday, April 29, 2019

By: Deedee Derksen

A central issue for Afghanistan in achieving stability is making long-lasting peace with the Taliban. The success of any such agreement will depend in large part on whether Taliban commanders and fighters can assume new roles in Afghan politics, the security forces, or civilian life. This report explores that question, drawing on lessons from how similar situations unfolded in Burundi, Tajikistan, and Nepal.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Peace Processes; Violent Extremism

View All Publications