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.
Colombia is on the precipice of historic presidential elections amid a backdrop of significant social unrest, deepening polarization and the escalation of the country’s six-decade old armed conflict. Last year’s nationwide mass protests sprung up over worsening racial and socioeconomic inequality in most of the country’s major urban metropolitan centers, and a heavy-handed police response only served to worsen the crisis.
On May 15, Lebanon held its first election since mass protests swept the country in October 2019. Trigged by economic crisis and profound frustration with an inept, detached ruling establishment, the protest movement sparked hope that real change to the country’s anachronistic, corrupt political system was in the offing. Fast forward nearly three years, and such promise seems to have been extinguished by the calamitous August 2020 Beirut port explosion, traditional party supporters’ efforts to stifle new opposition movements, and an historic economic collapse.
The February 2021 coup in Myanmar, which overthrew an elected government and installed a brutal military dictatorship, has posed an enormous challenge to the Association of Southeast Asian States (ASEAN). The group has split on what — if any — action to take regarding the coup. Meanwhile, the military’s unbridled violence against the country’s citizens failed to suppress an increasingly militarized opposition and the conflict now affects ASEAN states bordering Myanmar and those beyond. As the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit gets underway this week in Washington, Myanmar will not be present, a symbol that the organization — as a whole— does not accept the coup government’s legitimacy. What’s next remains to be seen.
Since January 2021, USIP has been collecting data on the frequency and characteristics of civic mobilization in 83 political transitions initiated through civil resistance from 1945 to the present to help understand when challenges to democratic progress have been successfully overcome and provide practical lessons learned for activists, policymakers and academics interested in nonviolent action and democratization.
USIP believes that peace is impossible without security. Our work offers a peacebuilding approach to security sector governance and reform. Providing citizens with human security is one of the most fundamental obligations of any state. But too often, those intended to provide security, such as military and police forces, instead trigger violence or exacerbate ongoing conflicts.
Despite the degree of stability that Tunisia has achieved since its 2011 revolution, there are still obstacles to democratic consolidation, as well as unaddressed issues that threaten social and political stability—such as growing economic disparities, deepening mistrust between civil society and the government, weak local governments, and the difficult process of achieving meaningful institutional reforms.