Since 2018, USIP, InclusivePeace, and the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy have been conducting research that explores the roles that religious actors play in track 1 dialogues and official peace processes. While distinct cases demonstrate the impact—both real and potential—that religious actors and communities have on formal peace processes, little research or analysis exists to show whether, when, how, and to what extent religious actors should be engaged as part of these processes. By understanding more precisely how religious actors influence the course of official peace processes, both negatively and positively, USIP and partners can more effectively shape the support provided to ensure maximum impact.

Nobel Peace Prize 2011, Tawakkul Karman, Leymah Gbowee, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Leymah Gbowee's engagement of Christian and Muslim women in nonviolent action was pivotal to the success of Liberia's peace process. Gbowee pictured with Tawakkul Karman and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 2011.

Religious actors and communities can greatly influence official negotiations, particularly where religious dynamics have shaped the conflict or religious issues are part of the agenda. In these conflicts, religious actors and communities often feel they have interests at stake in peace negotiations. In the worst case, their absence can disrupt or spoil the peace process, such as in Colombia where some religious actors mobilized against the negotiated agreement with the FARC in 2016.

But religious actors can also support peace processes by acting as inside mediators, shuttle diplomats, observers, and official facilitators—such as Bishop Carlos Belo, who raised global awareness to end Indonesia’s oppression of the East Timorese, and Leymeh Gbowee, who led Muslim and Christian women in nonviolent direct action to pressure parties in Liberia’s peace talks.

This project aims to build on the evolving dynamics in peace processes, particularly efforts to broaden participation among various constituencies to enhance legitimacy, develop buy-in, and mitigate the impact of spoilers as a means to achieve sustainable peace; as well as to build on the increased recognition of insider mediators—a role that can include religious actors. This collaborative initiative seeks to:

Conduct in-depth research by developing a categorization of how religious actors have engaged and impacted peace processes. This includes case study analysis and interviews, as well as convenings between experts and practitioners, to inform more knowledgeable engagement of religious actors for future peace processes. 

Inform experts and policymakers on how to effectively engage religious actors in future peace processes based on an analytical report and case studies. This will involve establishing a consortium of policymakers, practitioners, and scholars who contribute to research methodology and process, resource design and development, and policy recommendations through a series of workshops and consultations designed to analyze and exchange practices. This group will serve as a “community of practice.”

Support inclusive engagement in peace processes by developing a support mechanism which provides direct analysis, technical knowledge and insight, capacity building, and direct engagement of key religious actors and communities in 2-3 current contexts. Key resources, such as training materials and workshop design, will help to build the knowledge and skills of policymakers, track 1 actors, religious actors, and their communities as they engage in formal peace processes, agreements, and implementation. Technical advice will also be available from the community of practice, and can be further enhanced through peer-to-peer learning exchanges that can inform engagement in current and future peace processes .

 

Latest Publications

The Bangsamoro Transitional Authority’s Inclusivity Test

The Bangsamoro Transitional Authority’s Inclusivity Test

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

By: Yasmira Moner

One of the key challenges facing the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is ensuring that the institutions and laws of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in the Southern Philippines are inclusive of the extraordinary diversity that characterizes its people. The recent extension of the BTA’s mandate, pushing the BARMM’s first elections from May 2022 to May 2025, raises both opportunities and challenges. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace ProcessesConflict Analysis & Prevention

After U.S.-Russia Talks, Risk of War in Ukraine Still High

After U.S.-Russia Talks, Risk of War in Ukraine Still High

Friday, January 21, 2022

By: Ambassador William B. Taylor;  Donald N. Jensen, Ph.D.

The risk of a new Russian invasion of Ukraine remains high after today’s meeting in Geneva between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The United States delivered its warning, with European allies, of what Blinken called a “swift, severe and a united response” if the Russian troops massed at Ukraine’s border should attack. But the outcome offered at least a hope of avoiding war as Blinken agreed to offer a set of “written comments” to Russia next week on its demand for “security guarantees” that include barring Ukraine from ever joining NATO — a demand that Ukraine, NATO and the United States reject.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

After the Taliban’s Takeover: Pakistan’s TTP problem

After the Taliban’s Takeover: Pakistan’s TTP problem

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

By: Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.

In 2021, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) insurgency escalated its challenge against Pakistan. Operating from bases in Afghanistan, and with a growing presence inside Pakistan, the group mounted an increasing number of attacks against Pakistani security forces — as well as against some critical Chinese interests in Pakistan. The insurgency also showed renewed political strength by bringing in splintered factions and improving internal cohesion. Additionally, al-Qaeda signaled its continued alliance with the TTP. On Tuesday, after an attack by the TTP on the police in Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad, Pakistan’s Interior Minister warned that more attacks by the group are likely.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionViolent Extremism

Despite High Stakes in Ethiopia, China Sits on the Sidelines of Peace Efforts

Despite High Stakes in Ethiopia, China Sits on the Sidelines of Peace Efforts

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

By: Joseph Sany, Ph.D.;  Thomas P. Sheehy

Since November of 2020, Ethiopia has been suffering from a deadly internal conflict that has claimed an estimated 50,000 lives and displaced over two million. The United States, the African Union and others in the region have attempted to secure a cease-fire between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) but have made little headway. In contrast, China has remained mainly on the sidelines of peacebuilding efforts even though Ethiopia — the second most populous country in Africa — is a centerpiece of its Africa policy. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global PolicyPeace Processes

View All Publications