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

Possible Russian Nuclear Deployments to Belarus Could Shift Europe’s Nuclear Balance

Possible Russian Nuclear Deployments to Belarus Could Shift Europe’s Nuclear Balance

Thursday, June 30, 2022

By: John Drennan

During a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart on June 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated that “within the next several months,” Russia intends to transfer Iskander-M missiles — which can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads — to Belarus and begin upgrading Belarusian Su-25 fighters to carry nuclear weapons. Most of the details of the deal remain unknown or to be determined. But should Putin’s promise turn out to be more than nuclear bluster — something Putin and other Russian officials have resorted to since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine — the deployment could remake the nuclear balance in Europe and increase the risk of a potential NATO-Russia conflict occurring.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

In Africa, Putin’s War on Ukraine Drives Food, Fuel and Finance Crises

In Africa, Putin’s War on Ukraine Drives Food, Fuel and Finance Crises

Thursday, June 30, 2022

By: Edward A. Burrier

Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war on Ukraine has unleashed a wave of destruction and atrocities against its brave people. But the suffering and instability are not contained to Europe. Indeed, a continent away, Putin’s war has unleashed a “three-headed hydra” of food, energy and finance shortages in Africa, further threatening vulnerable Africans and putting dozens of countries at risk of default. Recognizing the need to tackle food insecurity, the Group of Seven (G-7) countries pledged billions more in assistance this week. But will it be enough given the severity of these challenges?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

EconomicsGlobal Policy

Back to the Basics: Fixing the Americas’ Polarized Media Landscape

Back to the Basics: Fixing the Americas’ Polarized Media Landscape

Thursday, June 30, 2022

By: John Feeley

The recent Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles underscored that the Western Hemisphere faces several crises. Climate change threatens tens of millions of Americans throughout the hemisphere. Democracy, once the unquestioned standard of regional governance as recently as 1994 when it was celebrated at the inaugural Miami Summit of the Americas, is also in crisis. In fact, it became the unfortunate story of the summit: who was invited and who wasn’t. Regardless of which side of the democratic inclusion summit debate one adopts, democratic backsliding and the rise in autocratic governance like in Mexico, El Salvador and Brazil — to say nothing of the extinction of democracy in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela — represents a worrisome reality that goes beyond the traditional left- versus right-wing paradigm.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Despite Ukraine Focus, Asia-Pacific to Play Prominent Role at NATO Summit

Despite Ukraine Focus, Asia-Pacific to Play Prominent Role at NATO Summit

Monday, June 27, 2022

By: Mirna Galic

NATO countries meet this week in Madrid, Spain amid Russia’s war on Ukraine, the biggest test the alliance has faced in decades. The summit is expected to focus heavily on demonstrating NATO’s unity, support for Ukraine and the bids of Finland and Sweden — propelled by Russia’s aggressive incursion — to join the alliance. But developments in the Asia-Pacific, chiefly the rise of China, will also be a top item on the agenda, with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea participating at the leader level for the first time at a NATO summit.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

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