For many decades, advocates of good governance have promoted the idea of evidence-based policies and programs that ground government actions in the best social science available. In the United States, this movement produced a significant milestone in January 2019: The passage and signing of the bipartisan Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. This act requires all U.S. agencies to establish a learning agenda composed of policy-relevant questions that are central to an agency’s mission and strategy. Recently, U.S. agencies — including the State Department, the Defense Department and USAID — have issued their inaugural learning agendas.

In support of the Evidence Act and as part of the U.S. national security architecture, USIP is carrying out its own learning agenda. Peacebuilding has long been viewed as too messy and complex for evidence-based approaches — but USIP’s mix of research and practice belies that assumption.

A project staffer explains the relevance of the dialogues to participants at the Women Preventing Violent Extremism community dialogues organized by USIP's Partner Sisters Without Borders in Uganda.
A project staffer explains the relevance of the dialogues to participants at the Women Preventing Violent Extremism community dialogues organized by USIP's Partner Sisters Without Borders in Uganda.

The USIP Learning Agenda is a joint venture of our thematic, regional and evaluation centers as well as a partnership between our own experts and leading academic researchers. DevLab@Penn (formerly of Duke University) is supporting all aspects of our learning agenda. Specifically, the agenda includes 12 strategic questions that we believe are critical to international peacebuilding today and that were formulated in consultation with experts within and beyond USIP:

Evidence Review Papers


Coming Soon

Security Sector Governance and Reform

Are reform programs that are focused on greater transparency, accountability and inclusivity of security-sector institutions effective?

Preventing Violent Extremism

Can promoting community resilience alleviate violent extremism?

Conflict Analysis

What constitutes effective use of evidence to inform project design in peacebuilding?

Negotiation

What are the necessary viability factors for parties to a peace negotiation?

Mediation

How can trust-building and relationship-building initiatives foster conflict management and conflict resolution, and enhance the sustainability of agreements and processes to address violent conflict?

Systems Thinking

Can systems science make practical contributions that help peacebuilding practitioners and decision makers address violent conflict more effectively?

Dialogue

What form of unofficial dialogue might be useful under various circumstances and with what participants?

Youth, Peace and Security

What systemic and structural barriers prevent youth from participating meaningfully in peacebuilding?

Reconciliation

Can reconciliation contribute to durable peace during and after violent conflict?

In the coming months, USIP will be issuing comprehensive evidence-review papers in each of these areas on this page. We hope that the papers will contribute to vigorous discussion and to the advancement of evidence-based policy and programs across the international peacebuilding community.