Each year, the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA) engages more than 4,000 high school students across the U.S. in its signature quiz contest that tests their knowledge of global issues and foreign policy in 10 categories. Since 2016, USIP has been a co-sponsor of this national contest, ensuring the inclusion of a peace and conflict category in Academic WorldQuest each year.

For the 2023 competition, USIP’s category is “Atrocity Prevention and Accountability,” with featured resources that blend research, data and real-life examples of this category in action.

2018 Academic WorldQuest Reception at USIP

To learn about the other categories and a local competition near you, visit the WACA’s contest pages.

2023 Academic WorldQuest: Atrocity Prevention and Accountability

Atrocity crimes — war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression — threaten U.S. and global security. Current events in Ukraine, Myanmar, Afghanistan and other countries underscore the continuing need for the United States to play a leading role in preventing atrocities and holding perpetrators accountable. This category will explore developments in U.S. and global policy around atrocities and incorporate current and historical case examples.

This category is sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace, a national, nonpartisan, public institution created by Congress and dedicated to helping prevent, mitigate and resolve violent conflict abroad.

USIP Resources

Country Examples

2022 Academic WorldQuest: Working for Peace Through Legacies of War: The Case of Vietnam

It took two decades for the United States and Vietnam to normalize their relationship following the end of the Vietnam War in the 1970s. Through years of work to rebuild trust and foster dialogue, the two countries are now close partners. But building peace is a continuous process. This category will explore historical and current efforts to overcome the legacies of war and promote reconciliation, using Vietnam as a case study to explore broader themes.

This category is sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace, a national, nonpartisan, independent institute founded by Congress and dedicated to the proposition that a world without violent conflict is possible, practical and essential for U.S. and global security. In 2021, USIP launched the Vietnam War Legacies and Reconciliation Initiative.

USIP Resources:

2021 Academic WorldQuest: Exploring Peace in a World of Conflict

It can sometimes seem like violent, or negative, conflict is all around us. It is often what is featured in the news and focused on in history class. USIP, who was a sponsor of this category and host of the 2021 Academic WorldQuest National Competition event, focused on two key points in its work around the world: (1) conflict can be managed without violence, and can even be a force for positive transformation; and (2) even when negative conflict is happening, there are almost always examples of people and organizations doing important work to build peace. This category explored what peace means in practical terms, and how peacebuilding can still happen in a world full of challenges and conflict.

USIP is a national, nonpartisan, independent institute, founded by Congress in 1984, and dedicated to the proposition that a world without violent conflict is possible, practical, and essential for U.S. and global security. Learn more at www.usip.org. 

USIP Resources

Other Resources

  • Global Peace Index 2020 (PDF), Institute for Economics & Peace
    • Executive Summary and Key Findings, document pages 2-4
    • Section 1 : The Results, document pages 5-23
    • Section 4: Positive Peace, document pages 53-56, 67-69
  • Global Peace Index 2020 Briefing (PDF), Institute for Economics & Peace
  • Implementing the Global Fragility Act, Mercy Corps, April 2020
  • 2020 Fragile States Index, The Fund for Peace pages 33-38
    • Selection includes the following case studies: “Women of Sudan: Bring a Glimmer of Hope,” Fifteen Years On, Cote D’Ivoire Comes Back from the Brink,” and “Iraq’s Improving Trajectory.”

2020 Academic WorldQuest: Preventing Extremism in Fragile States

For the 2020 competition, USIP’s category focused on preventing extremism in fragile states. A curated list of resources from which the questions were pulled provided a snapshot of the latest approaches to addressing the threat of extremism in fragile states; introduced some tools used to bridge divides and prevent violence in conflict zones; and highlighted examples of people, organizations, and communities that are making peace possible. 

While the national competition event in April 2020 had to be cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, students in communities across the country still took part in local competitions and otherwise explored these themes and resources from USIP. To recognize the students’ work, USIP and WACA partnered on a virtual keynote event featuring USIP’s President & CEO Nancy Lindborg in May 2020. This presentation to Academic WorldQuest students and WACA members and a broader public audience on “COVID and Conflict, Pandemics and Peace” is still available online.

Extremism is something that appears in the news more and more these days. Around the world,
extremist movements—such as ISIS, Boko Haram, and al-Shabab—fuel, and often stem from, instability and violent conflict and present a complex challenge to communities and countries, and to U.S. national security.

Increasingly, efforts to address the underlying causes of violent extremism focus on ways to transform fragility into resilience – looking at how extremism can take root when the compact between society and the state has broken down, and at opportunities to empower fragile states to resist the threat of extremism. This strategy of prevention seeks to get ahead of future threats, break the cycle of crisis response, and help make peace possible even in the most difficult contexts.

The resources included here, curated by the category’s sponsor, the United States Institute of Peace, provide a snapshot of the current approaches to address the threat of extremism in fragile states; introduce some tools used to bridge divides and prevent violence in conflict zones; and highlight examples of people, organizations, and communities that are making peace possible. Learn more at www.usip.org.

Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States

USIP Resources

Other Resources 

2019 Academic WorldQuest

At the 2019 national competition, the USIP-sponsored category focused on bridging divides to build peace. USIP served as the host for the national competition. More than 250 students heard from USIP President Nancy Lindborg (insert information here). Students from Jasper High School in Texas took first place in the competition; duPont Manual High School in Kentucky and Mount Academy in New York took second and third place, respectively. 

Category Description 

A core element of peacebuilding focuses on bridging divides in communities and countries that are either at risk of violent conflict or that need knitting back together in the aftermath of such conflict. While the news often focuses on political, religious, ethnic or economic differences, violence can also be fueled by less-obvious divides such as urban/rural, generational, technological, and other cultural/social factors. To find solutions across these divides, peacebuilders need to carefully analyze the causes of conflict, and find some common space to establish a foundation on which all parties can begin to build a shared understanding and find a way forward. The resources included here, curated by the topic’s sponsor, the United States Institute of Peace, provide a snapshot of the current concepts in peacebuilding; introduce some tools used to bridge divides in conflict zones; and highlight examples of people, organizations and communities that are making peace possible by bridging divides to prevent or resolve violent conflict. Learn more at www.usip.org

Explore USIP’s featured resources and the other 2019 Academic WorldQuest categories. 

2018 Academic WorldQuest: The Peacebuilding Toolkit Resource List 

Conflict is often viewed as something negative, associated with violence, war and destructive acts. However, conflict is a natural part of life, and it can be managed in ways that promote positive outcomes, even in the most difficult circumstances, if the right tools are put into practice. The Peacebuilding Toolkit covers core skills and concepts in the field of conflict resolution, as well as real-life stories of how individuals, communities and countries have used these skills to manage differences without violence and make peace possible.

USIP Resources

Other Resources

2017 Academic WorldQuest

USIP was pleased to sponsor a peace and conflict-themed category for Academic WorldQuest for the first time in 2017. The Institute had the honor of hosting the opening reception for the 2017 national competition on April 28 which brought 250 people from 30 states to our headquarters on the National Mall. The students had an opportunity to explore different elements of the Institute’s work—including work in key countries; the types of training the Global Campus offers; USIP’s relationship with Congress; and more.

Study Guide Materials

Peace and Conflict in Today’s World

Our perspective on the world is shaped by what media – and social media – cover. Oftentimes, the headlines are dominated by stories of war, refugees, and extremism. The reality in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Colombia is much more complicated. In conflict zones around the world, individuals, communities, and organizations are working to prove that peace is possible when they have the tools and knowledge to resolve disagreements without violence. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) works to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict around the world. USIP, created by Congress in 1984, does this by engaging directly in conflict zones and by providing analysis, education, and resources to those working for peace.

United States Institute of Peace

Please note: due to upcoming revisions to the website, some of the direct links to USIP resources might change over the course of the 2016-2017 school year. For that reason, the Institute has created one landing page for all Academic WorldQuest materials listed in the Study Guide. The landing page – http://www.usip.org/AcademicWorldQuest - will remain available and include live links to the following resources:

Institute for Economics and Peace

U.S. Department of State

United Nations

The World Bank

The Asia Foundation

National Constitution Center