USIP trained hundreds of African peacekeepers in seven nations this year in how to negotiate and mediate the peace.

USIP is playing a vital and growing role in Africa by teaching peacekeepers negotiation and mediation skills they will use across the continent. Trainers from the Institute completed 17 training workshops in 2011 as part of the State Department's African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, or ACOTA. African peacekeepers' mission is to prevent the outbreak or spillover of violent conflict. But often these military officers do not receive training in how to deal with conflict at places like checkpoints and roadblocks. USIP's portion of the ACOTA training is distinct from the overall training which is typically more military-oriented.

"As peacekeepers, their mission is to use force as a last resort, but they don't get training on other methods of non-armed reactions," says Nina Sughrue, a senior program officer at USIP's Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding. "We provide the conflict analysis piece, the negotiation, and how to deal with conflict in a non-violent way – how to mitigate it."

USIP helps provide African peacekeepers with practical tools for negotiation and other skills to deal with possible conflicts that begin at a low-level but can easily escalate into widespread violence. They also provide an in-depth review of the peacekeeper's responsibilities for the protection of civilians, now one of their most important missions. This is a vital part of the overall ACOTA training, a seven-week program the State Department has offered since at least the 1990s. The number of USIP's training sessions continue to increase over the years, from 17 iterations in 2011, 13 in 2010 and seven in 2009.   

USIP's contribution is a three- to five-day training workshop that focuses on negotiation and mediation skills. A typical training scenario might draw from the kind of real-world situation peacekeepers would encounter: peacekeepers manning a checkpoint as a hostile rebel group approaches wanting to pass. Students learn the ropes of how to defuse that potentially tense situation by learning how to seek out and recognize the rebel group's leader and learning how to communicate with him using effective negotiation and mediation skills used, essentially, on the fly. Ultimately the training helps give African military officers the tools they need to successfully handle a broad range of problems they can expect to face in peacekeeping, says USIP's Theodore Feifer, dean of students at the Academy who conducted four programs in Rwanda last year.

"USIP provides an important addition to the military skills that are the focus of the ACOTA program given that peacekeepers are supposed to seek to resolve conflicts first through non-military means, negotiation and mediation," Feifer says.

Furthermore, such training also produces new trainers who can in turn teach new students in conflict management.

ACOTA training is, as USIP's Mike Lekson, director of gaming at the Academy, says, a real "peace multiplier."

Explore Further

Related Publications

To Stabilize Iraq After ISIS, Help Iraqis Reconcile

To Stabilize Iraq After ISIS, Help Iraqis Reconcile

Sunday, February 11, 2018

By: USIP Staff; Nancy Lindborg; Sarhang Hamasaeed

An international conference opens in Kuwait Monday to plan ways to rebuild Iraq and secure it against renewed extremist violence following the three-year war against ISIS. A USIP team just spent nine days in Iraq for talks with government and civil society leaders, part of the Institute’s years-long effort to help the country stabilize. The Kuwait conference will gather government, business and civil society leaders to consider a reconstruction that Iraq has said could cost $100 billion. USIP’s president, Nancy Lindborg, and Middle East program director, Sarhang Hamasaeed, say any realistic rebuilding plan must focus also on the divisions and grievances in Iraq that led to ISIS’ violence and that still exist.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Violent Extremism

As Vice President Pence Visits the Middle East, Hopes for Diplomacy Languish

As Vice President Pence Visits the Middle East, Hopes for Diplomacy Languish

Friday, January 19, 2018

By: Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen

Vice President Mike Pence heads to Egypt, Jordan and Israel with little diplomatic quiet, and even less hope, on the Israeli-Palestinian front. President Abbas has declared the Oslo peace process dead, and the U.S. mediating role over, President Trump has broken with international consensus on Jerusalem, and pointedly not endorsed a two-state solution since coming to office, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has now hedged on his commitment to the end goal of a Palestinian state.

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

A Diplomatic Window Opens, Briefly, on the Korean Peninsula

A Diplomatic Window Opens, Briefly, on the Korean Peninsula

Thursday, January 18, 2018

By: Frank Aum

Last week’s “sports diplomacy” between South and North Korean negotiators—the first direct dialogue in more than two years—was a good first step in reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea’s participation in next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, along with news that the joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises will be delayed until late April, has produced a rare window of opportunity for diplomatic progress.

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

View All Publications