With COVID-19 officially labelled a global pandemic, the focus for many countries has turned toward protecting their most vulnerable populations. But what about camps for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs)? Many camps lack the resources to maintain their already poor infrastructure, and the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak puts millions of displaced persons in a dangerous position. USIP’s Fouad Pervez looks at the unique risks that COVID-19 poses to refugees and IDPs, the impact an outbreak among these groups would have on the global pandemic, and what the international community can do to protect them.
In 2014, the world watched in disbelief, as global news networks covered the stream of gruesome and horrific beheading videos released by the so-called Islamic State. For the first time, by bringing the terror of the Islamic State directly to the devices in the palm of our hands, it felt personal and close by, rather than across the world in a mysterious land.
In March 2011, as the Arab world was roiled by demonstrations, protests broke out in Syria to demand political reform after four decades of Assad rule. Nine years later, the Assad regime is on the offensive against the last rebel stronghold of Idlib, with Russia, Turkey and Iran all heavily invested in the conflict. The humanitarian consequences for Syrians cannot be overstated and a political solution to conflict seems as distant as ever. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian discusses the dreadful toll on the Syrian population and what the battle for Idlib means for the trajectory of the conflict.
Idlib is the site of Syria’s largest displacement crisis since the conflict began nine years ago, with nearly one million displaced in the province. As the Assad regime continues to reclaim Idlib, USIP’s Mona Yacoubian looks at the future for Syria, saying “the fact of the matter is that Syrians are terrified to live under Assad’s rule.”
As the war in Syria enters its tenth year, the conflict’s disproportionate toll on children underscores the generational challenge that lies ahead. An enduring political solution to the conflict remains a distant prospect, but humanitarian interventions to assuage Syrian children’s suffering must be prioritized today. An end to the fighting would be the most impactful development, but in the interim, intensifying efforts to address trauma, diminish early marriage and child labor, and rejuvenate education can help relieve some of the pain and begin to rescue the generation that holds Syria’s future.
When Eritrea’s president last month hosted the leaders of Ethiopia and Somalia to discuss “regional cooperation,” that initiative drew few global headlines. Still, Eritrea’s move should be noted by policymakers and others working for stability in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea region. For years, President Isaias Afwerki’s disdain for multilateral forums such as the African Union, and his strained relations with many governments in the region, have contributed to caricatures of Eritrea as the “North Korea of Africa.” But his invitation for two neighbors to discuss a new regional bloc reflects an important factor in Eritrea’s foreign policy: its efforts to preserve its independence in a fast-evolving geopolitical environment.
Five years ago, as the newly appointed and first woman president of the United States Institute of Peace, I was celebrating International Women’s Day in Kabul with the wonderful Afghan women on our USIP country team. Having first visited Afghanistan in 1997, when the country was in the grip of the Taliban, it was a joyous opportunity to mark nearly two decades of progress with this group of professional women—lawyers, scholars, and program managers.
Since 2001, Afghan women have assumed larger roles in society—becoming teachers, doctors and government officials. With intra-Afghan talks expected to begin this month, USIP’s Belquis Ahmadi says it’s important the Taliban “accept the reality that today’s Afghanistan is very different from the country they ruled” when it comes to women’s rights.
After more than a year and a half of negotiations, the U.S. and Taliban struck a deal on Saturday that paves a way to end America’s longest war. The agreement was signed following a seven-day reduction of violence (RIV) period. While the RIV was largely upheld, the Taliban on Monday ordered its fighters to resume attacks against the Afghan army and police forces. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the insurgent group would not attack foreign forces, as stipulated in the U.S.-Taliban agreement. With the complicated intra-Afghan phase set to begin on March 10, the resumption of violence shows how fragile the peace process remains.
A critical ingredient for the current efforts to bring stability and peace in Afghanistan is the Afghan state’s ability to pay for more of its own operations. Despite optimistic new reports from the Afghan government, its actual revenues stagnated last year. With international donors still funding around half of Afghan government expenses, urgent improvements are needed in the way the government collects and measures its revenues. These changes are vital to persuade donors to sustain funding when their current assistance pledges expire in just 10 months—and to help strengthen the government in prospective negotiations with the Taliban.