With little more than a month left before a new transitional government is set to assume power in South Sudan, efforts to keep the latest peace agreement on track are becoming more urgent, even as most key pre-transition deadlines have been missed and the political will of the belligerents remains in doubt. Given these circumstances, efforts to support the current process remain vitally necessary and thorough planning for the worst-case scenarios is also desperately needed in case South Sudan’s fragile peace collapses.
Throughout the eight-year-long conflict in Syria, the movement of people and goods—including vital foodstuffs, medicines, equipment, and fuel—has often been severely restricted by periods of prolonged fighting. Yet in many areas, local arrangements, historical circumstances, and key actors have facilitated trade and movement across the lines of conflict. This report examines four cross-line areas in Syria and draws lessons for how these local dynamics might affect the resolution of the larger conflict and these communities in the long term.
The crisis in Venezuela and increasing tensions between the Colombian government and the Maduro regime threaten the security of the region and the implementation of Colombia’s 2016 FARC peace accord. USIP’s Steve Hege discusses recent obstacles to implementation of that accord and how the U.S. can support a democratic transition in Venezuela.
A new, congressionally mandated study on Syria policy urges the United States to maintain a military presence and sanctions pressure against the Assad regime, and to help build alternative governance in areas beyond the regime’s rule. The bipartisan Syria Study Group, appointed by Congress, stresses that ISIS in Syria remains a potent threat to the region and to U.S. national security. The Syria Study Group discussed its report at USIP, which at Congress’ direction facilitated the group’s work.
News headlines in recent months report attacks on places of worship in lands as disparate as Northern Ireland, Syria and Ethiopia. Governments and civil society organizations have expressed rising concern over violence and government restrictions against religion—a concern that was visible in July when nearly 1,000 people gathered at a State Department conference to advance religious freedom. At that conference, some discussions offered a useful idea: that activists and governments might better protect religious freedom by borrowing tactics from specialists in conflict resolution.
Many times over the past century, Afghan political elites have utilized a loya jirga, or grand national assembly, when they have needed to demonstrate national consensus. Based on traditional village jirgas convened to resolve local disputes, loya jirgas have been used to debate and ratify constitutions, endorse the country's position and alliances in times of war, and discuss how and when to engage the Taliban in peace talks. In light of the growing political uncertainty in Afghanistan, this report examines the strengths and weaknesses of the loya jirga as an institution for resolving national crises.
China today is seeking to erode U.S. power and influence globally through economic, military, technological and political influence strategies, U.S. Senator Mark Warner said. The United States should respond not by reverting to a simplistic “new Cold War” frame, but by bolstering security at home and working with allies and partners abroad to reinforce the existing international order and make America more competitive.
The relationship between corruption and violent conflict is complex and significant. Corruption affects access to basic services, contributes to resource scarcity, and fuels organized crime. It was included on a European Commission checklist for the root causes of conflict, and it was cited as a potential driver of extremism in the 2019 report of the Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States. Focusing on several social movements in Kenya, this report reviews the efforts of collective civic action to combat corruption and advance transparency, accountability, and good governance.
Last week, Tunisians voted for “a wholesale dismissal of everyone who’s governed before” in the first round of presidential elections, said USIP’s Leo Siebert. And with parliamentary and runoff elections upcoming, a string of free and fair elections could help Tunisia “prove to the world, and be a model to its neighbors, that democracy is possible.”
The halt in the U.S.-Taliban dialogue, plus Afghanistan’s September election, has forced a hiatus in formal peace efforts in the Afghan war—and that creates an opening to strengthen them. A year of preliminary talks has not yet laid a solid foundation for the broad political settlement that can end the bloodshed. While talks so far have mainly excluded Afghan women, youth and civil society, the sudden pause in formal peacemaking offers a chance to forge a more inclusive, and thus reliable, process. Even better, a little-noted encounter in Qatar between women and Taliban leaders signals that a broader process is doable.