Pope Francis’ recent sojourn in the Arabian Peninsula was a powerful symbolic advance for interfaith dialogue: the first visit by a Roman Catholic pontiff to the original homeland of the Islamic faith. Francis joined eminent Muslim, Jewish and other Christian clerics in an appeal for the communal coexistence so desperately needed by a world suffering violence and persecution across humanity’s religious divides. The visit’s moving imagery included Christians and Muslims together attending the first papal mass on the peninsula. Yet this powerful symbolism will have real impact only if it inspires us all to take concrete steps—notably by governments, educational institutions and faith-based organizations.
On Saturday, over 84 million eligible Nigerian voters are set to go to the polls to elect their next president and members of the National Assembly, with state-level elections to be held on March 2. Among the 73 presidential candidates, incumbent Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar are the top two contenders. As Africa’s most populous country with its biggest economy and democracy, Nigeria is a bellwether for the continent and these elections will be widely watched by the region and international community. USIP’s Oge Onubogu, Chris Kwaja and Aly Verjee look at why these elections matter, security challenges surrounding the polls, and how the U.S. can support Nigeria beyond the elections.
Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, roughly estimated at upwards of $1 trillion, is sometimes seen as the country’s potential savior—with prospects to generate large government revenues, exports, and some jobs. On the other hand, international and Afghan experience amply demonstrates the downside risks associated with mineral exploitation—macroeconomic and fiscal distortions; waste, corruption, and poor governance; environmental degradation; and the risk of financing or fomenting violent conflict, thereby undermining peacebuilding. The so-called “resource curse” is not destiny, however, and some countries have managed to avoid it, though Afghanistan faces much greater challenges than most when it comes to beneficially developing its mining sector.
The Palestinian movement split—politically, geographically, militarily and strategically—after the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections. Fatah, a secular movement, led the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Hamas, an Islamist movement, ruled in Gaza.
The North African country has struggled to remain unified since the uprising in 2011 and the end of Moammar Qaddafi’s four-decade long rule. During the subsequent chaos, armed groups proliferated, and Islamism emerged as a powerful new political force.
After Saddam Hussein’s ouster in 2003, Iraq’s new leaders struggled to chart a democratic course after decades of dictatorship. It suffered through a civil war, political turmoil, widespread economic corruption, sectarian tensions and an extremist insurgency, led by the Islamic State, that seized a third of the country.
Since 2011, Egypt has witnessed protests, political turnovers, sporadic violence, and waves of repression. This analysis spans key events: a new generation of activists energized long-stagnate politics and countrywide demonstrations; political rivalries pitted secularists against Islamists; and internal turmoil led to the election of a former field marshal.
Protests during the 2011 Arab uprisings triggered one of the deadliest wars of the early 21st century. It produced one of the gravest humanitarian crises, as hundreds of thousands were killed, millions fled their homes, and more than half the population relied on aid for daily sustenance.
Protests in Tunisia ignited the Arab Spring in late 2010. The transition has witnessed the evolution of the most hopeful young democracy in the Middle East. But it is still fraught with economic, political and security challenges.
Amid a series of positive developments in the Afghan peace process over the last year, a framework for negotiations reached between the U.S. and Taliban has renewed hope that the 17 year-old Afghan conflict could come to a close. Led by Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. has agreed in principle to a conditional withdraw of U.S. and allied troops in exchange for the Taliban pledging to not allow Afghanistan to be a safe haven for transnational terrorists, like al-Qaida, as well as agreeing to talks that include the Afghan government and a cease-fire. Despite this progress, “We are in the early stages of a protracted process,” Ambassador Khalilzad said at the U.S. Institute of Peace on February 8. “We have a long way to go.”