Myanmar has collapsed into horrific violence since the military sought to retake full control of the country on February 1. Western governments have watched in distress as soldiers rounded up civilian leaders including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, restricted internet access, rolled back individual freedoms and ultimately employed violence against the people. These domestic effects of the coup have been widely noted. USIP’s Jason Tower examines here the less discussed international security repercussions, the response of regional actors and options for preventing mass atrocities in the coming weeks.
Over the last year Iraq’s economy has been in free fall, leading to a recent decision to devalue its currency, the dinar, by 23 percent. As the country deals with intersecting economic, political and security challenges, a growing chorus is calling for greater control over decision-making at the local level. A critical step in that effort is to ensure that Iraq’s budget is responsive to the needs and priorities of local communities. Absent comprehensive reforms, decentralization efforts on the budget or in other sectors will not address Iraq’s manifold governance woes, but it could be a step in the right direction.
Thousands of women rallied across Pakistan on International Women’s Day this year and demanded an end to violence against women and gender minorities. In the days since, Pakistan’s Taliban movement has escalated the threats facing the women who marched. Opponents of women’s rights doctored a video of the rally to suggest that the women had committed blasphemy—an accusation that has been frequently weaponized against minorities in Pakistan and has resulted in vigilantes killing those who are targeted.
As the Syrian conflict marks its 10th anniversary, the protest movement from which it emerged stands as perhaps the most consequential of the Arab uprisings. The March 2011 peaceful protests that erupted across Syria have since evolved into the world’s most complex conflict. Equally significant, the conflict’s trajectory provides important insights into the complexity of the challenges that lie ahead in Syria, with significant ramifications for the region and the broader international community.
Niger’s presidential election has ushered in the West African nation’s first-ever democratic transition of power. As some international observers have heralded the success of these elections, accusations of irregularities have led to massive protests and government repression, including a 10-day internet shutdown. Hundreds of people have been arrested in the capital, Niamey, while police have clashed with protesters in several other cities. USIP’s Nourdine Harouna Abdou explains what happened in the first- and second-round votes and what the elections mean for peace and security in Niger.
In the 20 years since governments declared it imperative to include women’s groups and their demands in peace processes, experience and research continue to show that this principle strengthens peace agreements and helps prevent wars from re-igniting. Yet our inclusion of women has been incomplete and, in some ways, poorly informed. Now a study of recent peace processes in Colombia, Mali, Afghanistan and Myanmar offers new guidance on how to shape women’s roles. A critical lesson is that we must ensure this inclusion from the start.
With intra-Afghan talks gridlocked and the U.S. troop withdrawal deadline looming, Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed new plans to advance the peace process in a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The letter recommends several efforts to “move matters more fundamentally and quickly” toward peace, including a U.N.-convened conference of key regional actors, a senior-level meeting between the Afghan government and the Taliban hosted by Turkey and a 90-day reduction in violence to head off the Taliban’s annual spring offensive. Blinken also recommended an interim power-sharing government composed of Taliban and other Afghan leaders.
Pakistan held indirect elections on March 3 for the Senate, its upper house of Parliament, which is elected by sitting legislators in the National Assembly (the lower house of Parliament) and each of the provincial assemblies. Given the typically party-line vote, Pakistani Senate elections tend to be mundane affairs, with the results often preordained. However, in last week’s elections the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, despite having a numerical majority in the national and provincial assemblies, failed to forestall defections among some lawmakers and in doing so failed to take control of the Senate from the opposition.
With the Biden-Harris administration halfway through its pivotal first 100 days, America’s foreign policy is under review. A key consideration should be the role of gender, as the United States is uniquely placed to become a global “gender superpower” by employing a feminist foreign policy. But what does that mean practically? And how can the government address challenges like Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, the Afghan peace process, or broader national security goals by taking into account the perspectives of women and gender minorities? Can the United States use its progress in areas such as the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Agenda to emerge as a gender superpower?
Three Afghan women journalists and a medical doctor in the eastern city of Jalalabad were shot dead last week, part of a wave of killings—perpetrated by both ISIS and the Taliban—targeting rights activists, judges and journalists. The soaring violence in Afghanistan illustrates the stakes for Afghan women and civil society as the Afghan government and Taliban negotiate in Doha and the Biden administration considers its Afghanistan policy.