Unrealized Ideal: 40 Years After a Seminal Declaration on Religious Freedom

Anniversaries serve as natural inflection points, opportunities for introspection, to take stock and to consider where to go next. November 25 marked the 40th anniversary of the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Despite its unwieldy name, the aim was simple: to promote freedom of religion or belief and condemn discrimination based on faith. The 1981 Declaration was a culmination of almost four decades of U.N. efforts to develop international legal protections for freedom of belief to defend minorities from persecution. Forty years later, however, almost two-thirds of humanity live in countries with restrict..

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Many Venezuelans Choose a Flawed Election Over No Election

Venezuelans elected governors, mayors and local officials November 21 in a vote condemned by many as stacked hopelessly against the opposition or simply fraudulent. An increased turnout over elections last year appears to reflect many Venezuelans’ growing belief that they have gained little with voting boycotts. They believe participation in even a flawed election advances the concept of “re-institutionalization,” which aims to progressively reform the machinery of democracy after years in which it has been undermined by the ruling party. Advocates of this strategy say that restoring democracy must be a long game of incremental advances.

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Advancing Global Peace and Security through Religious Engagement: Lessons to Improve U.S. Policy

Since 2001, when the Bush administration created a unit within the White House to work on faith-based initiatives, Democratic and Republican administrations alike have sought to engage religious actors worldwide in support of their diplomatic, development, and defense initiatives. This report, based on the authors’ decades of experience working within and outside government, offers specific suggestions for steps the U.S. government can take to clarify the nature of its religious engagement mission and to better coordinate that mission in relation to its other peacebuilding and national security priorities.

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Aiding Afghan Local Governance: What Went Wrong?

After 20 years of an ambitious, costly international state-building effort, the government of Afghanistan collapsed in the summer of 2021 in a matter of weeks. The Afghan security forces’ remarkably rapid defeat earned significant attention, but the Taliban victory over the internationally backed Afghan republic stemmed equally from deep-seated political and governance factors. Across all the facets of the Western state-building endeavor in Afghanistan, there is now an enormous need to assess how the international project fell so far short of its aims.

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Glasgow’s Summit Will Spur Change—on Climate and in Conflicts

When the 26th Conference of Parties of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change closed over the weekend in Glasgow, delegates and observers left with both disappointment that so little had happened and relief that so much had. As the world now weighs the results of the Glasgow climate summit, the global peacebuilding community should do the same. We should analyze where the summit might alter risks of violent conflict and opportunities for the community—including peacebuilding organizations, local civil society groups and policymakers—to respond.

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Neither Summit, nor Sidebar: Assessing the Biden-Xi ‘Virtual Meeting’

To address growing tensions between the United States and China, particularly over Taiwan, President Joe Biden and General Secretary Xi Jinping met virtually on Monday night (Tuesday morning in Beijing) for a three-hour discussion that covered a wide array of contentious issues. Both sides downplayed expectations for the session beforehand and have been relatively subdued albeit somewhat positive in their respective post-meeting statements and spins. Less formal than a summit and more structured than a sidebar, what if anything did the extended virtual top-level bilateral discussion achieve?

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It’s Time to End ‘Business as Usual’ With Nigeria

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit this week to Nigeria is timely, for Africa’s demographic giant is shuddering with its most dangerous instability in 50 years: insurgencies, uncontrolled criminality and constrictions of freedom of expression. Nigeria is failing to fulfill basic tasks of a nation-state, and its partners need to halt “business as usual” to open an honest dialogue about the current failings. For the United States, this means dropping some old practices in the way America engages Nigerians. U.S. engagements must center more on Nigeria’s citizenry, notably the 70 percent who are younger than 35, and with Nigeria’s 36 disparate states.

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Key to Afghan Relief Efforts: Financial Engineering for Private Sector, Economy

The U.S. government needs to urgently prioritize saving Afghan lives, meeting basic human needs and stemming the free-fall of the Afghan economy. The unprecedented evacuation of some 100,000 people from Kabul airport in August demonstrated what clear objectives and a whole-hearted, government-wide focus can accomplish under the worst of conditions. While that scale of mobilization is not required now, a similar unity of effort and focus, this time on financial engineering, will be needed to deliver aid to the Afghan people and limit further economic damage in coming months.

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¿Es irreversible el descenso de Nicaragua a una dictadura?

Después de reclamar una victoria decisiva en las elecciones del 7 de noviembre, Daniel Ortega, quien ha estado en el cargo desde 2007, ahora podría liderar Nicaragua hasta 2027, convirtiéndolo en el gobernante con más tiempo en el poder en toda América Latina. El gobierno sandinista aseguró su victoria reprimiendo cualquier disidencia y arrestando a decenas de opositores al régimen. Para Estados Unidos, contrarrestar la corrupción y la represión en Centroamérica es un desafío no solo en estados hostiles como Nicaragua, sino también entre antiguos aliados como El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras.

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Is Nicaragua’s Descent into Dictatorship Irreversible?

After claiming a decisive win in the November 7 elections, Daniel Ortega — who has been in office since 2007 — could now lead Nicaragua until 2027, making him Latin America’s longest serving ruler. The Sandinista government ensured its victory by shutting down dissent and arresting dozens of regime opponents. For the United States, countering corruption and repression in Central America is a challenge not only in unfriendly states like Nicaragua but also among erstwhile allies like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

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Tegan Blaine on the COP26 Summit

As the climate summit wraps up, USIP’s Tegan Blaine says the focus on net-zero commitments overshadowed immediate concerns such as addressing climate-driven migration: “We needed to commit to these things 10 years ago, 20 years ago … and we didn’t. So now the time is quite short.”

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Winter is coming in Afghanistan. Are the Taliban ready?

Nearly three months after the Taliban’s rapid takeover, Afghanistan is descending toward one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises with an economy in freefall. As the harsh winter season looms, aid agencies have warned that over half the country’s population — a staggering 22.8 million people — will face acute food insecurity, including 3.2 million children under five. Now in power, the Taliban’s failure to deliver basic services is exacerbating this dire humanitarian situation. But immediate relief is a distant prospect as the Taliban deliberate on how to govern the country and the international community mulls over how to engage and pressure the fledgling government.

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Despite Moscow’s Brinkmanship, U.S. and Russia Explore Deeper Relations

Although at odds on a host of key geostrategic issues, Washington and Moscow have this year quietly sought to stabilize the tension-laden bilateral relationship. A June summit between Presidents Biden and Putin in Geneva has been followed by several high-level engagements in recent months between...

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Susan Stigant on the Deepening Conflict in Ethiopia

As rebel forces march toward Ethiopia’s capital in a bid to end the government blockade of the Tigray region, USIP’s Susan Stigant says there is a “risk that this logic of violence could tilt into a much deeper civil war.” In the meantime, Washington should keep trying to “get people to a table and agree to a pause.”

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Motives, Benefits, and Sacred Values: Examining the Psychology of Nonviolent Action and Violent Extremism

What motivates one person to engage in acts of violent extremism, while others choose to pursue change through nonviolent action? This report is based on pilot research into the psychological and social dynamics of a nonviolent resistance group—Algeria’s Hirak movement—that employs some of the same measures used to study participation in violent extremist organizations. A deeper understanding of these dynamics, it is hoped, will help practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to identify and support paths away from violent extremism and to strengthen and sustain engagement in nonviolent action.

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What’s Behind the Lebanon-Gulf Diplomatic Row?

Already in the throes of existential political and economic crises, Lebanon is now facing a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia and several of its allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Following critical comments made by Lebanese Minister of Information George Kordahi about the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, Riyadh expelled Lebanon’s ambassador, banned all Lebanese imports, and recalled its ambassador to Lebanon. In solidarity, the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait summoned their ambassadors in Lebanon. This current crisis reflects the Gulf’s broader concerns over Iran’s influence in the region and the powerful role of its ally Hezbollah in Lebanon.

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A New Myanmar Forum Aims to Unite Democratic Forces

Since the Myanmar military overthrew the country’s elected government early this year, the forces of resistance have set two immediate objectives: Prevent the generals from gaining military and administrative control of the country, and unify their own diverse and fractious democracy movement. The movement has made progress toward the first goal. On the second, a shared vision of the future is yet to emerge, as divergent stakeholders struggle to overcome historical grievances.

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U.S. Urges Ethiopia to ‘Give Peace a Chance’

The United States’ top priority is the “unity and integrity of the Ethiopian state” and its “commitment to the Ethiopian people,” U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington on November 2. Noting that the average civil war lasts 20 years, Feltman said a war that long would be disastrous for Ethiopia and urged all parties to the conflict to “give peace a chance.”

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Keith Mines on Secretary Blinken’s Trip to Colombia

As Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Colombia, USIP’s Keith Mines notes there is still work to be done in implementing and expanding the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC insurgency, saying that “consolidating the peace in a place like Colombia was almost as hard as fighting the war itself.”

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Iraq’s Election Raises More Questions Than Answers

Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric whose Mahdi Army followers battled U.S. forces during the years of the occupation, made big gains in Iraq’s parliamentary election on October 10. His victory could pose problems for the United States and Iran. But despite the Sadrist List’s electoral success, it is not a given that al-Sadr will be the next man to lead Iraq, or even be the only kingmaker. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun examines the outcome of the election, the electoral process and the implications for Iraq’s future.

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Une ville du Sahel conçoit un moyen d'améliorer les réformes – et l'aide internationale

La recrudescence cette année des troubles violents dans le Sahel en Afrique – des attaques djihadistes élargies, des coups d'État ou des tentatives militaires dans quatre pays, ainsi que le nombre constamment élevé de victimes civiles – souligne que des années de travail pour renforcer les forces militaires et policières n'ont pas réussi à réduire l'instabilité. Pour réduire l'extrémisme et la violence, les pays doivent améliorer la gouvernance, et des analyses récentes soulignent le besoin particulier de renforcer le sentiment des gens que leurs gouvernements peuvent assurer la justice et trouver des résolutions équitables aux griefs populaires. Un t..

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A Sahel Town Builds a Way to Improve Reforms—and Foreign Aid (French)

La recrudescence cette année des troubles violents dans le Sahel en Afrique – des attaques djihadistes élargies, des coups d'État ou des tentatives militaires dans quatre pays, ainsi que le nombre constamment élevé de victimes civiles – souligne que des années de travail pour renforcer les forces militaires et policières n'ont pas réussi à réduire l'instabilité. Pour réduire l'extrémisme et la violence, les pays doivent améliorer la gouvernance, et des analyses récentes soulignent le besoin particulier de renforcer le sentiment des gens que leurs gouvernements peuvent assurer la justice et trouver des résolutions équitables aux griefs populaires. Un t..

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A Sahel Town Builds a Way to Improve Reforms—and Foreign Aid

This year’s escalation of violent turmoil in Africa’s Sahel—widened jihadist attacks, military coups or attempts in four nations, and continued high civilian casualties—underscores that years of work to reinforce military and police forces have failed to reduce instability. To undercut extremism and violence, countries must improve governance, and recent analyses underscore the particular need to build people’s confidence that their governments can provide justice and fair resolutions of popular grievances. Such change is an immensely complex task—and one town in Burkina Faso has shaped a plan for local reforms with a process to manage that complexity.

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In Africa, U.S. Should Focus More on Democracy, Less on China

Even as the United States draws lessons from its unsuccessful, 20-year effort to build a sustainable peace in Afghanistan, it is shaping policies to engage the political and economic rise of Africa. Both the shortcomings in Afghanistan and the opportunities of Africa underscore the imperative of building policy on a full appreciation of local conditions. Yet on Africa, China’s growing presence has seized Americans’ political attention, and scholars of African politics say this risks distracting near-term U.S. policymaking. A requisite for U.S. success in Africa will be to focus on Africans’ desires—which include an ambition to build their futures by democratic means.

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