Empowering Pakistan’s Civil Society to Counter Global Violent Extremism

This U.S.-Islamic World Forum paper discusses the role of Pakistani civil society organizations (CSOs) in countering violent extremism (CVE). CSOs have taken the lead in CVE as a result of the government of Pakistan’s inability to do so. Despite the development of innovative, grassroots peacebuilding initiatives to counter violent extremism, CSOs’ social, financial, and political challenges preclude them from creating a nationwide movement. This report discusses these challenges, and offers suggestions on what can be done by the United States and the international community to combat them. Recommendations for developing national and provincial strategies to empower civil society’s CVE efforts are also made. Read full paper.

Promoting democracy by supporting grassroots movements

Looking for peace? Strong economies? Healthy and well-educated populations? Democratic governance will get you some. And one of the most effective ways to achieve democratic governance is through non-violent movements. While Rambo-esque, gun-toting, dictator-toppling militias capture headlines, grassroots activists who agitate for change are the true — albeit unsung — heroes. Research shows that democratic regimes that experienced non-violent resistance during the transition phase survive substantially longer than regimes without this characteristic. So why aren’t we supporting civil society actors who promote democratic, accountable governance? Maria Stephan and Erin Mazursky argue that considering the current climate where regimes are pushing back against activists,  the U.S. Government, its democratic allies, and non-governmental partners need to update how they support activists. They also explain how. Read full article.

Strengthening community resilience against violent extremism, women in South Asia

When you think about counterterrorism, the first thing that comes to mind are activities that are reactive and involve law enforcement and military responses. These are the measures that grab headlines despite the fact that they only address a small part of the terrorism picture. This report by the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation (CGCC) draws attention to the importance of counterterrorism efforts that are preventive and proactive, i.e., those  that address conditions, grievances, and ideologies. And who is doing most of this important, yet under appreciated, work? No surprise, it’s civil society actors, particularly women. Learn more about the development-security divide, women as perpetrators and supporters of terrorism as well as being in the front lines of countering terrorism,  and assorted methods of community engagement aimed at preventing violent extremism. While the report focuses on counterterrorism efforts in South Asia, the take aways are relevant in any other place where violent extremism  has reared its ugly head. Read full report.

The pluralism revolution in Syria

Until I read this article, I had never even heard of Rojave. Or any rumblings about an enclave of communities in Syria — yes, that Syria, the one in flames —  that is democratically governed and walks the talk when it comes to feminism, ecology, and social justice. Syrian Kurds and their allies living in this liberated area have established a whole new way of governing that is especially remarkable for revolutionizing traditional gender relations. As we know, when wars die down and areas are liberated, often one of the first things that men call for is put ting women back in their cages, uh, homes. Not in Rojave. Not by a long shot. This is what the fruits of the Arab Spring should have looked like. Read more.

Civil society open letter to the UN re women, peace and security

Read the open letter drafted by the civil society working group to UN members writ large. Bottom line up front: WPS needs to be taken seriously and things need to be fixed. It’s been 15 years fer cryin’ out loud!  The working group’s recommendations include: redoubling efforts to promote women’s participation, reviewing national and regional implementation efforts, providing sustained funding for the WPS agenda, focusing on implementing the prevention pillar rather than the practice to date of focusing primarily on conflict resolution and post-conflict rebuilding, ensuring accountability for atrocities and human rights violations, and leading by example to support a strong UN structure to deliver on WPS. I particularly support the final recommendation. When will the UN be part of the solution rather than part of the problem?  Read full letter.

Civil Society Peacebuilding in the Central African Republic

Civil society plays an important role in all countries, but in areas experiencing conflict and weak governance, this role is magnified.  This is no less true in the Central African Republic (CAR) where the political situation is fragile and the country is currently governed by the National Transitional Council (CNT).  Civil society organizations began to emerge in 1960 when the country became independent. Working on a variety of social issues like women’s rights, family issues and religion, the foci of these organizations changed as the country began to experience crises, coups, and conflict. in 1990 The unrest called for civil society groups to address human rights violations, poverty and unemployment since these became the most pressing problems. Communities look to these organisations to help deliver material progress and social justice.

In addition to serving people’s needs, CAR civil society also plays a key role in connecting the government to the people. Specifically, it is currently at the forefront of preparations for the “Bangui Forum”, collecting the views of the entire population to contribute to the development of a national reconciliation process. The aim is to involve everyone in rebuilding peace and preparing for this year’s election. Learn more about the  important peace building work of civil society in CAR.

Morocco’s Dilemma: Rights and Reform or Closure and Conservatism?

ICAN Peacework has produced yet another excellent report as part of its “What the Women Say” initiative. Morocco continues to evolve politically and socially in a region filled with challenges. The country’s conservatives and progressives are present and vocal. The rise of social conservatism threatens past gains in the area of equal rights and could limit reforms necessary to seriously address gender based violence and other pressing social issues.  This report provides a succinct history of Morocco’s social and rights gains as well as a substantive discussion of the politics surrounding these issues today. Recommendations to ensure that these gains remain in place and that more progress is made underscore the need for civil society actors like women’s rights groups and youth democracy activiststo to work together strategically. Read full report. 

A National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security for Afghanistan

Civil society leader, Mahbouba Seraj, has managed to garner the public support necessary for Afghanistan to draft a National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security.  Considering the significant resistance emanating from traditional leaders who, by and large, do not believe that women should be included in peace building efforts or the security sector, this is no small feat. Learn how Seraj and other civili society activists worked with religious leaders, tweaked language, and addressed communities’ concerns to change minds and what the NAP means for the country.

South Sudan civil society calls for release of AU’s report on human rights abuses

The African Union (AU) established a commission of inquiry in March 2014 to investigate human rights violations that occurred during South Sudan’s civil war that erupted in December 2013. Although the report was completed and supposed to be briefed last week, its release has been deferred because of fears that it will disrupt the current peace negotiations. This sort of skewed logic could end up sowing seeds of future violence. Just as serious crimes against both Nuer and Dinka communities during Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war were never addressed and, in turn, created conditions for the latest conflict, there are worries that the AU’s failure to release this current report will result in the same consequence.  Read full article.

Two teenage civil society activists in Libya killed

In post-Qaddafi Libya leaders of the Islamist militias that have been wreaking havoc across the country have unleashed an army of loyal, unemployed, and mostly uneducated followers to carry out a campaign of intimidation. They are threatening, kidnapping, and targeting the relatives of politicians and civil society activists. “Militia leaders are now using an army of young people who will carry out their orders without any questions,” said prominent activist Ahmed Ghedan, who had to flee Libya to Tunisia after he spoke out against the militias. Militia members murdered two teenage civil society activists, Sami al-Kawafi and Tawfik Bensaud (17 and 18 years old respectively), considered giants in Libya’s nascent civil society, in September 2014.  Read full article.