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  • Author: Erica Gaston
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: On January 25, Yemen's National Dialogue Conference (NDC) closed after more than ten months of deliberation. The flagship process within Yemen's post-Arab Spring transition, the NDC has been lauded as a positive model of inclusive and constructive negotiation. In Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, and Sudan, similar national dialogue processes have been mooted or are under way. The NDC made significant progress on a daunting range of governance, structural, and social contract issues. It broke through political and social barriers to engage a broader scope of political parties, actors, and civil society–a precedent that will be difficult to roll back. Despite these achievements, the NDC missed its concluding deadline because of a deadlock over the fundamental dilemma: the future status for southern Yemen and the structure of the Yemeni state. A partial solution was brokered, but only by extending the transition process and leaving tough issues to be resolved later. Meanwhile, other challenges, from unemployment to serious humanitarian shortfalls to rampant insecurity, also remain unresolved. The public has grown increasingly skeptical that either the NDC or the transition process will result in a government that responds to their needs. The verdict is out on the ultimate legacy of the NDC. Even at this early stage, however, the hurdles the NDC has faced may provide lessons for other countries considering such processes. At a minimum, exploring how certain process elements may have contributed to achieving the NDC's goals or not might suggest further areas for research, reflection, or continued engagement in the next stages of transition. Other countries considering a national dialogue should streamline the agenda to the extent possible, weighing carefully which political issues do or do not lend themselves to a large-scale public forum, and ensure an appropriate balance between the national dialogue and other transitional processes.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Islam, Insurgency, Governance, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Frederic M. Wehrey
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Like the Iraq war and, to a lesser extent, Lebanon's 2006 war, Syria's internecine conflict has enabled the Gulf's ruling families, media commentators, clerics, parliamentarians, and activists to invoke and amplify Sunni-Shia identities, often for goals that are rooted in local power politics. By-products of the mounting sectarian tension include the fraying of reform cooperation among sects and regions, and pressure on the Gulf's formal political institutions. Traditional and social media have served to amplify the most polarizing voices as well as provide reform activists new means for cross-sectarian communication that circumvent governmental efforts to control or block such activities.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Fanar Haddad
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In Iraq, as elsewhere in the Middle East, the social, political, and technological changes of the 21st century are giving birth to a new sectarian landscape. The three most consequential drivers behind the change in sectarian relations have been the political change in Iraq of 2003; the near simultaneous spread of new media and social networking in the Arab world; and – perhaps as a consequence of the first two – the ongoing search for alternatives to familiar but moribund forms of authoritarianism, as demonstrated most dramatically by the “Arab Spring.” 2003 highlighted the uncomfortable fact that there were multiple, indeed contradictory, visions of what it meant to be an Iraqi and by extension what it meant to be a part of the Arab world. New media, social networking, user-generated websites, and private satellite channels helped to make Iraq's accelerated sectarianization contagious. The mainstreaming of sectarian polemics has increased the relevance of religious, doctrinal, and dogmatic differences in views regarding the sectarian “other,” a particularly dangerous development.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Joseph Bahout
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: When the Arab revolutions reached Syria, the Sunni-Shia cleavage in Lebanon was already well in the making. Syria's turmoil only added fuel to an existing fire in Lebanon. Syria's crisis is intensifying Sunni-Shia tensions in Lebanon on two levels, symbolic and identity-based on the one hand, and geopolitical or interest based, on the other hand. The shift toward identity-based or symbolic forms of sectarianism can probably be explained by the existential character the struggle in the Levant is taking, whereby both “communities,” however imagined or over-constructed, are coming to perceive themselves as defending not only their share of resources or power, but their very survival. Lebanon's minority communities – including Christian and Druze – are increasingly anxious about the changing regional environment. Lebanon and Syria must face the difficult equation of sectarian diversity and national unity.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Melani Cammett
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Syrian crisis has had a negative impact on Lebanon's political scene, including the dynamics among political factions within and across the country's major sectarian communities. The political fragmentation of the Sunni community has implications for the growing trend toward political violence triggered by the Syrian conflict. The rise of challengers and the decline of centralized authority within the Sunni community further increase the probability of violence perpetrated by in-group factions. Despite the pressures from the Syrian conflict, mounting sectarian tensions will not inexorably spark another all-out civil war. If Lebanon does not move past the current political deadlock and stagnation, the spillover from the Syrian crisis stands to undermine the country's stability in the longer term.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Insurgency, Sectarian violence
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Lebanon, Syria
  • Author: Susan Hayward
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The field of religious peacebuilding has begun to move closer to the mainstream of conflict resolution practice and theory. The 2011 unrest in the Middle East and North Africa—the Arab Spring—reflects ongoing challenges and opportunities for the field. American and European nongovernmental organizations, agencies in the U.S. government, academia, and international organizations—sectors that once held religious issues at a distance or understood religion mainly as a driver of violence—increasingly engage religious communities and institutions as partners in creating peace. Meanwhile, religious organizations that have been involved in creating peace for decades, if not longer, increasingly have institutionalized and professionalized their work, suggesting ways that religious and secular organizations could coordinate their efforts more closely. The U.S. Institute of Peace's own programs on religion reflect the development of the wider field, having moved from research and analysis to on-the-ground programming to foster interfaith dialogue in the Balkans, Nigeria, Israel-Palestine, and Sudan. In addition, it has trained religious actors in conflict management in Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Colombia and developed peace curricula based on Islamic principles for religious and secular schools in Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and elsewhere. As the U.S. field of religious peacebuilding continues to develop, challenges include integrating further with secular peacebuilding efforts, engaging women and youth and addressing their priorities, working more effectively with non-Abrahamic religious traditions, and improving evaluation, both to show how religious peacebuilding can reduce and resolve conflict and to strengthen the field's ability to do so.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Peace Studies, Religion, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Europe, Arabia
  • Author: Hesham Sallam, Daniel Brumberg
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In Egypt, security sector reform (SSR) hinges on achieving democratic reforms, particularly the reconstitution of an elected parliament and preparation of a new constitution that defines the roles and responsibilities of military and security institutions based on transparency, accountability, and respect for civilian authorities. In this highly political process, arranging the disengagement of Egypt's military from government and the economy will be essential. Democratically elected leaders will need to consult widely while keeping an open door to reformists in the security sector. At the same time, the police and security establishments must be transformed into effective, accountable, and politically neutral law-enforcement bodies that deliver human security and protect human rights. Downsizing the security services to a number consonant with its professional mission is vital. Egypt's new president will play a central—although not exclusive—role in advancing the above aims. He will have to forge a wide societal consensus on the boundaries of SSR. He will also have to reach an accommodation with military leaders to ensure that SSR initiatives receive their support. The responsibility for advancing SSR lies with Egypt's political community. The international community can help by supporting elected officials and providing technical expertise and economic support.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Democratization, Islam, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Arabia, North Africa, Egypt
  • Author: Kathleen Kuehnast, Hodei Sultan, Manal Omar, Steven E. Steiner
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In transitioning countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, women are increasingly finding their rights limited by state and religious leaders. Cultural and national stereotypes can be quickly overcome by the shared backgrounds, accomplishments, obstacles, and aspirations of women in transitioning countries. Women living in countries in transition value opportunities to network with women from other countries in similar situations. Women leaders from Afghanistan and Iraq have genuine concerns about the challenges facing women in the Arab Spring. Their valuable opinions are based on their own experiences of overcoming those challenges. It is essential that women work together and with men to further women's rights. Women must plan for a transition before it happens and have a strategy of work going into the transition process. Laws empowering and protecting women do not work if they are not enforced. International donors need a long-term view of women's programming, as much of the required work will take time. Donors should consider nonurban areas when working with women, and when possible nonelite partners, as these leaders understand the limitations of local conditions. It is possible for women's groups to find common ground with religious leaders.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Development, Gender Issues, Islam, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Whitney Parker, Scott Worden, Shani Ross, Sahar Azar
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Post-conflict justice mechanisms such as truth commissions, war crimes tribunals and reparations programs have emerged as a fundamental building block of durable peace settlements in Latin America, Africa and Asia. They are relatively rare, however, in Muslim countries recovering from conflict-despite the fact that social and criminal justice is a fundamental principle of Islamic law.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Crime, Islam, War, Law Enforcement, Law
  • Political Geography: Africa, Asia, Arabia, Latin America
  • Author: Mona Yacoubian
  • Publication Date: 10-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Lebanese society is starkly divided on Syria, but all sides fear the country's potential descent into a sectarian civil war and seek to insulate Lebanon from its fallout. Lebanon's key political actors hold vastly different views on their definitions of interests, threat perceptions and desirable outcomes in Syria. Lebanon has already witnessed some negative Syrian spillover. Going forward, key concerns will center on both directed threats and uncontrolled fallout from worsening instability inside Syria. Lebanon's ability to influence the conflict dynamics inside Syria is limited.
  • Topic: Islam, Armed Struggle, Regime Change, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria