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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: Nadwa Al-Dawsari, Erica Gaston
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Yemen has long had a vibrant tradition of community-based dispute resolution, particularly tribal dispute resolution, which has become even more dominant in the transition period that followed the 2011 Arab Spring protests. As the Yemeni state has struggled to regain political equilibrium, rule of law has deteriorated and criminality and armed conflict have increased. State institutions have weakened and now struggle to meet citizens' demands. In response, citizens increasingly turn to traditional or community-based dispute resolution for their justice needs. In addition to long-standing actors or mechanisms, a number of new dispute resolution actors have emerged. Some areas have seen a retribalization, while in others, armed actors dominate. Although alternative dispute resolution actors have been an important gap-filler during this time, they have also found their authority challenged. The political uncertainty and the rise in lawlessness have simultaneously weakened both formal and informal actors' ability to resolve disputes sustainably and to prevent conflict. The result has been more limited options for peaceful dispute resolution overall, which feeds instability and has the potential to exacerbate broader conflict dynamics and weaknesses in the rule of law. Strengthening the options for lower level dispute resolution and conflict prevention are critical to restoring stability. Because of the centrality of these community-based justice mechanisms in Yemen, efforts to strengthen rule of law must take a more holistic view of justice provision to include these mechanisms and practices. Program interventions should not preference or target one system over the other but instead take an integrated approach and consider the significant role that alternative dispute resolution plays. Critical elements include supporting greater understanding of and dialogue with dispute resolution actors, incorporating alternative dispute resolution into the justice sector strategy, and focusing on reforms and adaptions on both sides.
  • Topic: Reform
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen, Arabia
  • Author: Steven E. Steiner
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Ongoing dialogues and forums on nations in transition reinforce the commonality of challenges related to women's rights and roles in society, especially leadership in government. Women leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Arab Spring countries face major challenges, including heightened insecurity and the risk of women's rights being rolled back significantly. Steps to address these challenges are to build coalitions across internal divides, engage male religious leaders and other men to support women's rights, reach out to youth, develop gender-based budgeting, and underscore the importance of women's economic empowerment. Keys to progress in these areas include obtaining grassroots support and taking a long-term strategic focus in international programs.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Gender Issues, Government, Labor Issues, Governance
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Arabia
  • Author: Thomas Pierret
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The Syrian conflict's internal dynamics have reshuffled regional alignments alongside unprecedentedly clear-cut sectarian dividing lines; this has often occurred against the preferences of regional state actors−including Saudi Arabia and Iran. Foreign states have generally adopted expedient policies that followed sectarian patterns for lack of alternatives. Iran bears significant responsibility for exacerbating the conflict's sectarian character at the regional level. There is no such “diplomatic shortcut” to regional appeasement; it is the domestic Syrian deadlock that must be broken in order to alleviate sectarian tensions across the Middle East, not the opposite.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Syria
  • 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: Querine Hanlon
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In the year since its revolution, Tunisia has achieved what no other Arab Spring country has managed: peaceful transition to democratic rule through national elections widely viewed to be free and fair. The legacy of the previous regime remains, however: a complete lack of transparency, no real parliamentary or government oversight, and unchanged rules of engagement and training. Reorienting the mandate and institutional culture of security institutions is imperative. Most in need of reform are the police and gendarme and the Ministry of Interior. Tunisia's internal security services are feared by the population and are themselves fearful of fulfilling their basic police tasks. How the ministry and its forces engage with citizens and with the executive and the legislature is also in urgent need of reform. Restoration of police services will help restore the confidence of the police and the public trust in the government. Tunisia needs no lessons about subordinating the military to civilian control. Security sector reform is critical if Tunisia's transition to democracy is to succeed in the long term.
  • Topic: Security, Democratization, Economics, Poverty, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Arabia, North Africa, Tunisia
  • 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