Regional Peace and Governance

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A radio presenter at one of Voices for Peace’s partner stations in Niger listens to a live round table broadcast. Photo credit: Equal Access International/V4P)
A radio presenter at one of Voices for Peace’s partner stations in Niger listens to a live round table broadcast.
Photo credit: Equal Access International/V4P

Despite progress made in promoting economic growth, consolidating democratic norms, reducing the rates of HIV/AIDS, and protecting the environment, much of West Africa continues to suffer the devastating effects of conflict and democratic backsliding.

USAID/West Africa’s Peace and Governance program supports regional and national capacity and commitment to open, accountable, and democratic governance through: (1) strengthening participatory, representative, and inclusive political processes and government institutions; (2) promoting greater accountability of institutional leaders to citizens and to the law; and (3) supporting partner countries’ pathways toward stability and peace. USAID also addresses the risks of instability from violent conflict, and prioritizes targeted conflict and violence prevention, peacebuilding, and preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) interventions across the region. 

USAID/West Africa works with regional institutions like the G5 Sahel to build African capacity to proactively preempt the spread of violent extremism (VE) in the region. It also targets change at national and local levels through research, training, partnerships, disseminating information, and other programmatic efforts. Additionally, USAID prioritizes an interagency approach and collaborates with the State Department and the Department of Defense to bring a whole of government approach to bear on this critical challenge. The mission also coordinates closely with other USAID P/CVE-relevant programming in the region, including USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) , which has ongoing cohesion and transition activities throughout the region. 

Voices for Peace (V4P)

Radio Baarou, one of Voices for Peace's partner radio stations in Niger, live broadcasts a round table discussion on Niger's state of emergency.
Radio Baarou, one of Voices for Peace's partner radio stations in Niger, live broadcasts a round table discussion on Niger's state of emergency.
Photo Credit: Joe Penney/V4P

V4P is a regional program aimed at countering violent extremism (CVE) and promoting democracy, human rights and good governance by leveraging both traditional and new media at the community level in areas affected by violent extremism. V4P works in Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Chad, and northern Cameroon, building partnerships with respected leaders, institutions, and networks to address drivers and root causes of violent extremism such as marginalization, exclusion, and poor governance. It supports a culturally effective communications environment to empower locally influential voices, establish interactive media platforms, and engage at-risk youth, women, and communities. The project’s approach is rooted in communities’ culturally diverse traditions of social cohesion and solidarity that have effectively served in the past to promote resilience to increased radicalization and violence in the region. 

V4P activities have successfully: 1) produced and broadcasted interactive media programs in over 30 local languages on 93 radio stations to promote peace, tolerance, good governance, and human rights; 2) engaged women, at-risk youth and CVE actors to serve as positive change agents in their communities; 3) promoted community engagement and civic action through listener discussion and action groups, radio station associations, media centers, tech camps, and civic action competitions; 4) expanded the reach and strengthened the capacity of local radio station partners in the front lines through technical and management training, material support, and peer-to-peer sharing; 5) enhanced regional collaboration among CVE actors to address common drivers of violence; and 6) promoted learning through pilot activities, project review workshops, CVE studies, white papers, and widely shared results within the greater CVE community.

Partnerships for Peace (P4P)

A participant in a P4P-supported CVE strategy validation workshop in Burkina Faso.
A participant in a P4P-supported CVE strategy validation workshop in Burkina Faso.
Photo Credit: Creative Associates

The P4P program is a capacity-building and networking effort that supports West African regional institutions, national governments, and civil society organizations to more effectively counter violent extremism in the Sahel region. Since 2016, P4P has supported the governments of Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania to advance West African understanding of the root causes of vulnerability to violent extremism and apply the most effective means of countering it.

The project approach is rooted in empowering West African institutions and organizations to lead sustainable, long-term peacebuilding efforts. At the regional level, the project supports the efforts of regional bodies, such as the G5 Sahel Executive Secretariat, to assist member states in developing effective and sustainable programs to improve security, reduce conflict, and counter violent extremism. At the national level, P4P assists governments in developing national strategies for countering violent extremism (CVE) and programs to serve at-risk communities. Finally, the project supports networks of West African advocacy and practitioner groups to improve stakeholder coordination on CVE approaches among traditional and religious leaders, youth, and women’s groups. 

P4P works in target countries in the Sahel, but its flexibility allows it to change its geographic targets and partnerships as the dynamics of violent extremism shift in the region. It also can modify its approach as the needs and capacities of organizations evolve in response to technical learning in the CVE sector, and as opportunities arise. 

Reacting to Early Warning and Response Data in West Africa (REWARD II)

REWARD II electoral security grantees hold a 'Youth Pools for Peace' training in Bonou, Benin.
REWARD II electoral security grantees hold a 'Youth Pools for Peace' training in Bonou, Benin.
Photo Credit: Creative Associates

REWARD II is a follow-on activity to REWARD, which was implemented from September 2015 –  2020. The principal objective of REWARD II is to bolster the capacity of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to monitor, gather, analyze, and disseminate human security information to its 15 member states to support peace and security in the region. REWARD addresses critical gaps in the conflict early warning and early response systems of ECOWAS through a two-tier approach by: (1) providing capacity building to ECOWAS to enhance conflict early warning and response systems in the 15 ECOWAS member states; and (2) supporting national and local stakeholders in five countries to mitigate electoral conflict triggers before they escalate into violence. 

REWARD II directly supports USAID/West Africa’s Regional Development Cooperation Strategy by strengthening systems of non-violent conflict management in the West African region and advancing the U.S. Government goal to support countries on the path to self-reliance. 

These efforts allow USAID/West Africa to minimize the backsliding of democratic processes, such as effects related to conflict and stabilization, including but not limited to political violence, civil unrest, and the evolving security threats in the region. Through a combination of approaches the mission with its partners also are helping to address existing security vulnerabilities that have been aggravated by COVID-19 related limitations and restrictions. 

COLLABORATING, LEARNING, AND ADAPTING ACTIVITIES

A man and two women viewing a cell phone screen

Peace through Evaluation, Learning and Adapting (PELA)

PELA acquires and utilizes the knowledge needed to inform USAID/West Africa decisions, strategies, and initiatives to more effectively counter violent extremism, build regional resiliencies, and promote peace across West Africa. Based in Accra, Ghana, PELA is strengthening USAID's effectiveness in implementing its projects, coordinating its activities, learning from experience, and serving as an information, communication, and thought leader regarding peace, promotion and preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) in the West African Region.

PELA assists USAID/West Africa, surrounding operating units, and implementing partners by: 1) conducting and developing analytical research through desk and field studies that expands knowledge and understanding critical to strategy development and decision-making; 2) building knowledge through monitoring and evaluation; 3) developing and implementing a Learning Agenda to provide a baseline and framework for continuous learning, knowledge sharing, strategic collaboration, and adaptive management; 4) analyzing and sharing knowledge through collaboration and learning events, and 5) developing communications products that reach target audiences.

Preventing Violent Extremism Actions through Increased Social Cohesion Efforts (PEACE) in Niger

PEACE is an operational research and pilot activity to promote peace and stability in West Africa through the implementation of participatory community-based projects that seek to increase social cohesion between ethnic groups and, ultimately, resilience to violent extremist (VE) influence. 

The PEACE program operates under the hypothesis: 

Effective local initiatives and external interventions focused on social cohesion reduces the use of violence, including engagement and adherence to violent extremism. 

The program employs a suite of qualitative and quantitative research tools to measure the presence of social cohesion and resilience to recruitment by violent extremist organizations (VEOs). The evaluation targets 40 villages across four departments of the Tillabéri Region where PEACE is establishing a base of evidence about the relationship between social cohesion and resilience to recruitment by and support for VEOs in the region. In close collaboration with community members, the program supports small-scale social cohesion projects that aim at increasing dialogue between conflicting groups, improving collective action for local development, and improving cooperation in the management of natural resources. These small-scale projects are then tested to determine their impact on social cohesion and resilience to VE influence. 

The program works in close partnership with USAID, the Nigerien government, and a range of local and regional actors to disseminate information on program results. These results will eventually inform the design of new programming in the region to decrease VEO recruitment.

Sahel CVE Research - Gender Differentiated Drivers of Violent Extremism in the Central Sahel (Liptako-Gourma)

This Sahel CVE research activity examines key violent extremism drivers and their interactions with gender in the Liptako-Gourma area shared by Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. It consists of: 1) a quantitative study examining the effects of individual characteristics and context on male and female attitudes towards VE; and 2) a comparative qualitative study generated from focus group discussions and key informant interviews that unpack the relationship between male and female attitudes towards VE and VE drivers.

Strengthening Resilience to Extremism in West Africa  – The Role of Traditional Authorities 

This operational research activity takes place in communities that are currently under threat of violent extremist organizations (VEOs) in the Ménaka and Gao region (Mali), in Tillabéri (Niger), and in the Sahel, East, and Center-North region (Burkina Faso), and strives to answer a central question:  

Do traditional authorities contribute to or weaken resilience against radicalization towards violent extremism in VEO-affected areas, and if so, in what manner? 

Current research is looking at factors that increase resilience against violent extremism: 1) cohesion and solidarity in societies that face violent extremism; 2) commitment to democracy and the rule of law; and 3) rejection of violence, divisive ideas and stereotypes. Findings will help USAID and partners to develop mechanisms that could help communities address concerns peacefully without resorting to violence.

Measuring the Impact of Civic Values Training for Informal Educators on Students’ Vulnerability to Violent Extremism

This research tests the impact of exposure to civic values and constructive pedagogy on extremist attitudes among informal educators and their students in the Lake Chad Region (LCR). Building on the U.S. Embassy-funded program implemented by the Salam Institute for Peace and Justice, a series of workshops is organized to train informal educators in Chad and Cameroon. These educators learn to apply and teach civic values and critical thinking skills on social topics related to violent extremism, such as attitudes toward religious outgroups, peacebuilding, and the management of prejudices toward religious and ethnic outgroups. The International Center of Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD), along with a team of local and international research experts, are leading the evaluation of these trainings to determine how they affect both the educators (direct beneficiaries) and their students (secondary beneficiaries). 

This impact assessment will identify whether and how attitudes among beneficiaries change, specifically along social, behavioral, and cognitive dimensions of tolerance/prejudice toward religious outgroups and support for non-violence. Critical thinking skills will also be assessed as a suspected mediating factor. Ultimately, this project will provide new evidence on how interventions in constructive pedagogy and civic values may affect community resistance to violent extremism. 

Last updated: August 12, 2021

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