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The Preventing Violent Extremism Actions through Increased Social Cohesion Efforts (PEACE) activity is an action research program funded by USAID and implemented by Mercy Corps and its local partner Cercle Dev. The program promotes peace and stability in West Africa through the design and implementation of participatory community-based projects that seek to increase social cohesion between ethnic groups and resilience to violent extremism (VE) influence. PEACE employs a suite of qualitative and quantitative research tools to measure the presence of social cohesion and resilience to recruitment by violent extremist organization recruitment. In close collaboration with the National steering committee, composed of representatives from various sector ministries and government institutions, community members, the program will design small-scale social cohesion projects targeted to objectives such as increased dialogue between conflicting groups, improved collective action for local development, and better cooperation in management of natural resources. These small-scale projects will then be tested to determine their impact on social cohesion and resilience to VE influence. PEACE works in close partnership with USAID, the Nigerien government, and a range of local and regional actors to disseminate its findings and inform future programming.


The Tillabéri region is home to at least six ethnic groups, notably Fulani, Tuareg, Arab, Zarma, Hausa, and Gourmantché. While all groups suffer from the low level of government service provision and issues like government corruption, certain groups feel more excluded than others, creating a fertile ground for violence along the Nigerien, Malian, and Burkina Faso borders. Violent extremist groups have learned to leverage these grievances with ethnically charged language, thereby growing their influence and footprint.


PEACE is a research-action program that is testing the following hypothesis: Effective local initiatives and external interventions aimed at strengthening social cohesion reduce the use of violence, including enlistment and adherence to violent extremism. Social divisions, whether ethnic, intergenerational, or between governments and citizens, are a key risk factor for adherence to extremist values ​​or the use of violence.


PEACE will achieve its objectives by analyzing, monitoring and evaluating social cohesion indicators, defined by the communities themselves. Following the targeting of the most vulnerable communities, PEACE will develop a solid research framework to identify the risk factors and drivers of community division and adherence to violence. PEACE will seek to establish the relationship between social cohesion factors and resilience to the recruitment and support of violent extremist groups in the region. 

Following this analysis, the program will pilot social cohesion projects designed by the communities themselves in 25 villages. After a 12-month period, a mid-term evaluation will provide qualitative information and help reframe/adjust the design of new community based projects to be implemented in an additional 15 villages. Community projects will be specifically designed and selected to improve social cohesion and will aim to increase dialogue between different ethnic and conflict-prone groups, while improving collective action for local development and a stronger cooperation in natural resources management. These small-scale projects will be piloted to determine their effects on social cohesion and resilience against the influence of violent extremist groups. 

The program is implemented by Mercy Corps in partnership with Cercle Dev. The results will contribute to strengthen new programs in the Sahel Region to use and measure social cohesion indicators.


Goal: Identify, pilot, and test community-level interventions, which have the potential to increase different aspects of intra- and inter- ethnic social cohesion and resilience to VE influences.

Life of Program: April 2019 – October 2021

Total USAID Funding: U.S. $ 1.8 million

Geographic Focus: Four departments chosen from the most vulnerable areas of the Tillaberi region in Niger

Implementing Partner: Mercy Corps, in partnership with Cercle Dev.

Last updated: August 04, 2021

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