Our nation’s regional security interests depend on engaging and empowering communities that will foster peace and stability. Civil society networks are a vital resource for successful peace-building and countering violent extremism (CVE) initiatives. In countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, tribal, cultural and faith-based networks are leading organic initiatives to refute radical ideologies at the community level and are therefore, best positioned to become partners for the US and the international community in preventing terrorism.
Af-Pak Peace-building Initiatives
WORDE is leading innovative research in Afghanistan and Pakistan to explore the capacity of these understudied networks. Our research is primarily conducted through intensive field interviews led by WORDE Specialists and trained social scientists. Our objective is to identify credible civil society organizations with the potential to organize counter-radicalization efforts, support post conflict reconciliation and reintegration efforts, and administer humanitarian aid and development assistance.
In June 2012 WORDE launched its research in Afghanistan. Our team of specialists have traveled to several provinces and have interviewed approximately 50 civil society activists in the preliminary phase of the two-year project.
The analysis from this project will serve as a primary resource for US government officials and international NGO’s interested in identifying Afghan civil society organizations and activists with whom they can implement institutional capacity-building programs and thereby strengthen the moderate voice. Overtime, these partnerships have the potential to prevent further radicalization, reduce terrorism, and stabilize Afghanistan’s security situation.
In Pakistan, WORDE researchers have travelled to over 35 cities and villages at risk of violent extremism—from Peshawar, Swat, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), to Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), southern Punjab, interior Sindh and Karachi to meet with over 100 civil society networks. Collectively, these organizations impact millions of Pakistanis across the country and are critical channels for disseminating anti-extremism messages.
The findings of this research have been published in an exclusive five-part series with Foreign Policy Magazine’s Af-Pak Channel. In addition, WORDE launched its landmark report, “Pakistan’s Civil Society: Alternative Channels to Countering Violent Extremism” and a supplementary 275 page directory for policymakers, “From Community Building to Countering Extremism: An A-to-Z Guide of Pakistan’s Civil Society.”
Identifying Afghanistan’s Civil Society Networks
In June 2012, WORDE initiated preliminary fieldwork for a two-year project to identify and understand the capacity of Afghanistan’s civil society networks to promote peace and regional stability.
Throughout the project, WORDE will study urban and rural civil society networks that are, a) Leading peace and social harmony, non-violent conflict resolution, and national reconciliation/reintegration efforts, b) Promoting democratic ideals and countering radical narratives within a cultural and/or religious paradigm, and C) Administering post-crisis humanitarian aid and development assistance in conflict areas.
To date, WORDE researchers have travelled to several provinces and interviewed approximately 50 civil society activists.
Our analysis will examine the strengths and weaknesses of these networks, and identify which programs have worked well which can be replicated in other conflict areas. A final report and a directory for policymakers will offer recommendations for strengthening these networks.
The results of this research will serve as a primary resource for US government officials and international NGO’s who want to identify moderate Afghan NGOs and leaders with whom they can implement institutional capacity-building programs and thereby strengthen the moderate voice. By fostering a robust civil society in Afghanistan, we can empower Afghans to reject the Taliban and other forms of extremism.
Pakistan’s Civil Society: Alternative Channels to Countering Violent Extremism
WORDE has conducted a groundbreaking study across 35 cities and villages at risk of violent extremism — from Peshawar, Swat, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), to Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), southern Punjab, interior Sindh and Karachi — to explore civil society’s capacity to counter violent extremism.
The team has identified over 100 civil society organizations with the potential to a) promote peace and social cohesion, b) counter radical ideologies within a cultural or religious paradigm, and/or c) conduct humanitarian assistance in conflict-affected regions. These organizations and their peace-building initiatives are highlighted in our WORDE Report, “Pakistan’s Civil Society: Alternative Channels to Countering Violent Extremism,” and a supplemental directory* for policymakers, “From Community Building to Countering Extremism: An A-to-Z Guide of Pakistan’s Civil Society.”
“Pakistan’s Civil Society: Alternative Channels to Countering Violent Extremism” begins by exploring the rise of extremist groups in Pakistan and the avenues through which they increase their influence in society. The next section discusses government-led initiatives to counter extremism. This is followed by a broad overview of the scope and capacity of Pakistan’s civil society. Efforts to build public awareness and counter violent extremism are discussed along with challenges and limitations. The final section of the report provides recommendations for US policymakers on the potential of building the capacity of Pakistan’s civil society to improve the efficacy of existing initiatives and encourage the creation of new projects.
In addition to the WORDE Report, a supplementary 275 page directory, “From Community Building to Countering Extremism: An A-to-Z Guide to Pakistan’s Civil Society will be available for policymakers upon request.
The findings of this project have been broadly disseminated throughout the US Government, the media and the Pakistani American community.
*Policy briefings and a copy of the directory are available for policymakers upon request. Click here to request.
Exclusive Series for Foreign Policy Magazine
- The Battle for Pakistan’s Soul, (September 1, 2011), focuses on jihadi recruitment methods throughout militant hotspots in Southern Punjab.
- Pakistan’s Most Powerful Weapon, (October 21, 2011), explores anti-Taliban public awareness campaigns led by religious networks and community development organizations to spur grassroots efforts to counter violent extremism.
- Evicting the Taliban from Swat, (November 2, 2011), highlights how local communities used civil society organizations, the media, political structures and the military to create a national social movement against the Taliban.
- Out-Recruiting Pakistan’s Extremists, (February 29, 2012), discusses youth efforts to stem radicalization in Pakistan.
- Photo Essay (forthcoming September 2012)
“Pakistan’s Civil Society: Alternative Channels to Countering Violent Extremism”, WORDE Report (forthcoming October 2012)
In addition to interviews by Voice of America (Serbian, Pashto, and Dari, TV Ashna) and the Associated Press, the Foreign Policy Magazine’s AfPak Channel has published an exclusive five-part series of articles written by WORDE Specialists Mehreen Farooq and Waleed Ziad. The articles have been cited by Pakistan’s largest daily, Dawn, and reproduced on several popular international blogs.
The Foreign Policy Magazine series includes interviews with former militants, parents of kidnapped children, community activists, jirga members, and religious scholars — highlighting the lessons they’ve learned, and the challenges they face to create a bold social movement to promote peace.