The Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) works strategically to prevent conflict around the world by disrupting pathways to violence and instability that could undermine U.S. national interests. Strategic prevention encompasses deliberate activities to reduce fragility, strengthen institutions, and increase social cohesion in priority countries, including by providing early warning of potential atrocities, forecasting electoral violence, and working to prevent conflict associated with climate change or democratic decline. Strategic prevention plays an integral role in CSO’s efforts to implement the Global Fragility Act, the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, and the U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security. CSO also designs and runs tabletop exercises (TTX) with partners to address potential conflict scenarios. A 2022 TTX for the ASEAN Regional Forum, for example, brought together government officials and civil society representatives from 13 countries to collaborate on new ways to prevent inter-state armed conflict in the Asia-Pacific region.
Implementing the Global Fragility Act
The Global Fragility Act of 2019 sought to redefine how the United States approaches conflict prevention. In coordination with USAID and the Department of Defense, CSO leads the interagency secretariat implementing the Act, including through implementation of the associated U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability and the 10-year plans developed for our priority partner countries and region: Haiti, Libya, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, and Coastal West Africa (Benin, Côte D’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Togo). CSO advisors in the field work with U.S. embassies and local partners to analyze underlying causes of conflict and undertake robust efforts to address these causes effectively and sustainably.
CSO enhances U.S. government capabilities to prevent the killing of civilians, protect the victims of atrocities, and hold perpetrators accountable. CSO serves as the secretariat for the interagency Atrocity Prevention Task Force, guided by the U.S. Strategy to Anticipate, Prevent, and Respond to Atrocities. CSO’s quantitative atrocity early warning assessments and geospatial analyses identify conflict trends, highlight potential atrocities at the national and sub-national levels, and guide the design of timely U.S. policy responses. These forecasting and early warning capabilities bolster civilian security across the globe.
CSO has designed and funded programs that combine satellite imagery analysis of violence with capacity-building for community-based early warning and early response. These programs reinforce U.S. commitments to enhancing civilian security through implementation of the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act and the Geospatial Support for Atrocity Accountability Act.
Preventing Electoral Violence
CSO works to prevent violence that can undermine free and fair elections in other countries by leveraging analytic and other tools to anticipate and mitigate conflict risks. For example, CSO developed a statistical model and dashboard that provides policymakers with early warning of violence in connection with upcoming elections. In the run-up to elections in Kenya and other countries, CSO analysis informed coordination with interagency and international partners on real-time conflict risk factors, ensuring greater coherence in overall conflict prevention efforts around election day. CSO regularly updates the forecasting model to provide risk updates to relevant country and regional representatives as they materialize.
Building Peace, Community Resilience, and Social Cohesion
CSO works closely with national and local governments, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders to identify and disrupt drivers of violent conflict while building community cohesion and resilience. In the Philippines, CSO supported NGOs in forming working groups with local government officials and members of community organizations to identify the populations most vulnerable to recruitment by violent groups. With guidance from CSO’s partners, the working groups co-designed and implemented 51 small grants projects to address local circumstances and the needs of the most vulnerable at the neighborhood level. For the first time, many of the most vulnerable populations built relationships with local government and community leaders and reported positive changes in views of the government.
In Uganda, CSO developed a program with local partners in historically marginalized areas that reduced exclusionary education practices and thereby increased resilience where terrorist recruitment was known to occur.
In Colombia, CSO programming supports the work of local peace councils, institutions that connect local government and civil society to help communities address their peace and stabilization needs, address the root causes of conflict, and prevent future conflict in their territories. These councils are key to building trust, resilience, and state presence in areas affected by decades of conflict and neglect. With CSO’s support, 125 local peace councils developed local stabilization strategies and action plans and adopted bylaws that protected and encouraged the participation of women, Afro-Colombians, indigenous communities, and other marginalized groups in stabilization processes. The councils also used small grants to begin implementation of their highest-priority items. In addition, the program facilitated networking among local peace councils and between the councils and national institutions to share best practices and strengthen the councils’ resourcing and recognition.