Over the past two years, the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) refined its business model to better advance U.S. foreign policy. CSO’s mission is to anticipate, prevent, and respond to conflict that undermines U.S. national interests. Our three lines of effort (LoEs) support this mission by addressing different spectrums of the conflict cycle: 1) Strategic Prevention; 2) Conflict Resolution; and 3) Security Sector Stabilization. CSO implements its mission and LOEs by deploying stabilization advisors to Posts and Geographic Commands, harnessing data analytics, and informing and implementing policy, strategies, and programs on conflict prevention and stabilization. In the last year, CSO deployed almost 60 stabilization advisors to 55 countries and created permanent foreign service officer positions at Embassy Kyiv, United States European Command (EUCOM), and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), with others in process.
CSO launched the Instability Monitoring and Analysis Platform (IMAP) in 2019 to enable data-informed diplomacy and further implement the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018. IMAP provides data-driven analytics on global conflict trends and is accessible to all 75,000 plus U.S. Department of State employees. In the past year, Department demand for CSO analytics products nearly doubled; we produced over 100 stand-alone products for over 30 posts or bureaus, as well as for the National Security Council (NSC). In July 2020, CSO received the prestigious Special Achievement in GIS Award from Esri – the global market leader in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – in recognition of its innovative use of technology to improve conflict and instability strategies, policies, and programs. This is the first time the State Department has ever received the award, which is given to less than 0.01 percent of Esri user organizations.
Further, CSO informs and implements U.S. foreign policy, strategy, and programs on conflict prevention and stabilization. The bureau is crafting the strategy and implementation plan for the Global Fragility Act of 2019 (Div. J, P.L. 116-94). We are enhancing the U.S. government’s capabilities to detect, prevent, and respond to atrocities against civilians as required by the Elie Wiesel Atrocity and Genocide Prevention Act of 2018 (Elie Wiesel Act). CSO is incorporating Stabilization Assistance Review principals into integrated country strategies. And we are advancing the Women, Peace, and Security Strategy (2019), which seeks the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and stabilization activities. In each of these initiatives, CSO works closely with the Office of Foreign Assistance (F) and Department bureaus, as well as with the White House, the Treasury, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Global Fragility Act and the Elie Wiesel Act reflect the U.S. commitment to pursuing threats to the U.S. homeland and American people at their source, preserving peace through strength, and expanding burden sharing. They represent a more targeted, strategic approach to preventing violence and conflict, stabilizing fragile states, and assuring civilian security. Each initiative includes elements to improve the judicious use of U.S. taxpayer dollars and realize more effective outcomes, including data-driven analytics to target the problem, metrics to measure impact and improve the return on investment for U.S. resources, inclusion of civil society, specific efforts to promote host-nation leadership and eventual self-reliance, and enhanced international partnerships and burden-sharing.
One of our key efforts is developing atrocity early warning systems and informing timely, actionable interventions. As the Secretariat for the White House-led Atrocity Early Warning Task Force (AEWTF), CSO is creating heat maps of civilian killings at subnational levels and developing atrocity early warning tools, to include geospatial analysis. The AEWTF uses various atrocity risk assessments to guide its work, including CSO’s global early warning assessments, the Holocaust Museum’s Early Warning Project, and intelligence assessments. We are working closely with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the Office of Global Criminal Justice, regional bureaus, and posts to integrate these tools and other approaches to improve atrocity early warning outcomes.
It is in the U.S. national interest to improve how the United States works alongside allies and partners to reverse global trends in fragility and violent conflict. By pursuing innovative, data-driven, and consultative approaches, the United States can better mitigate threats to its core national security interests, maximize American taxpayer resources, and more effectively address violence, atrocities, state fragility, and civilian security.
About the Author: Dr. Denise Natali is the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) at the U.S. Department of State, with over thirty years of experience in post-conflict relief, reconstruction, and stabilization.