Case studies throughout history depict the ill effects rendered to countries entangled in perpetual war. Examples from the last two centuries include Germany’s hyperinflation post-World War I and the infrastructural and economic problems in Rwanda and Sierra Leone post-civil war. History shows that war is a direct cause of poverty in many countries. In turn, poverty is indirectly responsible for factors such as starvation and the inability to control diseases. Due to its current period of fierce conflicts, West Africa experiences the drastic effects of war and accompanying poverty. If West Africa desires to alleviate poverty while fostering economic, infrastructural and developmental growth, it must find ways to both prevent war and maintain peace. Thankfully, some organizations are working to do just that. Here is how USAID helps prevent war in West Africa.
USAID in West Africa
USAID intervenes in West African conflicts with its Regional Peace and Development Program, established in September 2016. Importantly, the program works to avert war by bolstering the political integrity and honesty of West African regimes, while simultaneously holding them accountable. It does this by collaborating with regional and state institutions as well as providing training, research and other educational outreaches.
One segment of this program is Partnerships for Peace (P4P), which educates citizens on the roots of violence. Another branch within the Regional Peace and Development Program is Voices for Peace (V4P), which counters violent extremism by promoting human rights through education and media outlets. Both initiatives are successful examples of how USAID helps prevent war in West Africa.
Partnerships for Peace (P4P)
P4P is oriented towards strengthening West Africa’s ability to counter violent extremism. It primarily focuses on the countries of Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania. In total, it allocates $21.9 million to these nations to counter violent extremism.
To limit radical extremism, P4P developed the Regional Counter to Violent Extremism Lexicon. This lexicon, which has undergone translation into six African languages, provides appropriate terminology for local contexts, being sensitive to cultural, religious and ethnic diversity. Moreover, P4P uses its funding to counter violence by supporting regional anti-extremist organizations. It also provides grants to implement initiatives and programs addressing violent extremism. By funding civil organizations and promulgating anti-extremist educational doctrines, P4P has deterred conflict in West Africa.
Voices for Peace (V4P)
V4P prevents war by promoting good governance and social cohesion. With its budget of $31.5 million, the organization discourages the escalation to conflict by targeting at-risk youth, women and marginalized groups. V4P connects these vulnerable populations with media platforms, respected leaders, institutions and networks to spread awareness. Specifically, they discuss the ill effects of war and the widespread death and poverty stemming from it.
USAID helps prevent war through V4P by promoting democratic values, human rights and good governance. The organization widely disseminates these values by targeting the media, educational institutions and radio talk shows. Significantly, the organization’s humanitarian message, which has undergone translation into 30 languages and 93 radio stations convey, has reached diverse groups. Consequently, USAID’s V4P ably empowers the marginalized while inspiring civic action in citizens across West Africa.
Hope for the Future
USAID’s efforts have played a critical role in successfully delivering West Africa from its tumultuous past. Now, the organization assists in guiding West Africa towards a lasting peace that will allow the region to escape poverty and establish sound governance. For the sake of both international security and poverty alleviation, the international community ought to take a similar course in supporting programs that aid West Africa’s anti-violence organizations.
– Jacob Crosley