Civil Society

  • Peaceful and inclusive societies

    A little more than a year ago, the world rallied around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a historic plan to improve the lives of people everywhere. This past year was a reminder of just how ambitious these goals are and how achieving them will test the commitment of the international community.

    The year 2016 turned out to be a time of political, economic and social upheaval — from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the U.S. election of a president vowing radical change to America’s domestic and foreign policies, to ongoing war and conflict in the Middle East and a global refugee crisis. We also witnessed extraordinary achievements, including a peace agreement that ended Colombia’s 50-year civil war and the discovery of a vaccine for Ebola — progress made possible by people working together for the common good.

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  • Strengthening civil society’s role in responding to violent extremism

    Preventing and countering violent extremism requires nothing short of an integrated, multifaceted, locally driven approach. FHI 360 has been working since 2008 with civil society groups in affected regions to prevent and respond to violent extremism. Recently, we discussed the lessons learned from our work at this year’s Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership conference. The following is what we shared.

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  • Armed conflict and education inequality: What do we know?

    What do Ethiopia, Nepal, Niger and the Philippines have in common? Each country had episodes of conflict in the 1990s, and each bucked the global trend of declining education inequalities in a subsequent time period. Researchers have long puzzled over the relationship between inequality and civil conflict: Do grievances over a lack of access to resources or social capital actually lead people to go to war? For some academics, the question is met with skepticism, as empirical research has often led to inconclusive results. Recent changes in the way inequality is conceptualized and measured have changed the way people think about this connection.

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  • Research points to the power of educational equity in reducing civil conflict

    Unequal educational opportunity often lies at the heart of deep inequities in economic productivity, social well-being and participation in democratic institutions. Key livelihood statistics show that across the globe, individuals with lower levels of education are more likely to earn less, have poorer health outcomes and are less likely to enter leadership positions. For this reason, efforts to improve equity must start with education.

    A soon-to-be released study, completed by the FHI 360 Education Policy and Data Center (EPDC) and commissioned by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme, indicates that ensuring equitable access to educational resources may be more than just a moral right: It may also contribute to reducing the likelihood of civil conflict.

    Using an innovative methodology that captures disparities in educational attainment among ethnic and religious groups, as well as among subnational regions within countries, we found that violent civil conflict is more likely in countries with high levels of disparity among groups. Preliminary results showed that the difference in the odds of conflict between highly unequal and more equal countries was large in magnitude and held true even after accounting for the countries’ differences in economic development, political systems, populations and income inequalities.

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  • Anticipating the impact of cutting-edge technology on democracy and development

    What might nongovernmental organizations, governments and world leaders have done differently if, fifteen years ago, they could have predicted the transformative effect that mobile phones and Internet access would have on the world’s poorest countries? What can we do now, if we look far enough down the road, to anticipate the next waves of revolutionary technology?

    Technology has brought us to the doorstep of a world once only imaginable. Google cars now drive themselves across California. An autonomously piloted drone can be purchased on Amazon.com. Computers are acting more and more like people. This year, one passed the Turing test, a measurement of a machine’s ability to mimic human behavior. There are working prototypes of spray-on skin and mind-controlled prosthetic limbs. A thousand robots can work together to complete a common task. Things are changing fast.

    These technologies will shape the future of the world and change development as we know it.

    Funders, governments, practitioners and technology leaders need to anticipate the impact of emerging innovations on democracy and human rights and plan accordingly. Technology can empower activists and dictators alike. To be prepared, we should start asking questions, such as: How will development and civic engagement change when citizens in the most remote parts of the world have access to the Internet? How might drone journalism provide safe, reliable access to conflict-affected parts of the world? How can wearable technology innovations like Google Glass make citizens freer or, conversely, be misused by governments to monitor and control citizens?

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  • Diverse functions of the INEE Minimum Standards in education in emergencies

    The 360° response by FHI 360 offers an integrated approach in addressing challenges to human development. Can you provide some examples of how this philosophy is implemented in your educational initiatives in post-conflict and fragile areas within Africa?

    FHI 360 works in multiple sectors, including education, health, civil society, peacebuilding, the environment, economic development and livelihoods. We believe in a context-sensitive and strengths-based approach. Education that is context specific really tries to address the challenges that exist by understanding linguistic, cultural, political, economic and historical factors that have affected the education system. Our 360° approach enables us to address these challenges by bringing together experts across sectors.

    In South Sudan, where sadly there has just been a major civil conflict, our education team will work very closely with our peacebuilding team to develop strategies for promoting reconciliation and building peace in the context of our education work. Another example is in northern Nigeria where a major challenge is to provide options to integrate modern education in Koranic schools, which many children attend, and to improve hygiene, water and sanitation in these schools.

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  • Peacebuilding through practice and partnership

    Why is the PEACE IQC significant?

    Through the PEACE IQC, USAID can draw upon experienced and trusted partners to respond to crisis and fragility and to develop a comprehensive program across sectors. Task orders issued under the PEACE IQC will ensure that USAID and its partners understand the causes of conflict, identify the best approaches for mitigating conflict, and gather learning and evidence to inform future programming against conflict and extremism.

    What is unique about the approach of FHI 360 and the PEACE Consortium?

    FHI 360’s PEACE Consortium, comprised of 18 member organizations, is uniquely able to assist in conflict-affected contexts because we bring an integrated approach to addressing the varied root causes of social and political tensions. With almost two decades experience, we have learned there is never a single driver of conflict, and we have developed the tools to identify the sources and then design cross-sectorial interventions that address the real needs on the ground. We offer an integrated model that encompasses experts working across 122 countries, with the ability to mobilize high-quality teams in quick response to crises.

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  • Every child has the right to be safe from harm. Still, millions of children around the world are abused, neglected and exploited every year. Because children who experience violence and abuse can become adults who are less able to contribute to their societies, protecting children from harm is a vital aspect of development programs. To that end, FHI 360 developed a three-part child protection toolkit to help our programs and local implementing partners protect the children they serve.

    The first manual, Child Protection Basics, presents the fundamental aspects of child protection. It describes different types of maltreatment and factors that contribute to child maltreatment. It also describes how to create a protective environment using a systems approach. The systems approach examines and addresses all the circumstances that challenge children’s well-being as a whole, rather than addressing each of them individually or in a fragmented way.

    The second manual, Guidelines and Programming Options for Protecting Vulnerable Children in Community-Based Care and Support Programs, can be used as a reference document for integrating child protection into the design of programs, strengthening existing programs and tailoring training. The manual shows the importance of conducting a child-protection analysis, which looks at risk factors, and outlines strategies and interventions that can be implemented at the child, family, community and government levels to protect children in accordance with global principles and best practices. The authors also discuss the importance of protecting children in emergencies and the need and challenges of ongoing monitoring and evaluation activities.

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  • Addressing grievances and giving everyone a voice are key to peacebuilding

    How does conflict affect a country’s long-term development?

    Violent conflict sets a country’s development back decades, especially when it is protracted as it was in Sri Lanka and as it is currently in the Casamance region of Senegal. Even countries that create peace agreements but do not address the grievances or the sources of conflict are more likely to experience conflict again within 10 years. It is critical to work on mitigating and managing conflict in countries. Otherwise, we are simply pouring hundreds of millions of development dollars into a country and seeing those gains wiped out by violent conflict. That is why working on conflict is so critical.

    How do we deal with conflict?

    The first step is understanding the grievances that led to the conflict. Grievances can arise in a number of areas and can be found across many sectors. Because we are a global organization that works across sectors — such as health, education, economic development and the environment — we are able to address specific grievances in these different sectors.

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  • Why do we need civil society?

    What is civil society? My children always ask me that. Think of what makes a good school. A good school has good teachers, a good curriculum, a good principal, and good buildings and classrooms. It also has extracurricular activities, including student government and clubs where kids can pursue their interests, voice their views and connect with other kids whom they might not meet otherwise.

    Civil society is similar to those extracurricular activities. Usually, a country’s government takes care of the basics, such as defense, education and health care. But it doesn’t provide citizens with a way to organize themselves to do what is important to them or express their views. That’s where civil society comes into play. It is the groups that people form to advocate for the things they believe in and to solve problems in their communities. Societies that do not allow people to connect with one another to solve problems or monitor their governments are less effective, less democratic and less resilient than those that do.

    In very poor schools, kids often stop believing they can succeed. They no longer try to start clubs. Similarly, in societies that have been torn apart by war or authoritarian rule, people often lose faith in their ability to improve their situation. The goal of our work is reigniting that confidence and reactivating people’s capacity to solve their own problems. One key is finding change agents — organizations or individuals who can help rebuild people’s confidence. We try to identify change agents, train them and help them organize to improve schools, the government, the environment or whatever their communities need.

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