Democracy, Human Rights and Governance

Over the past decade the West Africa region has made significant progress in promoting economic growth, consolidating democratic norms, reducing the rates of HIV/AIDS, and protecting the environment.  However, some countries in the region continue to suffer the devastating effects of conflict and violence.

Violent extremist organizations, such as Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), have displaced millions and reversed economic and social progress in broad swathes of the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin.  Throughout the region, political competition continues to be a major flashpoint for conflict, with elections too often igniting violence and strife.  Lastly, scarce natural resources, herder/farmer differences, ethnic divisions, and economic and social exclusion are all drivers of conflict to varying degrees across West Africa.

USAID/West Africa’s Peace and Governance program aims to strengthen systems of non-violent conflict management in West Africa at local, national and regional levels by focusing on countering violent extremism and promoting conflict early warning and response.

Countering Violent Extremism

USAID/West Africa aims to reduce sympathy and support for Boko Haram, AQIM, and similar organizations by strengthening resistance to violent extremism in communities at risk of recruitment and radicalization.  As the primary implementer of USAID’s funding for the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP), USAID/West Africa coordinates closely with the State Department and the Department of Defense to bring a whole of government approach to bear on this critical challenge.  To this end USAID/West Africa hosts a Military Liaison Officer to ensure effective communication and coordination.

Working in 101 municipalities across Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger, USAID/West Africa’s Peace through Development II (PDEVII) project applies a holistic, community-led approach to address socioeconomic, political and cultural drivers of violent extremism to achieve the following objectives:

• Empower youth through activities focused on civic education, vocational and entrepreneurial skills and leadership.
• Amplify moderate voices and attitudes through radio, social media, civic education and conflict resolution events.
• Strengthen civil society through activities focused on building advocacy skills, citizen-led accountability initiatives and issue-based campaigns integrated with radio and social media.
• Improve local governance through activities that build the capacity of local governance institutions and increase citizen participation in local government.

During 2014, USAID/West Africa projects generated 614 hours of original radio content aimed at countering extremist narratives that was broadcast and rebroadcast almost 3,700 hours across 58 partner stations.  Broadcast in local languages, the radio programming reached more than 2.5 million people at risk of violent extremism.  Across the three countries, USAID trained over 2,200 community and religious leaders on conflict mitigation and resolution skills and over 800 government and community leaders on administrative and fiscal management skills. 

The Niger Education and Community Strengthening Project works in 150 schools across 22 municipalities to improve educational opportunities available to children in at-risk areas, while strengthening school linkages with community and state structures. USAID/West Africa’s support for education increased school attendance rates from 62 percent to 93 percent in project areas.

In order to inform our countering violent extremism programming, USAID/West Africa created the Evaluation and Analytical Services (EAS) project. Through situational assessments, violent extremism risk assessments, and impact evaluations, EAS augments the ability of USAID/West Africa to be a learning institution and make sound, evidence-based management and resource decisions.

Conflict Early Warning and Response

With the aim of improving the ability of West Africans to anticipate and mitigate conflict of all types, USAID/West Africa supports ECOWARN, an Early Warning and Response Network managed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  ECOWARN is the first of its kind in Africa, a unique model wherein civil society organizations and a regional intergovernmental bodywork together to forecast conflict and act to prevent it.

USAID support to ECOWARN forms part of the Early Warning and Response Partnership (EWARP), an inter-agency United States Government effort to improve conflict early warning and response in Africa.  EWARP was announced by President Barack Obama Africa Leaders’ Summit in August 2014.

In February 2015, USAID West Africa launched the Mitigating Election Violence through National Early Warning Systems project implemented by the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP).  WANEP is a regional civil society organization with over 500 member organizations across West Africa. The project aims to mitigate electoral violence in five West African counties with upcoming elections by expanding and strengthening national conflict early warning networks.  WANEP will assist community organizations to identify potential election violence risks by developing and monitoring a set of customized indicators and analyzing the resulting data. If analysis reveals a heightened risk of violence at any point in the election cycle, WANEP will develop recommendations for peace-building activities to prevent it. These recommendations will be channeled to targeted national and regional stakeholders, including ECOWAS, for early action before the situation escalates.

In close coordination with WANEP, USAID/West Africa plans to also support ECOWAS in the near future.  The forthcoming assistance will seek to build the capacity of ECOWAS to gather, analyze and respond to conflict early warning data from across the region.