The Work for Peace Continues

Believe it or not (and I’m not entirely sure I believe it), the quiet days of working from my apartment desk have steadily flown by. While the oppressive triple-digit heat outside my window has slowed activity down to a sluggish pace, my work for the United States Institute of Peace has only accelerated. Now, more than halfway through my summer internship, I’ve been kept very busy by two important projects.

First, I have had the great opportunity to assist the Justice and Security Dialogue (JSD) team with their most recent quarterly report. The team utilizes these reports to track progress on its ongoing projects in six countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia) within the Sahel and Maghreb regions of Africa. The reports are essential tools for monitoring and evaluation, assessing goals, and identifying gaps or areas for improvement within a given project. By composing these reports every few months, USIP is able to have a running log of all activities and meetings, the dates on which they were completed, the names of relevant stakeholders who participated in the events, and any outcomes observed as a result of the programming.

My work on the quarterly report has mostly been to edit, proofread, and standardize the information for each country as it is provided by JSD’s Program Officers and staff members working in each country. This work has given me great insight into the broader work being done by the JSD team on a daily basis. While my individual assignments have allowed me to research a great deal about Nigeria’s security situation, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to learn about other ongoing projects. For example, while editing the report, I was able to read about a variety of meetings occurring between community leaders and security forces in Senegal and Burkina Faso. During the coronavirus pandemic, the JSD program has had to adapt its work to continue to build trust and dialogue among local stakeholders. In working on the quarterly report, it has been fascinating and inspiring to hear current and planned adaptations to ensure the peacebuilding work continues despite the significant challenges posed by COVID-19.

My primary focus this summer has been to continue building out research on internally displaced persons (IDPs), security forces, and insurgency groups in Northeast Nigeria. While the first few weeks of my internship were spent mostly on gathering information (of which there is a lot!), the past couple weeks have seen me transition to using my research for a variety of internal assignments. USIP is planning to conduct a JSD program in Northeast Nigeria, and my initial background research will be used as the team identifies its goals and targets communities and stakeholders for the project.

I first drafted a brief memo to discuss with my supervisor, who helps run USIP’s work in Nigeria. During a productive meeting, we discussed the memo, established areas for further research, and identified additional sources that would be useful for me to explore. One of these sources, Alexander Thurston’s book Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement, not only provided invaluable context for the insurgency group’s origins, but also helped me to gain a better understanding of Nigeria’s history from its independence in 1960 to the present day. As another part of my work, I helped craft a template that will be used with future quarterly reports for the Northeast Nigeria project. I also have been composing a list of experts on the situation in the Northeast whom the JSD team may later collaborate with in their work. An additional task included writing a summary of the proposed project for use in future publications. 

Currently, the majority of my time has been spent drafting a longer, comprehensive memo addressing many aspects of the situation in Northeast Nigeria. The draft covers Nigeria’s historical background, Boko Haram’s rise and evolution over the past decade, IDP relations with their host communities, security threats facing IDPs, and relations between civilians and security forces. As I continue to monitor current developments happening across the Northeast and throughout Nigeria, it has been greatly fulfilling to put my research into action. I look forward to presenting my findings with my supervisor and the JSD team in the coming weeks, and hope that my work proves useful in their future programming in Nigeria.